The Hardest Part of Writing

The Hardest Part of Writing

It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing this, how skilled you are, or what stage you’re in, there’s always one thing that has to happen each day.

You have to get started.

You have to write that first word, that first sentence, that first page, that first draft.

You’ve got to edit that first paragraph, that first chapter, that rough draft.

And revise. And edit. And re-write.

And every time you sit down to work on it, you’ve got to open the document, remember where you were, what you were working on, and where you were going.

Sometimes Many times Usually when I sit down at my computer to work on my novel, I check my Facebook and my chat messages. I open up the document and read some article someone linked me. Then, I tell myself I’m getting down to business and I’m gonna get through this. So, I open up my twitter and tweet that I’m clocking in. But, perhaps a snack would help, plus I like to have one or two full water cups on my desk, so I don’t take a break until I’ve drunk all the water. (All this is, of course, assuming I can talk myself into working when I get home, instead of just chatting with friends or watching TV.)

Finally, on my good days, I start to dig in. I read my notes on where this chapter is going. I read the last worked on paragraph a few times to remind myself where I was and then I’m off.

Usually, it’s faster to go from ‘starting’ to ‘reaching my daily word/page count goal’ than it was to get from ‘sitting down’ to ‘starting’.


Do you have any rituals you do to get your mind prepared for your writing?

Wrestling With Revisions

Wrestling with Revisions

Sometimes when revising with an editor, you can run into conflicts.

I’ve been almost stalling on my current section of revisions: my editor suggested that I turn a background romance into a full-blown subplot. I’ve been fighting it and I don’t know why: I like the character, I like the concept.

Why Am I Pushing Back?

  • Maybe it’s too much work.
    • My internal editor is just being lazy on how to integrate this new plot point.
  • Maybe it’s just not the story I’m trying to tell.
    • I could be struggling with integrating it because it’s the wrong story and the romance features should stay in the background or get cut entirely.
  • Maybe it isn’t the story I’m trying to tell – but maybe it’s a BETTER ONE!

Asking For Help

I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked for help. I asked my YA support group and my alpha reader if they had any ideas.

That’s when J. in my support group reminded me, “a subplot that can be cut or ignored without affecting the main plot shouldn’t be there.”

It hit me like a brick in the face.

My editor was trying to make the elements I’d presented her with WORK-she wasn’t trying to make it a different story.

Subplot Uses

I need to make sure that the romance element is doing something. It needs to forward the plot, it needs to forward my main character’s internal growth.

Ways to use a subplot:

  • Forward the external plot
    • The love interest character(s) always forwarded the external plot, but the romance itself didn’t effect much
  • Forward the main character’s emotional growth
    • She opens up, but there should be more. It should help her overcome something in her head, some hang up of hers.
  • Provide motivation for the secondary character

Now What?

  • Follow the suggestion
    • Do I bring the character back?
  • Fix the weak point, but do it a different way
    • Do I make my main character angst over the love interest more?
  • Ignore the suggestion
    • That doesn’t matter, because I’ve made the scene work for me in other ways
  • Something else?

I’ll be over here staring at my revision draft.

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What revision suggestions have you struggled with? Did you end up going with the suggestions?

What Do You Give Up For Your Writing?

Giving Up

I was raised Southern Baptist* and we don’t do Lent. I might have seen ashes on people’s forehead’s once or twice before I headed off to college, but just accepted that as “a Catholic Thing.” I was barely aware of Mardi Gras outside of The Count of Monte Cristo**

In college, though, I learned about Lent. That’s when I discovered it was a time for sacrifice and cleansing. It started to fascinate me. What was I willing to give up?

As writers, we give up a lot for our writing.

Time

First and foremost, we give up our time.

During NaNoWriMo? I’d say I spent 60 hours writing in one month, that’s 15 hours a week. And that’s not counting the time I was distracted by the internet and trying to write.

In an average month? I’d say I spend 3-10 hours a week on my writing. And that’s before you go into beta-reading other people’s work, reading about writing (mostly blogs), and helping run a writer support group (well, 2 right now, because I was backup for a 2nd group). That’s probably another 8-10 hours a week. [Note to self: change up that ratio! More time writing, less time talking about writing.]

