Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Writing Allowed

At least for the next two weeks that is.

I finished the second intense draft of my WIP and even though I know it needs another go through - another 'intense' go through - I am abstaining from the urge to take out the red pen. Instead, since I'll be headed up to the cottage for a week, I will read, read, read (as much as 3 kids and a hubby who will want to kayak, canoe, hike - you know active things? *shudders* will let me). I know that taking a break from my editing side and becoming a reader again will help the next draft. I will have removed myself from the euphoria of feeling finished and be able to see the warts on my my 'frog of a story waiting to turn into a prince of a novel' much easier.

It will be hard not to write especially since I have another story percolating in the back of my brain and another one already written that needs such an intense revision I might as well start it from scratch again. But these breaks are necessary for me. I need to read the story like a reader, not a writer. And it will help that my good bud/CP Stephanie will be reading it too since she hasn't seen a word of it. Two weeks will give me the distance I need to hear criticisms without falling into a puddle of "OMG. I just can't change that or add more! I'm sick of the story. Don't you know it's DONE??" Instead, I'll be able to apply solutions to any problems that are inevitable in a WIP. I'll be happy to tear into it again.

I guess there's something to be said for the old cliché "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". In a writer's case, the cliché can be re-written to say "Absence makes the story get better."

Monday, July 20, 2009

How Many Drafts? And I Don't Mean Beer.

I'm in the process of writing the second intense draft of my WIP in the hopes of sending it off to my agent say, oh, by the next millenium or something. In actuality I had hopes of firing it off by the end of this month. I'm thinking next millenium might be more realistic.

It's not that I'm not pleased with it. There are occasions when I'm busily transposing my long-hand scribbled first draft into clean, computer-literate, hopefully grammar-perfected second draft prose when I think, hmm, not bad. Or even, hey, I wrote that? Wow. There are more occasions when I think "Oh, crap. This is falling apart. Oh, double crap. That plot point just doesn't work anymore. I have to change that. Oh no!!! Beam me up, Scottie! The engine 'canna take no more' !"

But there's no brilliant Scottie to rescue me from disaster. Only me. And so I plow through hoping that by the time I have everything in nice, clean computer-screened impartiality I can step back from the completed second draft and not be so worried/emotionally invested in this story. Hopefully, I'll be able to see its strengths and, more importantly, its weaknesses with an objective readers eye and not a writer's paranoia. When I start reading it from the top - again - in what I call my 'Readers Intense Draft' stage I hope I'll be able to have fixed any major, glaring plot holes or added in some much needed character depth that will make the story more meaningful.

So, my hope is that by the end of this third draft it will be in good enough shape to send to the agent to get her impression, views and suggestions and then, once I get those, tackle the story again in the fourth intense draft. I call them 'intense' drafts because I don't consider the constant tweaking of language and nitpicking of dialogue or descriptions I do all along in every stage to be drafts. To me they are a constant part of the editing process. Intense, to me, is an in-depth, cohesive examination of all characters, motivations, plots and sub-plots to make sure the whole story works.

By about the fourth intense draft, if the story isn't working, if the characters don't seem real, if there is still some niggling problem that won't go away I'm in real trouble mister. I know some writers who write dozens of drafts until they feel the story is there. Some from scratch! Yikes! Like the incomparable Jack Nicholson said in Terms of Endearment "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes." But that's what works for them. If that gets the story out all power to them. For me if the story isn't gelling by at least the third draft and if it's definitely not there by the fifth, it's time to stick that baby under the bed for awhile.

What I'd really like to know is which novels made it to print after one draft. Like any? If so then those are gifts from a higher power and the writer should just bow down and thank their lucky stars. I wish it was that easy for me. But, hey, a book should have staying power right? If after four intense drafts and countless hours spent writing and re-writing the darn thing and I still think it’s a good story that's gotta say something.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I gotta get back to that second draft ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Three Most Dreaded Words in the English Language

Double. Root. Canal.

Nuff Said.

Don't feel like blogging much this week. Hopefully back on track in a few days.

(P.S. Is it bad to consider chasing antibiotics with straight vodka?)
(P.S. P.S. If my kids are reading this I'm kidding.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It Takes a Village to Build Self-Confidence

Writers know that self-confidence is a fragile thing. We're always one bad day of writing, one vague criticism, or one reject from an editor or agent away from declaring ourselves not worthy enough, not tough enough, or not good enough to handle this business. So where do we get the courage, the fortitude, the self-confidence to keep going in the face of all this? I always thought that self-confidence was something that was either inside you or not. I always thought that a belief in yourself meant that you didn't need others to believe in you. But this week I've seen someone very close to me struggle with their self-confidence, with their belief in their capabilities because of judgements from someone else. And I've come to realize that even if we might believe in ourselves sometimes we need to hear others say that they believe in you even when we might have stopped believing in ourselves. Especially when we've stopped believing in ourselves.

Friends and family are the most critical people in building - or re-building - the crumbling foundation of self-confidence. For writers, their critique partners, or their agents or editors are also key. If these people don't believe in you and tell you that you are good enough that your work is worthy, then you have to do the work of building your fragile self-esteem all by yourself. And some people can do that. Some people are very, very strong that way. Others need help. And there's something to be learned - for me at least - about how to support people when they're shaky. I've discovered that sometimes you need to back away from the struggle and re-trench. Sometimes you need to stop what you're doing for awhile altogether. And when someone you care about feels like quitting what is your job as a family member or friend or critique partner to do? Should you automatically say don't quit? Never give up? Nobody likes quitting after all but is it really quitting or taking another path? Who are we to say this is the way to go forward? No one has the right answers to these very personal questions.

All I know is that a person I care about is suffering and if that means they need to stop, re-group and try again later then that means I will support them. They are not quitters to me. They just need to find what the best building material is for their self-confidence and, once they figure that out, I'll be there helping to re-build that foundation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Bugs, Books and Summer at the Cottage

Canadians love their summers. No question. I mean with the winters we have to deal with, why wouldn't we? So I guess that's why we ignore silly little inconveniences like biting black flies, vampiric mosquitoes, nasty-ass deer flies (I truly, truly hate those buggers), daily dumpages of rain and temperatures below 20 degrees Celcius and still call it the first week of summer at the cottage. And repeat the experience every year.


So, I guess you can tell that we didn't have the greatest week weather-wise to start off the summer. But when all else, especially weather fails, you still have the books. Thank God for the books.

I read Along for the Ride (classic Sarah Dessen and I loved it), Wake (Lisa McMann is a compelling writer and I loved her concept) and I began Little Brother (so far fascinating). Hunger Games is still waiting for me as are a slew of other books. Even The Boy spent time away from video games to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret (what a fabulously beautiful book but don't drop it on your foot) and he loved it.

So, even though the weather didn't quite co-operate, our first official week of Canadian cottage vacation was definitely not a write-off (ha! writing pun!). Somehow the bug bites don't seem quite as itchy when you get lost in a good story. Who needs Afterbite when you have Sarah Dessen??