Tag Archives: editing

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.  🙂

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.

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.)

Fresh Start

1 Dec

You know what feels good?

DECEMBER.

That’s right—in all its frigid glory¹, December is already rocking my face off.  Why, you ask?  Because that means NOVEMBER IS OVER!

Hallelujah!

No, seriously.  Hallelujah.  November was one of the best—and one of the worst—months I can remember.  Austin is fresh and fantastic, though.  All the stress, all those days spent not writing, all the goodbyes, all the everything?  It’s ALL worth it.

We have more space (ENOUGH space! More than a one-bedroom apartment space! SPAAAAACE!), we’re surrounded by all things green and gorgeous, it’s quiet, it’s steadily becoming organized and delightful, and the Starbucks (four minutes from parking lot to garage! Wheee!) is even better than I hoped for.  Except I don’t really have to go to Starbucks as much, because a) there are a TON of coffee house options here, b) I bought a fresh bag of espresso + cleaned our fancy espresso machine, and c) I have an actual writing room!

Yes: WRITING ROOM!

Even better?  I actually get to write in it today.

After an entire month of no WIP progress—zero words!—while watching everyone lasso the moon on their NaNo projects, I am SO. FREXING. EXCITED. to get back to work today.  On the agenda: back to work on the fourth draft of WIP #1, followed by (*hopefully*) 500ish new words on the first draft of WIP #2.

Happy December to you all!  Oh, and I’m glad to have the internet again, which means a return to regular blog and Twitter interaction—YAY!  What’s on your December agenda?

¹Which, um, in Texas? Is about 37ºF at the moment.

November Eve Eve

30 Oct

It’s that time of year again—November Eve Eve!

The day before the day before November starts, and crazy hopeful writers everywhere pick up their pens (oh, who am I kidding, they take to their keyboards) and write like mad for a month.

It’s the day before the day before the day outlines will be shelved in favor of that One Magnetic Idea, the Hugely Huge One that requires a ton of planning but who cares?! I can totally write a zillion-word (50K is for wimps, yo!) epic masterpiece trilogy in a month with no prior thought whatsoever—it’s November, and that means my brain and fingers and keyboard are infused with MAGIC!

It’s also the last day where sleep is an option, because Halloween?  Pretty much backs up to November.  Bubble-clad Lady GaGas, sparkly-sexy vampires, Princess Leias, Voldemorts, and Pippi Longstockings everywhere will flock from parties to coffee houses, bust out their laptops at midnight, and FALL ASLEEP IN THEIR BOTTOMLESS CUPS OF COFFEE WRITE!

So…am I doing NaNoWriMo?

Heck no.

I’m a NaNo cheerleader, which is every bit as important!  This is a PSA to everyone who’s tempted to think November is only for participants.  No, my friends!  The participants need cheerleaders!

Who else is going to remind them to eat?  Reassure them that it’s TOTALLY OKAY if they actually heed the Inner Editor (not to be confused with the Inner Critic) when she speaks her mind?  That doing the Halloween-party-to-coffee-shop thing at midnight, dressed in bubbles, is a bad idea in more ways than one?  That sacrificing quality for mere quantity only leads to editing misery?  To be their Harry Potters when they are Dumbledores in Voldemort’s horcrux cave (“Make me finish this no matter how much I protest!”)?

No, friends—November Eve Eve (and the rest of November, for that matter) is not the time to sit back.

November Eve Eve is the day to adopt a NaNo Participant, whip out your cute little cheerleading outfits, and prepare to ENCOURAGE!

Here are some suggested adoptees to get you started:

@melissaiswrite / @LizaKane / @KristenYard / @jamieharrington / @LauraJMoss / @Anna_Dawes / @betherann / @mercedesmy / @Simone7304 / @WeronikaJanczuk

Disclaimer: these extreme examples of crazy people in no way resemble the awesome participants listed here.  These ladies have good heads on their shoulders, and I have every confidence they’ll whip November into shape and wield it to their advantage (as opposed to, uh, getting whipped by November).  All the more reason you should cheer them on!  🙂


Oh! And PS: I listed their Twitter handles because it’s easiest to follow that way.  If you prefer to follow blogs, not Tweets, click over anyway.  Links are included with their profile sections.

PPS: If any listed participants would rather be cheerleaderless, shoot me an email [olsonkayla (at) gmail (dot) com] or a comment and I’ll remove you from this post.  And, conversely, if you’re NOT on the list—and can’t face November without pompoms and pyramids—just let me know!

You Say You Want To Edit?

28 Oct

"You say you want to edit? Oh, human – what am I going to do with you? You'll have to get through me, first. And, PS: this is payback for all those hugs you give me. Only villains give hugs."

