Fuzzy Lines

If it’s completely different from the ‘first’ draft can you still call it the ‘second’ draft? I’ve come to realize when this novel is finished I won’t have a clear answer to the question ‘How many drafts did it take?’ The lines between drafts are already becoming fuzzy.

I’m nowhere near finished the second draft of my novel—of course it’s taking longer than planned—but I can already tell it will be very different from the first. On the bright side, it’s much more coherent thus far. There’s a good chance I’ll let other people see this one so I can get some feedback. Then between the feedback and my own fickle mind it will be interesting to see what draft three looks like.

I’m not entirely surprised by the amount of changes considering how dishevelled the first draft was. It would seem I can’t count on ideas coming to me in any kind of proper order. There have been a few short stories that I’ve written start to finish in an afternoon that remained more or less intact after revisions. Usually though, it seems I have to dump all the piece out of my brain then step back and examine them to find the story’s chronology. This is probably why serial publishing turned out to be a mistake for me. Well, mistake isn’t the right word. It was a learning experience.

Not that I didn’t reread and revise every chapter before publishing, but by the time I got to chapter ten of Dosterra, I already wanted to make serious changes to chapters one through nine. I haven’t discounted the idea of eventually finishing this story, but I think I will have to actually finish it, and rewrite it, then maybe it will be ready to send out to the world. (The novel I’m working on now is an entirely different one.)

This has been the latest musing of a short story writer/wannabe novelist. And yeah, I’m procrastinating. Back to the novel now I swear.

Draft One of ??? Complete

I actually have a complete first draft of a novel! I wasn’t sure it would ever happen. Hang on while I savour it for a moment…

…Ok. About the draft:

1) Title TBD. The story has the same main character and universe that I created in one of my short stories, but I may or may not keep the original title. I’m currently thinking not, the story has changed a lot, but I am yet to think of a good alternative so we’ll see. 2) It’s a mess. It is a first draft as Joanne Fedler describes here: The first draft and the rewriteVomit in a bucket. An apt, if gross, metaphor. But, all the pieces to the puzzle are there. What remains is for me to go back and decide which pieces to keep, which to throw away, and what needs reshaping for a better fit.   Continue reading

The Edit Loop

Aside from Dosterra, I am also working on a novel that I actually plan to complete, edit and refine before subjecting anyone else to it.

I started it over the summer, got about halfway through, didn’t like where it was going and started again. I did make some progress. This time, I made it a little farther than halfway before getting stuck. As I discussed the other day being unsure what to write next tempted me to get into the editing process. Bad idea.

I resisted the urge for a little while and actually think I know now where I want things to go next. Unfortunately, in the meantime I read How Not to Write a Novel  and now I know how many mistakes I’ve been making.

Tug-of-war over, I’ve tipped over the edge. I’m going through it from the beginning…again. Though I’m hardly starting from scratch, it feels like I am. Still, I just can’t leave what I’ve written as is. I’m trapped in the edit loop, and it may take a miracle for me to  get out and finish this thing—the danger of working without a deadline I guess.

Buddhists say it is impossible to love and hate something at the same time. I beg to differ. Maybe tomorrow I’ll work on a short story instead.

How Not to Write a Novel – Review

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To all aspiring novelists out there—to all writers period—I highly recommend reading How Not to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. Between them, these two authors have lots of experience with writing, editing, teaching, and reviewing. They’ve seen a lot of good and bad writing come and go.

Rather than try to explain what makes good writing good, as most writing how-to books do, this book explains instead what makes bad writing bad. Going through the major points of plot, character, and style, it gives detailed examples demonstrating the various traps most new writers fall into, send their precious manuscripts to the trash can—sorry, recycle bin.

Some of the tips you will have seen before, though probably worded somewhat differently, if you’ve ever read anything on writing. And yet, you probably still make these mistakes from time to time, and another reminder wouldn’t hurt. For example: “Fuck You!” He Said Profanely: Where the author uses adverbs to no purpose.

Others will be new, at least they were to me, like: The Joan Rivers Pre-Novel Special: Where clothing is given too much prominence.

Though written with the novel in mind, the majority of these blunders are not unique to novel writing. The examples are often woefully exaggerated for humour’s sake, but also clearly make their point. As essential as examples of the ‘right thing’ are, examples of the ‘wrong thing’ are valuable too. It’s a lot easier to find mistakes in your writing when you know what the mistakes look like.

Also, the book was simply fun to read. Not a hint of textbookiness to be found. I will warn you, however, unless you are most impeccable writer in existence (in which case, what are you doing on my blog?) it will at times be painful when you see hints of your own writing peeking out from the what‑not‑to-do pile.

Though I’d like to think none of my writing is quite as bad as the comical passages in this book depict, there was lots of ‘yeah, ok, I might do that sometimes.’, and ‘Crap, I’ve definitely done that.’, going through my mind as I came across the traps most applicable to me. I’d list them all, but there are too many (feel free to read any of my writing and I’m sure you’ll find a few on your own).

