Tag Archives: Editing

Two Steps Back, A Million Steps Forward

Oh boy, do I have work ahead of me.

Remember reading this post, where I described my revelation of recognizing when you send a manuscript out too early to be read, because it’s still at the “this-book-is-shit” stage? Yeah, so I read through all of that beta feedback referenced in that post this afternoon and that status still stands.

As it sits right now, as a draft, THE RESISTANCE is, indeed, shit.

When I wrote that post, I felt really disheartened about that fact (and also embarrassed that I sent out such an shoddy example of my work). Knowing that mindset, I purposefully didn’t read through any of the feedback in-depth, because I knew it would either a) tear me apart or b) I’d feel really defensive and want to argue every criticism they made, becoming irrational and doing my betas a disservice.

Reading it today, in a much better mindset, having already accepted that my story is in its earliest stage and what my betas are claiming is most likely the truth, I could actually see the merit of my betas insight without taking it as a personal attack. I also realized another important thing.

So.much.revision.ahead.

I have a two page document filled with notes of things that I need to focus on. Namely plot, character and exposition. My main character was so passive, it drove my readers crazy and made them not care about him or his struggles in the slightest. They had no idea about his motivations or his drives and got tired of him being dragged around and forced to do things by other characters, instead of initiating anything himself. And there was no character arc, no growth, so by the ending, readers were left unsatisfied–not to mention that this was a straight-up tragedy, with no happy ending in sight.

Speaking of the ending, the dissatisfaction with the ending was also tied into my second main flaw: the plot. While I had the basic idea and conflict, the execution and finer details were desperately lacking. And the questions that my beta readers brought up, I couldn’t answer (hint: that’s a warning flag if I’ve ever seen one). Not to mention the specifics of the science and the magic system within it were…not present. A lot of plot holes. A lot.

Finally, there was the writing itself, which reflected my uncertainty of the plot and my unfamiliarity with the main character because it was overrun with exposition, constantly barraging my readers with info dumps and explanations instead of showing them what I wanted them to know and putting them in-scene. Not to mention I had two betas out of four who thought switching from third person to first person might be the better option.

I have so much to fix, so much to understand and so much to heighten that I got overwhelmed and wrote this blog post instead of getting started. However, I think writing this helped me get a better sense of direction.

First, I need to understand the plot. I need to understand the world, the mechanics, the conflict, the rationale, the stakes. I need to understand every angle and figure out what I’m trying to say with this book. Because that ending that everyone hated? I want that to stay. I really want to write a book where the ending that I have fits. But in order to do that, I need to make it still feel complete and rewarding while also heartbreaking.

But once I understand the plot, I can figure out the character that’s stuck within it. Figure out their past, their history, their quirks, their attitudes, their beliefs, their situation and then I’ll understand what they’ll do when I throw them into an apocalypse where 5% of the population is all that remains of the human race.

Once I understand the plot and the character and how they interact, I’ll map out the story. The beats. How we get from start to finish.

And then I’ll write it, which will be an interesting process, because I’ll mostly be starting out with a new draft–especially since I’m considering not only changing the POV, but also the gender of the protagonist–but I’ll also be salvaging scenes from the old one.

Plot. Character. Beats. Words.

A lot of revision ahead and lessons learned from this story, friends. Let’s hope I stay up to the task, hm?

Cheers.


Respect the Stages

I entered into Pitch Wars. Since, I’ve been trying (<— read, failing) not to just stalk all my potential mentors’ feeds and see if they say anything that resembles my book at all; trying (<— read, still failing) not to refresh my email every ten seconds in hopes that a request for a partial or a full might come through; trying (<— read, forever failing) not to get lost in the feed while glancing at my calendar and wondering why it isn’t August 25th yet. Those nervous, contest butterflies fueled by fragile threads and hope and anxiety are in full swing and it’s only been two days.

So, this morning, I thought, Hey. Instead of obsessing over a book you can’t do anything with at the moment, perhaps you should work on polishing up another novel? Hmm? 

