I think I’ve posted once or twice about how much trouble I’ve been having with my attempts at editing recently. I’ll work on a chapter for most of the day and not get halfway through, and what I do get done is not to my satisfaction. Well, yesterday I devoted the morning to some serious schoolwork and getting other important, mostly school-related stuff done. I had lunch and then beat the heck (or the dust) out of the stairs and dining room rug with the vacuum. Then I went to my room and spent several hours reorganizing my closet. When that was finally done, my back was quite sore, I was tired, and felt very satisfied. I was also rather dirty, so I took a nice, hot shower. I watched an episode of my favorite TV show and then had a relaxing dinner with my family.
Notice none of this is writing. All day, the only book-related thing I did was sort through my maps while cleaning the closet. (I also found some drawings that will probably find their way into the story, but that’s a post for another time.) So after dinner, I went upstairs to my desk, sat myself down, and started to work on a chapter that needed considerable revision. I had three hours max before bedtime. And I got it done in that time, quite satisfactorily, I might add. I didn’t get distracted; I didn’t get frustrated; I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I was focused, at ease, and inspired.
I basically did the same thing today. And you know something? It worked.
I’m not sure what I’m here to write about. Maybe I’m just here to procrastinate from my editing work. It’s not going so well. I’m just too undecided about certain things, most especially about the significance of some characters. I want them to be important, but I just might not be able to fit them into the story. And if not, then they need to be more or less erased. I’m nervous to make so many changes, since a decision either way will cause rippling effects throughout the whole story. But that is what editing is, after all: making decisions that change the book. I guess I’d better get back to it.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to post a writing prompt.
In Jane Austen’s Emma, Robert Martin writes a marriage proposal to Harriet Smith, Emma’s best minion. We never get to read the letter itself, but meddling main character Emma critiques it and informs us that it is very well-written: romantic but practical, direct but respectful, and short but powerful- though of course she disapproves.
So, if you’re not too busy eating chocolate, now it’s your turn. Have one of your characters write a proposal to another character. Have a dozen different couple combinations! Have the antagonist propose to the protagonist! You can have the letter be romantic, funny, sarcastic, innocent, hateful, or totally indifferent. Most importantly, post the results back to me!
Also, my characters’ love song is Hoobstank’s ‘The Reason’; what’s your characters’ song? If they don’t have one, find one!
Hello there! Sorry I’ve been gone so long. But that’s what I’m here to talk about! For some reason, right in the middle of a big rewrite for Season of Betrayal, I decided to also revise its sequel. Well, what happened was I promised the NaNoWriMo people I’d spend January and February editing, since it’s a traditional part of the winners’ program. Point is, I committed to editing the darn thing when I knew I was going to be rewriting my Magnum Opus. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
Thanks to my dad’s advice, exciting new horizons are appearing for Season of Betrayal. There was a time not so long ago when I would have sworn that I was done with major changes, but -surprise surprise- I’ve already rewoven important plot points, and there is still so much more to be done. Characters are changing and timelines morphing. I hope I will be satisfied with the result.
Every writer has their own strengths and weaknesses, but when it comes to beginning writers, there’s one thing they usually have in common. They more often than not suffer from what I call bubble syndrome (which plagued the first draft of Dragon’s Heart- still does in some places). Basically, this is when the writer suspends his character in a tiny little blank bubble with no sound and has them float through the story, only coming into contact with the outside world when the plot needs them to. Bubble syndrome is caused by the writer being so anxious to move forward with the story that they forget to color in the background. A common side-effect of this condition is info-dumping, where the writer tries to make up for the lack of description and reality by taking a paragraph of minute detailing and wedging it into the story at odd places that break up the suspense, action, and natural flow of the story.
It takes a lot of work to achieve, but if the writing is to feel natural and effortless to the reader, it must have a constant buzz in the background. There must be movement and bustle and a whole world revolving without the main character. It has to feel like the main character is one small person moving in a vast world. We’re following them around, but the rest of the world isn’t. Creating this buzz gives the whole story energy and reality. Instead of distracting, having your character be one of a whole population actually focuses in on them.
By popular request, here’s a synopsis of this year’s NaNo novel; however, being a sequel, it could contain spoilers for Season of Betrayal, so it’s been modified slightly.
‘One dark night was all it took for twenty years of darkness to suddenly overcome them.’
Two years after the war, just as things are settling back into peace, newly-wed Minkhoy is suddenly thrown into the dark and still-dangerous past of her husband. With death at their heels, they flee the country to enter the shadows of yesterday, where mysteries, memories, tragedies, lies, and secrets lurk, ready to tear them apart. But their greatest danger is far more real: an old hatred that will stop at nothing to get its revenge.
-Shadows of Yesterday
I learned a new trick recently, and I thought I should share it with you. I was revising a particular part of my climax and getting really frustrated. I knew it really needed a big change, but however I worked at it, I couldn’t seem to fix it. I tried taking out sentences and writing new dialogue, but it was still stuck inside this death-grip of old writing. Finally, I just opened a blank document and rewrote it all from scratch. It worked like a charm! I was able to work in this whole new angle and steer the dialogue in the right direction to end up in the right plot device.
So the lesson of the day: never underestimate the power of blank paper.
Happy New Year to you all! Let this year be even better than the last.
Sometimes, being a writer can just really stink. Whether you like it or not, all your emotional stability and happiness is invested in your writing. So if you’re not happy with your writing, you’re just not happy. About anything. Even worse, if you try to run away and ignore it because it’s just too painful to even read, you end up only feeling more and more miserable. Consider it an inverse ratio: the less you read it, the more miserable you are. Suddenly, anything else you try to fill your time with only makes ignoring it more painful. You try to talk to your characters while you lie awake at night, only to find that they’re giving you the cold shoulder, refusing to talk to you until you start writing about them again; and trying to forget them is like trying rip out your own heart. And, horror of all these horrors, if you doubt your plot, doubt your characters, doubt your ability, doubt it’s ever going to be any good, doubt the whole shebang, really doubt… No, no doubt about it, being a writer is dangerous, not the least to your mental health.
Think about it: you can toil and slave away for years, drawing together this scattered story, and when you’re finally done that work, the dreadful shadow of edit & revise comes over you. You sell your soul to this horrible being and weep as you watch it tear apart your beloved story bit by bit. But lo! at the end of it all it hands you the perfect story, just what you wanted it to be. That happiness is fleeting, however, for you must send your creation forth to battle the vulture publishers and perhaps face rejection. And when it finally defeats one of them, it must undergo more edit & revise until it is a book in its own right. Finally, when all that is said and done, you and your book must face the horrors of marketing, and rejection shows its ugly face once more. And in that cracked sidewalk in your mind, a small idea is poking up its head between the dead cement, demanding to be nurtured and loved and grown into a book. And being a writer, you can’t help but say yes. So it all starts all over again.
And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope you had a good one, and received lots of books as presents.