Tag Archives: fix it in the rewrite

Busy Busy, As Always

The deadline is fast approaching, so I’ve been reserving my writing time for actual writing rather than blog posts. As you can imagine, these posts will be a little shorter and more scarce over the next two to three weeks.

On schedule, I’ve finished my Part I re-read and I’m halfway through Part II. I hope to get that finished tomorrow, and then it’s on to Part III over the weekend. I might even be able to get it entirely done by Sunday, and then I can do Part IV over the first couple days of next week. That’ll give me a little breathing room to do the cover and a bit of layout research.

Speaking of revision, I’ve mostly been skimming each chapter to make sure that the whole story flows, and to make sure that I don’t do the same exposition twice. So far I haven’t had to make any major changes in that regard, but I did make one other discovery: I use adverbs a lot.

It’s not as bad in the more recent additions to the novel, but really throughout all of my work, I use adverbs way too often. I’ve pretty much just hit ctrl-f to find, typed in “ly” and fixed most of the stuff it found. In particular I had a lot of egregious uses of the worst adverbs of them all: “probably,” “actually,” and “really.” Nine times out of ten, I just cut the word and the sentence still works.

I don’t think that it’s a horrible thing to overdo the adverbs on an initial draft. Inelegant as they might be, they get the point across and serve as decent placeholders for the better description that comes in later drafts. It’s not worth my time to come up with nicer-sounding alternatives right in the first draft, since it’ll probably get changed anyway. That’s what revisions are for, after all.

So that’s my rapid post for today. I’m going to be out of town all weekend, so no post until next Monday, at which point I will be nearly done with the final creative work on Fugitives from Earth. Stand by!

The Continuing Adventures

After a bit of a downer post on Monday, I first want to say that I’m feeling a lot better. I have actually gotten some writing done over the last few days, and even though it’s not exactly a thousand words a day it feels good. Real good.

I had two realizations this week that I think helped. The first one seems really obvious, but it’s surprising how easy it is for the newer writer to forget: write stuff you like to read. They say that you should write what you want to write, rather than writing for a market, which is obvious. “Ha!” I’d say. “Only losers try to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight.” And then… I go out and try to write something that I think could get published in Analog. I mean, I love Analog, but that’s still putting the cart before horse. Or in my case, leaving the horse out entirely, because I psych myself out of actually writing.

Realization two also sounds obvious, but I think it’s something I need to write down and staple to my forehead: just because writing isn’t my most favoritist thing to do evar, just because I like to do other things as well, doesn’t mean I can’t still be professional about my writing. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but that’s the mindset I was in, and it was seriously putting me in this spiral of despair. I’ll feel bad about not writing ten hours a day when (if) I’m writing full-time. For now, I have other things on my plate, and they need to be there.

Don’t worry, this is going to be the last post on this subject for a while; I don’t want to exhaust all of your goodwill.

I’ve made a few site changes, particularly in the sidebar area. As you can see, I now have a blogroll, and it’s looking a little meager right now. If you want your blog or website on it, go ahead and let me know. You can also subscribe to have new posts sent directly to your mailbox, and really, can you bear the thought of missing one of my posts for even a few minutes? Go ahead and admit it to yourself.

I didn’t get much writing done at all this weekend; I spent Saturday and Sunday hiking in the beautiful Tillamook State Forest. It was a nice chance of scenery, and provided a bit of inspiration for my next novel.

It LOOMS

As of right now, I have 6.5 hours to meet my deadline for Fugitives from Earth. As you may recall, the goal was to get it done today so I could format it and send it to the beta readers this weekend. Well, I’m not sure if I’m going to make it; I still have about 7,000 words left to write. I’ll try as hard as I can, but I’m certainly glad that I’m not under contract.

