Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

More of a short-ish update on my progress with the story than anything – currently, I’m undertaking the reworking prep stage, which consists of very extensive planning before I start the reworking (bringing the story from a draft to a manuscript). The prep stage has three goals:

- Working out little details that are necessary to the story (for example, making sure all dates are correct).

- Research and fact-checking (I already did quite a bit of research in the preliminary planning stage, but that was just enough to write the story convincingly. The drafts were about the storyline itself while the reworking is more about making it publishable).

- Scene work (figuring out where the story is going to start, where it’s going to end, and which scenes stay and go. Currently, I’m making the second draft scenebook, which records all scenes in the story in order – they will most likely not remain in that order).

Since I am trying to get the series back down into one book for publication (for several reasons), these stages consider the entire story as a whole and completely stop differentiating the two volumes.

Right now, I have “Life in Black and White” as the final manuscript’s actual title, with “Resolution” and “It’s All Inside My Head” (I love this title too much to get rid of it) as the part titles. I’m not going to lie, getting back into the one-book mindset after it being a two-part series for so long is kind of weird and difficult, but I’m starting to get used to it. I know this is what’s best for the story going into publication (it’s EXTREMELY difficult to get an agent to accept a series from a new author, among other reasons I’m going with one book in the end), and it’s a step forward – even though it feels like a step backward sometimes.

In closing, three small tips for writers who are envisioning the editing process (or starting it) for the first time:

1. Everything they’ve told you about editing is true. It’s not always longer than the writing process (it wasn’t for me), but it is definitely ten times harder. It’s no longer the fun and games you enjoyed while writing the first draft. Editing with the intent of getting published is serious business, and it’s truly a process (at times rewarding, at times very frustrating) – so if you’re not serious about the story you want to edit, my advice would be to either start writing something you’re more serious about or just be content with the first draft.

2. Things are going to change, and that’s okay. Look at your story as objectively as possible when editing (get input from people you trust or a critique team if necessary). No matter how much you love a scene, if it’s doing absolutely nothing for the story it probably shouldn’t be in there.

3. Most people have to revise their story three, four or even five times before it’s ready. It’s probably still not going to be perfect in your eyes the first time you edit it – and listen to your gut. If you’re not satisfied with it, it’s not ready to go.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing pet peeves

Listening to: Vitamin String Quartet renditions of Coldplay songs
Should be doing: Tomorrow's anatomy lab report/physics homework

Instead I'm finding myself thinking about the two things I think about most: writing, and things that piss me off about people. Here are my top ten pet peeves related to writing and being a writer (comment and tell me if you relate!):

10. "When are you getting it published??" - Ah, shit, hang on! Just let me finish revamping my entire story, do a big old bunch of research, and find a really good agent! BRB IN FIVE MINUTES.

Like, seriously, while I really appreciate the support (<3), people who don't write cannot even begin to understand how complex and LONG and DIFFICULT this process is. But trust me, when I get accepted for publication, the whole world will be like the first to know.

9. This article.

8. The awkward and very common assumption that being a fiction writer automatically makes you an English major. You don't even get how many times I've had this legit conversation with people I run into from high school (I was "the writer" in high school):

Them: Hey how's it going?
Me: Good, how are you? What are you up to these days?
Them: Oh, you know, *blablablatheirlifeblabla* ... what about you? How's school going? You're in English, right?
Me: Uh... no. Actually I'm in pre-med and psych.
Them: Oh! I just figured you were in English since you write so much!

That awkward moment.

7. People (most notably my mom and my grandparents) not understanding, no matter how many times I tell them, that there are FOUR YEARS of my blood, sweat and tears on my netbook and USB, and therefore, I'd jump headfirst in a fire before I "left my bag in the car". -_- The bag comes with me, deal with it.

