the Great Slump

greatslumpThis time last year, I was deep in the trenches of editing the first draft of my still current work-in-progress. The first book in a series of five. I was mostly working on rewriting a large portion of the novel which no longer worked after a few changes made to the beginning half of the book. Now, a year later, I’m working on the third draft, of the same book.

I had decided for NaNoWriMo in an effort to give myself a little space from the current WIP, I would start the sequel. I had spent much of October working on an unprecedented outline that encompassed the better part of almost 20 pages. It was far ranging in it’s scope and it was unlike any other outline I had ever devised. I was ready, I was excited. I couldn’t wait for November.

And then… nothing.

Barely a word. A week in and I had somehow managed to drudge my way through three thousand words, but I was far behind the suggested NaNo amount and leagues behind my personal goal in the effort to finish 100k words in that same month. By the second week of November, my word count was still no further, I was drawing a blank, in spite of everything I knew about where I was going, I couldn’t seem to get there.

What had changed between October and November? Had I lost my muse or was I simply burnt out? I could barely manage to write a simple blog post and I had begun to wonder, if my muse had left the building, was I ever going to get her back?

It’s now two weeks into December, and I’m still no further with the sequel than I had been in the start of November. I still have no idea what’s caused my slump or why it is that with a greater outline than ever I’m further away from knowing where to begin. So I’ve gone back to editing, in the hopes that eventually when I have finished the third/fourth draft of my current WIP that maybe, just maybe I’ll be ready to start the sequel.

Looking to 2015

It’s hard to believe there are only really two months left in 2014. October is almost over, and Christmas will be here before we know it (actually according to my local Smith’s it may already be Christmas as they already have a tree up, and no I am not kidding).

It feels like only yesterday it was my birthday and graduation week, now I’m officially 23, I’ve graduated college and to top it all off I’ve been at my job officially 2 months this week. It’s weird how quickly the time just passes, it seems like only yesterday I was working on NaNoWriMo and here we are yet again, November is but a few weeks away. I’ve already planned out my novel for the month, and I’m thrilled to be starting, but I’ve still got quite a bit of work to do on the editing draft 3 front before I can begin on November first.

But looking ahead to 2015, there’s a lot I have to think about, you may have noticed that my annual graphics update occurred a few blog posts ago, I decided to go for a more minimalist feel, with a transparent bar behind the title. I’ve created an official 2015 design update for the website, but I have some important decisions to make before I commit to anything and there will be blogposts to follow on that subject.

Mostly 2015 will be dedicated to getting my work-in-progress ready to send out to agents and getting it published. There are a number of things I’d like to try, writing wise. I’d particularly like to try writing an essay, or even short stories. I have some ideas for different things, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Third Draft Blues

Wednesday on my Facebook Page, I shared a brilliant blog post by Chuck Wendig, where he discussed how the second draft doesn’t get the attention it deserves. And more importantly, what you need to now about the second draft of your novel. It was exactly the post I needed to read.

I had just finished reading over the second draft of my novel and I found myself with a conundrum on my hands, there was still quite a bit of work that needed to be done before I could officially begin editing, and it would require a cut of almost 35,000 words of the novel. I had previously already wreaked my way through the latter half of the novel, only to find the first half of the novel requiring a bit of care in it’s wake. I was distraught, and frustrated, how was it possible that I was approaching the third draft and I was still in need of a cut like this? Then, Chuck’s words of wisdom came to my rescue:

Sometimes you have to write the wrong thing to figure out how to write the right thing.

This is a sentiment that anyone who is not a writer would likely not understand. To the non-writer and even some new authors, this sentence seems almost counterintuitive, and yet as writers we know. Writing is, a strange and meticulous process. It requires a great deal more work than just the first draft or even first couple of drafts can hope to deliver. I knew going into my edits that there were going to be things I wanted to change, things that needed to be changed for the sake of the story. But until the words are actually out, you have no idea how much exactly is going to need to changed. At first glance, the change seemed almost superficial in the sense that it didn’t seem like something that would take up that much word count. It was a slight change of scenery, or so I thought. But that slight change of scenery ended up having vast and far reaching implications. Implications which I suspect may not be fully clear until well into the actual editing process of draft 3.

For now however, I will be hard at work attempting to makeup the lost word count, before my November 1st deadline.

