Essays, Misc

My Writer’s Brain Was Hijacked and What I Did About It

Ever feel like someone hijacked your brain and wrote crap into your manuscript when you weren’t looking? Well, that’s me at the moment.

Let me explain. I’ve been working on Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow for two years. It’s been through numerous rewrites, about 3-4 different rounds of beta-reads and hours upon hours of editing. Why so much work? At over 102K it’s the longest and most complex book I’ve ever written, and it’s also my first sequel. There are so many moving parts to the story that I wanted to make sure that everything fit as well as read great. So when I completed the last batch of corrections in June, I thought I had the thing in the bag. I dotted the last i and crossed the last t and then put it aside to look for an editor.

Well, a few months later, I found a proof-reader so I decided to prepare a chapter or two so he could do a sample edit, when I almost had a heart attack.

horrified woman face 1

Agape, I stared at the computer. Then I stared harder. “No, no, no,” I thought, “this is some cruel joke. Somebody must be messing with me.” But that wasn’t the case.

As I reread the prologue, I cringed. Physically, like in movies. Why hadn’t I seen all these mistakes before? Why had I left in all that exposition? The over-writing? I mean, who needs four bloody adjectives in a row?

I set to rewriting, immediately. I couldn’t stand it. There was no way I was going to let that mess stare me in the face without doing anything about it. I finished the rewrite and sent it and the first chapter off for the sample edit, feeling good about the changes. I was happy when the proof-reader gave positive feedback, which seemed to confirm that the rewrite was needed. But then I had to consider that other 100K words needed to be reread. And revised. Again.

I got to work. I’m about halfway through and I’m still shocked at what I feel I have to revise.

So why am I sharing this? Because I think it proves the point that our writing is always in a state of evolution. What was good enough of us one day just won’t be down the line. We are constantly learning and trying new things, so it’s only natural that we will look back on our older work and sometimes feel, yes, even embarrassed.

From sthjradfordmedia.blogspot.com
From sthjradfordmedia.blogspot.com

I admit I get frustrated about that. And worried. If I notice the difference compared to my older works then others might too. But then, think about it: the writers, film-makers and visual artists we revere didn’t come out of the gate at the top of their games, did they? No, they started at a certain point and improved as they matured and gained experience. I bet more than a few of them looked back with a sort of shock and dismay at their earlier projects as well.

So, I guess we can all give ourselves a break. Right?

From clarkssummitphysicaltherapists.com
From clarkssummitphysicaltherapists.com

This time around, I actually feel as though my manuscript is finally on the right track. I feel a little giddy with excitement as I sit down to figure out which sections to take out or how to rewrite them. Cutting out bad writing and replacing it with something infinitely better is so satisfying. And, now that I’m looking back on the story with a better understanding of the characters, I find it easier to express certain ideas, aspects of their personalities, and motivations that I couldn’t before. Over all, what started as an almost traumatic experience is actually turning out for the better. I like to think that deep down I knew the story wasn’t ready and that instinct urged me to take one last look at it. Thank goodness! If all goes well, I hope Bane with be published in the fall. 🙂

How about you? What are your thoughts on when your manuscript is ready for the final edit? Have you been horrified to look back on your old work and how did you cope?

 

Stories

The Gifts of Critiquing

I came up with the idea for this post after my last my last one on Reviewing and Critiquing sort of exploded in a flurry of responses on G+ and this blog. Most of the comments were positive yet there was some debate. And that’s fine. Debate is healthy and everyone is allowed to have his or her own point of view and is free to share them. The purpose of this post is not to address any one of those comments specifically, but is more of a general response to the issue of writing and how we get from one place of skill and ability to another in regards to the role and import of reviewing/critiquing each other’s work. The issue got me heated up, like emotional. This surprised me. I mean, reviewing and critiquing aren’t emotional tasks. They’re analytical, involving critical thinking, right? But the more I considered the subject and let my fingers fly over the keys as I responded to comments, the more I started to connect with what writing means to me. I started to think about the journey I took to get here.

I started writing at a young age (6 years old) and did it simply because I loved it. Knowing how to put words together on a page in a way that entertained and communicated with people, just made sense to me. No one taught me, I just did it. I was also a voracious reader. Always had a book in one hand and two or three others tucked away in a pocket or schoolbag or something. As the years went by, I improved and wrote whatever I could, poems, short stories, plays, whatever. Still, all that history doesn’t mean that I got to where I am now by myself. Granted, I am not published by a publishing house, but based on the feedback I have had from publishers (one I turned down and the other refused my two books because they weren’t publishing fantasy at the time) and other good writers, I think I could be. Having a family and a fulltime job doesn’t make it any easier to commit a lot of time to querying and all that as I would like. I’ve sacrificed enough family time as it is just to get to where I am today.

But back to the point of this post. There was a span of about 10 years where I couldn’t write at all. Totally blocked. Not even a decent line or two of poetry, which used to flow out of me like water. By God’s grace, though, about three years ago that plug popped and I’ve been writing non-stop ever since. But I needed help. Whatever innate talent I may have had was still there, as were whatever fundamentals of the craft I had developed over the years, but I needed more. Support and encouragement. I needed to challenge myself and to be challenged. I even needed to hear those brutally harsh (but true) words (you know, the ones that make you want to hide under your chair and swear never write another word again!). The road was difficult but I regard each step as well worth it. Each one is a gift I received from being critiqued as well as being able to critique.  

Writing is a process of constantly improving, so by no means to I delude myself by thinking I have ‘made it.’ However, I can say that these last few years have enabled me to have the confidence to write what I want the way I want. I feel free to take chances and to try new things. I’m still reading articles, still testing myself in different genres and styles, as well as still critiquing other people’s work and receiving it. It all helps. Not to mention that I feel enriched by having engaged with other writers, which usually generates a kind of addictive synergy as well as renews my love of writing.

Anyway, there’s my ramble for the day. I’d love to hear feedback or comments. J

Have a great one.