Tag Archives: Books

Planning to edit versus editing proper

I lost some steam the last week or two, and I didn’t even touch my computer for editing. But this week (OK, so like three days), I’ve pushed myself to get back to it. This story isn’t going to edit itself.

My story, when I left it, was filled with notes on what to do in certain spots and things to fix, and how to fix them, and just all sorts of would-be scribbles, if I were doing this by hand on paper. What I’ve noticed as I’ve started reading through the story yet again, is how many of those notes took as much effort to write as it would have required to just make the change and move on. I have to confess, I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in planning the edits and, consequently, allowed myself to neglect the actual editing process.

But the actual process can be hard. When you write something, or at least when I do, I get attached to it. And when it’s something that I’m revising, or an idea I’m moving somewhere else, I’m not convinced I won’t need that first attempt anymore. It’s hard to erase, to delete words that you spent time on. There’s the sneaking suspicion that once you delete them, you’re suddenly going to need them again, but you won’t be able to remember them. So then the challenge becomes allowing myself the freedom to recreate things. If I erase something that is bad, then can’t remember the idea I was going to use, did the idea belong there in the first place?

This whole process right now is for me to learn how to edit my own work. I have no deadlines, no demands for when it needs to be done. I have the luxury of taking all the time in the world to work my way through. And if I have to stop a time or two to think hard about where my story should go, that’s OK. Better now than when I’ve published or self-published it and there’s no going back, right?

So I’ve got some big pieces to edit, the ones I mentioned in my last post, the new plot ideas to weave in. The goal I’m setting for myself is to hurry up and wrap up the little things, and choose one big piece to work on. Because then I’ll have something good to write about next week, instead of something boring like how I changed a passive sentence into an active one. It’s important, but most of you don’t really care.

So as I’m wrapping up this week, I’m prepping my editing for next week. As I go through, I’m making notes of places where I need to work in something about the student’s civil disobediences, or key places to start implanting the people who claim to be his family, and the questions surrounding his mental health. That way, when I get to strapping in for the big editing, I’ve made it a little easier for myself. Maybe then I’ll make a dent in the proper editing.

John Glenn: A Memoir

I’ll admit, I was interested in this book, not because I knew who John Glenn was, but because I’d looked it up for a customer at work and saw that it was a biography on an astronaut. Sometimes I think that if I could go back, knowing what I know about myself now, I probably would have pursued a career in science, and maybe even my dreams of being an astronaut. But, on to the book review.

The book is an autobiography that explores John Glenn’s life from childhood during the Great Depression, to his joining the military and becoming a fighter pilot during World War II, all the way through his two trips to space–the last when he was 77 years old (maybe it’s not too late for me!).

Glenn writes in a very plain way, unassuming. You get the feeling he is just telling his story, not trying to brag about anything he’s done or reap glory for being an American icon and hero. It feels very much like sitting down and listening to your grandfather regale you with stories from his life. Sometimes you can almost here the laugh that goes along with a funny anecdote.

Glenn’s biography is encouraging and inspiring too, a representation of chasing dreams and making a difference through hard and dedicated work. Not to mention just cool to see how much history this guy lived through.

Overall, it was a fun and pretty fast read, considering it’s more than 500 pages. If you like history, science, airplanes or politics, it’s the read for you.

The final days

I’m less than 1,000 words away from winning NaNoWriMo this year (writing 50,000 words).

I have two days left, not counting today (and I don’t because I have to leave for work in an hour).

And I still have to wrap up this chapter and wrap up the whole story.

Where I am at almost feels like a climax of its own, but it’s actually the story winding down. Whether it will be a series or just one of the ambiguously cyclical stories that annoy some people and refresh others, I haven’t really decided. That will be something to consider later on, after I’ve finished the story and read through it again. At that point, I’ll be able to see if there is enough new ideas to pursue a series. Or, perhaps, I’ll be dissatisfied, and I’ll write another chapter or an epilogue or something. But all of that will be December’s problem. (Ok, probably a problem for some time later on in life, I never seem to get around to earnestly editing any of my projects.)

When I hit 40,000 words, I felt like I was running out of steam. As I looked at my outline for the last two chapters, I was wondering how on earth I was going to write them at 5,000 words each (even though just last week I was bragging about how they were such dense chapters). When it came down to it, I thought I was going to come up short.

But this gave me a great opportunity to add in some “extra” content that showed different strengths of different characters, and I think will really make the last chapter of the story make sense. I was able to add in a little bit of the snapshot of life kind of scenes that make the character real, show time passing, and give just a short break from the hustle and bustle of the main storyline.

