Tag Archives: revising a novel

Writing About How to Write

I want to write about writing.

While this is, in essence, a personal blog, most of the time I don’t feel comfortable enough to write about my personal life or problems, so it was always more about the external things, such as movie review, social commentary or random rants. I also love to write about writing, not because I believe I’m an expert in the field (far from it), but because I like to have a space where I can share my thoughts and observations on fiction writing.

I also feel this theme might be inspiring enough to make me blog more often – at least twice a week, because this blog is in urgent need of some updating. While I was never popular – far from it – I’ve witnessed, over and over again, visitors leaving when there’s nothing new on the blog for weeks (you can’t blame them).

Stuff I want to blog about:

Writing tips

Again, I don’t want to pretend I’m an expert, so these will mostly be some observations I will, first and foremost, write as a reminder to myself. It might include points on characterization and plot, DOs and DON’Ts, common misconceptions, writing myths, etc.

Existing example of this kind of posts: How NOT to create Mary Sue

My writing process

These posts will cover my own way of outlining, writing and revising, writing schedule and stuff that works (or doesn’t work) for me.

Existing example: Choosing Character Names

Fiction I like & dislike

These will probably be made as reviews. Same goes for film reviews.

Existing example: The Power of Writing: Atonement

Things I probably won’t blog about:

Short stories, poems, essays, etc. The posts will focus on novel writing, because this is what I’m experienced with. Which is, by the way, a serious problem: a writer needs to know how to write in different formats. I suck at writing poems and I don’t know how to write short stories. It’s bad. So I might reconsider short story writing, but since there are so many things so be said about novel writing, I’m not sure about this. As for essays, I am good at them, but they’re completely different beasts.

Writing excerpts. I’m not confident enough in my English to share my writing online. I might reconsider this, because I know it’s impossible to practice your craft without beta readers and some critique.

This doesn’t mean I’ll turn this into a writing blog. However, expect to see more writing-related posts from now on.

NaNoWriMo is here again!

There’s a reason for not blogging so long. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo, first outlining and doing a research, and then writing. To be honest, I’m still busy, but I felt like ignoring this blog wasn’t the best idea.

So, I present you my NaNo novel, The Demise of the Elm Trees (it’s a working title but I like it).

This novel is special for a couple of reasons. This is the first time I write in English (and yes, I’m shit scared of it, thanks for asking). My level of language self-esteem is quite low to non-existent. But if I ever think to grow as a writer I need to learn now to do this, so NaNo seemed like a good opportunity to try.

It’s also the first time I write a YA (Young Adult) novel. Consciously, at least. I believe many of my early novels (those beautiful and embarrassing and amazing and face-palm and nostalgic teen efforts) were also YA, but I was unfamiliar with the label back then. Why YA? In part, because I’m a sucker for coming of age stories, and in part because YA doesn’t require complicated style or advanced English.

I’ll share more about the story later (if there are people interested to read about it), but for now, I present you the writing rules (or you could say it’s more of a process?) I set for my NaNo novel:

1. Write now, worry about grammar later. Try to record your thoughts on the electronic paper without worrying about the grammar structure, appropriate words and idioms, and especially not about that fucking thing called “past tenses in English language”. (Or the most evil aspect of them, the Present Perfect vs Past Perfect issue). Oh no, don’t worry about it now.

2. When first draft is finished, write a second one. Fix the plot, characters and stuff.

3. Check your information Do your research again. Check every single thing, from school policies, drama classes and copyright to pop cultural references and important events. Make sure everything is plausible.

4. Speaking of which, make sure it seems like 1994. Do a double check on slang (especially regional, including, but not limited to Seattle). Do a double check on technology. Fashion. Pop culture all over again. And then, slang one more time.

5. Fix your grammar the best you can. (There’s no point in doing this before the step 5 if you need to change your sentences and write new ones).

6. Grow a pair and ask a few unsuspecting victims beta readers to read it. They will have a demanding task of checking your story/writing, your information and your grammar, but that’s what friends are for, right?

My novel has arrived!

