Journal, Writing Discussion

Writing:

I wrapped up draft #3 of the gothic novel, and spent August getting organized for round #4. There are character and setting details that need changing, and that means pretty much reworking the entire thing. It’s daunting, but that’s what a plan is for.

CRAFT TALK TIME – Revision Tips and Tricks

So you’ve finished a draft or few. How do you figure out what needs changing? I picked up a few tricks that help with identifying plot problems. Some of these tricks didn’t work for me before, but they do now, so YMMV. Writing tips are just tools, and here are few you might want to add to your basket:

  1. For each scene write out the main Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. – This can help you identify what a scene is lacking (a sense of purpose, why it’s happening, or tension)
  2. For each scene write what happens Plot Wise and Emotionally. Both require movement. – If nothing changes significantly, then maybe it’s just an extraneous scene, or maybe you need to make the purpose of the scene clearer.
  3. Check your scene transitions – If you can describe your current scene in one sentence and then begin the description of your next scene with “but” or “therefore” you likely have a solid case of cause and effect propelling your story, hooray! A scene can be a complication (BUT), or result of a choice (THEREFORE). If your next scene can be connected only with “and then” it might be a random diversion or coincidence, and you should look twice at whether it should be there or if the logic needs fixing. A rule of thumb (not an absolute) is that coincidences that make the story worse for characters can stay, but coincidences that make life easier for characters should go.
  4. For each scene write down who makes the decisions – If you have a problem with character agency, this can help point out where it goes wrong. Too many chapters where the main characters are forced to act instead of choosing a course of action can signal a problem.
  5. Sleep on your problems – This is a weird one, I know, but I swear it works once you train your subconscious. Before you go to bed, think of the plot problem you’re trying to solve. By morning, or in a few mornings, you’ll probably have an answer or at least an idea of how to start tackling it.
  6. Figure out the major plot and subplots, and see where they are introduced and where they end — First In, Last Out (FILO) tends to work in an overall sense, mainly because the more important a subplot is, the more time it should take to resolve. It’s a good idea to check if you’ve resolved all your subplots. I’ve also heard this technique referred to as ‘nested conflicts’, because smaller conflicts are sandwiched between bigger ones. Simple Plot Example:
    1. Main Plot (Introduced chapter 1) – We must defeat the evil king
    2. Major Subplot (Introduced chapter 3) – But we need an enchanted sword that’s guarded by a dragon
    3. Minor arc (introduced chapter 5, resolved chapter 6) – Figuring out where that sword is hidden
    4. Minor arc (Introduced chapter 7, resolved chapter 9) – Assembling the gang to help sneak past the dragon
    5. etc…
    6. Major subplot (Resolved chapter 23) – We get past the dragon and find the sword
    7. Main Plot (Resolved chapter 25 – end of book) – We do battle and defeat the evil king

Of course, figuring out where the story goes wrong doesn’t mean you can fix it, but it’s a start. There’s also a certain point when you’ve done all you can and don’t know how much else you can fix, when it really does take another set of eyes on your writing to get it better. There’s only so much you can do on your own.

Here’s another post about tackling revisions that I have bookmarked.

Reading:

I’ve been reading a lot – maybe too much? Is that possible (my parents would say yes)?  I’m one of those people that likes to binge watch several seasons of a TV series at once, so I’ve funneled that slightly obsessive bent into my reading list. (Hello procrastination!)

My goal was to finally get through my TBR pile. I am failing. I keep adding more books to the list. SEND HELP. I also think I’m going to have to cut back the reading until my next draft is done. I really need to focus.

Books: 

  • Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
  • Tell me Something Good by Jamie Wesley
  • MEM by Bethany C. Morrow
  • The One You Can’t Forget by Roni Loren
  • The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
  • Sweet Nothings by T. Neilson
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Graphic Novel)
  • Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young
  • On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Beats Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
  • A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

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Journal

Writing:

I’m stuck deep in the “I’m never going to finish” feeling. And it is SO tempting to chuck the whole novel before I fix it, because honestly it feels like there’s so much broken. But this is both a truth and a lie. The more you learn, the easier it gets to spot your mistakes. This time I’m spotting so many more ways each scene is broken, why the characters are broken, why the motivations fail… And that’s why this revision feels so daunting. But, being able to see it also means that I can fix it. Hopefully. Maybe. Still, I’m going to take a minute and cry about how much work there is left. I just need a sec.

Living:

So it goes: you can have it all, but not at the same time. That feels like the mantra of my life right now. Life’s busy between the day job and family. Some days I’m too tired to get any writing done. Sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at parenting, because I’ve got no emotional energy left after a tough day in the office. Some days I feel like super mom, because naps happen, the child is sweet, and meals get eaten. Some days I feel like I’m crawling in my skin because I’m trapped in the office. Some days the office feels like my only refuge. Some days I despair that I can’t get enough writing done. Movies, TV, showers without interruption, meals you can take your time at – what are those? I haven’t done book reviews for a while, because I have no mental bandwidth for them lately.

July involved a personal health issue that derailed part of the month, and it was hard to feel enthusiastic about anything at all. Then travel happened. This trip to France was our first real vacation together in more than 4 years. It was good to get away, but then there’s always your life to come back to and work to pick up and brush off and start over on. Momentum is fleeting.

How does anyone pursue writing + day job + kids + a life? The only answer I can think of is, failing all over the place, and sacrificing one thing for the other, on one day or another. Most days I’m just too busy to think about it much. You just survive, and keep on going the best you can.

P.S. Scenic highlights of our trip to France on  Insta.

Reading:

  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
  • Call on Me by Roni Loren
  • The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
  • A Lady at Midnight by Tessa Dare
  • Bring me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

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