Thursday, November 19, 2015

Regarding Rewriting and Reading

Instead of writing short stories set in my fantasy world for NaNoWriMo, I have ended up using November thus far to finish re-writing my fantasy novel. As it so happens, I am only ONE chapter away from finishing! Most likely, I will finish the first rewrite of this novel TOMORROW.
When I wrote the first draft, I was so fed up with all the plot changes that had occurred (and, let's face it, I was wiped out from handwriting 60,000 words during NaNoWriMo) that I didn't even write the ending; I only summarized it. Writing the ending has been wonderful, but, at the same time, I'm sad that's it's nearly over. I've been working on this story for nearly two years (I had to the first idea for this book in December 2013).
Yet, I know I need to step back from the story for a few months. I know there are countless character, world, plot, and prose problems to fix, but I can't pinpoint anything because I'm too close right now. I don't see problems and remedies—I see: AKSDKHAKLHASDJFLA.
It's like having the lens on your camera zoomed in too close. When you look through the view-finder, everything is blurry and you are left saying, "Huh? What am I looking at?" As soon as you zoom out and distance yourself from the picture, you say, "Ohhhh! So THAT'S what I was seeing!" I'm at the "Huh?" stage and it will take a few months to get to the "Ohhhh!" stage. Because I'm not sure what my novel looks like at this point, I'm going to postpone letting people (other than my parents) read it for awhile.

So what's next on the writing horizon after I finish this rewrite? Well, I've been asking myself a lot of writing-related questions lately, such as:
-"How much of writing is inherent talent, and how much of writing is learned skill?"
-"How much editing is too much?"
-"If I nitpick every detail to make sure that everything is textbook perfect, will the story be too formal to be enjoyable?"
-"Are books like Harry Potter so consistent in detail because of copious planning and brilliant editing, or because the author is a highly-organized writer, a genius of his trade?"
-"What makes two people into a 'ship*'?"
-"How can I present important information without dumping it into my reader's heads via a boring, page-long block of text?"
-"How do I describe perfume?"
I'm going to take the Sleeping Beauty retelling I wrote in June for the Five Magic Spindles contest and experiment with it, attempting to answer some of the above questions (especially the ones dealing with editing). It's important in a story for each scene to either advance the plot or the character arc*, so I'm going to take each scene in my Sleeping Beauty story and analyze whether it achieves that goal. I'm also going to work on evoking emotions in the reader by writing my characters a certain way (for instance, writing my two main characters in a way that makes the audience "ship" them), and I'm going to work on creating a comprehensive and descriptive world so that the reader can clearly picture what I write about.
I'm hoping that, through this experiment, I can refine my editing techniques so that, when I start working on the plot, character, and worldbuilding issues in my fantasy novel, I can have some idea of what I'm doing, instead of aimlessly blundering about.

So, what have I been reading lately, you may ask, glancing back at the title of this post.
Good question. I've been reading a plethora of fiction, though I haven't finished a lot of it. For instance, I started the final book in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, but I couldn't get into it (I feel my friend glaring at me through the computer; sorry TMG!). Then, I started reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien because for the past few years, I've always read it in November or December in preparation for the movie coming out in theater. I couldn't get into that either and put it down.
I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen a few weeks ago and started Mansfield Park by the same author. I've read both books before, but Jane Austen is worth a reread. I've gotten more than halfway through Mansfield Park, but the going is slow.
I'm also reading Winter by Marissa Meyer. Winter is the final book in The Lunar Chronicles, a Young Adult sci-fi/fairytale retelling that is very good (though each book gets steadily more romantic and the novella, Fairest, can be skipped entirely, in my opinion). My friends and I went to the Winter release party a few weeks ago since it was nearby. That was really fun, and we all ended up buying signed copies of the book! Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet Marissa Meyer because the line was too long.
Finally, I'm reading Vango by Timothee de Fombelle. (Jack made me do it!) This book takes place in pre-World War II Europe and is so random and crazy and wonderful. It has chases and escapes, pirates and a zeppelin (unfortunately, the pirates don't fly the zeppelin, like in a certain implausible series), and a very mysterious, very Tintin-like main character. It's fun, too, because it was translated from French and, occasionally, there is a really weird metaphor or a really weird, random sentence that makes me think that something was lost in translation. Overall, it's a fabulous book. And it has a gorgeous cover.
My reading challenge was going well until October when I had to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I didn't get very far in, partly because I found out how it ended and I really don't see the purpose of reading a huge book written in a style I ABHOR (this is the style where every sentence is so beautiful and poetic that it would be really profound if I could figure out what it meant. Can someone hand me my metaphor-cracker and symbolism-index please?) only to have all the characters... well, for spoilers sake I won't say. I don't particularly care for World War II stories anyway, so I decided to put it off indefinitely. The last two books in my challenge are from the horror genre and, at the moment, I'm just not feeling like reading that. Maybe some day I'll get to Dracula and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but today is not that day!

So, what are YOU reading? If you are a writer, have you ever asked any of the questions that I have been asking myself? Do you have any answers for me?
Live long and prosper

*Ship: Fangirl language for two people that are either in a relationship, or are wished together by the fans.
* Character arc: How a character grows and changes over the course of a story.


  1. Congratulations on finishing the manuscript! Woot! That's wonderful.

    Great advice you are giving yourself on getting some distance from your manuscript. Editing one piece of work will reap dividends with your other work as you learn to listen to your writing and sort the wheat from the chaff.

    To be honest I haven't asked many of the questions you've asked. The thing I just constantly ask myself is "how can I improve"? Improve my plotting, my editing, my narrative voice, my overall writing process and approach. And with each passage I edit, I ask myself how can I write this scene as efficiently and beautifully as possible? I think if you focus on improving and if you are enjoying the process that is really the best way to approach the craft of writing.

    I must say I do not understand your inability to finish books, though. I am a very monogamous sort of reader. I pick a book and stay with that book through thick and thin until it's finished. Only if I find it offensive do I ever abandon a read. I think that is how we grow as readers and I often find some of the most difficult and trying books have helped me grow more than others that "played to my predilections". That said, I am rather particular about what books I choose.

    Enjoyed your post. May your pen be ever handy and your inkwell never dry!

  2. I totally get what you mean about worrying about over editing! ME TOO. I've gotten better at knowing what to do/what not to do the more I edit...but gah. It is a struggle. I think with practise, you kind of get a feel for how to edit efficiently?! I'm always worried I'll accidentally edit too much and the book will be too short and ABEREEKUFDKU IT'S HARD. XD So good luck!!
    And I've got Winter on my TBR to read now too!! I'm super excited! *dances wildly*
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!