Saturday, October 16, 2010

Editing

So I edited the first four chapters of my novel. Well, I re-wrote chapter 1, too, but I'll get to that later.

I had no idea what to actually do, to be honest. See, I had plenty of notes to work from (crits from an established and excellent editor in the industry, and edits from two of my friends), but there was also so much that was in my head –scenes that needed re-writing, dialogue that needed tightening up, research to do to make certain scenes feel more authentic, etc- that I didn't know where to start.

A large part of this was fear – I put together everything I've written over the past seven or eight years (since I've had a PC, and so saveable data) into one document and the wordcount was just over 115000 words. With not one project finished. The reason? Well, I was more of an editor than a writer. I would write a paragraph and agonize over it until I felt that it was perfect. I eventually graduated to a page. Then a paragraph. Eventually I reached 30000 words on a single project but then ground to a halt because I hadn't planned, plot-wise, character-wise, anything-wise. But I felt like I was making progress. I tried my hand at many different stories – I wrote a Tomb Raider scene in which Lara was skiing in the Alps when assassins sent to kill her trigger and avalanche, which Lara then rides; I wrote a scene in which Duncan McLeod arrives at a mountain hideaway to rescue Amanda from a kidnapper who is also immortal; I even wrote about 20000 words on a Star Wars project that I'm not saying anything about because I want to publish that novel one day. But the point remains – I never finished anything.

In the past two years I've learned to actually finish projects – hence 3 short stories that I've done. I had to learn how to stop editing and start writing – which is absolutely painful when you write a paragraph that hint at the awesomeness you want but reads like shite. But I've pushed on, slogged through, and now I'm staring 70K down.

On to the re-written chapter: There's much in the first chapter that sucks donkey-balls. Plenty. Huge amounts. I don't think that the main POV character was introduced properly; the reason for him being where he is is weak; etc. etc. So I spent an evening and re-wrote the first scene of the first chapter, changed plenty but kept to the main points of the scene, the main thrust of what the scene is supposed to achieve. I think it works better. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it works better. Re-writing that scene gave me some much-needed hope for the rest of the novel, because there are plenty of chapters that need to be re-written to make them work better, and I'm looking forward to it. But I digress, back to editing.

While I was editing I got a much-needed flash-back of what I was trying to do – I re-realized why I had chosen these characters to tell the story; I re-realized just what story I'm trying to tell; and if I was blade, I'm now much sharper. Editing doesn't only serve to make the novel better by fixing up everything that needs fixing – it also serves to re-excite you as the writer, to amplify that initial excitement, and that's just bloody awesome. And in some cases, sorely needed.

The thing is, I'm just like you: I doubt every word that I write, every scene, every character that I create. But that seed of doubt shrinks during editing, because I become a sculptor, or a gardener; a sculptor because I'm chipping away at the marble to reveal what's beneath; a gardener because I'm weeding, baby, weeding! J

So if you don't edit, if you leave it up to someone else, (I want to say shame on you, but I won't), you don't have a clue what you're missing. The world you're creating comes into sharper focus; the characters become more vital, their conflicts much more detailed, etc. etc. Even if you think what you've written is awesome, what you've written attains that uber-ness that will probably see you getting your book onto the shelves of bookstores the world over. Big words coming from an unpublished writer, huh? Well, I aim to prove what I say. J

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anyone Know a Cure for Brain-Death?

I'm slowly, slowly, slowly making progress on the novel - last night I hit 69K, and I'll be lying if I say that it's been a breeze. It's been a slog, a hectic, exhausting slog.

I know why, though, and knowing is a step toward fixing the situation.

Most of you know that I run a SFF-review blog,too; at the moment I'm reading five novels and enjoying them all. There are plenty of books I still have to and want to read, and all these books have added to the slow writing pace:

Not because I feel pressured to read the books, but because I've realized that one day, when I'm a published author, I won't be able to read as much as I used to. You see, I really love reading. Books are my constant companion and have been for about twenty-one years (my first Stephen King at 9, Pet Sematary) and the realization that I'll be, in part, sacrificing, reading for writing, is a bitter pill to swallow. I know, I know, I'll never stop reading, nor will I be required to as a novelist, but picking and choosing what I want to read will be a thing of the past. I'll probably be reading more non-fiction for research purposes and selectively reading those authors who are considered the best in their genres, to study the craft. Not a bad trade, I know, but if you saw my collection of books you'd understand. Anyway, what I'm saying is I'm going to miss all the reading I've been doing, and perhaps that is translating into an unconscious reluctance to write at the pace I know I can.

Another problem is that old, old enemy of anyone doing what they really want to do - confidence. Sometimes I'm so damn impressed with myself and what I'm creating; other times I really can't believe that I'm wasting my time. It's the weirdest, most frustrating seesaw I've ever encountered! But I do have faith in my novel, even though I know it'll probably never be published and that I'll be glad that it'll never be published.

Another aspect of this that is weighing heavily on my mind is the fact that I'm working towards finishing my first novel. Sound weird? Hehehehe I don't really understand it myself, some weird kind of fear of success? Some kind of strange realization that I'll have to reach 'The End' some time? I don't know, really, but whatever it is it probably is playing a part.

And then there's that fear of 'Am I wasting my time?'. Am I putting in all these hours, sacrificing time with my girlfriend and friends, for something that I won't succeed at? Is this the most massive waste of time I've ever involved myself in? I actually get pissed off when I think like that. Pissed off at myself, because I'm doing nothing but cutting my own throat. I can't think like that and succeed at this. And I want to, desperately, because I'm pretty sure that I'm a good story-teller and a great writer and that one day, people will be recommending my work to their friends and colleagues and family and maybe, just maybe, what I've written will spark something and lead to something and change something, all for the better. Sure, I want to earn an income from writing and maybe be rich one day, too, but my main motivation is to keep story-telling alive. Soppy, I know, but there it is. Say what you want, but story-telling is the reason that the human race has succeeded and come to dominate the planet, for good or ill. Story-telling is our lifeblood, our sustenance. I want to kick ass at it.

So, even though I've got these fears and these problems to deal with, I'm now going to plug in my earphones and play my writing-music playlist and push for 70K at least. I have to, if only to prove to myself that I can. The glory will come when it comes, and even though I'm chasing this dream and, in turn, being hounded by it, it's still thrilling, frustrating, awesome and terrifying.

I'm off to write.