Friday, October 14, 2005


I was looking through my writer's books for something to chew on and picked up Aristotle's Poetics translated by Gerald F. Else.

Here's something valuable:
...component events ought to be so firmly compacted that if any one of them is shifted to another place, or removed, the whole is loosened up and dislocated; for an element whose addition or subtraction makes no perceptible extra difference is not really a part of the whole.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scene Lists and the Value of Time

I've been working with scene lists the last few days (I know, these things are hard to define; my scene list is a numbered list of scenes, which seem to be lasting about 2.5 - 3 typed pages and list only basic actions and major stuff with lots of notes underneath about characters, and questions for myself-mostly about motivations and true needs/desires). I developed one for the 'rewrite' (post-draft) of my recently completed draft and also for the novel I will start in November for NaNoWriMo.

I'm not sure quite what to expect from writing after making a scene list (yes, I'm a NOVICE!). I'm certainly thinking a lot more about this second attempt before starting than I was with the first. Since I really can't use much of what I wrote for the first draft, I'm hoping that writing with an outline, and a better idea of the story arc and how the major ideas of the story will be expressed, will help me with this second one. Some say outlining helps free your mind from the 'mechanics' of the story so that you can write. I'm hoping that's how it will work for me.

One of the more beneficial things I'm learning right now is the value of time. The value of letting a night pass after you've had a flush of ideas to let all levels of your mind think about things for a little while, let the inconsistencies and the obvious structural problems, repetitions and faultlines in the plot reveal themselves. Obviously I'm not learning how to write shorter sentences.

Then there's stalling; I'm being all reverent or something towards the act of beginning the rewrite (I have a completed first draft of which I can use about 3% of actual writing). Like, if I wait another day the sudden answer to the tiny thing that will make the book umpteens more wonderful than if I didn't wait that extra day to think of that most wonderful thing... Isn't it pathetic? Anyway, the rules for NaNo state that you can't do any actual writing before Nov. 1. Meaning I should get off my friggin' ass (I mean, get on my friggin' ass?) and start with this rewrite, so I can be at least partway done with that when I start the new project!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Death Cry of the First Draft

I've been pointlessly mulling over whether or not I should adopt this new plan for the rewrite; this altered, simplified, tighter, boiled-down (more predictable?) plot line. It's pointless because the current attempt at plot is, well, a mess. What is it I'm afraid to lose?

I find some part of myself wanting to read through the whole draft again. Do I not remember rolling my eyes at about half of it and sighing heavily along with my characters through the other half? Besides, I've already taken all the pages out of order (so I kind of have read it twice). I fantasize about a way: instead of writing whole new scenes, I can just, ya know...cut ten thousand words or so, add a few sentences here or there (or just rewrite the sentences that already exist, one by one.) Am I under the false hope that maybe, if I make the sentences sound 'literary' enough, I could pull it off? The answer is obviously No.

But it's not me, it's the mass of paper sitting there, begging not to be ravaged through, the meaningful parts separated messily from their original contexts, like some reality show where everyone's conversations are edited to create a new conversation, the complete opposite of reality, and when the participants watch they say, "It wasn't like that!" "First Draft" is trying to claim its own reality or something, its own "rights" as opposed to its contribution to the final product. Really, it's my ego that's all enmeshed into those pages; but you could have told me that, I'm sure. (God, am I having an its/it's obsession? I still need to learn awhile/a while..)

At the same time, I'm so excited about this new opportunity to recraft the story. Not just cut a bunch of paragraphs and stitch the disattached pieces together. I mean, they say kill your darlings. It's crazy: I know how crappy it is, these are most definitely not my darlings, and I still feel sentimental towards the damn thing. Words have such power. :P The good news is, I know there is at least one scene (out of a now proposed 36) that will stay, for the most part, intact. Also on the plus side, one of the characters that I cut had a name that was too similar to the main character's name (they both ended in the "ee" sound) so I don't have to go about changing her name everywhere - she no longer exists in the rewrite.

Do you know what I worry about? That I'll die and someone is going to go through all my crappy-ass writing. And more importantly, my journals. (Of course that co-exists with the idea that someone, anyone, would find it intriguing and I would be posthumously appreciated - one can dream morbid dreams, can't she?)