Also, here’s a major lesson from the last few weeks: don’t take daylong breaks when you’re on a deadline. I didn’t write much on Tuesday, and that came off of a slow Monday, so by Wednesday, I was fighting serious inertia. That meant that I didn’t get much done that day, either, leaving yesterday. But yesterday wasn’t quite enough to make up for the early-week slacking.

I did make a bit of a discovery here, though. It turns out that if I’m not doing very much, it takes much, much more effort to write regularly. Despite having more times in the morning than I did a few months ago, I’m writing less. Likewise, I write less on my days off than on the weekdays. I suspect that this is just because, when  you’re doing nothing but sitting around, even getting up seems like a major undertaking, whereas when you’re already busy, one more task is just a drop in the bucket. This warrants consideration.

Fun news: on Tuesday, I attended the SFWA Northwest Reading Series at Portland’s Kennedy School pub. Some great readings by Ted Chiang, Nancy Kress, and Ursual Le Guin, and I had an even better talk afterwards with the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal. Ironically, thanks to the op-ed piece that Le Guin read, the Q&A focused largely on ebooks and internet publishing, and I was able to hand out a few NIWA flyers to interested parties.

Speaking of Mary Robinette, she created a fairly unique marketing tool for her novel Shades of Milk and Honey: a card game. I haven’t played it or even read the rules in their entirety, but it looks like a trick-taking game using characters from the novel, each of whom have various abilities and skills. Six characters are included in the PDF, but there are two special ones only available at her various appearances. She was going through them like crazy, even though she wasn’t even one of the listed speakers. I absolutely love board games, so I’m wondering if I can do something like this for one of my novels, if not Fugitives from Earth.

Anyway, I’ve written a lot, and it’s going to be a long night. Regardless, though: beta readers get the novel next week, and I can put it down for a while.

Progress, and Other News

So, I’m writing. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, unlike Orson Scott Card, I can’t write endlessly about writing, so this is going to be a pretty short post.

Having a deadline has helped. With my re-read finished, I’ve been able to start into my phase 1.5 revision, and it’s been going decent. I don’t know if I was sick or what, but for the first part of this week not only did I not feel like writing, I barely felt like moving my limbs. I lived on Cheetos and YouTube for pretty much 48 hours…at least when I wasn’t sleeping. Fortunately, it passed, and now I’m back on track.

My goal is to get half of my revision done by this weekend. That’s half page-wise, by the way. The last half of the book is going to take more than half the time, I’m sure of it. Even so, I’m kind of hurrying here; I don’t want to tarry over words that’ll get sliced up in the beta reading phase anyway. Just keep it consistent, I have to tell myself, keep the characters in one piece and the plot moving along and don’t worry about the prose. It’s kind of liking doing NaNo all over again.

Anyway, I’m anxious to get things out to the readers so I can get their feedback and really pour myself into the revisions. November is going to come soon!

Speaking of which, it looks like I’m going to be at another con this fall! Woo! It’s actually not really a con, per se, it’s the Pacific Northwest Booksalers Association fall trade show, where all the indie booksellers hang out. Regardless, NIWA will have a table there, and one of the badges that comes with it has my name on it. It’s October 13-15th, and I’d love to have Fugitives from Earth done by that point, but we’ll see.

I’m definitely not going to have it done by late August, for Worldcon, but I’d love to have a cover, blurb, and sample chapters by that point. Not that I plan on foisting them off on anyone, mind, but there’s always the chance that someone will ask. Hmm. Should probably get some business cards as well.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Remember a few days ago? When I said I was afraid that I was going to have to cut an eighth of Fugitives from Earth that I’ve already written? Because things were neither interesting nor believable? Well, one guess what I ended up doing, and no cheating.

Yeah, I cut it. Turns out that when I said writer’s block (for me, anyway) is just my inner editor telling me that I really, really shouldn’t be writing what I’m trying to write, I was totally correct. I just got utterly stalled on one scene, and each word that I tried adding to it was causing pure, 200-proof agony. Maybe some part of my brain was sending me a message, eh?

