Should I stay or should I go now?

Hey y’all! How’s it going? Hot as the devil’s armpit here which means I stay inside to avoid getting skin cancer.

So here I am, back to writing. Finally. Maybe. Lots of shiet been happening in my life lately. Just about everything is topsy-turvy. CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER! MASS HYSTERIA! There are a lot of ruts I’m digging myself out of and when I got a moment to breathe I realized that writing has become one of them.

I predicted it though, didn’t I?

Apparently all my blog is good for is entertainment and not actual advice. At least not for myself. Haaaaaaa. Story of my life.

Well, as stories are won’t to do, a couple of them have been prodding me to get busy again. And not gentle Fluttershy pokes either. More like, the toddler-esque “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mama, mama, mama, mama–” kind of deal. Annoying to the point of table flipping in irritation. I did try to protest and tell them I was going through a few crisis’ in my life and couldn’t be bothered. Do they care? Not a wit. Laundry and divorces and deaths can wait.

So like the slave that I am, I turn back to toeing my creativity back into these half-baked stories I left browning in the oven of my brain. Specifically Hourglass. But all I see are gaping holes, gooey insides, nuggets of greatness and crispy edges. Oi vey. How do I pick back up a story like that?

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?” ~Frodo Baggins

I feel ya Frodo.

I guess this is why the Pros say not to stop until you’re finished. It’s difficult to edit a story that’s half written but that’s exactly what I discovered I would be doing with all ones I left behind. Editing, filling in and changing something that’s only a pile of ideas in a flimsy structure.

So what do I do? Do I finish the story I started and go back to edit it afterward? Do I keep digging the trench and hope that the blue prints I left for myself would suffice? Or do I throw caution (and advice) into the fire and re-make the recipe with better ingredients and fresh ideas?

I suppose every writer comes to this decision. Should I stay or do I go?

Given the propensity lately of me digging myself out of ruts, my first inclination is to go with the later. I have a good character base. It was always the setting I had issues with. Trying to come up with a cohesive world for my characters to romp around in. (Plus I have an obnoxious husband that questions every single detail and decision and has to have everything make perfect, logical, scientific sense.)

However.

I feel like I have a good story premise. I have dynamic characters that aren’t too clichéd and a couple of sneaky villains. The setting is even pretty great with lots of potential. But we know that some of the best story IDEAS sometimes fall flat on execution.

So I think I’m going to stick with my current blue print and try to tighten it up and flesh it out more. I can always edit within an inch of my life after the full rough is done. (Cuz that’s the important part right? Finishing. Ha.)

I understand this might not be the case with every story. There will be times where I have to stuff it into a desk drawer, never to see the light of day again. I may even have to do it with this story. But I will try. I think that’s kind of the theme of my life right now. I will try. 

Jessie, the little red-head that could! Toot toot!

Slowly I am digging myself out of the trenches and getting back on solid ground, one crisis at a time. But there is some semblance of normal that I can cling to, such as procrastinating on my writing 😀 But at least I got something out today. That’s improvement.

Every decision is an important one because at least it’s a step in a direction. ANY direction. Backwards isn’t always preferable however breaking down and rebuilding is sometimes necessary. YOU have to make that decision. If it’s wrong, then make a different one. If you have to part ways with your story (or people or things or places) then do it.

Just make the decision and take the step.

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What’s wrong is…Mr. Smith

Alright. So by now you should know I want to be a writer. I love writing and reading and words and language and being a grammar nazi. It’s my purpose and I’m beginning to think I’m not exactly bad at it. (Thank you all for the affirmation!) I wanna tell you a story though, of how that last listed article can be the most frustrating thing in the WORLD. And how it makes editing a beiotch.

It shows pretty early on if a person is a grammar nazi. You question word sentences in books: “That that exists exists in that that that that exists exists in”. You question spelling: “Theater/Theatre”. You question punctuation: “He did; however,–” and nothing makes you happier than whipping out a red pen and marking up someone else’s paper. You have to have a thick skin while doing this though because if daggers could come out of eyes, you’d be 6 feet under with multiple stab wounds. Teachers love reading your writing because it’s well-organized and spelled perfectly in the correct tense. Hardly any red marks on YOUR papers. (Dodge! There’s more daggers coming your way!)

Of course, you have to know what you’re talking about while wielding the Red Pen of Death. Such an instrument of mass destruction cannot be used by amateurs. to qualify, you had to of read at least two book a week your whole school career and gotten high scores on all your book reports and research papers. To at least be GOOD at it. Any fool can color on paper like a toddler with wanton abandon. Not the TRUE writers though. Use the rules you’ve learned. They (the proverbial “they”) may not like you for it now but they’ll thank you for it later when your correction give them an improved grade.

Ohhhh those sweet sand easy editing memories.

Elementary school was cake as a grammar nazi because your peers looked at you with awe when you were handed back perfect papers and you answered every writing/spelling/grammar question correctly. You were the ‘smart” one and the kids were happy to have you in their groups. Middle school was rougher. Being a smart ass didn’t improve your social standing. It lumped you in with the “geeks” (which wasn’t the cool kind of geek) and this was generally the start of the “Dagger stare”. But the teachers loved you, which was a small consolation. By high school you just don’t care what people think and you’re proud to be a smart ass. You have no problem becoming your English teacher’s pet and proof reading papers. Being a lord of the Red Pen of Death was at least SOMETHING.