Well...I may indulge myself with one more reading of the draft. I haven't decided yet, I don't want to be hasty about it. But I don't think it's going to seduce me at all. It might be like running into that unkempt, ugly, annoying person you met a long time ago and noticing that she's even more flawed and annoying than she was before, and you're just trying to protect yourself from the horrible glare.

In other news, I'm thinking more about the next novel too...some new stuff sort of came up today (reading is an excellent tool for inspiration) that I think I'll pursue further with some notes tomorrow. My working title for Novel number 2 is Shiny Metallics. I don't yet have a set title for my first one, but I'll get there eventually. I'd like to be significantly through the rewrite by the time November comes, so I can focus on the next one and let the rewrite rest in the drawer for a while (did I use that right? I can't remember).

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Method to my Madness...and it is indeed Madness

Over the last few days I wrote out scene cards for all the pieces of my novel. I ended up with 69 cards. Then I went through them a few times, eliminated all the scenes that were not essential to the basic story, and started working with the ones I had left (I think there were about 25 - yeah, a lot of gaps).

I knew going into this that the rewrite/first revision was going to be a bitch, and this was proven last night. I started working out how the story was unfolding, along with reading my sparse notes from the first read (I wanted to only get the really major stuff; and as I suspected, those notes I wrote two weeks ago or five weeks ago about how 'such and such' needs to be changed are now completely meaningless...those scenes or characters are not even making it to the second draft. Glad I didn't spend too much time making notes on that stuff!)

The most work and the most reward came from when I made a numbered list in Word of the scenes, then started adding new scene ideas, making things make more sense, moving around the scenes, cutting out unnecessary characters (I lost two characters, one of which is fairly major (she appears in a lot of scenes) but this is a good thing, I think.) A story actually started to come together on those pages. The unedited scene list with added details ended up being about 8 pages, and my shortened scene list, which only had basics, ended up being 3 pages.

Not much will be surviving from the first draft. It will be like writing a brand new book, with several elements pulled from the "old" one. I am scared about this, but I think my new story arrangement is a lot more pulled together. As I read the first draft, and went through all the index cards after I had recorded all the scenes, I thought, "This shit is all over the place!" Hopefully the rewrite will be tighter.

Some strange things: symbols that were in the draft and were actually attached to someone else or some other idea became important in different ways in my new story outline. The major plot point that I was afraid earlier was a mistake and would have to be ignored turns out to be one of the main and most important elements in the book. I didn't quite expect it to be that way, so it's a pleasant surprise. The unconscious mind really is a help in these kinds of things; it finds possibilities that my normal tired brain wouldn't, and just when I think some aspect of the story is pointless, it shows me how it can benefit the story as long as I can weave it through the whole narrative.

When I wrote short stories and novel starts in my earlier "career," if you can call it that without making any money or publishing anything (wait, a a NON vanity publication, thank you very much), revising was always the favorite part for me. It's strange, after the words are written there are so many possibilities. It's exciting to think of something new, better and more cohesive coming from this pile of mass that before reading, I was unsure could be salvaged into something meaningful. So I'm hoping this revision process will be enjoyable as well, albeit a lot longer because I actually have a whole novel to work with. Before, I was the "Write a chapter and figure out everything in that chapter, then never get to Chapter Two and start some other project" type of writer. It was fun revising them; they just never got anywhere!!

I doubt I'll try to submit this first novel anywhere, even when it's finished and rewritten and polished and all. It's my first novel, and that means it's bound to be lackluster and rather generic no matter how hard I try to improve it. You hear so much about people regretting publishing their first novels. Our even their second. I may be writing for while before I start trying to find an agent while I truly learn the craft (instead of piddling around with it like before). But I'm proud of myself for creating something last night that actually resembled a decent story. And now when I start rewriting, I'm going to pick my words carefully instead of pushing blindly through, only proving something to myself. Now I'm proving to myself that I can actually make something out of these 100k words, granted only a few thousand will probably survive and exist in the second rewrite. Oh well, such is life. This book is going to teach me that I want to outline the story arc *before* I write the story. I definitely think, at this point, it's a better way to go. I guess I'll find out in November whether that will work for me or not - I at least have a lot more of a premise for that novel, and some scenes sketched out already.

In the meantime, I'll be going through every 220 pages of this novel, circling what parts I want to draw from or will contribute something to the new rewrite (I might have one scene that I don't have to do much with - and about 30 new scenes to create to fit my altered storyline). I wonder how many pages I'll have left after I'm done with that.