Here and there, I got to think ‘Phew, I know I’ve never done that.’ Usually when the error described in no way applied to the kind of writing I do, like: Gibberish for Art’s Sake: Wherein indecipherable lyricism baffles the reader. I have been accused of confusing my readers in the past (Dosterra Chapter one), but certainly not with lyricism.

How Not to Write a Novel also includes: The Crepitating Parasol; The Whatchamcallit; and “Yo, Charlemagne, how dost thy big war?”, to name a few more intriguing subtitles that make it impossible not to wonder, ‘What’s that about?’ If you’d like to know, pay a visit to Amazon, or your local Chapters.

What to do, What to do…Tug-of-War

I’ve got a few things on my writing to-do list right now: I’m working on a novel–aside from Dosterra, which is also a work in progress–I have a flash-fiction piece set aside for future editing before I decide where to submit it, and of course there’s Letter From Your Girl, which requires tweaking, but as I mentioned yesterday I’m giving it a few days, maybe longer, for my maturity and professional detachment to kick back in after the critique I received set off all of my defensive alarms.  There was a time when I didn’t take feedback personally…before I became a writer. 

Anyway, I decided I should work on my novel.  It’s been a few days since I’ve tackled it, and leaving it for too long can cause me to lose the flow. Problem, I’ve hit a little wall as far as what I think should happen next. There is no magic solution to this. Normally it’s just a matter of sitting down and starting, and eventually something comes even if it’s only a place holder until a better idea replaces it. This time when I sat down, I was overcome with a very persistent urge to go back to the beginning and edit what I’ve already written. My rationale being, by the time I finish doing that I’ll know what I want to have happen next.

Sounds logical. The thing is, any site where you can find writing tips advises against this. They say ‘write first, edit later’ for the very simple, and true, reason that the write-edit-write-edit cycle can become an endless, inescapable loop. I know this. Still, half of my brain wanted to progress the story, the other half wanted to edit.

The tug-of-war came out a tie. Result: neither story progression, nor editing occurred. I wondered over to youtube for a while, played my guitar a little–yes my life is very tough these days–made some lunch, played with the cats, and the curser on the page didn’t budge.      20131030_231920[1] 20131030_232020[1]

Finally, in danger of wasting the entire day, I gave up on the novel and abandoned the official to-do list all together. Instead, I went to my unfinished-stories folder and picked out another piece I had started a while ago, but abandoned, and managed to move that story forward by a few hundred words. Not much, and I have no plans for what I’ll do with it when it’s finished, but some writing got done and that makes for a good day.

 

 

Feedback in Many Forms

So, those of you who have been following are aware that recently I solicited a few reviews for what has been published, thus far, of my novel, Dosterra. The upside of these reviews is that they have given me a feel for how my writing style comes across to the reader. The downside is that, by their nature, they don’t have much detail and can’t give me much guidance on how to fix the issues that exist. And rightfully so, as this kind of review is usually done after publication when it’s too late anyway.

However, publishing on JukePop Serials has some advantages. One of which is that the publishing rights to my story do not permanently belong to JukePop.  This means, once I finish Dosterra — and the requisite time has passed — I can publish elsewhere. Also, if I so choose, I can go back first and fix/edit as much as I want.

For someone like me, who began this project with less than half a clue, this is awesome. It also means that I should get as much (detailed) feedback as possible, as I go along. Even on the chapters that are already out there for the world to see (and that, for now at least, I can’t change).

On this note, I have previously mentioned my friend from The Write Life, with whom I get together once a week or so for what began as writing days, but became something more like creative days. Today was one of those days, and my friend gave me some detailed notes on the first few chapters of Dosterra, and how they could be improved.

Anyone who has been reading, or saw the reviews, knows that chapters 1-3 need the most work. So, getting this feedback was amazing (as scary as it is for both parties when one friend critiques the work of another). Aspiring writers out there (especially those of you not yet ready/able/willing to pay a professional editor), if you have access to someone who you can trust to be honest about your writing, use them. It can only help.

As for if/when I will begin changing Dosterra, well, I plan on finishing it first, getting more feedback, and hopefully improving with each new chapter.

Dosterra Continues!!

Ok folks, head on over to JukePop Serials. If you haven’t read chapters 1-5 of Dosterra, now’s the time. Chapter 6 will be posted by the end of the week with chapter 7 soon to follow.

Lexie, Tem, and Iden are caught up in the mystery of Dosterra, a mining planet with seemingly endless resources that has gained control of the Earth Origin Colonies. With strict rules governing the use of transition technology, time travel and interstellar exploration have all but ground to a halt–but not everyone is happy with the status quo. Where is Dosterra’s power really coming from?   

For those who don’t know, Dosterra is my serial novel, a dystopian time-travel adventure being published by chapter on JukePop Serials.

To all the writers (and readers) out there let me confess, this project is my learning-to-write-a-novel novel. There have been some ups and downs, hence the 2 1/2-month lag between chapters 5 & 6, but I’m learning lots about planning ahead, making an outline, developing my characters, and moving beyond the concise world of a short story.

Hope you’ll take the time to read (and +vote). Feedback is always appreciated; join me on my novel-writing journey.

For a summary of my writing check out my homepage.