Mission Successful

Last night-or maybe early this morning, who’s paying attention?-I finished the current draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian at about 48, 000 words. I’ve decided to celebrate with a day of watching some interesting anime-a Japanese style of animation, for anyone who doesn’t know-and some chocolate.

Hopefully you’re done editing your work by now, too. If not, get yourself a treat and get back to work. Editing is hard work; you deserve to reward yourself every now and then.

Besides, what comes after the celebration? Why, more work, of course. Next week I’m going to work on editing the first in a series of short stories focused on a couple vampires while I research locations for the next few. I’m going to write as many of these stories as I can this month to help me reach my Camp Nanowrimo goal. I’m sitting at approximately 29K and confident that I’ll be able to hit 80, 000 words by the end of the month.

I’ll also be doing some dialogue and character development exercises both in relation to Moonshadow’s Guardian and here on the blog. Sometime during the month I’ll be adding a few scenes designed to round out some characters-scenes I already have starting in my mind-and once those are added, I’ll be ready to print it up and go through it again. This time I’m confident that most of the changes will be minor, adding and removing words, sentences and occasionally scenes rather than rewriting the whole thing.

Finishing a draft of a novel is a good reason to celebrate. It’s also a good time to stop and re-assess your goals, and make plans for your future. It’s not a good time to take a month off of writing; you have to keep in practice all the time.

Have you finished anything recently? Do you have writing plans for the rest of this summer?

Week 5

This week I’m pretty sure I only did two chapters, but they were both long chapters. I also just finished writing what, in my opinion, is the best scene in the entire book, which wasn’t there before.

Although most of the plot involving Riana’s past is in the second book, I decided that I needed to spend some more time on it in the first. The scene that I just created showed Riana facing Eternia, a spirit who she worked with once upon a time who she failed. Eternia led her to find an antidote that she needed to heal her leg, and she promised Eternia that she would look after what had been Eternia’s land. It’s a really touching scene and I’m very proud of it.

I’m having a hard time not going back to edit what I’ve done in this draft, to save it until the draft is actually finished, but at least I already know what my next edit’s going to look like. All in all I’m pretty pleased.

I’ve also got about 14K for Camp Nanowrimo, including the chapters I wrote last week-I decided they were fair game. This is a short update, but I’m almost finished a book that I’m supposed to review (a long time ago) so that should be up on Wednesday, and in the last week or so my brain’s been full of ideas for blog posts, so sometime soon you can look forward to me returning to my regular post schedule. I should also be finished this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian entirely within the next two or three weeks, so it’s going to be a pretty exciting time here.

Before I go, I’d like to make a shout out to Red Parrot, who’s sponsored me for my camp Nanowrimo goal. Nanowrimo means a lot to me, and the fact that somebody believes in me enough to donate on my behalf means a lot to me too. I’m confident that I can hit my goal and have fun doing it.

Have a good weekend everyone! I should be back on the block on Wednesday.

How’s your summer writing/editing going?

Week Four

So this week I’ve edited three chapters, written one short story and published one lens on Squidoo. I’ve also signed up for Camp Nanowrimo, with a goal of 80, 000 words for the summer. What I thought would just be a severe edit has turned into a full rewrite, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to use any more chapters from the last draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will allow me to reach a much higher word count.

Around the end of the school year I applied for a summer job program. I told myself that if I didn’t get in, I would spend my summer writing instead. I didn’t get in, probably because I had pretty much nothing to put on my application, but I did get a new laptop and I have been writing my butt off. In fact, I’ve been writing almost full time hours-from eleven or twelve until five or six, and yesterday from noon until eight.

Unfortunately writing doesn’t make a lot of money. This leaves me with a lot of inner conflict. I’m supposed to get money from the government and I’ve already been waiting for a month and a half. All the food I eat, the chocolate milk I drink (it’s always on sale in my area), the places I go, all of that is paid for by either my grandmother or my boyfriend. And while my grandmother agreed to be my caregiver and doesn’t fuss about it, and my boyfriend likes spending money on me when he has it, I feel very much like a parasite.

