Blind Draft

August 19, 2010 at 5:46 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I seldom read over what I’ve written immediately after I write it. Mostly because I usually hate every single word and delete it rather than giving myself the space I need to read it and see the good in it and preserve the good while carefully editing.

That said, I read a scene that I drafted the other day immediately after finishing it. Not so much because I wanted to delete it but because I had a nagging feeling that something was terribly wrong and the feeling wouldn’t let go of me until I’d read it. For once I didn’t reach for the delete key right away. Instead I started thinking through all the sensible questions. What was I trying to accomplish with this scene? What perspective was I trying to tell the story from? How did this scene fit into the overall story I was trying to write?

Then I reached for the delete key. Not because I hated what I had written but because I suddenly knew exactly what was bothering me about the scene.

The point of the scene was to introduce the character of a new player in the story and establish her relationship with an already established character. This relationship is going to be built out and has quite a history that will unfold throughout the story but at this scene just needed to establish where their relationship was and not how it got there.  So the question I was left asking was why exactly this new character’s family history was being explained in extremely dull exposition, meanwhile the relationship was so played down as to be non-existent within the scene.

Two rewrites later and I think the scene is now serving its purpose. It still isn’t good. It is very much in a rough draft stage and no doubt I will have to rewrite it many more times before I’m actually happy with it, but just getting rid of all the excessive and useless information that was cluttering up the scene and making it drag has made it that much better and easier to read. It’s also helped to highlight what is actually important within the scene.

I don’t think I’m going to do this with every scene during the first draft stage. I’d probably never finish the first draft and end up in an endless cycle of rewriting, but an occasional surgical look at specific problematic scenes definitely served its purpose.

What’s your drafting process?

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Am I Editing, Revising, or Rewriting?

August 17, 2010 at 5:25 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sometimes it is difficult to know.

What starts out as a simple search and destroy for typos can suddenly become a revision of a clumsy scene which can soon morph into an entire rewrite of an act of a novel. I think the problem here comes from not being able to focus on only one aspect of the writing at a time.

For me, I like to start with the big stuff and work my way down to the small. While I’ll correct typing errors as I see them and move punctuation that is truly being offensive, editing the nitty-gritty is kind of the last ditch run through, mostly because if I revise or rewrite I know I’m just going to put more errors into the text.

So I begin with the rewrites. I may stay in the rewriting stage for the rest of forever with some manuscripts. Rewrites, for me, are the massive changes. The adding characters, taking them out, changing direction entirely, cutting scenes, adding scenes, moving scenes. All of the things that give you a huge headache when it comes to checking for continuity errors and will usually have you rewriting chapter after chapter to accommodate the change you made way back in the beginning.

Then I revise. These are the more surgical changes. Adding an emphasis here, changing the wording of that exchange of dialogue there, altering a description in that chapter. Sometimes these have carry on effects but normally it is just tightening up the overall story that has already been rewritten (many times) and checked for continuity.

Then, should I have made it this far and not put the project aside, comes the editing.

Still, despite wanting to work from one layer down to the next, down to the next, I end up jumping back and forth between the three.

How does your process for revisions work?

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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Write When You’re Tired

June 18, 2010 at 5:42 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

We all do it. Mostly because if we didn’t write when we were tired the writing would screech to a cataclysmic halt from which there would be no return (wow, that was way too much hyperbole). Here are my 5 reasons why I shouldn’t be writing when I’m tired.

1.  I tend to use more hyperbole when I am tired. Lots of it. Huge and all-consuming masses of hyperbole that drip all over the page like the blob devouring a cinema full of movie-goers.

2.  I also tend to overuse similes when I am tired. Probably because I start thinking very literally and I over-compensate by adding in similes. I can always tell how tired I was when writing something by how many times I have used the words ‘like’ or ‘as a’. It is kind of odd given I use very few similes in my actual writing by the time I finish editing because most of them turn out to be utterly superfluous.

3.  Typos. Far too many ‘teh’ and ‘wat’ and all sorts of other silly errors that I would almost never make except when I was feeling like I was hit by a truck and then had to walk home. And if I do make these errors, I normally catch them, except when I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and then had to walk home.

4.  Repetition. I repeat myself too often. I become redundant. I guess in my head  I assume everyone is as tired as I feel right at that moment and so I repeat myself, becoming redundant.

5.  This one probably isn’t a common problem for most people but when I’m tired I have this nasty habit of killing off my characters. The next time I sit down to write I have to back the story up, bring them back to life so I can get on with the story but my brain just seems to send these characters blithely onto their deaths while I’m tired. It can make for some truly spectacular death scenes that utterly and completely destroy any plot I may have had.

