That’s pretty much my only excuse for not posting. I get distracted doing homework, classes and other things like that.
Anyway, the real reason why I’m posting (besides that I’m on spring break and have time to post) is because I “finished” two stories this week.
I know. Impressive.
What do I mean by finished though? Well, I wrote them, determined they had a strong enough plot (in one, I had to add more tension), edited them repeatedly and honestly don’t really know where to go from here.
The last time I actually finished something, I either came to the deadline or got bored with it. (That’s how I decided Shad was actually done. Bored. I think I read that advise somewhere.) But right now, I don’t have any deadlines. I’m actually really excited about the stories. (And I don’t have anyone to read them [RIGHT NOW!], because my sister, who used to read everything of mine, is so behind and lazy about it that I’ve pretty much given up on her reading anything. Even though she THINKS she’s doing me so much help. (Which she used to. Not anymore.))
So how do I know it’s finished?
I don’t know. The plot seems good to me. The writing seems good to me. Overall, I think it’s done.
But I’m just waiting for someone to read it and tell me that “Erm, Abigail, this makes no sense.” or “Abigail, this is really stupid. I don’t get Reve at all.” (I know. I character I haven’t mentioned before. He’s new, he’s not demanding a novel, but I still have written two stories about him and intend to write a third maybe someday.)
And (though I have used Critters in almost a year), if I used Critters, it’d take me a month to get feedback. Who knows what I’ll be doing in the middle of April?
Basically, I’m impatient. I want to be done with it but I want to work on it while I like the story. And I know. Everyone says to let a finished story sit and see how it looks in a month. But–I get so distracted that may mean I never actually finish it.
So I suppose I should just say it’s done and post it here.
Anyone else have any thoughts on when a story is actually done?
Keep in mind with this post, I’m still learning. I think I’ll always be learning. That’s part of being a writer.
SAying that, here’s how I actually go from an idea to a good novel. (I think.)
1. Come up with an idea. The idea comes from anywhere. Someone sitting with their hands covered in blood at night. My teacher saying “Save the Males.” An imagine conversation that I have while sweeping the floor.
Often, these ideas will eventually connect themselves. In September I made a space ship out of a piece of wood and some string. I had a rough idea about some guy who wants to run the mail route. Then a couple months later I had a conversation in my head that eventually developed the idea of Shad as a sweeper. The ideas I enjoy most are the spontaneous ones.
Sometimes, I need to force it a bit. Such as, why does Sagi hate the Yoni so? That took me a couple days of actual forcing to get, but it worked out.
2. Clarify the idea / write an outline. This section will include anything from writing an outline to learning about the characters. I have papers and papers where I’ll write comments about the characters, the motivations. If I need it, I’ll even write the timeline. This is all the pre-planning phase and this is where, if a story isn’t work out, I should drop it.
This is also my weakest area. I do not do enough planning because I rely too much on the characters eventual talking to me. Because of that, I end up having an extra step that I don’t always need.
3. Pre-draft writing: THis is the part of the writing where I actually begin the write the book. For some stories, I plan them well enough I don’t need to do this. However, this is my chance to take all my ideas and just spit them on the page. I need to do that. Otherwise, I’ll just keep staring at the outline and thinking, ‘This looks good. I’m ready to write.” when in reality I have no clue what their houses even look like. (Very important for science fiction stories, don’t you think?)
While writing this, I’ll put anything on the paper. I even changed my mermaids from fins into feet in the middle of it. Because I knew I would be going back, explaining, expanding and fixing.
Note: I’m sure some writers out there will call that actually my first draft. However, because it’s so bad and so vague, I call it the pre-draft. This is where I’ll drop a story if I need to.
4. 1st draft editing: Now, I go through my pre-draft and fill in everything. The things I learn about the characters are added. I add details of dress and mannerisms. Words become uniform throughout the book. By the time I’m done with this part, I have a first draft and a pretty good idea about where the story is and where it goes.
This is where I am at with my mermaid novel, if you care.
5. 2nd draft editing: Now I’m ready to actually improve the text. I’ll change things from, “Avi felt angry at Eyal for his betrayal.” To something more along the lines of, “Avi wanted nothing more to do with Eyal after his betrayal.” I remove passive words if I see them and overall just make it an easier read.
6. Paper edit: Now I actually need to invest money. I print out the novel on paper and begin the long, long process of editing it, then inputting the corrections. This not only lets me see my errors better, but I, for whatever reason, can play around with the words more. It gives me more freedom. Don’t ask me why a computer doesn’t do that; I don’t know. This is a really, really important step. By this time, I’ll probably show it to a few special people.
Right about now is also when I should start working on a synopsis.
7. Second computer edit: Now, I go through the story again, this time highly critically, and fix all of the errors I see. Anything! I remove as many passive verbs as I can. I keep the story tight and interesting. From that, I see what else I need to do and go from there.
By now, I pretty much get bored with my novel for one, and for two, I don’t see much of anything else that needs to be fixed.
Obviously, all writers are different. If you’re a new writer, you’re going to do less or more. I actually only did a one time read through–on the computer–of my stories and thought that was good enough when I began. So I’ve come a long way.
