02 June 2021

The Rewriting Rush

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

This month I'm a co-host! The other awesome co-hosts are J Lenni DornerNatalie AguirreLee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

This month's optional question is: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

For me, I think it depends on the story, and whether I am so excited about it that I just want to keep going, or if writing it was so exhausting that I need a little break from it. Or, if there's a deadline involved, you usually have to jump right into editing once the first draft is done. When I wrote the first draft of "The Last Dragon" for the Hero Lost anthology, I had to jump right back into it in order to submit it in time (and get my word count waaaaaaaaaaay down). 

Uneven Lines is a whole other animal. There have been so many versions and drafts and breaks and hiatuses that I don't even know where I am anymore sometimes. Technically I'm on the third draft (of the novel version), but there have been draft changes halfway through, and while I'm mostly editing right now, this draft isn't actually complete. I still haven't written the last two chapters. What happens isn't completely clear to me, and I hope getting the previous chapters to exactly where I want them will help me figure it out. 

Sometimes, in order to just get something done, I just have to pick a specific task and focus on that. I've been trying to purge all of the editing comments that I've left myself in the Word document for the whole manuscript. A couple weeks ago I tackled every "rewrite" comment, getting it down from 78 to 11, only leaving the ones that will involve a big rewrite (at least a page), or more brainstorming to figure it out. Most of the ones I fixed were either a sentence or a paragraph, so it was easier to go through and improve on those sentences. 

And you know what? Rewriting is really satisfying! There have been plenty of times where I've stared at a page of writing, having absolutely no clue and no desire to try editing it. But when I focus on a specific part, knowing that if I just take a moment and really think about it, I can fix it and make it better. And doing that feels great! 

Last week I went through my comments again, finding the ones that said "show," meaning that the sentence I wrote was telling when it should have been showing. There were only 22 this time, and I only left one incomplete because it's part of a whole page rewrite. 

But I just love the feeling of taking a sentence/paragraph that isn't so great and transforming it into something better. For instance, I had this passage marked in my manuscript: 

Before we could say anything else, the waiter came back and set our food in front of us. I wasn’t really hungry anymore, but we started eating because there was nothing else left to do. 

I had specifically marked "I wasn't really hungry anymore," with a "show" comment, because I didn't really think I conveyed why Jordan didn't feel hungry anymore. It took me a while to actually figure out what I needed to say in this moment, but I finally rewrote it as: 

The waiter came back and set our food in front of us, pulling us out of this moment and back to reality. I stared down at my plate for the longest time, not wanting it because that emptiness in the pit of my stomach didn’t feel like hunger anymore. I didn’t know what else to say, and Tom didn’t say anything, either. We started eating because there was nothing else left to do. 

Sometimes less is more, but I think in this particular instance, I needed more words to show how Jordan was feeling in that moment. I really like how this rewrite turned out. It's a really great feeling when you just know you've changed something for the better.

Do you like rewriting? How long do you shelve your first draft? 

05 May 2021

Random Bursts of Motivation

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

I know I've probably mentioned this (many) times before, but I struggle with motivation, especially when it comes to writing. Like, I'm really good at motivating myself to do the dishes, but not so much at doing some editing or brainstorming. I don't know what it is. Sometimes I just feel like all the energy has been sucked out of me, and I just can't bring myself to do it.

When I actually do get motivated, it happens at random and fizzles out just as fast as it started. Sometimes I make a list of goals for the week and I get something done right away, then avoid the rest. Or another thing I'm constantly guilty of is researching different submissions for stories or poetry, bookmarking the websites, and then never actually making a plan to write or submit anything. Usually by the time I go back and look at them, the deadlines have passed or are too close to try to start writing something new. 

I have been working on my goal of doing something writing related every single day for 3 months. I think having a reward at the end is helping to motivate me (I promised myself a giant Cheesecake Factory to go order after the 3 months, and it will take me that long to pick what I want because I've been on a diet for quite some time and I also used to work there so I have a lot of favorites). It really is easy to motivate myself with food (or a fancy Starbucks drink), but I can't constantly be doing that because I'm also trying to lose weight. 

When I get into a slump like this, it really is hard to motivate myself out of it. But I am at least doing *something* every day. Even if it's just a few edited lines. I just wish those random bursts of motivation would come more often. Or that I could think of a reward that isn't food....

Do you struggle with motivation? What do you do to reward yourself? 

19 April 2021

Editing Can Be Fun?

I can't believe I'm actually about to say this, but...I'm enjoying editing. 


Ok, ok, I know it sounds crazy. But there are two sides to editing. One is the grueling, staring at the screen, wincing at terrible sentences, have no idea how to fix anything side. The other side, the fun side, is when you DO figure things out, and things start to fall into place. And that feeling is amazing! 

