Category Archives: Writing Process
I’ve been quiet here lately. I’d like to say it’s because I’m so busy writing awesome things, but that would be a partial truth at best. That nasty little “Real Life” thing keeps getting in the way of my more esoteric pursuits, like updating this blog, so while I have been working on my novel, it’s more accurate to say I’ve been absent because real estate concerns have been eating my brain.
Enough of that, though—I’ve reached a new, exciting, scary point in my process! All of my chapters have been revised and reviewed by my CPs, and revisions based on their feedback have been made. Now I’ve submitted the entire last chunk of the novel to them for review as a whole, and once they’ve had a chance to read and comment and I’ve made revisions based on that feedback, I’ll hand the entire manuscript back to them to read as a single unit. It’s a thrilling place to be, though still scary to think I may have missed something important along the way. The biggest change from my perspective, though, is that I don’t have anything else to work on in this story while I await comments. What do I do with myself now?
Every writer knows the obvious answer: go work on the next thing. I’m just not sure what my “next thing” is.
I could work on a new short story. I saw another writing contest/call for submissions recently that looked cool, but would require me to create an entirely new story. New stories are good—except that I kind of suck at devising storylines. I can find story seeds pretty easily, but I have difficulty molding them into feasible plots.
Which leads me to my other option: plotting out my next novel. This route feels more likely to bear fruit, yet is incredibly daunting. I’m still polishing my first novel; I know full well how important a logical, engaging plot is. I’ve also never been good at writing outlines; I tend to think of ideas for actual text and dive into writing before I have a road map. Obviously, there are pros and cons to that method, but given my experience this time through, I really want a clear sense of where I’m going before I set off on this journey.
So here I sit with my Save the Cat! beat sheet and my list of stages along the Hero’s Journey, trying desperately to solidify what plot points are already flitting about my head and bring others into being to create a cohesive whole. Given that brainstorming doesn’t lead to words on the page, the part of me that monitors whether or not I’m working has been jangling its alarms—a state of affairs not conducive to clear thought. It’s a struggle to recalibrate my Procrasto-Meter™ and get on with things.
I’m sure I’m not the only writer facing this challenge, but enticing one’s muses into action feels like a lonely road. I just need to buckle down and walk it. So wish me luck—I’ll need it.
I’m getting down to the last couple of chapters here in Round Two of major revisions. All the plot wrinkles that I’ve ironed out through the rest of the manuscript have bunched up here at the end, and are proving more irksome than I’d naïvely anticipated. On the one hand, it’s frustrating to see how much I still need to do, but on the other, it’s actually encouraging to know I have learned enough since I first wrote this chapter to improve it so markedly.
The biggest stumbling block in the chapter to this point has been the spot where—I finally realized—I broke the pact with my reader and completely glossed over an important moment that should have contained serious plot and character development. One moment it’s all “what if we tried this?” and the next it’s “and now we’re at the denouement!” No sense of struggle, of the protagonist having to work for the end result—nothing.
Today I finally muscled past it. It’s not pretty, or smooth, but I’ve drafted a patch. Score one for me! I was all set to do another micro-draft dance when I read on to the next half-page.
Another half a chapter lies ahead, and within those pages, another non-negligible obstacle awaits. Now one of my supporting characters (or maybe two or three) has to change his reaction to events in order to be consistent with changes earlier in the story. The entire shape of the resolution needs to be different, and I’m not entirely sure how to mold it. (For some inexplicable reason, I’m now put in mind of a mold for some sort of garden statuary—and my brain has chosen to insert the form of a reindeer. My denouement has become a lawn ornament…)
So I’ve got quite a bit more work to do on this chapter, and I have only the vaguest idea what the reindeer should look like. Guess I’ll start by shoving four plot-legs on it, and hope it comes out looking vaguely quadrupedal; I can save the antlers for a later version.
Time to roll up my sleeves—I need to start massaging that word clay!
Beginning Writer Achievement Unlocked: first rejection letter!
I hadn’t really expected to reach this milestone so soon; in my head, I’d always assumed I wouldn’t be sending things out to get rejected until my novel manuscript was ready. A glorious fit of optimism overcame me, though, when Women Destroy Fantasy! was announced, and I set aside the novel long enough to write a short story I could submit. I was actually fairly pleased with the results, even after beating my head against the desk during the revision process.
