The crazy thing is I blink and a month has gone by since I’ve blogged.
Wow. That pretty much sums up all you need to know about this summer, really. It’s been busy. I’ve been working a lot- but not on my manuscripts.
My daughter starts school in less than a week. I’ve promised myself that an hour of the time she is gone goes to writing. No excuses, no justifications as to why I need to do something else. Just writing. I’m really excited.
I was talking to an author friend yesterday and she gave me a much needed kick in the pants. We’re our own worst enemies- and our own biggest critics. It’s easy to get frustrated with a gnarl in the story, or a problem. It’s easy to get tired of trying to troubleshoot issues, fix pacing or flow, polish, rewrite- but if you don’t, your story remains hidden in a bottom drawer. If you don’t push through, why even bother writing it in the first place?
I’m still planning, still scribbling down notes, half realized ideas, bits and pieces that come to me. I’m going to get the snarls worked out of the current story and finish it. Then I’m going to rewrite the one that is finished but is having pacing problems. I’m going to query BROKEN to more agents, like I should have done months ago.
I’m not going to blink and let another month go by.
For some authors (or stories) the title comes naturally, even before the idea is fully formed.
I have exactly one story this way. The name announced itself before I even settled on a protagonist’s first name. It was awesome.
Every other story I’ve struggled to come up with a fitting title, sometimes never getting to feel quite right.
The good (or is it the bad?) news is that even after struggling to get just the right title it may not matter. Publishers can request a title of a book or series be changed. After investing thousands of dollars in a story, I can see why they’d be interested in making sure the title catches the eye- after all, even though “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”, that’s exactly what most of us do.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t give up on finding a good title. Somehow “Book 1, Please Publish” doesn’t really inspire excitement or confidence. Just don’t sigh dramatically and throw the whole manuscript in the trash if the title doesn’t ring as well as your favorite book’s title does. Chances are, it’ll be changed anyway.
Things are going slow. I’m still plodding my way through plotting a story. Unfortunately I’ve only made it about halfway through the story, because of time commitments elsewhere. Still, slow progress is still progress.
It’s not exactly exciting, or “sexy” to talk about plotting your novel. It’s much more interesting to declare FINISHED! Or “Starting edits!”…or better yet “Querying!” It can’t all be sunshine and la dee da though. Writing is much more than just a few big moments, no matter how much I wish I could just wake up to a fully formed manuscript.
Still nothing on the querying front, but I’m really not surprised. One of the agents I submitted to was several months behind- by which I mean she just recently finished up queries received in the month of March. They have a lot read and consider, so I’m not surprised how quickly the queue builds up. It seems exciting to get to see so many novels, but I imagine there is a lot of frustration as well, especially with excellent ideas that are poorly executed.
A storm rolled through a few days ago. Everything was going well until CRACK, POP! We blew a fuse. Ahh, the joys of lightning strikes.
Still, we got everything squared away…but the tv won’t work. What? Oh, and the internet is down too…
And thus began the great “ATT says wait three days, because we don’t care about you that much” period of 2019.
The good thing about being unable to do my “real” work or waste my life on Facebook was I had plenty of time to work on a manuscript. I’ve been working on structuring my novel, and I have spent a significant amount of time over the past few days hand writing notes about every single aspect of my story.
It’s frustrating. Because I just want to WRITE. I just want to tell the story. Not necessarily sit around writing out what kind of coffee my main character would order from Starbucks.
And yet- it’s even more frustrating that it makes sense. It’s useful to have these kinds of insights. Sometimes even a word or two tweak can give a whole new level of insight.
I’m currently writing out notes on a half finished story, and it’s helping clarify a few things for me. I look forward to trying this process again soon, on a brand new story. Until then, it’s just edit, edit, edit to take advantage of my new insights.
I have an idea. Those are dangerous words, because that’s how it all start- and let’s be honest, usually the best ideas come when you have a few dozen other things to do.
What do I have to do? Fix the pacing dumpster fire of the Paranormal story. Finish the NaNoWriMo novel and do some event tweaking in that. Query BROKEN to more agents- better add research more agents to that list. Plot the Broken Sequel.
Instead, I have an idea. I had this bit of an idea before- in fact I have a notebook full of them, but this one has started jumping up and down trying to get my attention. It’s growing you guys, beyond a single line or two or three, hastily scribbled in a notebook.
There’s a fine line between ignoring the details of the idea and having it leave me forever, and getting caught up in it. I can’t afford to go down a rabbit hole right now with one unfinished manuscript (two, if you count what I’ve written of Broken 2: Even Brokener) and one that needs to be fixed and edited.
Instead, I’m writing down the bare outlines of scenes I see. Thoughts strike me, character motivations, friendships. Sometimes things are in direct conflict with other ideas I’ve recorded from previous days. That’s fine, because I’m not ready to deal with it right now. I’m not even ready to try to plot the story, because there is no story right now. Just an idea. A lot of loosely linked ideas. It’s possible that soon, the lots of ideas will resolve into THE idea. THE story I need to tell. Hopefully when that happens, I’ll be in a position to tell it, instead of pushing it to the back burner and waiting.
I’ve been in a slump recently. I was thrilled to finish a second manuscript- then I began to reread and realized I have massive pacing problems. I knew it was a problem in the fourth quarter, but it’s more than just that.
I can fix it. After all, it’s just a first draft, right? First drafts, unless you are incredibly talented and very, very good at what you do, are meant to be sloppy hot messes in need of some fixing.
I don’t mind making edits. Changing words, tweaking events, fixing those awful spelling errors where my fingers flew along trying to keep up with my brain and sometimes just said eh…if this is gonna happen, we’re going to have to leave some letters out. I’m down for those kinds of edits. It’s the pacing fixes. That requires so much more moving around, tweaking- even killing the darlings because they just don’t fit. It means I have to look at the story I was so happy with a few days ago and accept that I should have done a much, much better job of outlining. Note to self: STOP PANTSING. That only leads to heartbreak.
So I’ve been in a slump of my own creation. It’s mostly me staring at these words, sighing and saying…”But I don’t wanna.” But if I don’t fix them, then the entire story is just going to rot away to distant memory. So even if I don’t wanna, I gotta. It’s time to finally do that outline, now, after the fact. I can throw in more depth, make some changes- decide if it’s going to be a darker, or lighter. Because dang it, if I’ve got to tear it down to it’s bones, I’m sure going to take the opportunity to make it bigger and better at the same time.
I’ve started the rewrites on the paranormal story! On this topic, I had someone ask me recently if I ever have problems with knowing when to stop editing and rewriting.
The short, simple answer is yes.
I can be a bit of a perfectionist. It’s never a way I would have described myself when I was younger, but as I delved more into crafts and creative endeavors, I’m forced to admit it.
The thing is, I can be perfectly happy with something I write. I look at it and think “Oh yeah, that’s much better than the way it was before. Good job, me.”
Then I’m cooking dinner- or taking a shower- or trying to go to sleep, and here comes a better way I could have written that. Then I rewrite it. Then there is another way it could be improved just a little. Another layer I could add. Then I start nitpicking the words. Could that word be better? What about that word?
This is typically when I know I need to stop. If I’m going through editing, changing “thrilled” to “joyous” and nothing else- then at this point, I’m literally just stalling. It’s time to stop. So I guess the point is- if you’re making important, meaningful changes, keep on keeping on until you’re happy. If you’re piddling- changing a word here, making something blue instead of green when it ultimately doesn’t matter- stop.
Ultimately, the best advice I’ve heard was from my husband, who says- “When you say all you’ve got to say- stop. There’s no point in going on and on, just to make something longer.”