That is all. Off to celebrate!
Posts Tagged With: revision
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It has occurred to me that calling it the ‘Aha Moment’ might make a tad more sense and sound slightly less dirty. Oh well.
My theory is that every writer, either through natural talent, upbringing or personality, is stronger in one element of writing than the others. Whether they excel in Plot, Characterisation or Description, it can take a bit of work to bring the other elements up to snuff. I also think the writer who naturally excels in Characterisation has a huge head start as Plot and Description are (or should be) based in character.
Unfortunately I’m not one of those people – I find that Description comes most naturally. Throughout primary school in particular my stories were entirely made up of description. No plot, no character, just description. And I was good at it. At age 14 I sold one of these description-only stories to a magazine. Although they did make an effort to inject some plot in there, I just didn’t get it. It took a course in journalistic news writing to help me un-learn my love of description. I learnt description is like jewellery. A few simple pieces are classy. One bold piece is fine. But many bold pieces take away from the overall look. Description should be used to make your story come alive with telling details, and much like jewellery should be used to accentuate your natural features, description’s primary purpose is to reveal character.
Character is the foundation of any story, but I didn’t quite understand this when I started my book. The first draft of Tiger Eye was my attempt to understand Plot. I learnt a lot. I learnt about set pieces and Acts and Inciting Incidents and red herrings and how a mystery novel works. Lots of very important stuff. But the draft just wasn’t working, and the reason for this was character. I had tried to write a book in which plot was divorced from character, because I didn’t completely understand my MC’s motivations. I guess I figured if I could just get to the end, maybe I could fix that stuff up in revisions. And this is possible but it has to be the hardest possible way to go about things. I’m going to have to completely re-write the novel (again) in order to repair these problems of character. That’s okay, though, because it’s all a big learning experience. Here are a few ‘Oh’ Moments I’ve had in relation to character:
1. 1. Plot results from character. What I mean by this is every effective story centres on a character or characters undergoing some sort of emotional change. They should be somehow different at the end of the story. This emotional journey should therefore be the primary story line, and all other arcs should result out of it. This may all sound obvious to you, and I probably read something similar a million times before it finally clicked in my head. I think the ‘Oh’ Moment finally occurred when I read the following on the Verla Kay Blue Boards (I hope the user doesn’t mind me quoting her!):
“I plot the baby steps in my character’s emotional journey. I started doing this after a book club I’m in read PROM (Laurie Halse Anderson — SPOILER ahead) and someone complained that she couldn’t see the progression in the main character’s change from hating prom to fighting to go. So I mapped it out. I went chapter by chapter and tracked the teeny concessions/changes in the MC’s attitude (She hates prom and thinks anyone who goes is stupid; she hates prom but recognizes that others don’t; she concedes it might be okay that her friends want to go…). Then I thought, "Hey! I need to do this for my own books." So now I think about the MC’s internal story arc and write down the tiny changes my MC has to experience in attitude or whatever. Then I can look at which plot points might cause which tiny changes, and which scenes require the MC already to be at a certain place emotionally. Knowing those things often dictates the order those scenes have to take.” – SproutQ
I’ve also heard this expressed as: "Don’t ask yourself what happens next, ask your character what she will do next." (Kathleen Duey, I think) Through all this, I’ve come to believe that Plot exists solely to challenge the character/s to change in some way.
2. 2. The second ‘Oh’ Moment came while watching Jackson Pearce’s Vlog. I couldn’t say it nearly as well (and as musically) as she did so here is the link. When I started Tiger Eye I knew that the MC needed to want something really, really bad, and that my job was to give her obstacles to prevent her from getting it (i.e. Plot). My problem was I kept changing my mind on what this thing she so wanted was, and my ideas were always pretty vague. I think this all could have been helped if I’d written an ‘I’m Wishing’ scene into the story. A scene in which my MC articulated exactly what it was that she wanted, before I sadistically made it harder and harder for her to get. So that’s what I’m going to do in this draft. Poor MC.
I hope my convoluted rambling has made some sort of sense to you all, and I pray you all have many ‘Oh’ Moments of your own. Geez, I just can’t escape the dirty-ness!
It’s been one week since I last posted. 7 days. But it feels like it’s been a month at least.
What a week. Numerous sad, sad events. Stress and tears. A funeral tomorrow. Many guests. A full work week. A messy house. A sick husband.
And in the middle of this dark, dark week a ray of sunlight:
I’ve broken through on revisions. And I’m sleeping (generally). The two go together, even – I’ve been dreaming about revision, in a very positive, excited way.
Somehow, amazingly, my plans for this book are all coming together. I’m liking it again. Nay, I’m loving it.
And once again writing it what is getting me through.
