The Soaring Heights of Living in the Writing Realm

book with green background sparkle

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re in the zone? You’ve stepped inside your main character’s world and swam through its tumultuous and rhythmic waves, quenching your thirst in the emotions and conflicts, joys and discoveries of your characters.

Your fingers agilely stamp the keys, and the words soar across the page like a plane boasting its fluttering banner streaking through a clear, azure sky.

sparkling rainbow gif

Ideas, colors, imagination, romance, twists, banter, sensations, explosive climaxes, and redemptive resolutions fall like confetti inside your depthless mind. You sweep them all into a bundle of joy and sprinkle them on the white pages on your story.

Nothing outside this make believe world exists while you’re in the zone.  You saver this moment of complete dedication, imagination, and concentration.  Little more than a nuclear bomb could shake you out of this realm.

But when you emerge smiling, mind clear as glass and heart swelled twice its size, you know writing fiction is your destiny.

Capture this moment again and again by reading over your work in progress’s chapters. It fuels the creative flame inside of you.

 

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Revising Once, Revising Twice…Going, Going…Keep Going! It’s Worth it

Michener-rewriting

How many times have you revised your novel before you think it’s in pristine shape for the publishing process?  A dozen times?  Fifty times? A hundred times? There’s no end, right? It feels that way often.

Author, Roald Dahl, says of this subject, “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.”

So, how many times have I revised my stories?  I’m not really sure.  Perhaps a dozen times total? Teetering on the barely-broken-in writing scale. But it’s all good.  Some writers may not need to revise their work dozens or hundreds of times.

With that said, I’m back to revising my novel, Passage of Promise.  Yes, my first novel I wrote back in 2015.  I’m back at it after the last editing, proofing, and editorial suggestions from my editor (second round?).

show don't tell book cover

Since reading through half of the Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It) book so far…and I will finish it soon…I truly do understand it for the most part and can see the difference in my sentences and wording through my latest revisions.  I’m strengthening my scenes, character traits, and dialogue.

But I must admit.  A part of me has this urge to turn the story on its head, change it up drastically. Yet, another part of me says don’t jump in the deep, murky water.  You’ll get pulled into the endless, bottomless sea.

I’ve got to resist the waves of temptation and focus on making the story sharper, deeper, and stronger with the plot, characters, and scenes posing in proud, unique form on the stage of my make-believe world.

I may have to run it through the critiquing group again, which means my thirty-nine chapters will travel through the queue for the next few months, but it’s worth it.

My editor said it wouldn’t hurt. People’s feedback may give me a different direction or new ideas, and of course, in the critique realm, I take some of the suggestions that work and discard others that don’t.

I heard some authors have spent five to ten years on one book.  That’s a huge chunk of time, but when you want your work to be its best, three, five, or even ten years may be in order.  J.R.R. Tolkien labored twelve years on his book, Lord of the Rings, before it was published.

lord of the rings wizard book cover

I don’t think it’ll take ten or twelve years to finish my novel, especially since my novel has considerably less words than Tolkien’s sequel to The Hobbit. Also, in my case, a stressful deadline doesn’t exist, whereas it does for some others.

This fresh return to my novel fell on the heels of my novella’s (Mourning Dove) feedback journey through my critique group the past several weeks, counting this one and next week.  I’ll then collect all the comments, remarks, suggestions and work on revising it.

What made me delve back into the revision process of my stories? I am presently reading a book by my muse, Jodi Picoult. THANK YOU, JODI!  Keep writing! 🙂

What are you working on, how long have you been working on it, and what’s your average number of revisions?

 

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Critiques, Show, Don’t Tell, Oh My!

Editing an English language document

Recently, I’ve re-entered the critiquing world in all its fictional fun and grueling work.  It truly is a lot of work.  I admire editors for the painstaking mental labor they endure.  Having said that, I’m thrilled to be back in this creative universe.

I’m in the last week of my IDS Wellness college course, followed by a week off.  Then I start my last course in Advanced Creative Writing.  After that, my bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and English!

Time is slowly opening up to me, edging toward mornings free to dedicate my thoughts and energies to story creating and revising,

Every time I read and critique fellow writers’ works in my online critique group, I learn something, usually more than one thing.  I noticed the past week, I’ve improved my feedback skills.  Yea!

What I find fun and fascinating is when I’ve finished my critique, I go back into the work and read over other critters’ feedback and see how they caught things I missed and vice versa.  It’s incredible to read both negative and positive comments on the paragraph–one finding the descriptions or scene awkward or not needed, while another finds it fantastic.

I did learn through two and a half years of participating in this group that when you have more than one person pointing out something in your chapter that doesn’t make sense, isn’t realistic, etc., you heed those because it’s a good chance more readers than not will have the same troubles with that.

I am half way through a book called Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy.  How many times are we writers told to show the scenes, the character’s actions, behavior, etc.?  Avoid adverbs.  Don’t use filter words like felt, saw, knew, looked, and decided.  Don’t use passive “to be” verbs like was and is being.

passive voice ex

(Passive voice example)

The amount of telling and showing varies a bit depending on the point of view in which you’re writing.  I’ll share an example from the book, which I really appreciate.  I love visual aids since I’m a visual learner.  This excerpt is written in third person through the usual told manner:

Bob screamed in pain when the zombie clawed his leg.  He struggled to get away, and realized he had seconds to shake loose before the thing got its hooks into him and went straight for his brain.  Zombies needed brains to survive or they turned to dust and bones in just under thirty days.  He didn’t have thirty seconds let along thirty days.

A few red flag tell words mentioned in this paragraph, Hardy points out:  in and when.  We are told when the zombie clawed Bob’s leg, but we don’t really get to see it.  In is used to explain how Bob screams and the reason why he screamed.  There’s explaining the life of zombies too.  The latter is referred to as an infodump.

Therefore, Hardy removes the red flag words, infodump, and Bob’s responses, etc.  Here’s the result:

The zombie clawed Bob’s leg.  He screamed.  He struggled, but he had seconds to shake loose before the thing got its hooks into him and went straight for his brains.

How’s that?  Better?  Hmm.  Hardy says it is.  But she also acknowledges it’s boring and needs interesting details.  Here is the finalized version:

The zombie tore through his pants, sinking its broken fingernails into his calf.  Fire and knives raced up his leg and Bob screamed.  He kicked at it with his free foot, but it held tight.

“Let go, you sonuva–“

He kept kicking, but each heartbeat brought it–and its infected teeth–closer.  Sure, maybe he wasn’t using his brain this instant, but he wasn’t about to let this dagger get it.  Or him.

Improvement, no?  I love seeing the before (telling) and after (showing).  It’s kind of like hair styles or home makeovers.

As I said earlier, I’m half way through this book and enjoying it.  I just wanted to share an example on telling verses showing with excerpts from Hardy’s book in the hopes it helps you, my fellow writers, as much as it has for me.

More to come on this in future posts.

 

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Works Cited
Hardy, Janice.  Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It).  Fiction University Press.