Tag Archives: Rachel Aaron

Rewriting…still

I’ve been working for a full year now and still haven’t finished the second draft of my UF book. Let’s just say it’s been a steep learning curve, and various crap happened throughout the year that didn’t make it any easier.

But – and there is a silver lining here – I’ve learned a lot. Just like a first draft, you kinda have to figure out a process for second and later drafts by doing it. Otherwise you’re flailing and wasting time and letting the voice of doubt sink its claws deeper into you….

I know, I’ve been there. I still flail, waste time, and want to burn the scene I’m trying to fix at least once a week. I don’t, though. I cut the words, re-write them over and over if I have to, until they make more sense.

Surely drafts three and on will be much, much easier.

 

20170206_171506.jpg

Assuming this guy lets me have some peace at the desk!

 

In any case, I’m sure there are tons of you out there looking at your NaNo or some other WIP first draft, positively cringing (or crying) from all the problems you see. Good news! NaNoEdMo is coming up in less than two weeks! Like NaNoWriMo, there’s a community undertaking the journey with you of trying to fix those words. Instead of 50,000 words, the goal is 50 hours of editing. That’s a little over 1.5 hours per day. Sounds totally do-able, right? Head on over to the website and sign up!

Having said that, I really, really don’t suggest diving in without some kind of plan.By that I mean jumping in feet first without looking over the first draft, thinking about what needs to change, characters that need to be moved, making notes, etc. It’s overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is what I tried:

  • Let the book sit (hopefully you’ve let it rest for a few weeks, if not a month, since finishing the draft)
  • Highlighted sections in different colors based on what changes were needed (green for setting, orange for plot, etc.)
  • Wrote each scene on a notecard
  • Made an outline for what actually happens in the first draft (even if you went by an outline while writing, it may be good to make this just to catch any differences that cropped up by accident)
  • Made an outline for draft two based on what needed to be moved/changed
  • Came up with an arbitrary date to finish the draft

 

What actually worked:

  • Outlines — these have made the biggest improvement, I think. Every time I changed something or got feedback from an alpha reader/critique partner, I readjusted the outline and was able to stay on track much better.
  • Scene cards — these helped to an extent. They’re nice if you want to lay them all out and see what happens when you move pieces around, but for me, there was too much information on them. My scenes were too big, so about a quarter through I stopped using them as my guideline.
  • Alpha/Beta reader — to be fair I didn’t have a reader/crit partner until about halfway through the year, but I highly recommend having someone read the revised/rewritten chapters as you get through one.

 

What didn’t work:

  • Highlighting the first draft — there was simply too much that needed to be reworked. Since it’s first person POV and the main character didn’t cooperate very well in the first draft, a lot of it couldn’t be salvaged word-for-word.
  • Word/scene goals/timeline — hahahaha. I have broken pretty much every one of these I made. I underestimated how long it would take to rewrite everything, because my brain isn’t in first-draft-vomit-mode. It’s in make-everything-pretty mode. Luckily I’m not on a contracted deadline so I can take as much time as you want.
    • If it takes you a day to fix 50 – 100 – 1000 words, THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to try to do a scene a day.

 

I also read quite a number of articles on rewriting, editing, the second draft, etc. Many, many of them will be much more helpful than me, both in terms of process and motivation/inspiration. The edit caves are deep, dark, and full of hidden bears that will gobble you up if they get the chance… take a torch and a shotgun with you:

 

Chuck Wendig has three good write ups about editing/rewriting/second drafts. Hopefully you get a kick out of the profanity as much as I do.

Susan Dennard has a treasure trove of writing posts, from planning a draft to fixing one.

Delilah Dawson, whom you should follow on Twitter, often takes questions and runs through scenarios like starting a short story or what her process is for revisions. Might be a little difficult to find the edit/revision posts but worth a look.

NaNoEdMo has a ton of posts from previous years to go back through. One of my favorites is this one by Julie Hutchings.

 

You can also look up Rachel Aaron (Bach), Kristin Lamb, and Holly Lisle to fill your brain with more revision gooey-ness. There are so, so many others too.

Catch you all at NaNoEdMo!

 

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NaNoWriMo: Save all the things!

This past November, I took a giant leap and tried out NaNoWriMo. I didn’t expect to complete it. I mean, I spent ten years to get a 128,000 word first draft out of my brain. Ten. Years. Attempting to write 50,000 in thirty days sounded like insanity. And yet, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe do this every year. What was the harm in trying? At least I’d be writing, and any amount of writing would be better than the zero that I was doing at the time.

Spoiler alert: I wrote 50k words and “won” NaNoWriMo. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the process (okay, maybe not at first) and took a lot more away from it than I thought I would.

NaNo forced me to change my writing process, for the better. Previously, I would spend an hour or more making sure the wording was right in a particular paragraph or section. I would stare aimlessly at a blank page, stressed out on making that first sentence not sound like garbage. This hasn’t been conducive for a while. So instead, I started pre-writing the bare bones of whatever section I wanted to work on. Then I typed it up, adding description and detail. The results? Two to three pages of longhand got me between 600 and 1000 words a pop once I embellished. Once those were typed, a lot of times I just kept rolling. Whenever I got stuck, I’d return to the notebook and write out another couple pages.

The NaNoWriMo website has a built in word count adjuster and graph to show you are each day. A bunch of people also make word count calendars and excel sheets in case you want more personalized tracking. I found one such calendar online, and it really helped motivate me to make the daily goal.

