Friday, April 30, 2010

So... Why Did You Do It?

I follow a number of blogs--privately--and I just read one blog topic that caught me a little off-guard. Usually I don't read the comments people leave on blogs, but this time I was curious so I kept reading. I've got to say, I was rather disappointed at the responses. (Which isn't to say I don't understand them, but... ouch...)

There's this girl who seems pretty cool (I've never talked to her, but I follow her blog) named Kristi who runs this blog: The Story Siren. (You should check it out, btw.)

Today her post is, "Do you judge a book by it's publisher?"

Naturally, being a self-published author, I was curious. So I began reading.

And cringing.

And cringing some more.

(Go read the blog post, then the rest of my post will make more sense!)

I always wanted to be picked up by a big publishing house, of course. I always wanted an agent to get me a big deal and hold my hand through the publishing process. Doesn't every writer? I don't think most writers start out wanting to be self-published.

But am I unhappy that I'm self-published? No. Did I realize what a stigma there was around self-publishing when I did it? No way. (Of course, I also didn't know about these book blogs when I started, either, and I thought as long as my book was on Amazon, people would magically find it.)

I like being self-published. I am the final gatekeeper for everything that gets put out there. I maintain total and complete control (good or bad) over my book. Whether I fail or succeed in my writing is completely my fault. Are their flaws in my manuscript that would have been caught? Sad to say--yeah. It makes me cringe when I think about it (apparently MS Word thought "lightening" was an acceptable spelling of "lightning"). Are they so ridiculously large that I think the entire book and series isn't worth reading? Well, no, otherwise I wouldn't be embarking on the second one down the same path. Can you tell me you've never found a typo in a big-publishing house book?

I know, I know, I sound all defensive. And I'm not. Or, I am. But I think self-publishing is cool. You have no big house to back you, so you've got to make it on your own. You've got to strike out and earn everything you get. And you have all of these reviewers on- and offline who say, "I don't accept self-published books." --Try generating any sort of interest about your book when no one will read it and you HATE all that shameless self-promotion stuff! And trying to get a bookstore to carry a self-published book? Phew! Good luck with that.

All of these things I didn't know when my dad said he would fulfill my lifelong dream to be published at 24 years old and pay to have the book published for me, since I was out of time to query agents and publishing houses.

But you know what? It was a dream come true and I wouldn't change a thing. <3

Thursday, April 29, 2010

*hack hack hack* - There Goes Your Novel

*type type type type type*

*type type type type type*

*type type type type type*


*type type type type type*

*type type type type type*

* t...y...p...e... t...y...p...*


(The above is an actual demonstration of real life events.)

So, what does all of that mean?

Well... There is almost nothing quite as heartbreaking as a writer as when you're on page, say, seventy, of your first draft and you realize that you can't go any further in the story because you've backed yourself completely in a corner--or gone in a completely different direction than the story was supposed to go--and then find yourself slowly, with tears in your eyes, deleting the last thirty-forty pages of what you spent the last few days writing.

Not that you want to, of course... You'll fight it. You'll try to convince yourself that it DOES work. That you just need to approach the story from a new angle. That those scenes you're so in love with ARE necessary for the plot and the characters. That it all HAD to happen that way. But eventually, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, you'll realize it's just not true. It's time to kiss those scenes goodbye and realize they will, sadly, never see the light of day.

So why do this, you might ask? Why not just let the story flow naturally? Why not use an outline so this doesn't happen to you? Why force yourself into something?

There are many reasons.
  • You did use an outline, and you hit all your key points, but now your next book won't work. (Yay for series!)
  • You evolved your characters so much that they're unrecognizable and wouldn't get to the next set of "key points" they need to get to.
  • You didn't hit all of your key points because you WERE trying to write naturally, and now you've got giant plot holes and no way to fill them.
So... what do you do when this happens?

If you're anything like me, you save a draft of your writing (SAVE THAT DRAFT! YOU WILL THANK ME LATER!), and then you remove the section and start back from the point where the characters started to deviate from the progression they needed to follow.

This may feel forced and unnatural, and it will. There's no getting around it. So you'll go back through and edit, revise, edit, revise, fill it, edit, revise, change things... (That's another story.) But eventually, it WILL flow naturally. Really.

And pretty soon you'll have a manuscript that you can be proud of, because you worked twice as hard for it. (Or eight times as hard... As is my current revision number.)

How about you? Have you ever had to start over from almost the beginning?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing the "Necessary"

The "necessary" scenes.

What, you may ask, is a necessary scene? It's quite simple, really:
  • A scene crucial to your plot.
  • A scene crucial to your character's development.
  • A scene crucial to the development of other characters and their relationship with the main character.
  • A scene you really, really don't want to write.
In writing book two of "The Quest of Dai," I found myself flooded with "necessary" scenes. These scenes that needed to be in the book because, really, without them, there would be no plot. No story. No forward motion. It would have mostly been a lot of Dai whining. (She whines less in this one. Really! I'll talk about that later.)

But those sound like the interesting scenes, right? The exciting scenes! The scenes where things happen!

Well... They are. And that's why they're necessary.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little bit about me: I'm a very fast reader. I'll skim books for my favorite character's names to appear on the page together. I don't like it when my main characters aren't in the same scene together. Yes, I know, this is vaguely obsessive, but maybe I have issues. (I prefer to think of myself as a romantic, for the record.) I don't like a lot of description in books. I'll gloss over it and get right to--what I consider--the good stuff.

