To Rebuild, First We Must Tear It All Down.

ErnestHemingway

 

The first draft of anything is shit.

-Ernest Hemingway

There’s a word that seems to conjure up an image of a lone wanderer, aimlessly trudging through the dusty plains, constantly changing directions under a bleary sun and yet still not seeming to get anywhere.

That word: Editing.

After each subsequent edit, I think: “yeah, alright. I think it’s where it needs to be. This is good!” After some feedback, then it becomes painfully clear: WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!

That’s okay. I have one thing to say to myself, and all other writers going through the grueling process of editing:

Don’t be so goddamn hard on yourself.

Seriously, this is the nature of writing. Hemingway said it best (read above.) It’s okay to write something that isn’t good, or needs fixing. Just learn from it, change it, make it better. The beauty of writing is you can edit and change the content as much as you need. You can cut and hone it from being a car leaf spring into a sharpened survival knife.

Truthfully, the ability to know where you can improve, and accept that you need to improve are some of the most important facets of success. Don’t let yourself down; don’t let your story down.

  • Get readers who will give you feedback. Honest, harsh feedback. You’ll need it.
  • Be willing to overhaul parts of your story if it’s clear it is needed. Don’t get married to your ‘plan.’
  • Don’t try to do it all at once. Figure out what you need to change, and tackle one issue at a time.

Good luck, wasteland wanderers.

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That Was…Oh so Worth the Wait.

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
—Tom Clancy

You may (or may not) recall I wrote an article not long ago on letting the story come to you. As I said then, I have no editors or publishers breathing down my neck. I have the freedom of writing it at my own pace. That, in a strange way, is its own sort of valuable resource.

Well, here I am, glad to say the Chapter in question that befuddled me is complete. And in doing so, the novel I’ve worked on for nearly three years is too.

Somehow, I thought it’d be more of a relief, more exultant, this time around. It probably isn’t because I know the arduous editorial process that now proceeds me. But regardless, I am proud of one thing; I waited, I didn’t write a word for nearly two weeks rather than force it, and in time, the story I wanted popped into my head.

And that is what feels exultant. I didn’t force it, writing the chapter I had outlined, because it just didn’t feel like it did the character justice. I was willing to throw out the guidelines I had put in place for myself when I saw fit. That was worth the wait. Often fellow writers will tell you just to write no matter what; I think most of the time, that is the best option. But don’t be afraid to slow down. Don’t hate on yourself for not writing. Sometimes you have to let it come to you, the way only time can allow.

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
—George Orwell

So, the thinly veiled brag in all of this: I finished my book. It took nearly 3 years to write 253 pages. And it’s quite possible it’s total crap. Hopefully it’s great. If enough people read it you’re pretty likely to hear both sentiments from your readers. But regardless of what becomes of this novel, or your novel, take pride in doing it your way– I started the book august 23rd of 2011, and managed only about 83 pages a year, and I couldn’t care less. It’s done, the way I wanted it.

 

Okay, so…Why should I care about your characters?

Perhaps the largest pitfall for writing, for all writers, is the story in your own head. The great challenge that is translating your all encompassing world and its precious characters to the reader is often the simplest oversight.

In our own minds, we know why we love (or hate) our characters. We know the value of their story. It does not need critical acclaim. It’s precious to us in a way you can only hope someone else feels after reading.

Because of that fact, many novels fail to live up to their potential. We all are vulnerable to this. Let’s say you write a protagonist, a character that is more than just an idea to you. You build a huge, complex world, a winding story with intrigue and power… and no one cares.

Some may argue that not all stories need to be character driven. While maybe this is true, the best ones are– after all, we love stories not as some fictitious-historical account, but as a journey for an individual (or a group). 76481-004-0F2A901AHemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls is an entire story about blowing up a bridge. We aren’t captivated over hundreds of pages because we wonder if the bridge will blow up or not; we are captivated because Robert Jordan’s thoughts and desires and fears along the way grip is in an impossibly real way.

“You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”
― John Rogers

This quote is a summation of how characters should be viewed. Every one of them are real, living characters in a world that isn’t real.  Don’t do them the disservice of holding them back from their true potential as people. Do you have moments when you truly sympathize with the anatagonist(s)? Do you have moments when you doubt the protagonist(s) intentions? Everyone thinks they’re changing the world when they write a novel; after all, it changes our own world with the labor of love it entails. But we must realize that you have to pull your readers in– and be honest with yourself, if you read the story as if it were someone else’s, would you actually give a damn about the characters?

The truth is, the thinnest, most barren stories can be carried like a baby on the backs of strong, loveable, characters (provided they have some sort of challenge to overcome). So don’t be oversensitive, throw away your heart, and re-read your story. Why should anyone give a damn about your characters? Is their struggle real, relatable? Can they have deep, complex emotions without being a sad sack or downright annoying? Throw curveballs, have the world change them.

In the perfect world, they’ll be that close friend that reader wishes he or she could help but is just out of reach.

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