Tag Archives: novels

Your Words are NOT a Waste!

17 Jan

Last week, I had a conversation with one of my critique partners about first drafts—her in-progress first draft, my feels-like-forever-ago first draft.

Every now and then, she finds herself stuck writing this first draft, afraid of taking a detour that will end up being a mistake, a major waste of time.  As seems wise and logical, she’s trying to be efficient.  Efficiency is, by NO means, a bad thing.  But…in the first draft?  It can be paralyzing.  Same with perfectionism, which we both know all too well.

This got me thinking (and confessing) about how drastically my novel has changed over the course of four drafts.  I actually cracked open that first draft to see how it compared to what I remembered about it.

Oh.  Man.

It was, like, a completely bare-bones version of what I have today.  My minor characters are mere shadows of who they eventually became, my main character isn’t fully developed yet, it’s complicated but oversimplified at the same time (I know, that doesn’t make total sense, but trust me), two important minor characters don’t even exist yet, one character is WAY important in this draft but eventually became background fodder in later drafts, several plot points existed then but have morphed over time, the ending has changed completely.  I used way too many words to communicate things.  My paragraphs?  OY VEY, my paragraphs…some of them are, like, half a page long.

Basically, it was like an 85,000-word long extremely rough draft.  Which is why I scrapped most of those words and started over from a blank page for the second draft.  And then, on the third draft, though the story was mostly in place and I kept a lot of the ideas in tact, I knew I could write it better.  I started over from a blank page again.  I rewrote the beginning for this fourth draft, but mostly, this is the first time I’m actually editing words on a draft instead of rewriting them all.

All of that to say: I cut a LOT throughout that whole process.  That which I didn’t cut, morphed into better stuff.  It’s taken a while to get here.  But, hey, it’s my first attempt at writing a novel—I would have been delusional if I had thought it would turn out perfect on the first draft.  It was coherent, yes—but it’s gotten SO MUCH BETTER, much more complex, much tighter, much deeper, since then.  And, there are no more half-page-long paragraphs. *cringes*

I can say, 100% without a doubt, that it would have been a very, very pale imitation of itself had I merely tried to be efficient early on.  It’s taken all that work, and all those words, to chisel away at this story, to really know my characters, to learn how to write tight but effective prose, to spin and weave my novel’s various threads.

My words, my thousands and thousands of words, were not a waste.  Neither are yours.  Be patient with your story.  There are upsides and downsides to efficiency—don’t worry if you take detours.  You can always edit them out later, and the detours will probably spark better ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!

Happy writing, my friends!

Marathon Day of Edits…

12 Jan

…coming up right after I finish this blog post.

As you may or may not remember, I made an ambitious deadline for finishing this draft of my novel.  Well…the problem with ambitious deadlines is that they are, by nature, ambitious.

Translation: ohmygoodnessihaveSOmuchworktodo.

I’m determined to leave my deadline firmly where I carved it into stone set it.

Therefore: today. Lots of peppermint tea. Focus turned all the way up to eleven. Twitter on in the background—for sanity breaks, of course, so I don’t go crazy.  And, of course, my cat.  Most importantly: perseverance.

So.  Here I go.

*Deep breath.*

UPDATE! Thank you all—SO MUCH!—for encouraging me today, both here in the comments and on Twitter!  It helped a lot, and brightened my (very analytical, very focused) day.  In case you’re wondering about my progress, it was pretty fantastic!  I didn’t get through everything I’d hoped to, but that’s okay.  I got through most of it, then decided a) it would be good to move around, so I took a walk, and b) I can get back to work tomorrow with fresh eyes!  Again, thank you all for being awesome.  :)

Everyone’s a Star

7 Jan

I spent the first morning of this year at Melissa‘s new house, in what will eventually become her library (and, I assume, writing room).

We talked for hours.  Naturally, the subject of our novels-in-progress came up.  I blathered on about how difficult revision can be, how it sometimes feels like a huge puzzle.  Being the awesome critique partner she is, though, she’s great at feeling out whether I need her to challenge me, or whether I need simple encouragement.

Well, that morning was all about encouragement.  She mentioned one of the things she loved about my WIP was that I was able to weave a lot of threads together and not drop them (specifically, she remembered this post I wrote about spider legs).  I so enjoy complicated, well-woven books/TV shows/movies—it’s only natural that I would attempt to write one.

