Tag Archives: Editing

November: A Recap

I completely forgot to write a blog post last week. I think I remembered when I was going to bed on Monday night, and I just never got to it.

November is over (duh), and I’m proud to say I’ve got yet another first draft of a story done. The Thanksgiving week was tough but I pushed through and stayed on target. The hardest part, I think, was the last 5,000 words or so. And that always seems to be a struggle. My stories seem to fall into one of two camps: either I put off writing the end because I don’t think it’s time yet, or I have to drag it out because I didn’t plan quite enough to get my word count where I needed it to be. But that’s ok. This year, I finished. And I wrote just about every day (I missed November 30, I was done with my project and I needed a break.).

My story this year turned out to be very different than what I’d intended. While on the surface it stayed mostly the same, my characters surprised me. I didn’t mean to when I set out, but I wrote several misunderstood characters. But that made the process that much more fun, because I got to enjoy the journey of discovery as I went.

For December, I plan to try to revisit the nameless project I’ve been refining all year. Then perhaps in January I’ll be ready to dig into the hot mess that is my NaNo 2017 novel. But even if all I do this month are some writing exercises from my Writer’s Notebook, that’s ok too. I think I have earned a little break. I’ve worked hard this year.

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Looking to November

Do you ever have something you have to do, and you put it off because it seems like such a monumental task, then you do it and you realize you had like 20 minutes of work left to do on it?

Yeah, that was me with the last bits of editing on my story.

When I sat down to do it, Friday, I guess it was, I was expecting to put in an hour of work, and still have more to do the rest of the weekend. I hadn’t looked at it in so long, I’d forgotten that I was nearly done. This meant the rest of my weekend was freed up to give it one more read through (though I’ll be honest, I only read the second half, the half I’ve been working on. I’m a little bored of reading the whole thing through). And it’s not awful. I like it a lot better than before. And even though I pasted all the chunks I cut into a separate word document, just in case I needed it again, I didn’t even really miss it.

With November just days away, my goal for this weekend was to wrap up this session of editing, and I accomplished that. Now, I’ll set it aside and let myself dive into a new project for a while, letting new ideas flow. Maybe after the first of the year, I’ll return to “The Town” (still just a working title, I think) and see if it’s gotten better or worse with age.

November, of course, is a special month. And for me, the easiest month for me to write. Something about the crazy and the solidarity of people all around the world doing the same thing I’m doing gives me motivation I don’t get throughout the rest of the year. It makes it the best time to get down a draft of something new. And, in case you haven’t noticed from my other posts about it, I’m excited for my project this year, even if it does seem lame that the general idea came from a dream.

It’s feeling fairly normal now to jump into a project with it only halfway planned, but I’ve enjoyed that method so far. It gives me just enough freedom to let the story lead itself (not that I can’t change things on the way, or even after the fact, as editing has shown me). But it makes the process easier, while still letting me enjoy watching the story unfold as we go. Maybe for a lot of people that doesn’t make sense, but it’s two different feelings, uncovering a plot twist during the planning stage versus uncovering one during the writing stage. It’s like being able to read a book that you wrote without knowing every detail before hand. It’s being able to make “what if?” statements, and having to wait to find out if you were right or wrong. And sometimes, you’re both.

Failing in Fall

So, my last post about writing was a glowing review of how my September writing goals were, mostly, successful. And I set myself some goals for October.

And naturally I didn’t accomplish any of them.

First, I haven’t even really looked at my editing project, despite really wanting to have it mostly wrapped up by the end of this month. I also hoped to have my November project mostly plotted out and ready to go. On that front I’ve had a little bit more success.

I’ve plotted out the first 10 or so chapters, and I’ve got a fairly good idea of where my story is going. So, for anyone who cares to know, here’s a little sneak peek.

The main character and her best friend are playing in an abandoned house as children when the best friend disappears. He’s never found, and she gets written off and put in therapy.

