Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Posts Tagged ‘editing

Can reading writing advice hurt your writing?

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In this first revision of my novel, I’m changing a lot of things drastically. That means I’m throwing a lot of good writing out the window, but I’m still keeping and altering some scenes. It’s tough, as a writer, to go back and pick out those parts of the scenes I want to keep, and then to notice that the rest of it, the part I’m leaving out, isn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. How did I not notice that when I was first writing it?

The thing is, I don’t feel like the writing I’m doing now, to replace it, is as good. Is it because I just can’t see it until later? Or is it because I recently read some books about writing and editing fiction, and I’m letting my inner editor have too much reign at this point in the process? I may be worrying too much about using words other than “said” as dialogue tags and stripping my writing of adverbs. This advice is useful, but not if it makes me self-conscious to the point of making my writing sterile and lifeless.

On the other end of things, I get too frustrated with the advice that tells me to “just do it. Just get words on paper,” and focuses a lot on word counts. I WANT to know more about the editing process and what it looks like to sit down and chisel away at what I’ve already written. Apparently, I just need to know where to apply that advice.

My conclusion is that writers need to take advice self-consciously. Obviously, anything that causes you anxiety and keeps you from writing is not good. My solution is to take a step back, and give some conscious thought to how I’m following the advice, or whether it would benefit me to follow it. Another solution is to filter the advice and make sure to only apply it to the part of the process I’m in. This can be tricky sometimes, since I’m still exploring my own process and figuring out what works for me. And that’s the thing about advice, too. Writers are all different, and we each need to figure out what works for us.

On to another note. I have pictures of Week 2 of my garden. Seeds are sprouting, things are growing! I harvested my first pepper, but the plant came with the almost full-grown pepper on it, so I don’t think that counts.

Here’s a pic of the whole garden. I think it’ll be fun to have a week by week collection of these and watch it get greener and greener overall.
GardenWeek2 #1

My zucchini seeds sprouted! I plan to tie them up on the green mesh as they get bigger. I may be a little too late planting them, but we’ll see. Que será, será.
GardenWeek2 #2

Baby zucchini closeup. I planted two seeds in each hole in case one didn’t sprout. Sadly, I did pull the second sproutling out of each pair. I hate doing it even though I know thinning is a part of gardening.
GardenWeek2 #3

Lettuce sprouts growing in among the peppers! I thinned these, too, after taking pictures.
GardenWeek2 #4

Closeup of cute lettuce sprouts.
GardenWeek2 #5

Green bell peppers! The peppers were already on the plant when we bought it. Yay for head starts. I’m excited for this one, because last year I bought one before our garden was built and wasn’t able to plant it for about a month. I think we’ll get a lot more peppers this year!
GardenWeek2 #6

Big beef tomato flowers.
GardenWeek2 #7

I planted snap peas and pole beans near the trellis and next to the tomato plants so they can climb the tomato cages. Last year, our tomatoes got so huge, I’m not super worried about other plants blocking their sun. If the beans and peas grow too fast, I’ll just cut them back. Here’s a pole bean seedling. Cute!
GardenWeek2 #8

And, a shot of the tomatoes now, to compare with when they get really big!
GardenWeek2 #9

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First revision of a short story – still more work to do!

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UntitledI just finished the first revision of my short story that I’ve been working on for awhile. First I scribbled all over it in red pen, then I set to typing up all of those changes. Since I was adding a character, many of the changes involved writing new stuff, and that’s where I always get stuck. I think, “I’m supposed to be editing!” and I get myself into a different mindset than the one that allows me to freely write rough drafts. I stuck with it, though, and now I’ve gotten one step farther in the process. I’ve only ever finished one short story before, and that was because it was for a class. Doing it again paves the way for more successes, since I’m learning more about my process and what works for me and what doesn’t. My hope is that eventually the process will go faster because I’ll be more used to it and it will become more of a habit.

Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and I’m trying to prepare myself to be immersed in my novel again. I have a lot of changes I have to make, and it will be mostly a complete rewrite. This is technically “cheating,” since the rules of NaNoWriMo are to write a new novel, but I am using NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool. Camp NaNoWriMo is cool because it puts you in a virtual cabin with cabin mates. When I first signed up, it was too early to have cabin mates, but now I have them! I’d better go introduce myself soon.

Last week, we had some spectacular thunderstorms. Gru is afraid of the thunder and lightning, but we enjoyed the storms. Storms are a perfect opportunity to hang out in a cozy coffee shop and write, or have a fire and hang out at home and write. See picture above: fire, wine, writing, and scared dog. A perfect memorial day weekend!

Written by nikkinbird

May 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Summer School!

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lil chicken!Yesterday I spilled coffee on my editing. I was just getting into a good groove, too. Then I had to bring the whole thing inside and let it dry out. The good news is that after it dried, I finished editing it! I actually just finished scribbling all over it, which I’m not sure counts as editing. The next step is to type up the new draft.

After I finish this draft, I may post the story at Scribophile. I haven’t used it before, and I only just signed up about a month ago. They use a system called karma to determine whether you get to post your work for review. Before being able to post a story, I will have to earn karma points by doing a few thoughtful reviews myself. It seems like a great site, though I am nervous to take the step of offering my work for criticism.

