Monday, January 30, 2012

Beautiful People: Marian, Much, & Robin

It's hard to do Hywel with these things, because so many of his answers would give things away from the book, and others he can't as much as love Robin I've done him too many considering I'm editing Forest of Lies and believe it or not, *Marian* is the main character, I thought she deserved one. Then, after doing it for Marian, it seemed rather bland, so I added the guys in as well.

So here's (post-FoL) Marian, Robin, and Much.

1. If character's house burned down, and they were left with nothing but the clothes on their back, what would they do? Where would they go? 
Marian: Uh. Depends on which one. One we'd just rebuild. The other we might just leave. My author says the reason I have two houses is confidential.
Robin: Ditto that.
Much: I'd personally go after the person who did it.
Robin: *laugh* They didn't say anyone did it...
Much: Still.

 2. Are they happy with where they are in life, or would they like to move on? 
Marian: I'm happy. It's hard but good. I would appreciate a stable social status, but that's way out of reach right now.
Robin: It depends. I'm happy with the people I'm with, but not always happy with how I am. Not that I can really "move on"...
Much: I wish I was still around to knock sense into you. -.- Anyway, yes, I'm happy. :P

 3. Are they well-paid? 
Marian: Depends. I don't have a "real" job. As far as monetary status goes, it's not that great, but there are worse things than being poor. I should know, since I've been the opposite and been far more unhappy.
Robin: I'll go with no, I'm not well-paid, but I don't have an official job either. Well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don''s rather confusing.
Much: I am horribly abused.
Robin: Are you going to answer ANY of these seriously?
Much: Probably not.

 4. Can they read? 
Marian: A little.
Robin: Yes.
Marian: *snicker*

 5. What languages do they speak? 
Marian: Norman-French and Anglo-Saxon.
Robin: Me too, as well as some Latin. I've forgotten a lot of it, though.

 6. What is their biggest mistake? 
Marian: Believing someone I shouldn't have, and disbelieving someone I should've. Betraying someone who didn't deserve it.
Robin: It's hard to pick a biggest one.
Much: -.- *bops*
Robin: All right, all right. It was that [big FoL spoiler]. I think. I regret that the most.
Much: Mine was joining Gaston's band.

 7. What did they play with most as a child? 
Marian: A toy horse. Though I burned it when I was about six. I got another one, but it wasn't the same at all.
Robin: A bow.
Much: We're all shocked and amazed. I...uh...played with sticks...yeah...

 8. What are their thoughts on politics? 
Marian: Well, my time is very different than the time this is asked in. I'll just say I'm not a fan. I used to have a rather different view.
Robin: I'm unorthodox, to say the least.
Much: To say the least.

 9. What is their expected life time? 
Marian: I have no idea.
Me: 50-60ish?
Marian: That. Assuming I don't die in childbirth.
Robin: You're not allowed to do that.
Marian: Oh good, that's nice to know. ;)
Robin: I imagine my expected life time isn't as long...
Marian: You're not allowed to do that.:P
Much: Actually, I--

 10. If they were falsely accused of murder, what would they do? How would they react?
Marian: I'd probably yell a bunch of things first and then regret it later.
Robin: I'd...go a bit speechless for a bit, and work on proving that I didn't do it.
Much: Hm. Probably go something like this: "WHY YOU! *CLUNK*"
Marian: I don't even want to know what that means...

So there ya go.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Killing Your Internal Editor

My novel, my image
(Internal Editor otherwise known as: Perfectionist Side of Doom to All Novels and Eddie.)

A comment by James V on my recent plot elephants post made me realize something: there’s a difference between accepting that you get ripe story ideas slowly and letting a perfectionist side strangle any hope of ever writing anything.

This is not to say James V necessarily has this problem--I don’t know. But I know I have had this problem, and I know others that are still combating it, so I thought I’d address it.

Despite all of the juicy and highly recommended goodness of the One Year Adventure Novel’s lessons on structure, characters, conflict, and, most importantly, theme, I must admit that the best thing I got out of my first year with Mr. S. was this: first drafts are always rough.