So now here I am, just a little over 49,000 words, and I’ve still got the entire final chapter to write. If I’m honest, I’ll probably put that off until December (I’ve got a book calling my name, and I need to finish it so I can blog about it on Friday!).

But I’ve learned a lot about my writing process since I’ve tried out some new things this year, the biggest being that even if I plan and give myself structure, I still have creative license and freedom. While in general my story is the same as when I started out, several characters turned out to be very different than I had expected. And by letting myself plan as I go, I was able to adjust the key events in later chapters to reflect the new strengths and weaknesses that I discovered in my characters.

And finally, I was able to simply enjoy the writing instead of stressing over what is supposed to come next or how to pass time before moving on to the scene that is supposed to happen next month. So, I’ve committed myself now to being a semi-planner. I know where I’m going, but I can take side roads to get there.

Onward now to those final words.

NaNo week 2

I’m almost halfway through NaNoWriMo at this point, both in time and in word count (goal is 50k words, at least).

I’ve been writing almost everyday, and getting myself a little bit ahead so that when I have those days (Thursdays) when I just don’t have time to write, I’m not getting behind.

I don’t even remember what I wrote about last week, but I’m sure this post will be almost identical.

Having a basic chapter-by-chapter outline is really helping. Of course there are still days when I stare at blank pages wondering what to write, but usually it’s an issue of getting started. I don’t get stuck in the middle of things so much anymore, which is great. It also frees up brain power to start thinking about life scenes to sprinkle through the chapters, instead of trying to figure out how to move my story on from point A to point B.

And thus, my ability to write those life scenes, little snapshots of everyday life for my character, is improved. Not necessarily that my writing is wonderful, but that I can think of such scenes that don’t feel utterly out of place. They don’t feel like Anime filler episodes.

I’ve now got my story outlined all the way, and I’ve found that what I thought would happen in the beginning, the characters I thought would play prominent roles, have changed quite a bit. The prince, who was supposed to help Theda get revenge, has turned out to be rather cowardly. But he’s ended up marrying a strong, confident woman who will help Theda.

And at least one person who was supposed to be dead has escaped with his life and will be making an appearance very soon. And he will play a significant role that I didn’t even know needed filled.

So, I’ve almost found a sort of middle ground between planning and winging it. It’s been really great to start with a plan, to have a road map and a general idea of where I’m going. But as the creativity flows and I get a little more into my story, I still have the freedom and flexibility to adjust as new ideas pop into my head, and I can allow my characters to follow their individual natures, instead of trying to find some dramatic reason for them to become someone entirely new (and unbelievable).

So here’s to week three. If I can make it to 30k or 35k, I think I’ll be solidly set to finish, or at least hit the word goal for the month (I can always write an ending in December). According to the website, and my current average words per day, I’m set to hit 50k words on November 28, which would give me two whole days to actually finish my novel during the month of November, not just hit the minimum word count.

Quiet

I don’t know how many times I have thought to myself, “the next person to tell me I’m ‘too quiet’ is getting a punch in the face.”

I’ve never done it, but I’m still young.

Telling me that being quiet, introverted, or shy is the quickest way to make yourself look, frankly, rude and stupid to me. Because I’m not like you, there must be something wrong with me. This is the message introverts receive, whether intentional or not. We’re raised to believe we’re flawed, that introversion means something is broken. Well, it’s not.

Susan Cain discusses this idea in psychological depth in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.”

The title alone sums up a large idea of the book.

Whether in school or the workplace, so many good ideas are passed over because one group of people won’t shut up, and the other can’t speak up. This is why group work isn’t always as wonderful as it’s proclaimed to be, and why some of the best discussions and brainstorming sessions can be found online, because as Cain points out, for introverts, it can be easier to open up and share an idea in the controlled environment of the Internet.

Cain also discusses several other ideas, such as whether introversion or extroversion is a result of nature or nurture (or something in between) and the idea of being highly reactive and sensitive.

But Cain’s main focus, in each discussion, is that our society (our being American) has made it nearly a sin to be anything other than an extrovert. And by pressuring people to fit the mold, we lose out on a massive power source.

The book isn’t 250 pages of anti-extrovert propaganda, though. Cain makes it clear that, even as extroverts have a lot they can learn from introverts, introverts can also push themselves and learn a lot from extroverts. The point is, neither group is perfect, and neither group is flawed. They are being psychologically and biologically who they are.

This book was so refreshing to me. I get so tired of people telling me that being quiet is wrong. There is something wrong with me because of it.

