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Anonymous asked: What are some things you think a writer should keep in mind before beginning revisions on their manuscript?

queryquagmire:

This is a great question! I’m surprised nobody has asked it yet.

Revision is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of courage, chutspah, and balls/ovaries of solid granite to rip something to shreds after you slaved over it for months. But it is a necessary part of the writing process and to skip it is to say good-bye to your dreams of publication. Why?

Because first drafts blow.

Seriously. There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. It is a mythical creature native to the magical land of Wishfulthinkia. I don’t care if your name is Virginia Woolf and you can spout better prose in your sleep while wearing a mouth retainer than most authors will write in their lifetime. Your first drafts still suck.

And that’s why we revise. So stop arguing with me and just do it. Now, without further ado, here are some things I think writers should keep in mind before they dive into their revisions:

  1. No change is permanent. You can try a particular scene nine different ways before deciding on which way works best. You can change a character as many times as you want and eventually go back to the first iteration. So if you’re terrified that something new will actually be worse than what you had in the first place, fear not. You are not locked into any changes you make. You have no excuse not to try something crazy or experimental.
  2. No one is reading over your shoulder. It’s just you and the words on the page. So don’t be afraid or embarrassed to try something freaky. If it doesn’t work out, no one has to know it happened. No one has to know that you named a character “Dr. Sexy” for 78 pages before you picked a name for him. 
  3. Save each draft as a separate document. Not only is it smart to make back-ups, but if you delete something that you end up wanting to keep, you will have only to go back and pluck it from an earlier draft. Some authors even start writing the next draft from scratch, rather than copying and pasting from the original.
  4. Join a workshop/get a writing buddy/hire an editor. Outside feedback is essential to the writing process. If you’re writing in a vacuum, you will have no idea if your story actually works for an audience, or if it’s just an echo chamber of stuff you like. Writing buddies will also help identify flaws that you never noticed because after reading your own work seventeen times, it starts to look like ancient Aramaic. Don’t make the mistake of hiding away in your basement for draft after private draft. Get feedback after every draft, or even after every chapter of a single draft.
  5. Don’t ignore feedback just because you don’t like it. In fact, if you recoil in horror at a particular bit of advice, that’s a sign that you should probably examine it further. Question why you react to certain advice. And if you find that you only accept advice that sounds nice, well then you’re a spineless coward who should have her word processor taken away.
  6. Work on a schedule. Writing and revising is work. Act like it. Schedule regular breaks and commit to set time periods in which you will work on your writing. Not only will this make you more serious about the revision process, it’ll help you avoid needless procrastination. 
  7. "Kill your darlings." If you’ve ever read a single blog or book about the art of writing, you’ve heard this one. For the uninitiated: it means you need to be willing to sacrifice parts of the story that you love or that you worked really hard on in order to benefit the story as a whole. Really like that random flashback you wrote about Dr. Sexy’s time in med school, but it doesn’t actually provide any insight into the character or further the plot of the book? Cut it. Just love that plucky sidekick who is actually pretty useless and only serves to muck up already dense conversations? Give ‘em the axe. Then forget about them. Your story will be better for it.
  8. There’s no such thing as “perfect,” only “good enough.” You’re never going to get it exactly right. That way lies madness. But you can get close. And that’s what you should be shooting for. If you embrace perfectionism, you’re never going to get the damn thing in the hands of a publishing house. You’ll just be revising till the day you die.
  9. There is a difference between revising and copyediting and you should not do them at the same time. I know it’s hard to ignore typos in your work. You want to correct them as soon as you come upon them. To resist is painful. But you know what? Don’t. The process of editing naturally flows from the macro to the micro. Start with the big-picture editing: rewriting scenes, adding characters, revising whole conversations, changing the ending. Then work your way steadily down to the nit-picky edits: consistency of character names, making sure you’ve got your timeline straight, making sure your geography makes a lick of sense. Next work on your prose: making it sound pretty and poetic, using your writing tone to reflect the mood of a particular scene. Then and only then can you start editing for spelling, grammar, and syntax. If you start out by copyediting you’ll be wasting time in two ways: 1) You’ll be spending extra time reading line by line to catch errors that you could spend reworking the meat of the story, and 2) You run the risk of perfectly editing a chapter only to realize you need to rewrite 90% of it. So resist the urge to copyedit when you start revising.
  10. "But that’s how it happened in real life"/"But that’s how I first imagined it" is no excuse for shitty writing. The truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense. So if the plot seems far-fetched, or if it strains belief, or if your readers say it just doesn’t make any fucking sense, don’t be afraid to change it. In fact, you must change it. I don’t care how sentimentally attached you are to the original version. The exception to this rule is of course nonfiction, in which you should never deviate from the facts because that is called lying.

