Tag Archives: editing

Shelf Control: War and Peace

Yesterday was one of those horrible/ wonderful days in the life of a working writer. For the last week I had been struggling with organizing Part One of my project and plotting out Part Two, and after six days I felt like a mountaineer who had spent all that time climbing to the top of a ridge, only to look down and realize that I was actually on the top of Crapbucket Mountain, and the view was more crap, and I was really only a foot or so off the ground, and not a mile or more. But, for various reasons (most of which are unfit to print in a blog written for the sane and well-adjusted) I kept on going, and a series of revelations Monday and Tuesday helped put me back on track. Monday evening, I realized that I didn’t know the answer to the question “What happens if they fail?” Every author should be able to answer that, I think, and I think I’ve been guilty of not answering that in the past. Today looks to be a good day of inserting a few pages in Part One that answer that question, and moving on with Part Two. If you come back here Friday and my post is written backwards in crayon, that means I failed.

The other thing, perhaps the main thing I’m going to talk about today, is my reading. Bookshelf Fantasies hosts a weekly discussion called Shelf Control, and as someone who really only has shelf control because he travels with his family for the better part of the year, I highly recommend it. I’m kind of cheating, though. Instead of writing about a book I own, haven’t read, and want to read, I’m going to write about a book that I own, started reading, stopped reading, and now want to pick back up and finally finish. That book is War and Peace.

warandpeacemaudeThis is my second-and-a-half time attempting to read this. I’ve read much longer books before (Remembrance of Things Past, Joseph and His Brothers) and I’ve read nearly everything by Dostoevsky, so I’m determined to make it through this one. And it’s not a question of the writing being difficult of boring… I can’t speak for the Russian original or other translations but this is remarkably clear and concise writing. But, a few weeks after I started this, we moved to our winter digs in Florida, and I started writing a novel, and I got distracted by another book I’m reading, and I set this down somewhere in the middle of Part Five, in the ‘Peace’ section. (There are a couple. The book should probably be titled “War and Peace and War and then More Peace, but WAIT! There’s WAR!!!” but I can imagine that Tolstoy’s editor wouldn’t have liked it. Today, and every day til the end of the year, I’m picking it back up, finding out how everyone deals with the uneasy peace of failure and impending war and invasion, and getting this off my list.

If you haven’t read it, I heartily recommend the book. Some parts are a little simplistic, some parts are predictable (and not just because we know who wins) but the characters are very accessible and it’s still fun, for some reason, to watch them do the worst possible thing they can do, and then deal with the repercussions they KNEW were probably going to happen anyway. Tolstoy also does a very good job of describing PTSD and battle shock, and if you’ve ever served in the military, or know someone who has, you’ll relate to what he says. It may be a famous classic work of literature, but it’s also famous and classic for a good reason.

That’s my post for today. It’s time to dive back in the trench and fire away at this thing until I either have good copy or I pass out from a tea overdose. I’ll be back Friday with a book review and more news from the front. Stay safe.

Writing Tips: A List that is actually GOOD

One of the reasons I’ve been writing flash fiction (3 weeks, now… maybe 49 to go, maybe more…) is because I’m fishing around the little pools in my subconscious for a new book, and the short bursts of fiction not only help me hone my craft, they’re a way of baiting my hook and hopefully pulling a bigger idea out. And while I’ve finished 8 novel length manuscripts, I’ve only recently learned what works and what doesn’t. So, here is a list of things not to do in a first or second or tenth novel. Yes, I’m guilty of a few.

Top Ten Writing Mistakes

Workshop Wednesday: Manuscript Makeover

I’m still plugging away at revising the novella about Agata and her unfortunate misfortunes on a merchant’s wagon train, though despite a horrible headache that’s lasted for going on three days, now, I also have tomorrow’s story up and scheduled. Hopefully, my brain stops stabbing my eyes long enough for me to make sure that is fit to post on time tomorrow morning.

In the spirit of Workshop Wednesday, though, I’m linking to one of my two favourite books about editing, Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover. I’ve ditched most of my editing books (my desk has this, The First Five Pages, and Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition on it) but this one survived the purge. It may not be the be-all-end-all tome of manuscript perfecting, but she spends a good amount of time not just discussing editing (which I define as correcting mistakes) and refining (which is taking something that may be adequate and making it good, or taking something that’s already good but making it good in a way that appeals to you, your readers, and your cat. Highly recommended.