I am an incurable perfectionist. I like things just so. Though my inability to tell story certainly crippled my early efforts, my need for the “just so” would have undoubtedly crippled my OYAN efforts if I hadn’t been told first drafts are always rough and give yourself permission to write badly.

Repeatedly, mind you.

No novel jumps out of an author’s brain, through the author’s fingers, and splat across the laptop screen in absolute, amazing brilliancy. There might be flashes of brilliance, yes, but no novel is born completely perfect.

Good writing is rewriting, to quote another smart person.

If you, the perfectionist author, do not manage to strangle and silence the perfectionist when you’re writing the rough draft of your novel, it will undoubtedly strangle and silence your novel. It will say: “that’s not good enough. Start over.” So you start over. But it decides that’s not good enough either and want you to start over. And again. And again. And again. (It’s rather like the “Why’s the Rum Gone?” remix.) Until the novel is bled dry and you’re miserable because you can’t make it brilliant on the first go-round.

It’s okay if ideas ripen slowly. It’s okay if not all ideas end up as an edited-a-dozen-times novel. But teach yourself to approach each idea you think is ready sincerely--and allow yourself to write it badly.

Allow yourself to have stilted dialogue, poor pacing, horrendous prose, and cliché characters: of course, this isn’t what you are striving for (and you likely won’t have all of those, certainly not all at the same time), but allow it to happen in the first draft. If you don’t allow for it, the first draft will never happen. Period.

It makes me chuckle a little to look through Forest of Lies’s rough draft (which was only ever read by Mr. S., by the by!), and even draft II. But if I hadn’t found the guts to let that rough draft be, draft IV wouldn’t be happening now. I wouldn’t have Forest of Lies.

Give yourself permission to write badly.

Good writing is rewriting.

An ugly rough manuscript is better than the most brilliant unwritten novel.

Make it REAL before you make it RIGHT.

First drafts are always rough.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Last Piece

I don’t consider myself an especially impatient person. When I decide I want something, say, the 1973 Disney Robin Hood movie, I generally wait for several months, see if I still want it after those months: buy it if I do, don’t if I don’t. I have pretty effectively squelched short-term desires in this way of tight-wad-ness.

Lately, though, it seems like God has been saying two things to me over and over again: trust and wait.

Really, the wait thing is really more than one word. It’s more like: waiting is good. Waiting is worth it. Mostly because that’s what I’ve been realizing lately. I had a two-year frustrating dryness between the wonder of Forest of Lies and the wonder of Quintessence. I had already decided, in fact, that waiting was worth it, because of how awesome writing Quintessence really was.

Very recently, though, it smacked me again.

I haven’t been patiently waiting with Forest of Lies at all. I didn’t know I was waiting, actually. I just knew I wasn’t done with Forest of Lies, Robin wasn’t done with me, and all I could mange to do was hit a brick wall over, and over, and over again. 2.5 years. I gave up Forest of Lies several times, sometimes even on this blog. But a few months would pass, and it would be back at me, hammering away. I had to edit it. I had to fix it somehow. It wasn’t finished, I didn’t know how to implement what I wanted to do with it, and I was an overall very frustrated young lady.

About a week ago, I exploded all over my beloved OYAN forum about how Forest of Lies was driving me insane, how I couldn’t edit it, how I wanted desperately too, and how people kept telling me to self-publish it, and yet I wasn’t happy with just giving it up and putting it out there when I wasn’t quite satisfied with it....

So I started reading through it again. I jumped through the book, reading parts. It wasn’t half as bad as I thought, though still lacking. I jotted down a simple idea about the Ralph/Marian relationship. I closed it up and went to bed.