When summer started my biggest internal dilemma was telling myself that yes, I could take a break. That it’s okay to go out for a couple hours with some friends and have a bonfire, because I’ve got all summer, with all my days free, to get this work done. Now I’m in the process of convincing myself that it’s okay not to have a real job, as long as I focus on my goals and my dreams. Writing isn’t going to make me a 500 dollar or more pay check in two weeks. Someday it will be my career, and someday I might even be rich and famous-though I’m not holding my breath for that. I feel bad because right now I don’t have money to throw at the wonderful people in my life and I have no material wealth to share.

I’m seventeen years old, and as much as I always tell other people that not every kid needs a job in their high school years, sometimes I’m not so convinced of it myself. I need to remember that writing books and short stories and whatever else I might write isn’t about a pay check in two weeks, it’s about making money and enjoying life for the rest of my life. The time I spend writing is more of an investment in my future than a summer job.

For that reason, I keep writing on Squidoo for advertising royalties which will only go up from here, and I’ve started a fundraising page for Camp Nanowrimo, hoping that I’ll be able to raise $80, or $10 for every 10, 000 words I write. You can read my lenses here, and you can sponsor me for Camp Nanowrimo here.

In the meantime, I’m going to put on a brave face, tell myself that I’m awesome, and write a book.

Editing Week Three

This week so far has been one of my most productive weeks all year. It’s summer, which means I don’t have to think about school and all the fun stuff that comes with it, and so I spent my first two weeks mainly goofing off and am now getting down to some serious business.

So, this week I’ve edited two and a half chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve got the first chapter up for critique in two places. I’m participating in an online writing workshop called the Writer’s Circuit, where a number of youth and one writer in residence compare work. I’ve still got to read one more story this week, but I have the rest of today and all of tomorrow to do so.

The third thing that I’ve been doing is revisiting my ancient Squidoo page and working on my lenses. I’ve completely redone my Writing: My Passion lens and created a new lens called What Makes Terry Pratchett so Great? The reason why I decided to actually work on the lenses that I have and to create new ones for Squidoo is because I returned to find that my account-which lay unused for two years-had collected me a whopping three dollars.

That might not seem like a big deal to you, but that’s a huge deal to me. Back in the day I put up two lenses and got halfway through creating a couple more-the one I’m most excited to finish is about how to win Nanowrimo with extra words-and then I abandoned the site for two years. To the point that when I went to update my bio, it still said I was fifteen. Heh. I didn’t expect to find any kind of money there. Maybe a dollar. But three whole dollars gives me the hope that if I work my butt off this summer finishing the lenses I’ve started and making new ones, I might actually have some sort of income from the site. Even if it’s just twenty bucks a month, that’s more than I had before.

Two days a week will be devoted to reading and to creating or updating Squidoo lenses. Three will be devoted to editing and short stories, which I hope to write four of this summer-one every two weeks. My weekends are my days to spend to myself… or, should I say, with my boyfriend. There’s some overlap from day to day and blog posts happen on a novel day-just to make sure my editing stats are up to date-but overall my system seems workable. Don’t quote me on it though, it’s only been a week.

All of that said, I’d like to talk briefly about one of the hardest parts of creating a (I don’t want to say how many) new draft, especially when you have parts of it up for critique. That hard part is not going back and fighting with all the newly written and edited chapters. I did cheat and I did go back to fix the next chapters I’m putting up for critique, but I’ve forced myself to stop, leaving them in an all right but imperfect condition. Those chapters are going to go up for critique even though I know I can make them better, and I’m going to keep plunging ahead, because if I don’t make myself finish this draft, I never will.

Tomorrow I might quickly go over the next chapter I’m putting up for critique just to make sure it makes sense, but I’m not going to let myself get caught up in it for hours on end. I need to push ahead until I reach the end of this new draft, which might I say I am very proud of.