In the end, about 4900 words stared at me and politely suggested I send them on to their intended destination. I fidgeted and fussed over the cover letter and finally gave in, sending my little darling off into the æther. I told myself it had a newt’s chance in a supernova of being accepted, and tried to maintain a healthy balance between cautious optimism and callous realism.
It still hurt when the rejection came.
I suppose now I can consider myself a bona fide writer; I’ve not only put words on paper (well… electrons), but I’ve sent them out to an actual publisher and had them summarily dismissed. It’s a rite of passage for every writer, right? I know there’s more to come, and I need to get used to it. It’ll only get worse before it gets better—and the only way for it to get better is to keep at it.
So now I have a short story that needs a home. I’ll need to collect a list of other possible venues for it, and start sending out more submissions. I’ve heard that the only reason anyone doesn’t get published is that they give up. Maybe this story will never see the light of day, but it will serve a purpose nonetheless. I’ve got to build up the emotional calluses necessary to keep putting my work out there time and again, right?
Well, the first abrasions against my tender psyche have initiated the process. Only about a million more to go.
Having finished my short story as much as possible before getting feedback, I’ve moved back to the revisions on the last couple of chapters of the novel. On the up side, I can tell I’ve grown as a writer since I first wrote these chapters. On the down side… Damn.
Because of the revisions to earlier sections of the plot, by the time I got back to the ending, several things obviously had to be adjusted. The chapter I finished reworking yesterday had to be ripped apart, and stitched back together Frankenstein-style. Certain chunks remained, though often in quite different sequence from before, and many others had to be added in from whole cloth.
That proved a grueling exercise, though I got something mostly useable by the end. Once I moved onto today’s chapter (Ch X), though, it was a different story.
Ch X is, by and large, still viable as written in terms of plot. However, there’s little or no tension in the text. As I read through it to re-familiarize myself with it and determine what needs revision, I realized the climax—the bit that the entire rest of the book leads to—had been utterly glossed over in a couple of sentences. There’s no sense of effort, of the protagonist’s struggle to accomplish this huge deed. Just “Voop! There ya go!” and it’s all over but the exposition.
Obviously, that needs to change. Who wants to read “voop!” at the end of all that other stuff? There needs to be a payoff for whatever emotional investment the reader has made. I count myself lucky that I figured that out before handing it off to my CPs; as I said above, it’s proof of my growth.
So, note to self: needz moar cowbell. Get on that.
Today I feel like maybe this go-be-a-writer idea of mine wasn’t such a bad one I after all…
Having learned about Women Destroy Science Fiction! via Twitter, I backed the Kickstarter campaign. I can’t honestly remember now how early I backed it, but it was definitely before the first extra-issue stretch goal (Women Destroy Horror!) had been met. I watched with avid interest as the funding level crept upwards, and told myself if they funded the Women Destroy Fantasy! issue, I’d write something to submit.
Well, the other backers sure called my bluff. The original WDSF! goal was only $5000. To unlock the WDH! issue, the campaign needed $25k, and for the WDF! issue it needed $35k. By the time the funding period ended, backers had blown another $18k past that final stretch goal. Time to ante up.
So I sat down for the first time ever with the express intention of writing a short story I could submit for possible publication. I brainstormed from my idea nugget, pleased that I’d had an idea outside of my novel’s universe. Before I knew it, though, those pesky dryads had finagled themselves back into this story, too. I threw up my hands and capitulated. They rewarded me with expanded ideas.
Throughout the drafting process, I continually surprised myself—sometimes pleasantly (I really like one of the main conceits in the middle of the story), sometimes less so (I started by plotting it ahead of time, but within minutes I was pantsing my way into the first act). By the time I’d finished a working draft I could send to my CPs for workshopping, I felt like I had the start of something worth submitting.
Heaven only knows whether or not the thing will ever see the light of day. I’ve about a newt’s chance in a supernova of it making it into the WDF! issue (there are four slots available, and they’ll be getting hundreds—if not thousands—of submissions), but I don’t plan to stop there. If Fantasy Magazine gives it a pass, and so does Lightspeed (to which all submissions that don’t make it into WDF! will also be sent for consideration), I’ll spam it out to other publications. It’s about time I started racking up rejections.
Then I can truly claim to be a Writer.