I had big plans to write a post on characterisation today, but I hope you won’t blame me when I say I’m feeling way too overwhelmed to even attempt it. Next week. I promise.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. It means a lot.
So, September. The month I return to revision. I think I’ve decided I’m not someone who loves revision. I really, really want to be but I’m finding it so soul-crushingly discouraging that it’s hard to find the positive.
One day I will love revision. But not today.
One good thing about revision, that I’m trying very hard to focus on, is that it is my chance to make this story the best possible story it can be. I can make this project something I’m proud to show people.
I’ve been watching the audio commentaries on my FRIENDS dvds and something I find particularly fascinating is the collaborative process. It really appeals to me that these are a bunch of really smart, creative people, sitting down to create the best and funniest possible story they can. And if a joke doesn’t work, they will even revise it DURING THE FILMING of the episode. This astounds me. And inspires me.
Because for me, ‘protecting the work’ doesn’t mean obtusely refusing to change a single word. It means committing to an idea, a concept, a mood, and figuring out the best possible way to make it shine. No matter how many attempts it takes, or how drastically you have to slice into the previous attempt.
So it’s not that part – the actual changing of the work – that makes me cringe. It’s the idea that maybe I’m simply not good enough to make this idea work. Maybe I don’t have what it takes. It’s putting my work out there to be torn apart by well-meaning, and invaluable, critiquers and thinking that maybe this book is unfixable. Maybe it’s a lost cause. Maybe I’M a lost cause.
I don’t have a great deal of self-belief, but I have enough to know that I WILL finish this project, no matter what it takes. No matter how much it hurts. I’m someone who subscribes to the doctrine that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I’m slowly but surely developing a thick skin, but it takes a whole lot of painful rubbing before I can get there.
I think that’s what makes me a writer – the knowledge that no matter how hard it gets I won’t give up, because I need writing. It’s part of who I am now. I think it’s making me a stronger, more disciplined person. It keeps me sane. And even a bad day of writing is better than a day without it.
So somehow I’ve ended this post in a more positive place than I started it. Maybe I need this kind of writing just as much.
For a month or so back there I got absolutely nothing book-related done. I tried. Believe me, I tried. After several false-starts on my revision I was about ready to throw the whole damn thing away. So I had an unintentional writing holiday and felt really crappy about it. If only Margo Lanagan had guest blogged for Justine Larbalester back in the dark days of no writing! Because Margo’s post is about the necessity for "fallow time", to recharge your batteries and let your subconscious work on things. She argues that it isn’t about problem solving, but it certainly solved some problems for me!
To illustrate how whiny and panicked I became while not writing here is a post I wish I’d never written on a board I frequent:
It’s just so discouraging to focus on all the bad bits of the novel. It’s getting hard to see the good bits anymore."
The clues are right there in my post on the answer to my problems – I was focusing way too much on the bad bits. ‘But isn’t that what revisions are?’ you ask. ‘Isn’t that the point?’ Well, yes, but for me (I’m not sure if this is helpful to anyone else at all) there is another, much more productive way of approaching revisions: instead of looking for where you went wrong, picture the novel how your originally intended it, in all its pre-draft glory, and then figure out how to get it there.
Simple right? Just picture the reality you want and figure out how to get there. (I know there is a famous quote about this very point but I can’t remember what it is).
Who ever knows what is going to help you over that hump? Not only did it help me to see the good parts of my novel, all the little diamond-in-the-rough bits, but it gave me the perspective I needed to get past the dreaded line-edits. I was able to figure out how to fix the big-picture stuff like plot holes and character motivations and let the rest go for another draft at another time.
I guess it’s kind of similar to the journey I’ve been on regarding the inescapable reality that I will be turning 21 in just over a month. At first it scared me, made me feel worthless and put myself under a lot of pressure to get these revisions done, get fit, read more, do more school work (which are all noble goals, don’t get me wrong), but nothing got rid of the fear because no matter what I did I would never feel ‘good enough’ to face the milestone.
And then a Bible study I did helped me to put things in perspective. I don’t normally like to talk about my faith that much on the blog because I don’t want to shove it down people’s throats but this was such a major "oh" moment that I want to share.
I basically realised that with all this talk of what I had or hadn’t achieved, whether or not I was ‘good enough’, I was ignoring the truth of the situation – that none of what I have done or will do in the future was achieved alone. Instead of thinking about what I needed to achieve before turning 21 I needed to think back on the person I was at 13 or 18 and praise God for all the amazing things he had done in my life, how very far he had brought me, since then.
Sure, I still have a lot of growing to do. But I’ve come so far in my 21 years, and that’s what I will be celebrating on the 28th of May – not stressing about how much further I have to go, but praising God for how far I have come.
Thanks for reading, guys!