Tag Archives: Project Edit

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.

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.

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?

Just Because it’s the Third Draft,

9 Aug

it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s almost finished.

Unfortunately and fortunately.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and family.  When I say “a lot,” I really only mean “two, over and over again.”  The conversation goes a little like this:

“How far are you in your book?”

“Sixty-ish percent through the third draft, yay!”

“So—does that mean you’ll be done soon?”

(Pause for crickets to chirp while I think of how to explain that while I’m *much* closer to being done, I’m not sure exactly when ‘done’ will happen.)

“Hopefully the rest of this draft won’t take too much longer, but it will probably still need a bit of work after that.”

“Oh.”

As you might imagine, this has an interesting effect on me.  I’ve been working on this thing for a while, right?  And everyone knows it.  And I’m almost done with my third draft.  Third!  Not the first one, where I had no clue.  Not the second one, where I performed major MAJOR surgery on the manuscript.  The third draft, where things are finally, finally, finally starting to resemble something presentable!  That means I’m almost done, right?

Eh.

Not quite.  Not for sure, anyway.  After this draft, I plan to read it again and polish up a few things I may have missed before it goes into the hands of a few betas.  And then, depending on the feedback from my oh-so-helpful future betas (who will, I hope, be tactful and kind while being brutally honest), it may take a little work, or it may take a lot of work.  In which case I will complete said work and make it the best little manuscript I can write, send some intensely sincere thank you cards to my kind/brutal future betas, and mold it until it feels ready to send to agents.

I’m aware that it probably won’t ever be perfect.  That doesn’t mean I want to stop at merely good enough, though.

I was inspired to think these thoughts and write this post due to something I read over the weekend.  Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss (December 2010), has an amazing post on her blog about just how many revisions Anna has been through.  It’s a lot, people.  Her attitude about it is pretty inspiring, and I encourage you to read the post¹.

It occurred to me: so many non-writer people ask when I’ll be done because they have no clue how much work goes into a novel.  I thought I had a clue.  This post, though, opened my eyes to exactly how much work a novel can demand.  Reading the perspective of someone who has lived it?  Was pretty much revelatory for me.  Just because it’s the third draft, doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to the final product.

This can overwhelm me, or it can inspire me.

I’m choosing to be inspired, because I’d rather not feel overwhelmed.  Did I mention that everyone’s “When are you going to be done?”s have tempted me to rush the thing?  To churn it out because I’m thisclose to the end?  No, I don’t think I mentioned it.  But now I have, mainly to say I’m learning patience.  And follow-through.  To not rush, but to work steadily and with discipline, making sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.  Leaving it at good enough would be cheating myself and my manuscript.

Which is where my “unfortunately and fortunately” comment comes in.  Unfortunately, I may still have a long road on this novel.  Fortunately, I love my characters and the story.  Fortunately, I know that feedback from betas, and whatever subsequent revisions come out of that feedback, will only serve to improve the story.  That, after however many hours I put into it and however many lattes I drink in the process, the work will pay off.  It will be the best little manuscript it could possibly be, and how could I ever want it to be anything but that?

Unfortunately, it may take longer than expected.

Fortunately, it will be worth it.

¹The first half of the post is about the book itself, the last section (after the question in red text) is all about the many stages of revision that went into her novel.

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?

Today: You. Me. Manuscript.

30 Jul

Dear Bright and Shiny Friday,

I have big plans for you.

Before you ask, the answer is no to the following: no, it’s not time for Survivor to come back on yet.  No, we are not going to the Bahamas¹ today and, unfortunately, no, we won’t see any oceans.  Or mountains, for that matter.  No, we aren’t going on a J.Crew shopping spree, or to a spa, but those things *could* be arranged — IF you cooperate with me today.

Which you will, because what I have in store for you, Bright and Shiny Friday?

Is SO much better.

Get this, Bright and Shiny Friday: you.  Me.  Manuscript, pens, highlighters, note cards.  Laptop, of course.  Library table, those way-more-comfortable-than-they-look chairs, and that cute little lamp that’s attached to the middle of the table.  And because Library is cool, yes we can — and will! —  bring a non-fat latte and some goldfish crackers, maybe even some nonperishable food items for lunch, since we’ll be there, like, all day.²  Another reason Library rocks?  They’re not even making us pay rent, even though we’re totally moving in for the day.