It took me a few days and lots of self-doubt to realize that that simple idea was all that was left. It was all I needed. It slid into place with all of the other ideas I had for the book, it synthesized feedback, it suddenly clicked. I could make the motivation make sense. I could fix everything.* I COULD CONQUER THE WORLD.**

I actually edited chapter 1. Chapter 1, the looming monster with huge, imperfect teeth to chew my editing muse (yes, they exist) into tiny pieces and spit it back out across my face, halting all other progress. I edited it and destroyed the monster. Then I edited chapter 2.

I proceeded to explode all over the internet again, this time in crazed, jubilant celebration. I wanted to laugh, to scream, and to cry.

Those 2.5 years of relentless, fighting, exhausting, frustrating waiting turned out to be totally worth it.

I don’t know why I had to kick this book around in my head so long before I got the pieces--maybe it’s just my plot elephant style. Or maybe it was that I needed to grow before Forest of Lies could grow.

But whatever it was, maybe someday I’ll finally learn that waiting is always worth it, and God’s timing is always right.

*Well, maybe not quite everything.
**This doesn’t really have anything to do with editing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Plot Elephants

Many, many writers I know complain about how they have "too many ideas" and how "distracting" they are, and how they can't possibly EVER write ALL the ideas they have.

They have even come up with a name for this affliction: plot bunnies. (My favorite description would have to be ZNZ's post on plot bunnies.)

Source which leads to the real source

Let's look at real life bunnies.

According to the all-knowledgeable Wikipedia (no, I don't trust it on everything), a rabbit's pregnancy lasts about 30 days. Yep, 30 days. The typical litter can be anywhere from 4-12 little pink gummies (er, I mean bunnies), which develop very rapidly and can be having their own litters just months after being born. As Wikipedia says, "this means in one season a single female rabbit can produce as many as 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren."

Quite frightening, isn't it? Though I haven't heard claims about eight hunderd story ideas, I have definitely heard the "more than I'll ever be able to write" figure several times. (Which you would argue isn't really a figure. I suppose not.)

Recently, Josiphine posted on plot bunnies. She, however, unlike most proponents of plot bunny philosophy, allowed for a different kind of writing, by mentioning something Gail Levine apparently described, that is that there are writers "who only get maybe 1 idea a week and have to hold onto it tightly."

One a week? I have to laugh. I get one I can run with every two years or so, if I'm lucky.

Hence, plot elephants.

Again, real life elephants: first, they generally have only ONE calf per pregnancy. And how long is that pregnancy? Twenty-two months. Funny, that's very close to the 2-year long period that it seems to take me to finally get an idea I can spit out in a rough draft.

It's not that I have to wait two years and then BLAM an idea pops out of nowhere. Far from it. In fact, it is very much like pregnancy. It's only when I "give birth" to these ideas that I'm able to look back and see where they came from.

I wrote draft one of Forest of Lies in a record three months. However, by the time I finished that rough draft, I had been fiddling with "Robin Hood story" ideas for two and a half years. How long had I been looking at Robin Hood when I got the original brainstorm of an outline for Forest of Lies? About two years.

I recently spit out outline, world development, and rough draft of Quintessence ALL in four months. However, what came before Quintessence stretches far back, as my "tale of threes" posts on characters and themes explain.

I spent a long time battling the "why don't I have as many ideas as all these bunny people" feelings, but I think I'm over that now. I love my single calves. As with babies, when I finally get my ideas, they're beautiful, and I love them. And they're totally worth the wait.

Do you have plot elephants or plot bunnies? How about the writers you know?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Much's Song

I'm surprised I forgot this in my Much post.

Much may not have a picture, but he does have a song.

(Except I re-discovered the fact that a friend of mine actually drew one of him too...apparently I have a terrible memory.)

Funny story about his song, actually.

Much plays a rebec. According to that Wikipedia article it wasn't mentioned by name until the 14th century, so maybe he actually plays a lyra. At any rate, the original website I found out about it on said it was period appropriate.

I digress. (Again. What's with me and digressing lately?)

Forest of Lies has a scene where Much plays this rebec. I had recently written the first version of this scene when I walked into the room to hear my sister Grace listening to a song. I kinda stopped dead. When it was over, I did something like this: "OHMYWHATISTHAT?!"

