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.

Awesome books and a multitude of head trauma

I’ve had seven concussions in my life.

Seven.

As you can imagine that’s an impressive number for anyone at any age. I’m twenty three, so it’s safe to say I’ll probably have a few more concussions before my life is done. (Though hopefully I won’t die of all this head trauma :D) Still, it’s also safe to say that my brain isn’t always at the top of it’s game.

Mostly this is a pain in the ass. My short term memory is shit, I stutter when I’m tired, and sometimes I can open the refrigerator door ten times before I remember what I’m looking for and the name of the big fucking cold box I’m opening and closing.

But today I’m here to share the one pleasant upside to multiple dead spots on one’s brain.

Every time I reread my old stories they’re brand spanking new! Which is really useful. When I put down a manuscript for a few months, all the information drops out of my head aside from the basics.  Usually I stop working on a book when the material is so dead to me that I would rather burn all my notebooks than try and fix the problems with my characters or plot. Sometimes I really do rage quit my projects and obliterate them. But mostly I set them aside until I have completely forgotten everything about them but their existence.

Like the project I’m reviewing today.  I went back to the document looking for one key description of a character who is featured in a separate story. Instead of taking the five minutes I should have needed to look this up and be done, I’ve spent about an hour rereading sections of my story with awe. Not only because it’s not entirely a steaming pile of 1st draft crap, but also because there are some really intense moments in this book. And I have no fucking clue what happens next. Literally. No clue. If not for the general back story and the names of the characters, which I generally remember, I could have been handed this book and never known I wrote it.

It’s like a magic trick. My brain is a light switch. Two positions, work mode and oblivious. Of course now that I’m looking at the draft I’m itching to work on it and get back to these people who are slowly  becoming real to me again. But still, this is pretty cool.

So what’s the moral here? Well, I’m not saying that head wounds will help you be a better writer. But….

No really. Protect your squishy brain. That being said, maybe we should all make a little more juice with those sour yellow oranges life tends to throw at us. Seriously though, what the hell are those called?!

Midnight Musings – Taking inspiration from dreams and nightmares

This morning I woke up shaking. My heart raced in my chest and a cold sweat seeped through my blankets. I lay beneath the covers, only my eyes visible to the room, terrified, both of what I’d just seen and the strange noises that occur in ones home that are never a problem until you’re alone in the dark.

Minutes passed and still I couldn’t shake the fear that lodged itself in my stomach. I wanted to sleep again, my eyes heavy, but with just the barest of blinks I could see the terrors, and the hear the screaming.

There was no way I could go back to sleep.

So I did the next best, most logical thing. I pulled my laptop onto my bed and wrote about it.

No matter who  you are or where you come from, everyone dreams and whether good or bad, dreams can provide some great inspiration for creative individuals everywhere. Certainly artists and writers tend to benefit the most from dreams and nightmares, though I would wager that while artists can capture one individual scene particularly well, it’s harder for them to capture a story through one image. Writers on the other hand can transcribe large chunks of a dream and then use our super powers of deduction to come up with a reasonable plot and some wayward characters to follow.

This method of taking stories based on dreams and nightmares is certainly not a new one, what with some of the great writers having done just that. Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Stephenie Meyer (just kidding, I’m pretty sure, when she said Twilight was a dream that she had, she meant a wet one). In any case it’s clear that this resource can spawn some really interesting creations.

I’ve currently got a handful of terrifying pages whose plot is quickly solidifying in my mind, but it led me to wonder about the rest of you.

How often do you find inspiration in your sleep?

Any full books come out of those midnight ramblings?

Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Scribbles.

Dealing with rejections – Projected failure in the quest to be published

At some point in every writer’s career, rejection rears it’s ugly head. It’s nearly impossible to sell or publish something without sending it out more than a handful of times. That’s just how it goes. But realizing the reality of modern publishing and being able to cope with having someone dismiss your work and the time you spend perfecting it, can be hard.

I recently had a rejection of sorts put in my path. I had entered one of my novels in the Amazon-Break through novel of the Year contest and unfortunately my novel didn’t make it to the second round. A few other writers that I chat with are  also in a similar boat, either with the Amazon contest, or a number of other smaller contests. So the other night we had a chat about rejection and how we handle it. Of course everyone had different responses as is to be expected. But it led me to wonder what you, my followers, do in the face of rejection.

Do you cry? Mope around? Get back to work? Burn your manuscript?

I hope no one seriously contemplates the last one…

In any case I’m curious, so please feel free to leave a comment below about how you deal with being turned down. I’d love to hear from you.

I try to look at rejection like a test of sorts. My favorite author J.K. Rowling, was rejected 12 times for the first book in the Harry Potter series. Now, being fully aware that I am not J.K. Rowling, nor are any of my books at that level of awesome which the Harry Potter books achieved, it would be silly of me to feel like I failed as a writer just because my book got rejected. I’ve got to send that thing out and fail at least 12 times before it gets anywhere. More over, as I said, my book isn’t as great as HP1, so maybe I have to have 24 rejections before someone will decide to pick it up? Who knows.

While I may reevalute this line of reasoning when I’ve had 30+ rejections, for now, in the beginning of sending my work out, this method does me some good. It sets a standard by which I can fail. Eventually if I just keep sending it places, it’ll get published one way or another.

Now, I used J.K. Rowling as my example because the Harry Potter series is my favorite set of books of all time, however the same could be true for any author you idolize. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 20 times. (So my standard, if I were a writer of horror would be 20-40). The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times. (16-32)

What this system of projected rejection really allows me to do is to put aside those feelings of failure and slog my way through that first batch or two of rejections. Just like when you write your first book, it’s incredibly difficult yet your second or third or fourth are each easier than the last to complete. I expect the same idea holds for sending out queries. Each time you draft one of those letters, each time you have to give a synopsis for your book, you become more precise, more apt at explaining yourself and thereby you improve. As you improve, at some point, someone is bound to notice you.

Basically what I’m telling you to do is to A) tell me how you accept rejection below and B) if you like my method of reasoning with failure, pick your favorite author, find out how may times they had to query their first book before it was accepted somewhere.

As with all things, if you persist, you will improve, and if you persistently send out your improving work, you’ll make it one day or another.

Happy Scribbling.