I’ve also seen how you can edit by putting on five different kinds of glasses. Something like, first you look at it just for structure, then you look at it for clarity, then grammar, ect. (I don’t remember them all.) That doesn’t work for me. I have to fix everything at once. Also, just because this is how it seems that I work doesn’t mean that’s how I do it for everything I write.
And, like I said, I get bored. But I’ve also heard that when you get bored with a story, that’s generally a sign you’re done with it.
So, I’ve been working on the mermaid novel. There’s two things that make this a learning experiance for me.
1) My first novel I planned for a year before I wrote it. This one, I started planning for it about a year ago.
2) Multiple POVs.
I didn’t expect multiple POVs to make a difference. Boy, am I wrong!
The biggest one that it makes a difference in is AVi, because Avi doesn’t have a consistent appearance. I have about 45 chapters and of those, she only gets about seven. I need then to still be consistent but even when editing, I see her so inconstantly that I don’t get a good feel for her character.
Last night, I figured out the obvious solution. I edit them in order of character’s POV. As such, because I like Avi right now, I edit all of the Avi scenes. Then I move onto another character and another until I’m done.
I got this idea because while I was editing a scene involving Ronen intentionally ignoring her, I realized that when Ronen decides he’s going to actually show he likes her, he’s going to kiss her. This makes me really excited. Now, normally, I couldn’t do anything about that until I go from chapter 8 to chapter 25. Instead of having to wait that long, I now get to jump ahead and edit chapter 24 and 25 where that happens. Then I get to jump ahead to when Avi discovers that her real boyfriend betrayed her.
For once, the story doesn’t seem so completely overwhelming. And though I know that I used future scenes to motivate me to write current scenes, I have a new plan for the boring scenes. I ask myself a few questions.
This scene is boring.
1) Is this scene needed? Why? If no, delete and move on. If yes, go to question 2.
2) Would it be better to rewrite the scene how that I know the point or try to salvage what I wrote?
Typically, I find that if I’m finding a scene to be boring to edit, it’s either so badly written that I should just restart or, more likely, it isn’t even needed or can be combined with another scene. (I did that with Shad and the resulting scene was sweet!)
It’s funny, because even though I can skim the books in Barnes and Noble and say I know most of it, I can still discover things that I still need to learn. It’s partly what makes writing fun. Maybe that’s actually why I like it so much.
Did I mention that I’m writing a story for my school newspaper? I would have posted a link to it but for some reason I’m not there.
Anyway, I’m only allowed 750 words an issue. For me, that’s hard. I’m having to cut out a lot while still maintaining interest in each issue. But I think it’s really good for me too because I tend to write too much into my short story.
So here’s what I learned from all this editing. A big secret behind short stories I think actually.
There is no such thing as background conversations.
Some people would call this maid-and-butler conversations. I don’t think of them as that, because the characters don’t know each other. It gives the characters a chance to tell each other some about themselves, while hinting information to the reader.
I like these. Sometimes they’re boring and need to be cut a lot later on, but I typically think they work out well enough.
In a short story, every word, as my book puts it, needs to serve double and triple duty. Immediately, when I am cutting out words, this is the first to go. Because my readers want to hear more about the fact that these illegal things are going on in town, what Colton does about them, and that Justin gets in a fight than that Colton and Justin have been arguing for a while.
Here’s another bit of advice for you to think about. Dr. D in class said that short stories are about change. I wrote it down. It would be interesting to see what would happen in Just Trust Me if Nessa went the other way.
Which reminds me of what I really wanted to mention. (Besides that I need to go eat lunch before my mom comes.)
ALL MY DUMB CHARACTERS FROM MY SHORT STORIES WANT THEIR OWN NOVELS!!!!
Seriously. I don’t know what to do. I’m writing a story right now about this body guard who a) loves the person he guards and b) is at high risk of losing his job (well, the draft right now doesn’t show that, but the character in my head does). And for some reason the important person is telling me that she wants to overthrow her uncle (the ruler) and lead a revolt. In a novel. And the the guy is going to go back home where there is a riot. And that the whole country is in unrest.
I know that I said writing short stories tend to seem to help me come up with better characters but this is ridiculous.
ALL YOU SHORT STORIES CHARACTER CANNOT HAVE YOUR OWN NOVEL. PERIOD!
I just don’t have the time. At all.
Anyone else have this problem?
One thing I wanted to do while at my new school was write for the student newspaper. Problem is that I’m squeezed so tight schedule wise, taking the extra class will not be beneficial. As such, I can’t take journalism, so I really struggled last year when I wrote.
My solution: I’ll write a story.
Why not? I want them to be enjoyed.
So I picked Time of the Dragon Slayers. I like that story and it has good tension throughout. At least, I think so. I figured it’d be easy, I’d copy each section, e-mail them to the newspaper, and tada! Life is easy.
I need each section to be 500-750 words. Do you realize how hard that is? Hard. Think less than two pages per section (single spaced).
Last week’s section was 1000 words that I needed to cut to 750. (I think I ended with 748.) This week I have 1600 words I need to cut to 750 again. However, on my first cut, I’m already down to 787, so it might not be so bad.
You think you can do it? Probably not, but it really helps you think about how to say things in as few words as possible, and to carefully pick your words. Maybe you should give it a try, because I’m actually thinking it’s making this story better on the whole.
Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.
~From the movie Finding Forrester
Yes, I know, a movie quote, but it makes sense.