NaNo Count

This is my finished calendar at the end of NaNoWriMo. So many boxes!

There’s just something about filling in little boxes that is, sigh, so satisfying.

I also learned how important it is to SAVE EVERYTHING, especially when working with Scrivener. You see that last week of November on the calendar there? Those three days of 0 words? Those are the result of my desktop keeling over. The computer blue-screened about half an hour after I finished writing on the 23rd. It wouldn’t restart, so I let it rest the night. Monday evening I tried turning it on again, no dice. Husband attempted booting it through BIOS, no dice.

You might be asking yourself, “Chesley, why weren’t you saving to a flash drive? Or to a cloud drive? Or both?” I don’t have any reason for not saving to a flash drive, other than I stood naively under the, “It can’t possibly happen to me!” umbrella. I did, however, save it to Dropbox. Except when I tried to pull the backups, Dropbox hadn’t correctly synced with the computer somehow. All I had was the skeleton of my Scrivener project. No text files whatsoever. So just a fair warning, if you are saving to Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever other cloud service, make SURE the Files -> Docs folder actually has an obscenely long list of .txt and .rtf files.

I got stupendously lucky.  We were able to access the hard drive with a USB cable from Amazon, making it act like an external drive. We had to search for another hour to find the files – hidden – in the My Documents folder. I cried a little. Those (roughly) 33k – 35k words meant a lot to me.

 

Another funny thing happened by the end of NaNoWriMo – I was (and still am) excited about the writing that came out of it.

Your first instinct is to think you’d hate the resulting tangle of words, because you’re (ideally) writing so fast that you ignore spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, and characters going off on tangential dialogue that makes no sense to the rest of the story.  When you let go of form and let your fingers fly, though, beautiful things can happen. You write so fast that your brain starts throwing out ideas like beads at Mardi Gras. Inevitably, some of the ideas will be bad, but there will be some gold nuggets in there, too.

Even though my MC needs a ton of work, and I have a number of consistency/world issues to iron out, I like the partial first draft. Little foreshadowing details and hints of future plot threads emerged out of nowhere, but fit so well with the story as a whole. It’s kind of awesome to let your writer-self off the leash, step back, and watch the cool things that come out of your psyche.

To top it off, I enjoyed NaNoWriMo so much that I’m going to try and do another 20k – 40k words in February. Who wants to join me?!

 

The one thing I regret with NaNoWriMo is that I didn’t get involved in the community side of it. I didn’t make it to any of the write-ins. I missed the end party because I read the date wrong, and was mighty pissed at myself for it. So for NaNo 2015, I’m going to stop being a chicken and go write with other people.

 

*Remember folks, save everything. For the love of your characters and sanity, save everything two or three different ways. A computer won’t always give you a warning before succumbing to the deep blue screen.

* The pre-writing (or outlining) I mentioned that I used for NaNo is explained better in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k . It’s an insightful read, and gives good advice on not just writing faster, but writing better while you increase your word count at the same time.

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Building a new world

The time’s running away from me, but I still want to address emotional response that I mentioned in the DFWCon recap post.

To sum up, one of the author/agent duos suggested, when submitting or querying, to be prepared for rejection and when it does happen, not to make your response from an emotional place.  Don’t go throwin’ ‘bows because they didn’t understand your character, or said your premise wasn’t exciting. If your comeback snarky and rude, why would that person (be it an agent, editor, publisher, critique partner, etc.) want to work with you in the future? If you aren’t open to at least considering change or opening your eyes to what the flaws are in your work, it’s going to be difficult to move forward.

After the conference ended I hit upon an epiphany — reigning in our emotions, and how we respond to what we’ve written (or someone’s feedback on our work), goes hand in hand with our entire writing process.  We need to breathe through the sentences that don’t work, and the characters who act in opposition of their nature. We need to remind ourselves that what we’ve written may not be perfect, but we’re moving in the right direction. Every word is another step towards establishing our voice, and learning what works. We need to stop letting our emotions run the show, and instead remind ourselves of what we have accomplished. We all have bad days where we look at what we’ve written, and our inner critic just won’t shut up. We just have to remember that we’re human, we make mistakes, life gets in the way, but the writing will get better if we can push past the self-doubt and put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard).

There are numerous other writers who have discussed dealing with self-doubt and guilt, but these are three of my favorites:  Rachel Aaron – Don’t Stomp on My Cake!  ;  Kristen Lamb – Writer Victory series  ;  Lauren Sapala – Self Doubt: The Writer’s Constant Companion

 

I tried revising my epic fantasy first draft from May to July. To say revisions didn’t pan out in those three months would be a massive understatement. The more I looked at it and tried to start fixing it, the more deprecating my thoughts became. In preservation of my sanity, I’ve shelved it. I’ll bring it back out in a year or two, but I’m just not ready to deal with it. Hell, maybe it’s not ready to deal with me. But that’s not necessarily bad, because I’m better off moving on to something that makes me excited to write, than to sit and stare at the monitor waiting for brilliant inspiration on how to fix a broken story.

 

Tomorrow I’m flying to Charleston, SC to fully immerse myself in a new project. For three and a half glorious days I’ll be sightseeing and eating my way through historic downtown, while filling in the gaps of an urban fantasy world that has waited patiently for its time in the spotlight. Now that the EF is out of the way, it’s all magic and technology and a different species of shifters from here!

 

 

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