I can tell you one thing, I'm afraid that these two characters I've cut (oh, and a third minor character) will come to me in my dreams, giving me grief and demanding their characters be resurrected somehow. I do feel the bittersweetness of losing these characters, and all the effects they've had on the plot, but they were just distractions, really, in the grand scheme of things. It's like I was writing two or three separate books - so I had to figure out what was really important. Sorry, Tracey and Amanda. And Tony. I'm sure I'll find a place for you in some other book, someday.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Rejection Note

Thank you, thank you, I recently received a rejection letter from Glimmertrain! I really need to be submitting more (and to more realistic places for an unpublished writer!). I tend to procrastinate in this area, especially when my short stories seem to take a back seat to my novel writing interests. Especially right now.

Finished reading First Draft

Last night I finished reading my first draft. Although there are a lot of holes, it is at least, something that makes sense...for the most part. Today and tomorrow are for writing out the scene list, and then deciding what needs to be moved around/deleted, and for creating new scenes that fit the story a little better. (mostly, I've realized that a couple characters need a LOT more characterization to make things believable...and that there's a whole freaking lot of introspection that is unnecessary) My hope is to not become so muddled that I just can't think about it anymore. I think in rewriting/editing, this might be the hardest thing for me (shit, I used to get lost and muddled up in short stories, and this is a whole NOVEL). I want to be able to keep that distance where I can keep thinking of it as a whole and how all the parts make up that whole.

I couldn't help the feeling of "oh, this isn't so bad, I don't need to rearrange everything!" (You know, "This is what came out of me the first time, this IS the story") But in truth, if it's going to be something good, I need to. I have to remember to remain strong in the face of words that still want to exist in the book that just don't fit. XD

Signed up for NaNoWriMo today!

and all I got was this lousy decal:

Anyone who's interested can sign up at NaNoWriMo's website. If you're interested, you can find me there under the name RLC! Woohoo!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The First Read

Last night I started reading my first draft. There are too many things to mark, so I am trying to leave the pages mostly blank for now (except for glaring time problems; I'm not even marking typos because hell, this or that whole scene may not exist in the next draft). I want to see if I can read an intact story in there somewhere, already telling myself, 'this crap has to go' in several places, and also knowing there needs to be some 'background' of something; the more I read contemporary novels, the more I *fully* realize that there has to be *something* besides the basic story, something that is woven into the plot to make it different than other novels. So I'm reading through my own draft, going, Yup, here's a good place to put something that's actually interesting...LOL.

I've got about halfway through it so far, and may finish reading tonight. Then I'm going to write down all the scenes (I didn't even separate into chapters during the first draft) to see how they can be arranged, deleted, added to to make the story better, and to see what really needs to be infused to make it something worth reading (right now it's yes, a story,'s boring, ya know? it's like all the other unpublished boring pieces out there that aren't getting published because...well you know why!)

And I can't tell you how many sentences are making me cringe. I mean, too many to mark. I know at this point that the best thing to do is not an "Edit," but a COMPLETE REWRITE. It will be much better this way. And to be honest, I'm happy that I'm working through my ideas/scenes ahead of time for the next project. I want to have most of my scenes identified, major plot points, etc., so I can start better. I know I still won't have a perfect first draft, but now that I know I can write 100k words in a few months if I put my mind to it, now it's time to start making those first 100k words better.

I estimate I'll be reading and writing down scenes/thinking about rearrangements and that special quirk that will need to exist in my manuscript the rest of this week, and next week will begin the rewriting phase, which will probably last through November (I start my next project on the 1st of that month) and part of December, at least. Then it will be time for another read and the dreaded handing of disks or manuscripts to family members who have been dying to see what I've been working on.

A happy thing, though: although yes, my sentences suck, there are lots of red herrings and "what?"s in the pages, there still is a basic, flowing story that is actually moving forward, and I have found at least 5 sentences in the first 100 pages (of 220 hard copy pages) that I actually *like*. I think that's a good sign! This may seem crazy to people who have just started writing, or those who have been writing so long they have learned to write good sentences the first time, but seriously. Five good sentences is not bad...

I'll check back later to write about how significantly this manuscript will be changing, and whether I really think I'm up to it (of course I am!)