A brief update, some future plans, and thoughts on editing novels.

Confession time: It’s been quite a few months since I’ve posted here.

In part my absence is due to laziness, in part because of my second blog which I’ll talk about it in a bit, but mostly because I haven’t been writing. I didn’t exactly fall of the planet, or give up on my goal of being published. Instead I’ve been grappling with editing.

PSA:  So for anyone interested, my secondary blog is HERE, and it’s a bit more personal. I’ve been posting reviews of books, shops and the like, as well as my feelings about my nerd loves, and rants. Why am I telling you this? Well, this blog has played host to a few rants in the past, and a few book reviews I believe, both of which will now be appearing on my other blog. If you’re into that sort of thing check it out. If not, I’m not heartbroken. Wrampage, will remain a writing oriented blog. Onward.

A Word on Editing

For some writers, editing is kryptonite. I’ve also found that editing seems to be where many writers lose their non-writing friends and family. I can’t fathom a guess as to how many times I’ve heard people ask when the book will be done? I’ve tried explaining the process, the plot holes that need plugging, the wayward characters who need a map, the inconsistencies vast enough they’d confuse Moffat. But honestly, if you’re not a writer, and you’ve never edited something, you just won’t get it. Sorry. It’s not about seeing the words “the end” on the page. They’ve been there for many months now. It’s the stuff that comes before that phrase which worries me.

I suspect that some of the trouble arises in the unsubstantial definition of “editing”. Sure I’m editing when I fix misspellings, or punctuation, but am I still editing when I create an entirely new character to add to the story after I’ve written it? What if I delete a character? Change POV? Add/subtract whole plot lines?

Where do we draw the line between writing and editing?

In the case of my current novel, the process has been messy. The first draft was written over the course of three months, back in June-August of 2011, to the tune of 147,000 words. It was the first novel I’d ever written start to finish, and I had no idea what I was doing. Fast forward three years to today and I’ve add characters, combined others, completely changed the focus of the original plot, and added in a plethora of new subplots. As it stands, that one novel, is now the first book in an arc of 9 books within a series of 21.

But it’s taken nearly three years of “editing” to figure out who my characters are, what they’re really doing, and what they want. Many months of world building, and systems of keeping my information organized before I converted to Scrivener(=god). But to the people who know that I wrote a book three years ago, what exactly have I been doing? Nobody knows.

Being a writer, creating a world, and making people care, are all hard things to do, let alone to do well. If you’re in the middle of editing right now, firstly, I apologize because it’s supremely hard, but secondly, I’d like to let you in on a little nugget.

Writing is easy. You throw every trick you’ve got at the page, and at some point after far too much caffeine and rambling, you declare the project complete. It’s easy. One word after another. But editing, is were you take that brainchild of chaos and sleepless nights, and you mold it into something that makes sense. You give it purpose, meaning. Editing is where you test your problem solving abilities, not just your spelling. The shifting words, and restless characters and meandering plot can come together to provoke feeling from readers and writers alike. When you write a book, you give life to a world, but when you edit, you teach that world how to live.

 

Peace.

Accomplishments of 2013

For better or worse, the year is over and whether or not we accomplished our goals, or neglected them 9 out of 12 months, this is the moment when we fess up to what we really did in 2013. At various points this year I tried Milwordy (writing 1 Million words in a year- 3 times, reading 40 books in the year, editing some books.)

Here’s what I actually did.

-wrote-

Wrote 223,000 words

Started a really cool YA Fantasy/SciFi series that blows my own mind.

-edited-

Finished the 2nd rewrite of my first book ever (which probably has three more to go but holy fuck it’s starting to look like a real book now.) >_<

Edited, reorganized/started rewriting my third book ever. (conveniently ignores the second book I ever wrote because wow is it terrible. Haha.)

-read-

Read 38 books.

Finally figured out how to effectively use my Goodreads account. >_<

-personal accomplishments-

Got married to my fiance of 7 years.

Found a job I love that leave me lots of time to write and read to my heart’s content.

In going back through my old Milwordy blog, and personal diaries to calculate my word count for the year I came across this thing I wrote on my very first Milwordy blog post back in February.

I want to look back on the year and say “Damn, I accomplished so much more than I thought I ever could.”

Welp, Dear 11ish months ago self, you did. Congrats. Here’s to 2014 and surprising yourself.

Happy Scribbling.

Nanowrimo and brutal murder.

 

 

 

As you probably already know, it’s November, which means, if you’re a writer and you probably are if you’re reading this, then you should be around 35,000 words into your NaNoWriMo novel. And if you’re not… well.

 

photo

Then you’re in good company!

As you can see, I’m a bit behind at the moment, but never fear. I’m a somewhat consistently bad NaNoWriMo participant. What I mean by this is that I usually slack off/alphabetize my bookshelves/catch up on 6 years worth of sitcoms on Netflix/etc. instead of working on my novel until about the last week. Traditionally, I write about 20-30k in the first three weeks. And then I write 15 to 20k in the last two days.  -_-

I’m hoping to break with tradition this week, but only time/the frequency with which my youtube subscriptions pile up will tell.

