Monthly Progress

Sooooo…it is August!  And August means… Camp NaNo is ended!

I won, with a total of… I don’t even remember my word count.  But since I was editing and not freewriting, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is, I edited the amount I needed.

A few months ago, I decided that my goal was to be completely done with draft two by the end of October.  Basically, be all done with draft two in time to write something else (the sequel) for NaNoWriMo.

In order to do that, I have to edit roughly 20k each month.  So what’s my goal to do this month?

That’s right, edit 20k.  I have roughly 50k left to edit (which is slightly less than half the novel), but the second half has less plot issues and inconsistencies than the first half, so I’m hoping that it’ll be a lot quicker to edit than the first half. (I’ve been editing since March or so, so you can see how long the first half took to go through.  But it was mostly rewrites and rewrites are kind of hard and slow.)

So I basically plan to have six more chapters edited by the end of the month.  So by the beginning of September, if all goes well, I should be starting work on chapter thirty.

How did Camp go for everybody else, if you participated?

 

On Beginnings and Being Late

Sometimes, I really despise beginnings. They’re so hard, and yet, in my four years of writing, I’ve written about a dozen times more beginnings than I even have written middles. I should be an expert by now.

I’ve been trying to edit my beginning for a few weeks ago, and I’ve been so stuck. I edited my prologue, and I’m immensely happy with it. It might be a little confusing, because I did kind of introduce some concepts of my world-building and then not explain it all (but my one beta-reader didn’t say anything about being confused, so maybe not), but then I got to chapter one, and I’m just like… “Aggghhhh!”

I know what happens in the chapter. Or what needs to happen. But everything I read says, “In late, out early.” Well, how late is that supposed to be? If I start the chapter right when the action starts, then that’s all fine and dandy, but I feel like then I have no introduction of the character, and so this plot-twist-like thing that happens in the chapter doesn’t feel real surprising, because the reader doesn’t know who my protagonist is before this reveal. Or maybe I’ve just got the wrong perspective, because I keep thinking of this thing as a plot twist, even though, technically it isn’t, because it’s not twisting the plot, because there is no plot in chapter one, so what this is is actually my inciting incident! It’s what gets the plot going somewhere, at least for this one character.

I considered trying starting it before the plot twist, but I’m afraid that’ll be boring and it might make this chapter too long. Heh. Plus, I have to figure out how to introduce this other character and some more world-building concepts, and it all kind of gets overwhelming.

I think what I’ve decided to actually do is start the chapter after I reveal the plot twist, because then I can still start with action and I can start with my protagonist’s emotion and his feelings about the whole thing (which I feel might be a better, more interesting way of introducing his character).

Still, it’ll be hard to balance, what with me still having to introduce…everything else.  I was told that I’m somewhat decent at giving out information without info0dumping, though, so I’m hoping that that one time I did it right wasn’t a fluke or something, hehe.

Anyway, yeah.  Beginnings are hard to write.  And apparently…rewriting them is not any easier.  We’ll see how editing them goes when I get to draft three (because I really hope I won’t be rewriting it again then).

Post-Camp NaNo

So, now that Camp NaNo is over, I no longer have to force myself to write every single day, so that I can make my goal.

Yet, I’m not taking a break.  Apparently, I’m now taking more onto myself than I had before, which might not be the wisest thing to do…  Anyway, the story I was working on for July is definitely not finished, but my word-count is just shy of 50,000 words.  In fact, despite that I was having a little trouble writing at the end of camp there, I’m really enjoying writing this story.  All of my characters, villains included, are fun to write, and the plot is proving to be interesting, as well.

I’m definitely going to keep writing it.  At the same time, though, I’ve been waiting since May to get back to editing my other novel, which I’ve been excited to get back to since I finished the last draft.

Hmm.  Now I have two projects.  What’s worse, the second project is actually two parts—writing and editing.  One PoV character’s side of the story is….horrible and I’ve decided to rewrite it, giving the character a new personality while I’m at it.  But the other PoV character’s story is mostly finished; she just needs a bit of touch up, mix a few scenes around, and voila!  I’m finished with that part.

Great.  So, in other words, now I’m writing two stories and editing a third.  It’s a good thing I don’t have time-limits for any of these, because there’s no way I can get that much done that quickly with my attention this divided.

I’m thinking, because this is probably a bad idea, I might take a break from my camp novel and work on that one in September or October.  After all, I do need to have something to work on before I start my really big project for the official NaNoWriMo in November.

I really am making myself busy, aren’t I?  I just hope I don’t end up regretting it…

Kill My Darlings?

Recently, I’ve found myself facing an interesting dilemma with my writing. Or, rather, with my favorite story. The one that I’ve found myself coming back to, again and again, for over two years now. The one that’s always on my mind. The one I’ve dreamed about, several times.

What’s wrong with it?

It’s not very good.

I don’t mean writing-wise. I’m pretty sure the writing is pretty good in that (not in my opinion, but in others’). The characters are complex and developed—particularly my narrator, since she’s older than the story itself. My world is not entirely developed, but well enough for this first draft. My plot is, to me, fun and interesting.

So where’s the problem? It’s in the structure of the story. There’s not much tension or excitement. My climax is just kinda like “oh”, when it should be “oh!“. Now that I’ve taken a break from writing and given my mind some time to distance itself, I can see these problems clearly, which I was blind to when I was wrapped up in it.

