Nikki's Notebook

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing process

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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The Privilege of Teaching Afterschool Classes

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Or: Why I know I could never be a teacher.

I don’t know how teachers do it. “It,” specifically meaning, be a teacher and a parent at the same time. I come home after working with other people’s kids all day and all I want is to lay around and be a blob. I don’t want to do chores, any cooking more complicated than spaghetti, or any extra work.

I do consider myself lucky to have the privilege to teach afterschool classes. They get to be fun. The kids want to learn about the topic (they signed up for the class, right?) I get to go with the flow and do stuff based on what the kids want to do.

Novel Writing sounds like this crazy ambitious class for 2-5th graders, right? It sounds impressive, but I have to say I completely winged it today. I didn’t prepare at all. I made it up as I went, really. It worked, though, because I’ve gotten good at this. Spread out in the halls and write descriptions of stuff without saying what it is. Return to the group and read your description so they can guess what the thing is! Now, free time to write your novel! Oh, you’re getting stuck? Let’s get back together as a group and discuss why you get stuck and what strategies you use to get unstuck!

And you know what? They had some pretty good ideas about how to get unstuck from a stuck place in writing. I love that in this class I get to have the kids give so much of their own input. I love telling them, “Do what works for you. Here’s some advice, but in the end, it’s all about what works for you.”

I also love that I’m still doing the Novel Writing Class, which I’d originally based around NaNoWriMo for the month of November and had planned to end in December with the end of the first afterschool session. I had to repeat it because all of the kids begged me to. I had them do evaluations and they asked for more writing time, to have the class on more than one day per week, and more chances to share and workshop.

Good quote from today, after I the kids said they didn’t really care to have free time for writing but I made them do it anyway:
“It’s weird, I never want to start writing, but once I do, I don’t want to stop!”

What a great coincidence. As I was drafting this post, I came across this article posted on Twitter by NaNoWriMo: Do You Write With Your Students? It’s semi-related to what I was writing in this post, and I like it.

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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