Another cool site I’ve found is Coursera. Coursera offers free online college courses from well-known universities. Heck yes I’m taking advantage of that! There’s no college credit or certificate offered, just the good ol’ satisfaction and pleasure of learning something new. I’ve signed up for Intro to Sociology and Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. I’m so excited!

As June gets closer, I’m getting more excited about Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m also getting a little nervous! I’m stacking lots of things up on my plate right now, from the courses mentioned above to other self-imposed learning endeavors, not to mention my job. Luckily, working with kids tends to follow a school-year schedule, so my service this summer will be with a summer program, and I will get done around 3 each day, and have Fridays off! Additionally, I’ll have almost a whole week off between the end of school and the start of the summer program. I plan to make the most of all the extra time I’ll have. You may have to remind me I said that a month from now, when I’m sitting around being lazy “because it’s summer, and that’s what you do in the summer!”

Check it out, one of our staff members brought her baby chicks to school! That’s me with one of them. She’d ordered 4 hens, and to keep them warm, they were packed with about 10 baby roosters! Nobody really raises roosters, apparently, so all they are good for is packing material 😦 Instead of killing them, she gave them away to another staff member who lives in a rural area and already raises chickens. Yay!

Written by nikkinbird

May 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Editing: Seeing Red!

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Editing my story Look at all that red! It’s fun, marking up the rough draft as much as possible, cutting out whole paragraphs and squeezing in whole new paragraphs between the lines. This is what double spacing is for! Just do me a favor, and don’t try to read the story that’s on that page. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure you will, if you weren’t already going to. I suppose I don’t care, knowing that it doesn’t look anything like it will when it’s finally done.

I managed to get three more pages of this marking up done tonight after a wave of anxiety over the hugeness of my project hit me. It is so easy to get lost in the big picture, especially if you are a big picture person like me. I want to make an awesome website, with lots of pretty stuff like pictures and graphics, and I want it to be perfect, but how do I get there? Seeing the big picture without having a grasp on the small steps to take can be paralyzing.

Instead of letting my discouragement and fear stop me, I got some groceries, a latte, and came back to write. Even if I can’t make a stellar website in a day (let alone learn the skills to even start making a website), I can write. I can edit. Journaling also helps me get past it and into the writing mindset.

UntitledAlso, I’m learning Photoshop and InDesign CS2. Chris and I have a legal copy of Adobe CS2, which is way old (the current software is Adobe CS6), but it is cheap for learning. It’s my guess (and fervent hope) that learning CS2 will give me what I need to adapt to the newer programs if and when I decide it’s worth it to purchase those ones. No use spending all that moolah when I don’t even know if I will end up using the program for anything but a hobby! Plus, the learning guides are cheap for the old software, too. I got “like new” copies of Adobe’s official “Classroom in a Book” books for it for less than 6 bucks each, including the mandatory 3.99/each shipping price. Someone tell me if I’m grossly wrong in thinking that learning the old software will be at all useful, but until you do, I will continue to be excited to learn from my shiny newish books.

Written by nikkinbird

May 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Short Stories and Knitting Socks

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UntitledThe chalkboard at Caribou Coffee had this awesome chalk drawing. If you don’t get it, check out this post at Hyperbole and a Half

Short Stories and Knitting Socks

In my last post, I talked about my handknit sweaters, and how my learning process with knitting sweaters can inform my learning process with writing fiction. If I can compare writing my novel to knitting a sweater, then I can also compare short stories to socks.

Sweaters are long term projects that tend to sit at the background of everything you do. Just like I remember that I took that unfinished sweater to Turkey and Argentina, I will remember that I wrote this novel the year I got married, the year I also taught NaNoWriMo as an afterschool class, and the year we went to London on our honeymoon.

If I remember the sweaters I knit at certain times, I will also remember the socks. Unlike sweaters, socks don’t take so long. They are more portable, more palatable, and they involve less risk. They can be a nice break from larger knitting projects, and are easier to do while watching TV. Some of those things can be true for short stories, too. They take less time, it’s easier to see the whole picture, and it takes less time to see the finished result and be rewarded with that sense of satisfaction.

I’ve written a couple of rough drafts of short stories in the last week or so. One is backstory for my novel, another is completely unrelated. On days when I just can’t fathom slogging through another few pages of my novel, I can relax by going back to devil-may-care rough draft writing on some short stories. Since they take less time, it can feel good to finish a story. I also feel that I get a chance to work on technique and style in the short stories, because I can get to the final stages of editing faster than I will with the novel.

I think it’s a good thing to take breaks from big projects for awhile, even if it’s only for an hour or two a day. My brain can use a change of pace. A good way to get a lot of work done is to vary the kinds of work I’m doing. Editing and writing a rough draft are two different processes, so when editing wears me down, I can work on a rough draft. When I’m burnt out on fiction for the day, I can work on a blog post. It can help me be more productive than if I were to sit down and try to work on my novel for five hours straight. Not that I usually have five hours straight of writing time, but for me, even one hour of focus on a single task can be difficult sometimes.