So, why don’t I just fix it, you ask? THere’s the other side of the problem. The only way to truly fix that problem is to rewrite it entirely. But I have rewritten this story over a dozen times, no exaggeration. I don’t want to do it again.

I’ve been thinking a lot. This is my first story. And most authors’ first stories never go anywhere. One of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, wrote, I think about 13 books?, before he published. That’s a lot! And whereas there are exceptions out there (I believe Harry Potter was J. K. Rowling’s first book), that doesn’t mean I’ll be one. My first book is probably not going anywhere.

So should I just abandon it? The characters that have come alive in my head? The plot that I have spent the better part of two years perfecting? But if I’ve been working on this two years, and it’s still not the best it can be, will I ever get it anywhere?

Another option instead of abandoning it is to just leave it. Let’s face it, not everyone can write a masterpiece. And I might not be able to, either, so should I just leave it the way it is, and try to go somewhere with it? THe problem with this is, I know I can do better than this. I don’t want to publish a book that isn’t as good as I can possibly get it.

So I have three options at this point. A. Abandon it. Kill my little darlings, as my mom put it. B. Don’t worry about it. C. Rewrite it again.

My mother suggested that maybe if I rewrite it, I should change something. Tell the story a different way. So that it seems different enough that I can get it right without falling back to what I did before, but it’s still the same story. Her suggestion was to change the PoV to a different character.

Then I thought of something else. Kind of option B1. Keep writing it, but don’t publish it. I can finish the book and the series, and then it’ll be something that will be on only my shelf.

I keep thinking, and I honestly can’t decide which option is best for me and my book. It’s so hard.

The Adventure Began… Where?

So, I haven’t posted anything in like…. I’m too lazy to go check how long it’s actually been, so I’m gonna say it’s been something like a week. Or more. Probably more.

Anyways, though, I have a reason to be gone! I’ve been writing! Or, rather, re-writing. I’ve been working on the novel I wrote outside of NaNoWriMo—half of it was written in October, the other half in December. My NaNo novel itself is getting itself ready for a total re-write, probably for NaNo next year.

But what exactly have I been doing? Rewriting my beginning. And since I haven’t posted anything in forever, I thought that would make a nice discussion—what makes a good beginning? Let’s start with figuring out what a beginning is. The dictionary states it as:

    The event consisting of the start of something.

But the thing with stories, is there’s two beginnings. The beginning of the story, and the beginning of the book. What’s the difference? The beginning of the story is, well, kind of self explanatory. It’s where this whole thing starts—something happens, and it sets off a chain of events that is the story.

The beginning of the book on the other hand, is where Chapter One starts off. Some writers start the book right before this event that starts the story, so that we have a chance to get to know the characters and world. Some authors start us off right when this happens. And some authors use the In Late, Out Early method, and start right in the middle or right after, so that we start off with some action.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to what makes a good beginning. Let’s try a checklist.

A good beginning…

  • catches the interest in the reader and makes them want to keep reading,
  • represents the story,
  • and makes a promise to the reader.

What do these mean?

A good beginning catches the interest in the reader and makes them want to keep reading. This is kind of self-explanatory. You’ve probably learned all about “hooks” in school, and how important it is to have a good first sentence, first paragraph, first chapter. You’ve probably even picked books up to read them and then put them back onto the shelf because they weren’t interesting enough. So, find something interesting to start it off with. Think—if you found this book in the library, would you want to keep reading after glancing at the first page? If yes, then you’re probably on the right track. If not… try again.

A good beginning represents the story. Now what does this mean? Let me reword this. The beginning needs to set the tone of the story. It hints to the reader what will happen in the story and what kind of story they will be reading. If you’re going to have a bouncy, goofy make-fun story, then your beginning needs to reflect that. If you’re going to have a serious story, the beginning needs to be serious. (Want to know more? Listen to this.)

And, a good beginning needs to make a promise to the readers. There are several ways of going about this, but they all make the reader want to keep reading. The first way is to build on the last point I made. Set a tone and show me characters that are fascinating, that I want to keep reading about.
Another thing is to, well, make a promise. Sometimes you do this through the character—the character vows that she’ll find her brother after he was kidnapped, and I’ll keep reading to see this promise fulfilled—to see her rescue her brother.
A third way is to make the reader ask a question. “How does this work?” “Why did he do that?” “What happened to her?” Make me ask questions that I can only find the answer to by reading. The key to this is that the reader has to ask the question. If you put the question in there, and I, reading this, agree, then it won’t be quite so important. But if I ask it to begin with, then you know for certain I want to know the answer—and I’ll keep reading to do so.

And you know what? You can use these techniques for more than just the beginning of a book. Use it at the beginning of a chapter. The beginning of a scene.

Another thing to keep in mind—a good beginning can improve your ending. If you end the book by fulfilling that promise you made at the beginning, then your ending seems more satisfying. Some authors like to end books in cliffhangers, to make the reader want to read the next book. The thing you have to do here is, don’t leave the promise unfulfilled. Complete it. Keep your word. But give me a new promise, a new question to ask. Then I’m satisfied, but wanting more at the same time.