Tag Archives: manuscript

Conclusion of NaNoWriMo2017

Well, if you haven’t already seen, my project for this National Novel Writing Month was actually a manuscript I’d worked on last year, but now from a different perspective. I go into greater detail about the whys and whats in my previous NaNo post, but the short of it is, the manuscript needed a dual POV to make it work.

I’m glad I forced myself to churn out that creativity. As per usual, the pressure of NaNo helped me get my head in the game and just drive through it. I found myself absolutely loving the second POV, and found further points in the plot that could be expanded or re-framed.

A few differences from other years: the ‘dislike’ of this manuscript popped up sooner and actually continued until the end. Usually I get over it the last week. I think it’s because I’ve been working on this story for a while, and it’s a complex concept dealing with a lot of issues — from environmental themes to colonialism to white saviorism… all with very complicated people (because I can’t seem to write simple people). In all the complexity it’s easy to mess up.

There’s so much potential in this story, but that doesn’t matter if I don’t have the skills and ability to get there. Sooo at the end of the day, I think all my problems came from artistic doubt.

That being said, I still ‘won’ the thing:

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So I shouldn’t complain too much.

Whether or not the words are good is the next problem. But I think only a clear head and some serious beta readers are going to help me solve that. It would also help if the damn manuscript was finished — I haven’t written a solid chunk of the ending, basically because I have no idea how to get from point A to Z with any sort of clarity. Every time I try I end up down another rabbit hole!

I think that there are elements that need to come together in the ending that I haven’t teased out enough in the beginning and middle, so it feels awkward and weird. That being said the manuscript is sitting at 134k words so I’m not sure how much longer I can make this this… But, I can also cut later.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo.

As I mentioned before, my last work assignment ended in November, so I ended up suddenly having a lot of free time on my hands this month. So if anyone out there reading this is frustrated because you didn’t ‘finish’ — A) don’t compare yourself to me, I was probably doing a lot less than you, and B) hey now, whatever you wrote is WORTH it. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. NaNo is just a tool to get more words. 50k is pretty arbitrary when you think about it.

I managed to keep good habits, both writing wise and personally getting things done. I’m not sure I really *learned* anything more about myself as a writer, unlike in past years, which is a little disheartening. But it might click later what doesn’t seem obvious now.

But that’s all boring. The point is: more words! Whooo! I’m leaving the manuscript alone throughout December because I need a clear head, but I’m going to really commit to this thing next year. I need it done, so that I can see it whole and then revise for real. I’ve been planning and writing and fiddling with this manuscript for like two years. It’s starting to fester in my brain.

Anyway, that’s the conclusion of what I have here. It was a weird NaNoWriMo for me, guys!

How was yours? Any new insights into yourself or your manuscript?

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Swiss Cheese Manuscript

Well my NaNoWriMo manuscript looks like swiss cheese right now with all of the holes in it. No, not plot holes – literal holes in the… plot.

(Okay, ‘plot holes’ is misleading. I’m talking about holes in the linear A-Z structure of getting from beginning to end. Holes in the… what else would you call it? GAH)

Whatever, the point is, the manuscript isn’t finished. There’s a decent chunk in the middle and the ending stretch is riddled with them — and I haven’t actually written the ending either.

Pfff – did you think it would be done, at only 50k words? No way, that’s like, half done in my world.

*cough* Anyway…

I started with 6610 words and ended up writing 62k. Sooo… the book is almost 79k words right now. I’ll probably add 10k more. (I’m repeating myself from my last blog post — moving on)

really don’t want to work on this manuscript anymore. What is wrong with me? I’m right at the finish line — the exciting part, it’s all coming together — and instead I’m daydreaming about other stuff. And, my main character for my INITIUM series is throwing images of naked men into my consciousness she’s so annoyed I’ve been ignoring her.

(Don’t ask… because I don’t even really know what she’s talking about yet)

Which is actually pretty awesome, because I’d been feeling a little drained from writing that series. This has been a great break. I think I scared my characters into talking to me again.

Now, I have one last thing I need to finish, a fun short story project that needs to be done mid-December… then it’ll be back to torturing Fairian and Daimyn. I’ve been mulling over this book three problem, and I’ve got some devious ideas…

But back to the point of this blog post. My November project needs some work before it’s even a real draft yet. I think I know what’s bugging me — I’m not used to writing in third person, and my main character isn’t compelling enough — but I’m going to let it sit for a little while. I need to do some research and devise a better game plan. This manuscript is definitely a lot more craft and less… intuitiveness. It’s good practice for me, but not something I’m quite used to.