Because today?  Is Kayla + Bright and Shiny Friday’s Revision Mini-Boot-Camp Day!  You know, as if someone were actually running it.  Except they’re not.  I just decided we could use a little extra conditioning today.

What?

No, I’m not torturing you.  There will be lattes!  And goldfish!  For a while, anyway.  And, after it’s over, there will be that rewarding feeling you get when you sit there, work hard, and have something to show for it.

Be ready in ten minutes.  I just need to pack my three bags.

Love,

The Girl With The Strange Messy Bun For A Hairdo  (a.k.a. The Girl Who Has Set Aside Caring About Her Hair Today In Favor Of More Time For Mini-Boot-Camp)

¹Yet. That’s five weeks away.

²I wonder if there’s easily accessible hot water there?  I could so bring the French press and some pre-ground coffee beans?

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop, Final Update

27 Jul

Is it really possible that the Creativity Workshop is coming to a close?  Has summer really flown by so fast?

Yes.  Yes it is, and yes it has.

Though my workshop participation dropped to dormant-volcano-level¹ during the last half, I took away some valuable lessons from this experience.

one

Ideas?  Are everywhere. This workshop trained me to notice them so well that I got overwhelmed by all the ideas that started popping up.  Currently, I have ideas for a follow-up to my WIP, a separate trilogy, a totally separate book that may or may not lend itself toward a sequel or two, and a handful of on-paper-but-not-quite-started ideas for short stories.  This is the primary reason my participation level dropped — I had to slow down before I let the ideas eat me.  Which brings me to…

two

Shiny ideas are fun!  But dangerous. It’s great to have ideas.  What’s not so great is to try to work on them all at once.  For me, anyway.  My so-major-it-needs-to-be-in-all-caps-MAJOR project of the summer has been diligent effort towards completing this third draft of my WIP.  It’s my priority, and it’s rocking.  (It’s challenging.  And still needs work.  But rocking, nonetheless.)

However: what with my pursuit to hone my idea-catching skills, shiny things keep distracting me.  And not shiny as in crumpled-up-aluminum-can-on-the-side-of-the-road shiny — rather, gems-in-a-J.Crew-necklace shiny.  Which is to say, enticing and nearly impossible to avoid.

I spent one long, enthusiasm-laden Saturday night organizing the HUGE ideas I had.  Even with the intent to a) merely summarize the ideas so they’d be waiting on the other side of the MAJOR project, b) not be distracted by the shiny, and c) be chill about it so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed, I so totally got overwhelmed.  It wasn’t physically draining², but it was mentally draining to try to think about three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously.  Which is why people probably don’t try to write three separate (volcano-sized) ideas simultaneously (even simple outlines) in the first place.

three

Snail, but steady. I started the summer as a snail — steady and slow.  I’m pleased to report that I’ve kept the steady, but ditched the snail speed in favor of something more akin to waddling-goose speed.  (By this, I mean faster than a snail, slower than a puma.)  The major area of growth that contributed to this?  My much-improved ability to focus when I sit down to work.  Conquering distractions took work, but after weeks of working on it, I’ve become SO. MUCH. MORE. PRODUCTIVE. so much more often.

At first, I took the command-Q-to-Twitter-and-all-browsers approach.  Um.  That worked out about as well as that time I tried to give up lattes.  And we all know how much I love my lattes.

What I ended up with was the how-many-cupcakes-can-start-and-STAY-on-my-counter approach to Twitter/blogs/you name it.  (As opposed to the eat-all-the-cupcakes-right-now-and-what-the-heck-make-my-latte-a-breve approach.)  This ended up working well.  I learned how to keep Twitter open, but not give in to its wiles.  Now I have a nice, friendly, have-a-cupcake-but-keep-the-figure relationship with Twitter, and it’s awesome.  There are writers and resources at my fingertips, along with a manuscript that’s all the better for it (instead of suffering a death by sugar overload or neglect).