– Hobbies

That time has to come from somewhere.

For many of us, writing is technically a hobby. But it’s also a dream, with further potential.

When you make your writing a priority, something’s got to give, and for most of us, our hobbies are the first to give. Those are things we do just for us, so, they’re the most easily sacrificed. The time most easily carved out.

Be it team sports, reading, or video games: we’ve got to make a choice and these tend to be first on the butcher block.

– Social

I’m not saying we lose friends over our writing, but when it comes to finding time for writing, spending time with friends can suffer. “Want to go dancing/to the bar/meetup?” turns into, “I can’t, I’m trying to finish this revision by the end of the month.”

Don’t ask me how excited I am about Friday nights at home, with no distractions, no bedtime, and a chunk of editing to do.

– Downtime

You know that time you spend sitting in front of the tv (or computer) just vegging out, mindlessly being entertained? Hanging out with friends with no scheduled activity or set end time? You might still try to do this, but in the back of your head is a clock saying “you could have finished that chapter tonight.”

– Fitness

You want to hit the gym, but you got out of work late again and if you’re going to get this book out there, being queried sooner, rather than later, you need to get home. You’ll just skip snacks tonight, it’ll be fine.

4 hours later, 1 microwaved dinner and 2 snacks, with 1 chapter edited: it’s past time for bed.

– Family

A lot of family time IS downtime and social time. So, by giving up those, you give up time with family. I try to set aside time for family where I’m not writing, but they usually end up being events, where there’s an event and a scheduled activities. Making family time double as social. Sometimes, I schedule family time for writing events- this year, I’m going to Balticon with my mom.

Looking for Balance

Giving up all that stuff to carve out time for writing takes away your balance.

When you’re over-scheduled and every free moment is chores or writing, it’s time to step back and see where you’re losing time and where you can find time for those other things.

My goal for lent is to stop wasting time on click-bait. Those “12 reasons X” and “30 stories of Y” and find more actual downtime AWAY from a computer.

What do you find yourself giving up?

*although, a peace-love-and-acceptance sort of church, not Fire and Brimstone + bigotry which is what some of the Southern Baptist churches seem to be preaching these days. Side Note: Southern Baptists do use dried palm leaves on Palm Sunday.

** I shouldn’t blame that on my hometown. That was just me not watching much tv.

Some Days, You’re a Super Star…

Progress Post

Some days you’re a super star, and some days, you just show up to work. I’ve been revising, but took a long weekend off and am slowly getting back into things.

25807 / 88257 words. 29% done!

Where I’m At

I’m up to page 93* and I’m about to start chapter 8 tonight. I’d hoped to be starting this week at Chapter 9, but I made other things priorities and that’s the trade-off for not putting my writing first.

Excuses

I visited friends, ate out a lot, and got called up as emergency back-up for a sick voice actor to help record another episode of anansistorytime.com (not necessarily in that order).

Plans

Try to get minimally 4 chapters edited a week, hopefully 5-6, so that the last 2 weeks of March can be spent proof-reading a printed out copy.

* Out of 324 pages.

Remembering to Show NOT Tell

(sorry if you’ve seen an earlier draft of this post. it wanted to post LAST Thursday instead of schedule for THIS Thursday)

Remembering To Show NOT Tell

I’m well into my 5th round of revisions, that means much of my story has been moved around, reworded, and changed.

One paragraph in chapter four seems to have made itself through 5 rounds untouched—until my editor marked it and told me to turn it into conversation. This was something I needed to SHOW, not to TELL.

I thought I was good at knowing when to summarize and when to delve into a scene. After reading the paragraph she’d highlighted, I realized I was wrong.

 

TELLING

We passed a couple small townlets before reaching our destination later than I would have liked. We were both at fault for getting a slow start that morning. Fine, I suppose I should blame the slow progress on a break or two I’d requested. I would rather credit the mud weighing down my boots. Stopping to clear off a layer or four of mud was a very useful task for boosting my walking endurance. I decided to mark them as unavoidable delays. [82 words]

SHOWING

I was afraid this was going to be hard to show, but as I worked on it, I realized it was already three-quarters the way to a pretty solid scene. Half the mental commentary easily translated into action and the rest slid effortlessly into conversation. (Well, almost effortlessly. These things don’t edit themselves).