When I made a call for beta readers for ARTEMIS last year, I also asked for betas for the only science fiction novel I’ve written, THE RESISTANCE, so that when I was done editing one, I could go straight into editing the other. I hadn’t looked at that feedback yet (because I wanted to look at it when I actually had time to implement it), so I figured that was as good a place to start as any. Look at the feedback, see how people felt about the novel, make an editing game plan, maybe start getting into the actual manuscript next week.

And then I read the feedback.

The consensus was clear.

The book sucked.

That was…hard to swallow, especially right now, when I’m pillaging through the teasers from the contest and that nefarious doubt is in the back of my mind, whispering lies like, You know your book isn’t good enough, why even hope at all? I didn’t read through the feedback in-depth, yet, just glanced through the general summations they gave, but the trend was the same: my main character was annoying and didn’t have enough to work for, the pacing was slow/off, the world-building was confusing, none of the characters had enough depth and the ending was disappointing, if not downright depressing.

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Cool premise, though.

Seeing that kind of response, I immediately felt deflated. My stomach twisted in knots, an overwhelming wave of disappointment washing over me. My mind panicked, thinking about the other manuscript I’d just entered into Pitch Wars, one of the most prestigious and well-known Twitter contests you can enter. Had I just made a huge mistake? Is ARTEMIS truly as bad as RESISTANCE? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Before I let myself completely give into despair and woeful lies, I had to pause and recognize another emotion in the mix, buried beneath all of those questions and sick feelings of shame.

Non-surprised expectation.

Though I hadn’t glanced at that feedback before today, in the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to be positive, in the sense that there would be a lot more constructive criticism than there would be praise. It’s not that the feedback itself is negative or that receiving only criticism is a negative thing (quite the opposite, in fact; how can we improve if we only experience praise?). It’s just that I knew RESISTANCE was not going to receive glowing reviews from my beta readers.

I knew without admitting it that book wasn’t ready for the eyes of others yet. That was only the first draft I’d written. Hell, haven’t even read it more than once. I hadn’t edited anything yet, hadn’t done anything to it beside try and get the ideas I had in my head down on paper in some sort of comprehensible fashion. In every sense, what I sent out to my beta readers was the worst possible draft I could have sent them. Yet I was putting out a call for my other book, so in my brain, I was like, Hey, why not get feedback on two books at once? 

That was a mistake.

Because both of those books were at different stages.

With ARTEMIS, I had written a draft and then went back through and edited it once myself. I know that may not seem like a lot, but trust me, that second read through makes a huge difference. I’d already worked out a lot of kinks that typically result from a first draft attempt before I sent it out to betas, whereas with RESISTANCE, all of those problems were still present. I hadn’t given RESISTANCE the time it needed and deserved to make it at least resemble a story, not just being the bare, confusing bones of one like all my first drafts are.

So of course my betas had tons of problems with every aspect of the book.

Similar to how I wasn’t surprised when there were more aspects betas liked about ARTEMIS than they found to critique about it.* And what they did critique was exactly what I needed, locating the places I was blind to, things I hadn’t even considered would need improving because I was at a loss as to how to make the story better, hence looking for an outside opinion.

With RESISTANCE, if I would have paused to really think, I could point out many of the same weaknesses my betas did. I was just so excited about the idea of someone else reading my work and offering feedback that I didn’t stop to consider whether my novel was ready for that kind of attention.

And for that mistake, my RESISTANCE betas, I apologize profusely. It was not my intention to waste your time and your feedback is valued to me. I will read through everything, thoroughly, and incorporate your thoughts into my next round of edits.

I learned a couple different things this morning, I think. The most important lesson was figuring out how to know when my book is ready for beta feedback–not only so I never waste anyone else’s time again, but also so that my book has the chance to benefit the most from another pair of eyes, i.e., if the obvious, glaring issues that I would have caught aren’t there, my betas can actually look for more complex, complicated issues to help elevate the story.

