This is a post in which I whine. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!
So, it’s spring time! It was May Day yesterday (which is still considered a major holiday here, barbeques, people outdoors, day off work, etc.) and the weather is nice. But, ugh. The spring also means my spring allergy, and let me tell you, it’s not fun at all.
It first appeared sometimes in 2005. I have no idea why. Ok, I have two ideas: 1) this is when I moved to this apartment (the building is old and my grandma, bless her, was never big on cleaning) and 2) I was 24 at the time, and they say some allergies start after puberty.
In any case, every spring since then has been, well, not horrible, but difficult for me. It’s not just that I get rashes and my face is full of pink spots – I wouldn’t mind that as much. The main problem are headaches – I get pretty mean migraines. I’m susceptible to migraines so this makes them even worse. And these migraines are weird. They hurt and my ear gets cold and my throat itches.
I’m also sleepy all the fucking time. Like, I can sleep for 15 hours straight, wake up only to be sleepy in an hour.
The worst thing is that I can’t find a proper medicine. They either don’t work, or they work by making me even more sleepy. So I’m really unproductive. Which sucks.
They say I’m allergic to dust. Which actually means I’m allergic to dust mites. Which actually means I’m allergic to dust mites’ shit – because this is what people allergic to dust mites are actually allergic to.
But there has to be something else (and not just dust mites’ shit) I’m allergic to, because it starts in spring – some kind of a plant, no doubt. But they can’t discover what it is.
I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and it was an interesting experience. In a way, it is a lite-NaNo event; you can set up your own goal for the word count and you get a lovely cabin to share with 5 writers so you can all motivate each other. Here’s my camper profile for those who are interested in this stuff.
Though in whole honesty, I cheated. Well, not really: there was some writing and outlining, but the story is not new – I’m still working on my last year’s NaNo novel. It’s that fantasy story I’m trying to write, the one I’ve been outlining for years. The funny – or really not – thing is that only after I started writing it for real I realized how the plot should unfold and, well, many other important things (for example, villains. I never had a proper villain in the story. This fact alone is not problematic on itself; after all, I don’t like the cliche “evil for the sake of it” villains anyway. However, I’ve realized that my story lacks a conflicting force, something that would motivate my characters, move the plot and, well, provide conflict).
The truth is that I know more about my story at this point, but it’s still far from being finished. Looks like I need to revise my outline before I move to the next step. It seemed like a fantasy duology but the writing showed some ill-outlined moments. Like the fact I’ve tried to push most of the stuff in what was supposed to be the first book. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s another thing I need to work on.
All in all, I’m glad I had Camp NaNo to rethink my story and add some new chapters, but the first draft is not over. I was planning on finishing it before doing my revision, but now I wonder if it’s better to revise the outline and come back to the beginning so I can revise the story right from scratch.
Finding the right amount of outlining
I tend to over-outline. Having a solid outline is the only way for me to write, but too much IS too much. It can prevent you from sitting and actually writing the story, because the outline feels incomplete. Or it can make you too fixated on only one possible solution you fail to see what’s best for the story. That’s why I need to find the minimal amount of outline I need and just start writing.
Knowing where to start
One of the most important things about writing a good story is to know where to start and where to end it. I know when to end a novel. My endings are good. I have a trouble figuring out how to open a novel. My problem is that I grew up with 19th and early 20th century literature. Things take ages to start rolling in those books. I’m used to preparatory chapters and I’m used to having a first hint of a plot circa page 50. However, you can’t go like that anymore. It’s important to start when your story actually starts: not with introduction of the characters or setting, but with the first conflict in the story. I know all of this, and I can identify when it’s a good point to start, and yet I don’t know how to do it without any character or setting introduction.
Being able to cut and change
This is probably one of the most difficult things, because I tend to get emotionally attached to plots, characters and scenes. It’s worst when it’s something I’ve planned for a long time, even since the first idea for a novel. When plots and situations are linked with the story from the beginning, it makes it seem like they’re essential, like they’re integral for the story. So even if it turns out that they don’t fit, I try to force my plot around them. Because hey, I’ve always seen my characters running away from point A to point B using a boat during a stormy night, so how come I can completely disregard this scene? This scene is been here forever, it’s one of the first things outlined for the story, it’s one of the first things I saw in my mind when I got inspired to write this story! How can I change it, how can I cut it? And yet, that’s the only right thing to do. If it doesn’t fit into the written story (or even outline), it needs to be changed. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been part of the story.
Knowing how to say things with the least amount of words
Unlike this subtitle, I need to make my writing as concise as possible. This is one of my most serious weaknesses. I tend to over explain. I use many words when few would do much better. I repeat myself. I throw too much description. I repeat myself. I never know how to control my word count.
Finding Beta Readers
I know the importance of quality Beta readers, but I still feel hesitant to share my work. This is a huge mistake. You can’t write a good story without Beta readers. There’s a point for any writer where you need to learn how to share your work with others and how to accept criticism. Interestingly enough, the mere sharing (having someone read it) feels more terrifying to me than people criticizing it. In any case, it’s juvenile and it needs to stop.
Practicing my English
I don’t write in English, and at the same time, I know writing in English is the best way to go if I ever want to be published. However, whatever I write in English seems like pure crap to me, and I’m not even talking about bad grammar – bad grammar is possible to fix. I just don’t seem to have my voice in English, which is a shame. I can do ok when it comes to articles and essays, but not fiction. As usual, practice makes it perfect, but I guess I’m just too much of a coward to try.
Finding the best revision method
When I was younger, I didn’t do any revisions for my novels. I wrote ferociously as a teen, but mostly to entertain myself and to put my daydreams into words. I lived through these stories, and once they were written, I’d move to the next one. I didn’t have any wish to publish them, and only a few selected people were allowed to read them.
It’s one of the reasons why my revision skills are seriously lacking. I am still trying to figure out the best way to do it: the best way to let it sit on the side, and the best way to identify all the problems in the writing and to find solutions. The best way to cut, and then cut some more. The best way to know when I should stop revising and move to another story.