Writing is ReReReReReReWriting: An Agony

I have a long weekend, so I’ve taken it upon myself to rewrite a novella I wrote last October. That was the weekend some of you remember when I decided I was going to write a 100 page novella in 100 hours. (That’s 100 hours straight, counting time for note-taking, eating, walking the dog, pulling out my hair, shoving it back in the follicles because I really can’t afford to lose more, coping with the sudden ability to smell colours, and all of the other wonderful things that accompany the task of writing 25,000 words in a four-day weekend. Yes, of course I’m thinking of doing this again. Why do you ask?) It’s been hanging around since then, mocking me with its two well-rounded characters and a bunch of paper dolls, an awesome and explosive beginning, a weak and arbitrary ending, taunting me with the fact that I know how to fix it, now, and could actually fix it, if I, you know, sat down to write the bloody thing. So, this weekend, I decided I was going to buckle down and get as close to a final draft as I could on this damn thing so I could either submit it for publication or do something to free it into the wide, wide world, because it sure needs to get out of my head.

Alright, in other words I just spent ten minutes taking a break from writing so I could write about how hard writing is. Yes, I’m definitely in the colour-smelling stage of my word-induced insanity. In fact, I’m considering naming them. This shirt I’m wearing is a lovely shade of Bob, which smells like anxiety and imagination.

On the bright side, I have nearly three of ten chapters written and rewritten. I had to go back and rewrite a few sections, but I feel like this story young Ms Agata (a teenage girl on a wagon train through a rural medieval country, along with her Uncle, her foster cousin, and a few friends) is finally coming together. Because that’s what rewriting is. My Muse runs up from her basement study with a handful of papers and says, ‘CJ! You HAVE to listen to this!!!’ And I do, writing down everything she says for posterity. But she’s a storyteller, not a writer. And much like how your Mom edits your Dad’s stories (or vice-versa) so people who weren’t there can actually understand them, I have to go through and write out a new version of things, a translation, if you will, for those of you who don’t live in my head. And if I can tell this story in such a way that it resonates with something you yourself think about, I’ve done my job.

See? I came here to talk about how writing sucks, and I convinced myself otherwise. Yay editorializing.

Y’all have an awesome weekend. Wish me luck. And yes, there will be a new story on Thursday.

Writing Rules and “Rules”

From the always-excellent “Terrible Minds” blog, here is Mr Chuck Wendig writing about the difference between writing laws and writing guidelines. If you’re a fan of his work and especially his non-fiction, you probably have already clicked on the link. If you’re not, stop whatever you’re doing (yes, even if whatever you’re doing happens to be putting out a fire or googling ‘how to give a turtle the Heimlich Manoeuvre’) and get yourself good and acquainted with him.

In Writing, There Are Rules, And Then There Are “Rules”

Inspiration Tuesday

Today’s the day that I try to post things that inspired me and/ or are inspiring me. In the past, I’ve posted links, pictures, memes, and quotes. I had meant to do that this morning but my cat meowed me awake so she could go outside and I wound up sitting on my back porch with a hot mug of tea and a book or two and, of course, Señorita Mija Kittypants until just before I had to leave for work.

Originally when I wrote that last paragraph, I was going to say “I failed,” but I changed my mind. Today, you’ll just get a list of what inspires me. Or at least, that’s what I’m inspired to post today.

Trees — Yes, they’re the primary reason I hike. Sure, staring off the edge of a cliff and seeing for miles over the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains is nice, but any time I’m hiking through a grove of trees, I’m excited. (Maybe not so much during Atlanta’s pollen season.) And even though most of my publishing is done online these days, I have a deep personal relationship with paper. Anything I write has to be worth the trees that were pulped to print it. (Or the energy used to power the server that hosts it.) Many a time there had been when I realised that I didn’t want to explain to the ghost of a grove of trees that it died so I could print something I didn’t proofread, or edit properly, or didn’t work on hard enough.

Writers — My blog roll lists a few that I like. One in particular published my work when no one else would (you can decide for yourself whether that’s good or bad) in addition to making sure my reading list is never boring, and one was inspired by me to embark in a blog project and in turn inspired me (read:  guilt-forced me) into sucking it up and bringing this blog back on line and up to date. But I’m not plugging them this time. This time, I want to say that seeing anyone writing anything inspires me (yup, I mean guilt-forces me, again) to pull out my notebook or laptop or tablet or bar napkins, or even just ask my pub companion to hold really still while I write on his or her back. Yes, even the ‘WRITERS’ who populate coffee shops (not often on the business side of the counter… that’s where you’ll find those writers and artists who actually write and, err, art) and proclaim to all unwilling to tune them out that they will rework the very definition of fiction… once they get past page 51, at least, or such petty bourgeois concerns like ‘plot’ and ‘character’ and ‘holding the reader’s interest… even they inspire me. Even if what they’re creating is less written fiction and more oral storytelling tradition about how they too will be a great writer someday, they are creating.