So there was no way that I was going to follow that plotline through. It was ill-conceived to begin with, frankly, and I didn’t make nearly enough changes to it when I started this revision phase. Unfortunately, even though I knew the scenes had to go, I didn’t yet have anything to replace them with. I knew where I wanted the characters to end up, and I’m reasonably satisfied with where they’re starting, but the middle chunk wasn’t obvious.

My solution for these kinds of problems is always the same: a change of scenery. I took the dog for a walk and took a shower, just thinking of what might be interesting, which other characters might help things out, etc. As I was out walking, sure enough – poof, this idea just pops into my head, and it’s so obvious that it should have been the way that I went in the first place. Just like I did with the other plotline in Part III, I cut several new characters and brought in several old ones who, ideally, were already sympathetic to the reader. Really, from there the rest of the arc just writes itself, and as a bonus I’ll probably be able to throw in some more interesting setting and backstory flavor. Is good, yes?

I’ve learned so much writing this novel, and a lot of that education has been at the hands of my favorite instructor: pain.

Literary Fiber

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t believe that there’s this mystical force that keeps one from writing something that they desperately want to write. I definitely do not believe that one’s abilities are at the whims of a capricious muse, who gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Certainly, there are times where the creative well has run dry, and days where real life intrudes mentally even when one is at peace physically, but these are concrete, specific problems.

That said, there are times where I experience definite writer’s block-ish symptoms, and one of those times is right now. I’m close – so close – to being done with my revision of Part III, which would place me well over halfway done with this revision phase. And yet I’m totally blocked on the last three or four scenes, and in this case I know that the blockage is my inner editor telling me, “This really isn’t very believable.”

Unfortunately, this is the second half of a major plot arc, and the first half is already written. That means I’m at a dilemma: do I discard what I already have down on paper and re-write the scene from beginning to end, or do I force myself through and then revise it to be more interesting and believable in a later phase? Of course, I don’t even know if it can be made interesting and believable later, which certainly doesn’t help my decision-making process much.

What makes this situation worse is that, despite my efforts to just chill out and write for myself first, I’m a feeling a little self-imposed pressure. I know that I’m writing for publication here, and I’m trying to be as professional as possible, which adds an entirely new layer of difficulty to an already difficult task. My guess is that everyone feels this way when they’re starting out, and that the occasional twinges of utter despair in my abilities is something that pretty much everyone goes through. It usually doesn’t affect me too much, but it tends to crowd its way to the forefront when I have other problems writing.

Well, I’m not about to let that get the best of me. Here’s what I”m going to do: I’m just going to skip ahead to Part IV. I know where I want that part to begin, and I’ve got some exciting stuff planned. Part III is much better now than it was in the first draft, but it’s still lacking a little something; a little extra time to ferment might be good for it. It’ll also mean I won’t be quite as close to those scenes that I have a niggling feeling I’ll need to cut, and it’ll mean I’m still making forward process, which is what writing is entirely about.

Halfway to Being Sort of Halfway Done

As of today, I am halfway done with what I am calling the “phase one” revision of Fugitives from Earth. Woo! The fun thing about writing is that no matter how much you get done on your novel or short story or essay or whatever, there is always at least a little bit more you can do. In my case, there’s more than a little bit, and phase one is the first of, I don’t know, five or six phases.

But, the end of phase one will be a significant milestone because at that point, I’ll feel comfortable sending the story out to beta readers. I have no idea who’s going to fulfill that particular goal – even my wife is probably too busy with school to volunteer. So, if you’re interested, please, let me know and we can talk.

I definitely have to say that every single scene that I’m writing now is twice as good as the ones that they’re replacing. The character moments are more interesting, the action is better, and everything fits together just a little tighter. I was pretty skeptical when I started this project out, but it looks like, against all odds, I might actually have a novel here. And if it’s not great, at least it might be okay.

For a first try, I’ll take it.