Ramblings from a writer

william_cullen_bryantToday I sat down to look over a poem I wrote earlier in the week. I have sent it to a few good first readers to get different viewpoints. I have spent way more time on this one poem than I ever planned on, but then I never really planned to write it either. A line just sort of popped into my head one day, so I wrote it down and the rest followed. That’s usually how poetry works for me. Often that is the way stories work too.

I am pretty much one of those people who write by the seat of their pants. I rarely plan anything out. I think it is more fun that way, even if it is a bit chaotic. However, if I am writing non-fiction, then I do plan things more carefully. I have the ability to plot things out, I just don’t usually do it because it seems to make getting the words down harder for me. I tend to daydream quite a bit as well.

The idea that I don’t plot things out drives a few of my writer friends crazy. They always plot. I know others that never do. I mean, there is always a vague idea where the story is going. Usually.

I do have eight pages of a work in progress that just kind of popped in my head like poetry normally does. That one I have no idea where it is going. It probably won’t turn out to be anything good enough to share with the rest of the world, but it is fun to write so I am keeping up with it as sort of a writing exercise.

Anyway, my rambling point is that I have spent a lot of time working on a poem. I like this one and I want to get it right but it isn’t quite there yet. I am not sure where “there” is but I am working hard on finding it.

 

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Tell the story. Then let someone else read it.

boring_bookRecently I was reading a book of short fiction by an author with more experience and success than I. The stories had interesting ideas driving them but then they fell flat. This author has been published traditionally and has marched the independent path. This particular work was indie published.

I am a big supporter of indie publishing. It gets more of what I like to read in my hands and provides writers with another way to get there stuff out there. It is a tool for the tool box. However, I am not sure I can finish reading this book.

It isn’t bad. Not really. I see some of my own mistakes made by this author and it irritates me. Also I doubt the author uses beta readers. That is a mistake I try not to make. (Not saying I’ve never made it, but I try not to get impatient and toss out stuff that isn’t ready.)

Beta readers are one of the most important tools a writer can have. You really do need thatYou_Keep_Using_That_Word_Meme_FP_Wide second pair of eyes. I know I have written about this before but it is still true. Fresh eyes and a fresh brain see things you will miss. If you spell the wrong word correctly, spell check isn’t going to catch it.

Often writers will read what is supposed to be there rather than what actually is. So get a beta reader. Two or three if you can. Bribe them. Beg them. Whatever it takes. I find coffee, the occasional lunch, or a free book work well for mine. Some will even do it just because they love to read. Make use of your bookish or grammar Nazi friends.

Those personality quirks that may annoy you in everyday life will 6a00d8341c630a53ef013488af5745970c-800wibe indispensable for your writing world.

Insecurities and titles

Tammi05-SneakPeek-AI am still getting used to the idea of being an author. I like the term writer better. It feels less…well self important, I guess. I am more of a bluejeans and t-shirts type of girl. The word “Author” makes me think of button up shirts and pressed slacks for some reason.

I should know better. I have met a lot of different author and every last one of them was very nice and not pompous at all. There were some in suits and some in slacks but there were also those in pirate costumes and utili-kilts with bottled frappacinos in the pockets.

It is an insecurity I need to over come. It is not like the other authors are going to turn on frabz-Pitchfork-Mob-ready-and-waiting-253c36me in mass and start yelling, “Fake! She’s a Fake! Raise the pitch forks!” Yet that is what I secretly expect.

However, it is the same at school gatherings too. I never feel like I fit in with the other parents. I feel like I need to make sure I am close to the exits in case the P.T.O demands a human sacrifice or something. Because deep down I know that it is going to be me or one of the lone dads in the crowd and I am pretty sure they can run faster.

Part of it comes from being an introvert and part of it comes from self doubt and the ghosts of nay sayers. Insecurity is a hurtle I will over come. It shrinks with each new book. I have three manuscripts in the re-write stage and one short story that is almost through editing.

you_fail_only_if_you_stop_writingThe short story will be sent off to my cover artist soon and then will be available on Amazon for the Kindle and ect. I have too much writing to get done to be hung up on insecurities. I will face them as they come. The title “Author” is just a shield. I am still a “Writer” underneath it all. Just like a Knight may wear armor but is still a squishy human inside the metal casing.

