Monday, August 30, 2010

Revisions: Blessing and Bane

Monday, Monday...
So, as anyone who has tried to hold a conversation with me lately knows, I'm scalp deep in the revisions for my latest novel "The Second." I've actually never gotten into the deep editing part of the novel writing process before, so this is an all-new adventure with unexpected twists and dangers around every turn (Why yes, I have been working on the pitch. How can you tell?). Today will be the fifth consecutive day that a shocking percentage of my writing time will be spent spreading color coded index cards across the living room floor (each represents a scene), staring at them, and occasionally rearranging them or jotting down a note. As thrilling as it sounds, this is actually the part I like. My brain loves this new puzzle of trying to arrange thirty-some renegade cards into a neat line of chronological orderliness. I originally wrote the draft in what I thought was chronological order, but it wasn't until I shuffled up all my cards and threw them on the floor that I started to realize how much more effective XYZ scene would be if I moved it back a bit, or if I had it immediately following EFG scene, etc. Of course, that usually creates a new problem in the storyline so I get to go back and figure out how to fill up the gap. Then, when I find that I'm puzzled and having a hard time moving any more cards, I jot down my questions, throw them to the boys in the basement (aka, my subconscious), and gather up my cards for the day. The boys almost always have a whole list of suggestions when the cards come out the next day and the manuscript improves at an amazing rate.

I have to say, though, that not all of the revision has been so fun. I've heard quite a bit of discussion about which is harder, writing or re-writing, and I'm more inclined to say it's the re-writing bit. While the first draft definitely has its own challenges of having to lock my Inner Editor in his office and then chase after Creative Guy as he dashes, carefree, through the whole length of the novel (with plenty of "Oh crap, where'd he go?" moments), there's a great amount of freedom with the first draft. If I don't know exactly where my plot is going, no problem! If I haven't done the research to know if I'm writing this accurately, I leave myself a note and go on! It's my novel's wild and reckless youth.

The revision stage, though, is when it's time for my novel to grow up and start to get things in order. It's when I herd Inner Editor and Creative Guy into the same room, lock the door, and try to keep them from killing each other long enough to get the novel into a readable state. Inner Editor, always the perfectionist, can't believe what a mess Creative Guy and I made while he was searching for the spare key to his office, and isn't sure the whole thing doesn't need to be scrapped. Creative Guy, on the other hand, is a hippy-esque figure who just wants to pitch me the idea for the next novel and does NOT do deadlines ("Can't hurry genius, man!").

When all is going well, everybody works together with Inner Editor pointing out plot flaws and Creative Guy coming up with (hopefully) original fixes, but at least once a week I have a mutiny on my hands. Try drafting a new scene when Inner Editor won't stop making sarcastic comments about sentence structure and Creative Guy starts yelling about "suit dude" making it impossible to hear his muse. Telling Creative Guy that we're drafting that pivotal scene TOMORROW so he needs to hurry up and decide what's going to go down is just as bad.

Chime in time! Whether you write novels, short stories, essays, blog posts, or work reports, what's your stand on revision? Are you one of those insanely organized minds who outlines and then just writes a single draft, or are you a bit more right brain and need more revision time. Any helpful hints that you've discovered? Do you have a routine?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Reality to Fiction

Hey again folks!
So a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to check off one of my "bucket list" items by learning to scuba dive. Extremely cool and even more fun that I expected it to be... which is saying a lot. In addition to the cert card, experience, and funny looks I got (Just FYI, if you ever want to feel like a super hero, unexpectedly emerge from the depths of a popular swimming location with scuba gear on. The kids--and opposite sex--think it's the greatest thing ever), I got one thing that I hadn't expected: some rocking story ideas.

Who'd have thunk that the first aid/safety section of the textbook would give me ideas for more original underwater dangers (did you know that breathing compressed air at depth can make your lungs explode if you hold your breath while ascending?) or that dive time tables would make for a sneaky twist in events (sidekick has reached his depth time limit for the day, so the protagonist must go alone to face the villain at 90 feet)! I have a whole page of notes with story and plot ideas, just from this one week class.

Looking back, I realize that this has happened a lot in my writing. The most obvious example is my current work-in-progress, The Second, which stemmed from my experiences with historical fencing/re-enactment. I find that the work which has its base in an actual experience tends to be the most vivid, believable, and easy to write.

I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts on this topic. Do you find that your best work is often rooted in an actual experience? Or do you enjoy the challenge of writing something completely from your imagination? Have you ever sought out experiences specifically for your writing? Please share!

Semper ubi sub ubi!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Amazing First Post

Hey everyone! So the site is officially live, yay! A special thanks to those of you who were unlucky enough to be around while I was working on it and had to come in the room every two seconds to reassure me that it looked okay (yes, Shawna, Lauri, and Heidi, I'm talking about your super-heroic selves).

Anyway, I'm Michelle, and I'll be your blogger this evening ("No duh," says you, "It's written all over the place"). Since this is the first entry, I thought I'd start out with a nice description of what this blog will be about, an invitation for discussion, and a desperate plea for help. Moving right along, then...

So here's the deal. I suck at monologues. Unless I'm telling a story of some sort (in which case, you're better off to not let me start), I tend to run out of things to say really fast if I'm not getting some sort of outside response. So that's where you come in. I'm not here to jibber-jabber about me and the adorable thing my hamster did this morning (I don't even have a hamster); I'm here to talk with you. I wanna know what you wanna read on here. Within limits. I'm a historical fiction writer, so I like to talk about history and fiction (profound, I know). *Ideally* this blog would become a place geared especially towards historical and fantasy writers (medieval and fantasy is close enough for us to get along), but general enough for the history buffs and "other" writers to have fun too. Of course, if you want to hear about my fabulous life and amazingly adorable imaginary hamster (I sense a recurring theme coming on. Hamster now named Ned), that can be arranged too.

So here it is, the invitation for discussion: What are your interests and what, from the content mentioned above, would you most like to see? What sort of "crossover" stuff would interest you (i.e. if you're all about history, what writerly stuff would you find cool)? If you don't respond back, I'll be left to my own devices, and THAT could get very scary.

Finally, that desperate plea for help. Don't worry, it doesn't involve your wallet. I'm looking for content to add to the "For Writers" section of my website (tips, links, quick reviews of writing-related books/software/whatever) and guest bloggers (a knowledgeable someone to write a one-time post for this blog). Submissions for the "For Writers" section can be sent straight to me and I'll post them with credit to you if I like them (and credit to me if I don't, jk). For guest blogging submissions, though, please contact me with your topic idea first and we can discuss it. You can contact me here.

Next post coming in a couple of days. Until then, semper ubi sub ubi!