Typically jealousy turned to advice to a new writer.
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.
College takes way too much time. (And when is a story actually done?)
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?
Inside a writer’s brain
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.
The art of hinting
Subtile information in stories is good. That’s how I like giving information in fact. I hate telling the reader flat out that such-and-such is going on. It’s much more fun to make the reader guess and think that it’s happening.
However, just because I like doing it doesn’t mean I’m good at it.
Especially with it comes to romance.
In my mermaid novel, I have two possible romances. Okay. Forget possible. I have two real romances.
Romance one is between Nessa’s bad/evil/corrupt brother, Sagi, and a woman who helps him win the election, Chava. Somehow, I need to make it seem perfectly understandable both why Sagi likes Chava, when he’s avoided all other possible romances for the last twenty years, and even more importantly, why Chava likes Sagi, all by the halfway point of the book. The Sagi one is going to be particularly hard considering that he has been basically breaking the law, been a jerk to his sister, cheated on the election and poisoned his dad. (Though I don’t think the reader will know for sure that the dad is poisoned until after they get together, and Chava knows none of this.)
All this when I haven’t really had any real relationship ever. I can’t imagine it’ll seem that realistic.
Yet, that’s the easy romance.
The harder romance is between Nessa’s half sister, Avi, and a lawyer, Ronen. if you haven’t read Just Trust Me, you should, but besides that, you would know that Avi is considered a huge shame upon her family because her mother had an affair with an Adamah, what would be pretty equal with the blacks of the South in the 1950s. (Keep in mind, Nessa’s family is royal.) Ronen, on the other hand, hates Adamahs because they killed his best friend when he was younger and then basically got off the hook.
However, he starts to like Avi. He doesn’t want to like Avi so he promptly tries to be curt with her. (In the mean time, Eyal starts to woo Avi but that’s for a completely other problem I’m having, also involving hinting, but I won’t put it here so I don’t give out too many hints.) So, I need him to somehow be mean without being too mean and I don’t know what to do about that!
This all comes because I’m working on fixing up this chapter that invovles an argument with Avi and Ronen but I don’t have any basis for the argument. As such, it seems awkward and uncertain in my mind. I’m not even sure if it is needed. But if I can properly set the scene, perhaps I can make it needed.
Which sounds horrible. But I don’t think that I can just drop it. Otherwise, I do this huge jump from a debate and Sagi’s reaction to the debate to Nessa’s seating. Okay, maybe I could jump that much. But I really want to get some Avi/Ronen action.
This is why I should have properly listened to myself and sworn off love stories. Because then I wouldn’t have this issue at all.
Then again, I still would, because I have the problem with Eyal’s background, Sagi remember Gilah, Itamar changing against Nessa, and hundreds of other little things to sneak into the story.
And did I say before that I like writing novels? Maybe I should change my mind on that one. :)
Novels Versus Short Stories
I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.”
Three stories, five books and not enough time
I realized today that I have actually started three separate books. I’m stunned. And worse, I don’t know what to write.
- Mermaids: This story revolves around a political turmoil in a mermaid world. Nessa is the youngest daughter of the king but wants to be queen. Under their government, she can be elected as queen. However, it is only through the Adamahs, humans who have been changed to mermaids, that she can do this. In this I have the election, and the result afterwards, and it’s really awesome. :)
- Intentional Accidents: This story revolves around two characters, a pirate and an assassin. They’re stories interweaves into smiliar threads and storylines but I only know about the pirate. She is feeling lonely, hurt and wants off the pirate ship but doesn’t see a way to get off. A police man unknowingly gets on the pirate ship and encourages her to find her own way. The assassin is also tired of her life, wants out, but doesn’t know how to leave. I haven’t dealt with the assassin much, focusing on developing the pirate story, then the assassin, then merging them at the end.
- Mindskill: In mindskill, a doctor develops telepathy as an implant. He implanted his daughter without her knowledge, understanding that soon it would be a necessary skill to survive. He dies though before he can tell her, in an “accident” and she must discover the truth for herself, along with a plot to take over the world and a plan to keep those with this skill safe. This was going to be my shot at writing a trilogy (Which is a huge task, let me tell you.)
I’ve written 36 words of Intentional Accidents (9,455 words), 93 pages of mindskill (25,000) and 61 pages (16,000 words) of mermaids.
Here’s the problem: I like them all. I stopped mindskill because I needed to develop it more. I stopped Intentional Accidents because I needed to skim and I didn’t know how to. (I’m playing around writing the ending scene to that.) And I’m currently writing mermaids (which may not end up being mermaids, which makes me sad, but that is fact.)
I have every intention of finishing all of these. All of them are probably good. But how? I’m mean, seriously, I probably have enough to write about for three years (at least), not to mention that I need to write synopses to send these books out, and I want to write Sagi’s tragedy (short story), and I’d really like to write one of the stories my friend and I write out (novel), and I’d like to edit Hope (or at least make a logical decision whether to toss it), and edit Giant’s Wife and–
*stops for breath*
I just have too many ideas I think. How do I choose?
Things to remember while writing my first draft:
As I work on my first draft of my mermaid story, I’m find myself having to remind myself about how to write. As this is only my second or third novel, I want it to be just like the novel I already finished. So here is a list of things to remind myself as I write.
- This will not be perfect.
- Write first; edit later.
- Your characters talk to you more while you write than when you plan. So write already.
- Facebook and wordpress are only there to distract you.
- As related to number four, facebook and wordpress do not need to be checked every five minutes. They can live without you.
- Mail doesn’t need to be checked either.
- Facts about how much caffeine a dog can intake doesn’t need to be looked at.
- It’s just ones and zeros. Ones and zeros are cheap and easy to change, so keep writing.
- Your perceptions of how good a section is aren’t reliable. Just because you think it’s boring doesn’t mean that it’s boring. Wait a little bit.
- Sometimes character histories have to change.
- Sometimes it’s best to wait until later to look up a small bit of factual information. After all, the internet will then distract you.
- Be open to change.
That’s all I have at the moment. Do you have anything to add?
How do you write?
So here’s today’s fun survey. How do you write? And by that, I mean do you write one book the whole way, edit it, and then move on to the next? Do you write more than one? Do you write in forward motion or do you write each section as they come to you?
Moreover, why do you do it that way?
Personally, I write in chronological order, but much of me thinks that I shouldn’t be doing that all the time. I always gets stuck when I need to move from March to April, and nothing really happens. So then I postpone the writing. I think if I realize that the things I want to write are the really interesting things, well, then, the things I don’t want to write are obviously boring. Maybe?
Don’t know. Just a thought. The one time I did write out of order, the characters were completely different and I kept very little of it. I’m having a harder time deciding how to balance everything that I want to write.
New York Times Bestseller–NOT!
I had this thought recently and I am using this as motivation to submit my work. Basically, I can tell in a second what book will never make the New York Times bestseller list: the one not submitted.
I know, duh, but I think we still need a reminder. We may have written the best novel ever, but the fact comes down to it that if it just stays on our computer and we do nothing with it, nothing happens. We never become that famous person.
I’m thinking, as motivation, I need to make this into a poster and frame it, because I’m much too slow at doing anything so far.