Tag Archives: novel

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."

It’s Time.

11 Oct

My don’t-touch-that-manuscript-lest-it-burn-you break is over.  It’s finally cool enough to handle.

This afternoon, at precisely 3:30pm, I will pick it up again.

There will be coffee, comfy sweatshirts and pants, note-taking devices of all sorts.  Fresh eyes.  Peace and quiet.

I will read.  Think.  Focus.  Evaluate.

Today, I am buzzing with quiet anticipation.  To finish a draft feels exhilarating, but to start the process of making it even better?  Well, that’s both exciting and scary.  Mostly exciting.

Deep breath.

It’s time.

Why You Should TOTALLY Compare Yourself.

17 Sep

At long last, heeeeeere we go!

FINALLY, right?

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m writing a series on writers, the tendency to compare ourselves with other writers, and how we can use that tendency to our advantage.  You can click here to find the first post (“Comparison: The Writer’s Knife”) and here to find the second post (“Why you should NEVER Compare Yourself.”).

Today makes post number three.

Throughout this series, I’ve been comparing comparison to a knife: it’s only a helpful tool if you know how to use it.  If you don’t know how to hold it right, it can be useless at best and dangerous at worst.  (There’s your little recap.)

So, how do we use it?  How do we hold that tricky little tool and use it to carve our work into pretty things instead of stabbing it to death?  (Um, ow.)

For MOTIVATION.

I’m breaking away from the knife for just a second to give you another painful analogy: step class at the gym.  One day, I was 45 minutes in to an hour-long class.  I was a) sweating like crazy, b) about to fall over, c) cursing the freaking step that was only four inches off the ground, and d) all of the above.

The über-bubbly Miley Cyrus song to which I was sweating and suffering seemed ill-fitting.  I hated it almost more than the step of doom.  But, then it hit me: Miley would probably have no problem with such a class.  What if I pretended to be Miley or Britney or some other coordinated, energetic workout/dance bunny (i.e. anyone but myself) for the rest of the class?  What would Miley or Britney do in the middle of a show, after dancing non-stop for who knows how long?  Surely they wouldn’t fall over from exhaustion and kick the step and quit.

This sounds like the most stupid thing in the world, but I pretended I was Miley Cyrus performing for a crowd.  And you know what?  My entire workout changed.  The step seemed to be level with the ground, my legs stopped burning, my breathing evened out, and I even smiled.  Sparkled, you could say.  The other people in class probably thought I was a huge weirdo.  (They may not have been wrong.)

What does this have to do with writing?

It’s easy to get discouraged when you are exhausted, and see your novel as an obstacle too difficult or painful to tackle.  ESPECIALLY when you see examples of others who seem to do their work flawlessly and with ease, all while sparkling and not sweating.  (Note the word seem.)

But—BUT!!!  Sometimes all it takes to keep going is the belief that you can do it, too.  They do it—why can’t you?  The simple act of pretending you are someone who is competent in areas where you are weak can make you FEEL more capable.

It may or may not mean you actually are more capable, but what it does is this: it raises the bar for yourself.  It’s a challenge, a push out of your comfort zone.  The motivation to strive for your best and not settle for merely good enough.

For KNOWLEDGE.

What’s another advantage of comparing yourself to others?

YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a fact, and it’s true for everyone.  There will always be people who know how to do things better, and you can learn from them.  If When you find yourself reading something that makes you go, I’d better just stop right now, because this author?  Is the epitome of everything awesome.  Everything!  I could never be that good.  Never, ever, ever!  I’m going to go bite my pillow, that’s what I’m going to do.¹ — flip it around.  Don’t despair over it.  LEARN.

Figure out what you think works, what makes it so amazing.  (This can work the other way, too.  If you dislike something, don’t leave it at that.  Figure out WHY you think it doesn’t work.)

Then—and this is important—remember that YOU are in control of your work.  If something about what you’ve written seems boring or blah or underwhelming and you feel like it’s total crap, DO something about it.  You can.  It will take time and effort and possibly some tears, but you can.

So, what?

So go forth and conquer, that’s what.  Take your exhaustion, your intimidation, your fear, and your despair, and forget it for a minute.  Look at what is possible.  Take a deep breath and know that you’re not the worst, you’re not the best, and those things are okay.  You’re you.  Now be the best darn you you can be.