Hibernia, Michael W. Smith.

I hadn't written the scene about the music Much played with a particular piece in mind--but that song, THAT was something Much would write. So at my house, this is always considered "Much's song."

Incidentally, several other songs from that same album also remind me of Forest of Lies. They're The Giving (Marian), Freedom (Robin), and Freedom Battle (for some reason, this is so soundtrack-sounding, I see I kinda movie-opening version of Forest of Lies when I listen to it...). They weren't quite the same affect as Much's song (plus Robin and Marian don't play instruments), but they're still pretty special to me. I love music that goes with books and characters.

Sproing and blessings,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wonderful World of Editing, Part 2

This post will be more picture-heavy than part 1. You  have been warned.

By the way, I do know that January 5th is not the "tomorrow" of January 3rd. I apologize.

With those two things out of the way, off we go.

I mentioned in part 1 that my "big stuff" tends to go in my notebook, while the smaller things I jot down on my manuscript. I put brackets around poorly phrased sentences or poorly done paragraphs. I generally circle words I don't like--either because they're of the evil was or adverb category--or just because it sounds funny to my reading ear.

I also ask myself a lot of questions. Very appropriate for this book, since that's what Hywel goes through all the trouble for--answers to questions. But with the distance I've gained from it during my break, I'm able to notice stuff that I didn't really think about before. I have a dialogue with myself, basically, that probably comes from turning my inner editor back on. My inner editor is not really very nice to my rough draft, sometimes...for example, I often found myself writing this:

"Meh" could be referring to story-telling techniques, bad sentences, bad dialogue, etc. Eddie is very liberal with "meh."

I just realized how interesting it might be to read those words out of context. MUWAHA. 

Ahem. Some of my favorites of Nai-the-Eddie's comments: 

Is it schizophrenic to make fun of yourself in this fashion? At any rate, I think it denotes a healthy Eddie and a healthy first-drafter.

I suppose it IS schizophrenic to talk to BOTH your first-draft-er side AND your main character, however:

Besides making fun of myself, I also find myself kind of brainstorming in the margins, sometimes. I'll write a question, think of answer, so I write that down too, then I think of an even BETTER way...then I think of another question...(I often find myself bumping into the edge of the paper).

Then to, there is the delicious Xing. I don't know why it's delicious anymore than why I make fun of poor Nai-who-slaved-over-that-first-draft. But I do dearly love crossing out sentences, and putting huge Xs on paragraphs, not to mention pages. (I Xed about a dozen pages of Quintessence.)

I will end this post with what I scrawled across page 168 of Quintessence:

It's not really, of course. It's not the end of editing, of rewriting, or even of Hywel and the rest. I've already brainstormed ideas for a sequel. Though after writing The End on my first novel I haven't typed it since (and don't like the way it looks, anyhow) I really kind of wanted it somewhere. Because, you know, I finished another novel(la). And it's going to be awesome.

Eventually. Since Eddie's currently laughing.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Wonderful World of Editing, Part 1

Well, not quite. The truth is, what I've just finished is my read-through, and it's probably more enjoyable to find all the things to fix than to actually go through the nitty-gritty of fixing them.

I'm talking about Quintessence, by the by.

My note-taking read-through is the first step in my editing or rewriting (because this still encompasses broad changes from draft one) process. At least it is now. I honestly can't remember what hackneyed process I went through with my first poor book (Betsy Flowain) and Forest of Lies was such a whirlwind for the first few drafts that I don't remember much about IT either. I have, however, taken extensive notes on Forest of Lies Draft III, and though I have failed to implement them successfully, at least they exist.

I digress.

As I wrote the rough draft of Quintessence, I printed off each chapter as I finished it and put it in a folder. I used the quote unquote boring Courier New, double-spaced, 12pt font that the OYAN curriculum calls for. Though I used to hate this font, I have grown to really like the crispness of it when printed.