I've certainly been on both sides while doing my "was" search. There have been plenty of spots in the manuscript where I just have to leave a note and say, I'll fix this later. But I think the more I get into it, the easier it is to figure out how to fix things. It's also easier to look at a particular paragraph or sentence and say to myself, you can fix this right now. Just take a second, don't just pass it by, and figure it out. 

For the most part during my was search, I've just been skimming, reading the sentences that actually have "was" in there. But when I hit Chapter 18, I started reading every part. Well, 18 is definitely my favorite chapter in the book, so I really couldn't help myself. I would fix the "was" moments along the way, but I was reading every word, getting sucked into the story. 

Seriously, whenever I am doubting this story and want nothing to do with it, just tell me to read Chapter 18. It always gets me back into it. 

When I got to the very end of the chapter, part of it just wasn't sitting right with me. It's a moment that's filled with a lot of emotion, and Jordan has just been hit with something that doesn't make any sense to him, but part of this moment didn't make any sense to me. I felt like I was forcing an idea and all of the parts around it didn't help to explain it. This idea *could* work, and I really liked the particular sentence that contained it (it also leads in to some stuff in the next chapter), but I need to fix things.

So, I got to editing. I cut some pointless dialogue, moved a sentence I really wanted to keep to a different spot. I added in a few sentences to make sense of what's going on in Jordan's mind, even if it's unclear to him. He's spitting out ideas because he doesn't know what's true anymore. I think it's ok for him to not know, but I had to make what he was thinking and saying at least make sense. Going back and forth between these ideas helped reach the conclusion that the originally out of place sentence came to. I liked this scene already, but these little changes really tightened it up.

It was just a few paragraphs, but I got to keep all of the best parts, cut the useless parts, and fix anything that seemed confusing. Usually you know when something isn't working, but when you actually figure out how to fix it, it's a very accomplished feeling. I just hope I can keep figuring out the rest of the book!

12 April 2021

A Sea of "Was"

I said last week that I needed to get better at blogging. And what's the first step? Write a blog post! I also have to read more blog posts. I feel bad because I didn't visit a single blog for IWSG last week. I was just really exhausted and every time I tried, I could just not get my brain to focus enough to read any posts or come up with a comment. But it's a new week! So...baby steps! 

I'm still not actually writing, but I am EDITING! I have a love/hate relationship with editing. I hate doing it, but I love the results. It just feels so good to figure something out, or to rewrite a sentence to make it better. But getting there isn't always easy.

My big project right now is doing a search through all of the chapters of Uneven Lines for "WAS." Using forms of "to be" can often mean weak writing, so I'm trying to get rid of as many as I can. But here's the thing...there are a lot! I actually didn't even look at the number when I started (damn!) but here's a pretty typical looking page in my manuscript: 


I felt very sluggish when I started my first sweep. I didn't even want to look at my writing. I guess part of that is because I hate the first few pages and want to completely rewrite them anyway. But it did take me a while to actually get into the swing of editing. I would just stare at every single "was" and have no idea how to fix it. Sure, there were easy ones...something like "I was feeling," just change to "I felt." Easy peasy. But they're not all like that. 

A lot of these "was" instances just show me that the sentence could be rewritten to be more showing than telling. For instance, there's a whole paragraph in Chapter 4 where Jordan is describing a cupcake he's eating. One sentence that popped up in my search was, "There was a tang mixed in with the sweetness that I couldn’t quite figure out." I know this sentence could be better. In fact, I never liked it, but I couldn't really figure out WHY until I did my search. I realized it was a very telling sentence. I think "tang" is a good word for showing (maybe, I'll probably change that, too...), but the rest of the sentence is garbage. 

So all I'm doing right now is going through each "was," page by page, fixing the ones where the solution comes to me right away, but not getting stuck staring at each one and feeling lost in a sea of "was." I think I'll do several sweeps before I consider this task done. If I can't figure one out, I move on to the next. It will certainly still be there when I do my next Ctrl+F. 

07 April 2021

When Controversy Strikes

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

I almost forgot to write this post! Luckily, I looked in my planner last night and saw that today was IWSG Day! I really need to get better at blogging. And writing. But I am trying! One of my three month goals is to work on *something* writing related every single day, even if it's a tiny thing. I did already screw up and forgot to do something on Monday...oops. I was sleep deprived, ok? (It was the cat's fault!) I'm gonna do some extra work on one day to make up for it. 

Anyhoo, this month's optional question is: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Let's see...my main WIP is about a relationship between a 15-year-old and a 28-year-old, so....YES. I wouldn't say I seek out controversial ideas. Most ideas I've had have just kind of hit me out of nowhere. And it's definitely tricky to do. You don't even want to know how many times I've told myself that no one is going to read my book. One of the many things that has held me back over the years, but I do keep going. Slowly. I do think the time has helped me understand the story better though, and where it was when I first started would not have been good. It was more of a forbidden romance at first, but with a lot of time and work, it's become a lot more complicated, in a way that I hope will make someone want to read it. 