I have been reminding myself (and seeing the reminder in the Pitch Wars feed) that so many writers who entered are in different stages of their career, so I should stop comparing myself to them. Similarly to how, if I don’t become a mentee or, if I did become a mentee and didn’t become agented afterwards, I can’t consider that a failure when I look at those who did win or did become agented; because every journey is different and we’re all at different stages. Yet I was also reminded that I’m at different stages across my own works. 

I know that probably seems obvious. One book that has been undergone twelve drafts is obviously different than a book that’s only been written once. Yet, for a moment, I assumed that because RESISTANCE is still in such a bad shape, that obviously that means ARTEMIS sucks just as much. And that’s simply not the case, because I’ve put so much more work into ARTEMIS. Multiple rounds of revision, including a round implementing beta feedback. Not to mention that I understand that story so much more and feel so much more confident about it. My writing reflects that, whereas my writing in RESISTANCE shows my hesitancy and uncertainty I have for that narrative.

This is a really long post to basically say this: recognize the various stages your writing and your career are in and then respect them. Take the time to work on a novel to get it ready for betas. Rewrite as many drafts as you need to, to make it work. Don’t forget that your first draft usually sucks and that’s okay. It’s also okay if your tenth draft sucks. Every book is different. Every career is different. Focus on yours and doing everything you can to make it the best of your ability. Recognize your mistakes, admit them and then keep pushing forward.

And never give up. Our world needs your stories.

Cheers.

* When I say this, I’m not trying to come off as conceited and say that I assumed my book was so great, all my betas would love it. What I meant was that my gut was telling me ARTEMIS was ready for their eyes, whereas RESISTANCE was not.


A Change in Plans

Last year, I was on an amazing writing streak, writing four books between one November and the next. It was…mental, to be honest.

So when the new year started, my plan–my vision–was to do the exact same thing again. I had a sequel in one series to write, three new series to start, not to mention all the editing I needed to do with everything I’d written so far. The creativity was kicking, the productivity flowing. Books were going to be written, people. So many new books.

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As you may have intuitively guessed (or figured out, if you follow this blog), I haven’t written a single new book this year.

I even tried to write one. Got 50 pages in before I started over, deleting most of it. Then, got to 60 pages before I tabled a book for the first time. The words were just not flowing and even though I haven’t written it yet, I knew that story is too important to half-ass just to finish it. It deserve the best I can offer and I wasn’t giving that.

So I went and started editing ARTEMIS, my favorite book I wrote last year. And I wrote this post about some of the fears and roadblocks I had surrounding writing and how I’d been in a rut for so long. One of the points I made was that I felt like turning to editing when writing something new wasn’t working felt like cheating. Like I wasn’t actually writing, because I was simply revising words I’d already written.

Then, the lovely, inspiring and talented Melissa Caruso (who’s debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, comes out THIS OCTOBER *squee*) commented on that post and said this:

If it helps with the “Editing is not writing” mindset, I think editing is not only writing, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. I did the very first draft of TTM in like 2 months and then spent… uh… a year editing it, on and off? Something like that. And there’s not much left of that first draft. It had to be done to get to the final, but it was the editing where I did most of my best work on it. I would be embarrassed to show you some of the crappy first try scenes! I used to hate revising, but now I see it as what it is—writing—and I kind of love it.

And if it helps you not give up… I can tell you FOR SURE that every book, every page, is getting you more XP to level up. I had to write, um, let’s go with “several” books before Naomi rescued me from the slush pile, and one more for good luck before getting a publisher. It’s worth the wait! The more books you write before The Book, the better The Book will be when you get there. You got this!

And friends, that has stuck with me.

I’m only 20 pages away from finishing this round of edits on ARTEMIS (and let me tell you, those last 20 pages are going to make me earn it). So many times, I have rewritten entire paragraphs, if not entire chapters.

That’s most certainly counts as writing.

Not only that, but I like to believe that a lot of the changes I’ve made have been improvements. There were entire scenes I skimmed over which, now that I’ve fleshed them out, makes the story so much stronger, so much more in-scene. I’ve given my characters more depth, made them more realistic. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I feel like this third draft of ARTEMIS is so much stronger than what I started out with. And I actually was really proud of that first draft.

