June 14, 2017

P1060208

Today’s tune is an old one from one of my favourites, Passenger, before his Let Her Go days. Entitled, The Last Unicorn the track is a heartbreaking love song about loss and longing, centered around a one night stand. Only Passenger could do that.

++++

Current chain of writing days: 29

++++

Let’s have a talk about rewrites, aka editing, aka crying over your computer while asking your writing to be better. I have to admit I’m not great at editing, or at least I don’t have a solid process for how to do it. Actually, firstly, let me tell you the two types of ways I break down editing.

Firstly, there’s grammar and spelling. Which is exactly what it sounds like, but there is also more to it than making sure you didn’t actually write organism when you meant to say orgasm (accidentally saying someone had a shuddering organism would be terrible embarrassing). In my mind this is also the part where you clean up your writing. Literally examine each sentence to see what can be cut away or condensed, or even rewritten to enhance meaning or make it less cliche’ (for the shuddering orgasm example you could replace the word shuddering with flying, or uncontrollable, or abrupt, or gratuitous, or wasteful – some of these may be cringe inducing but they’re all a lot less cliche’ than shuddering and depending on your scene could also be more defining). It’s the part where you really look at the words themselves and work them to a point where they’re pleasing to the eye and the mind, like a gardener shaping a hedge, or a clown trying to get his make up just right. For example, probably should have just stuck with the single analogy there. The clown one, obviously.

The second type is all about the story. It’s looking at the journey your character has gone on and ensuring all the right elements are in place, that all the set ups have been knocked down and justified, all story threads tied up. For example, if you had a side story detailing a character’s effort to tame a dinosaur and then stop just before they become best friends to conclude the major story line technically your spelling and grammar are probably fine; but if your story ends and I don’t see Jimmy ride the dinosaur I will scream. This one’s also more intuition than science. It’s about ensuring the story flows well, that the theme is strong throughout, that it feels right. It can be a hard thing to do. The challenge is in analysing it as a whole and finding the spots where it feels off and then trying to figure out why. This is probably the part I’m really bad at.

I think part of the problem, if it is in fact a problem, is that I edit a lot as I go. Usually when I sit down to write I reread over the last section I did to remind myself what I wrote and get my head into the right mindset. However, I typically end up editing too. Again, it’s probably not so much a problem, other than the fact that it slows me down a bit, but it does means I’ve never gotten into the habit of finishing a piece and then figuring out ways to improve it. Luckily, for me, I do have people to help me with that. Not only has Brother Jonathan completed a writing and editing course, and is a quality writer himself, I also have a close group of writer friends whose eyeballs I force my words into and then choke until they spit out some quality feedback. Finally, the Lady Holly (aka Future Wife™) happens to be particularly awesome when it comes to the spelling and grammar side of things. Of course once all these beautiful peeps have passed on their thoughts it’s still up to me to saddle up and get-a rewriting, and sometimes I can be a lazy cowboy.

The reason all this has been passing through my mind lately is that I brutally sacrificed a bunch of my writing the other day in the name of editing. I’d started working on a novella and it wasn’t coming out quite right. I was 5000 words in but instead of perpetually adding to it like I normally would I instead analysed the shit out of it. I practically wrote an essay on the things I liked about it, the things I didn’t, and then how to fix those things. Now I’m 2000 words into the second draft and the love between me and my story is strong.

Now, the trashing of thousands of words isn’t a process I’d like to continue if I can help it, but the essay analysis definitely is. Something about the free form brain to fingers deconstruction allowed me to find the weak spots in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It generated alternatives to what I had already written and then once out I was able to compare the various options and chose the right piece to slot easily into the puzzle that was the story rather than cramming in an incorrect piece and hoping no one would notice. It was good, and the result was immediately beneficial as I’m really enjoying this second draft. This must be how other writers feel. It’s great. Who knew rewriting could be so fun? And I didn’t even cry once.

++++

Remember, if you hear hoof beats don’t think horses or zebras, think centaurs. The world deserves to be as magical as possible.

Talk soon

Damian

June 27, 2016

27:06:2016

It’s finished. It being the first draft of the novelette I’ve been working on for about the last month, still, and possibly forever as I haven’t been able to think up another name, entitled His Name was Henry. After failing to meet my self imposed deadline to finish the draft by last Friday I then gave myself another forty eight hours, aka the weekend, to get it done. It turned out I only needed twenty four. On Saturday morning after a highly enjoyable breakfast roll and coffee provided by the lady Holly I set up the laptop, turned the heater on high in order to battle this cold Melburnian winter, and got to work. It took around another six hours of writing, and another three thousand and sixty four words, but I got it done.

The rest of my weekend was then spent being as unproductive as I had been productive before that.

The final page count was 26, and word count 17,191; only 309 words away from being a novella according to the statistics I wrote about recently. I have to admit I’m more than happy with it being a novelette not only because I think it is a respectable amount for a first try but also because novelette is a more fun word to say, especially if you put an accent on it.

I was very happy to be finished. Pressing the final period onto the page brought on a feeling that can only be described as a writer’s high (it’s quite the rush, but not one you’re going to be able to get in a hurry, so if you’re looking for a quick fix maybe just stick with the cocaine. Or write a blog, whatever). While writing this novelette hasn’t been some herculean effort – quite the opposite as it was, you know, fun – putting it down, and in a form I’m happy with, is a relief. One that’s comparable to lowering yourself slowly into a hot tub as a satisfied sigh escapes your mouth which is fixed into insuppressible smile. In other words it felt good.

Having had the story bouncing around in my head for a while with a monologue about it running almost constantly in the back of my mind for the last month as I tried to place all the pieces, figure out dialogue, ensure that it all made sense, and confirm the tone remained constant throughout it means that now my head feels a little emptier. The idea apartment has become vacant, cleaned out, and ready for a new tenant to move in. Which one already has. Perhaps because the brain gets off on being creative (it definitely does, writer’s high is a real thing) but in the last week a new story idea has forcibly pushed itself into my head and is now unpacking some of it’s stuff. I couldn’t be happier about it, this new fellow seems like a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to sharing him with all of you.

In the meantime here’s what’s going to happen next with the Henry story. It’s going to first be read by The Lady Holly who’s patiently listened to me prattle on about it throughout the whole process. Once she’s read it, fixed up all the (many) spelling and grammatical errors, and (hopefully) assured me that it’s not the most terrible thing ever written, then I’ll handball it over to Brother Jonathan. He, with his experience gained through a professional writing and editing course as well as his own many years of writing prose, will then hopefully improve the work further and let me know all the things wrong with it so I can then make them not wrong. Following this I’m planning for it to get into one more set of hands. A friend of mine, Georgie, in a moment of serendipity told me not hours after I finished the last sentence that her Aunty is a professional editor, one who would be happy to read and ruthlessly critique it. While I am a little terrified of getting feedback from someone who doesn’t know and/or love me; I am ecstatic at the idea of an impartial reader having a look and hopefully helping me bring it up to a higher standard. Once all that is done I’ll use all that feedback to go over it myself and write the second draft. Finally, I’ll then release it here, on this website, in one form or another, where, for the few of you reading this, can enjoy it.

++++

While we’re on the topic of critics I came across this comic by the regularly hilarious Poorly Drawn Lines that pretty much sums up my want/fear of receiving said criticism.

ernestos-song

Grandma, if you’re reading this (and I know you might be), do you want to read my story?

Talk soon

Damian