This week so far has been one of my most productive weeks all year. It’s summer, which means I don’t have to think about school and all the fun stuff that comes with it, and so I spent my first two weeks mainly goofing off and am now getting down to some serious business.
So, this week I’ve edited two and a half chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve got the first chapter up for critique in two places. I’m participating in an online writing workshop called the Writer’s Circuit, where a number of youth and one writer in residence compare work. I’ve still got to read one more story this week, but I have the rest of today and all of tomorrow to do so.
The third thing that I’ve been doing is revisiting my ancient Squidoo page and working on my lenses. I’ve completely redone my Writing: My Passion lens and created a new lens called What Makes Terry Pratchett so Great? The reason why I decided to actually work on the lenses that I have and to create new ones for Squidoo is because I returned to find that my account-which lay unused for two years-had collected me a whopping three dollars.
That might not seem like a big deal to you, but that’s a huge deal to me. Back in the day I put up two lenses and got halfway through creating a couple more-the one I’m most excited to finish is about how to win Nanowrimo with extra words-and then I abandoned the site for two years. To the point that when I went to update my bio, it still said I was fifteen. Heh. I didn’t expect to find any kind of money there. Maybe a dollar. But three whole dollars gives me the hope that if I work my butt off this summer finishing the lenses I’ve started and making new ones, I might actually have some sort of income from the site. Even if it’s just twenty bucks a month, that’s more than I had before.
Two days a week will be devoted to reading and to creating or updating Squidoo lenses. Three will be devoted to editing and short stories, which I hope to write four of this summer-one every two weeks. My weekends are my days to spend to myself… or, should I say, with my boyfriend. There’s some overlap from day to day and blog posts happen on a novel day-just to make sure my editing stats are up to date-but overall my system seems workable. Don’t quote me on it though, it’s only been a week.
All of that said, I’d like to talk briefly about one of the hardest parts of creating a (I don’t want to say how many) new draft, especially when you have parts of it up for critique. That hard part is not going back and fighting with all the newly written and edited chapters. I did cheat and I did go back to fix the next chapters I’m putting up for critique, but I’ve forced myself to stop, leaving them in an all right but imperfect condition. Those chapters are going to go up for critique even though I know I can make them better, and I’m going to keep plunging ahead, because if I don’t make myself finish this draft, I never will.
Tomorrow I might quickly go over the next chapter I’m putting up for critique just to make sure it makes sense, but I’m not going to let myself get caught up in it for hours on end. I need to push ahead until I reach the end of this new draft, which might I say I am very proud of.
This draft is turning the novella back into a novel, which is pretty exciting for me. And it’s working out in all sorts of ways I couldn’t have imagined, even though somewhere along the line I lost all my notes. (I do mean all my notes.) I guess that’s just one of the joys of working with a really familiar story-I only need so many of my notes.
How is your editing going? What other writing projects are you getting excited about this summer?
So this week I managed to finish my last essay for school and on top of that, I managed to edit three chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian-though it seems most of the editing in recent chapters has actually been writing new scenes. I’m pretty pleased with my progress as I’m currently sitting at 51 pages of the new draft and 17, 000 or so words. I’m confident that I can have this draft finished in another three or four weeks.
The only frustrating thing about it is that I know I’m going to have to spend a lot of time editing all the new scenes that I’m writing. They’re well written, but there are always ways to make the work better, and stuff that’s already been looked over and edited once will read better than stuff that hasn’t.
Today I had to do some research on swamps in order to properly write one of my scenes. I discovered that although I have an idea what a swamp looks like, I didn’t really know anything else about them. So I took an hour out of my day and looked through various websites about various swamps. I ended up deciding on something close to the ecosystem of Florida Swamps. I haven’t used a lot of what I learned yet, but it did help a little with the scene I was working on and it will probably help more with the upcoming swamp scenes.
One interesting thing I learned today is that there’s a swamp creature called a Coypu or Nutria and that it’s a little rodent type deal. I’m not spending a lot of time in the swamp, but I’ll probably spend more time there in the next book, so this information will definitely come in useful.
It’s important that you take the time to research things you need to know-to learn about animals you’re not very familiar with, ecosystems, philosophies, ideas. Things you want to include in your book but that you don’t know much about. This is particularly true if you’re trying to mimic a culture or time period other than your own-never assume that you know enough. Always keep studying the world around you the same way you keep studying your craft.
Next week I plan to continue editing my book and to start a new short story. It’ll probably be a lot easier to hit my writing goals now that it’s summer; last summer and the summer before that I partied too much and didn’t write enough, but this summer I’m going to work my behind off-after all, I’m almost 18, a proper adult, and I need to act like it and take my dreams seriously.
How is your editing going? Have you stopped at any point to do research or background work?
Currently I’m sitting at two chapters edited and planning to finish the third one today. These chapters both needed pretty major editing. I’ve changed and cut some backstory in the first chapter I edited, and I added new scenes-part of a new subplot that won’t really be important until the second half-to the second chapter I edited.
There are two main things I’m trying to do with this edit: to create a new subplot so that the main plot of the second book makes more sense, and to make Riana a bit less rude, a bit more compassionate. One of these involves adding a few scenes, and the other involves removing some-and cutting others short.