It made me wonder: how could I improve my other stories; stories which were the stepping stones that enabled me to have the tools, the courage and the gumption to write ARTEMIS in the first place? How could I use what I’ve learned editing ARTEMIS–not to mention the knowledge I’ve obtained and soaked in from other writers, editors and professionals in the field these past two years, becoming more involved in the writing community–to improve the stories that have sat on the back burner for so long?

My original plan was to try and write four new books this year. Now, I’ve decided to spend the rest of 2017 editing the books I’ve already written. After I finish ARTEMIS, I’m going to enter that manuscript into Pitch Wars. Then, I think I’m going to (*cough*finally*cough*) look at some beta feedback I got over THE RESISTANCE and give that book some desperate attention. Then, if I’m feeling really brave, I’ll return to Darryn and his story, told through the DESTINY OF THE DRAGON trilogy. I know that trilogy has a lot of work and while it’s a troped story that will probably never see the light of day, traditional-publication wise, I still want to make it the best story I can. I just love it too much.

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Of course, plans can change. Maybe I’ll win Pitch Wars and spend the rest of 2017 fervently working on ARTEMIS (wouldn’t that be a dream?). Maybe I’ll finally figure out how to work around the blocks in Natanni’s story and return to have another crack at that. Maybe I’ll flesh out one of the other books I planned to write and get caught up in the excitement of a new story. I have no idea. But for now, I hope to continue to learn and appreciate the process that is editing, so that I can keep leveling up and writing the best stories I can in that given moment.

Because I really want to take up a spot on your bookshelf, one day.

Cheers.


#PimpMyBio: Pitch Wars 2017

Welcome, friends.

I’m new to both the Pitch Wars community and to this awesome #PimpMyBio blog hop, but I’m really excited to be a part of both. If you want to learn more about Pitch Wars, read this. If you want to meet some other fantastic writers participating in the blog hop, click here.

If you want to continue learning about me and the book I’m entering into the contest, you came to the right post.

The Writer 

My name is Nicole and I’m an Elven scout who’s actually really horrible at her job because I have no sense of direction and no survival skills whatsoever I’m a 24 year old nerd who only gets more quirky with age.

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As far as writing goes, I wrote my first story in the sixth grade, where all the characters were my classmates and we had to fight skeletons with glowing red eyes with buckets of daggers. Flying pigs were also somehow involved. Thankfully, my imagination hasn’t stopped, but now my stories actually have real plots and characters and conflicts. I have five completed manuscripts: a YA fantasy trilogy about a destined chosen one who fails anyway and an Adult sci-fi standalone that pits the natural desire to fight for love against the innate instinct to destroy during the extinction of the human race. My fifth book, the first in a multi-book series, I’m entering into Pitch Wars (read about Artemis’s adventure down below).

I also manage three blogs: the one you’re reading now, which is my personal blog. I post about anything ranging from the latest writing woe (or wonder) to my quest for self-love to my video game obsession to my attempts (but usually failures) at adulting. I also write book reviews that discuss the experience of reading a book rather than the book itself over at Erlebnisse. Finally, me and three other writers post short stories at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand, which is a fairly new venture we started this year.

In the writing community, I try and stay active on Twitter (@thought_stained), with various degrees of success (I do have some Luddite tendencies that make me and social media not always on the closest terms). I participated in both #P2P15 and #P2P16, the second time making it on an editor’s shortlist (woo!). Currently, I’m the contest assistant for #ShoreIndie, which is a contest for emerging Indie writers to win free editing on a manuscript and guidance through the journey of self-publishing. I also intern remotely for Naomi Davis at Inklings Literary Agency, whom I absolutely adore and wish I could intern for permanently.

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The Story

When your stories are plagued with tropes, sometimes, the only way to beat them is to live them.