I now open it up to the whole class: what do you guys keep in mind before you start revising your manuscripts? How do you prepare for the arduous task? 

~QQ

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10 Tips on Writing Strong Scenes For a Novel or Story | WritersDigest.com

writing-tips-blog:

10 Ways to Launch Strong Scenes

Categories: How to Improve Writing Skills, How to Start Writing a Book, 1st Chapter, Literary Fiction Writing, What’s New, Writing Your First Draft Tags: craft/technique, fiction.

Any story or novel is, in essence, a series of scenes strung together like beads on a wire, with narrative summary adding texture and color between. A work of fiction will comprise many scenes, and each one of these individual scenes must be built with a structure most easily described as having a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of each scene is what we’ll address here.

The word beginning is a bit misleading, since some scenes pick up in the middle of action or continue where others left off, so I prefer the term launch, which more clearly suggests the place where the reader’s attention is engaged anew.

Visually, in a manuscript a new scene is usually signified by the start of a chapter, by a break of four lines (called a soft hiatus) between the last paragraph of one scene and the first paragraph of the next one, or sometimes by a symbol such as an asterisk, to let the reader know that time has passed.

Each new scene still has a responsibility to the idea or plot you started with, and that is to communicate your idea in a way that is vivifying for the reader and that provides an experience, not a lecture. Scene launches, therefore, pave the way for all the robust consequences of the idea or plot to unfurl. Each scene launch is a reintroduction, capturing your reader’s attention all over again. Start each scene by asking yourself two key questions:

  • Where are my characters in the plot? Where did I leave them and what are they doing now?
  • What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in this scene?

Only you and the course of your narrative can decide which kinds of launches will work best for each scene, and choosing the right launch often takes some experimentation. Here we’ll cover 10 key techniques for launching scenes in three main ways: with action, narrative summary or setting.

ACTION LAUNCHES
The sooner you start the action in a scene, the more momentum it has to carry the reader forward. If you find yourself explaining an action, then you’re not demonstrating the action any longer; you’re floating in a distant star system known as Nebulous Intellectulus—more commonly known as your head—and so is the reader.
Keep in mind the key elements of action: time and momentum. It takes time to plan a murder over late-night whispers; to cause an embarrassing scene by drunkenly dropping a jar at the grocery; to blackmail a betraying spouse; or to haul off and kick a wall in anger. These things don’t happen spontaneously, they happen over a period of time. They are sometimes quick, sometimes slow, but once started, they unfold until finished.
The key to creating strong momentum is to start an action without explaining anything:

Albert leads them all into the dining room and everyone drifts around the large teak table, studying the busily constructed salads at each place setting—salads, which, with their knobs of cheese, jutting chives and little folios of frisée, resemble small Easter hats.

“Do we wear these or eat them?” asks Jack. In his mouth is a piece of gray chewing gum like a rat’s brain.

Lorrie Moore plunges her reader into the above scene in the story “Beautiful Grade.” Although the action is quiet, there is physical movement and a sense of real time. The lack of explanation for what is happening forces the reader to press on to learn more. The action gives clues to the reader: The characters are led into a room full of wildly decorated salads that one character is uncertain whether he should eat or wear, which gives a sense of the environment—probably chic. We get a feeling for Jack—he’s got a good sense of humor. Clearly something more is going to happen in this environment, and judging from the tone of the paragraph, we can probably expect irony and humor.