Fast forward 10 years, and she’s still been trying to make sense of what happened to her friend. She’s revisited the building and researched it, and seems to have found an answer. The next time she visits the house, she disappears too. When she comes to, she’s alone in the same house, but in a world that seems darker, like it’s dying. Guards find her and take her to the king, where she finds out the world is dying, because it lost its magic. Ten years ago, another person came through and promised to find a solution. They’ve been waiting ever since. She determines it must have been her friend. She sets out to find him, only to discover he’s trapped as a slave to a powerful magician. To even have a chance to save the world, she has to save her friend first.

 

I haven’t quite nailed down how it ends. It may be that the hero passes on saving the world, realizing she needs to take care of herself first, and that not every problem is hers to solve. Maybe she and her friend will save the world and become heroes. Or maybe everyone will die and the world will end. It’s still early in the planning process, truthfully, and I like to let the story tell itself, even in the planning stage.

Additionally, I really need to take some time to pick out names. I don’t want to complete yet another writing project with a placeholder for a name throughout the whole thing. Once was enough for me.

I’ve got nine days left to get myself ready for November (as though I’m ever really ready. That’s half the fun). But, I just might do it, if I can find some motivation. And turn the TV off. The whole “writing while watching” thing is perhaps the single biggest lie I tell myself in life.

A recap and a flash forward

In the beginning of September, I challenged myself to try to write at least something every day. And while I didn’t get to every day (some days were just too busy, other days I just didn’t feel up to it), I feel like I made some real progress in training myself to be more consistent. Consistency is the only way I’ll ever end up with a finished product.

I’ve made some progress in my editing–which has been challenging, because in recent weeks I’ve made it quite the task for myself with a massive rewrite of the second half of the story. But even as I’ve been working through it, slowly, it’s been very fun to uncover still more hidden pieces and hidden sides of my characters.

And while it’s felt like a massive undertaking, I do believe there is an end in sight. One or two more good days, dedicated time, I might even be ready to take it from the top once more. And that’s a pretty exciting thought.

Looking ahead to the rest of the month of October (crazy, isn’t it?!) I’ve got two things to accomplish. First, of course, is completing this rewrite. Second is prepping for NaNoWriMo in November. I’ve already got the seed of the story, if you will. So this month needs to be all about cultivating it.

The basic principle is an old building/castle directly beneath a wormhole or something that will transport a person to a different time (perhaps alternate universe?). The main character is searching for someone, a childhood best friend or crush and ends up somewhere unexpected.

Obviously I’ve got a lot of work to do, story line to develop. If you really want to know, the basis of this came from a dream I had (and that a while ago). What I remember most clearly was the longing for the person missing, and the frantic searching. So, those are the themes I’m focusing on. I’ve got a month to work out everything else. And, as I’m learning in this editing stage, I’m not likely to get it all right the first time, and that’s OK. Things will develop in the editing. As long as I’ve go the bare bones to work with, I’ll be all right.

So, here’s to October, a new month and new beginnings. I’ve got two objectives, and I think I’ve got the motivation to see them through.

Exploring dialogue again

Over the last few weeks, one of the writing exercises that has been the most fun for me was one related to dialogue, specifically expanding it.

It was a simple exercise; take a line of dialogue and rewrite it five times, each time changing the amount of details in it, the wording, ect., while keeping the meaning or theme. The dialogue provided for the prompt was, “I’ve never let you down.” Then, after the fifth rewrite, add a line of dialogue from another character.

It was really interesting to see how changing one line of dialogue exposed so much more to the story (or has the capability to, since I didn’t have a story to go with the dialogue for the exercise). But this simple technique can very easily be applied, even mentally, to sentences that feel awkward in the story, or even just parts I don’t like. By rewriting, it can open the door for additional developments, new pieces in the storyline, and just plain better dialogue. And it’s an easier route to start with than going line by line through a story asking, “how does this move the story along? Did they say this on purpose?” I’ll be honest, when I try to do that, I burn out quick. And by burn out I mean, I forget to keep doing it after a page or two. Whereas, this way, I can just read. I’ll obviously notice anything I don’t really like or that doesn’t feel right, and then I can work from there.

