Lately, I’ve been entrenched in an awful lot of transcribing, as I’m happily filling up many notebooks and I want to get those drafts committed to a typed copy sooner rather than later. The nice thing about transcribing is that it can work as a little bit of a light edit, in that I keep mostly everything true to the original to be subjected to heavy editing later, but I can do a few little twerks and tweaks here and there as I type. Another interesting thing about transcribing more than one project in close proximity to each other is that you really, really, really start to notice your bad habits.
Oh, how we notice our bad habits! If I had five cents for every time I’ve typed the phrase “drew in a deep breath” or “shook his/her head,” I would no longer need my day job. It’s a little astounding how much these frequently used phrases pop up, and I’m glad for it, because it’s making me more aware of how I write certain things and giving me plenty of flags to keep an eye out for while I’m editing. That’s the brilliant thing about transcribing. For an aware author, it’s a great way to spot your weaknesses and try to improve on them.
Have you noticed any oft-used phrases in your own books? “Drew in a deep breath” and “shook his/her head” seem to be just the tip of the iceberg for me; I’ve also noticed myself using “before he/she knew it” an awful lot lately, too, now that I’ve been careful to avoid the first two. I’m pretty sure there will always be a “fallback phrase” that authors use habitually…I’m reminded of my favorite, when Kevin J. Anderson uses the term “brandy-brown eyes” to describe Jacen and Jaina Solo in the Young Jedi Knights series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a few books (admittedly Magic: the Gathering books, which I’m sure aren’t exactly lauded for their literary merit) where the same noticeable phrase is used twice in the same paragraph! It’s always a little reassuring to come across that, knowing I’m definitely not the only one who has this affliction.
That said, I’m left shaking my head at this conundrum. I’ll just have to draw in a deep breath and bolster myself for another day of editing and picking out more of these repetitive faux pas.
I can think of very few tests to your will as a writer than transcribing your written draft into a typed one. Having about three different projects for which I have filled up entire notebooks already, I decided it was time to get a jump-start on the typing portion of my writing by going ahead and transcribing them into my computer. Personally, I love the transcribing process; often, it’s like rediscovering your work and appreciating it from the beginning that you’ve been distanced from as the story progresses closer to the end. But let me tell you, it is a sheer test of will sometimes, because I’m pretty sure, in transcribing, you are also being introduced to some of the worst writing you’ve ever done.
As much as I come across a paragraph that makes me wince and wonder how I ever dared to consider myself a wordsmith, though, I come across a paragraph that makes me elated to think that I had crafted something so lovely just on whim and inspiration. My rough draft ends up being a hodge-podge work of some two-bit hack and the creative genius I know myself to be. I have to suffer through the rough spots with the ever-repeated mantra of “We can go back and edit this, we can go back and edit this,” but then I’m bolstered back up at the nick of time with a beautiful passage, a clever turn of phrase, or a scene that reminds me why I truly do this. Just as the writing seems to be at its most amateur, I seemed to have kicked myself in the ass and remembered what makes a good story.
Transcribing a rough draft, I’m realizing, is a true test of your mettle, and a good reminder that, no matter how good you thought something was, there’s always room for improvement. I’m nearly done with one of the notebooks already (currently two more to go), but I’m glad to say that this makes me even more eager to brush up Serpent in a Cage and make it perfect, even if the task will be incredibly daunting.
But, hey, if it wasn’t hard, then everyone would be doing it, right?
So, an interesting thing happened two nights ago, as I sat down and went to type up my “at least a page” of Serpent in a Cage. I was typing away, frowning a little to myself because things weren’t panning out as I thought they had. At first, I chalked it up to that distance one gets between drafts, when the details need a lot of attention and hemming so that they fit in with the rest of the piece better. As some of you know, this version of SiaC I’m working on is actually the third draft. I had the first draft that I finished sometime in 2007 (I think), and then I was rewriting it in an attempt to revisit it. Then I decided toward the end of that draft that things weren’t working right and I scrapped the entire thing and started putting the pieces of the plot together in a different way, one that worked much better, made more sense, and was generally more enjoyable and better crafted. The evolution of this book has been astounding, and I’m pretty sure there’s more evolving ahead, too.