This draft is turning the novella back into a novel, which is pretty exciting for me. And it’s working out in all sorts of ways I couldn’t have imagined, even though somewhere along the line I lost all my notes. (I do mean all my notes.) I guess that’s just one of the joys of working with a really familiar story-I only need so many of my notes.

How is your editing going? What other writing projects are you getting excited about this summer?

Editing Week Two

So this week I managed to finish my last essay for school and on top of that, I managed to edit three chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian-though it seems most of the editing in recent chapters has actually been writing new scenes. I’m pretty pleased with my progress as I’m currently sitting at 51 pages of the new draft and 17, 000 or so words. I’m confident that I can have this draft finished in another three or four weeks.

The only frustrating thing about it is that I know I’m going to have to spend a lot of time editing all the new scenes that I’m writing. They’re well written, but there are always ways to make the work better, and stuff that’s already been looked over and edited once will read better than stuff that hasn’t.

Today I had to do some research on swamps in order to properly write one of my scenes. I discovered that although I have an idea what a swamp looks like, I didn’t really know anything else about them. So I took an hour out of my day and looked through various websites about various swamps. I ended up deciding on something close to the ecosystem of Florida Swamps. I haven’t used a lot of what I learned yet, but it did help a little with the scene I was working on and it will probably help more with the upcoming swamp scenes.

One interesting thing I learned today is that there’s a swamp creature called a Coypu or Nutria and that it’s a little rodent type deal. I’m not spending a lot of time in the swamp, but I’ll probably spend more time there in the next book, so this information will definitely come in useful.

It’s important that you take the time to research things you need to know-to learn about animals you’re not very familiar with, ecosystems, philosophies, ideas. Things you want to include in your book but that you don’t know much about. This is particularly true if you’re trying to mimic a culture or time period other than your own-never assume that you know enough. Always keep studying the world around you the same way you keep studying your craft.

Next week I plan to continue editing my book and to start a new short story. It’ll probably be a lot easier to hit my writing goals now that it’s summer; last summer and the summer before that I partied too much and didn’t write enough, but this summer I’m going to work my behind off-after all, I’m almost 18, a proper adult, and I need to act like it and take my dreams seriously.

How is your editing going? Have you stopped at any point to do research or background work?

Editing Week One

Currently I’m sitting at two chapters edited and planning to finish the third one today. These chapters both needed pretty major editing. I’ve changed and cut some backstory in the first chapter I edited, and I added new scenes-part of a new subplot that won’t really be important until the second half-to the second chapter I edited.

There are two main things I’m trying to do with this edit: to create a new subplot so that the main plot of the second book makes more sense, and to make Riana a bit less rude, a bit more compassionate. One of these involves adding a few scenes, and the other involves removing some-and cutting others short.

Creating a new subplot is harder-or at least it feels harder-than making Riana nicer throughout the book. It involves adding new scenes and giving characters that were briefly mentioned in the last draft a slightly bigger role. It also involves editing several scenes to make sure that the facts match. I’m also trying to make it so that the subplot has an effect on the overall tone of the book-to make it feel like there’s still something going on in Moonshadow when this story ends, that there might be another story. That will probably be the hardest part-once they leave Moonshadow, I have to show Riana worrying about the state of politics there, and I have to give her a reason to stay worried.

In most of my previous edits, I’ve spent a lot of time adding things. Adding little details that I forgot, adding scenes which make the story make more sense, sometimes adding tens of thousands of words to my projects. As I’m trying to make Riana nicer, I find that most of the editing I’m doing to make that happen is actually cutting things out. I still want Riana to be a bit mean, a bit ruthless, and definitely at least a little sarcastic. But as I read my last draft, I realized she was so sarcastic a lot of people probably wouldn’t like her. So I’ve been cutting back on her snarkiness-taking out witty one liners and even deleting whole arguments. I’m not trying to make her a saint-I’m just trying to make her a little bit nicer.

And of course the best possible scenario is that I’ll manage to make the new scenes for the subplot show Riana’s compassion. That will be a neat trick because it’s a political subplot and Riana’s not very friendly with politicians that aren’t her king, but if I can find a way to do it, I will.

How is your editing going? Do you find yourself adding more or cutting more when you edit?

Editing Tips and Challenge

Editing is probably the most dreaded part of writing for the majority of writers out there-submission being a whole different thing altogether. It’s all about taking apart your creation, this thing you love and have put your blood, sweat, and tears into, and tearing it apart. Once you’ve torn it apart you need to sew it back together, minus some of the prettier pieces and adding some less pretty but more functional parts. It’s hard work-harder than spitting out a first draft and even harder than spitting out an entirely new second draft.

Right now I’m editing my novella, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and I’ve reached a disheartening point. I’ve written new first chapters and now I’m actually editing things I’ve already written, which is always harder.

For this edit, my main goals are to spend more time on the subplot which will become the main plot of the second book-essentially throwing in political intrigue-to make Riana more compassionate, and to add more sounds and smells to the story. I’m hoping that along with a couple minor story changes, this will make the novella almost ready for submission.

With every edit you should have major goals. It’s hard to fix every problem with your story in one edit, and for most of us, it’s easier to do two or three edits, each one focusing on a couple of specific story issues. You should also have goals for each day of editing. Use these goals to help keep you motivated and to evaluate your progress.

Be careful not to overwhelm yourself. A lot of the time editing is much harder than writing, so you’ll need to allow more time for the edit than you did for the first draft. Only focus on editing a couple of scenes a day. Personally I like to do shorter chapters in one day and longer chapters in two. And don’t be afraid to take a day or two off once in a while-in fact I’d almost suggest taking the occasional day off to work on short fiction prompts or something similar-but don’t let yourself abandon it altogether for weeks on end.

I’ll admit, in spite of all this advice, I’m not the greatest at staying on track with my editing goals. There’s always too much to do, especially when you’ve got a big pile of homework. And you know you’ve hit writer’s block when you’re doing homework instead.

So, for all of you out there editing your projects, I’d like you to join a challenge with me. For myself, I plan to edit three chapters every week until Moonshadow’s Guardian has been edited completely. You get to pick your own amount-make sure that it’s enough to challenge you but not enough for you to get discouraged. The weeks are Friday to Friday, and each Friday I will make a post to let you know how my editing is going and to give some editing tips or links. I’m asking you to comment with your own progress and-if you’re comfortable with it-a sentence of your story.

How quickly do you think you can edit?

Starting Different Projects

My writing has hit a low point over the last couple of weeks. It would seem that it took a blow after I finished Moonshadow’s Guardian. The story had me completely entranced, and I’m already eager to begin the first rewrite. Currently I am playing the waiting game-with plenty of school work to distract me in the meantime-because I know that you should never start editing right away. However, rewrites are going to begin sooner than I originally planned; I need to rewrite this story, to make some very specific changes to it, to get it out of my system.

Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as much as I love the story, will have to take the backburner for now. I know that I cannot currently give it the attention and time that it deserves. When, as a writer, you are told that you must write every day and move quickly from one project to the next, this kind of thing can be hard to admit-even to yourself. But it’s important to remember that every writer is different, every writer’s needs and strengths are different; there’s no one way to go about becoming an author.

Keeping this in mind I’m not going to yell at myself for not accomplishing much on the writing front this week; instead I’m going to do some research-reading a new book I bought about castles-and then jump right into the rewrite of Moonshadow’s Guardian.

Fiction isn’t the only thing that’s been hard for me in the last couple of weeks; the blog posts which were plentiful in my head at the beginning of the year seem to have dried up. I know I want to start a new series of blog posts for Friday mornings, but I have no idea what to focus on or where to begin. Sometimes writing really is like pulling nails, both on the fiction front and on the non-fiction front. Sometimes it means you have to push harder; other times it means you have to take a break.

As a blogger I have one advantage that lots of other writers don’t; I can ask you guys what I should write about next. This is my first poll and it will be up for a week. Come back next week to find out the results-and to see my shiny new series of posts.