Action launches tend to energize the reader’s physical senses. To create an action launch:

1. GET STRAIGHT TO THE ACTION. Don’t drag your feet here. “Jimmy jumped off the cliff” rather than “Jimmy stared at the water, imagining how cold it would feel when he jumped.”

2. HOOK THE READER WITH BIG OR SURPRISING ACTIONS. An outburst, car crash, violent heart attack or public fight at the launch of a scene allows for more possibilities within it.

3. BE SURE THAT THE ACTION IS TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTER. Don’t have a shy character choose to become suddenly uninhibited at the launch of a scene. Do have a bossy character belittle another character in a way that creates conflict.

4. ACT FIRST, THINK LATER. If a character is going to think in your action opening, let the action come first, as in, “Elizabeth slapped the Prince. When his face turned pink, horror filled her. What have I done? she thought.”

NARRATIVE LAUNCHES
Writers often try to include narrative summary, such as descriptions of the history of a place or the backstory of characters, right at the launch of a scene, believing that the reader will not be patient enough to allow actions and dialogue to tell the story. In large doses, narrative summaries are to scenes what voice-overs are to movies—distractions and interruptions.

Yet a scene launch is actually one of the easier places to use a judicious amount of narrative summary, so long as you don’t keep the reader captive too long. Take the opening of this scene in Amanda Eyre Ward’s novel How to Be Lost:

The afternoon before, I planned how I would tell her. I would begin with my age and maturity, allude to a new lover, and finish with a bouquet of promises: grandchildren, handwritten letters, boxes from Tiffany sent in time to beat the rush. I sat in my apartment drinking Scotch and planning the words.

The above bit is almost entirely narrative summary, and the only action—drinking Scotch—is described, not demonstrated. There is no real setting, and the only visual cues the reader has are vague and abstract. However, the narrative summary does demonstrate the nature of the character, Caroline—she feels she must butter her mother up, bribe her even, in order to ask for something she needs, which turns out to be a relatively small thing. It reflects Caroline’s tendency to live in her head, and shows us she’s the kind of person who must prepare herself mentally for difficult things—a theme that recurs throughout the book. It’s also useful because Caroline spends a lot of time by herself, cutting herself off from her relationships, and, therefore, it is very true to her personality. In just one short paragraph of narrative summary, the reader learns a lot about Caroline, and Ward gets to action in the next paragraph:

Georgette stretched lazily on the balcony. Below, an ambulance wailed. A man with a shopping cart stood underneath my apartment building, eating chicken wings and whistling.

If the entire scene had continued in narrative summary, it would have had a sedative effect on the reader, and the scene’s momentum would have been lost.

A narrative approach is best used with the following launch strategies:

5. SAVE TIME BY BEGINNING WITH SUMMARY. Sometimes actions will simply take up more time and space in the scene than you would like. A scene beginning needs to move fairly quickly and, on occasion, summary will get the reader there faster.

6. COMMUNICATE NECESSARY INFORMATION TO THE READER BEFORE THE ACTION KICKS IN. Sometimes information needs to be imparted simply in order to set action in motion later in the scene. Opening sentences such as, “My mother was dead before I arrived,” “The war had begun” and, “The storm left half of the city underwater,” could easily lead to action.

7. REVEAL A CHARACTER’S THOUGHTS OR INTENTIONS THAT CANNOT BE SHOWN THROUGH ACTION. Coma victims, elderly characters, small children and other characters sometimes cannot speak or act for physical, mental or emotional reasons; therefore the scene may need to launch with narration to let the reader know what they think and feel.

SETTING LAUNCHES
Sometimes setting details—like a jungle on fire, or moonlight sparkling on a lake—are so important to plot or character development that it’s appropriate to include visual setting at the launch of a scene. This is often the case in books set in unusual, exotic or challenging locations such as snowy Himalayan mountains, lush islands or brutal desert climates. If the setting is going to bear dramatically on the characters and the plot, then there is every reason to let it lead into the scene that will follow.