I’ll be honest, though; I was troubled. Anyone who follows this blog has a good idea of how important SiaC is…it’s the opening act of an opus I’ve been crafting for over a decade. Yes, as I was transcribing the draft, things didn’t seem right. Here I had restructured the whole thing to avoid the wavering plot from collapsing, and yet I was getting those same feelings that made me stop with the second draft. What was happening? Did I need to reconsider and restructure the plot yet again, as the opening was struggling to reach the pitch that I thought I had accomplished in the rewrite?
And then a thought hit me: was this the rewrite?
Cue frantic flipping through the pages, hoping to find a part that I knew for certain was cut or completely changed. I find the evidence and realize that this whole time, more than 20,000 into transcribing it, I was working with the second draft the whole time.
And then another thought hit me: wait. Where’s the third draft???
Cue frantic scavenging through the library, which is currently still covered in strewn-about notebooks as though some literary hurricane swept through. My heart sank to the bottom of my toes as I realized I had located all of the little notebooks I used for that draft to discover that none of them contained the rewrite. It was gone. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe it was elsewhere, but, right then, I had to bolster myself for the hard truth that Serpent in a Cage might have to find itself facing a fourth draft, and this one relatively from scratch as I wanted to follow the new plotline, not the old.
Maybe I knew things would work out well, or that I’d eventually find it, because I didn’t feel too stressed about it. Maybe it just hadn’t registered yet. But when I sat down at my computer and looked over and saw two other notebooks I had previous forgotten about because they weren’t in the library, my heart leaped. I reached for one, flipped it open, and let out a relieved sigh to discover those familiar words of the third draft staring back at me. The clouds broke and sunbeams burst down, despite it being night time by then, and the angels were a-singing. Hallelujah!
I only have to retype 20,000 words to be back where I was…
Considering the third draft is in tact and I don’t have to completely rewrite it, things turned out well, but it was definitely one of those moments that encapsulates, for me, what a weird profession this is. Has anyone else ever had this happen to them? Or other similar stories about missing drafts, working on the wrong thing for a certain amount of time, or just plain stupid things while writing?
I have to say, one happy side-effect of this whole adventure is that I”m even more excited to get to the actual transcribing now, with the scrapped second draft so fresh in my head! Wish me luck!
And don’t forget! There are three more days left for submitting your poems and stories to my autumn anthology! Will I receive enough to publish them? Time will tell! Get those submissions in!
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.” -C.H. Cherryh
I’ve been doing a lot of editing and digging up old pieces and trying to make them sparkle and shiny and new again, so quotes about editing in particular have been appealing to me lately. Mostly because, while I’m editing, anything I’m writing is suffering and I feel that anything I’m putting out isn’t up to the level it should be because most of my focus is going into editing, or, in the case of Serpent in a Cage, completely rewriting. Which I definitely consider “edit[ing] brilliantly.”
How many first drafts are actually fairly good? I know there are some people who can throw something down on a paper and it’s awesome from the get-go. I know some people write in a way that they ensure that what they have is quality before moving on. In a way, I admire that kind of dedication to excellence, but part of me, going along with this quote, thinks that’s a little silly. Then again, I’m loving the editing process; I thoroughly enjoy going through my massive rough draft and polishing it up, raking through it to keep the good parts and change the bad ones. I’ve always felt that making sure it’s right the first time would actually not take as much time, but there’s still always going to be something you’ll want to change. As I’m going through my short stories, there hasn’t been a single one I haven’t tweaked or changed or altered in some way, even the ones that I’ve already been tweaking and changing and altering for years.
So don’t be afraid to just write, even if it’s utter crap. It’s still writing, and even a diamond starts out as a dirty piece of coal*, so you’ll have plenty of time to edit brilliantly later. This is advice I’m giving myself, as well, as I sit on the cusp of three things I’m thinking of completely scraping because I’m not pleased with them. But if I just keep writing, maybe later I’ll find that it wasn’t so much the writing that needs to be improved, but the editing.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank and welcome Snagglewordz, my newest subscriber! Welcome aboard, glad to have you along, there may even be some in-flight peanuts later on in the trip! I have a feeling I’m going to really enjoy your blog, too!
*(I was going to go with a different analogy here, but decided to be nice. You’re welcome).
Ahhh, all is right in the world. A new Round has begun at A Round of Words in 80 Days, which means it’s time for a Wednesday check-in! It just seems right and proper, having a check-in on Wednesdays again. I don’t think I’ve fully gotten back into the “regular world” mindset of the post-holiday scatteredness, but I’ve set my goals and I’ve started in on them fairly well, I think, all things considered, so let’s have a look at my progress break-down so far.