6. Being "the writer" doesn't mean I can just change:
- My character's gender ("He's so emotional, wouldn't it be easier if he was a girl?" - Reaaaaaaaally? Dude he's got a MENTAL DISORDER THAT CAUSES MOOD SWINGS. That doesn't make him a girl.)
- My ending
- My subplots
- My characters' more-than-occasional use of profane language (seriously, we've got a psychopath, a rebellious and emotionally disturbed teenage dude, a girl who gets suspended from school like every day and a girl who didn't finish high school because she was in the hospital every two weeks for suicide attempts, IN THE SAME GROUP OF FRIENDS. IT WOULD BE HIGHLY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR THESE PEOPLE NOT TO DROP F-BOMBS ONCE IN A WHILE)
- My characters' names (most of them start with J, and some people find that "confusing" I guess)
- My setting ("oh, why don't you set it in NEW BRUNSWICK INSTEAD?" - Why don't you go live in Taiwan?)
- Etc.

No, my characters aren't "making me do things". I COULD change all these things. I have the technology. But if I changed them, the story wouldn't make any freaking sense! And asking a writer to change their characters' names is just not cool. That's like me asking you to just change the name of your four-year-old kid or your pet.

5. The fact that awesome ideas or the sudden fire of inspiration never come to me when I’m trying to WRITE. They come at one of three times: At work, when I’m hanging out with friends, or at three in the morning.

4. The three following types of writers:

- “I don’t need to revise my work.” Oh, honey... I’m sorry you feel that way.
- Writers who brag constantly about how good their story is and how everyone likes it. I like talking about my books as much as the next writer, and I do think it’s a pretty decent story, but no matter how true it might be, bragging constantly about your story and characters makes you look like a big d-bag. There’s also the fact that a lot of these people get super personally offended if you don’t like their characters or say anything negative about them. I’d be pretty screwed if I was one of those people, let me tell you that.
- People who call themselves writers, and who try to fit all the stereotypes, but who DON’T ACTUALLY WRITE ANYTHING OF SUBSTANCE. Writing is a VERB before it’s an identity people! These folks give writers who actually work and make the necessary sacrifices for their writing a bad name, and it’s not cool.

3. Anyone who is not the author having any kind of sense of entitlement over a story – or especially a character. Best example I can think of is fans getting all personally offended when J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore. This pretty much comes with the territory of being published and having a fanbase for your work, yes. Is it going to stop me from getting my stuff published? Obviously not. Does it piss me off any less? NOOOO. Related to this, I also HAAAAAAAAAATE with a capital H the “when you put a novel out into the world, it becomes the reader’s” mindset. No, it doesn’t. Yes, the reader can choose how to interpret the story and the characters. Doesn’t mean they are any less the author’s intellectual property. And if the author wants to make a change or announce something about a character like J.K. did, it remains totally in his or her right to do so! Good freaking lord.

2. “Every writer is also an avid reader.” – I am not an avid reader, and never have been, which is why this gets on my nerves. Most writers also love reading, but it’s silly to say that you “have” to love one thing in order to love another. Writing and reading are two different processes, fundamentally, and let’s all just remember that people write for different reasons. Not everyone writes because they love reading novels and want to write their own drawing from inspiration they got while reading. Personally, I write because I love the craft of it, and I have stories and characters floating around in my head that need to come out. Writing for me is a way to immortalize the stories that crowd my overactive imagination. Nothing to do with reading whatsoever.

1. “Write what you know.” – Not so much the adage itself, but rather the VERY MANY (you’d be surprised) writers and especially non-writers who take it too damn literally. “Write what you know” means know what you write – as in, if it’s not something you’ve personally experienced, you need to do the necessary research to make sure you’ve got your facts right and to make sure your portrayals are accurate. It doesn’t mean that you ABSOLUTELY CAN’T write about something you’ve never experienced yourself, which is how so many people take it. The idea that some people think not having a mental illness myself makes me unqualified to write a story about mental illness is honestly an insult to my intelligence and to my imagination. It’s called research, guys, don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing.