On being a stubborn fool

Apologies for the lack of updates this month! I’ve mostly just been plodding along with my novel revision. And then I, previously unemployed and with plenty of time on my hands, was suddenly inundated by a strange event: getting a job. Well, two jobs, in fact. One of them a two-week temp gig (next week is the second week), and the other a longer thing.

I am extremely relieved and pleased to be employed, but it does put a bit of a damper on writing. 😛 So, what with working all day long last week, and having plenty of evening activities, I’ve fallen behind on my novel revision schedule. Am currently starting chapter 18, when I should actually already be at chapter 20. There are 31 chapters in DV, and my goal was to revise a chapter per day in order to get the novel revised by Oct 31st.

Why this deadline, you say? Well, because of Nanowrimo, of course! I love Nanowrimo, have participated since 2008, and will cry bitter tears if I don’t get to participate this year. I want to finish my novel revision so that I can start a whole new novel on Nov 1st.

Is this foolish? OF COURSE IT IS. Even more foolish now that I’m lagging behind on revision and have lots of other things to do as well, oh, and getting-better but still chronic neck/shoulder/back issues. But curses, I want to meet my deadline! I want to start Nanowrimo on Nov 1st, with a fresh (and almost completely unplanned) novel to explore. I want DV to get at least a month or two to simmer before I go back to it.

So, I am a stubborn fool. I know it; but I want to meet my own deadline, dangnabbit. My dad lent me a mini laptop, so now I can write on the train to and from work next week. I’ll try to be as efficient as I can with the revision. And try not to panic when I consider that the final 10 chapters of DV contain far too many scenes that are currently just outlines in yWriter, not even drafts. The quality of this draft will certainly deteriorate towards the end. OH WELL.

This stubborn fool will now try to acquire her much-needed lunch, and then will be off to a friend’s birthday party. Writing is important, but I also want to treasure my loved ones.

The cutting pain

Cutting out characters is a terrible thing. And yet sometimes, it has to be done. This is one of the cruel truths of writing fiction.

I finally started the proper edit/rewrite of my novel (DV for short) this weekend. I’m calling it the first draft, because really, my Nanowrimo efforts (from 2008 and 2011) made up more of a zero draft.

I really like the concept of a zero draft. (See e.g. Justine Larbalestier’s post on the concept.) It’s awesomely freeing – just get the words out and don’t worry, because see, it’s not even a first draft yet! This is part of a “Nanowrimo” way of writing, I think, and it really works for me.

I used to be one of those people who never got longer works finished because I ended up editing and rewriting the first couple of chapters for ever and ever (hello, high fantasy princess story from my teen years!). Then I did Nanowrimo for the first time in 2008, and it changed everything. Seriously. I went from a writer who couldn’t get anything finished, who had trouble getting lots of text out, to a writer who can rattle out first (zero) drafts without worrying too much. What does that mean? It means I can now get the crap out first, and I’ve become comfortable with editing. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and the “Nanowrimo method” has helped me get over perfectionism in the first crucial stages of a project. Yes, I still want to get my text to the best possible level. But I now realise it can’t be perfect from the start, and that it’s much easier to edit a hundred pages of quickly-written zero-draft text than it is to edit an empty page.

This method also helped me immensely when writing my master’s thesis, so it’s applicable for all you non-novelists out there too! 🙂 I realise not everyone will like the Nanowrimo method of writing, of course not. Use whatever works for you! But as for me: I’m really happy writing like this. First the frantic zero draft; then, the first, second, third, etc….

I should admit that now is my first time ever really finalising a novel. All my other attempts are still firmly at zero draft level. So this is all new (and a bit alarming)! Still, I’m pretty sure the layered method of editing will work for me. I’m excited to see what eventually emerges. Writing a novel is difficult but wonderful.

Difficult brings us back to the original point of this post (I really rambled there, didn’t I?). Mainly, cutting characters. The thing is: my main POV characters, who are siblings, originally had a younger sister, Marianne. She’s’s a cute little button of a teenager: likes Jane Austen and gothic novels, has snappy exchanges of dialogue with her siblings, and is really adorbs. I like her.

But I think she has to go. While she’s a cute character, and I really like the three-sibling dynamic in a couple of scenes, there are several reasons for removing her, such as:

– concentrating on just the two POV siblings makes several themes of the book clearer,
– Marianne appears in a couple of rather pivotal scenes but as a background character – she doesn’t really have significant motivations of her own,
– she distracts from some elements I want to highlight,
– even though she’s cute, she’s not really that vital.

So, yeah. Objectively, Marianne must go. It’ll make for a clearer, more focused story. Subjectively, though? The horror! I’m just in the process of rewriting some scenes from the start of the book that included her, and my heart bleeds whenever I delete her name and lines. She had such cute lines! And I’m not sure they can be switched to anyone else. Oh the sibling banter!

I feel like I’m murdering poor Marianne. I’m pretty sure I’m doing the right thing, and I can always resurrect her or a character very like her in a later story or novel – but ye gods, I feel like a cruel writer-monster!

Kill your darlings indeed.

Synopsis breakthrough

I woke up this morning at 7am to my upstairs neighbours continuing the renovation they were supposed to have finished during the summer. I think it’s Deeply Wrong to do anything loud that early on a Saturday morning, and hence felt/feel extremely resentful. Grouch grouch. I reluctantly got up a little before 8, after heroically attempting to doze till then, because my neighbours were making far too much noise for further sleep to be possible. Also, oh joyful coincidence, today was also a morning of extreme aches and pains, so there was no point in lying in bed either. *sigh*

However! Due to the astonishingly early hour, I was able to propel myself to perform a task I’ve been struggling with for ages: working on the synopsis for the novel I’m currently revising.

Three hours (definitely didn’t feel like that long, I was in such an obsessive mindflow state) and around 4,000 words later, I’d finished a synopsis from the POV of Gwen, one of my two POV characters in the novel. I solved a ton of plot problems and inconsistencies while doing so. I FEEL AWESOME.

Now I need to write a similar synopsis for Edward, my other POV character. After managing to do so for Gwen (whose storyline I’ve had more trouble with), I’m actually really looking forward to rattling out Edward’s synopsis. I think I need a break first, though – my chronic-pain neck is currently scolding me for neglecting to exercise during those typing-filled three hours. I’m sorry, body of mine, I was in the flow and did not notice the pain till now…!