Serpent in a Cage: I’ve been managing the page-a-day without a problem, and we’re heading into a really exciting part of the book, so I trust the next clump of pages and chapters will come along nicely. It’s kind of surprising how much of it I’m cutting by sacking a ton of POVs and other storylines, but I still like the story much better in this form so far. Page count: 158.
Short Story Collection: Two older stories, “The Truth and Lies of a Body in the Snow” and “Swing” are edited up nicely; I’m working on a third, “Merciless,” today, and I think if I’m able to do an edit of a story a day rather than a page a day, I’ll have a conglomeration of potentials in no time. Granted, that might be a little ambitious, especially when I get to some of the longer stories, like “Lightheart,” if I decide to go with that one, which I dug up out of a pile of drawings recently, but who knows. It’s coming along nicely, though there’s no real cohesion to any of the stories. That’s not a concern, per say, but it does make thinking of a title much more difficult. Stories edited: 2.
The 100 Books Project: I’m working on three books right now, making good headway in getting a chapter of each read every day. At this rate, I’ll probably have one of them, the lighter of the three, done by the end of the week. It’ll be an interesting one to start us out, that’s for sure! Books read: 0/100.
Black Dome Society: I almost didn’t get around to writing my 500 words on this yesterday; it was a closing shift that took longer than it should have last night and I was tired when I got home, but I made myself boot my computer back up, hammer out some words, and then and only then did I allow myself to go curl up and read before bed. I’m fairly sure what I wrote wasn’t very good, but it was 500 words and it moved the plot along, so mission accomplished. Word count: 3955.
Blogging: I’m already up on hits for the month, I’ve been commenting on other blogs, and I’ve even started following two more people who have been gracious enough to follow me, too! Whoo hoo! I had the chance to thank Andy yesterday, and today I’m taking the chance to thank Jackie for subscribing, too! Thanks so much, guys! I’m still doing a terrible job of keeping up with replying to comments, but I’m hoping to fix that from here on in.
More and more RoWers are adding exercise goals, and I’m debating whether or not to do the same. Right now, it’s just not a big priority in my life, and I don’t want to muddle the progress I’m intending to make on the above projects by throwing in something that I’m really going to have to force myself into. The exercise can wait until after at least some of this gets done, I think….and after the weather gets nice again.
So, how are you starting out this year’s round? Is it still a little difficult to get into the groove of things after the holidays? And don’t forget, you can check out all the other RoWers here, in our handy-dandy little check-in.
“‘Temperamental?’ asked Jaxson, who didn’t know any better, his voice dripping with his sarcasm. ‘I know our young Gilferen here has a penchant for putting fire in women’s hearts, but this easily exceeds any prior scorned lovers thus far. What’d he do, love? Nasty disease, was it?’”
Though this Sunday seems distinctly lacking in sun for us thus far in Chicagoland, it is still time of my weekend ROW80 update! As typical for a Sunday, after the blur that is usually my weekends (and this weekend was exceptionally blurry as a social life seemed to blossom like a wildflower in springtime), I don’t have a great deal to report, though I have steadily been adding to the revision piece, I’ve done some brainstorming for BDS, and this morning’s shower inspired a whole new project. My cat has knocked over my coffee in an effort to get me to cuddle with him, and all I can do is wistfully sigh, wish I didn’t have to go into work in a little bit, and desire to just sit and write.
Tomorrow’s Monday, though, usually my day off, so unless that’s changed, I will always have tomorrow. Time to break it down now!
Serpent in a Cage: Despite my busy weekend, I made some pretty steady stabs at SiaC these past few days; I’m nearly finished with the current chapter, and then they’re finally out into the desert, we learn more about Locke’s parents, and we’ll get to the cave where Jaxson takes over what was previously Awngel’s part and Megg will join our ranks. I’m excited about that, because I always love Megg, even if she makes me nervous about introducing a character half-way through the story. It sometimes feels just tacked on, but I love her too much, and she’s actually incredibly important to the plot. So half-way it is, and so it shall be. Page count: 135.
Novel in 6 Months: Busy as I’ve been, I still had Friday mostly off except for in the evening, and most of that time was gloriously spent reconnecting with my horror story. I’m still behind on my word count thus far (yeah, thanks a lot, NaNo!), but I managed to get out two really amazing scenes that I’m very excited about and are helping to make this story much, much better. I’m exciting to get the chance to start working on it again, buff up that word count, and polish up the scenes so that the book seems less like a hodge-podge of ideas and more like a phenomenal story. Word count: 30,520.