Artemis Smith is the walking representation of the starving artist trope. He’s old, works at a miserable job and has no family of his own, with only his service dog and rejection letters to keep him company. He’s never realized that his novels mirror the same problem his life exhibits: Predictable. Routine. Overdone.

When he meets a strange, blue-haired man outside the library, Artemis believes he’s only a new source for character inspiration. But when the man reveals that he knows not only everything about Artemis’s life, but also everything he does wrong in his writing—and holds the power to fix it—Artemis immediately jumps at the opportunity to escape his mundane routine and chase his publishing dream. He did not realize how literal that escape would be.

Transported into a fairy tale world as Terrowin, Artemis becomes torn as he not only faces deadly creatures, complicated codes of chivalry and an opinionated squire, but also the tropes attached to them. To escape the fairy tale, he must survive—and conquer—both.  

ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST is an Adult urban fantasy. The idea sparked at my own frustration writing plots too overdone and filled with tropes to make it in today’s market, and it became, through numerous drafts, rewrites and beta readers, my favorite story I’ve ever written. 

I can’t wait to share it with you.

The Goal

My goal entering into Pitch Wars 2017 is to catch the attention of a mentor with a similar vision as mine; a mentor who loves Artemis and Terrowin as much as I do, but also sees ways to challenge them and make them even more real. A mentor who believes in my story and believes in me, who isn’t afraid to push me, doesn’t hesitate to point out areas of improvement or praise, and who is willing to not only help elevate my story, but help prepare it (and me) for the eyes of the world.

As a mentee, I can promise an old-fashioned work ethic, positive and prompt communication, a willing, patient ear, relentless optimism and dragon GIFs. In a mentor-mentee relationship, I’m hoping to form a bond that goes well past November, where we can continue to encourage, support and inspire one another to not only achieve our dreams, but to enjoy every moment as we do so.**

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The Juicy Stuff

  • I have a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in film.
  • I work as a circulation supervisor at a library at my alma mater.
  • I believe dragons exist.
  • I’m straight-edge.
  • I’m obsessed with Tolkien and his works.
  • I have five tattoos and have no plans on stopping.
  • Video games are my social life.
  • I have a wanderlust that no bank account could ever sate (and certainly not mine).
  • Dogs are the best thing the world has to offer (especially Golden Retrievers).
  • My favorite cheese is extra sharp cheddar.

So…yeah, I think that covers the basics. Thanks for checking out my bio. If you’re entering PitchWars, tell me about your story in the comments (I’m working my way through everyone’s bios, but it’s gonna take me a while). And please say hello on Twitter, especially throughout the contest. I can promise you puke-level positive tweets (think unicorns and rainbows level support), random GIFs, your typical awkwardness and epic nerd out sessions.

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Cheers.

**Quick note to potential future mentors: I will be out of the country August 25th through September 11th (yay wanderlust sating!), which I realize is right at the beginning of the editing round (I made these plans a year ago, not thinking about any awesome contests I’d want to enter later). If I get on your radar, I hope this is something we can discuss, as though internet access isn’t planned at the moment, I could make things work if chosen (but also, that work ethic I mentioned? Yeah, I’d work my ass off to ensure those two weeks, if editing wasn’t an option, felt like I was still working the whole time).


Insights With Editing

I don’t think there is any “correct” way to edit your novel. You just gotta find what works best for you in that given moment or that given manuscript and continue to strive to create the best story you can.

That said, I’ve discovered some interesting differences editing ARTEMIS for the second time than my previous editing go-arounds.

The first comes thanks to the input from other writers, i.e., I sought help from beta readers. Last November, I sent my manuscript out with a questionnaire, looking for any sort of guidance and outside input to help enlighten this blind creator to the flaws and areas of improvement within her creation. I’d sought out opinions from others before, but never was I so organized or specific. Not only did I give a little more guidance as to what I was looking for, feedback wise, instead of the simple, “Do you like it?” generalization, but I also got opinions from five people instead of just one other person. And not from family members, either. Five fellow writers, all in different stages of their careers.

Their feedback has been invaluable.

Not only was I able to create a six page document of ideas and suggestions based off their advice, but I also made a copy of my manuscript, went through it and inserted all of their line edits. Every time I finish editing a chapter, I compare it to the chapter that I marked up based on their feedback. And almost every single time, the typos that I missed when I first sent out this manuscript, I missed again editing it myself, e.g., using lead when I meant led happened almost every time I use the word.

It never fails to blow my mind how often I’ll have these little mistakes and how I continually miss them, which is just one example of how important a second pair of eyes is.

The feedback from my betas, not only with the line edits, but the larger scale issues they pointed out, as well, has proven invaluable, as aforementioned. I don’t think I’ll go through editing a book again without seeking out betas to get a second (or sixth) opinion, but probably after I’ve had a chance to edit the book at least once myself.

The other major difference I’ve noticed doing these revisions is how I really do have to obey my moods in order to do this properly. Considering I’ve been in such a writing rut recently, I’ve been really focused on trying to write/edit every day to get back into the groove of things. Or finish so many chapters a week.

Sometimes, that desire to write consistently has taken away from the quality of the work I produced. Instead of actually editing and looking at the areas I needed to improve on in each scene (some things as minor as typos, others as grand as deleting and reworking entire sections), I was just trying to fly through the pages. I got through a couple of chapters before I realized that I needed to slow down and actually be willing to do the work.

Even if that meant on the days that I wasn’t willing, I didn’t force it for the sake of consistency.

I do think there is a difference between just being lazy and actually recognizing when you’re not in a mood to put in the work writing. But there have been times in the past month where I’m reading through a chapter and I’ve made all these notes of the elements I need to change, yet I haven’t made any of those changes, yet I made a move to cross off editing that chapter on my To-Do list. Or every single word I read, I immediately think is shit. It took me a couple times, reading through chapters without actually editing them, before I finally forced myself to take a step back, go do something else and then return to that chapter when I’m in a better frame of mind.

And every single time, I’ve found my work to be better than what I thought it was when I was in a foul mood. And every single time, I’ve made the changes I knew I needed to be making, but was just too lazy to make the previous time I sat time to work on it.

So, yeah. I’m not writing every day. Sometimes, I only work for 15 minutes. Sometimes, it’s three hours. Sometimes, it takes me a week to get through a chapter. Other times, I can fly through three in one session. But I’ve found that by listening to my own emotions and actually taking the time to think about what I’m actually feeling and the source behind those emotions, actually really helps my writing. I’ve come to be able to recognize when I’m looking for an excuse to waste time on Pinterest–and instead sit my butt down in that chair and force myself to get the work done–or when outside influences are risking the quality of my work. I’ve also become more keen to recognizing when I’m really in the mood to write and giving myself permission to listen to that desire, even if that means I have to send an apologetic email for failing behind on X, Y or Z.

I only have about 35 pages left to edit before I’ve finished another draft of ARTEMIS. It could take me a day or it could take me a month to finish. But I’m choosing to stop caring how long it takes and instead, do everything I can to make sure I’m creating my best work and always putting in 100% when I sit down to write.

Not gonna lie: I’m pretty jazzed about the progress I’ve made and have a lot of hope for this story. And that’s a feeling I most certainly missed.

Cheers.


Defeating the Brain

So, writing and your brain. Your brain is, arguably, the biggest asset to assist telling and crafting your stories. It also, not surprisingly, is your biggest enemy. One that I’ve been battling–and losing to–for the past six, seven months. There are three main areas, I think, where my brain has created mindsets and thoughts detrimental to my writing game, to the point where I easily went weeks without writing at all.

I’m writing this post to remind myself how to fight back.

Mindset One: Writing is Work

I mean, yes. I know there is a stigma that writing is easy or maybe even a waste of time, but both of those are absolute lies. Writing takes a lot of work. Sure, it could be defined as simple: put words together until they form coherent sentences that tell a story. But there is a lot of finessing involved. There are a lot of drafts, returning to and reworking what was previously written. And, personally, I think the fact that you have to constantly battle your own head–and that battle usually doesn’t stop even after you’re published and doing well–makes it one of the hardest jobs of all. So, yeah, writing is work. Writing takes work. But what I’ve been struggling with is treating writing like work.

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Hold a moment, lemme explain.

I recently started editing ARTEMIS again. Last week, I opened up my latest draft, scrolled down to the chapter I last left off on with every intention of working on it again. But then I realized that chapter needed a lot of work. It was filled with repetition of ideas and information that needed to be resorted, cut and most likely reworded. There wasn’t enough detail to truly put the reader in-scene and I needed to figure out what the point of that chapter was, really. Knowing all of that needed to happen after reading just the opening line of the scene, I actually closed the draft and decided to work on it the next day. I just wasn’t in the mood to try and figure that shit out. In that moment, I was viewing writing as work.

Let’s look at that scenario from a different angle, for a moment.

Those issues still exist in that chapter. But instead of looking at it as, “Shit, I need to ground readers in-scene and add in all of this description,” how about: “Alright, let’s see how interesting I can describe this room layout. What do I see? What do readers need to see? How is it important? What does it tell? Let’s put all that into words as beautifully as I know how.” Okay, let’s try again. “Wow, this chapter just told me X three different ways in three different paragraphs over five pages. This chapter is everywhere, without any focus. I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing.” Instead: “How about I make an outline of what this chapter needs to convey and then figure out how Artemis would logically tell it. Let’s make some beats and rework the info that way. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate his humor. It’s one of your favorite aspects of his character.”

The work hasn’t vanished. The work still definitely needs to be done. But when I think of it as work, I’m definitely not as eager to complete it, sometimes to the point that I choose not to do it at all (a luxury I have considering my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet). Yet when I think of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, to improve my writing to another degree, to push myself that much further, to give this story everything it deserves and more; I’m not only more eager to work on it (most of the time), but I also enjoy it.

Last night, I finally returned to that chapter. At first, I reread that opening line and I just wanted to pull up another tab and start browsing through social media. I didn’t want to put in that work. But I just forced myself to keep reading, thinking in the back of my head, How can you make this better? And how can you have fun while doing it? I ended up not only “finishing” editing that entire chapter, but I also wrote for almost two hours–a lot longer than the planned 30 minutes I wanted to edit.

It’s a simple change in mindset, a simple change in how I view the work I’m doing. But it’s a trick that actually helps overcome this pesky brain of mine.

Mindset Two: Editing Doesn’t Count

This is stupid.

So I’ve had a writing drought recently. And though the past two weeks, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things by editing ARTEMIS, my brain will sometimes whisper that I’m still fully stuck in my rut, because I’m not writing anything new. Editing something I’ve already written doesn’t count.

Again: stupid.

Of course editing counts. Hell, I often find myself working harder when I’m on draft two or three of something than when I was just spitting out nonsense the first time. I don’t have any tricks to crush this idea (it’s been rather persistent, of late), except to remind myself that it’s ridiculous. I’m putting words to paper. I’m strengthening the foundation I laid months ago. I’m rewriting, adding new scenes, cutting, re-envisioning…yeah, it bloody counts as writing.

Mindset Three: Fear and Doubt

This one is as infuriating as it is constant and confusing. I’ve always had fears when it comes to my writing: wondering if it’s good enough, if my stories are worthy to tell, if they are unique, if they’d ever sell. I fear getting publishing and reading reviews claiming my writing is shit, my characters are boring or my plot is trash. I fear offending/misrepresenting people/ideas unintentionally with what I write or what my characters do/believe. I fear never getting published.

And then there are the doubts.

I doubt the quality of my work. I doubt my ability to tell stories. I doubt that any of my ideas are original. I doubt my ability, my craft, my execution, my effort, my drive, my heart, my characters, my plots, my worlds, my voice…myself.

Image result for suffer so much fear and doubt GIF

Pair fear and doubt together and that equates to a lot of time doing anything but writing. Ironically, it’s easy for me to bury my biggest fear underneath all aforementioned: giving up and never writing again.

