My view on writing (right now).
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.
Grammar’s so confusing with all those terms!
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.”
The biggest challenge in writing.
Rewriting is a challenge. All writers know that. The problem is that it takes so long.
So, I wrote a story in October. Edited it. Edited it on paper. Then I sent it to Critters to be critiqued by a bunch of other writers and asked an English teacher friend of my to critique it too. The English teacher saw it before critters and she thought it was pretty good.
However, Critters came back with a few comments. And we’re not talking minor problems here either.
- The character motivation doesn’t make sense.
- The POV character’s arguments look like straw.
- The only action is in the beginning, and that hardly makes it worthwhile to read.
- The POV character doesn’t seem real.
That’s only a few of them, along with a numerous grammatical mistakes.
So I started rewriting it. I
I took all the critiques, highlighted the important things, and fixed those. Then, I made my paper outlines of all my problems and made sure I got bullet points of all the things I want to include and how I knew the characters better.
However, in order to edit this story in a more satisfactory manner, I basically need to completely rewrite the middle scene. This is hard. I did it yesterday, but it was so hard, because I don’t debate well, nor do I have anything to debate with. My brother’s method of debating is repeating the same arguments time and time again, because he is convinced he is right, until I just get so tired of it that I say I’m done. Although he thinks he knows how to debate, he really doesn’t. Anyone else in my family doesn’t debate.
So I’m hoping that I came up with a suitable and believable arguments. Unfortunately, this is for the writing contest at my school and I figured out today that I have no chance of getting this sent out again before the writing contest is over. :(
That’s what makes it so hard. Sometimes, even though you don’t even realize it, the story doesn’t make sense and if you don’t have anyone to check that for you, well, that’s a problem.
When I began writing, I didn’t have anyone to look at my stories. Well, I only had my brother, but he was so young that it didn’t count. That was okay though; I needed the encouragement to keep writing then I think. But when I got the point that I turned out pretty good stuff, in my opinion, then that is when I need the help of others.
So what kind of experiences have you had with rewriting?
Ease of the Write.
Some things concerning the challenge of writing a good book.
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~ Samuel Johnson
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela
Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves. ~ Don Marquis
The right word.
I might have posted this one before, but Mark Twain said a lot of very wise things, and it fits into the theme I’ve had this month in quotes involving editing, deleting, and the right word.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain
An author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.~ Colette
The more I write, the more I learn that the process is about rewriting, not as much as writing. Yes, we need a plot, and good characters and all, but we can have that, be a terrible rewriting, and get no where.
That is partly why I find this post particularly helpful.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~ Anton Chekhov
Think about that for a moment. That gives you more than enough of an idea about how to go about rewriting.
Details We Don’t Notice.
In January I submitted a “short” story to a writing contest at my school and got… nothing. This wouldn’t normally bother me terribly much except that I never got any feedback about it. It was just, “You failed. Too bad.”
So this past month, I submitted it to be critiqued on Critters and it was very interesting to find what kind of comments I got back.
I got some rather negative comments. Someone decided to point out that I could make the story, which is about 13,000 words, into perhaps a 7,000 word story. That’s fine. I admitted that my story I thought was too long and I wanted to cut some out. But he then went on to say that one way I could cut it down was by changing a sentence, gave me an example, and the example contained was. I avoid was. Like the plague.
He did, however, also give me the idea of making up my own form of intoxication, because then no one can complaining about me not being accurate.
Another complaint I got was the sweepers. Sweepers are a very difficult group of people to fully understand, since they are generally criminals who flee from society to avoid prison. In this world, prison is a very negative place to live, with many stigmas, so these are people, not completely dangerous people, who wish to maintain their liberties.
But sweeper code basically says that if someone comes, you take them now, ask questions later. Only the really dangerous criminals are turned over to the government when a sweeper ship is involved.
So a few complaints that I had consisted of mainly why did they take him on when he is obviously so green and rebellious? And also, a little bit more fleshing of the political situation with the sweepers. (Which now I’m wondering if I need that with Shad. With the whole story being from the sweepers POV, that might be very confusing for the readers.)
A few good ideas I got from it included things like making Kontyo stupidly smart. The idea is to make the reader not think that Kontyo is such a fool, keep him ahead of everyone else, and then have him fall flat on his face when he really isn’t ahead of everyone else. I like this idea. It sounds like fun. (It is totally not me, but hey, that’s the point of writing.)
So basically, I just need to get to the point of editing this story, which I haven’t. I got these reviews almost two weeks ago and nothing. I’m wondering I should write something small first.
Writing takes both time and energy.
I might be a little sick right now. I’m not sure. All I know is that I didn’t sleep well early last week, and I don’t feel like I have much of any energy. This is not good for writing.
