Editing Is Important

I read this on the NaNoWriMo forums today, and I’m reasonably certain it was sincere.

 I never rewrite things, I don’t do multiple drafts, I really don’t even do much editing. What I pound out the first time is almost always the best. In school I would always do things backwards. I’d write the final draft first, then fill out the outline, and put in a bunch of mistakes for the “first draft” to turn in.

Talk about a downer for your Wednesday.  This is one of the greatest fallacies of a writer I’ve ever run across, and one I’m ashamed to admit I’ve believed in the past: that the first draft is good enough, that we need not revise or edit.

Yeah, no.  The first draft is for ideas.  For many people, it’s for exploring what the heck to write about in the first place.  Writing is  hard, hard work, and good writing — with good editing — even more so.  I’ve never heard an author come back and say, after the fact, “Finishing that book was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”  More often than not, I hear war stories about slavishly writing and revising.

But don’t just take my word for it!

Ernest Hemmingway himself said, “The first draft of anything is [crap].”  I can only assume that I need to do a little work in revision if even Hemmingway wrote bad first drafts.  Anne Lamott believes that first drafts are for getting the words out.  Two popular writers and a popular web comic artist agree that revision is a necessary piece of becoming a published author.

Even Dr. Seuss believed in the power of revision.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

The Crazies

Navi

Nothing injects more crazy into my life than taking stock of all of the crap I have amassed over the years, especially in the context of boxing it all up and taking it to a new location within the span of about two weeks.

Yep, we’re moving — not far, even.  But far enough that we have to go through the entire process of boxes and trucks and utilities and sorting out paperwork and trying to coax our cats friends into helping us.  And me preparing to write a novel on top of that.  You know, no big deal.

Better this month than next month, but it still makes me feel like I have a case of the crazies.

And plotting for Nanowrimo has got me all a-tizzy about my current projects again. In preparing a new project, I am overcome with a desire  to write ALL OF THE THINGS.  So this is a good outlet.  And once November is over, I’ll switch back to a longtime revision project that should have been done by now.  And then we’ll take stock of life, the universe, and my ‘in-progress’ folder, and by that time undoubtedly I will start feeling crazy again.

 

How to Prepare for Nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo is ultimately what you make of it.  Write like there’s no looking back and you have no backspace key.  It’s a time to create art.  And sometimes you need to get in the right frame of mind for art. So here are some ways you can get ready to go the distance this November.

1. Stock up on Caffeine.

Or chocolate or tea or incense or flavored water, or whatever substances get you in the writing mood.  The idea here is that you don’t want to move too far from your writing spot once inspiration strikes.  You want to have your Writer Juice at hand when you need it.  Whatever that may be.  I won’t judge.

2. Doodle

Or chicken scratch, or write poetry, or write a five-step program for conquering internet addiction.  The point is to get yourself acquainted with clearing your mind and flexing those creative muscles.  You’ll be doing a lot more of this in the weeks to come.

3. Plan Ahead

And by ‘plan ahead’ I mean, decide early how much preparation you want to do.  Some people freak out if they don’t have a novel idea by October 31.  Other people live by the ‘seat-of-the-pants’ method of noveling bliss.  I’m a huge fan of pre-writing, even if all it amounts to is “This is the year I write that novel about alien ducks invading Florida.”  But do plan.

(For more on planning ahead, see my post, “NaNo Plan Day“.

4. Google the Interwebs

There’s a treasure trove of auxiliary and useful information  beyond what you can find here, to help you get ready for November.  For your perusal:

25 things you can do before starting your next novel –  Another great list from the good people at Terrible Minds. (While entertaining, please note Chuck Wendig’s extraordinarily creative vocabulary may not be suitable for your workplace.  Or for your life.)

The Procrastination Station – Courtesy of nanowrimo.org, the best way to win is to resist the temptation to lose.  And since knowing is half the battle, here are some things you can resist doing.  Thank me later.

Scrivener – Forget Word and Notepad.  Nothing says “I’m writing a novel!” like software that helps you write a novel.