On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren’t.

27 Sep

Inspired by the last week of my life¹, here are two lists: How to Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done and How to Get EVERYTHING Done.

Here goes.

How To Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done

  1. Sleep a LOT. Fall asleep on the couch, don’t set your alarm, and proceed to snuggle your pillow until your cat bites you into consciousness.
  2. Click EVERY link that looks interesting on Twitter. Don’t hold back.  Read everything immediately, leave novel-length comments, and generally peruse the internet at the speed of a poet in a field of dandelions.
  3. Once you’ve finished reading all those interesting posts, check Twitter again. Proceed to click every new link that looks interesting.  Rinse and repeat ad infinitum/ad nauseum.
  4. Say yes to everyone. When people ask you to do things, just say yes!  You have to eat lunch/have coffee/relax sometime, right?  Why not do it with someone else and double (maybe even TRIPLE!!) the time you would have spent doing those things alone??!
  5. Watch as much TV as possible. I’m talking Lone Star, Glee, The Biggest Loser, Survivor, America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and The Amazing Race. Side note: I did NOT watch all of these shows this week.  But, I like them all, so I was tempted.  Of those that I did watch, this clip from The Amazing Race is SO HILARIOUS and worth sharing.  Painful, painful, painful—but hilarious.

How To Get EVERYTHING Done

  1. Don’t deny yourself: just be wise. It kind of hurt me to write the above list because it’s so extreme.  None of those things are bad, in and of themselves.  It’s GOOD to get a healthy amount of sleep, to read links on Twitter and make new friends, to spend quality time with people, to watch some TV at the end of the day.  Denying yourself things you enjoy won’t make you more productive—you’ll probably just end up procrastinating with things you enjoy less.  Do things you enjoy, just try not to let them eat your day.  How?
  2. Have a clear idea about WHAT you need/want to accomplish. When you’re not sure where to begin, it’s easy to waste your own time.  Figure out what, specifically, you need to do.  A list of specific goals is a concrete thing to wrap your mind around and is essential toward making progress of any kind.  In my experience, it’s much easier to pull my head out of the clouds and get to work if I know where to begin.
  3. Have a clear idea WHY you need/want to do whatever it is you’re doing. Worthwhile goals usually take time and discipline to accomplish.  They are not always fun.  They are not always easy.  The WHY is your light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s also the steam for your little engine.  It’s the truth you come back to when things get hard and you forget why you started a project in the first place.  Know why you get up before the crack of dawn to write, why you allow yourself two TV shows per week instead of every show on the air, why you sacrifice like you do for your goal—you can come back to the why when things get hard.  When things get hard, it’s too easy to give in to what’s merely fun, while putting off the thing that’s a little more difficult, but worthwhile.  The WHY is essential.  Know yours.
  4. Pay attention to the clock. Not obsessively—just be aware of it.  You’re human: you have numerous passions and priorities, and like all other humans, a scant 24 hours/day to nurture them.  Know your priorities, know yourself, and get a feel for how long it takes you to do things.  Work hard, rest hard.
  5. Then (and this is the thing that seems easy, but isn’t always) DO. I realize this is a revolutionary concept and all—to be productive, you have to do stuff.  Stuff that helps your goal(s) move along, I should clarify.  It really is that simple, and it really is that difficult.  Silly brains, always convincing us we need to do the exact opposite of what’s on our agenda.  Go back to the WHATs and WHYs if when you feel stuck.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. This is pretty much imperative in being productive.  Some days your focus will just be ornery.  You’ll have things on your heart and mind, or you’ll just be exhausted.  You try and try, but still—nothing.  Or, maybe you don’t try, and you ride the procrastination wave until it dumps you in the sand.  Some days will just be this way, and that’s okay.  The quickest way to have a more productive tomorrow is to just move on and try again, sans self-inflicted guilt trip.

Okay, I think that’s it.  I now raise my coffee mug in a toast to making the most of your time, whether we’re talking ten minutes or ten hours.  Happy productivity, y’all!

¹Which, if you’re new around here, has been completely out of the ordinary for me.  I’m taking a brief break before starting the fourth draft of my WIP, and my usual routine is all messed up.  I pretty much thrive on productivity, so being out of my routine feels very strange.

Advice You Really Should Take To Heart. (Not That It’s Easy.)

21 Sep

Things you don't really WANT to know, but kind of NEED to know. (See also: advice you really should take to heart.)

If you’ve been reading writing blogs for any decent amount of time, you are probably aware that your (somewhat) finished WIP comes with a warning label:

Once you finish your (first, second, third, thirtieth) draft, DO NOT PICK IT UP AND TRY TO EDIT IT UNLESS YOU’VE LET ENOUGH TIME PASS.