Bright Lights and epiphanies in editing

rowingIt is a beautiful sunny day and I am sitting on my porch as I write this.  I have missed my porch.  During the Winter it has been too cold and the Spring has been rather wet.  We have had a few good days but for some reason I haven’t made it out to the porch to write.

Possibly because of the glare.  I am having a difficult time seeing the computer screen.  White porch + bright sunlight = low screen visibility.   I have sunglasses….somewhere.  I guess I will just have to make do.

I came out here to work on my Science Fiction novel.  It has been simmering in a box for Alice_in_wonderland_1951awhile now, waiting for me to get around to the next rewrite/edit.  I have this problem with editing…I don’t like to do it.   Part of that is because I don’t really know what to do when it comes to editing.  I know something is wrong.  I can feel that it’s off, but pinpointing exactly what, always gives me trouble.   Some of this is just because I don’t know what questions to ask myself and some of this is lack of practice.  As in most things, the more you do it the better you get.

I have been reading this book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and it has been a big help.  The other day I actually took my Sci-Fi novel out of its box and started to work on it.  First I re-read it and then I spent thirty minutes starring at the first page.  I knew stuff was wrong.  The second paragraph in was really wrong, but no matter how I turned the page or willed the answer to come to me, I couldn’t figure it out.  So I turned to my friend Jessi and said, “What’s wrong with this sentence right here?”

motivator312687f0669fbfe47c2a3fe4249375fe980cc139She read over the page and pointed out the sentence in question would read easier if I made it into three sentences and the next paragraph could be summed up in one three word sentence.  I looked at again and decide that her suggestions were Pure Genius! After that the rest of the page went smoothly.  Also, I began to notice I repeatedly made similar mistakes on other pages.

I rewrote that first page then went back to compare it to the original.  It was so very much plot holesbetter that it made me excited.  Maybe this editing thing isn’t so bad after all. 🙂

 

Newbie

I have to keep reminding myself lately that not knowing everything is okay.  I am learning you_fail_only_if_you_stop_writingand that is what is important.  Becoming impatient will not help matters at all.

It’s a tough thing to swallow, being a newbie.  It doesn’t matter how old I am or how many years I’ve been writing.  It doesn’t matter how many half finished novels and unedited books I have stacked up.  I am still a newbie.  I am still learning my craft.

It is frustrating.  I want to know everything now.  I want to masterfully edit those three novels gathering dust now.  My problem is I haven’t quite figured out how it is done yet.  reader_smallI am still working on finding what works for me.  I can read how other people edit. I can attempt to copy them, but the thing is despite all the books on writing advice out there you still have to find your own way.  What works for one person may not work for another.  At best it gives you a place to start.  The first brick in the yellow brick road.

I don’t know how to edit or rewrite.  It seems like a simple process. You just fix what is vintage_childrens_reading_collection_poster-re1e1e6aba9b4490db9a80226b548ae57_26gc_400wrong.  However, I am beginning to think that “what’s wrong” is how I am writing my books in the first place.  The last two (that are worth salvaging) I wrote without stopping.  Day after day I would just pick up and go without going back and checking anything.  If I got stuck I would leave myself a note on what was supposed to happen and keep going.  So at the end I wound up with what was essentially a enormous outline.

Chevrolet_Camaro_128971080494760368The next logical step would be to go back and turn the outline/book-thing into a decent novel.  This is where I am having problems.  I look at my manuscript and instead of seeing a shiny green Camaro there is a heap of junk, that if assembled right and with some body work and a new paint job probably would look like a car…hopefully even the right type of car.Chevrolet_Camaro_2_DOOR_CONVERTIBLE_in_Chevrolet_eBay_Motors_1368211778

There are places that I can tell things are just plan wrong.  What happens is right, but somehow the way I have written it is wrong.  I just can’t quite wrap my brain around how to write it…well, right.   It’s like, okay this is a hub cap and a tire they need to go on the wheel and some how attach to the axle…now how do I do that?  And aren’t the breaks supposed to attach to the wheel some how too?  ( I don’t know why I’ve chosen car analogies…I think I am missing my old Camaro today or something.  I really did own a green one.)