NaNoWriMo is great for getting the words out — but they’re not always the best of words.

I hope you all had a great create NaNoWriMo 2016. And if you didn’t get to 50k — whatever. You still wrote, you got a little farther in your novel. That’s an accomplishment. We’re all proud of you.


#NaNoWriMo Update: I hate my novel?

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So a few days ago I wrote a rant about how much I hate my current #NaNoWriMo project. I can’t remember if I’ve hated projects before for NaNo — and I don’t have time to go back through blog posts and find out — but I’m pretty sure I’ve disliked or been disinterested in them before.

Anyway, this is what I wrote:

I don’t remember hating a manuscript as much as I hate mine right now.

My main character is kind of a bitch. Beyond that, she’s kind of boring. She also doesn’t have enough agency or drive, beyond the whatever monologue in her head. Sure, there’s supposed to be a big character arc (if I can do it right) but nobody is going to read to that point anyway if they can’t connect with her at all in the first chapter.

My world is also boring. I mean, come on. Enough of the western civilization-esque crap that’s been written over and over again. Why can’t I write something original? Why can’t I write something really poignant and fresh and part of a culture we don’t really know much about or something?

My stakes are also crap. I’m really good at making my characters comfy in their situations and finding safe places to hang out for moments in time. UGH.

Then there are my tropes. Oh Lord, the tropes. Every time I’m like — I’m going to this! And then — wait… it’s turned into that instead (which had been done a million times already, of course).

I suppose all of this would be okay if I trusted my ability to edit afterwards. I’m really good at line editing — but developmental editing I struggle with, a lot. Once I’ve written something, the box has been created, and I somehow get myself stuck within it. That’s why I usually end up editing and writing at the same time, because I can really think through what I’m writing and make sure I’m happy with when it gets ‘on the page.’ But with intense, fast writing like NaNoWriMo, I cannot think much about problems or situations that arise in the moment because I just have to keep writing.

I have done a lot more plotting this time around, but not enough to deal with everything that arises (does anyone, really?). So I’m spitting out words and new exciting things are evolving and some more disappointing things are developing, and I’m feeling… like I don’t know what I’m doing.

This may be partly having to do with some poignant writing advice I’ve absorbed lately (and feeling overwhelmed by), which is another blog post all together (upcoming).

But either way. Is anyone else having these doubts and problems? We’re halfway done with NaNoWriMo. How are you feeling about your manuscript now?

… and then something weird happened. Here, let me show you the results of this ‘weird thing’ that happened:

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That’s SEVEN DAYS AHEAD on my word count.

*cue shock and blank staring*

I’ve never done this before. Somewhere in all my insecurity I hit this weird plateau and just starting writing. It helped that I had several hours blocked away to write, and hit an interesting part, and suddenly my characters were talking to me, and I got excited about the current way my story is going.

I can feel the little doubt demons in the back of my head going — yeah, you’re going to regret doing this later because it’s too much like ____ trope.

And… somehow I’m ignoring them. I’m just writing my little trying-to-be-a-plotter-actually-a-pantser butt off and rather enjoying the ride.

But seriously — how is everyone else doing? Are the doubt demons kicking your butt? Are you hating/post-hating your manuscript?

 


Drive and Depth: Debating My Least Favorite Writing Rule

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I’m coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that I need to cut a lot from the second in the series I’m writing. I continually waffle back and forth depending on the day, of course. But there is a thread of truth in the idea that I’ve written content in this book that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

Does is portray intriguing characterization? Definitely. Rich emotion and relationships? Oh, yes. Interesting dynamics and world building? You betcha. Forwarding the particular thread of plot for this novel? Well…

It is the second in the series. So some parts of me say, there’s leeway! People will care about these characters now (as it is the second book), so they’ll want to read about these fun interplays that delve deeper into the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it (and each other)! Then I’ll bring in the real clincher for this novel, and off we go.

But the more I read, the more I get the feeling I really need to start cutting. Or, somehow, shorten the scenes I’ve written. There seems to be a lot of advice being churned out — or maybe I’m just now paying attention to it — about how every scene needs to drive the plot forward, to build on the scene before it.

I think I’m pretty good on the building from previous scenes. If the difficult of extracting one of my scenes without collapsing part of the story is anything to go on, I’m good at that part. But not all the my scenes necessarily drive the plot forward.