Creating a new subplot is harder-or at least it feels harder-than making Riana nicer throughout the book. It involves adding new scenes and giving characters that were briefly mentioned in the last draft a slightly bigger role. It also involves editing several scenes to make sure that the facts match. I’m also trying to make it so that the subplot has an effect on the overall tone of the book-to make it feel like there’s still something going on in Moonshadow when this story ends, that there might be another story. That will probably be the hardest part-once they leave Moonshadow, I have to show Riana worrying about the state of politics there, and I have to give her a reason to stay worried.
In most of my previous edits, I’ve spent a lot of time adding things. Adding little details that I forgot, adding scenes which make the story make more sense, sometimes adding tens of thousands of words to my projects. As I’m trying to make Riana nicer, I find that most of the editing I’m doing to make that happen is actually cutting things out. I still want Riana to be a bit mean, a bit ruthless, and definitely at least a little sarcastic. But as I read my last draft, I realized she was so sarcastic a lot of people probably wouldn’t like her. So I’ve been cutting back on her snarkiness-taking out witty one liners and even deleting whole arguments. I’m not trying to make her a saint-I’m just trying to make her a little bit nicer.
And of course the best possible scenario is that I’ll manage to make the new scenes for the subplot show Riana’s compassion. That will be a neat trick because it’s a political subplot and Riana’s not very friendly with politicians that aren’t her king, but if I can find a way to do it, I will.
How is your editing going? Do you find yourself adding more or cutting more when you edit?
Editing is probably the most dreaded part of writing for the majority of writers out there-submission being a whole different thing altogether. It’s all about taking apart your creation, this thing you love and have put your blood, sweat, and tears into, and tearing it apart. Once you’ve torn it apart you need to sew it back together, minus some of the prettier pieces and adding some less pretty but more functional parts. It’s hard work-harder than spitting out a first draft and even harder than spitting out an entirely new second draft.
Right now I’m editing my novella, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve reached a disheartening point. I’ve written new first chapters and now I’m actually editing things I’ve already written, which is always harder.
For this edit, my main goals are to spend more time on the subplot which will become the main plot of the second book-essentially throwing in political intrigue-to make Riana more compassionate, and to add more sounds and smells to the story. I’m hoping that along with a couple minor story changes, this will make the novella almost ready for submission.
With every edit you should have major goals. It’s hard to fix every problem with your story in one edit, and for most of us, it’s easier to do two or three edits, each one focusing on a couple of specific story issues. You should also have goals for each day of editing. Use these goals to help keep you motivated and to evaluate your progress.
Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. A lot of the time editing is much harder than writing, so you’ll need to allow more time for the edit than you did for the first draft. Only focus on editing a couple of scenes a day. Personally I like to do shorter chapters in one day and longer chapters in two. And don’t be afraid to take a day or two off once in a while-in fact I’d almost suggest taking the occasional day off to work on short fiction prompts or something similar-but don’t let yourself abandon it altogether for weeks on end.
I’ll admit, in spite of all this advice, I’m not the greatest at staying on track with my editing goals. There’s always too much to do, especially when you’ve got a big pile of homework. And you know you’ve hit writer’s block when you’re doing homework instead.
So, for all of you out there editing your projects, I’d like you to join a challenge with me. For myself, I plan to edit three chapters every week until Moonshadow’s Guardian has been edited completely. You get to pick your own amount-make sure that it’s enough to challenge you but not enough for you to get discouraged. The weeks are Friday to Friday, and each Friday I will make a post to let you know how my editing is going and to give some editing tips or links. I’m asking you to comment with your own progress and-if you’re comfortable with it-a sentence of your story.
How quickly do you think you can edit?
My writing has hit a low point over the last couple of weeks. It would seem that it took a blow after I finished Moonshadow’s Guardian. The story had me completely entranced, and I’m already eager to begin the first rewrite. Currently I am playing the waiting game-with plenty of school work to distract me in the meantime-because I know that you should never start editing right away. However, rewrites are going to begin sooner than I originally planned; I need to rewrite this story, to make some very specific changes to it, to get it out of my system.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as much as I love the story, will have to take the backburner for now. I know that I cannot currently give it the attention and time that it deserves. When, as a writer, you are told that you must write every day and move quickly from one project to the next, this kind of thing can be hard to admit-even to yourself. But it’s important to remember that every writer is different, every writer’s needs and strengths are different; there’s no one way to go about becoming an author.
Keeping this in mind I’m not going to yell at myself for not accomplishing much on the writing front this week; instead I’m going to do some research-reading a new book I bought about castles-and then jump right into the rewrite of Moonshadow’s Guardian.
Fiction isn’t the only thing that’s been hard for me in the last couple of weeks; the blog posts which were plentiful in my head at the beginning of the year seem to have dried up. I know I want to start a new series of blog posts for Friday mornings, but I have no idea what to focus on or where to begin. Sometimes writing really is like pulling nails, both on the fiction front and on the non-fiction front. Sometimes it means you have to push harder; other times it means you have to take a break.
As a blogger I have one advantage that lots of other writers don’t; I can ask you guys what I should write about next. This is my first poll and it will be up for a week. Come back next week to find out the results-and to see my shiny new series of posts.