hidden_animalsThese are things I will learn with time and through trial and error.  Eventually it will click. Like one of those pictures within a picture.  First it looks like a forest and then you see the kitten…or something.  Right now I am a newbie.  I am learning. There is no shame in not knowing something, especially if you strive to correct the gap in your knowledge.  One step at a time. Word by word and line by line eventually leads up to chapter by chapter.  I’ll get there eventually…I just have to smother my impatience and keep moving forward.

Writing ramble

After my last post I decide to play around on line a little and maybe see if I could find a few clip-art-snoopy-535053tips on how to make the rewriting/editing process easier. (I started the 2nd or 3rd draft of my scifi novel recently. I’ve forgotten which draft I am on. I just know it isn’t done yet.)  A lot of what I do is trial and error right now. I am still trying to figure out what works for me.

The thing about writing and editing is that there is a lot of advice out there on how to do it and a lot of suggestions but not everything works for everybody.  You have to figure out how you work. However, I have found knowing how other people write and edit helps give me ideas and things to try.  Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t.

snoopyFor example outlining does not work for me.  I can scribble down a general idea of what I think should happen or the basic idea I have for the book but that is about it.  If I go more in depth than I eventually toss the book in the trash in frustration.  Also I rarely know the ending before I start.  I know people who can’t even start writing if they don’t know how it is going to end and I know people who have to have step by step outlines for each story they attempt.  I know a wonderful writer who struggles with fear of endings. Her books are amazing but she can’t stop writing them so they keep going…and going.  She is currently working on different strategies to help her over come this.

The point is not everything works for everybody.

Anyway, as I was saying before I got side tracked, I was looking for tips and I came across an interesting article published in Forbes back in August of last year about publishing and the rise in indie published books.   http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2012/08/15/publishing-is-broken-were-drowning-in-indie-books-and-thats-a-good-thing/

 

The excuses we make to ourselves

Writers are typically a creative bunch and no where are we more creative than with excuses, especial those we make to ourselves.  I am a procrastinator. I always have been.  I tend to drag my feet on a lot of things even if they are things I really want to do.

That is why for me a writing schedule is important. I need the routine. If every morning I wake up, stumble to the shower, to the coffee/tea pot, and then to the computer I am more likely to get things done.  One secret to my routine is that I am not full awake yet so I can’t come up with a good distraction.  Then by the time I am it’s too late, I am already sitting at my computer so it would be a waste of time to get up.

Writing can be hard. It can be fun too, but a good deal of the time it is hard.  I am currently on my second draft of a book I wrote and I have discovered that I don’t like to edit. I don’t like to rewrite. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It is also a bit terrifying.  (Though I am told many people think that editing is the best part. Good for them. Really.  For me it is like being wrapped in rusted barbwire and then given a time limit to escape.)

I am over half way finished with my second draft.  I was excited until I realized I am about two thirds of the way through my original manuscript.  That means I’ve cut so much out of the original that I may no longer have a book, just a really long story.  Panic set in.  Then the excuses for why I can’t work right now started.  Then the distractions…you get the idea. If procrastination was an Olympic sport I would have all the medals.

It is my defense mechanism, how I deal (or not deal) with things when they get hard or scary.  I had to stop, take a deep breath, and then have a nice chat with myself.  (Writers talk to themselves a lot. It’s okay. Your creative not crazy.)  I identified what I was afraid of. ( That maybe my book wasn’t a book.)  Then I talked myself through ways to fix it. (Add bits. Write a second part. Wait until I am all the way done to decided.)

Once it was all laid out it wasn’t so bad and I was able to pick an option and keep writing. (I’m going to wait until I’m done.) Sometimes the biggest obstacle we face is ourselves. We can be our own toughest critic and our own staunchest supporter, often it depends on the day.  However, if writing (or anything else in life) is what you really want to do then you can’t let anyone trip you off your chosen path. Not even you.