Not A Word To Waste, The Horror Of Redrafts #WeekendCoffeeShare

This weekend the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is taking place. Last month I posted my entry for the second challenge of the first round: Stolen Silence and at the moment I’m working on redrafting my submission for the first challenge of this year’s first round.

Redrafting is the part of the process where you quite often find yourself doubting that you have any ability to put one work in front of the other at all. You find typos, spelling mistakes, words that you didn’t even know existed. Tenses switch back and forth, character names suddenly change, and out of nowhere you move from mountains to city surroundings. Editing is where all your mistakes come to the forefront and you have to go back and fix them.

If you’re luck you will have brilliant people who will help you with your redrafts and edits. These people (if you can find the ones that will give you an honest review rather than just ‘yeah mate, good job’) are invaluable for getting your past that snow-blind stage where you can’t see the words for the prose. Distance from your work can help, but I often find a fresh pair of eyes will pick apart of poem or story far more effectively than I ever could.

I’ve been very luck, I’ve always had friends who were interested in reading and writing so I’ve always had people to run work past. At the moment there is someone reading my poetry collection ‘All In The Blood’ for me, and someone else who has been giving feedback on my NYC submission. For both it has been less about being told what is wrong with my writing, or what is right, but about being challenged to look at my work through a different lens. More often than not this means I go back and take another shot at saying whatever it was I was trying to say.

So, my top tips for editing and redrafting.

  • Try not to send out first drafts. Do a little redrafting yourself before exposing your child to the elements.
  • Remember that you’re asking someone for their opinion. You don’t have to agree with it, but you asked for it so be polite when they give it.
  • Think about the comments your editor makes and even if you don’t go in that direction, think about why they have been made. You might find it sends you off down a different avenue of thought.
  • If your story has an element that you’re not familiar with in it, try finding someone who is familiar. I don’t always believe in the ‘write what you know’ but you should at least ‘write what you’ve researched’.

Now, enough procrastinating, I have a story to redraft, a poetry collection to edit, and a novel to corral. As they say, no sleep for the writer.

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Shadow Dawn Snapshot And Rejection Blues

There had been little warning and no defence. From the saddle of her horse Tara could see the bodies lying around the village, their corpses moved to create a macabre circle around the cobbled together cottages. The ones who still had hands, lay with them folded across their chests. The ones who didn’t…

Tara turned her head away.

‘My Lady?’ The soldiers shifted behind her, their mounts unnerved by the tension.

‘Bury them,’ she ordered, and wheeled her horse away from the carnage.

‘But my Lady!’ He was young, his cheeks still a little chubby and Tara could see where he’d gnawed his bottom lip raw. ‘The curse.’

Ilia spat and the boy flinched.

‘There’s no curse,’ said Tara. ‘Bury them as they should have been already.’ Her horse started forward with a slight nudge from her heels. ‘Keep your eyes open when you’re down there though.’

The soldiers bowed their heads and complied, even the boy, though Tara could see him chewing his lip.

‘Children.’ Ilia shook her head. ‘He’s been listening to the whispers.’

Tara heard the leather of her reigns creaking beneath her grip.

‘They all have,’ she said. ‘He’s just the first one who dared to speak up.’ With a kick she urged the horse to go faster, leaving the village behind them and the voices whispering in her ears.

He won’t be the last, she told herself. He’s the first, but he won’t be the last.

So tonight I wanted to be really productive and gets lots of writing done. Instead I managed the bit of a drabble above which I’m not sure I’ll even use in Shadow Dawn, and a half arsed short story that barely links to the prompt it was supposed to be for.

I suppose today hasn’t exactly been the best day creativity wise.

I did have a weird, proud-ish moment earlier today. I received an email to say that my poem had, unfortunately, not been accepted for the next issue of Interpreter’s House. To be honest, I’d forgotten that I’d even submitted to them and I can’t remember what I sent, but it got me thinking. You can’t get a rejection if you don’t try and trying is part of progressing, so getting an email to say you’ve not been accepted is really evidence that you’re making an effort to begin with. Does that make any sense? It’s left me feeling a little blue of course. I never like the idea that I’m not good enough, but I suppose that just means I need to keep working and improving so I can try again.