I’m still trying to rewrite the second half of my story. It’s messy. Part of me wants to just erase it and start completely from scratch. Part of me is horribly paranoid that I’ll erase it and then want it back immediately. So, I’m struggling through, trying to fill in what I need, and then go through to see what I don’t need and what specifically I need to adapt to new developments. It’s a little tedious, for me, and it’s been challenging to push myself to do it. This week has not been my best for self-motivation. But I’m trying, and that has to count for something.

To keep on keeping on

I’m more than halfway through the month, and my resolve to write every day is being sorely tested. There have been days that I’m tired and don’t want to do even the littlest bit more work. There have been days that feel like cop outs, where I’ve done the tiniest bit I can. But I’ve stuck with it so far. And I can see where my project is going.

After realizing last week how much additional stuff I could work in, and after writing a couple scenes, I realized the whole second half of my book was going to need some rearranging. So, I took one day (ok, I took a 15-minute break at work) and I plotted out barebones how the second half of the story needs to look. And in so doing, learned some new details about a problem character (turns out he’s a lawyer. It’s good, I didn’t really know what he was before, but it makes sense now). And learning these details allowed me to, perhaps, finally solve the most problematic thread in my story, while at the same time possibly rendering that it completely moot anyway.

I’m not working on this project every day. And sometimes it feels like I’ve barely made progress, despite the brainstorming. But I’m letting the details mingle in my mind, getting a feel for this new timeline. And in my time off next week, I’m really going to sit down and make some solid progress, instead of keeping my nose stuck in a book (I’ve got book reviews written through the month of October, I think I can take a couple days off…)

In the mean time, I’ll count any step forward as a victory.

Stepping Back and Moving Forward

As we all know, the last couple weeks I’ve taken a hiatus from my project because I felt maybe I’d reached the point of needing a critic, and I haven’t found anyone to do the job/haven’t emailed it to the family member(s) I feel would be objective about it. But this week, I decided to give it another read through, after having allowed it to be on the back burner, just to see if anything new jumped out at me. And boy did it.

I think taking a break from a project while editing is a good thing. It allows you to put some distance between you as the writer and you as the editor. It allows some of the unwritten details to fade from your mind a little, which means when you come back to it, you’re more in tune to areas that may need more explaining or developing. I ran into that while rereading the portion where Mason meets with the people claiming to be his parents.

From the moment he meets them, everything happens so fast (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending). The psychological turmoil I want him to experience seems a little far fetched. It hasn’t been nearly long enough for him to start questioning what’s real and what isn’t. So I realized that I need to allow the timeline to stretch out just a little.

But in stretching the timeline, I now need to ask myself, does everything else make sense. The reporter who is looking into his story, does her behavior make sense? What would she be doing, or what would she be reporting? If everything happens within two or three days, maybe it’s OK, but if I spread it over a week, something would obviously have to be different. I’ve also come back around to those stupid medical records that seemed to crucial in the beginning, but now seem to be nothing but plot holes and problems. So I have to ask myself, what are the ramifications of getting rid of them all together? Do I lose anything, other than a couple thousand words?

Finally, when I revisited this whole section of the story and started correcting inconsistencies (it may make sense for people who believe someone is their child to pass up on a DNA test, but if the now-grown child is uncertain, wouldn’t he ask for one, or wouldn’t they decide to do one to put his mind at ease?), I realized I needed someone on the inside, which showed me a little more depth to a supporting character. His loyalties aren’t what we’d assumed them to be.

So, now that I’ve looked through it again, I see several areas I can start working on, again. And more than that, I see pretty clearly where things need to go, which can be half the battle when editing. It’s easy to make something that doesn’t feel right, but harder to know what you need to do to make it work. Some distance can give you a fresh perspective.

So now I’ve been challenging myself to write just one scene a day, plodding along at making the necessary changes that make this story, or at least its characters, believable.