Then, I have this little time factor. My nursing class ends tomorrow but that means a final. Meaning I (should) study for the final. I also started roleplaying with a friend of mine again over the summer. And, on top of everything, I have a story that I submitted to be critiqued that I need to get my rating up for, meaning I need to read and critique three stories, preferably by Tuesday.
Being tired results in several negative side effects of writing. First of all, all my characters want to do is sleep. Running a marathon or fighting people sounds like too much work. Then, I don’t get any plots. Well, I do, but they don’t come spontaneously. It’s more a case of a slow, dragged-out process for me now. And ever since I got an idea for the pirate and assassin, well, I want to ask how to do research about that on yahoo answers but even that takes too much brain power.
I used to think that I could write whenever, especially at night. And chances are that given a few days of getting up late and going to bed late would actually make me a very efficient writer, because I am a night person forced into a world of morning people. However, I’m learning how the further I get along in writing that I can’t write just whenever, nor can I drop my story wherever. I need to be alert, so I can think things through and have my characters do more than nod stupidly and sleep, and i don’t always remember what I was planning.
So, after a (I think) brilliant post yesterday, I think I basically ended with pointless rambling today. Important point that you should get out of it: Don’t write when you’re tired. It doesn’t work. (Oh, and you have to edit a bunch of it all over again too. I learned that one too.) Second point: I can’t write until sometime next week. (Which doesn’t matter because I just realized I don’t have anything planned to write. Just a bunch of editing.)
five minutes and a bite-sized piece of history later, he arrived
I’m editing my novel right now, since I have nothing better to do. I’m still off limits for writing. (One more day!) However, I was reading this I thought I’d share it.
The setup to this is Shad, a pilot, is diverted from his current course in a race to inspect, and possible rescue someone, from an escape pod. I knew that I didn’t want to have it be something like:
Shad reprogrammed the AP to fly towards the eject pod. Five minutes later, he reached it.
I generally like to insert something more than “five minutes passed” to indicate that time has passed. But when I first wrote this section, I wrote:
Lunlight guided effortlessly through space. Sometimes, the ease with which Lunlight flew made him forget that he was even racing. It more made him feel like all this time was just a practice and if he messed up, it was no big deal. He rarely felt this way outside of the cockpit.
Then I continued on about how the only other place he felt comfortable was when he watched a sunrise. Okay, yes, but not great.
I don’t remember what exactly gave me the idea of writing exactly this but, see, Shad is one of the youngest pilots in the galaxy and I never really explain much about how he became a pilot. We know a little bit but the exact happens of it we don’t know. So I wrote this and not only does it inform the reader a little bit more about my character in a bit sized piece, but it fills in the time without saying, “five minutes later.”
Lunlight guided effortlessly through space. Sometimes, the ease with which Lunlight flew made him forget that he even raced. He simply practiced and if he messed up, it didn’t matter. If someone interviewed him now, they would say he took this race way too casually.
Yet, he never wanted to fly a ship like it would explode if he didn’t pay attention to for one second. No true pilot ever flew like that. Elia did though. She might have been main pilot on Adrus but she always fretted too much about the ship. Near the end, her fretting became worse, close to an obsession that even the captain began to notice.
That last time, Shad knew she was too tense to begin her shift. Her tenseness kept Shad from mentioning that he suspected she flew into a minefield. But, even if she had noticed herself, she probably would have overacted. That outcome would have not been much different than when she finally realized that they flew among mines and not asteroids. Without any warning to anyone, she took Adrus through a series of much-too-sharp twists and turns. After that first mine touched Adrus and exploded, she overcompensated for it and set off a chain reaction. Shad knew that he should call for a replacement and kick her out of the pilot’s chair until one of them came. He knew that based on her flurry of curses, she should not be flying any ship right now in such a stressful situation. But at only fourteen, why should she listen to him?
Only after an explosion threw her against the wall did he leap into the chair, forgetting even to call someone to help. As soon as his hands touched the controls, everything became a sim. The minefield and the ship simply became a game. He could not touch a mine or he would lose the game. Only when he finally brought Adrus to safety and reality once more materialized did he understand what he had done.
Elia died from a subdural hematoma and Shad became a relief pilot in her place. But he always flew anything difficult like a game. Some people considered him to use too many colorful actions when he flew. You fly one way in a sim and another in real life, they thought. You can do all the crazy, neckbreaking stunts you want in a sim and it make some incredible shows. But in real life, people call those same stunts colorful actions and not to be tried. He didn’t think he truly did what they accused him of doing. But he promised himself never to do anything reckless like Elia did, when she stopped pretending it was a game and started realizing it was a matter of life and death.