This post is long enough.

I learned a lot.  Things are going well.  Now, I’m working on being productive AND being a consistent blogger again.  As of today, my third draft is 47.8% finished.  Perhaps I’ll bore you with my (geektastically awesome) progress chart system someday soon.

The end.

And a beginning.

¹I had tons of ideas bubbling, lava-like, beneath the surface.  But to an observer’s eye?  The last few weeks probably looked kinda like a dead mountain.

²Okay, so confession, it kind of was.

Fresh and Focused

17 Jul

It’s a sunny Saturday morning.

I’m in my favorite sweats and zip-up hoodie, sitting in this window seat with a stack of books, pages to be edited, and this long overdue blog post to write.

Oh, and because it’s a fun fact, this window seat just happens to be in the bed and breakfast where we had our wedding, three years ago this very week.

And they have coffee.  Like, good coffee, complete with a delicious breakfast.

Today is lovely.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the reason I haven’t been blogging as much lately.  It’s not because I don’t want to, or because I don’t like it, or because I’ve forgotten.  It’s partially because time is flying by.  Much of it is due to more focus with revisions, as I’ve mentioned.

Mainly?  While tackling this huge project, my days — though productive and lovely — have started to look the same.  I’m kind of doing you a favor, I think, by not bombarding you with daily iterations of, “Oh, and today — just like yesterday, and tomorrow — I got up, had coffee, sat at (black chair by the window with Mr. Cat draped across my lap/desk with Crazy Kitten/favorite Starbucks table) and worked on making my scenes better.  I got stuff done — probably not as much as I wanted to, but still.  Progress.”  I don’t want to bore you.

I started thinking, though, that this is probably still information worth sharing.  Maybe someone might even find it encouraging.  Because, really?  Consistency and diligence and focus is kind of the goal.  And redundant as it may be to report, I’m actually doing well with this goal.  (I don’t mean to make anyone feel guilty by saying I’m doing well, by the way.  Not every goal is going so well.  Perhaps I should make another post altogether for goals I’m not doing so hot with.)(Creativity Workshop, I had good intentions.  Truly.  I did.)

Even with progress being made, it’s nice to break up the routine and write at a new place this weekend.  I brought stacks of work, even though it’s a mini-vacation of sorts, because I think there’s a certain freshness that comes from writing in a bright, clean, unfamiliar, quiet, complimentary-coffee-at-the-ready kind of place.  Words and ideas look fresh here.  Focus feels sharper.

I think this is largely due to the window seat.

Here’s to focus and freshness and summer sun. What do you guys do when you want to — or need to — to spice up life with a little freshness?  How’s everyone doing out there?

Project: Edit | About Time For An Update, No?

2 Jul

My Novel

On this lovely, unseasonably cool (for Texas)(83°F), overcast Friday morning, a thought occurred to me: perhaps I should update you on, oh, the stuff that’s been consuming almost all of my working time as of late.

This morning, I went through my ancient posts and dug up something from aeons ago (late March).  Included in this fossil, I hashed out the plan for my index-card editing process.  Click here to check it out, since I don’t plan to re-hash.  (Plus, there are pretty pictures. And a Harry Potter quote to fill your token inspirational quota for the day.)

So, how is that stack o’ bright index cards working out?

BEAUTIFULLY.

According to my nerdily-detailed charts, I’m about 32% of the way through the stack.  I’m aiming to be chill about my editing speed, lest I freak out and think I need to go faster-faster-FASTERFASTERFASTER!!!!!! because we all know shouty-rushed-faster-than-thou writing doesn’t always (or, ever?) mean BETTER.

And I want BETTER.

So, rather than take the road more hastily traveled: I’m aiming for consistent diligence, doing as much as I can, when I can, with as much focus as my head and heart can handle.  I’m also trying to rest hard, in between, because if you just work as hard as you can, always and forever?  Say it with me: Burn. Out.

