If you’ve been around, you realize that I have recently seriously pursued publication. Seriously as in I actually did something about it. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a really, really long time since I began writing.
(Just to recap:
- Began writing a stupidly Star Trek story in 2002.
- Began writing in February 2003
- Submitted stuff to a writing contest in December 2003. (Which gave me 3rd place.) First time I allowed pretty much anyone to see what I wrote.
- Started role playing in spring of 2004.
- Somewhere here I began seriously writing my first novel.
- Gave up on first novel in August 2008 as being too difficult to fix all the holes and I wanted to write another novel.
- Wrote second novel’s first draft between August 2008 and December 2008. Began editing.
- December 2009 began this blog.
- Submitted some stuff to the college writing contest in January 2010 and lost.
- Submitted Just Trust Me in January 2011 and came in 3rd place in Spring 2011.
- March 2011 began another novel, mermaids.
- Finally finished a synopsis in December 2011.
- Submitted Shad for publication in Feb 2012 along with Just Trust Me to Tor.com.
In between 2007 and 2012 I’ve also been writing so many other stories, both novels and short stories. This just mainly highlights the big things that happened physical, And why do I show this? Because I’ve been working hard. I’ve heard a lot since I began writing to get to where I am. To get to the point that I am pretty good.
So why do I bring this up?
Because a facebook friend of mine mentioned that she began writing in October an idea she’s had. Okay. That’s fine. I wrote Shad based off of an idea I had for over a year. But the problem I’m having, and where I’m struggling, is that she then says that she is going to do a read through to make sure it looks good and then submit it for publication. (Not only that, but she got a call for a publishing house. I have a gut feeling based on what she said though it’s a self publishing house.)
Still, it’s hard, because I read this and it’s like she might have it all figured out when she has only been writing since October really. And I want to justify why my stuff is better than hers but that’s not fair either. I don’t know. Maybe it is.
On the other hand, maybe we could help each other. I mean, after all, we both write. I have been dying for a writing partner. But does that do me any good? I don’t know. I would be so scared that I would assume a superior attitude unintentionally because everything tells me that logically, what she has can’t be good. And besides, I don’t know if, in the beginning, I would have been ready to tear apart my novels to the degree I do now.
You know, that’s an interesting thought. Okay, I am actually going to change the total tone of this post starting now. Why? Because sometimes it works better for me to brood and sometimes it works better for me to help. So I’m going to try to help.
Here are the biggest things I have learned from that past experience writing.
1.) Learn to write badly. With some stories (not all) it works just getting a brain fart on paper and fixing it up really carefully. I’ve done that with my last two stories and they’ve come out pretty decently. Sometime, especially beginning writers, get so caught up in making it look good the first time that they forget to actually edit.
2.) Editing is a long, long process: Nothing is good the first time. Good only comes from careful editing that often happens several times. In a short story, I went through one scene almost four times before I finally moved on, just because I couldn’t get it right. Then later I edited it another two.
3.) Sometimes editing involves deleting. Anyone who has done any kind of editing knows that editing isn’t pretty. It’s hard. It involves making decisions and sometimes those decisions require a delete key. I’ve combined two scenes into one, which involved rewriting both scenes. I’ve deleted whole sections. I’ve discovered after complete a story and editing it once that the story didn’t have a really good plot and I needed to fix that. It doesn’t involve just a read through.
4.) Characters need to talk. No story will be good unless you yourself can hear the characters. I have looked at scenes and said, “No. I don’t like that line. He won’t say that.” I’ve also written scenes where it felt like I could hear the POV character’s in my head. The more you get to know your characters, the more you will have to listen to them. And sometimes that means bad/annoying things happen. Sometimes it means pretty cool things happen.
For example, in mermaids I had problems because I wanted one character (Ronen) to kiss another (Avi). I got it so that it would. However, Avi’s reaction that I originally wrote didn’t work and instead, she banished Ronen from ever seeing her again. (Haha!) Problem is that Ronen was needed to 1) tell her she is going to be reagent and 2) make her eventually fall in love with her. (Evil author strikes again.) I could listen to Avi and allow her to banish him or I could make it easier for me. I chose the former and–tada!–the story actually came out better. (See why it’s important now.)
5.) Your first novel (typically) sucks. I don’t remember where I read that exactly, but the message is the same. The person said to write you first novel, learn everything you can, and then hide in a drawer because it really isn’t good. Though I still love the characters and the plot in Hope (my first novel), I did eventually discard it because it was so bad.
6.) If you can find them, find a writer support. When I first began, I had my brother. Then my sister kinda took over the place along with my friend, Alyssa. Now, I have no one and it is actually really hard. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with someone about this thing I should be writing instead of this, but I don’t have anyone. So find that special person and keep them close.
7.) Don’t ask yahoo answers for any help. They won’t help you.