So for those of you also participating in National Novel Writing Month, I extend to you my deepest apologies for your families, and my sincerest hopes that you survive the month and have a less than craptastic novel to show for it afterward. We aren’t all so lucky.

Personally, my novel is coming along rather nicely, but some other writerly friends of mine are struggling at the moment. The question of time vs. perfection, a typical NaNoWriMo debate, came up this morning and I awkwardly stumbled upon a metaphor for writing that I thought I’d share.

Writing a first draft is like interviewing witnesses of a brutal murder.

I promise this makes sense so stick with me!

Okay, imagine you’re a journalist and you’re talking with 10 witnesses just beyond the line of neon crime scene tape, a mangled body reeking in the distance. Of all the people you interview, perhaps two or three of them really saw something. But of course they didn’t all witness the same things, each noting the chain of events from their own perspective, location, and damaged mind frame. Between these two or three people you can get a very good sense of what actually happened between the victim and the assailant.

Now if you could stop your interviews here, you would be well off, but when you first look at your 10 potential witnesses, you have no way of knowing who’s who. So you continue the interviews. The next two people give you completely conflicting stories.  The he said, she said of it all doesn’t make any sense. But there are a few more witnesses left to interview and one way or another you’ve got to finish this piece or your boss/the editor is going to have your head. So you have a chat with the last few people gawking over the yellow line, making faces at the police. They turn out to be attention/camera whores. No real information to be had from them, but they’re good for a momentary laugh.

At the end of the day, you sit down with your collection of facts/theories that you managed to wrangle from the police, and a stack of interviews or transcripts of what the “witnesses” had to say about what happened. In order to make this into an article that will move people, while informing them, and entertaining them, you have to weave all these bits and pieces together. Some of what you found out is irrelevant, so you cut it. Some is unreliable, so you cut it, and some of it just isn’t interesting or has been said before.

But the point is, in order to make a good article, or even a good book. You have to have all the facts, the theories and the crazies on paper before you can really begin. See where I’m going with this?

A book isn’t written in it’s first draft. It’s created, brought out in pages upon pages of clerical mishaps, setting mistakes, unreliable characters and broken chunks of story. It’s what you do once you’ve got everything on the pages in front of you that matters.

I wish you all good luck in this coming week of NaNoWriMo. May your inner editors be gagged, and may your fingers be swift. Remember, we can edit in December.

Happy Scribbling.

 

Finishing books and finding new stories.

For the past several months I’ve been working hard at completing the first book in a series I’m currently writing and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times that I wanted to just take a break and working on something else.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know where the stories was going, or that it wasn’t any good, I was simply drained from having done so much work on it for so long. I’d been working within the series and specifically on that book for seven straight months without a break and it’s been back and forth across my desk for a year and a half now.Though I didn’t work on it consistently throughout that time of course. I wrote 1 complete novel and got about half way through 5 others in that time. But with my college schedule and life at hand, it took nearly 2 years for that book to reach it’s completion. Just in time for me to submit it to the Break though novel of the year Award hosted by Amazon, actually. 

Now, everyone varies I suppose, on how long it takes them to get an idea, to the point where they are ready to submit it to agents, or contests or publishing houses, so I don’t feel bad about this novel’s shelf life, however, I’d like to address something that will probably bother each of us writers and some point in our careers. 

Knowing when your book is done. Not just written, but edited and revised and pieced together as well as you could manage. I say this because, while I submitted my book to the Amazon contest, and while I think it will stand up fairly well on it’s own, I can still think of things I’d like to improve. I could spent another seven months, taking things out, adding them back in again, and still wind up with the same story I have right now. 

It’s hard to let your stories stand on their own two feet when you’ve held them in your hand for months, even years at a time. But if you don’t let go, your first book might be your last. You might forgo all the great novel ideas you’ve ever had, just because this one, could be a little bit better. 

Well fuck that. 

That’s what I’m here to say today. Don’t let your book consume you. If you find yourself changing the verbs of the same sentence ten times in a week, let go of it. Get out something new and just write. Yes, you want your books to be successful and for others to enjoy reading them, but there comes a point when editing and revising just become counter productive. So let your work out into the world and start on something new. 

It took me exactly 20 months to get from start to finish with this novel but, to put that in perspective, I spent 3 months writing the first draft, 5 months ignoring it, 1 month rereading revising,3 months ignoring, 1 month revising, and then 7 months fixing flaws in the series as a whole (9 planned books) editing, rewriting the entire book once, and editing twice more over. Over all the book saw 12 months of work, and 7 revision of both parts or the document as a whole. The first draft was 124k, the final was 54k. (This was the first book I ever wrote.)

To put that in an even better perspective. The book I’m currently working on was one of those that I got about half way through in the past year and a half. It has seen two weeks of work. One writing (where I wrote 32k, 12 of which was in the first day), and one week of plotting out the second half of the novel. I’ve got about 50k left to go according to my outline and I think It will be completely written before the month is up and edited before March is over. (This is the fifth I’ve started.)

This should serve as proof to those of you who are your first book that no, not all books are created equal. And now that I’ve gone through the whole process with one book, I’ve got a much better idea of my voice, and my own abilities. Make it through your first book ladies and gents and your well on your way to getting the hang of it. 

 

Happy Scribbling to you all and a lovely 1am too.