Much like typing with a fat cat on your lap can be difficult.
Untitled

Writing a Novel and Handknit Sweaters

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Maybe I shouldn’t keep comparing writing to knitting, but since they are two of my favorite things to do, it seems natural to me. I also think it can be valuable to look at how we acquire skills. Some tendencies and habits can carry over from one type of pursuit to another.

The first sweater I ever knit for myself, I ripped out and used the yarn for a different sweater. That second sweater, I never got buttons for, the sleeves were a slightly awkward length, and I sewed together sloppily. I think I also made up my own way to do a hood instead of looking up hood construction somewhere else. It wasn’t polished and I didn’t wear it much before I accidentally washed it (100% wool) in the washing machine, and I wasn’t too sad that it felted a bit.

UntitledI never finished my third sweater, but it had lots of potential. That’s it in the picture here. That sweater was an ambitious sweater. Knit on tiny needles and with tiny yarn, it took a long time to complete. It came with me on a college orchestra trip to Turkey, and on my semester studying abroad in Argentina. On one of the dusty bus rides through the mountains in Argentina, knitting away on the second sleeve, I lost my stitch marker. I no longer had any idea how many repeats I had done of the sleeve increases. Yes, I was that close to finishing that sweater, and I let a little thing like losing my place in the pattern stop me from finishing it. It’s been hanging in my closet since, the second sleeve in its own little bag in my knitting bin in the basement.

My fourth sweater has been my most wearable, though it’s still not perfect. My fifth is the same, except that the first time I knit it, it was way too big and I ripped the whole thing out and completely reknit it.

Now, what about my novel? Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged about the revision of my novel. Things are not working out, the plot isn’t lining up (I’m not even sure I have a plot!), it just feels like it stinks. Often, I will hear a quote from an author about their first novel, saying that it wasn’t so good, they were glad it never got published, or anything like that. I think my first novel is going to be like that. I almost feel a little bad blogging about all of my novel progress, when I strongly suspect I will never be sharing this particular novel with anybody. Maybe I shouldn’t think of it like that, but that’s my suspicion and it’s not really helping to motivate me to finish this revision.

One way I am managing to stay encouraged is to think about those sweaters. Just because I had to rip out my first sweater didn’t stop me from knitting. I didn’t think, “Wow, that sweater turned out really horrible, so I probably shouldn’t ever try to knit again.” Instead, I took the yarn I’d used and knit a whole new sweater out of it. And then I went on to knit other sweaters, none perfect yet, but all improved. So, even if my novel doesn’t turn out as perfect as I’d hoped, I’m learning as I go, and my next project will be better for having written this one.

I do promise, that even though I’m having misgivings about this novel, that I will continue with it through at least this revision! I am determined to do that, because I know that I will learn from it, and be more ready for the next novel. Now back to work!

Camp NaNoWriMo and Proofreading for Project Gutenberg

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Alamo crossing her legs :)The internet has so much information and so many things to discover, and it’s always changing. Even with the tons of new things there are to keep track of, there are other things that have been around for a long time, in internet years, and I can’t believe I didn’t know about them earlier! Here are a couple of things I just found out about even though they’ve been going on for years.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Did you know there is a summer NaNoWriMo? It’s called Camp NaNoWriMo, and they do it in June AND in August. How did I not know about this until now? They call it “An idyllic writers’ retreat, smack dab in the middle of your crazy life.” Only it’s a virtual retreat. When you sign up, you can choose to be included in a “cabin” with other participants, so you have a built-in support group. I’ve signed up to participate in June, and we’ll see about August.

I won’t be writing a new novel in June. Instead, I’ll be working on my second draft of the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November. It has been tough to motivate myself to revise this novel. I started it completely unplanned in November, so I really had no idea where it was going, and it’s basically going to be a whole new story. I feel a little sad to have put all of that work into it only to rewrite it, but I wouldn’t have these characters, these ideas, the world building, or anything, if I hadn’t written in November. To help myself stick with it, I’ll be attending Camp NaNoWriMo in June so I can set myself a goal and have some accountability in sticking to it. I have to say I adore The Office of Letters and Light for doing all of this every year.

Proofreading for Project Gutenberg

Another discovery I made is that Project Gutenberg has a program for volunteer proofreaders to help process the books that are scanned and made into ebooks. As a spelling, grammar, and punctuation nerd, this is a project that appeals to me. I’m good at proofreading! I also like Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg provides free ebooks for books that are in the public domain (i.e. not under copyright anymore). The books are scanned from physical copies and put through OCR software, which recognizes the text. But, the software sometimes gets things wrong, and that’s where proofreaders come in! Click through the Distributed Proofreaders Walkthrough to get an idea of what it’s like to help out this way. I’ve signed up for an account, read the proofreading guidelines, and printed out the guidelines reference sheet. Today I took the proofreading quizzes, which helped me reinforce what I’d learned by reading the proofreading guidelines. Now, I get to proofread my beginner’s pages and get feedback from a mentor!

The picture above is of Alamo. Just thought I’d include a picture, since I haven’t had a reason for a photo for awhile! We think it’s funny when our pets cross their legs, and I take every opportunity to snap pictures of these poses.

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