I’m hoping to find some more competitions and literary journals to send some writing off to in the next few months and I’m planning on attacking that massive pile of poetry that needs redrafting, but today has been a bit of a reminder that I’ll need to really kick things up a gear if I want to succeed. This blog has been somewhere that I can hone my writing skills and it also provides a forum to build presence as a writer.

Each night I need to come home and get something, no matter how small, down on paper. I need to have something tangible for each evening. Tonight that is a short story that’s no where near done and a piece of writing I’ll probably never use, but it’s tangible and I wrote both of them.

I’m building, and that’s what matters.

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Sarina Langer: Inside The Writer’s Head

This year Writing and Works has been embracing guest posts like never before. April saw a wonderful collection of bloggers talking about poetry and what it meant to them, with May slipping away already, we turn now to fiction and novels.

Sarina Langer has just published her fist novel ‘Rise of The Sparrows’ and has been lovely enough to agree to write a guest post about writing and what she has learnt about the writing process. You can find more about her and her book at http://www.sarinalangerwriter.com and find ‘Rise Of The Sparrows’ on the Amazon store.

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When Carol asked me if I’d like to do a guest post for her blog, I knew immediately what to write about. I started my own blog nearly a year ago, and it’s also nearly a year since I started to take writing more seriously.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and have enjoyed every second.

… Well. Almost every second.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but over the past year I’ve really thrown myself into it and embraced every aspect of it. Most of the process I love, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today-

The aspects of the writing process I love, and why.

The Writing Itself

I’d be in the wrong profession if I didn’t like the main aspect of it. You could argue that the editing is the most important part, but without the writing there’s no draft to edit. Without the writing, there’s no book. It’s not a step you can skip.

I write fantasy (and occasionally I dabble in sci-fi, too), which gives me free reign. If I want a red river, I write a red river. If I want forests where green-glowing night whisps dance in a clearing every night from 1am to 2am, I write that. All within reason of that world, of course. I want to go nuts but I want my readers to believe me, too.

Writing fantasy gives me the chance to create something magical, and bring a bit of magic into the lives of my readers. Those are the books I’ve loved since I was a child, and I want to be able to whisk my readers away in the same way my favourite authors have whisked me away.

My Characters

No story would be complete without its characters! I once read that a bad plot can be overlooked if the readers are invested in the characters, but it doesn’t work the other way around. A good story needs strong characters to survive (even if they don’t), and I love meeting mine for the first time.

If you don’t write you might not understand this, but for us meeting new characters is terribly exciting. We’ll be working together, after all, often for several years and it’s exciting to see how they develop and grow during that time.

New Ideas

The feeling only a new idea can bring is amazing, motivating, and feels like a fire that’s been ignited inside me and that’s burning its way through me. It makes my heart race and my mind leap. New ideas are full of opportunity, possibility, and they can still grow into any direction. It’s where the story itself is born and shaped – and we can take it anywhere (the promise of a new notebook if the idea stays exciting is pretty good, too – did I mention I’m obsessed with stationery?)

Creating a World

Come on. Do I need to say more? I create a whole world! From scratch! Who wouldn’t find this exciting? A whole new world, with its own magic system, its own religions, races, superstitions, beliefs, legal systems, countries-

I never said it was a small job, or an easy one. Creating a world that doesn’t exist isn’t simple, and a lot of thought needs to be invested if you want to do it well. If I’ve learned one thing from reading reviews, even on very popular books, it’s that people can smell lazy world building before they’ve

finished reading the first chapter. While a lacking world might not put them off completely, it might still sour the experience for them. Do I need to say more? World-building is important. And exciting.

Research

I’ve learned so much since I’ve started writing my book, and most of it I didn’t expect. Did you know that Lady Fern can be used to calm and heal cuts, burns and other minor injuries? Or that the Incas treated their children extremely well before they sacrificed them? Or that the Hawaiians used to have rather cruel human sacrifice traditions?

I do most of my research as I write and edit. You never know when things pop up that you need to look into, and I’ve learned a lot that way. Most of it I won’t be able to apply in everyday life, but I love knowledge and the research I get to do is fascinating.

The Edit

This is the part a lot of writers dread. Writing the first draft is exciting, but the edit is where we take it apart. Most of us will take time away from our draft before we start editing – some take only a handful of weeks, others take at least six months. I took one month away from mine before I started editing.