The notebook is special. It appeals to me to have that title page in front and all of those pages filling it. You only get one rough draft, after all, and there's something a bit special about that, whether writers like to admit it or not. A beautiful ugliness, I suppose.

Anyway, once the notebook is full, it gets to sit for several weeks at least, and in Quintessence case, almost three months. Then I grab my OYAN pen, a notebook, and those crisp pages, and tackle it. I write both in the notebook and on the actual pages. I tend to stick to small things on the actual pages--awkward phrasings, words I don't like, bad paragraphs--and address bigger issues, like plot and character, in the notebook. Further, I put stars next to the notes I'm making that will address the whole book (or several chapters), and not just the chapter I'm editing.

Judging from just the amount of notes, I have the most work to do on chapter 3 and 8, with a moderate amount on 1, 2, 9, 10 and 11, and minimal on 4, 5, 6, and 7.

My stars, on the other hand, number around two dozen, so maybe I shouldn't feel TOO cocky.

This is getting pretty long, so I'll post some more about my in-text work tomorrow. I did finish my read-through this morning, and I'm feeling pretty excited. The truth is, Quintessence didn't sit for QUITE 3 months before I picked it up...I actually did a lighter read-through about three weeks after I finished and got pretty discouraged.

Funny what those extra weeks did. I got ideas for how to fix what I know needs fixing, and I have inklings of ideas for what I'm still not quite sure of how to fix. I think I'll basically edit chapter 1 through 11 in order, watching out for those stars that sometimes change things.

Some Quintessence stats, in case you're interested (I really should get a page up for it...):

Chapters: 11
Pages (Courier New double-spaced): 168
Wordcount: 29,400 [this is my shortest first draft ever--but hey, it seemed like a short book in my head]

Hero: Hywel
Allies: Sybyl and Alamea
Villain: Management

The Day It All Started: June 24th, 2011
First Outline Written: June 24th, 2011
Parts of Chapters 1, 3, and 9 Written By: June 29th, 2011
Other Worlds Lectures Watched: July 5th, 2011
Day Finished Selected Other Worlds Worksheets: July 10th, 2011
First Chapter Finished: July 19th, 2011
First Draft Finished: October 10,.2011
Read-Through Finished: January 3rd, 2012
[Yes, it's been a bit of a whirlwind for me--especially getting all of my ducks in a row to start the drafting so quickly.]

Signing off,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

[insert cliche title here]

Truth was, I wasn't searching for an end-of-the-world picture when I searched "2012" but that's what I got anyway (lots of them, in fact). I'm more of a "they ran out of room" side on this, by the way. What other things do we listen to the Mayans about, anyway? Nothing, I believe.

(Not to say it *couldn't* happen...anything can happen...but I don't place much stock in it.)

All the same, I found myself a bit nervous as the minutes and then the seconds counted down. End of the world or no, I haven't felt that way about a new year before. 2011 went by in a whirlwind, with plenty of good and bad rolled in it.

2012, I think, will just entail a lot of change. Or could entail a lot of change. It could be the year I got to live in New York City. Or not. It could be the year I finally work on a novel that could win the OYAN contest. Or not. I'm working on my seventh college application and I believe my eighth personal essay. All this work, and I have no idea what I'm going to be doing next fall. Not only do I need acceptance: I need a significant amount of financial aid.

I just feel unsettled today. I don't know what I'm doing for school, I'm trying to balance the social with the education with the writing, wondering about how to strengthen relationships and when one lets go, and what to do with novels, old and new. But especially old.

I don't really know what to do beyond keeping up the writing. I don't know where I'm going except into higher education because my parents probably won't want it otherwise. I don't know if I'll earn a full scholarship or work minimum wage again and attend a community college.

I don't know where I'm going.

Neither do the Mayans.

I suppose it's a good thing, then, that I don't have to. I have a God, a Daddy, who does.

P.S. Thanks to Calleigh, I'm striking out on a 366 picture challenge with my new digital camera. If you like, you can follow my lens adventures here: Nairam's Olympus.
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