However.

This got me thinking about how long it took to actually spin the threads, not to mention how long it’s taken to weave them together without dropping them.  (Answer: I’m on my fourth draft.  One of those drafts was a total rewrite, another was a partial rewrite.  A long time.)

I thought I’d share my secret today.  Alas, there is no secret to the weaving of the threads—just diligence, patience, perseverance, and faith that it will all pay off.  No, the secret I want to share is about how to spin the threads in the first place.

The number one thing that has given my novel depth and decent subplots is this:

Treat every character like the star of the show, even if they’re only on stage for two seconds.

Here’s what I mean by that.

My first draft fell flat because I only knew my main character.  He was vibrant against a background of half-drawn people whose motivations were no more than what I needed them to be in the moments they were on stage.

The second draft became a total rewrite because I got to know my minor characters.  Period.

I remember sitting in my favorite Starbucks, looking at all the people I knew well, and all the people who were strangers.  It occurred to me: I feel like the center of my world, because I come complete with 27 years of memories, opinions, experiences, and relationships.  But: that stranger over there?  To him, I’m a minor character, and HE’S the star of his own world.  Just because I’m on the stage of his life for two seconds, it doesn’t mean I’m any less real of a person.  And just because I’ve never seen him before, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have several decades of opinions, experiences, etc.

THAT, my friends, revolutionized my writing.

I started thinking of my minor characters in that way: who are they, behind the scenes?  What do they want, what do they feel, what emotions are they experiencing?  How do they live and breathe and speak, even when we don’t see them?

After thinking about these things, my story changed.  Not the main plot—but all the subplots.  There were lots of things going on behind the central story, believable things that enhanced the main plot.

When Lexie, one of my favorite characters, walks on stage, she is 100% Lexie—not some cardboard cliché who merely does what I need her to do.  Every piece of dialogue, every movement she makes, every decision, ALL of these are completely in line with who I know she is.  She’s one of the more major minor characters (got that? ha!).  I’ve done my best to get to know most of my characters in this way.

This might sound like a lot of work.  I hope it does, because, um, it IS.  But, it comes in handy when you’re trying to weave the threads later.  When you know your characters and their lives so well, you don’t have to guess about whether or not they would act a certain way—things just start to fall into place. You start to remember the threads you spun like you remember things going on in your friends’ lives (at least, I do), which makes it much easier to weave them together without forgetting you started them in the first place.

So, moral of the story: minor characters are just as real as your major characters.  They’re flesh and bone and experience, not cardboard.  Everyone feels like a star in their own lives—write them that way, whether it’s their story or not.

New Year, New Goals…

3 Jan

2011 has only just started, but I can feel it: it’s going to be a big year.

A lot happened in 2010.  I made major progress on my novel, started a second novel, participated in Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop over the summer, joined Twitter, made new friendships and deepened others, and blogged more regularly (until, um, the move to Austin).

2010 was the year I really settled into a disciplined groove with writing, the year I learned how to cultivate new ideas (and therefore, the year I learned how to choose which new ideas to focus on as they came flooding in), the year I grew a spine and shared my novel with beta readers for the first time.

All that to say, I think 2011 will be just as amazing—maybe even more amazing.

The week before Christmas, I made a huge list of goals.  I’m talking HUGE.  (This is because I make extremely specific—and therefore, extremely measurable—goals.)

Perhaps the biggest, most exciting, goal is this:

This year, I will finish this novel to the point where I am satisfied enough with it to begin querying agents.

I’ve set myself a pretty ambitious, specific schedule (because, yes! I did set a goal date…and it’s soon…).  The novel’s close to being ready, but it’s not there yet.  Still: YAY.  This is the first year where “finish my WIP,” “send query letters to agents,” and “finish first draft of Shiny New Novel” have been actual, possible, achievable goals.

AND I’M SO EXCITED.

The other goal I’ll share with you guys is this: I plan a return to more regular blogging, and plan to write on a MWF schedule (plus any and all other random spurts of blogginess that just beg to be written!) from now on.¹

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I wish you all motivation, inspiration, and dedication in abundance!

xoxo ❤

 

¹On that note, if you happen to have any requests or suggestions for things you’d like to read about, let me know in the comments!