The Hard Part

Writer Fuel

It’s not the waiting.  It’s figuring out what to do to pass the time.  I’ve finished-finished a book, and like a well-groomed orangutan, it’s lumbering off into the distance to make a life for itself.  So, it’s time to start the dog-and-monkey show all over again, isn’t it?

I have another manuscript partially-edited that I’m dying to sharpen and spit shine until it and Mr Clean’s head are virtually indistinguishable, but I just finished that process.  As much as I love to edit, it’s too much like being a slave-rower on a Norse warship to want to get back onto the boat right now.

So I’m torn between starting another novel project and starting a short fiction piece.  Now, I’m awful with short fiction; at WorldCon this year, I heard (again) the oft-touted advice that short fiction is a great way to hone the skills needed to write novels.  Yet, someone (I think it was Patrick Nielsen-Hayden?) also added the caveat that some people simply aren’t great at short fiction, and this should not be a discouragement.  Still, the practice can’t hurt.

Or should I try to hit my stride and see how far I can break into a new world of characters before Nanowrimo swallows me up?  I’ve got two great ideas for novels to write this year, and whichever one I don’t write in November, I might write before and after November.

Ideas are cheap: time is expensive.  Which reminds me I need to get cracking if I want to finish that Wheel of Time reread by January.

Ironic

Start a schedule?  Ditch it immediately.

Apparently that’s just the way I do things around here. Buck the system, live by my own rules. I’m just that kind of a guy.

I could list all the reasons I’ve been away so long, but I think my perfectly valid excuses would only buy me about two and a half weeks, plus sick days, so maybe it’s best to just dive into something a little weird and let the rest sort itself out. I’ve been working on a book that’s got a little romance in it, and who doesn’t love a love song?

The Zombie Song

Music Monday: Eli August

Starting off the week with my new posting scheme is a blatant Twitter meme ripoff: Music Monday. 140 characters aren’t enough to do justice to the music that inspires me, and this week it’s a gentleman with a bit of steampunk flare.

That gent is Eli August. I first caught his music via the Tor Steampunk Twitter feed. It’s a mix of genuine melancholy lyrics and and dark acoustic hooks that kept me listening. I particularly enjoy “I did not leave the door ajar”, available on his Myspace page and “Nikola”, available from Eli’s free download’s page.

The tunes are maddeningly addictive, and Eli is worth the listen if you’re into darker acoustic/folk or steampunk-style music. If you’re going to be in the vicinity of TempleCon in Rhode Island this weekend, check him out live!

Finally Friday

I could have sworn yesterday was Friday. Come to find out I was gravely mistaken on the subject. That’s what happens when you spend part of your week at the dentist.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Either way, it’s Finally Friday. I am going to spend the weekend on pins and needles, as my wife is now less than a week away from her due date! Baby Velociraptor could come at any time!

Talk about nerve wracking; it makes me want to bottle this feeling up and ship it to one of my characters. Waiting for the highly-anticipated is one of those universal ‘human’ things.

To pass my time, I’ll be playing the Rift beta until tomorrow, and then the Magicka demo, which is just about the most fun you can have with a semi-broken game for $10. I’m hoping Paradox can get their stuff together soon, because I’m not buying it until I’m positive I can play it with my friends.

And, of course, Baby Velociraptor could change these plans in a heartbeat!

New Life, New Topics

I’m going to try a posting schedule to see how that works out for me. It’s going to be somewhat ambitious, but I’ve also got some structure based around each day, so hopefully in the long run I’ll be able to keep it up. I’d also love to write some posts in advance, which I tried to do and failed at already once today.

It’s a learning process, I suppose.

I was really inspired by this post, in which writer Dawn Rae Miller comes to the conclusion that writers who want to attract readers need to cut back the writing about writing.

And it makes sense. As much as I love my fellow writers, the internet is full of other avenues for those connections. As such, I’d rather my blog be more about me and less about my craft. I’d rather it be about things I find interesting, and as such things I hope other people would find interesting.

