Revision

Some writers revise as they go, so in touch with their inner editors that they choose each word with a deliberate grace.

I am not one of those writers. I’m often not afraid to just throw in an approximate word to get me through the first draft. There is room to revise later and I’m very fond of whoever said “You can’t edit a blank page.” Someone could easily have the next bestseller in her head but without ever putting it down on paper the public will never know. So I race through the rough draft sometimes, if the characters and plot come easily, and then see what I have at the end.

Then comes time for revision. There have been a couple stories where what I have at the end isn’t what I thought I was going to write about in the beginning. Somehow the story took me with it and the characters made their own decisions – just like they’re supposed to. The next thing you know I get to struggle with whether to remake them into my original vision or let their own ideas shape my final manuscript.

“Burning Bright” was one of those manuscripts. I had the two of them with a different mission, to find another version of remnants of life in the story. They made their own rules and informed me later, which worked out well enough for me but not so well for Isra. When I read it after I finished the draft, I realized how much they needed to have the plot go the way they took me rather than how I planned to take them.

Still means I have a lot of things to revise. Earlier plot points that would have led to my original ending had to be rerouted. The character development sometimes needs to get a little deeper. Every now and then entire characters have to be ousted from the story. They’re generally bit parts that just clutter the story I’m telling, and I can’t see that until I’m finished.

The good news is once the process is finished, the sparkling story is ready to go somewhere and be read. In the process right now with another novel, and now I’m wondering if the title doesn’t fit the story. Still, just another piece to revise and make the best I can manage.

What are your rituals through revision? Do you follow the set vision in your head as you go, or do you let the drafts fly and fix them later?

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What’s Real?

I read an article by Kitty Kelley entitled Unauthorized, But Not Untrue. She wrote about the unauthorized biography, of which she has written several, and how much trouble she gets into because she tries to write the truth. Her latest publication is Oprah: A Biography.

It leads me to question what is real, though. Are the ideals we hold real? Are they truth? How do we decide to believe one thing and not another? When do we say one person is right and another is wrong? When did our world become black and white?

I wonder if celebrities [term used loosely] realize the myths they create around themselves. Some of them must, or we wouldn’t have jobs for publicists other than to promote the person. Did a publicist or media consultant type person create the idea of spin? Perhaps it was around earlier than that, when one interesting person decided to take advantage of the way an event played out.

Who would we elect as President if we knew the little secrets? Myths are associated all the way back to George Washington, so we’ve been creating new images for our leaders since our country began. At some point we learn he probably didn’t cut down a cherry tree, that the legend cropped up around his legendary honesty. So what would a man like that say about the people we elect today? Are we even allowed to be honest with ourselves if we’re trying to gain a foothold in the public eye?

The next question is how does it affect the rest of us? When we have a leader who is known for honesty, are the common people more honest? When we don’t know what to think about the people who are making decisions for the rest of us or who we idolize just for being, will that change how we expect others to behave? I wonder if that’s when we let the little lies slide, because there are so many larger and more hurtful untruths out there lurking.

I’m not sure I know what’s really supposed to be the truth. If I can’t find it, how do I know it really exists? Maybe we can change the very fabric of existence by the different stories we tell each other and what we choose to believe. There might be another explanation entirely, but I’m a fiction author. It’s my job to tell a story that isn’t true.

There are a lot of questions today – anybody feel up for some answers? I’d love it if you’d weigh in. 

Feeling Creative

I know it’s from an entire week of doing almost nothing but reading, writing, and critiquing. Almost nothing, because while I abandoned my family responsibilities I did call home twice a day to talk to my two year old. I think she appreciated it.

Having the focus and the deadlines made me do much more toward writing than I do in my normal life. I read every day, though it isn’t much. I write more often than not. [I know I’m supposed to say I write every day here, too, and I’m working on it. I’m on a 23 day streak at 750words and I wrote more than that most days of the class. Not quite every day, but I’m getting closer.]

I read a lot of excerpts and short stories I might not have found otherwise. I’m still working on organizing my list of books to read. I went to two readings at Prairie Lights, too.

During lectures sometimes I had to write down questions, little sparks of information that might turn into interesting stories. Probably will, but who knows when? It’s just a great week to start thinking about everything that everyday life seems to push to the side.

Which brings the inevitable spark of guilt about that novel I’ve been rewriting. The short story I’d like to keep a short story threatens to become another novel draft. Okay, it’d be a good novel, but I need another novel to write like I need a flat tire. Please, don’t let me be tempting fate with that statement because I still remember having issues with flat tires. Cross your fingers for me.