So. Back to the "necessary" scenes.

Book two is almost entirely a "necessary" scene.

Every day required a constant string of motivation to push myself to sit down and write. (Especially once I realized that it was all going to have to be completely redone--but that's another story.) Every day I had to force myself to write the "necessary" so when I did get to the good stuff, it would be that much more rewarding.

Patience is not something I possess in spades, I'm afraid.

So how do you push yourself to write the "necessary"? How do you make yourself keep going when you want to throw in the towel?

For me, I set up my desktop background with a picture of a scene I really wanted to write. A scene I was dying to write. And every time I wanted to quit and give up, I looked at that picture and said to myself, "Nope. I WILL get to that scene!" And then I kept going.

...there were also the times where I wrote in scenes that I then promptly took out, because they ended the plot/book WAY too soon and were completely out of character for EVERYONE, but satiated my need to get out of the "necessary" and to the good stuff for a few minutes. But that's also another story.

So do you have "necessary" scenes? Do you have a way to push yourself through them?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Editing is Much Harder Than They Say

Picture this:

You write a paragraph that says exactly what you want it to say. It sounds good. It captures all the feelings and emotions that you want it to. It flows well. Everything is good with the paragraph.

You hit the "Enter" key. Type a new paragraph. The same thing happens! A good paragraph! As a writer, you're pleased.

Now you go back to the first paragraph. You read it. Realize you've got a run-on sentence. That you used the word "uneasy" twice in just as many paragraphs. That while you can "hear" the pauses in the sentence in your head, your reader might not.

So you rework the paragraph. It flows even better! It sounds incredible! It's a work of art! How could you have thought it was so good the first time? The revision is so much better.

Then you move on to paragraph two. Discover that you now need a new word for "dark" to describe, well, dark, because you had to add it in to paragraph one to help the flow. Now paragraph two has some verb-tense confusion. Can you use the word "here" in someone's thoughts if they're not in italics? The word "there" doesn't fit as well, but you're not really sure. So you rework the paragraph again to remove those little gray areas.

But now paragraph two is only two sentences long. What idea were you trying to convey again? You write the paragraph over. But now you're using the same words you used in paragraph three.

...and the cycle repeats.

Throughout this editing process, it has not been uncommon for me to spend 45 minutes, or more, working and reworking three to four paragraphs at a time.

It's a frustrating, grueling, borderline-torturous process. There have been times where I have considered just skipping the paragraphs altogether. "It's a style," I've said to myself, during this process. "So it's a run-on sentence. So I've used a bunch of phrases that aren't complete thoughts. So I've used the same word twice within a paragraph of each other! It's my style! It's my voice!"

But it was always just the frustration talking. (See? Frustrating--twice!) It was always laziness trying to thwart my attempts to produce the best manuscript I'm capable of writing.
(BTW... That sentence WAS "It was always laziness trying to thwart my attempts to push myself to put out the best possible manuscript I could write." See what I mean about editing?)

Editing is taking your draft and refining it, streamlining it, embellishing it, and building on it to create a finished manuscript. It's taking the ideas and concepts from your draft and basically starting from scratch. Does that sound daunting? It is. Does it sound miserable? I'd be lying if I said there weren't times I nearly cried. Do you have to force yourself to do it every. single. day? You bet.

It's not fun. It's work. It's hard work. You finish writing your piece and say, "It's perfect! It's wonderful! It's complete!" and then you want it to be done. You've told your story. But did you tell it WELL? Did you do it justice?

(Before you answer that, you should note that I firmly believed I had done my story justice until I started on the editing path.)

There's this thing that happens to your brain when you're editing. Suddenly you're not just reading a story for enjoyment. You're reading it objectively--looking at it for flaws. Did what the character say make sense? Is there consistency within the story? Did you use correct grammar? Will your reader understand what you were saying?

It's almost a negative way of looking at your writing--and in a way it's a little rough on the ego. You thought your piece was SO GOOD, and suddenly you realize, "I should have said this better..." and, "What was I thinking here?"

What I'm saying isn't anything new. Any book on writing will tell you these things.

There are times where you absolutely want to give up and throw in the towel and say, "No more. No more. I will not do this anymore." But it gets strangely addictive, refining and revising your work. Suddenly you find yourself wondering, "How else can I phrase this? I bet there's a better word for this..." And next thing you know half an hour has gone by on

Maybe some day I'll open up some of my original drafts. (I just finished what I've affectionately titled THE BIG EDIT, aka version 7 of book two.) Then you'll be able to see a side-by-side comparison of where it started, and where it ended. I think you'll be astonished at how much it changed.

(It should be noted here that the content also SIGNIFICANTLY changed from the original book two to the current version. That's a completely different topic and a post that will have to wait for another day.)

Because, for now, the editing must continue...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Publisher Engaged!

As promised, yesterday, 2010.04.24, I e-mailed my publisher to get the publishing process started. It's not quite submit-ready yet, but it's pretty close, and let me just say... not to brag or sound all conceited, but I'm feeling pretty good about this one.

I'll post more later. Just wanted to say that I made good on my word, and I can't wait to share what this has been like with everyone. <3

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Quest of Dai: The Malo

That's right! The official title of book two in The Quest of Dai series is "The Quest of Dai: The Malo"!

And, to celebrate the book's upcoming release, I thought I would share one of my favorite scenes from the new book. <3

Happy Easter! Happy April 4th!

The Quest of Dai: The Malo - The Ball