That’s the big things I can think of right now. Writing is fun. It takes time. It’s hard because it is a personal activity that doesn’t involve other people too often. But if you really want to learn how to be a good writer, then go for it. Because nothing beats having hundreds of characters dancing in your head.
As a writer, I, obviously, use grammar on a daily basis. As someone who works in a writer center (I edit students’ papers for them.) I also come across grammar regularly.
However, when I’m editing someone else’s paper, we’ll call her Mary, my convesation generally goes like this:
“Now, we want to place a comma here, because this is–it’s something special, but I forgot the name to it. But it’s like when we have ‘My sister, comma, Ellanna,’ that’s what we’re going for here.”
The only grammatical terms I can remember right now involve noun, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions and articles. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember the difference between a phrase and a clause.
And yet… And yet my boss in the writing center (G.), thinks I’m good. Why? I’m not sure. But I made the comment that I’m thinking about being an English teacher and I still can’t remember a lot of the names of things yesterday. Nearly all of my editing is intuitive.
She responded by pointing out that it’s actually okay. The fact that I know it intuitively is actually good. When I need to teach about something, I’ll have a textbook.
This brings up the whole question of whether one should even bother teaching grammar at a school, or if one should teach students how to edit instead. Right now, my intuitive skill has been developed over years and years of editing. However, that’s a whole entire other post.
The point is right now that you don’t need to know a lot. My advice: know what makes a sentence. That’s all you need to know and all you need to know how to place are commas and periods. Don’t bother with M-dashes, and semicolons, and colons. Then, get people to edit it for you, look at how other people write, and I think you may learn in time.
Just remember: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!
“I’m not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.”
I write science fiction. Part of the reason why I write science fiction is because I can create my own worlds. NO need to worry about if this thing is right or if that thing is right. It’s my world and I can make it as I please. However, the reason why I write science fiction is a whole another post entirely.
The fact is that worlds and countries are very complicated things. I can just decide I’m going to write something random today and hope to have a fully functioning world by the end of today.
However, I don’t just try to remember each part of our day to day life individually. I have some help that I take from “writer’s inc”. (That is a book.) They have a list of free-writing topics and I just go down the list, building a word as I go more or less.
So, we things like
- houses–What are people’s houses like? Do they live communally or separately? Do they live separated by age? What do they look like? What do they have inside of them.
- family– How is the family structured? Is the father the head of the house or maybe the grandmother? Do people even know their family or do we want something like a “Brave New World” where people are just reared by the state and no one knows whose anyone’s siblings are? Maybe the youngest child has the most power.
- Transportation– HOw do people get around every day?
- Work–What do people do for work? How do they get paid? Do they have husbands and wives work together or can everyone get their own job? Maybe it is shameful for the wife to work at all outside of the home. Maybe the husband shouldn’t. What kind of work can they do? (I’ve built a whole farming community in one of my stories, where everyone needed a job relating back to farming, so we had the accountant, and the miller, and the mechanic, ect. No nuclear biologists in the whole bunch.)
- Relationships — How do people date? Do they date like we do? Or maybe they have a matchmaker arrange the date and then they go on one? HOw about we have personality quizzes decide who a person is to marry and then you’re stuck? Maybe flirting is something reserved only for privileged ladies.
- Community — Is there any community or do people communicate to everyone through feetbook? Maybe there is a monthly community dance where all the personality quiz matches go to meet their partner?
- technology — Do they have things like cell phones, laptops, ipods, and computers? Or maybe the walls are giant computers. Maybe everyone has tracker cell phones provided by the government, so they know who you are and they can watch you very closely. Maybe we just had an EMP and there is no electricity. How can we survive? HOw do we talk with each other?
Part of world building is thinking outside of the box and part of it is realizing how everything fits together. You can’t say there are no cellphones and then have the hero of the story in contact with his sidekick constantly through payphones, especially when he doesn’t have money. (Kinda like this video.)
Sometimes world building is finding what works for you. However, this is what I have found works for me. It’s not hard but it does take some brain power. When I do though, I feel like I’m painting a beautiful picture that will eventually be put into words, which is why I love doing it so much. It might also end up adding so much to the story in the end.
Today i was (halfheartedly) editing Dragon Slayers. The problem I’m having with it is that the main character, Natlie, (which is Natalie without the middle A. Her real name is Natalie but she doesn’t go by that.) Natlie anyway is having problems with being personable. I have dialog and I think I have perfectly fine dialog but the characters aren’t doing anything. They’re just there talking, and that’s all.
So, unlike normally where I say what I think, I want to know what other writers think. How do you add personality to characters? How do you make a scene more three dimensional? How do you life a scene off of the paper and into the head?
I think I’m going to post the first part of the scene right now too, just so that way you can see what I’m having problems with. So go to here: Dragon Slayers Scene One