All that to say, things are going well.  The note card plan has helped immensely, and has carried me through the first three of my nine sections.  The upcoming fourth section is a huge chunk of work, and looks CHALL.EN.GING.  I’ve been reading over it this morning, sorting out some semblance of a plan, and will start overhauling it this afternoon.  (Or, possibly, twenty minutes from now.)

Wishing you all a lovely journey down your roads thoughtfully and purposefully — not hastily —traveled.  And, a happy holiday weekend.¹

¹On a (sort of) related note, I’m wishing myself a swift recovery from Ouchland (also known as the Torture Step + Abs class at my gym) and Hoarse-Voice Land (also known as the reason why, once again, I didn’t make a music video this week).  And yes, Merrilee — if anyone has a song request, I’ll see what I can make of it.  That is, if my voice will cooperate.

Lemons and Things

25 Jun

So, uh, hey.

This is the part where I awkwardly tell you about my inadvertent, week-long blogging absence.  That’s what I get for breaking up my every-other-day-or-so routine last week.

Note to self: oops.

Rather than spelling out things you already know¹, I’ll just skip to the juicy parts.  Let’s pretend my life is a lemon (a before-I-made-lemonade-from-it version of lemon).

The juicy part?  My absence was inadvertent² for a reason: June has been more productive, in terms of novel revision, than both April and May combined.  This is rewarding and awesome (not to mention difficult and tiring).  I crawl into my cave³ and re-emerge hours later, only to realize time has, indeed, continued to pass.  And not at a snail’s pace, either.  Unless said snail is propelled with rocket-boosters.

The sugar in the lemonade, while not technically part of the lemon itself, would be the oh-so-fun distractions I’ve had in the past week!  Namely, I got to play the guitar and sing at church for all three services on Sunday.  This involved, like, an all-day commitment, plus a rehearsal.  It was a lot of fun, and it went well, but my poor hands are not used to that much guitar-playing.  I ended up with fingers full of blazing sore calluses-in-the-making.  (Needless to say, typing was a blast for the next few days.)

And now, for the seeds.

Obviously, the seeds represent the more annoying part of the week.  I’ll lump the pith in there, too, since bitter white nastiness isn’t anyone’s idea of tasty.  Right?  (I hope no one thinks pith and seeds are the epitome of yum.  That would just be sad.  And confusing.)

Moving on.  So, my week had its share of seeds and pith.  Like seeds in a lemon-raspberry tart which, otherwise, is the picture of perfection, some emotionally draining stuff keeps popping up where it’s least expected.  Responsibilities and commitments to think through, advice and support to give, random frustrations to deal with.  Nothing terribly terrible on its own, just a lot of it all at once.  Plus, I’m getting a cold.  In June.  Weird.

Rather than carry this lemony analogy full-circle (“My attitude has been…so…ZESTY!”) — mainly because I now have a wicked craving for lemon-raspberry tart — I’ll end it there.

In case you’re wondering where my Creativity Workshop end-o’-the-week-assessment is, it was eaten by snails.  Don’t worry, though, you didn’t miss much.  I took an inadvertent break from that, too, so there wasn’t much to report.

Also, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t post a new music video this week, in the tradition of the last two weeks (see here and here) — see my aforementioned blazing fingertips.  I may have also had some bad hair days in there, and did not want to frighten anyone.  (Give me some blue dye, I become Thing One and Thing Two.)  I’ll do a new video next week, provided my fingertips and hair do not go on strike.

Aaaaand, last but not least?  I get to hang out with THE Melissa Williams again tomorrow.  Hello H-Town, hello humidity.

Hello, awesome weekend.

Hope things are going as well as a seedless lemon-raspberry tart for all of you!

PS: Here’s the recipe for the lemon-raspberry tart — just in case you’re now craving it as much as I am!

¹Things like: time, these days, has a way of making a girl feel like she’s been sucked into a time warp and spit out six months in the future.  Or the past.  Or somewhere else entirely.

²It would appear that the opposite of inadvertent is not the word advertent.  This is inconvenient and somewhat illogical.  Just a thought.

³Also known as my living room, with no lights on.  Or, my favorite Starbucks.  Or, my new favorite library.  Who knew writing caves came complete with lattes and strange patrons?