Side note, I’ve been told a few times that I would make an excellent elementary school music teacher.  I have no idea why this might be.

Sunshine!  Rainbows!  Flowers!  Kittens!!!

(Ahem.)

Seriously, though.  I know some of what I’ve written today is a little cheesy, but whatevs.  Just because it’s cheesy doesn’t make it untrue.

And PS: I’m learning from experience here, and am no expert at these things.  Oh, and that whole me-pretending-I’m-Miley-Cyrus thing—that’s just between us, okay?

¹Movie reference, anyone?  It’s pretty much my favorite movie, so if no one knows it, expect a post extolling its awesomeness sometime in the near future.

FINISHED.

3 Sep

YAY. Draft three = FINISHED.

Well, relatively.

Who knows how finished finished actually is, you know?  But I do know one thing: the third draft is done.  Finally.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

(Ahem.)

It was a major stretch to try to finish this week, and I am feeling it, physically.  My neck is tight.  My head aches.  Since I’m sore from so many hours of staring at my laptop this past week¹, I’m postponing the rest of my Comparison Series until I get back from vacation.  I hate to do that, because I am kind of huge on sticking to my word.  It’s for everyone’s own good, though.  You know you’d rather have a quality post than one that reads:

Blurgh.

Right?  Because that’s about all I have in me at the moment.  And writing the last two posts of the series will be the perfect way to transition back from vacation.

The vacation which, at the moment, I feel is completely deserved.  Sigh. (No, really.  I actually did just sigh.)

See you guys in a week, or a little more.  Maybe before, if the ocean happens to conjure up an internet connection.

Until then: peace, sunshine, cool breezes, and happy writing.

¹And possibly because I have mountains of dishes and laundry to finish before tomorrow.  Side note: I stared at the mess last night.  It was, quite possibly, the only time I will EVER look at such a disaster and think, Wow. This tornado zone is not due to laziness but, rather, is a direct result of super-awesome diligent productivity!!!  I should totally take a picture!

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.

Comparison: The Writer’s Knife

26 Aug

And here we have an example of someone with a knife (and a gun, technically). You DO recognize him, right?

Just so you know, I was thisclose to naming this post “The Writer’s Villain.”

In a post about villains, I would have then blathered on about how all the best villains have something redeemable about them.  That the best villains are not what they seem to be at first glance, but are usually much worse than they seem to be.  And, though they’re definitely dastardly, there’s probably one tiny endearing thing that makes them sympathetic.  Benjamin Linus and his daddy issues.  Voldemort and his intensely human fear of death and desire for power.  The guy pictured above, who I will refrain from giving spoilers about.  Blah blah blah.  Blather, blather.

But I’m not writing about villains today.

I’m writing about comparison, and the knife seemed a more precise analogy.  Think about it: a knife can be both a source of life and death, power or pain.  It can be used to carve weapons, sharpen other knives, cut rope or string or fabric to make shelter or clothing, kill and prepare food. Just as it’s useful for killing food to eat, however, it’s able to kill a human.  It can cut, slice, puncture, and then there’s pain.  Death.

It’s all in how you hold it, and it’s all in how you use it.

Same with comparison.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week about this.  Is it ever okay to compare yourself to other writers, or is that just a knife waiting to kill your work?  Or, is it a knife waiting to sharpen your work, carve it into something stronger, more powerful, better?  Or, is it neither—just a nagging weapon, a little too dangerous to touch and much better left to those who can handle it?

I think it’s all three.  Comparison can be useful to us as writers, but only if we know how to not let it kill us.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to write a miniseries about these things.  There will be three posts:

Why you should NEVER, EVER, EVER compare yourself to other writers,

Why you should TOTALLY compare yourself to other writers,

and

WHAT TO DO once you’ve not compared and compared yourself to other writers. (Turns out I may not write this one after all. The TOTALLY post covered it well enough, I think.)

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, the temptation to compare ourselves with others—both in writing and in life—isn’t going away any time soon.  We might as well learn how to wield it to our advantage.

And, PS: My qualifications for writing this look a lot like, “Girl compares herself.  Girl despairs.  Girl decides there’s value in the comparison.  Girl knows others have the tendency to compare themsleves, too, and maybe even despair—what she’s learning just might help someone else. Girl decides to throw opinions out there into Blogosphere. Girl proceeds to refer to herself as Girl, drink her coffee, and hope this miniseries sounds remotely helpful and/or interesting to someone other than merely herself.”

