Saturday, May 21, 2016

Editing And Rewriting Your Novel

My posts are all over the place. :P I say I'm going to post and then I don't do it, and whatever I post about is completely different than anyone (including me) was expecting.

But my posts will be very scarce this summer because I'm rewriting my novel! And I'm only on Chapter 3, out of who-knows-how-many. So as a result, I won't be able to post as often as I'd like, and I have to put my Plotless challenge on hold for myself until I'm done. Oh well. More details below, I think.

I'm starting to worry all of my intros are going to be an excuse for not posting. Sorry about that. But on the bright side, I have a new post!

Short answer: It depends on the author and the book.

Long answer: Last summer, I decided I wanted to participate in a fairy tale rewrite contest. It was for short stories and novellas, and I kept telling myself I'd enter the contest. I wrote the entire thing in November for NaNoWriMo, after putting it off for months. I used the Young Writer's Program, and it ended up being around the 20,000 word limit. It was the first book I'd ever finished (yay for me), and I was all set to enter the contest.

But was I happy with it? No. Of course not. It was a NaNoWriMo and a first draft. It had flaws. All books do. And I had one month to finish editing the thing and send it in. Seems daunting, right?

So I printed out the manuscript, grabbed my red colored pencil, and began to critique the same way I had learned at the Summer Workshop, but on a bigger scale. Line by line, circling sections, crossing out what needed to be taken out or rewritten, yelling at the characters, scribbling over the pages. I took that stack everywhere, and I felt like a professional author. I was editing. I had a deadline. I got through the entire critiquing process in two or three weeks.

I had pretty much no time, and I had to finish it. All of it. Make it perfect. I had all my notes. But were they enough? Could I edit an entire book in that short amount of time?

No. No I couldn't.

But I did get done the top priority scenes. I added a showdown. I gave the MC a dog. I reworded it. I finished it two hours before my deadline and sent it in.

My edit wasn't perfect. It was almost as bad as the first draft. I was tired of the book, and I had a deadline, and it was only the beginning of the edits I could have implemented. But I put the book aside and began a new one for a co-op I was part of.

(If you're curious, I lost the contest. I am not a published author. But it was a wonderful experience and I recommend it.)

(Also, I did that entire book without critiques from anyone but myself. I wasn't proud of it. I didn't even let my parents read it for a long while.)

So I started another book. This one I did post for feedback. I got quite a few readers, and critiques, and I liked the first draft.

I got through sixteen chapters before I realized what I was doing to myself. I wanted to enter it into the OYAN contest, but I didn't like it some core pieces of it. So I scrapped the entire thing. Before it was complete.

Same story, same characters, but I scrapped it. I started to completely rewrite it. At the beginning of this month. I'm on Chapter Three. Terrible idea, wouldn't recommend it. Especially with the story you're bringing to the OYAN Summer Workshop for critique group. But you know what? It's what the story needed. I've completely changed the setting. I have chapters where the same thing happens, but the scenes are entirely different. I have to get this done for the contest. So I'm working on getting as much done before SW and then bringing what I have. Then I plan to enter it into the contest this year, and then possibly again next.

Critiques are important. They are very good things because they can help you figure out what to change. Maybe there's stuff in them you disagree with, but I might not be rewriting this thing if it weren't for my reader's advice.

Lots of people recommend taking a break and stepping back. Though I've never done it, I think it's a great idea! If you have time. If not, just plug through, use what you have, and write. Because guess what? Editing is writing too.

This will not work for you. I guarantee it. Maybe a similar thing will. Maybe you'll go, "Hey! I should completely rewrite my novel!" and it will be wonderful. But my exact process is not your process. It's mine, and it depends on the story and my time limit, and all those things. You'll learn your editing process as you try it. Get advice. Advice is good. Without it, you'll never learn anything. But practice makes perfect. As Gobber says in How To Train Your Dragon, "I believe in learning on the job." That is essential when finding your creative process. Because it is your process. And it is unique to you. You probably won't figure out exactly how you do things right away. But who knows? Maybe you will.

Hopefully this makes sense and I'm not speaking gibberish. Because guess what? I'm a newbie at this. My current novel is only my second one.

So what are your experiences editing? Are you still participating in the Plotless challenge? Were you in the first place? How is it going? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Plotless Writing Challenge (And the Beginning of a Story)

Yes, I disappeared for a month. *hides* I'm sorry. April and May are the busiest months of the year for me. And I did Camp NaNoWriMo. So the perfect time to create a blog, right? And then my computer broke down. I still don't have it back. I'm using my sister's. 

But here's the good news. I'll try to update more often from now on. I have a few posts started already, and I have some short stories and stuff I could add. But for now, I have a writing challenge for you all!
...Where You Write 100 Words A Day For As Long As It Takes


*looks up* Oh, hello there! If you're here, I'm assuming you're interested in my writing challenge that I thought up this afternoon. Though I suppose I should explain what it is.