Honestly, I think I need to focus on that fear a bit more. Because it is real and it is fierce, even if I hide it underneath all of these other fears and doubts that plague me more often they should. Yet how can I ignore that fear and risk it coming true just because I doubt myself sometimes? Just because I am afraid I won’t live up to my own standards of storytelling, my own expectations of myself; afraid of a negative review (which will always happen, no matter how fantastic a story I write), afraid of rejection or hell, afraid I won’t ever be published at all?

Here’s the thing about writing and being a writer. I’ll always have stories to tell. If I run out, I’ll always find things to draw inspiration from. If I mess up one book, I will always have another chance to do better. If I perfect a book, I’ll still have a chance–and an expectation–to improve. Failure and hiccups are inevitable. Yet how many characters have I read, let alone written, who have been faced with impossible odds and make a dozen mistakes–sometimes even failed drastically–only to come out victorious in the end? No matter how many times their brains told them it was impossible, they pushed forward.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Push forward and write stories, no matter how many times or how many ways my brain tries to convince me to do to otherwise.

Cheers.


Harsh Personal Truths

Months have passed since I began questioning my identity–and my claim–as a writer. Since November, I’ve struggled to write anything, which has hit me harder than it ever has before. Back when I really started writing more consistently (and tentatively say seriously), I’d still always go months without writing anything, before picking a project back up or starting something new.  And it never really bothered me. I never questioned whether I was a writer or not. I got busy. Life got in the way. I was in school, which got harder and busier with every passing year. Not writing for months just made sense.

Then, last year, I wrote four books.

I’ve never been so productive writing in my life. And it felt amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more whole, when writing was my norm, something that I structured everything else around; the main aspect in my life that took precedence. I think that’s why these past few months struggling to write, hating what I’ve written when I do, or–the worse of it–choosing not to write at all out of fear, have been so difficult to me; so difficult, in fact, that I’ve begun to feel false when I claim to be a writer.

How can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Sure, I’ve written books. Half a dozen of them. Sure, I have ideas for more and plans to write them. Sure, I’m part of a short story blog and have been writing those, but short stories have never been my medium. Novels are. So can I still call myself a writer if I allow months to go by and not work on what I’m most passionate about? If I give into fear? If I choose to do other things instead of write?

I’m not sure.

I know everyone will have their own opinion on this. And if you’ve been in a writing rut like me, I don’t want you to think my judgments I’m placing on myself should also be placed onto you. Each of us has our own definition and parameters as to what qualifies us to be labeled writers. And I’m discovering, lately, that for me personally, when I’m not writing, I feel like a fraud based on my own definition. A writer writes. Period. Maybe not every day–I will never deny the power that life has and its uncanny ability to get in the way. But they try. Oh, do they try. Certainly much more than I have these past few months.

I’ve also discovered I hate feeling like a fraud–especially when it’s associated with the aspect of my identity that I feel is most truly me.

Luckily, I also know how to fix that: by writing.

Currently, I’m about to undergo the first round of edits over ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. And I certainly count editing as writing. I’m excited about these edits. But ever since I started planning out these edits–almost a month ago–that fear, that sense of falsehood, that disconnect between my identity and my actions, has still lingered. Even now, as I finish this post, with every intention to go and work on revamping my first chapter after I finish this, m heart is filled with fear. Fear of what? I’m not truly sure. But I do know that I loathe that feeling. And I miss the elation of writing. I miss the dedication I had. I miss creating worlds that I fall in love with and characters that become true friends. I miss stumbling upon narratives that I never planned in my outline, yet excite me more than anything I could have ever plotted. I miss storytelling. I miss the details, the environments. I miss challenging myself. I miss how dark my stories become, threaded with gore and littered with tombstones–just as much as I miss how they are always glistening with stubborn hope and positivity, despite the darkness.

So, please excuse me as I go search for that elation once more. Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers write, despite.

Cheers.