Back to Work.

19 Aug

After a weekend of being at places like this:

The whole family at my parents' ranch.

And this:

(My dad is good with green things.)

To do things like this:

She looks like me, but she's not me.

And this:

Why, yes, that IS my (hot) husband!

It’s been hard to do this:

But, never fear.  The pink pen, black pen, fuchsia highlighter, colored tabs, neon cards, tiny post-its and full-sized post-its have been put back to work again.  Progress is moving along quite well, thankyouforasking–I’m now 76.1% through this draft.

Which is also why this is mainly a picture post: I’m itching to get started on edits this morning.  Now that my energy has returned, I am SO taking advantage of it.  After the Schützenfest¹ (pictured above), I was TIRED.  Motivated, but without energy.  Tuesday was a little better, Wednesday was a lot better, and today?  Well, today might just be amazing.

But only if I get started.  And pour more coffee.

¹Schützenfest: (n.) An annual (starting this year) celebration completely made up by my adorable father, who decided the best way to bring the family together was to shoot things and give it an awesome, umlauted name.  It worked.  We had a target contest (complete with detailed Excel scoresheet made by my dad)(it runs in the family) and a skeet shoot², drank Shiner and ate amazing food, and stayed out in the sun all day.  Miraculously, I walked away with 6th place and a bullseye in the target contest (out of 12) and only got sun-scorched on my right side.

²Skeet shoot: where one person sends neon orange disks flying and you try to shoot them with a shotgun.  My husband rocked this.  I did the opposite of rocking it.

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.)

Today:

11 Aug

Today, I will write a blog post, because I’m trying to post on a more regular schedule.

Today, I will plant myself in a chair and work.

Today, I plan to knock a major dent in these revisions.

Today, I would plant self in chair, work, and knock major dent into revisions even if I was purely trying to be disciplined.  Fortunately, today, I have enthusiasm and motivation to fuel my attempts at discipline.

Today, I will not spill my latte on my laptop and ruin it like I did that time during finals week my junior year of college.

Today, I will write tighter sentences than the one directly above this one.

Today, I will enjoy where I am in this process.  There’s always going to be someone way up ahead of me.  But I’m here.

Today, though, I reserve the right to not particularly enjoy where I am, physically.  This is due to unpredictable influxes of coffee shop roulette: it might be pure serenity, but there’s also the chance that it will be pure chaos and I’ll want to just smack someone.

Today, I will not smack anyone.

Today, I’ll work hard.

Tonight, I’ll work a bit more.  (Well, I’ll either work or read all the WriteOnCon stuff I missed from yesterday.)

And then, I’ll rest.

What are your goals for today?

Dangling in the Balance Between Life Sucks and Happily Ever After

4 Aug

Have you ever been working on a novel, and walked away from a productive day of work feeling sort of unsettled about it?

I’m not talking about the writing itself, really.  Or the fact that it might be taking forever to complete.  Or (insert your insecurity of choice here).

Things have been going really well with these edits.  Some of the scenes are taking (a TON) more work than others.  Some are way better than I initially thought they were.  Either way, I’m making steady progress because I’ve been plowing my way through this draft with reckless abandon.  (Okay, reckless abandon is a bit melodramatic, but whatevs.  I’ve got to get the melodrama out somewhere, and it is NOT going into my draft.)

Yesterday was no exception, but despite good progress and satisfaction with the scenes I had worked on, I found myself feeling the slightest bit unsettled.  Then, it occurred to me:

Duh.  Your main guy and main girl are totally at odds with each other, and you (having the tendency to want to fix, fix, fix EVERYTHING) just want them to live peacefully ever after.

I hate to see people upset with each other in real life, so I guess it should come as no surprise that this carries over into my feelings about my characters.

This is probably a good problem to have.  It means the novel has its fair share of conflict, and it means I am able to empathize with my characters. It also means I’m not giving in to the temptation to resolve tension too quickly.  Hopefully, it means I’ll do justice to the emotions they’re experiencing so that future readers will empathize with them, too.

Do you ever feel unsettled after writing scenes that leave your characters dangling in the balance between life sucks and happily ever after, or is it just me?  If you do feel this sort of empathy with your characters, I’m curious — what made you realize you’d come to care so much for them?