Think of a character. They can be a storyless character who you've had in your head for a while, or just a new character you create on the spot. You don't have to know too much about them. All I know about mine is he's a brunet blue-eyed pickpocket.

*waits until you have a character*

Now think of a world for this character. Again, it doesn't need to be more than the basics. For instance, mine is a steampunk where people have wings and use alchemy.

But whatever you do, don't think of a plot.

Now that you have that much, here is the challenge. Write 100 words a day about this character's life in your story world. Or less, if you don't have time to write even that much - the point is to be able to do this around other writing projects and life. Your word goal doesn't have to be 100 words. That's just my goal, so I can do it around my other projects.

Feel free to let a plot come along, but don't think of one at the beginning. The point of this is for it to be a character and world-building exercise, as well as an experiment on how stories do without plots (or whether every story has a plot). Your character doesn't have to live an ordinary life - mine is a pickpocket and the only person without wings, after all. But start out without a plot and go from there. Maybe he will end up saving the world. And that's okay. But see what happens.

Just write until you think the story has ended. Do it by chapters, if you'd like, or have each day be a new section. I don't care how you do it. I also don't care if it takes you ten days or ten years.

Feel free to update your story on your blog, or your word count, or just keep it private! I will hopefully be updating my blog every day with my hundred words. So even if I can't get down a real blog post for a while, I should hopefully at least have this.

I don't mind if you exceed your goal, or if you don't reach it. Life happens. The point of this is to be flexible but consistent. Like homeschooling. XD

So there you have it. Have fun, everyone!

And here's the beginning of my story. I've been working on it for the past three days. Tell me in the comments what you think of the challenge and my story.

My quick fingers were to my advantage. My flightlessness… not so much. I closed my hand around a man’s wallet and pulled it from his pocket. I did not know how much money was in it, nor did I care. I only knew I had to get out of there before he realized his wallet was missing. 
“My wallet!” 
Great. He had noticed. I ducked around a corner, cursing my nonexistent wings. I took a quick glance about the alley and dove behind a trashcan, curling into a tight little ball. That was the one good thing about being the only wingless kid in Amglade I was small, making for easy hiding places. 
Especially seeing as I was a pickpocket. 
I clutched the wallet, not daring to move, trying not to breathe in the fumes of rubbish. Finally, the sound of flapping wings grew distant, and I crawled out into the open, knowing they had taken their search elsewhere. Leaning against a wall, I opened the wallet and peered inside. 
I cursed and threw it to the ground. Empty. Worthless. And there was no use in trying again here. People were on guard now. Meaning no dinner for me tonight. 
People were getting smarter, more careful. I wasn’t quite sure why, but less and less people kept their money in their wallets these days. One time I had slipped a hurna from the inside of someone’s shoe. Another time, I had seen a girl take off running with a fistful of coins that had slipped out of a top hat.  
But even more common than that were the people who used alchemy to render their money useless until it was time to spend it. In the past week alone, I had stolen fifteen wallets holding nothing but lead. Now I had too many stacks of the worthless metal to count, and no way to turn it back into golden hurnas 
I had never learned alchemy, and there was no way I would now. It was too dangerous, having no wings. I was the only wingless person in existence, as far as I knew. Plus, I was a pickpocket. If anyone knew I existed, my life would become a nightmare. And so I was left hidden and broke. Lovely life I lived. 
I leaned down to pick up the wallet. No use leaving it behind, even if it was empty. Best not to leave a trail. 
I glanced out into the street and disappeared into the crowd, keeping my head ducked low, trying not to draw attention to myself. I was small, but my ragged clothing and lack of wings drew attention more often than not. Most just assumed I had them hidden, but some people… 
I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the ground. Even though my alley home wasn't far away, the walk from this side of town felt like it took hours. Every stray glance toward me made me jump. They're coming to get me. They're going to arrest me. They're going to experiment on me. 
But no one did. I was not surrounded by anyone other than innocent people walking down the street. It was only my own paranoia that was putting me on edge. Nothing to worry about, Rune. Just calm down. 
Of course, it had been good for me in the past. Reach my hand for someone's wallet, back out, easy stuff. But sometimes they would notice, like the man had today. And sometimes they would chase after me, and even get the cops involved. So every once in a while my jumpy instincts saved my life.
"Hey! Kid!"
I jumped a few feet in the air - pretty impressive for someone who can't fly. The voice was coming from behind me, and it was young and feminine.
I cleared my throat. "You talking to me?" My voice was rough and dry from disuse, but I didn't feel entirely awkward speaking. It was the person I was speaking to that unnerved me. I spun around to face her.
Her eyes were dark, unnerving, and her hair was the same shade, cut short. Freckles dotted her nose, and her face was contorted in some kind of pout. But the thing that really stood out was her height. Kid? She can't be any older than me!
"Yeah. You. What're you doing?" She crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow. "You got that sneak look about you."
"Sneak look?" I repeated blankly. I sounded so daft, but I didn't care. I just needed to get this encounter over with.
"Yeah," she said. "Sneak look. Thief. Rat. Criminal."
"Pickpocket," I supplied. 
"You a pickpocket?"
I scrambled to retrace my steps. "No. I'm honest, I assure you."
If possible, her left eyebrow raised even higher. "Honest. Right. Since when is anyone honest?"
"I was wondering the same thing," I muttered, and she barked out a laugh.

849 words
226 today

*Yes, I know the pencil is lopsided. It's hard to draw in Paint. I'm much better at drawing on actual paper.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Chapter Length

All right! Here is my first writing-related post! Enjoy! :)

How much are you trying to tell in your chapters? How much do you need to get done? How long do each of these parts of the chapter need to be?

When trying to decide if your chapter is long or short enough, those are the questions you need to ask yourself. It's okay to have short chapters, as long as you get done what you need to get done. As long as you can get the necessary character growth and development of the plot into each chapter.

I wrote a novella for a contest back in November. It couldn't be any longer than 20,000 words, and I needed twelve chapters for each of the needed events to happen. So before I started writing, I planned out approximately how long I wanted each chapter to be. I planned for the story to be 18,000 words.

It ended up almost hitting the maximum. My chapters varied length - from less than a thousand words to three thousand. And that's because that's how long they needed to be.

There is no minimum length for a chapter. Or a maximum length. It's entirely up to you and your story. Especially your story. And as you write more, you'll discover your chapters growing longer. When I first started seriously writing I was about ten years old and my chapters were less than five hundred words long. But I was writing on a fanfiction website that said to publish the story on it, it had to be at least a thousand words altogether. So I published multiple short chapters and my story got accepted.

The point is, after that, I gave myself a minimum length I wanted a chapter to be in a novel. It had to be at least a thousand words, and I hoped most of them would end up around fifteen hundred words. Guess how long my chapters ended up? A thousand words. Guess what they consisted of? Filler, to get even that far. Because back then, I didn't have enough to say, and when I did, I didn't know how to say it. I could have easily made some of the important scenes a couple thousand words if I was more experienced, and taken out the scenes and chapters where they sat around discussing expired potato chips. (For some reason I found that scene hilarious at the time. *shrugs*)

Let's bring back the example of the novella. It's the first story I've ever completed, so it's not that good, but that doesn't matter here. What matters is I had a word count maximum. Therefore, too many of my scenes were rushed, because I didn't have the space to say what needed to be said. But there were some scenes I let be as long as they needed to be, and some of those chapters are short. But they're not as rushed as the others.

Now, other than that novella, my chapters are at least two thousand words, and many times even longer, up to five or six thousand words. Because I know how long it takes to say what needs to be said, and I take that time to do so. I'm not saying my scenes aren't still rushed (I'm working on that), but I know they shouldn't be shorter because I'm lazy, or longer so I have more to be proud of.

I've talked about what happens if your chapters are too long and if they are too short. Let's go back to the latter.

I'm going to be crazy and say it's okay to add filler. Your heroes can't be running around chasing villains all the time. Sometimes they need a break. But do not add too much of this. If you add this kind of filler at the end of every chapter your story will feel episodic. Do not add filler unless it's necessary - and not necessary to your word count. If filler is necessary to your story, add it. But then again, it wouldn't be considered filler anymore if it's needed, would it?

I've said this quite a few times, but it bears repeating. Do not rush through your scenes. Let what's needed to be said said, and what's needed to be done done. Let them run their course. It's okay if they're not as long as you think they should be. They will grow as you grow as a writer. Unless they need to be short. Then they will be short and everyone will be happy.

I still try to keep my chapters over a thousand words, and usually even over two thousand. Because if there isn't enough meat to get it that far, does it really belong as a chapter in your story? Maybe as a scene, but is it really necessary to be a chapter? It's okay to put chapters together if they work better that way.

About the Blog

Hello! Welcome to The Magic In Our Words. I'm Sophie, and I will be your server tonight.

Not really. My name isn't really Sophie (she's one of my characters), and this isn't a restaurant. But let's pretend it is, and I'll bring you through the menu.

As the blog is rather new, I'm still playing around with the settings, so this is still under construction. Hopefully I'll really have everything ready soon.

The first item on the menu is the About the Author. It's pretty much what it sounds like. It's information about me. It's in third person, because I imagined it like the About the Author on an actual book. It's about me and my writing experience. It's in list form because I like organization when it comes to things like that.

The next item on the menu is My Words, or the information on my stories. I'll update that every once in a while as the information changes.

And then finally there's the posts. They'll all be on writing, though it's entirely possible some of them will be about my own stories. For the most part, they'll be writing information and opinions, because I want to help as many people with it as I can.

That's about it so far! I hope you enjoy the blog!

(Disclaimer: The castle picture is not mine)