John Fowles’ novel The Magus is set mostly on a Greek island that leaves an indelible imprint on the main character, Nicholas. He becomes involved with an eccentric man whose isolated villa in the Greek countryside becomes the stage upon which the major drama of the novel unfolds. Therefore, it makes sense for him to launch a scene in this manner:

It was a Sunday in late May, blue as a bird’s wing. I climbed up the goat-paths to the island’s ridge-back, from where the green froth of the pine-tops rolled two miles down to the coast. The sea stretched like a silk carpet across to the shadowy wall of mountains on the mainland to the west. … It was an azure world, stupendously pure, and as always when I stood on the central ridge of the island and saw it before me, I forgot most of my troubles.

The reader needs to be able to see in detail the empty Greek countryside in which Nicholas becomes so isolated. It sets the scene for something beautiful and strange to happen, and Fowles does not disappoint.
These final three methods can create an effective scenic launch:

8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?

9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.

10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.

Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible.

This article was written by Jordan E. Rosenfeld.

You might also like:

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characterdesigninspiration:

Quite a few people requested some form of trait/personality generator, and here’s the result!  I wanted to keep it vague enough that the options could work for any universe, be it modern, fantasy, scifi, or anything else, so these are really just the basics. Remember that a character is much more than a list of traits, and this should only be used as a starting point– I tried to include a variety of things, but further development is definitely a must.

Could pair well with the gender and sexuality generator.

To Play: Click and drag each gif, or if that isn’t working/you’re on mobile, just take a screenshot of the whole thing (multiple screenshots may be required if you want more than one trait from each category).

(via thewritingcafe)

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thewritingcafe:

Basics:

Sub-genres: 
Alien Invasion: Involves aliens who invade Earth (usually).
Alternate History: Just as the name suggests, this genre deals with alternate histories. This can include traveling back in time, changing something, and returning to the changed future (such as Back to the Future).
Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic: This genre deals with the “end of the world” or what happens after such an event.
Artificial Intelligence: Involves artificial intelligence, usually one that becomes more “human”.
Astronaut: Deals with astronauts, often those who run into aliens or other disasters in space. The characters often die or disappear.
Biopunk: This genre is about altering genetics and DNA. These stories often take place in the near-future in which humans have been altered or in which human experimentation is common.
Cyberpunk: Involves a cyberworld or A.I. and is often set in the near-future. Blade Runner is a good example.
Detective: A cross-over between detective fiction and science fiction.
Dystopian: Dystopians are often “false utopians”, but underneath there is suffering.
Environmental: This genre focuses on the environment and threats against it.
Generation Ship: In which a society lives entirely on a ship and has been there for generations. They often know nothing of outside worlds. The ship in Wall-E is an example.
Gothic Sci-fi: Science fiction with a horror element. Think Frankenstein.
Hard Sci-fi: This genre pays special attention to scientific detail and accuracy.
Humor: This genre is light and humorous.
Kaiju: This is a Japanese sub-genre that involves a large monster as the antagonist.
Lost Worlds: As the name suggests, this genre has lost worlds or mysterious places. Lost is a prime example.
Military Sci-fi: Self-explanatory. Deals with war and military elements in a science fiction setting.
Multiverse: Involves many universes.
Robot: Involves robots as the main focus of the story.
Soft Sci-fi: This sub-genre does not put too much emphasis on scientific accuracy or detail.
Space Opera: Features adventures in space, such as Star Wars.
Steampunk: Involves Victorian-like settings with high technology.
Superhuman: Involves making humans superhuman or giving them extra abilities.
Time Travel: Self-explanatory.
Utopian: The opposite of dystopian, though characters may still see problems with this type of society. Utopians are ideal societies.
Western Sci-fi: Science fiction with Western elements (as in the Wild West). An example is Firefly.
Word Counts:
Hard Sci-fi: 90k - 100k
Space Opera: 90k - 120k
General: 80k - 115k
Middle Grade Sci-fi: 30k - 75k