There you have it. 5 reasons I shouldn’t be writing when I’m tired. What are yours? Or does your creative side kick in with exhaustion?

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Critical, critical

June 2, 2010 at 10:14 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m going to admit it. I’m becoming very critical.

I’ve always been critical – particularly of myself – but lately I’ve been really critical of a lot of things.

Today I was given a short story to read. The purpose of the story was to demonstrate how to use descriptive language to create an emotional affect in the reader. Possibly it succeeded in that but the only emotional affect it had on me was the desire to grab a red pen and have at it – I managed to resist the urge but barely.

So what was wrong with the story?

Every single person or thing in the story was described by at least two adjectives in almost every single instance. Every single time. I’m sorry. The person is whistling. Sure, you can tell us how they are whistling and what it sounds like but the next time you feel the need to mention it you could just say whistling. You don’t then need to come up with two new adjectives (or an adverb and an adjective) to describe how the whistling is happening.

Objects were appearing ‘out of nowhere’. Umm, no. Unless they were tearing through interdimensional portals I’m pretty sure they came from somewhere. Maybe it wasn’t an important somewhere but to explicitly state they came from out of nowhere just leads the reader to wonder how that is even possible.

Characters were behaving out of character – which in a short story is really distracting because you don’t even have the benefit of later explaining the out of characterness (I know that isn’t a word).

I’ll admit it. I’m awful and I’m tearing this story to threads. And it lead me to realise some of the weaknesses I still have in my own writing. I like adjectives (not to this extent but I over use them to be sure). I may not have things appearing out of nowhere but I’m sure I suddenly have people in scenes where they shouldn’t be and have no logical reason to be and I’m sure I need to work on it. I need to turn this critical eye away from things I’m reading and apply it to things I’m writing and I need to look at what I could be doing instead.

Plenty of areas here for me to work on. What are you working on improving?

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I Am Not A Blade of Grass

May 12, 2010 at 6:31 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , )

Okay, I am aware that the list of things I am not would far surpass the list of things that I am.

I’ve recently realised that despite my being part of gen Y and being fully aware that language is a dynamic, living, changing  thing and that I am a very big fan of splitting infinitives and breaking other traditional grammatical rules, I am not simply going to go wherever the wind is blowing.

Specifically, I’ve recently realised that when I’m reading other people’s blogs, I don’t mind the occasional spelling error or sentence fragment. Most of us write blogs quickly, do a once over and a spell check and that’s about it. If someone points out a massive error in the comments, maybe go back and edit. Blogs are not generally going to be a perfectly polished type of text. Some people will disagree with me and I know there are people who spend ages over each blog and that works for them.

Despite that, it really bothers me when I’m reading a blog and it isn’t punctuated. I’m not talking about every comma being in the right place and correct use of semi-colons, I’m just talking about basic full stops and capital letters with an occasional apostrophe. It really puts me off to the point where I don’t remember the content at all. Same with lower case I’s. It doesn’t take that much more effort to tag the shift key while typing to make it a capital.

Maybe this is me being overly pedantic about things other people don’t find important but there we have it. It interferes with my ability to enjoy content.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

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Repeat/Repeat

December 30, 2009 at 5:23 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , )

I’ve been going through the editing process, trying to get my first novel ready for publication and it has recently been brought  to my attention that despite my own editing and rewriting I have still overused so many lines and expressions.  Painful and annoying.

Which lines and phrases do you overuse?  Mine:

  • There was/There were – which is silly given in most cases if I cut this part of the sentence off, it still makes perfect sense with very minor adjustments.
  • Absolutely – I overuse this when writing in first person.  Everything is absolutely something.
  • Apparently – Again, I overuse this when writing in first person.  Everything is apparent to my protagonist apparently.

There are definitely other words and lines that I abuse with overuse but those three are the ones giving me a headache at the moment.  It is interesting how easy it is to overlook something that should be staring you in the face.  The fact that I have used these so many times should have leapt right out at me but it didn’t.  It would have if I was reading someone else’s work but because it was my own I suddenly became blind and oblivious.

So which words do you overuse?  How do you catch them?

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5 Reasons to Type Your Draft

December 8, 2009 at 5:12 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , )

It is an old argument; should we write on the computer or write by hand?  Honestly it comes down to whatever works for you.  My first manuscript was nearly entirely written by hand in the first draft and was typed out several years later and has since undergone a massive restructuring but some of the original lines have stuck all the way through, which is nice.  I haven’t tried to duplicate the effort since it is much easier to edit if I just type it out to begin with.  Here are my 5 reasons to type rather than handwrite.

1.  I can type much faster than I can write.  Much, much faster than I can write and I can almost always read the results.