People who don’t know me assume I’m a doormat and won’t stand up for myself or my opinions (people who know me would likely laugh at that idea, in certain contexts).

Some people who do know me (know being a relative term, I suppose) work themselves into hurt feelings because I don’t engage in meaningless small talk. I don’t like small talk.

This book is a great read for everyone. For extroverts, it helps them understand their introverted friends and loved ones (and I know a few people I wish would read this book and take it to heart). For introverts, it helps us understand ourselves a little better, put words and definitions to our feelings and characteristics, and understand how it can come across to others.

“Quiet” is a little bit of everything: a serving of self-help, a double portion of psychology, with a dash of teaching and parenting thrown in. And, it’s an interesting read.

If you take nothing away from this book, or this blog, take this one thing: imagine how it would feel if someone told you the thing that made you /you/ was wrong. Imagine how you would feel about yourself if everyone told you that a defining trait was a flaw, something you should “work on.” Because that is life for introverts. Is it really surprising, then, that so many of us say we don’t like other people?

Onward to NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is the first day of November.

Which means it’s time to start a new writing project.

If I were a different person, I would just set myself to finishing the project I’ve got started. But, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to do that, so, I’m not going to. And, I haven’t even touched that project since last week, when I wrote a little so I could blog about it…

It just donned on me a few days ago that I should probably start some planning and prep for NaNo, like choose one of the ideas I’ve got scribbled down and at least flesh it out a little. So, I’ve begun. I’ve got the prologue planned, at least.

As much as I do frequently cherish the “fly by the seat of your pants” approach I’ve taken in years past, I also like the less stress the comes with planning and having general directions on where my story is going. Because the last thing I need in my life right now is more stress. So, I’ll be doing some more planning in these final hours. (I swear I intended to do it earlier.)

The working title for my NaNo project is “The Remnant Children,” and focuses on a young woman whose entire country is annihilated when she is 7 years old. The country was a tributary to a king, and when they tried to claim independence, he wiped them all out, allowing only children younger than 10 to live as slaves. She, conveniently, works for the king’s palace, and comes into contact, as an adult, with the prince, who was fed a very different version of events and is appalled when he learns the truth. He can see her desire for revenge, and even understand it. He has no undying love for his father, so now he much choose, does he help her get revenge, or advocate the path of forgiveness?

This isn’t nearly as detailed an outline as I’ve had before, and, as I said, as far as a chapter-by-chapter outline, I’ve got the prologue outlined. So, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Especially if I only have work breaks to work on it.

But! I’ve got the first two days of November off, which means I can give myself an excellent start to the month, and get myself ahead.

So, here’s to November, and all the hopes and  dreams it brings.

BoneMan’s Daughters

Since I’ve been mentioning him in several recent posts, and I had one of his books on my shelf that I hadn’t read, I decided to return to Ted Dekker this week, finally reading “BoneMan’s Daughters”, which has been sitting on my shelf for a year.

Naval Intelligence officer Ryan Evans has been an absent father and husband for a long time, but when he gets captured in the deserts of Iraq by terrorists, he realizes how much he truly loves his family, and how badly he wants a second chance. Evans returns stateside to find that everything he left has dissolved even further, and no one wants to give him a second chance. When a serial killer kidnaps Evans’ daughter, Evans is given a chance to prove his love–and prove that he isn’t the killer.

In keeping with his style, Dekker packs this book full of fast-paced action, with different characters offering different views and theories about what’s going on. And because it’s Dekker, you never quite know what twist he’ll pull out at the end.

While he does delve into psychology some in this book, I would classify it as just a thriller, not a psychological thriller like some of his other titles, including “Three” and “Skin.” It’s these psychological thrillers that I really love, because it keeps your mind guessing the whole time. While I knew that Dekker could pull out something wild at the end, I also could easily predict how the story was going to end. So, as with other thrillers, all the reader has to do is enjoy the fast-paced action leading to the end.

I did notice this story was a little different than some of his others. It was a little creepier, and actually contained a few swear words, which for Dekker is uncommon. But a note at the end of the book sheds some light on it, I think, when he discusses the situation in his own life that led to the book and made the story so personal for him.

What I also noticed is that this story didn’t end in the typical neat and tidy fashion. The cops and FBI didn’t show up and quickly absolve Evans of any suspicion. In fact, the way it ended would likely make that much more trouble in closing the case. It’s not particularly important, but it just struck me as actually kind of refreshing. As with life, not everything ends in a neat and tidy package.

This book reminds me why I love Dekker’s writing. It’s clean, fast, understandable and it draws you in quickly. Good thing my birthday is coming up soon, maybe I’ll get some book money.