Setting:
Most sci-fi takes place in the future or the near-future. Where does yours take place? Why does it take place in that time period? Once you know when it takes place, figure out the society. You’ll need to know how society got to that point and why. Was there a war? Did one country become two because of that?
Other than the time period you’ll need the actual setting. Does it take place in space? On a planet? Where on that planet? Or does the setting change because of travel?
Science:
The less you know about science, the softer your sci-fi will be. Take what subject you know most about (biology, chemistry, ecology, etc.) and use that for most of the science stuff, as long as your confident in your knowledge. However, keep it general and broad.
Technology advances more and more each day, much more than it did one hundred years ago. Establish the technology of your world and how quickly it evolves. Decide what is common place and what is rather new. Do only certain people get certain technologies? Why?
With more advances in science comes better medicine and probably longer life. Think about how long your characters are likely to live and establish what medicines are available (like if there is a cure for cancer or if certain diseases have been completely wiped out).
More:
Are We Going Somewhere Nice?
Time, Distance, and Cost in Science Fiction
Making Believable Future Technologies
Magic and Science Fiction
Time and Holidays
Axial Tilt
The Edge of Thought
Putting the Science in Your Science Fiction
How to be Memorably Wrong in Science Fiction
Putting Your Stars in Their Places
Animals in Science Fiction
Ten Laws of Good Science Fiction
Writing Science Fiction Articles
How to Write Science Fiction
5 Tips for Writing Science Fiction
World Building Links
World Building in Science Fiction
World Building for Sci Fi
How to Write Good Science Fiction
How to Write Science Fiction
Reading:
Best Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic Books
Upcoming Books of 2012 and 2013
Best Steampunk Books
Top 100 SF
Best SF with a Female Protagonist
Non-White Protagonists in SF, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal Romance
Underrated SF
Best Erotic SF

thewritingcafe:

Basics:

Sub-genres

  • Alien Invasion: Involves aliens who invade Earth (usually).
  • Alternate History: Just as the name suggests, this genre deals with alternate histories. This can include traveling back in time, changing something, and returning to the changed future (such as Back to the Future).
  • Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic: This genre deals with the “end of the world” or what happens after such an event.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Involves artificial intelligence, usually one that becomes more “human”.
  • Astronaut: Deals with astronauts, often those who run into aliens or other disasters in space. The characters often die or disappear.
  • Biopunk: This genre is about altering genetics and DNA. These stories often take place in the near-future in which humans have been altered or in which human experimentation is common.
  • Cyberpunk: Involves a cyberworld or A.I. and is often set in the near-future. Blade Runner is a good example.
  • Detective: A cross-over between detective fiction and science fiction.
  • Dystopian: Dystopians are often “false utopians”, but underneath there is suffering.
  • Environmental: This genre focuses on the environment and threats against it.
  • Generation Ship: In which a society lives entirely on a ship and has been there for generations. They often know nothing of outside worlds. The ship in Wall-E is an example.
  • Gothic Sci-fi: Science fiction with a horror element. Think Frankenstein.
  • Hard Sci-fi: This genre pays special attention to scientific detail and accuracy.
  • Humor: This genre is light and humorous.
  • Kaiju: This is a Japanese sub-genre that involves a large monster as the antagonist.
  • Lost Worlds: As the name suggests, this genre has lost worlds or mysterious places. Lost is a prime example.
  • Military Sci-fi: Self-explanatory. Deals with war and military elements in a science fiction setting.
  • Multiverse: Involves many universes.
  • Robot: Involves robots as the main focus of the story.
  • Soft Sci-fi: This sub-genre does not put too much emphasis on scientific accuracy or detail.
  • Space Opera: Features adventures in space, such as Star Wars.
  • Steampunk: Involves Victorian-like settings with high technology.
  • Superhuman: Involves making humans superhuman or giving them extra abilities.
  • Time Travel: Self-explanatory.
  • Utopian: The opposite of dystopian, though characters may still see problems with this type of society. Utopians are ideal societies.
  • Western Sci-fi: Science fiction with Western elements (as in the Wild West). An example is Firefly.