If you’re like me, you proceeded to ignore said advice.

And then you proceeded to promptly throw your beautiful horrible draft as far away from you as possible so it wouldn’t bite your face off.

Oh, wait.

You haven’t done this?

Well.  You must not have given it to six different readers, all of whom have incredibly sharp wits, kind hearts, and the invaluable willingness to tell you exactly what you need to hear in order to turn your sort-of-kind-of-almost-but-not-quite-there-yet manuscript into something BETTER.

The good thing about this?  I love, love, love, Love, LOVE that their feedback is going to strengthen the work I care about so much.

The hard thing about it?  It really IS true that objectivity requires distance.  Without distance, the manuscript is THE thing you’ve poured your heart into, THE product of all those difficult hours, THE accomplishment you’re proud of.  And it makes it really hard to hear that it still needs work, EVEN THOUGH YOU ABSOLUTELY, 100% AGREE with most of the feedback you’re getting.  You know it’s not perfect, and yet it’s still hard to deal with the fact that it’s not perfect.

Another hard thing?  Not everyone agrees on what works and what doesn’t.  One reader thinks a character was particularly effective, while someone else thinks the same character wasn’t very fleshed out at all.  Another character rocks someone’s world, while at the same time confusing another reader.  One says cut that element, while another says that was one of my favorite things!

Getting conflicting feedback when you’re thisclose to the manuscript is like being on a rollercoaster.  Your work is being challenged (in a good way and for the better), and it’s tempting to take every single thing to heart as it comes in.  Either that, or only listen to the things that make you feel good (which are NOT always the same things you and your manuscript NEED to listen to).

So.

What does a person do in this situation?

The hard thing.  Which is also the best thing.

  • WAIT. Even though it’s not easy, and you’re passionate about doing more–wait.  Wait because you’re passionate.  Passion will stand in the way of doing hard things you might need to do.  And because you’re passionate, you want the very best for your work.  Waiting counts as hard work, so don’t let yourself feel lazy.  It. Is. Hard.
  • LISTEN. Listen to everything, even the things that make you angry or want to cry.  Chances are, those things are problems you know need to be dealt with.  Dealing with them will make your work stronger.  Listen to your trusted friends.  (I suppose it’s possible that even people you don’t trust can give you useful feedback.  I wouldn’t know, though.  So far, the only readers I’ve had are people I trust and respect.)  At the end of the day, listen to what best serves the story YOU set out to tell.
  • HANDS OFF. Do not touch the manuscript until after a) you’ve had enough distance to be objective, and b) all your critiques are in.  I didn’t come up with this piece of advice.  I read it, among other helpful things, here and here (Oh, Natalie Whipple, you rock.) and here (You rock, too, Merrilee Faber.).   I read all of these posts just in time to pry my eager little fingers away from making changes too early.
  • MULL IT OVER. A lot.  This, too, can look like laziness to those of us who thrive on typing, scratching things out, making manuscripts bleed.  Mulling is anything but lazy, though.  Mulling can happen in the shower, in those first few minutes when you wake up, the last few minutes before you fall asleep, while you’re in line at the grocery store, while you’re sweating in yoga.  It’s not as tangible as diving in and fixing things, which is what makes it hard.
  • WAIT. Yes, again.
  • DO SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS PRODUCTIVE WHILE WAITING. Why?  Because waiting can be incredibly draining and annoying.  We are writers.  It’s what we do.  I was feeling particularly impatient over the weekend, so I spent several hours working on an idea that’s been lingering in my head for months.  Nothing like a no-pressure first draft to defuse the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed with that one VIP (Very Important Project).
  • THINK. On paper.  On computer.  On Starbucks napkins.  On the palm of your hand.  In your head.  About the easy fixes and the ugly truths.  About how much you love your crit partners for loving you enough to be honest with you.
  • THEN EVALUATE AND FIX. The light at the end?  It’s still there.  You just might spend more time in that dark tunnel than you initially expected.  Be patient and do your best work.  (For example, read Merrilee’s take on Creative Revision.)  Hold out hope that your hard work will be worth it.

These are the things I’m learning from other people who have been there.  Waiting is HARD.  Harder than it seems when you’re merely reading posts about it.  I’m itching to work on this manuscript, but am forcing myself to wait a little longer.

If you didn’t already, click on the links to Merrilee’s and Natalie’s blogs.  These are excellent posts about what to do with feedback once you get it.

PS: That ALLIGATOR LIVES IN CANAL sign is from a rental car place in Florida.  Can I just take a minute to tell you how glad I am that I didn’t feel a pressing urge to frolic in the canal? (Not that such urges are the norm for me.  I prefer to frolic in private places like my living room.) An alligator bite may have put a bit of a damper on an otherwise incredible vacation!

