Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How I Write: Revision

Oddly enough revision is a big deal for me this week. It has taken over my life and I do not want to stop to write about it. I have been in the throws of revision on this same manuscript for nigh on 3 years now. But this week is different. I feel driven in a way I haven't for years. I am cutting cutting cutting away at the last third of my manuscript. If you have been anywhere near me in this Blogosphere you would have heard me say that. Goal = cutting the final 3rd of my book from 30k to 15k words. It is the outline third of my book, not the literal third. If you look at it on a 9 point plot grid, it is the bottom 3 squares. I want to cut half the words away to make it literally one third of all the words in my book. I have cut 6k words and I don't know if I can find 9k more to do. But I am going to try.

When I taught creative writing during my MFA program, one of the ways we graded was on a revision narrative. If my students could really articulate what their revision process was and what they were learning about their writing through that process, it could really bump up their grade. I have often wanted to take that time with my own book, to write a revision narrative time-lining the past three years and what I have learned. Somebody in The Practice Room recently said that revision was a process of layering for them. And for me this layering business has been two fold. Not only am I layering on meaning and tension in my novel. But I am also adding to what I know about writing them. But I find my memory is short and time is in even shorter supply as I really want to get my MC to her final hour.

Next week, revision narrative...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How I Write: Motivation

Yay! This one is easy for me. One word: co-workers. It is a weird term when you talk of writing, right? Writers are solitary beasts aren’t we? Sitting and staring at our own screen, in our own houses, spending time with the imaginary people in our heads. And yet, as much as my introvert self loves that part, my head can easily lead me way astray. Writing in a vacuum where nobody cares what and when I get anything done, nobody knows why it is taking me so long and how come I haven’t published already. Nobody even knows how to ask questions about my work. I think they might want to ask me IF I work.

Well, to be fair, my family really wants me to finish and even cares that I am a writer and supports the time I spend with the imaginary folks in my head, but in moment to moment interaction, they often care more about getting their toast buttered than whether I get 500 (more realistically 5) more words in.

So having somebody actually counting on me doing my thing everyday and knowing how hard it is to plod ahead at my snail’s pace makes all the difference. 

So that’s what I did. I found a writing partner and we meet face to face every couple weeks. I met other folks through blog commenting and reading. We shared our manuscripts and cheered each other on. Heather and I met in the mornings online to get ourselves up and working. It was like having an office where someone was waiting for me to get my stuff done. We unplugged on our own before I eventually made The Practice Room. Now we unplug en masse.

Right now the blogosphere is full of ways to motivate:

Sign up for Writeoncon, or Heather’s Tour de Writing, Patricia Timms is having a Writing Triathalon at her blog or come here for The Practice Room. It will make you feel like you have someone in the cubical beside you and that is does in fact matter whether you cruise the byways of cyberspace instead of buckling into your second draft. They will care that you finish, that you work hard everyday, that you make those imaginary heroes in your head as flawed and beautiful as possible. And you will keep working. Because that is the only way.

I’ve written about coworkers before here.
Find other folks writing about motivation here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Write: Drafting

I am sort of at a loss about first drafts. Back when I wrote the first drafts of my story (and I really consider that there were more than just one first draft), writing was something I wanted to do and something I loved, but it was barely part of my life. I needed to force myself to write. And very little of those first words remain. Although those were the words that found my story.

Recently I saved two blog posts that seemed to be about this part of the process.  One was Laini Taylor, whose  post describes how she writes scenes to learn things about her characters and stories (Laini Taylor is also generous about her writing advice with a whole website called Not For Robots full of writing wisdom). She has to remind herself that this writing thing we do is a process of discovery and let herself write things that are not going to end up somewhere even if they are cool. Janice Hardy says every author can expect tangents in their drafts. She is revising a first draft now and says in each scene she has had to find the personal goal of the character and align the scene to fit that goal first and then find it's place in the premise goal. She writes of cutting chapter after chapter of her draft because it wasn’t serving the story but it was helping her discover other aspects of it.

I want to have the looseness and understanding of Laini so that I can write and discover the things to make my story rich and as real as possible.But, like Janice, I want to be able to keep the personal goal of my characters in line with the premise goal of my novel so that both my readers and myself can care about what is at stake. Here is a conflict worksheet that has been helping me to that end (in revision). It is a ton of questions and using them still is no guarantee that I still won’t go astray and write oodles of scenes that wind their way away from that goal.  But with the snowflake under my belt, a plot diagrammed in a nine point grid (see previous post) and the questions that will keep me aligned to the conflict, I figure I am good to go. And I will set out on drafting like a journey. Consulting my maps and compas, I can find my way. But if something interesting crosses my path I better explore that too.

But, that leaves schedule. Here’s my solution. Sign up for Tour de Writing. Sign up for Nanowrimo. Come here for The Practice Room. Take a class. Find some way that works to hold yourself accountable and then get to work and do it the way that makes the most sense to you. Write fast if that is what it takes. Make a collage if it takes that.

Oh, and just so you all know, Heather Kelly offered to host some late night (for her and me) Practice Rooms. See the schedule. There is one tonight at 10 EST and one on Friday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How I Write: Starting a new Work in Progress

I’m gearing up for Nano, I think. NANOWRIMO, is write your novel now month. A month in which people are sprinting through their stories, letting the words pile up behind them, attempting to finish the first draft of a novel in one month. I have done abbreviated versions of this in the past. In fact the first severely flawed first draft of my current novel was product of a Nano month. But this time I would like to try to spend the month of November drafting after getting to know my characters and plot.

So I guess this is how I get started now. First, I set a goal: To be drafting by November. Then, I figure out what I need to do to reach that goal: It will mean completing the snowflake for this new story and then diagramming it with the nine point plot grid and spending the rest of my time daydreaming about my characters and all their difficult situations. Recently I read this post at Upstart Crow, and I plan to apply the Rule of Twenty to my next book (fact is I think I have applied it to my current wip too, but I wrote all twenty drafts of those options, my new way I will do it all in my imagination.)

And here’s another tip, sign up for Heather Kelly’s Tour de Writing. Set your goal in her comments and keep track of it over the coming weeks. Maybe you will win a prize, or just maybe the prize will be committing yourself to that new project and getting some words down on the page! So I just set a revision goal over there this morning, and now I think I will head out and type a second goal into her comments.

Happy trails everyone, and check out how others start their new wips here!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Engagement Party

We had the most enormous party ever last night. The party was to celebrate my sister's engagement to the fabulous Jonathan (not the Jon A of internet fame but Jon B of Communist Daughter of which I mentioned last week). With a band (so fun!) and 100 + people and fireworks. The food and sangria was FABU!

My sister and her kids are staying at my house and so is my mom and stepfather. AND the house has one remaining bunny.

So I must explain: Our house is located on its own version of Teletubbyland. Lots of green space, and bunnies are a major part of the landscape. We found four in the grass on Wednesday. My dog was picking up the teeniest in his mouth and the rest were scattered like confetti around him. We left them there for two hours to see if their mother returned.

Based on my son's googling, we have estimated their birth date to be last Wednesday morning(the same day we found them, also my daughter's b-day) Best means of care, also via Google, kitten formula and an eye dropper.  Alas when mother didn't return, we figured they were orphaned or abandoned. Wild bunnies are hard to keep alive in captivity, we read. And we can now attest to that fact. 3 of the four have died. But not for my son's lack of trying.

(link to poem eventually)