It’s something I was nervous about from the beginning, and so the post sort of opened up a new world for me.

As I started to think about it, I expect writer blogs to reflect the writer as a person – Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, John Scalzi, and John Green are all great examples.

I will probably continue to write about writing from time to time. I still see the value in it, and as such my new posting schedule allows me some room for flexibility. It’s a good thing to expose the writing process once in a while, especially when one is trying to navigate the perils and pitfalls within the publishing industry.

Cause this one is a doozy.

Behind Enemy Lines

When I was a lad, I enjoyed few things more than devouring a good book. And I had a thing for series books, too, just as I do now; it’s hard for me to get away from a group of characters that I’ve invested my time and energy into, sometimes even if I didn’t even particularly care for them. It was like a high: a comforting rush of experience and familiarity that I could tap into when I needed it.

Of course, being so voracious meant that, on occasion, I had to be less-than-discriminating with my literary selections. To-wit: I was a Babysitter’s Club junkie. I blame my sister for having the books in the house, but I read them to death and back again, after falling off the Boxcar Children train. Oh, I kept up with Encyclopedia Brown and Sherlock Holmes, and a bevy of others, but the BSC books were my guilty pleasure. I think Ms. Martin might have taken some small enjoyment out of that.

And so it’s not all that surprising to me that I’ve been hooked onto another series that might be seen as non-standard reading for a twenty-something fantasy writer. It’s got vampires in it. And romance. No Cullens, true, but vampires and romance nonetheless. I started in on it as “research” outside of my own genre and style, and things got out of hand from there.

Right now Para-Rom is hotter, trend-wise, than the surface of the sun. I imagine the other genres looking on with simmering jealousy at all the attention the cute little vampires and werewolves and angels are getting. But really, I’m starting to wonder why all the fuss. That’s what started me in on the reading in the first place: what’s so different?

I mean, you’ve got some elements of magic and wonder in mainstream Fantasy and Para-Rom, but (at the risk of evoking stereotypes) I get the feeling the target demographics for each are discrete groups. And isn’t that the heart of the whole boy-book/girl-book argument? We’re writing books to target niches because they tell us to, because that’s what the great intangible “they” can sell.

It’s easy to forget there’s an entire world outside your front door. Out THERE. Where the BAD VAMPIRES live.

Speaking of worlds: I’ve noticed that the worldbuilding in this series is actually quite good, and it helps underline the points I’ve made before: worldbuilding is vital even if your story takes place on planet Earth, which is where this series does. Of course, this series does require some fantasy-style detail work, since it’s technically a Para-Rom, but the details are well done.

It’s been refreshing to get outside of my genre to see what else is possible and maybe bring back a morsel or two to chew on. And once this is all over I’ll undoubtedly finish one of the doorstoppers I’ve been meaning to get to. (With apologies to Brandon Sanderson, I still haven’t finished A Way of Kings.) But for now, my “research” is too much fun to give up.

Whatcha Got Cookin’?

It takes me about the length of a George RR Martin novel release cycle to come up with a good idea for a novel or a topic I want to blog about, in part, I think, because I worry.

Every idea starts with a thick, flaky crust of “this has already been done.” If I think I can break through the crust, I keep at it; otherwise, I throw it away and wait for another idea to throw itself in front of the blog. I discard a lot of ideas this way, and maybe I shouldn’t – what if I’m just being lazy?

Sometimes an idea that sounds derivative at its core (“magical girl discovers her powers and saves the world”) can be interesting if written well. Add a heaping scoop of creativity and maybe a fresh twist of writer juice, whatever that is; maybe we don’t want to know.

But old ideas are redone in new ways all the time – it’s the only explanation I have for why vampire books are still popular after Twilight: when something works, it works.

So turn your “okay idea” into your personal Jerry Maguire. Help your idea help you.

You had it at hello.

The metaphor’s reaching, but you get the idea. All the core stories that could be written, have been. The secret is in the new presentation of the material – not as window dressing, or a snap-in set of tropes, but as part and parcel of the whole tale.