Bad Author Behavior

I recently read an article in the Guardian regarding an author (who shall remain nameless) who I believe has exhibited the worst in what I call: Bad Author Behavior. As writers there are only a few cardinal rules that absolutely should never be broken, one of them and perhaps the most important of them, is never ever EVER respond to negative reviews. It’s difficult at times, because you put your heart and soul into something and you want people to like it, but the reality is that, not everyone is going to like it. People don’t owe you anything (as Chuck Wendig noted in his most recent blogpost), nobody has to like your book just because you think they do. But if they write a negative review, it’s probably a very very bad idea to respond to it, multiple times, calling them out on how many ways they are wrong, and demanding they prove their reasoning behind why they felt the way they did, and demanding they prove it with fact.

Here’s a little tidbit of advice from one author to another, reviewers even if apart of major blogs, are not in fact journalists. They have no requirement to show proof of their opinion, it’s a review, and therefore like all art review, one persons opinion on a given story. They don’t have to have a reason for calling your book hackney or childish or boring or whatever other adjectives they may use. No one, I repeat, no one owes you an explanation for why they dislike your book. Sure, if this were a writing critique setting I would say by all means, ask why they felt this way… but a review isn’t an authors group. You’re not there to offer constructive criticism you’re telling how you felt about it, and some people aren’t going to be nice. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also reality. It’s a harsh reality, but being writers we have to understand this early on, because it isn’t going to be pretty and could end up leading to a lot of very bad publicity on our part.

I understand the difficulty of this, but the thing of it is, the original review, was not all that severe, actually as ‘scathing’ reviews go, it was pretty tame, and in spite of the author’s pleas for further explanation I thought the article was well thought out and well stated. But even if the reviewer had simply said: this is garbage, stop writing immediately. They don’t OWE you more than that. It’s a review, it’s a bad one, and it’s mean and nasty but it’s a review and when you put your work out there it’s the risk you run. We all know this, we have to know this, we’re writers. If you expect to make your book publicly available and think you’re going to be the one author in the history of writing to NOT get a single bad review your going to be sorely mistaken.

AN: I’m not mentioning the authors name or book a) because I don’t want to give them more publicity and b) to be honest I don’t want them finding my blog and giving me a ten mile long comment blast as they did with their original reviewer. I suspect if you looked through the Guardian’s Book Section after a page or two you would find it, or even a Google search of author reacts badly to negative review might pop up with the author in question.

When Is it Ever ‘Good Enough’?

I find myself wondering this question a lot these days. As authors we spend months, sometimes years working on a single project to make it… well if not perfect, at least good enough that we can say we’re happy with it enough to put it out into the world. But when is it actually good enough? Where is the limit where you can finally say, this is it. I have nothing left to give to this project?

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” but when is a project even good enough to abandon? I’ve worked on my current work-in-progress a lot over the years, and each time I’ve thought to myself, this is going to be it. The final time, this is going to be the version that feels right to me. And for a brief moment it almost is, but then something happens, and I find myself starting over once more.

I want to believe that this is really it, that when I put the finishing touches on the final draft that I will finally be able to put this book behind me enough to continue on through the series, but the funny thing is, I realize that it’s going to take effort to finally let it go.

Reading To Edit

In an effort to make sure I’m really doing this editing thing properly I’m doing something I can’t say that I’ve ever done before, and I have to say, it’s really really strange. For the first time in probably my entire writing life, I am reading over my book, without making edits. Instead, I’m making notes, notes of what happens in each scene and where potential edits (major edits, draft edits) may be necessary. Noting extraneous chapters, repeated bits of information, all the things one should look for in an edit.

It’s surreal to read your own work this way, I’ve been doing it on my iPad (since Scrivener has an ePub feature), and having my novel as an ebook like this, is… just… I don’t really know. It’s not as if I’ve never read my work before, but I’ve never read it in one sitting, and I’ve never read it without making changes to it as I went along. I’ve never read it purely with the intention of just reading it like a regular novel.

I’ve seen my work in printed formats, and even in the digital ebook format and frankly, it was nice, but I was never going to read it, so it didn’t really have the same sort of resonance that it has now. It almost feels impossibly more real because I’m actually reading it, and that to me is strange. Perhaps this is mostly due to the fact that when you write a novel you have seen behind the scenes, you know how many of these scenes came to be and you know the background and what’s ultimately going to happen, and yet, reading it cover to cover, as a reader would… it’s a little surreal to be honest. Of course there’s still plenty of work left to go, and I’m only on chapter 13 of 21, but it’s given me an idea of what the story looks like so far and I think that’s really going to help me from an editing perspective.

