Nikki's Notebook

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

Posts Tagged ‘rough draft

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.
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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!
GardenWeek2 #6

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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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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How Writing is Like Knitting

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Last week I started the incredibly daunting task of editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It doesn’t have a title yet. In fact, it probably won’t until I’m forced to give it one. I’m not good at titles. I started it in November, for NaNoWriMo, of course, and finished the first draft on January 28th. I told myself I’d give myself a little break before starting the editing, and boy did I ever. I’m not going to beat myself up about that, though, because I have stayed true to my goal of writing every day, in some form. I worked on some other projects.

The longer I waited to edit the novel, though, the scarier it got. I thought about all the work left to do and all of the changes I already know I need to make. I thought about how this rough draft is really just a skeleton of what I envision the book eventually being. I thought about how I changed a big part of the premise in the end, so that I have to rewrite things in the beginning so it all makes sense. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m trying not to let it get to me. I need to finish this thing. So I sat down and started applying post-its to my binder.

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That is a picture of the front section of the binder. On the left are notes to myself about things I need to address in the novel as a whole, and on the right are the notes about that section in particular. The picture was taken in the middle of a 2 hour chunk of work time, and those sections have been filled with notes since. Each one of those notes represents a lot of work, and it’s difficult to know where to start.

To quell my anxiety towards the hugeness of my task, I have reminded myself that writing a novel is like knitting in some ways. If I am knitting a pair of socks, I don’t expect to finish the pair, or even one sock, in an hour or two. In fact, if I only get a couple of inches knitted in an hour, that is to be expected. The socks get finished because of all of the hours, and all of the inches, that get added up until the sock gets finished. The fact that I sit down and knit for a little while, every day, is what gets me socks to wear. In the same way, I must sit down and write, every day, and it will eventually all add up to a finished novel.

It will, however, probably take a lot longer than a pair of socks. So maybe I should have compared it to a sweater, or a shawl. Here is a picture of the socks I started in mid-February. They were my London knitting.

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Written by nikkinbird

March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

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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