There are many different stages to this aspect. You edit yourself, very likely several times, but then there are beta readers and your editor, as well. Because you’ve written it you can’t edit the whole thing yourself. The plot twists no longer work for you, the surprises are no longer surprising, and small inconsistencies in your character’s behaviour don’t register with you. That’s because you’ve written it, and that’s why you can’t do it yourself. Someone who has never read it before will see it with new eyes, which is impossible for you to do.

Someone once said to me that the edit is where the magic happens, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the most time-consuming and maddening part for many (dare I say most?) of us, but it’s also where we turn something that’s okay into something fantastic. It’s where all paradoxes are addressed, exciting scenes become really exciting, and where we fix all those little things that would have bugged our readers otherwise – such as consistency in our characters’ speech. They can’t have a scottish accent for most of the book, but not in two chapters near the end, for example.

Completion

Unwrapping the proof copy of your book and holding it in your hands for the first time is extremely satisfying and thrilling. Receiving the professionally drawn world map for your book is emotional. Seeing the finished cover design for the first time is an incredible feeling. You’ve created a world from nothing, and all those steps towards completion are proof of that.

There is so much to do – so much work that goes into this process – that you can almost forget how close you are to seeing it through. It gets very tiring at times, but receiving little completed bits here and there are small pushes of motivation towards the finish line.

You

I can’t say this often enough: The writing community – be that here, on twitter, on Instagram or anywhere else – is incredible. When I first chirped up nearly a year ago, the warm welcome was instant and it has been a wonderful and supportive community ever since. My fellow writers on every platform have made me feel very welcome and loved, and I couldn’t have chosen a better community.

If you want to write but are worried that no one will like what you’re doing, just say the word – we’re here for you and we will be your cheerleaders!

Novel Update

This week has not been easy for me and I would like to open this post by thanking everyone who commented on Tuesday night’s post. Your condolences and thoughts meant a lot and it was wonderful to receive such a level of support.

Moving on from my personal issues, let’s talk about Darkened Daughter and my utter uselessness at keeping up with Deadlines. I was going to attempt Nanowrimo this month to see if that would encourage me to get the second draft completely written by the end of November but clearly that plan fell through the floor. Simply put, I’ve barely written all month. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing.

Anyway, I’m trying to be proactive and this evening I’m working on the first chunk of the book which is Tara’s infiltration of Turnkay’s Keep in the Witch Moors.

At the moment the main aspect missing from Darkened Daughter is character development so that is what I’m trying to resolve. In order to give each character some sense of growth and realism I’m trying to focus on each character’s individual storyline and get that written in as much depth as I can. That means writing Tara and then turning to Nicholas and then to the others. I have 50,000 words and nothing that resembles a coherent storyline.

So that is my target for the new year. By January 1st I hope to actually have a full bodied draft that I can sent to readers and say ‘Hey, here’s my story, what do you think?’ That’s the plan at least. Here’s to hopeful thinking.

I’m also well aware that I’ve basically ignored wordpress for the good portion of a month after a burst of being more active than I’ve ever been online. Apologies for that.

Unfortunately I don’t think things are going to get much better any time soon as I’m trying to direct the majority of my drive towards this novel. This life consuming, soul sucking beast of a novel.

I haven’t forgotten you.

I’m just trying to tackle one thing at a time.

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First Draft Done… Sort Of

Character Design For Tara Woodfall by Antonia Brennan
Artwork by Antonia Brennan

So I’ve managed to do it! I’ve completed a first draft of a novel for the first time in my life. Whoohoo! Lets throw a party.

Okay, let’s not throw a party just yet, the hard bit is just around the corner.

Yes, I have 52,000 words of writing that sort of follows a plot line and gets my characters from where I wanted them at the start of the book to where I wanted them at the end of the book.

Yes, all my characters have appeared in that 52,000 words.

Yes, most of the major events have been included.

NO.

The last chapter has not been written.

The character development has as much meat on it as an emancipated stick-man.

Most of the characters barely do anything except those major scenes and the rest seems a lot like fluff without much relevance.

Result:

Redrafting is needed in abundance.

But on the bright side. I’ve written 52,000 words so I have something to work with. Maybe I will throw myself a small party. I shall go brew a celebratory pot of tea.

I’ve achieved something I hadn’t before. I know know that I can get this far so why not further.

All the same. Wish me luck with editing.