But then part of me wonders — what does that really mean, drive the plot forward? Sure, you’ve got the main storyline of what occurs that hopefully follows a theme, maybe teaches a lesson, hitting upon human moments and concerns. But then there’s this whole nebulous character part of it.

Characters are what drive the story. Characters are what make readers actually care about the story. But to have characters, you have to have characterization, growth, interplays and dynamics. Which I absolutely adore, both as a reader and a writer.

So how much characterization is too much? How much of the book can be character focused, and how much solely plot?

I know the aim is to weave both of these together, so they seamlessly slide into each other and catapult the whole story forward. So maybe my real problem is learning how to do that more effectively.

But that can’t be quite right, because I still have 148k words on this mammoth of a book, and even if I did still start the ‘action’ earlier and weaved everything else in later, that’d still be the word count. So I’m back to — too many scenes that involve just characterization.

Which brings me to my second complaint of the rule that all scenes must move the plot forward.

When I started writing, I was fascinated by making everything real. Real emotions, real interactions, real situations (well, as real as you can get with dragons flying around). While I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was then, there’s still a part of me that yearns for a plot to not be so straightforward.

Real life has dead ends. Clues that aren’t clues. Unfortunate bunny trails. Long walks that turn into long conversations that no one quite remembers fully, but they know what it felt like. Boredom. Confusion. Unclear motives. Self-loss.

I’m not advocating long drawn out scenes about doing dishes or being stuck in traffic for an hour. That’s boring. There’s a difference between relaying boredom and being boring. But at some point, I get bored with scenes that do nothing but drive forward. Life is fuller than that. Life has more mystery and more depth.

I want to stop and savor. Enjoy the world I’m immersed in. Really get to know the characters, and feel what they feel. Pick apart their minds and their motivations, and curl up inside their heads.

But. Too much can mean a story that drags.

So. Where is the line, do you think? Between plot and character; between drive and depth? Where do you draw your line in this tug of war?


Why You Can Write Two Books at Once… If One Is In A Series

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I began this post with the inclination that you shouldn’t write two books at once. Yet, the more I’ve researched the topic, the more I found that writing two books at once can actually be very beneficial.

I understood the cons of writing two books at once as this: if you’re working on two things at once, they’re bound to start looking like each other. It can create parallels in plot, and similarities in style and writing. Beyond this, each book teaches you something new for your craft; when you write two at once, it deprives one book of the lessons learned from writing the other.

But recently I’ve come across a few articles that argue that writing two – or more! – books at once can actually help your writing. Barry Lyga’s Rules of Writing Multiple Books at Once was especially neat. This is a gentleman who seems to write multiple books at once on a regular basis, and here are some gems of wisdom he offers to us all:

  1. When working on two books at once, the projects need to be vastly different from one another. Not only will this help the projects not resemble each other, but it also helps with burnout — if you’re not feeling up to writing one project one day, switch to the other!
  2. The projects should also be at different stages in the writing process. This is because of the same reason as right above — if you’re really struggling with one project, you can work on another that’s in another stage in the plot. This helps get you out of your head with one project and let you relax, all the while still being productive with another project.

He has other advice as well, more to do with writing in general (head over to his article if you’re interested!). But I thought the two points above were very interesting.

I had another thought strike me a few months ago, about this subject. I’ve been considering starting up writing another novel, in addition to writing the third in my current series. Except I was concerned that this would make the stories too similar to each other.

Then it hit me. That even if that does happen, it actually really works. Because in a series, the character’s are supposed to grow; if writing another novel shifts how the character (tone, etc) sounds — that’s what’s supposed to happen overall! It can be attributed to the natural progression of a series.

I mean, sure. Don’t let your stories sound exactly the same, in a series or not. But writing a series seems to naturally lend itself to writing other books.


Rambling Advice on Editing: #FicFest Update

I have zero desire to write this blog post, but I’m doing it anyway. I skipped/missed last week’s post, somewhere between laziness, picking up my (almost) mother-in-law for her month long stay, and furiously editing my manuscript for FicFest. So as I write this week’s, and I figure as long as I keep rambling, something will come out.

That’s what they say about writing habits every day, right? Just start writing anything, and the flow will come.

But anyway. Let’s talk about FicFest updates.

I received my edit letter almost a week ago… wow, has it been only a week? Yikes. It feels like it’s been longer. Anyway, I got the edit letter, and it’s been a little bit like having free access to crack ever since. It’s impossible to pull away. I’m definitely editing on the sly at work. I’ll find myself reading over her edits and making changes for hours and don’t even remember how I got there. It helps that she’s so freaking smart and spot on about everything.