Sometimes I hear the clock ticking, like I need to be finished with this project or other by a certain date. I don’t like having so many projects unfinished. How many writing projects can one person juggle? And that one person better not be one of those machine-authors who has a couple books out a year. I think they must use interesting devices to play with time or not need sleep or something else out of a speculative fiction book.

How many writing projects can you handle? Do you make them wait their turn in line or do you let some of them skip the queue if they’re insistent? Maybe I’ll make them fight it out in my dreams or something and let the winner get written – even though that would totally be unfair to have a half-human fighter against some random teenagers. Of course, the teenagers have their own posses, so perhaps the better money would be on them.

I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Happy writing to all.

Reflection of the Author

Have you run into a reader who thought that because you wrote a story, it must be true? Or worse, it must be about you?

It doesn’t matter in what genre a writer chooses to write, unless it’s non-fiction, it isn’t true. I know this is going to sound weird, but that means the story was created as a flight of fantasy for the author. Some of the might be more nightmare than daydream, but it’s still something made-up.

Sometimes part of it is true, but that doesn’t mean a reader can figure out which parts are borrowed from reality by reading. At least, not by a good writer.

I had a story I wrote where the original version had three characters based on real-life people. The first draft had the main character looking through ‘my’ eyes, but I shifted the viewpoint to a different character in the next draft. It became a better story because of it. To further confound people, none of the events that happened in the story were true. I just borrowed the characters to illustrate something I wanted to show in a story. I ended up changing quite a bit about each of them as I went, too. I don’t think the other people I borrowed would recognize themselves. I didn’t recognize myself in there when I was done.

I’m not sure I’m actually done with that story, or it might not be done with me. It’s such a fine line to say who’s steering these things sometimes.

Next time you pick up a book, stop yourself from wondering what happened in the author’s life to make her write that way. A writer’s mind is rich with things that could happen, if this and that changed, or if something else had been different. Subjects may be researched and not from personal experience. It might be because a story in the newspaper seemed too good to pass up for fiction. Imagination will fill in gaps where research leaves a writer wanting for information.

The question that remains in my mind is whether to look askance about any writer who poses that question about me. It makes me think more that he can’t imagine as many things as I do, and maybe his writing is about something true about him.

Write What You Know

How many times do we hear this? And yet, we try to transfer our experiences, our knowledge, into fiction. Well, a bunch of writers I know do this, and so do I.

The question is, how do you deal with friends or loved ones who think you’re writing about them? Many times I try to imagine crazy things, but that doesn’t mean it’s based off anyone near and dear to me.

Just curious what the writers out there think.

Formula

Do you ever notice that some authors seem to follow the same type of plot? Looks something like a formula, but if it sells, it works, right?

One of my favorite authors has something like a pattern in one of her series. I started a book in another series, but the similarity to the other books was presented in a more pronounced manner. I can see why it has turned some friends off the book. I’m still debating whether to continue.

It might be easier to turn out novels if one follows a formula. It also makes one expect certain endings upon beginning the book. Is that the way some authors get established, or is it only allowed after a name is made?

So much to think about…

Colors of Friendship

I have a lot of friends and am thankful for all of them. One thing that I have always attempted to do is portray friends in fiction as they are in real life. So many elements of stories are inspired by actual events, whether they’re ‘based on true events’ or simply to add the feeling of reality.

One problem I face in that attempt is what happens in real life is differentiating characters. We see differences between people when they’re standing in front of us, but in short stories especially readers get confused. It forces me as a writer to dig deeper to really show different nuances, but I notice that isn’t always readily apparent in everyday interactions.

Another big problem is that truth is stranger than fiction. I have a short story on friendship that a few readers commented, “I don’t believe anyone could ever be like this.” I’d made the person less extreme than she really acted, so I never figured out how to really reconcile the story. Friendship takes many forms, and each of them depends on the dynamic between the two or more individuals who are together.

Then there’s the question of what makes friends not be friends anymore. It comes up more in my YA than it does in science fiction, likely because the teenage years are such a volatile time. Each time I write that, I wonder about friendship itself. I pick relationships apart and then analyze what I know about people.

It might not always help some ‘real’ relationships that seem doomed, but it has helped me make more realistic interactions for my characters. Next up ought to be someone who gets a phone call out of the blue from someone who’s been out of contact for two or three years. But after that amount of time, are the two still friends? It’s a question I haven’t yet been able to answer. Most of the time, I’d say no.