Word Counts:

  • Hard Sci-fi: 90k - 100k
  • Space Opera: 90k - 120k
  • General: 80k - 115k
  • Middle Grade Sci-fi: 30k - 75k

Setting:

  • Most sci-fi takes place in the future or the near-future. Where does yours take place? Why does it take place in that time period? Once you know when it takes place, figure out the society. You’ll need to know how society got to that point and why. Was there a war? Did one country become two because of that?
  • Other than the time period you’ll need the actual setting. Does it take place in space? On a planet? Where on that planet? Or does the setting change because of travel?

Science:

  • The less you know about science, the softer your sci-fi will be. Take what subject you know most about (biology, chemistry, ecology, etc.) and use that for most of the science stuff, as long as your confident in your knowledge. However, keep it general and broad.
  • Technology advances more and more each day, much more than it did one hundred years ago. Establish the technology of your world and how quickly it evolves. Decide what is common place and what is rather new. Do only certain people get certain technologies? Why?
  • With more advances in science comes better medicine and probably longer life. Think about how long your characters are likely to live and establish what medicines are available (like if there is a cure for cancer or if certain diseases have been completely wiped out).

More:

Reading:

(via clevergirlhelps)

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I am tired of token women being strong in a man’s world by taking on male attributes: strutting around in black leather, spike heels and wraparound shades, killing people; or riding a horse, swearing a lot, carrying a big sword, and killing people; or piloting a ship through hyperspace, drinking whatever pours, slapping boys on the back, and killing people. I am equally tired of women-only worlds where all the characters are wise, kind, beautiful, stern seven-foot-tall vegetarian amazons who could never dream of killing anyone. I am tired of reading about aliens who are really women, or women who are really aliens.

Women are not aliens. Take away men, and we do not automatically lose our fire and intelligence and sex drive; we do not form hierarchical, static, insectlike societies that are dreadfully inefficient. We do not turn into a homogenous Thought Police culture where meat-eating is banned and men are burned in effigy every full moon. Women are not inherently passive or dominant, maternal, or vicious. We are all different. We are people.

A women-only world, it seems to me, would shine with the entire spectrum of human behavior: there would be capitalists and collectivists, hermits and clan members, sailors and cooks, idealists and tyrants; they would be generous and mean, smart and stupid, strong and weak; they would approach life bravely, fearfully and thoughtlessly. Some might still engage in fights, wars, and territorial squabbles; individuals and cultures would still display insanity and greed and indifference. And they would change and grow, just like anyone else. Because women are anyone else. We are more than half of humanity. We are not imitation people, or chameleons taking on protective male coloration, longing for the day when men go away and we can return to being our true, insectlike, static, vacuous selves. We are here, now. We are just like you.
Nicola Griffith, talking about writing Ammonite (via limousine-eyelash)

(Source: dont-deconstruct, via bitsypookums)

Filed under feminism things to write women characters worldbuilding

201 notes

Anonymous asked: How do you keep inspiration when writing? I suffer from extreme writer's block very often but the other day an idea struck me and I wrote it down, expanded my points and came up with a semi-decent overview of this new story I wanted to write. I could hear the sentences in my head, see the characters, /feel/ the characters...but now, only a couple days later I don't want to write it anymore. It seems boring, tasteless, over-done. But I still kinda like the idea. I don't know how to solve this.

characterandwritinghelp:

Don’t give up! 

Let me be honest with you. There are days when I read over my answers to you all and think that I am the greatest wordsmith ever to walk this earth and that I deserve vast legions of fans and a cookie. Then there are days when I read them over and think that I am literally the worst person ever to touch a keyboard,and I wonder why on earth anyone listens to me.

Everyone goes through periods of thinking their ideas are not good enough. Everyone. I guarantee it. I know the last thing anyone in this position wants to hear is “get over it/it doesn’t matter/suck it up,” so try some of this instead.

