Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rewriting (or, more accurately, Tartarus)

I knew my Nanowrimo novel wasn't top notch. Or even good. But, using the Shrunken Manuscript Revisions method, I single-spaced everything, shrunk my writing to a point 6 Times New Roman font, and printed my 50,000 word, originally 150-paged novel in 31 pages.
I looked at it. And then, I have a post-it in my hand, and I slapped a huge REWRITE on the first chapter (which, by the way, has shrunken to less than a page). Then I looked at the rest of the manuscript. And then my inner writer/editor cried.
Inner Writer: "You gotta rewrite this whole thing."
Me: "!@^*(% WHY?"
Inner Writer: "You are not conveying this theme and story in a satisfying manner."
Me: "But--I have tolerable scenes, and--and" *gestures frantically*
Inner Writer: "In other words, your story sucks."
Me: "Shit. You're right."
But a WAY better story structure has emerged--tying everything together in a tighter, more connected manner.  I'm actually glad.
I am now neurotically outlining my next one. I'm definitely WAY better on outlines. I still love pantsing (that's the only way my story gets out on the page) but now I've adopted the outlining method on the Excel spreadsheet. I'll update on how that works out. 
Except.....I have no definable climax. Or the Dark Night of the Soul, the my-character-has-hit-rock-bottom-and-is-pretty-much-about-to-internally-and-physically-die part.
And what good is a story without its final battle?
I'm leaving on vacation Friday--hope I can generate more ideas then.
Meanwhile, onto my chocolate and comfort food...

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Secret, My Masterpiece

You know you have found something you truly love when you suddenly see the beauty in this world.
When you want to laugh, and cry, and jump at the same time.
When everything else has fallen away, and it is your goal. It is the one, the pinnacle. 
"Almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
-Steve Jobs
I am not about to die. Nor am I sick. I am well, alive, healthy. But I have never felt more alive. My novel is my work. My Michelangelo, my sculpture to shape and mold. It makes me believe in the beauty of it all. It makes me believe in miracles from God. It gets hard sometimes. I'm in the clouds, then I'm down on the cold, unforgivable ground. But I rise up, again and again.
Dear readers, I am invincible.
Confucius once said that love could make you strong. I know it to be true.
I have found my passion, my life love--writing. 
At times, it feels as if I'm walking through Heaven and Hell at the same time.
But I am a writer.
An unknown writer, no doubt, but a writer.
This is my work. Right now, I will savor the moment where everything is perfect.
This is my secret. My project, my masterpiece.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Revisions from James Scott Bell

On Tuesday, the Writer's Digest hosted a (free!) webinar featuring James Scott Bell, the renowned author of several writing books. In it, he talked about novel revision--the very thing I wanted to hear.
It was amazing.

I had been fretting on my supposed "break" about all these small details, questions like, "How will this character get from A to B?" and "What color highlighter should I use for character issues?" I had been thinking about mapping and index cards and working out the intricate structure in my book.

But James Scott Bell made me rethink all that.
He made me see the forest from the trees. He made me go to the roots of my story. Revisit character. Motivation. Theme. He plainly brought out the driving force behind the story; The Stakes.

I'll share a little bit of his genius on what he defines as the stakes.
He defines it as the "death overhanging". The stakes, he says, are based on three types of deaths; physical, professional, and psychological.
  • Physical
    • Literal and actual death; there is a danger that the character might get killed. (He gave the example of a mafia don)
  • Professional
    • Death of something you have built your life around, such as the position of a CEO, a millionaire, or even a role like a mother. There is a danger that the profession might crumble and the character will be left with nothing to support them.
  • Psychological
    • Death of spirit, or motivation. There is a danger that the opposition will crush the motivation and the character will be left with a broken spirit and lost motivation.
I feel like he defines the stakes beautifully. I used to think that the stakes was only the threat of a physical death. The character might get murdered, or killed, or end up in a hospital with a coma. But James brought out the two other deaths--making way for a multifaceted conflict.

Think of conflict as its own character. It cannot only be one-dimensional.  It has to have many sides, many faces, and many interpretations. It made me completely rethink my story. All its conflict was there; but James Scott Bell gave it all a name. I can then polish the stakes, and the story would flow much more smoothly and the tension would definitely increase.

And don't forget; this is a two-way lane. There must be stakes for the protagonist, so there must also be equally high stakes for the antagonist. I want to be able to write the story from the antagonist's point of view, and have it JUST as compelling as if it were told from the protagonist's point of view.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ah, the chills!

I'm a fan of Andi Buchanan, the author who co-wrote the book The Daring Book for Girls with Miriam Peskowitz. Way back when I had first read her book, I fired up an excited email to her (my first email to an author. Ever.) and--by miracle of miracles--she responded!
We maintained our correspondence over the years, and once I posed a question to her. I was writing this dystopian novel at the time, and I had this sub-plot where my characters fall in love. As of then (and still as of now) I have not experienced falling in love. (I have had some crushes, though--oh, yes.) But that mutual relationship? I knew nada. Zero. None.
And then she answered the question--in a writer's conference! She talked about me and gave me compliments that were really touching (and more than I was worthy of :]).
My reaction?
"AHAHA-that's-AHAHAHA-me-AHAHA-Oh my God, she's talking about me!"
Yeah. I get a little overexcited sometimes.
But it was a strange experience, hearing someone talk about me. It gave me chills. Happy chills. It was my first step into what you would call....fame?
I don't know. Maybe later, I might include a link to the video.
But man, am I excited for the future.

Monday, December 3, 2012

You Know You Have a Story When...

Okay, I could have just gone ahead and titled this post "Vacation Time".
Because right now, that is what I am "technically" on.
Ya-huh. I'm totally chillin' at this location right here:

Just kidding. I'm stuck in my home. Mental vacations, anyone?
(Source: blog.wesleycoversolutions.com)

I'm all done and finished with my rough first draft. (And I mean very rough). I give myself a mandatory week to let the manuscript cool before I dive into a round of revisions, with a tight seven-week schedule for a completed second draft. I'll be filling in some holes, rounding out the characters, and...having a whole load of fun? I guess?
Revisions don't have to be bad. Actually, I'm pretty excited.
Like, overly excited. And that's my problem right now. I literally CANNOT wait to get into revisions! I really don't know why, because I've never felt this way about any of my previous manuscripts. Usually, the idea/story/plot is so bad after the first draft that I just walk away and leave it in the depths of my hard drive. But this time? I have an idea I actually like.
And this week is torture. 
I need this break. But I cannot wait until Saturday, when I'm finally able to print out a hard copy at Kinkos. And then it will be index cards and highlighting and colored pens galore.
I've gotta say this: you know you have a story when you are just begging for revisions.
I'm all kinds of excited, guys.