2.  I can type without looking at anything in particular so I can shut my eyes and go for it.  I cannot write by hand with my eyes shut.  This helps me to focus on the story I am writing and to visualise the scene I’m trying to describe or the character I’m currently introducing.

3.  It is harder to lose information.  Not impossible – we all know computers crash, break and fail massively, but it is harder to lose things.  I have at least three copies of most data and I make sure I regularly back everything up so I’m not too worried about losing entire drafts.  I have misplaced notebooks and entire print outs of drafts though.  That is quite annoying.  Plus my cat eats paper (not joking) and it is really hard to edit a manuscript with a cat trying to eat the page you are reading.

4.  Spell check.  No, you should not rely entirely on spell check as it has quite a few issues but it does catch the out right silly errors that you make while typing quickly with your eyes shut.  Spell check is definitely a friend.

5.  As I said in the introduction – editing.  So much easier to make changes and adjustments on the screen then in a note book.  By the time you cross this, circle that, draw arrows indicating where that should go, and you get to your twentieth footnote, the notebook becomes unreadable.

These are my 5 reasons as to why I type instead of hand write (for the most part).  What are yours? Or do you still hand write?

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This is not editing

November 18, 2009 at 5:15 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , )

After this last week I could write a very long list of things I have been doing that are not editing (and it wouldn’t even include my day job).  But for all the distractions and time outs, the editing has been getting done.  I am so close to finishing this round of edits and being ready to do another quick read through and I am elated.  Not just because once it is done I can get on with some new writing and not stare at a sentence for an hour like it is the enemy but because it has actually made the writing so much better.  All of the agonising and frustration and wondering whether or not I was ever going to get anything done will have served a purpose.

It really did take me setting specific targets for each day to get me focused.  The strange thing is that the more I made myself sit and work on it, the easier it became to focus because I could start to see the big picture again and how each small change was improving the whole.

My top five “this is not editing” moments:

1.  Blogging – naturally.  Writing posts about writing rather than actually working on my writing.  With blogging comes the reading comments, replying to comments, following back to other people’s blogs and reading their posts, commenting on their posts, etc, etc, etc.  This didn’t distract me so much once I set a time limit on how long I could spend flitting from blog to blog.

2.  Using the Thesaurus – You wouldn’t think that this would be all that time consuming.  Don’t like a word that you have used, look up another word, insert and move on.  But there are five or six perfectly good words and what is the minute difference between each and which is the absolute best one for this job.  Using the dictionary (both paper and online) and map out the words, their meanings, their origins, in the meantime forget where you were even trying to put the word in the MS.  Handy time wasting device which could easily be construed as working to the casual observer.

3.  socializing – On the phone, on facebook, on twitter, you name it I’ve been using it to chat away.  Now mostly I’ve been talking about writing but that doesn’t get my editing done.

4.  Research – And I am only very loosely using the word here.  Mostly I’m just surfing the internet and filing random factoids because you never know when you might need a random factoid to throw into a WIP.

5.  Reading – I can’t help myself.  I love to read.  Even when I have day job stuff and writing stuff to do, I have to make time to read.  Of course it is quite hard to focus on reading with someone pointedly reminding me that “this is not editing” every half hour or so.

Wishing everyone the best of luck with their writing and editing.

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I’m not procrastinating but…

November 9, 2009 at 3:25 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , )

I finally had a day to edit.  Not just a few pages and tweaking a word here and there but actually had the time to go through in detail, consult my original story plans and character outlines and update the necessary bits and pieces, and really work my MS over.  Such time is a rarity and over the next few weeks is going to be even rarer.  Knowing this you would think that I could focus on what I was doing for more than twenty minutes at a time.

Nuh-uh.

Progress has definitely been made.  It isn’t that I didn’t do any editing or spend any time, however I just couldn’t stay focused.  First there were these really cute birds out in the trees, chirping because the sun came up (this was first thing in the morning mind you which is normally my best writing time but apparently editing doesn’t count).  Then I made a little progress and decided I had to have breakfast.  Come back, little more work, check email, blog, twitter, facebook, random scans of other blogs, check out what friends are doing, oh yeah, I was supposed to be doing something.

Then I realised I’d been sitting at the computer for too long and had to do something active.  I helped paint two rooms of my house.  They look good and I think after the second coat they will be really amazing.  The house was now full of paint fumes and my study is right next to one of the freshly painted rooms, so I might as well eat lunch before getting back to work.

Finally I sat at the computer and I read through two lines before checking twitter etc again.

Despite all of this, I’m not worried.  My editing will get done.  I just have to apply some basic discipline.  Set a goal for the day.  Don’t go to bed until the goal is met.  Want to watch that show on television?  Finish up to point x first.

That said, before I got back into editing, I spent some time finding just the right music to listen to, just to help me concentrate of course.

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