When I started writing it, Jordan was definitely a unique choice of narrator for me as well. I'd pretty much only written female main characters before him. I feel like when it comes to writing, I'll try anything once. If an idea I like strikes me, then I run with it.

I think I'll cut this short since, you know...almost forgot to write the thing...I'll leave you with a picture of the cupcakes I made for Easter! I tried a tricolor frosting technique for the first time and I think it came out pretty good!

03 March 2021

Writing Adjacent Activities

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

This month, I'm a co-host! The other fabulous co-hosts are Jacqui MurrayChemist KenVictoria Marie LeesNatalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose!

This month's optional question is: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

While I think my favorite genres to read are also the ones I like to write (mainly fantasy or LGBT), I'll read pretty much anything if it sounds interesting to me. I like to read classic novels but I would never in a million years attempt historical fiction. I like the occasional sci-fi novel, but would never try writing one of those, either. When it comes to reading, I'll try anything once. 

Onto this month's insecurities! While I do wish I was actually writing, I feel like I'm getting there. Slowly. Like I'm on the road to writing--it's long and treacherous and filled with many obstacles and road side distractions, but at least I'm on it. I'm thinking about writing. And I'm doing some...let's call them writing adjacent activities. 

Last year, hubby and I signed up for a year's subscription to MasterClass, and like most things, I procrastinated and only started watching one a few weeks ago. I'll probably have to sign up for another year because there are so many writers! I started with Margaret Atwood's class, and I've written down some ideas it's inspired and some quotes, like this one that I really, really need to live by:

It's always better to actually do something--sit down at the keyboard, pick up the pen--rather than to brood about the fact that you're not doing it. Do it however crummy you think the result may be. At least you're moving. 

Other writing adjacent activities include a plan to make the ULTIMATE Uneven Lines Playlist. What makes it ultimate, you might ask. Well, I already have my main playlist, of course, but those aren't the only songs that I associate with UL. In fact, I've come to realize that there are quite a few songs that I associate with it. So I want to go chapter by chapter, putting those songs in order so they span the entire book. Will I have a song for every scene? Probably not, but it'll be close, and I think it will be a lot of fun. 

I also want to get back into editing, because at least that would mean accomplishing something. I really want to do a search for "was," and get rid of as many as possible. I've been avoiding it for a while because I knew it was going to be a BIG task (there are a lot of them...), but I think making the existing writing stronger will be a big accomplishment. And then hopefully it will lead to some actual writing. 

What kind of writing adjacent activities are you up to right now? Or are you actually writing??

15 February 2021

Ten Years Later...

I know it's a holiday (even though I have to work!), but I thought if I didn't post something, I may be cursed with ten years of writer's block! 

It's February 15, which is, of course, the MUSIVERSARY! Aka the anniversary of the day I first came up with the idea for Uneven Lines...or more accurately, the day Jordan birthed himself out of my brain and chucked his story at my head like a brick. 

And this year's a big one. Yup, it's been ten years since that fateful day when after watching some trashy daytime television, I decided I wanted to write a story about a student-teacher relationship (because I'm an idiot!), and a few hours later, the aforementioned brick was hurled at me. I spent the next week in a writing frenzy, busting out the first draft of said story (a short story at the time) at a remarkable pace, and honestly, I've been chasing that high ever since. 

It hasn't been easy. Life has gotten in the way. Writer's block, lack of motivation, being told I shouldn't be writing this story at all. Having people tell me they want to read it and when I actually send it to them, they don't. 

I certainly wish I had finished this story years ago. I can't believe it's been so long, actually. I somehow feel like I've worked SO MUCH on this story, but also not enough. A ton has changed since that first draft, and for the better, but I've still got a lot to figure out. I really do love this story, even if parts of it aren't where they need to be. 

I honestly have felt out of touch with Jordan for a while. It took me a long time to realize that. That drive to write just isn't as strong as it used to be. I know it might sound crazy to actually have a relationship with your character, but it felt that way. I used to talk to him--we had inside jokes and little fights like brother and sister. He'd never miss an opportunity for a "that's what (s)he said" kind of quip. I've come to realize that I miss him. I don't want to lose what I used to have with this story because it's been too hard, or I've gotten too distracted or depressed to 

When I started writing this post, I didn't think I would end up talking about all this. I thought I was going to say how I couldn't believe it had been ten years, and that I'd be celebrating with cupcakes (I am, though...it's a musiversary requirement!). I guess I just needed to write down what I was feeling on this occasion, because it's definitely bittersweet. 

There is a glimmer of hope, I think. A couple days ago, I was struck with inspiration for my last chapter (at 3 AM of course). I'm hoping to actually celebrate with some writing today! I really just want to bust through the rest of the third draft, go back and fix the things I know need to be fixed, and then maybe get some readers so I can get some thoughts on what I can't seem to figure out. That's my newest plan, anyway. I'll just take it one step at a time.

I still love this picture XD