Why You Should NEVER Compare Yourself.

30 Aug

(Part One of a three-part series.)

Comparison.

Today, we will take a completely one-sided look at it: why you should NEVER, EVER, EVER compare yourself with other writers. Ignore your instinct to think about the merits of comparison—I’m saving those for next time, when we take another completely one-sided look at the topic.  From the other side, naturally.

Last week, I compared comparison to a knife.  Going along with today’s one-sided perspective, we will look at the ways said knife can be absolutely useless, and even harmful.  Next time, we’ll look at how amazing and helpful a knife can be.

But not today.

Imagine you have a knife in your hand.  If you grip it by it’s handle, it can be helpful.  Forget helpful.  Imagine you’re holding it by the blade.

Holding it by the blade is dangerous at worst and useless at best.  The tighter you grip it, the more dangerous it becomes.  Like the knife, comparison can be a useful tool, but only if you know how to properly hold it.  The problem with comparison is that it’s all to easy to hold it by the blade, where it becomes useless.  Dangerous.  Painful, especially if you wrap your hand around it and cling so tight you bleed.

Here are things we cling to that have the potential to make us bleed:

There will always be someone WORSE.

This one’s tricky.  On the surface, it looks encouraging.  Surely I can’t be the worst person to ever try this, we think.  If THAT got published, my novel can, too. It’s too easy to take that and proceed with confidence.

Problem: it’s false confidence.  It’s a one-sided view that forgets that books on the shelf—any books on the shelf—are the product of much time and money, many stamps of approval.  That view ignores what books do right and looks only at what we perceive to be flaws.  All of this leads to the potential for deluded attitudes, which can lead to deluded writing.

In this sense, comparison is useless, because it does not challenge your work and it can lead to false confidence.  It can all too easily foster a well, it’s good enough! attitude, instead of a how good can it be? attitude.

There will always be someone BETTER.

Also true.  Very, very, very true.  It’s probably not too hard to see where this mindset can get dangerous.  We compare.  We despair.  We read something amazing, something mindblowing that resonates with us, and we think: that author is a superhuman genius and I can never be that good, ever, Ever, EVER, so I should just stop now and someone please pass me the trash can so I can forget I ever tried. Trash can. NOW!

Forget the years they spent developing their craft.  Forget the innumerable drafts that go into the finished product on the shelf.  Forget all the rejections it took for them to get there.  We want to be them, we want to be them NOW, except we kind of just want to be the easy published version of them who just magically whipped up a perfect book in no time.

That will depress anyone.

This kills your writing, and maybe even all the heart you’ve put into it, because it’s so dang depressing.  Like the thoughts about there’s always someone WORSE than me, it’s unbalanced.  Instead of only looking at the flaws, like we do when we perceive ourselves to be better than someone, we focus only on those areas where the superhuman geniuses succeed.  We forget that even superhuman geniuses put sweat and tears into their work.

So, what?

Don’t cling.  Not to the blade, anyway.  When you hold fast to the wrong things—only the flaws of some, only the raving successes of others—you’re likely to bleed.  Hold on to whole truth, not the skewed half-truths that so easily slip in under your skin.

After writing all this, it seems almost impossible that comparison can be helpful.  It can be, though.  Really.  Next time, we’ll look at the knife from the other unabashedly one-sided perspective: why you should TOTALLY compare yourself to other writers.

Anna and the French Kiss Giveaway Contest!

16 Aug

Also known as the post in which I shamelessly plug a book I’m SO looking forward to reading in an attempt to win an advanced copy.

Because I want it.  And you should, too.

Just last week, I blogged about the intense and inspiring revision process of author Stephanie Perkins.  So, how cool is it that I — and you — have a chance to win an advanced copy of that very novel, the result of all that devotion and discipline?  I was already looking forward to Anna and the French Kiss, but my anticipation totally quadrupled (and then the quadrupled anticipation quadrupled) after I read about the blood, sweat, and tears she put into it.

Click here to read Stephanie’s post about the contest.

Since this is a rarity on this blog (this being a shameless attempt to win something), that should tell you how much I’m looking forward to the book.  I promise to bombard you with such shameless attempts *only* in the most special of contests.

Like this one.

(Note: Saying nice things about Stephanie and her book are NOT part of the requirements to win the contest.  I merely had to post about it.  Thought it was worth mentioning that these are things I genuinely think-slash-feel, and they won’t give me any better chance at winning the book.)(Unfortunately.)

Au revoir for now!  (She says in a completely tainted-by-Texas, un-French-as-you-can-get accent.)