With the addition of 25 words, what was my transition paragraph is now a smooth lead in for the next scene.

Dusk was coming in before I saw the chimney smoke heralding our destination.

“Wish we’d gotten a faster start, we might miss prayers at this rate,” I grumbled, forcing my throbbing feet to pick up the pace.

“You that worried?” Gellin looked back at me.

“I’d just rather be there before dark.”

“Hey, you’re the one who had to stop every hour to scrape the mud off her shoes,” he held out his hands, blamelessly and I glared at him.

“The mud was slowing us down, or at least me. Those delays were inevitable!”I said, not wanting to admit my feet were novices to the road. [107 words]

Where I’d thought I was summarizing and getting us quickly to the next scene, in reality, I was saving a scant 25 words to passively narrate.

Places Where One Can Easily Fall Into Telling

From being both a writer and a reader myself, these are the places I typically either find myself or others slipping into that telling frame.

  • introducing new concepts, places, or characters
  • transition paragraphs
  • battle scenes

 


Happy Hunting!

Got any fun stories of times you told instead of showed?

Link: Winterview with Me

To celebrate 13 weeks of winter, Hàlön Chronicles will be conducting one interview a week for 13 weeks. Join us on the hashtag #13Winterviews, or check out our right-side blog hop to sneak a peek at all the wonderful authors and artists I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks. Hosted by: K. J. Harrowick Without…

via Winterview with Author Morgan Hazelwood — Daily Cup o’ Coffee

It’s Okay For Writers To Hoard

I’m a writer and I hoard

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I hoard books

I’m a reader of genre fiction which typically comes in series form. So, I end up rereading books to remember what happened before, or just to revisit old friends. I’ve got a lot in paper, hardback, and kindle formats. I don’t discriminate.


I hoard story concepts

When it comes to story concepts, I keep an eye on them, ready to turn them into something bigger when I’m ready (or not).

Very often, these snippets are stored as email drafts, never sent and occasionally sorted through. Sometimes, turned into short stories, sometimes, combined with other ideas, sometimes discarded.


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Hard-copies of draft2, draft4, and outline for revisions on draft5.

I hoard drafts

I’ve got backed up copies of:

  • every draft I’ve written
  • 12 versions of my query letter
    • including 2 drafts of my ‘final’ version for each:
      • short
      • medium
      • max word length (275, I think)
  • writing snippets from those ideas that float through my head

I’ve got them saved on my hard-drive, and on google-drive. And a hard copy of draft 2 and draft 4.

Hoarding Drafts Helps Revisions

I’ve read over and over again that when editing, one save those scenes and chapters one deletes elsewhere.

I got my edits and edit letter back from K. Hopkins earlier this month and she asked for some stuff.

She suggested more showing, less telling:

  •  when I met a particular character
  • of a ritual

She suggested that certain scenes be moved forward in the plotline to help with pacing.

Guess what? In those three instances, I’d ALREADY WRITTEN IT THAT WAY. True, that was back during my rough draft, but those scenes existed and existed in that continuity.

I’m currently on my 5th round of revisions. I thought those bits had been moved back in Draft 3.

Well, yes, that’s when they were cut. But that meant I needed to open up Draft 2 to see those scenes.

Draft 2, when it was finished back in May of 2015 huge.

  • It had 36,000 more words.
  • That’s 29.75% longer.
  • That’s 130 MORE pages.

Clearly some of that needed to be cut.

Thanks to hanging onto my old draft though, I had copies of scenes and such that I can reintegrate into my newest draft, saving me effort from having to re-imagine things I’d already written.

CAVEAT

Just because I’m taking old scenes and tossing them in to fill in new gaps doesn’t meant those scenes aren’t going to be completely reworked. I’m going to edit them with a harsh eye towards continuity, pacing, and use only the bits that are necessary.

 

P.S. I’m also a dragon- aka The Book Wyrm. Dragons hoard.

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