Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too much...can't do it...on overload...will explode

Today is one of those days when I really dreaded writing/revising. But I forced myself to do it anyway. So, yay for me. I just didn't necessarily work on what's on my mind.

I met with my critique group last night, and one member gave me a great suggestion, but it's just too overwhelming for me to deal with right now. In a section of my excerpt, I try to give some back story along with current action. Well, it ended up more back story than action, which I already knew. The hard part is, the individual told me it lost my character's voice almost completely.

He's right. I know that. That doesn't mean I have to like it though.

Voice is one of those things you just "have," right? So what happens when you don't "have" it or you lose it? I don't know. That's why I can't deal with it right now.

So instead, I ignore him and for a few days, I'll pretend I'm thinking about how to fix it. That's still writing, right? 

I know eventually I will listen to his advice and try to implement his suggestions because he is right. But I just can't face it now. So a few days (or a week, or whenever I can handle it), I'll go back and wrestle with this beast we call revision. And ultimately I'll triumph. I just may have to lose a battle or two before I can win the war.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Write How It Works for You

There are a lot of different ideas out there about how much we "should" be working on our writing. I heard advice once from Clint Johnson that the key is consistency. Even if you can only find 15 minutes every day to write, write for those 15 minutes. That philosophy has been very freeing for me.

I have found that if I try to focus in on 15 minutes a day, often I end up writing a lot longer than that. Once I get started, somehow I find more time. But I also have to be flexible. I started getting in a habit of waking up early to write - and I am definitely not a morning person. I would wake up about an hour before my son woke up, and that was my writing time. It worked great for a couple of months. Then I got pregnant again and exhaustion set in. I could not wake up early anymore; in fact, I was doing well if I could get up with my son. And on top of it, at about the same time, my son learned to get out of his crib and experimented with no naps and waking up earlier.

So much for a habit.

But I didn't give up. And I think that is the key. I tried a lot of different times and ways of writing until I am doing something now that works a little bit better for me. I will admit that I am not perfectly consistent, but I am able to write at least regularly. That's better than what I could say a couple of months ago (just check out my blog posts in Nov-Dec).

And I've found out something else significant. There is a lot of great advice out there about how much to write each day, but ultimately you have to find what works for you. I've found that when I am just writing, I can sit down and go for hours at a time. Revision is a different animal entirely, however.

Especially when I am trying to make cuts, I've found I can only work for a half-hour or less. After that, I start listening to my story instead of reading the words. Everything sounds just great and nothing could be eliminated. At least until I go back the next day and start over a little before I ended the day before. Then I find all kinds of things that I could get rid of.

So write as much as you want or as little as you need. Do whatever works for you. Listen to the advice out there long enough to try it out and figure out what is your style. Then ignore everything else and just write. And most of all, don't beat yourself up if things don't always go according to plan. Life never does. Just keep writing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two Profound Realizations...

...I Should Have Figured Out a Long Time Ago

So as I was working on my novel and getting feedback from my critique group this week, two things hit me that were two "No, duh" things. But I had never thought of them before, so maybe neither have you.

Realization #1:  If I don't remember it, then it isn't important. As noted in a previous blog, I finished my novel recently, so now begins the revision process. My Master's project review committee told me they did not want to see more than 50 pages from the last excerpt I had given them until the end, preferrably 30. I finished and it was 65. So now to slice-'n'-dice. Have I mentioned before how hard it is for me to cut? I have? Are you sure?

This week's writing has been spent reading through the last chunk of the novel and trying to trim, condense, or occasionally cut. It's very difficult for me. But as I was reading through it again, there were some scenes I had written a couple of months ago that I had completely forgotten were in my novel. 

So here's my Ah ha! moment: if I can't even remember what I wrote two months ago, then it is doing nothing for my story. The scenes are obviously not moving my story along. Get rid of them, or at the very least, these would be prime examples of when you actually tell, rather than show what is happening. 

Realization #2:  Save all revision versions. When I revised pieces of writing before (usually academic essays), I would always just make my changes in the same file and save over it. But although I have heard for a while it is something I should always do, I have recently realized the value of saving multiple drafts.

My Master's committee also would like me to write a 10-page paper illustrating what I have learned in "classwork" and how it applied in my project (i.e., my novel). My chairwoman and I discussed choosing a chapter and working through several revisions, each focusing on a different aspect, and then demonstrating the changes it went through from a first draft to a "final" version. (Is anything ever truly final?)

So as a means of making it easier for myself to put this paper together, I began saving a copy of each revision, so I could easily go back and demonstrate my growth in this 10-page paper. But in conjunction with Realization #1, I am glad I have multiple saved drafts.

It is difficult for me to cut entire scenes out of my writing, especially since as I'm reading it, I think, "Oh, yeah. I know why I put this in here. It was to show/describe/explain such-and-such." But for right now, I'm getting rid of it (if for no other reason than to satisfy my committee's demands right now). However (here's the benefit), if as my novel gets closer to finished form I find it is lacking something, I don't have to start over. I already have a draft with those scenes still in them that I can revise to fit more appropriately in my story. Ah ha! They aren't gone forever...