Photobucket There’s a reason for the lack of updates this time. I was planning this blog post for a long time, waiting for the proof copy of my novel to arrive… Only to realize I couldn’t afford new batteries for my camera to take pictures of it. But then I remembered there was a picture of the cover online, so… Here it is. The long awaited “my copy has arrived” post.

First things first: the proof copy looks amazing and professional. Better than I expected it to be. It’s a prize made by a NaNoWriMo sponsor, Create Space: whoever managed to write 50 000 words by the end of November got a free proof copy of her novel. Sounds great?

Well, to tell you the truth, it sounds both great and lame, because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not like you have your novel published, or in print (unless you decide to self-publish it with them). Still, it’s nice to have it as a real book, with your (pen) name on the cover.

And now, the bad news: the novel itself.

It is… Amateurish, to say the least. Well, it sure didn’t seem so when I revised it, so the only explanation I have is: I was stupid enough not to print it and revise a printed copy. Never, never, never attempt to judge your work unless you have a printed copy!

Sounds logical? Yes, but I skipped this step, thinking I was smarter than this (and I couldn’t afford to print 370 pages, but it’s not an excuse). I’m one of those people who have no problems reading text on a monitor, even a long one, so I guess I thought printing the novel before revision was unnecessary.

Wrong. Besides glaring mistakes in the form of “he looked at her with his eyes” (I shit you not), there are so many unnecessary and amateurish things, such as head hopping (sudden shifts in POV), awkward pace and repetitions. And it’s not like I didn’t try to fix those things in the revision! So I guess I’ve learned a valuable lesson: always, always, ALWAYS print your copy before you declare you’ve done with the revision.

Also, it’s slow. And not slow in a literary fiction, Ian McEwan “one day on 100 pages” kind of slow. Slow in a boooring kind of way. It gets better in the chapter 3, and particularly after the chapter 10, but people won’t read that far unless I make them interested in the story.

On the other hand, there are some good things. I’ve managed to capture the setting (a small town) in all its beauty (or lack thereof). Also, dialogue. I used to think I’m bad at it, but now I see it’s one of my strengths. I also seem to be capable of not revealing too much (and making the reader fill in the blanks, which is quite important, since the whole story is basically peripheral: we never learn the big things, only their aftermath, beginning, or consequences). I’m also decent at creating realistic characters, though I’d say I still need a lot to learn in that department.

This was such a good experience, the whole NaNo thing. First of all, it helped me in a very tense moment in my life, and it prevented me from becoming depressed. This fact alone makes the whole thing precious.

And I’ve learned a lot about writing, too. I’ve learned that it’s possible to write on command, so to speak, without waiting for your muse. It’s difficult to wait for your muse when you have one hour of free time to write per day, for example. So you just start writing and… It works. I never believed it’s possible, but it is. So it’s a good thing to know.

I also learned how to squeeze things, so to speak. I still ended at 90 000 words where 70-80 000 would be more appropriate, but I’m learning how to control my writing.

And I learned how to handle dialogue. And how to reveal, explain, and describe using dialogue and action, not mere description (the “show, don’t tell rule”).

I also learned how to write from a male POV, and make the guy seem and sound like a guy (even in sex scenes! Go me!), which is something many female writers are unable to do right (see Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry … or Twilight for that matter (or better, not). Though a guy sounding like a girl is not the biggest problem with Perfect Chemistry, but it’s another story). Writing from a male POV is very important for me, since my fantasy novel has a male protagonist.

Finally, I learned a few things from my mistakes. The biggest one probably being: print, print, always print your work before/during/after revision.

So I’d say the experience was positive. I will leave this novel for now (though I already penned a few things that are crucial for the second revision), and I’ll focus on the new stuff. I sure want to start writing my fantasy novel (it’s been 8 years and counting, and I’m still unsure if I’m ready), and for this year’s NaNo, I want to face what it seems like the biggest challenge: writing in English. I know I’m not ready for it, but I’ll never be ready unless I try, and fail, and try again, and fail a little less. I’ll probably start with something simple, a YA (young adult) story, and I already have not one, but two ideas (one realistic, and another with a premise so absurd that it begs to be explored).