Nikki's Notebook

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

Posts Tagged ‘revising

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.
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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.
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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.
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Lettuce sprouts growing in among the peppers! I thinned these, too, after taking pictures.
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Closeup of cute lettuce sprouts.
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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!
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Big beef tomato flowers.
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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!
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And, a shot of the tomatoes now, to compare with when they get really big!
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Camp NaNoWriMo, here I come!

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Well, it’s May already and that means it’s time for me to start preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo for June! I just got an email about all of the camp goodies that are in the store, and I want all of them! Just look at them. I want the poster. And the coffee mug. And the merit badges. And the camp care package. And the tshirt. All so cool!

Since I am using Camp NaNoWriMo to motivate myself to revise my novel from November, I’m kind of cheating. I’m not starting a brand new novel for the 50,000 word goal. My thought is, though, that things like NaNoWriMo are a tool to help me accomplish what I already want to accomplish anyway. My revision will be an almost complete rewrite as well, so having a word count goal will still be a legitimate way of tracking my progress. And boy, do I ever need the motivation!

In the past, when I’ve done NaNoWriMo in November, I’ve usually let it sneak up on me. I’ve never outlined, or planned very much ahead of time. This time, I am going to try outlining and some more advance planning. I still think November’s more spontaneous writing helped me–after all, I wouldn’t even know my characters or the world they’re operating in if it weren’t for all that writing! But now I need a clearer roadmap of what they’re doing so that this revision actually will improve the original draft.

Sponsor me!

If you support my novel writing efforts, consider sponsoring me at my StayClassy fundraising page! I always try to donate a little bit to the Office of Letters and Light when I do NaNoWriMo, but now I want to try to support them even more! Their resources allowed me to teach NaNoWriMo as an afterschool class and spread the novel writing love to some awesome kids, and the whole program provides encouragement, support, and community to tons of writers all over the world. I love it, and if it sounds cool to you, consider supporting my efforts. Plus, your donations will help guilt me into sticking to my word count goal for the month!

Written by nikkinbird

May 9, 2012 at 9:36 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.
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Rough draft complete! Look!

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Last night I spent most of the night doing this:

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Why I chose to take this long and torturous approach to making flashcards, I’m not sure, except that the answers show through the printer paper, and I couldn’t find the printable sheet of double sided flashcards I’d used at the beginning of the year. These will be very pretty, at least. I still have to laminate them, too. Whew.

But on to the real subject of this post, look!

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Look at that stack of paper!

Look at it again! Now in its pretty binder.

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It’s my finished rough draft of my novel. It even has an ending that makes some kind of sense. Even though it’s only a rough draft, and far from finished, it’s still a finished novel! This is a first for me. I’ve started stories before, and I’ve done NaNoWriMo before and made it to 50,000 words, but I’d never actually finished the story. I’m excited to revise it, and fix everything that needs fixing, but for now I’m going to follow the oft-repeated advice of taking a break between drafts. Have a nice rest, novel!

p.s. I forgot to mention that I printed them double sided. So, if you think about it, it’s actually double that amount of pages. Just sayin’.

Written by nikkinbird

January 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Writing

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Life after NaNoWriMo: Ready to Revise

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Ready to Revise

We stopped at Target yesterday for some other stuff, and I just had to stop in the notebook aisle (I always have to stop in the notebook aisle). I had a mission other than browsing, though. I purchased a binder and some post-it notes, and now I am ready to revise! Well, I’m not actually ready in a writing sense. But I have the stuff for it! Awhile back, I read Rachael Herron’s blog post about revising, and I liked the idea of the post-it method for keeping track of stuff as you revise. Now that I’m so close to the end of my novel, I’m itching to print it out, 3-hole punch it, and stuff it in a binder to start paging through! I love having Scrivener, but I need physical copies of things when I really need to get down to work. I don’t know what it is, but being able to physically flip pages, whether it’s a textbook or a piece of writing, helps me to visualize things better. I am looking forward to this phase so much that buying the binder and post-its is like a little extra incentive to keep going and finish the novel. I have a problem, though. It has to do with my process during NaNoWriMo.

My NaNoWriMo Process

I never plan ahead for NaNoWriMo. At least not on paper. I usually get some sort of vague ideas, maybe scribble down a few brainstorms, but I don’t outline or anything. I’m not really an outliner anyway, but it could help me if I did tried it. More than usual, NaNoWriMo snuck up on me this year. In October, I was in the middle of singlehandedly starting up an afterschool program that was brand new to our school. I had to recruit and train volunteers, organize all of the classes, promote them at conferences (in which I sat at a table until 8pm 3 different nights and nobody came), organize all the signups, send home signup confirmations, find out how to deposit and then access money gotten from donations to my little startup program, and so on. Since one of my afterschool classes was NaNoWriMo, and I was teaching it, I couldn’t let all this being busy stuff let me off the hook for NaNo. So, when November rolled around, I had already had a couple of prepping for NaNo classes with my two groups of kids.

They may have been ready, but I wasn’t. So, my “novel” during November, or my “word count” as I should probably call it instead, ended up consisting of a lot of brainstorming, freewriting sessions about the story, and not so much scenes from the story itself. I’d say maybe a good solid half of my wordcount was actual narrative text, and the rest was character sketches, settings sketches, and just me talking to myself in general about what my story was about. Planning stuff. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if I were to do all of that kind of writing BEFORE November, then I would probably get a whole lot more actual novel written by the end of November.

What this all means is that, while my novel is definitely going somewhere now, and knows a little bit more about what it wants to be, it didn’t know that in the beginning. The beginning has gaping plot holes, scenes that haven’t been written, and characters who have changed gender, geographic location, circumstances, and motivation. The type of magic my world uses has evolved and developed its own set of rules that I now have to go back and make sure it follows. It’s supposed to have been winter for half of the book but I keep forgetting to describe scenes as if there’s snow on the ground, breath freezing in the air, or any hint that my characters get cold when they go outside. Maybe that’s just a symptom of our own practically snowless winter up here in Duluth, where we’re normally buried this time of year.

So, revising is going to be a whole lot of fun. I say this with the sincerest of smiles, I assure you. Still, as soon as I write that final scene, I’m considering the rough draft all roughed out for now. I’m going to print it out and slap it in that binder, then worry about the fixups. I may take a break and write a short story. They say it’s good to do that. Take a break between the rough draft and revising, I mean.

And while I worry about that, Tashi has occupied my sweater.
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