Reading, Writing, and Other Awesomeness

8 Dec

Whew!  What a week!

So, Fresh Start December?  Yeah, it’s rocking so far.  Reading, writing, chatting with delightful friends on Twitter and gmail chat—you name it, it’s happening.

And I love it.  It feels good.  Fresh, I might even say.

The writing room is just as fantastic as you might imagine it to be.  It’s got a huge, clean, antique wooden desk, a new comfy desk chair, another desk (which, I discovered yesterday, is PERFECT for scene card shuffling), windows and natural light for inspiration, and a big gray chair that’s perfect for reading.¹

Anyway.

I’m overjoyed to announce that this writing room—get this—actually leads to a Very Productive Kayla.  During the first week of Fresh Start December, I slaved over a new beginning to this Very Important Novel.  Lo and behold, I (FINALLY) actually came up with one.  This beginning has been a thorn in my side for a little while, and it’s nice to have figured out (what I think is) a viable solution to the issues it had.  I still have some work to do on it, for sure, but am super encouraged by the progress I’ve made on it.

Turns out, this writing room is also good for reading novels.  Especially awesome, quirky, yet-to-be-released novels like DON’T STOP NOW, the newest book by super-talented author Julie Halpern.  I think I’ll devote an entire post to this book, rather than trying to cram in all the awesome right here.  You may have heard of DON’T STOP NOW already—Natalie Whipple has mentioned it a few times on her blog.  Consider it without-a-doubt-worthy of your to-read list.  I’ll tell you more about it soon.

Okay, y’all.  Time to get productive up in here.

¹Pictures are forthcoming, *promise*—as soon as I find my camera.  Alas, it is still buried in some box.  (The ONE box I didn’t color code or label, it seems.)

Wildfire

16 Nov

I miss writing.  It’s only been a week or so, but I miss it, y’all!

As I mentioned in my last post (I know—so long ago, right?!), both of my WIPs are officially on hold until December.  It’s sort of necessary, given this pack-and-move-practically-overnight situation we’re in, but still.  I miss it.

Sure, I have some snippets of time here and there.  I could write something.  It’s largely a focus issue, though—not a time issue.

Revising my WIP into a fourth draft is something that deserves a fully-focused mind, not a mind that’s dealing with huge physical and emotional transition.  And, even though the first draft will be a first draft (read: in need of MUCH work, no matter how much focus is devoted up front), I’d still like to make it as coherent as possible.

I have a feeling December will be full of words and huge progress.  After a) this long break where I’m already itching to work, b) reading some good fiction during times when I would usually be writing, and c) the impending Harry Potter-palooza, I will have no choice but to be inspired.

So, December?

BRING IT ON.  I’m ready to wear off more letters from my keyboard (let’s all take a moment to mourn faithful letters D and C, the first of many keyboard ghosts), ready to dig in and focus, ready to do what’s necessary to make sparks fly on both projects.

But first, I must deal with Cardboard November and the Great Transition of 2010.

Once we’re settled, though: flying sparks. Words like wildfire. Important progress.

And I can’t wait.

So…About Those Goals…

10 Nov

Question: How long does it take November to go from feeling like a WHOLE MONTH! to feeling like oh-wow-only-TWELVE-DAYS-before-we-move?!?!?!

Answer: Not long.

Fortunately, the upside to twelve days is that my writing goals won’t have to be set aside for too terribly long.  And, oh yes, despite my lofty ambitions, they are being set aside—but only until December 1 (extra week of padding time included for the holidays and the unpacking phase).

Packing can get tedious, but I’ve figured out something to make it more fun: a color-coding system!  You knew I would do that, though, right?  Yes, yes, approximately 94.6% of the fun of this packing process is due to mini-post-its, a sharpie, and uniformly shaped boxes.  (The other 5.4% of the fun = the satisfaction of seeing quick progress take place, FYI.)  My system makes for a very pretty, very organized, transitional period.

How’s November going for everyone else?  Crazy-busy, like mine?  Rolling right along, without problems, exactly as planned?  Somewhere in between?

*Sigh.*

Wish I could write/read all day, but it’s back to the boxes I go.

 


 

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