Food — Rather, the preparing of food. Sometimes when I’m blocked I will walk about with a notepad, bereft of words but begging me to be able to put something down. Sometimes I’ll play with the cat, or walk the dog. Or walk the cat, which leads to confusion all around. Sometimes I’ll chew on my pen, hoping that I can squeeze the words out of my head, down the ink barrel, and onto my paper. But few things are able to really push me past that point of being unable to write like not being able to write, even if it is for only twenty or thirty minutes while I chop the onions and garlic and broccoli and garlic (never is there ever too much garlic). Sometimes I’ll even eat what I cook. And yes, sometimes I just can’t keep the words in and I’ll run madly from the range top to my table and start scrawling my ideas down with a wooden spoon lately used to stir something that will definitely leave a stain before realizing that the pen the cat knocked off the table when she jumped up there to get away from the dog who ran into the kitchen because someone was making noise in there and that someone just possibly might be able to give her some of that food, or perhaps all of it… perhaps that pen will work better, and I grab it and write down whatever it was that hit me. Often it’s only slightly more lucid than the notes I jot down between dreams (last week I sent a text message to myself that says ‘Your mission is to rescue your Uncle from Computer Rehab…’ Any ideas what the hell that means?) but it doesn’t matter, because in the process of creating sustenance for my belly (and entertainment for the pets) I almost invariably create sustenance for my head. Or my Muse’s head, maybe.

Maybe when I get home I will post a few quotes and sound bites, but really, what good is Inspiration Tuesday if I don’t talk about inspiration?

Editing is like…

“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”
― Don Roff

“Anyone and everyone taking a writing class knows that the secret of good writing is to cut it back, pare it down, winnow, chop, hack, prune, and trim, remove every superfluous word, compress, compress, compress…

Actually, when you think about it, not many novels in the Spare tradition are terribly cheerful. Jokes you can usually pluck out whole, by the roots, so if you’re doing some heavy-duty prose-weeding, they’re the first to go. And there’s some stuff about the whole winnowing process I just don’t get. Why does it always stop when the work in question has been reduced to sixty or seventy thousand words–entirely coincidentally, I’m sure, the minimum length for a publishable novel? I’m sure you could get it down to twenty or thirty if you tried hard enough. In fact, why stop at twenty or thirty? Why write at all? Why not just jot the plot and a couple of themes down on the back of an envelope and leave it at that? The truth is, there’s nothing very utilitarian about fiction or its creation, and I suspect that people are desperate to make it sound manly, back-breaking labor because it’s such a wussy thing to do in the first place. The obsession with austerity is an attempt to compensate, to make writing resemble a real job, like farming, or logging. (It’s also why people who work in advertising put in twenty-hour days.) Go on, young writers–treat yourself to a joke, or an adverb! Spoil yourself! Readers won’t mind!”
― Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree

“I feel like I’m trying to shovel shit from the bottom of an elevator shaft.” ― C.J. Casey, Something I Screamed at my Mug of Tea this Morning

So I’m editing a novella in hopes for publication. In addition to the poetry for Poetry Monday, I’ll put up things about the editing process and perhaps an excerpt later.

And for those of you editing… you’re not alone. Actually, check that. You’re horribly, horribly alone. Writing is perhaps the most solitary thing one can do; at least if you’re a chronic masturbator you can attract a crowd. But you’re alone with a bunch of other people who are just as alone as you are. I hope that makes you feel a little better. I mean, it doesn’t help me, but hopefully it will help you.

Here Be Dragons: The 140,000 Word Outline

Reblogged from Bare Knuckle Writer:

Click to visit the original postSo, those of you who’ve been here a while—or read through some of the archives—know that my Big Project, the one that’s taking up nearly all of my writing time at the moment, is the re-write of The Patchwork King. PWK* was last year’s NaNoWriMo project. You can read about the gradual descent of my sanity level here…

Read more… 391 more words

Amazing words of encouragement and wisdom from what is becoming one of my new favourite writing blogs.

Popcorn and Rubber-Necking: NaNoWriMo Survival Guide For Spectators

This might be more in line with yesterday’s topic, but this is a great article on how to survive NaNoWriMo when all of your writing support group seems to be doing it. If you want more of the same, check out Charlotte Cuevas’s excellent article on the same subject. Honestly, that might have been what pushed me over the edge from ‘Thinking about not doing it and feeling guilty’ to ‘Not doing it and still being productive.’

Popcorn and Rubber-Necking