NaNoWriMo: …which will be continued to be called such until I can think of a title for the thing. It’s a big fat mess right now, but now that the actual event is over, I plan on writing more on it in the upcoming month, as well as going back every now and then and cleaning up, a sort of pre-edit editing to just make the thing more solid before it’s completely finished. All inspired by an incredible guest post by Gary Gauthier over on Hawleyville about pacing and productivity. It inspired a new approach to this piece that really charged me and inspired me and regained my hope that it could be good and that I didn’t just waste my November. I haven’t touched it in a few days, though, trying to focus more on the Ni6M (also in need of a title, yeesh). Word count: 44,313.
Black Dome Society: I managed to get a start with Black Dome Society, albeit a small one, and I’m really excited of the way it’s starting out. Even better, I had dinner with my co-creator in this project last night, and when I nervously, tentatively, terrified, told him what I had written and planned for it so far, he got charged up for it and we had a great brainstorming session, so it’s finally off to a great start. I think it’s going to be a really interesting journey, and I’ve never really written something with someone before, so that’s kind of new and exciting, too. Like I said, there’s not much yet, but I have a feeling I’ll have a lot more on this WIP soon. Word count: 485.
L.S. Engler’s Essential Guidebook of Courtship Etiquette for Young Gentlemen: To be known as simply Etiquette for Young Gentleman from here on in to save my fingers a little, this is a new book I thought of in the shower this morning, I jotted down a little bit of it and a few notes, and I’m really excited to see if it’s something that sticks. Partially fictional and partially autobiographical, I thought it would be kind in interesting to write a book in the style of Victorian guidebooks to etiquette, but for modern dating. I’ll admit, this was specifically inspired by dinner with the above BDS creator when he asked to try a piece of my tuna….after he had completely devoured his chicken, so I didn’t exactly get to try any of his at that point. It could be quirky and fun, and very interesting as I’m trying to explore the idea of dating again and, heck, it might even inspire me to take some chances and go on more dates! So there’s another project on the roster to keep an eye out for, and, of course, I’d love feedback on what you all might think of the concept!
Short Stories: Still nothing new to report on my short stories, but I’m hoping to get a chance to pull “Just Right” out of the coffers soon and return to brushing that up again.
100 Books Project: Not a whole lot of time to read lately, much less put up a review for the book that’s been sitting there waiting to be reviewed. It will get there, though, and until then, I just try to read, read, read some more. 23 books in one month is a pretty tall order if I want to make it to 78, so reading will probably be taking a precedent over writing for December. Which could be a nice departure after NaNoWriMo! Books read: 55/100.
I believe that’s all (har har) for this check-in! Tune in Wednesday where I hope to have lots, lots more to say from at least one day off (finally!). Until then, be sure to check out other RoWers and share your support! And I’ve also got a wee little flash fiction prompt up! The winner gets nothing more than bragging rights, but it could be fun, so check it out.
“Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layered rewrites.” -Andre Jute.
This morning, while I was struggling to think of something to write in this blog today, I was also struggling with the words I had written yesterday for the 6 Month Challenge. I wasn’t pleased with how I had started. It begins with an approach to the setting, and the character exploring it for the first time, which I felt was getting heavy on description, and I wondered if it might have been better to start the story with the main character already there, and experiencing the setting not for the first time, still with a veneer of newness, but also with a bit more familiarity. I thought of rewriting it; it’s still early in the game, but then I remembered that I can merely change it in the revision.
My love for revisions and rewrites is one of the most profound changes in my writing recently, and I believe it is easily the most effective. In this respect, I absolutely love Andre Jute’s quote here, especially as I’m working on bringing Serpent in a Cage out of a mediocre rough draft into a better second draft and, eventually, probably a third and forth draft, too. Sometimes, it astounds me how much work it is, but, at the same time, I know that, until I’ve rung it through several rewrites until there’s nothing left to be changed, I will not be satisfied and anything less will be full of regrets.
Six months to write a novel? Easy. But how long does it take to make a novel? That’s what I’m excited to find out.
And A Round of Words in 80 Days starts tomorrow! I’m so excited! Will I be seeing any of you there?
What’s your connection with rewriting and revising? Are you a serial reviser? Do you dread all the tweaking and fixing? Do you agree with Jute’s words?