I’ve run into my first problem, however: knowing the difference between a good change that improves my craft and story, and knowing when a change will alter the ‘heart’ of my story too much. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of comments by a mentor, an editor, a beta reader — whatever you’re happening to read over in that moment.

I don’t really know the answer to this yet, but I have gotten some great tips from writer friends and family.

My first piece of advice, coming directly from me, is this:

Read through all the advice and suggestions. Then, take a step back. Take each edit one at a time, and only that one at a time. Take the one suggestion and work only on that until it’s done (and maybe give yourself a time limit if you’re a super-perfectionist). Don’t try to do everything at once as you’re moving through your manuscript.

 

I started with finishing the line edits, and have just moved onto the overall suggestions; right now I’m working on making my setting more vivid (and ONLY on the setting). Once that’s done, I’m moving onto making a particular character from the past have a little more influence on the future, to not be quite so shrouded. Then I’ll be working on this one character quirk that needs to be further explained.

Do you see what I mean? Focusing on one aspect makes it a lot easier to digest and implement. I’m finding I’m not nearly so overwhelmed, and I can see each comment more clearly as what it is: advice, and intelligent suggestion.

Another piece of advice that really rung true for me was this:

Take each suggestion at face value (again: only one at a time) and look at it through the lens of what story YOU are trying to tell (you’ve probably heard this advice a hundred times, but for some reason this really hit me as helpful).

Be open to all suggestions and improvements. Consider everything carefully, after a few days to digest the comments you’ve received. Come at your story after a deep breath and a step back. Determine what kind of story comes across to the reader, and if it’s the story YOU want to tell. Some suggestions may change the story to feel like something else, or the characters to be like other people. It could be good. It could be great. Or it may change something too much.

Don’t cut off your nose in spite of your face, but keep true to the story you are trying to tell.

 

Does anyone else struggle with finding this balance? What’s your method to work it out? How about my FicFest friends, how are you all doing?


Revisions and Chapter Breaks

I’m finding myself revising the beginning of the MS I have been pitching. And not just a little edit, but a major revision.

Maybe I’ve been turning a blind eye… or simply not being as critical as I should be.

But a recent rejection made me take a second look at the beginning of my book. In their comments (I actually received comments!), they said some [hurtful] things that didn’t make sense. But instead of crying profusely or raging out at the world, I tried to take the middle ground: do a harsh edit using their actually helpful comments, and see what that gets me.

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When I do a major revision, I made a whole new duplicate document, saving the original, and made the changes in the new one. That way if I realize this was a terrible idea and only a self-loathing-induced fit, I could turn back to the original and forget the duplicate ever existed. Or, learn from the fit and keep some of the changes, but not have an irreversibly changed MS.

I realized as I tore apart my first few chapters… that I haven’t really looked at them in… apparently a long while. And I’ve grown as a writer in that while.

For example, there was a lot of unnecessary italicized inner-dialogue that could be turned into normal “showing,” making scenes much smoother without the sometimes jarring, emphasized italicized version of my MC’s thoughts.

Interestingly enough, one scene I wrote a long time ago, and distinctly remember being proud of, was actually superfluous and awkward. It was much too information-dumpy, and was something I could spread out and drop more casually in the story.

Also, my chapter endings were boring. I’m not sure how it escaped my attention that they were, probably focusing on the content of the chapters without thinking of the further-draw aspect. But with some scene rearranging, the chapters end with a little more enticement to read the next chapter. The new scene set up actually makes more sense and is smoother, too, which is interesting.

I came across an article recently (I think I pinned it to one of my Pinterest boards) about chapter endings. We’ve all seen the cliff-hanger chapters, which is the #1 way of enticing readers to continue on. But this article cautioned that it was possible to go overboard and make a book choppy; another way of ending chapters was to always end with a question, or the next piece of the mystery.

You’re probably saying, “yeah I knew this already,” but for some reason I hadn’t taken that tidbit to heart when I wrote the beginning of this manuscript. The chapters just ended where it seemed like a good place, without really thinking about drawing people further. The later chapters, for sure… but those aren’t the chapters that publishers or agents will see first anyway!

So I feel a little silly. I’d been so focused on the ending, the plot, and the next book in the series that I hadn’t given sufficient time to the aspect that will actually make or break the whole dang thing.

Though it’s heartening to see my craft improving.

What is your favorite chapter ending/method? Have you realized something silly you were missing because you were so focused elsewhere? What is your latest ‘ah-ha!’ rejection story?