You don’t want to write it. Why is that? Pick it apart and see what isn’t working.

  • Is something amiss in the plot, that makes it feel bland? Throw ideas at it until something sticks and clicks and makes you gasp with how amazing a twist it is, remove one element at a time until you can pinpoint exactly which variable is dragging everything down, cycle through other things you can use in its place, or try writing it anyway and see if something comes to you along the way.
  • Does one of your characters make you want to pull your hair out? Give them a total personality makeover, yank their motivation out from under their feet and replace it with something different to see how they catch themselves, or force them into a situation that makes them unfathomably uncomfortable. Make them work as hard as you do.
  • Does the story progression feel tried, but no longer true? Stick it in a blender and piece it back together in a different order that may or may not work, change up the involvement of the characters and how they interact with the MacGuffin, or dropkick everything off the balcony except the inciting incident and set it loose in a world of your creation.

But you also do want to write it. Why is that? Figure out why precisely  you love your idea and run with it.

  • Do you love your characters? Write up character sheets and rave at length about how their character arc is more phenomenal than any other, play with a million dress-up games to figure out how they look and how they carry themselves, surf TvTropes until you can explain their entire character arc in tropespeak.
  • Do you love your plot idea? Spin it out on a sheet of paper and see where you can take it, throw it up on a chalkboard and make a timeline of your favorite events from it, pin your character sheets against it and map out when and where and why things happen.
  • Is there an element you love and want to do more with? Rig it to the center of your plot and refuse to let anything bump it out, give your characters a crash course in its uses and send them on a journey to spread its good word, or refuse to tell them how it works and make them struggle to figure it out on their own.

Enjoy the process as much as the product. Writing is a craft. It is an art as well as a science, it is creation and destruction and it comes from the mind and the heart. You will get stuck, and that is fine. That is great. That is to be expected and dealt with and moved on from. When you get stuck, something isn’t working. Sometimes, that something is you. You may need a break: step away and relax. Read something, goof off on the Internet, play with a pet or grab a drink. Writer’s block might mean that you are honestly trying too hard, and so your brain is rebelling and refusing to work. Take care of your brain, too.

Write terribly. Be awful. Write dreadful turns of phrase, splice your commas and split your infinitives, write things in brackets to come back and add to later, keysmash your way through a passage, but however you do it, write. Get through the doldrums of writer’s block and come out the other side triumphant with a handful of pages, maybe even a draft. Get it all out, even and especially if you can’t stand it. Once it’s all out of your mind and onto paper, get out your red pens and highlighters and attack until it bleeds. Whip it into shape and make it shine. Sometimes the best part of writing is the editing, once it’s all said but not all done.

Nothing is perfect. Writing can be a chore sometimes when it comes to kicking everything into shape and editing the heartwrenchingly bad prose out of your amazing idea, but remember, remember, that nothing comes out perfect on the first run. We undertake the adventure of writing because we love it. Maybe not all the time: we hate the bad days, we hate that sentence that never sounds right, we hate the characters who just don’t mesh no matter how hard we try, we hate the plots that have no satisfactory resolution. One of the most wonderful parts of writing is that if ever you don’t love something, you can change it until you do. Take a break and come back with a red pen and vengeance.

Above all, love your words, because they are yours. Love your ideas, because they are yours. No one can do what you can with them. There is a beauty and a candor in putting your thoughts to paper. Never, ever belittle what you come up with. Never.

It is within you to succeed, never forget that. Once you have something, let me know: I will bake you a batch of cookies myself.

-Headless

Filed under motivation encouragement

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Ten questions to ask a friend who just read your novel

mordinwrites:

Found this article. Found it incredibly helpful. Be sure to go read the full story, but these are the ten questions the author (Lydia Netzer) covers in it:

Some of this could be easily adapted into roleplay critiques, though it’s primary use is, of course, novel writing.

(via ihavealittlefeminism)

Filed under revision beta readers