Mixed Feelings

I finished the second draft of Saviours of Falharest a few days ago. I have some feelings about it. I want to share them because maybe others have these feelings too.

It took two and a half months to write the first draft. I wrote for 2 hours nearly every day in that time. As I was writing the last page, I knew it was nearly done. I could feel it, and this adrenaline coursed through me like I was about to get punched in the face. When I typed in that last period, I felt like leaping out of my chair. I'd accomplished this, I was done. I'd done something I didn't think would be possible, something I never thought I'd accomplish. It's a bit of a stereotype: "new writer does thing that all other writers do and can't believe it." Truth is, there isn't much there that's impressive. There's no magic, no secret club of people who can do this thing. You just sit down and write, over and over again. That last bit is what gets most people, I think. I made it part of my day, and part of my life. That's the only reason I finished the thing. 

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Sometimes You Just Know

I've developed this nasty habit of over-thinking things. Now I say that like it's some recent thing, but in truth I've been that way my whole life. I didn't do a lot of the stupid shit most kids my age have because of it (though instead I went through my own brand of stupid shit). It paralyzed me when it came time to choose a college degree, and kept me in it even after I realized I was wasting my time. I missed a couple steps and entirely avoided some leaps I should have taken. Now how the fuck does that relate to writing?

Last week I was in Toronto, and I finally took a crack at a concept I had for a story. Don't worry, I'd gotten a serious amount of editing done just the night before. Honestly, I should have done both that day, but I was away for the weekend so whatever. Now this concept had been bouncing around my skull since I saw a submission call for cosmic horror. I'd never tried my hand at the genre and I'd wanted to do so since I finished reading a small collection of Lovecraft stories I'd bought at Chapters for $5. The basic concept is this; man goes on solo mission to Pluto, promptly goes crazy. Not the most creative premise, but it had its hooks in me. So I ran with it for a couple of hours. I was so excited by all the possibilities, all the science I'd researched, and the character I created. I rode that wave of inspiration for a bit North of 2000 words. "That was a good chunk of writing," I thought to myself, "I'm sure this will lead somewhere great." Only it didn't. I looked over what I'd written and I knew it was no good. I'd written four pages of pure exposition. It was boring as shit and I'd come up with it. I couldn't imagine how dull it'd be for an actual reader. "Oh well, it's a first draft," I continued, "I'll fix it on the second go." I left it at that. I knew it was bad. Not like a "I'm a terrible writer and everything I write is terrible" kind of bad. This was pure, unadulterated, periodic table level crap. Absolute certainty doesn't come often when it comes to me and my writing, but this time it had.

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Editing Sucks

The deeper I go into the editing process, the more I start to believe it's a series of slumps. I think getting through those slumps is what makes a good novel.

The first of these slumps came in the highlight phase. Essentially, this means reading the first draft and highlighting everything that's off. These are highlighted for later. The real focus of this phase is to fix the overall structure of the book. This is done on a chapter to chapter and act to act basis. Does this chapter work? Why not? How do I make it work? What is this first act really about? How do I make this come across better? It's a slog, but also a slump. You find so much wrong with your first draft, so many things that need changing. Both on the micro and the macro level. Individual words need replacing and whole scenes get the axe. This isn't a complaint; this is how writing works. Unfortunately, it also sucks. You try to stay positive through the process, but it's still difficult. Then you get through it, and you feel like you've accomplished something real. Yeah, your first draft needs some real big changes, but you've got it figured out. It should be clear sailing from here.

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Your Wednesday is my Monday

I've got a lot of thoughts, a bunch of which occur during my drive to work. I'm going to start recording these thoughts, once a week, and putting them up online. This week, I'm talking about letting your characters live their lives and why I don't use a notebook (it wasn't my idea).

 

If you liked that, don't worry, there'll be more. If you didn't, let me know why. I can probably improve.

Things I learned writing a Romantic Comedy in a week

If you follow my Instagram, you'll know I participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge last week. The basic concept is you have a week to write 2500 words, following an assigned genre, character, and theme. You compete against 31 other writers with the same assignment. If you place in the top 5, you move on to round 2 in March. You get another assignment, a shorter time limit, and a shorter story to write. Since I won't know whether I succeeded until March, I have plenty of time to obsess over the terrible story I wrote. I mean, to reflect on the lessons I learned in that week. The whole point of this kind of challenge is to...challenge yourself. A challenge is pointless if you don't learn anything from it, and I learned a lot from this one.

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