Sequel Prep

With the second draft of my current work-in-progress complete, I’ve had a lot of free time the last few days in between editing to work on the official outline for the sequel which I plan to start this November. Thus far I’ve managed to complete thirteen pages of outline for the novel as a whole. I still have quite a bit of work to go with regards to how much I plan to outline before NaNoWriMo, this November as I’d like to attempt to write 100k rather than the traditional 50k. It’s going to take, I think, quite a bit of preparation on my part in order to do this, so I’m trying to work through as many potential plot holes now rather than later on. I don’t anticipate this will be a completely fool proof option, however I’m hoping to avoid some of the major pitfalls I had with the first book.

All in all, the outline that I’ve written so far has made me excited to start book two and eager for it to be November already. I’m sure by the time November rolls around I”ll feel completely overwhelmed within a few weeks as one often does, however for the time being I’m going to just enjoy the excitement as I prepare for NaNo 2014, and continue my edits for my current w.i.p.

2 of 4

Over the weekend I managed to finish the second draft of my current work-in-progress. I came up a little under the word count I had originally intended, but ultimately the story ended exactly where it needed too so I’m not too upset by it. Now that I’ve officially finished this draft I’ve started to begin the task of reading over what i have before I begin my third round of edits. This is the first time I’ve really read over every line without making changes as I do so, and I have to say it’s sort of a bizarre experience. I managed within the first day to get all the way up to chapter four before I decided to take a break, and I’ve learned quite a bit in the process about my own book and what still needs to be done before I can say the book is completely finished. It’s exciting and different because I chose a different avenue for how I edited the book this time around, and it’s interesting to see how it’s working out for me thus far. It’s weird not fixing certain things that I can already find problems with and my fingers are already itching for the red pen to make corrections, but I’m trying to make the effort to read through the book from start to finish, before I start any major changes.

It’s one of the more difficult aspects of this new writing process but one that I think is going to prove ultimately more beneficial to me in the long run. The common wisdom regarding book editing is that it should take about four or five drafts depending on the novel, which means depending on how much I manage to get done in this latest draft I shouldn’t have much more than one or two more to go. Every novel is different, but nevertheless I am excited to be starting official edits (whereas the last draft was largely rewrites).

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

As September draws to a close, and my attempt at, mostly blogging every day with the exception of a few interspersed lapses in between, I am forced to decide how I wish to proceed from here. While I enjoy the structure of blogging every day, it’s sometimes difficult to come up with topics to discuss, leaving me to write posts updating you on the progress of my work-in-progress which are often not all that interesting and rather more like Facebook status length posts, rather than full length blogposts. There are probably plenty of topics which I could rant on and on about, authors who’s work and inexplicable fame annoys me cough Franzen cough, cough Green. But instead, I chose to take the high road, and not discuss the things that I find to be wrong with the literary world. Why? Well firstly, because I’m entirely sure no one gives a shit what I think about authors that many seem to love. Who am I, anyway? What do I know about YA or literary fiction? Second because, while I love screaming into the void as much as the next person, eventually you get tired of going unheard, and you realize that your time could be put to better use than bitching about various authors. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily ‘discuss’ any author you’d like, but nothing I say is going to change how they act, what they do, or how much other people like them.

I normally don’t mind wasting my breath on issues that I’m passionate about, but this time, I think I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.

In the interim, I think I’d like The Racewood Post to be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday deal, starting in October.

the Final Two

I may have missed my deadline by a few days, but as of this morning, I’m officially on my final two chapters, just ahead of October and my NaNo Prep Month. I figure I’ll probably be able to finish the final two chapters and approximately 8,435-10,435 words within the week, which means I’ll have approximately three days before the first of October. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily be taking those three days to rest, before I start work on my big-picture outline for book two, or whether or not I’ll end up wanting to start writing ideas down the moment I finish with this current draft of my work-in-progress, but either way I’m becoming more and more excited for book two, and even more excited for NaNoWriMo, interspersed with editing my current draft during October and November. I hope to have my third draft complete by November first, and then the fourth draft should be done by January first (assuming I spend all of November writing and all of December working on the fourth draft). I’ll also be spending much of October working on a synopsis and query letter, as I hope to start sending out sometime in January-Feburary.