on-the-ning-nang-nong:

why am I finding writing so hard at the moment. I want to write but my mind just seems to be rejecting my story and won’t let me focus, instead it wants to do other things. Focus brain

I use an egg timer when I can’t seem to focus. I’ll set it for 10-15 minutes, and by the time it goes off I’m already absorbed in my work, so I don’t need to reset it. It also helps that my egg timer is shaped like a penguin 🙂

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September Update: 10k / 15k

Today is going to be write-tastic! I get to interview a guy about weaponry and combat tactics this afternoon, and then I’ll have an evening of writing with a friend. I think I’ve decided that I really like interviewing people—learning about their experiences and perspectives can be so eye opening.

What about you? Excited about any writerly plans today?

Editing: The 4 Draft Breakdown

How often have you tackled a manuscript draft, only to meet with overwhelming discouragement? No matter how long you spend on that scene, you can’t seem to fix everything. The dialogue won’t pop, and the descriptions still don’t jump off the page. However much you tweak, something always needs fixing. Recently, my perspective on the editing process changed incredibly. The person who changed it is Reyna Grande from a UCLA Writers Faire panel.

Grande’s advice is simple and practical. When approaching a 2nd or 3rd draft, focus on one element. Just one. Don’t try to edit everything at once. First, look at the big picture to check that everything makes sense. Once the essentials are in place, then you can get to the fine tuning. Each of these 4 elements often deserve a draft of their own:

  1. Consistency. Your main character’s blue shirt can’t inexplicably turn plaid by the end of the scene. And where exactly is 12th street? How did it jump locations so quickly? Personally, I find it horribly easy to mix up these details, so my first editing spree will be to double check for consistency.
  2. Character growth. Fine tune your character’s gradual changes. At what point does he or she show maturity? Courage? Loyalty? It shouldn’t just appear with the snap of your fingers. Weave it into the fabric of your story so that the change feels natural and satisfying.
  3. Dialogue. If you had a hard time pinning down your characters’ voices on your first draft, listen closely this time around. How do they talk? Any slang or jargon that they should use? Get to know them on a conversational level.
  4. Descriptions. Once you have the plot and character essentials taken care of, start delving into the background. The atmospheric sights, smells, and sounds. Give texture to your world. Imagery draws your readers in, giving them more ways to connect emotively with the story.

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[Above: My edits from 2008. I put so much work into this page, and it doesn’t even exist in my story anymore! Ah, silly younger Sarah. Was that really just five years ago?]

I’m sure that you’ll need more than 4 drafts, but these are enough to get you started. After each draft, you’re closer to your goal of a perfectly sculpted manuscript without adding the stress of scene-by-scene perfectionism. Any other elements that you think deserve a draft of their own? What does your editing process look like?

Writing Update #2

Over the past month, I finished editing the first 38k of my story, and still my goals stretch before me:

  1. Write 15k for Sep (500 words per day)
  2. Write 15k for Oct (500 wpd)
  3. Write 10k for Nov (350 wpd)

At the end of November, I’ll finish the first draft with about 80k! I can’t wait to type ‘finis’ at the end and know that I’ve finally accomplished my goal, because then I get to edit the whole thing over and over again. I don’t know why the thought of so much work makes me happy, but it really does. 

How’s your writing coming? Any NaNo inspiration getting you pumped for November?