The Epiphany That Nearly Made Me Trash My Novel

October 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

trashThe novel hasn’t been going well, and this morning I had a realization in the shower that almost made me toss the entire thing.

The way I structured the first draft, the even-numbered chapters took place in the past and the odd-numbered ones were set in the present. (Keep in mind that this is a space opera, so technically all of it is set in the far future. Ha!)

Once I dove into the rewrite (a.k.a., the second draft), I started feeling like this structure didn’t work. So I reordered the chapters so that everything happened chronologically. But that also didn’t work, so I tried a frame structure: the first third in the present, then all the past at once, then back to the present for the final third. And that still didn’t work.

This morning in the shower, I realized why, and my heart sank. The hard truth is that all of the chapters set in the past need to be cut—nearly half the book. It’s back story. It’s boring. It needs to go.

Half. The. Book.*

I remember Paolo Bacigalupi tweeting about how he had to cut 40,000 words of his book in progress (which was the one he just released, I think—The Doubt Factory). At the time, I thought if I ever had to do that, I’d probably go a bit mad. Maybe more than a bit.

But now I’m looking at cutting about that much, and my first thought was that I should just chuck the entire thing in the bin and call it a day. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt a renewed energy for the book. I started to see how much more compelling the story will be without all that excess baggage. I’ve been dreading/avoiding working on it by telling myself I was too busy/tired/uninspired/whatever. Now I can’t wait to get started again. (And, of course, now I actually won’t have time to sit down to it for probably two days.)

The bonus is that one of the bits being cut—the prologue—is one of the puzzle pieces I had been seeking for the sequel. By saving that bit of character background for the next book, I suddenly have a much better idea of what it will be about, and it will tie back to the first book much better.

Long story short, the epiphany that nearly made me trash my novel ended up reenergizing me for this book and the next one. That’s just the way the novel-writing roller coaster goes, sometimes: big ups, followed by big downs.  Just throw your hands in the air, scream into the wind, and remember it’s all a ride. Have fun.

*EDIT: After pulling out the “past” chapters, my word count dropped from 76,000 to 54,000—only a 22,000 word loss. Which, yeah, is a LOT of words to lose, but it’s not quite half. And much of that will get recycled as I fill in the blanks where needed. The rest (and hopefully a bit more) will be made up by new POV characters and additional subplots. Ad astra!

4 Essential Elements You Need for a Good Story

September 29, 2014 § 2 Comments

I found this via Richard Kadrey’s Damn Tumblr:

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

 

To which I reply:

snakes

The Color Thesaurus

September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

davidborcherding:

Here’s a handy little thing!

Originally posted on Ingrid's Notes:

I love to collect words. Making word lists can help to find the voice of my story, dig into the emotion of a scene, or create variety.

One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow.  Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.

So for fun, I created this color thesaurus for your reference. Of course, there are plenty more color names  in the world, so, this is just to get you started.

Fill your stories with a rainbow of images!

white

Tan

yellow

Orange

Red

pink

Purple

Blue

Green

brown

Grey

black

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Tools for Writers

September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

My Gonzo DaysI’m still working my way through the first rewrite, which is mostly cosmetic: correcting typos, fixing little things here and there, and only occasionally rewriting entire scenes. I haven’t begun the heavy lifting yet (I’m calling that the second rewrite), but I keep thinking about ways to change the structure, ideas for characters’ backgrounds, etc. Most days, I maintain a high level of enthusiasm and optimism for what this book can be. Most days.

The process of porting the book from Word to Scrivener wasn’t as painless as it probably could have been. Supposedly, Scrivener can import a Word doc and automatically split it into chapters and sections. In order for that feature to work, however, each section must be separated from its predecessor by a hash mark (i.e., #). I used three asterisks, so it didn’t work. I ended up copying and pasting a section at a time, but I’ll know better next time. (And yes, I could have done a search/replace, but I didn’t think of it at the time. D’oh!) « Read the rest of this entry »

The First Draft: The Ugly Duckling

August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ugly02So I’ve read through the first draft. It stinks … but that’s what a first draft is supposed to do. Right?

Okay, so it stinks a little more than I expected it to. Okay, I didn’t expect it really to stink at all. But it does.

The good news is, my writing definitely improved over the course of the book. The better news is, it improved late in the book because I began incorporating changes and new points of view that I’d planned to go back and add to the beginning of the book. That gives me hope that the second draft will be much better.

The best news of all, though, is that I’ve had idea after idea come flooding in as I read the first draft. An epiphany for restructuring the book (goodbye, overcomplicated narrative structure!). Insights into my characters’ backgrounds and motivations. New plots twists and subplots.

Yes, it’s an ugly duckling right now, but I can see that it might be a swan with the right care and feeding.

The next step is to pull the first draft apart and reorganize it, then start rewriting. I’m currently learning to use Scrivener (I wrote the first draft in Word), and I think it will make the process easier. Here’s hoping, anyway!

6 Things I Learned While Writing the First Draft

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

writers tearsAccording to the date stamp on the first outline I created for my novel, I began writing it on December 13, 2012. I began writing the first draft the following February. And on July 6 (i.e., about a week and a half ago), I finished the first draft. It’s 78,403 words (according to Word) and 406 pages typed, double-spaced. I think that’s a pretty good length for a first draft; previous first drafts have weighed in around the 50,000-word mark, so this one feels beefy.

Anyway, if we take December 13, 2012 as the start date, that means I’ve been working on this for a year and a half. I didn’t think it would take that long, to be honest. At the beginning of last December, I thought I’d finish before the end of the year. At the beginning of February, I thought I’d finish it by the end of that month. And here we are. Best laid plans, and all that. I learned a few things along the way—some of it from others, some from the experience of doing it. I thought I’d share in case any of it helps you, but if I’m being honest, it’s really so I can come back and remind myself of all this before I begin my next book. « Read the rest of this entry »

Writing about Reading: The Miernik Dossier

June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

I read this book after it received high praise from Olen Steinhauer, whose spy novels I love. I did not love the Miernik Dossier, however.

The Miernik Dossier, by Charles McCarry, purports to be a collection of documents describing a “typical operation” for the CIA. The subject of this operation is Tadeusz Miernik, a Polish national who has been called back to his home country from Geneva (where he works for the WRO) and fears he will be imprisoned by the secret police if he returns. (The novel is set in the “in the middle years of the Cold War,” although no firm year is given.) He has requested his assignment with the WRO be extended, which has raised suspicions among the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Miernik is actually a Soviet spy. The novel follows the events of the investigation into Miernik and the surveillance of his activities.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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