Here’s where things actually get difficult though. Yes, you’re book schooled in what kind of “their/they’re/there” to use and all the neat little symbols teachers put on papers to start another paragraph or switch sentences or insert something–you know those symbols right? That will only get you so far in the High School Jungle my friend. Assuming you’ve kept up your reading, you begin to realize that, aside from grammar and lexicon, there is a whole other side to editing that you must walk a fine line while using. It’s called OPINION aka Creative freedom. And now you’re recognized as someone who has their stuff together and knows what’s going on with this whole writing thing. Now, people are coming to you for ANSWERS.

Damn!

Alright. You can do this. All you have to do now is broaden your horizons to encompass things like plot, character arc, growth arc, subplots, foreshadowing, character development, and pacing.

Herz a fulwhu kako wha..? Ahh mannn…

This is the most troubling thing I have to do as an editor. I have to tell an author (probably better and more seasoned than me) what I think of their manuscript. And they don’t want me to pull punches. They want SPECIFICS. I usually want to stuff my mouth full of popcorn at this point and say everything around buttery, salty goodness. Bad news can’t be taken seriously with popcorn involved. I’m just a nublet! How can my opinion be of any help to anyone?

But that’s the beauty of it. Unless you’re correcting a research paper or a factual presentation, you really only have your opinion and your bookish knowledge to lean on while editing. So you can fudge it! But only if you don’t try to redirect the story to suit YOUR image of it. So wording will be tricky. You need to be specific and vague.

Ohhh see? I told you that’s a tight wire to walk.

My friend asked me to read some pages she’d written about her life that she wanted to turn into a fiction story.  It was very rough and she told me as much. She was just looking for my ideas of where she should fluff out the piece and what she was missing from it. Okay, I can totally do that! We went back and forth over the story and I realized I really enjoyed helping her with it. (Hey hey, editing ho!)

I got lucky with her story though. It was VERY rough and she was willing to look at my ideas with an open mind. I am sure though that, once it comes out that I’m a writer, I’ll get inquiries from people to have me read their manuscript and “tell me what they think”. Um…yeahhhh, uh–

I will give you two names that you’ll want to remember while editing: Jane Doe and John Smith. They are the medically accepted names for people they don’t know but are definitely people. Specific, but vague. So when you go to tackle a story someone has begged you to edit, remember these. The best you can do with “tell me what you think” is give an opinion and maybe make a few vague (but TRUE) suggestions like “you need to make your characters more memorable” or “I don’t get a good sense of pacing. It’s really slow and I wish there was more action”.

When they ask you how to fix it, you tell them it’s not your job and send them to the books.

No, really. Unless you are true blue editor, this is the best you can do. You can make suggestions but as soon as “If it were MY story I would do THIS–“enters the conversation, you’re immediately taking the story out of the writer’s hands and twisting it to your own vision. Some writers may appreciate your input and others may snatch the pages from your grip and accuse you of “not getting it at all!”

Always test the waters when moving to edit someone’s piece. Use Jane Doe and John Smith suggestions and if they want more, proceed with caution. As an editor, sometimes you’re merely a sounding board until the writer can get their Epiphany moment. Specific, but Vague.

Good luck with your amateurish editing endeavors! Or your professional editing endeavors! Walk that tight rope with class ;D

Wanted: replacement for screaming banshee Editor in my head

I can’t enjoy books anymore.

I know. That’s a shocking statement coming from a bibliophile, especially from an author who WANTS to write books. And I should say that’s not entirely true. I CAN enjoy books…as long as they’re not bad.

HA.

Okay, so I’ve said before that I’ve been writing stories since I was like, 4 and reading since before that and one never really interfered in a negative way with the other. In fact, it improved my writing to read and I read a LOT. I wish I could go back to that lovely innocence. The pure white of an unabashed child who loved books simply to enjoy them. But see, I decided to go down the rabbit hole of “professional” writing and the darkness has tainted me. It grew in my head a tumor-like voice that whispers doubt and looks disapprovingly over my shoulder as I hunt and peck my way through my novel. You all know of whom I speak.

That red-headed banshee of an Editor that screeches about deadlines and bad character development and unrealistic dialogue. The one that, in times of no writing, will still murmur in your ear that the scene you wrote is too long and you know you need to edit it right NOW. That adding another side character was a bad idea and to kill him as soon as possible.

Well I’ve grown used to these seductive nay-saying mutterings. I’ve learned that plowing through a paragraph or a chapter regardless of the voice is much like Novocaine for the banshee Editor: it numbs her so she can’t speak. It makes me deaf and cold all over so I can’t be distracted except maybe by spelling errors or badly worded sentences. Wonder or wonders I thought I’d beaten her!

BUAAAHAHAHAHHA—

NOPE.

She came at me from left field, sneaky like a fox stalking a helpless bunny. Clever minx. She followed me to my den of sanctuary where I can turn off my writing brain and switch on my reading brain. I pick up a book at random and start to read….and like a fly landing on my arm, I feel a tickle. I wiggle my elbow to brush it off and it goes away. read a few more lines. And it comes back, now more like a beetle. More noticeable and equally as annoying. This continues all the way until chapter two until I feel the pressure of an imminent scream coming on and I cringe in anticipation. And then, like word vomit, it comes out in a stream of negativity from my lips:

WHAT IS THIS PIECE OF CRAP? YOU CALL THIS A “STRONG” HEROINE?! ALL SHE DOES IS TALK ABOUT THIS NEW HOT GUY SHE JUST MET AND IS SPILLING HER GUTS OUT TO. OH YES, THERE IT IS….HE’S HER SOULMATE. AND WAIT! WHERE’S THE THIRD POINT FOR THE LOVE TRIANGLE? AHHHH….HERE HE IS. POOR CHAP HAS NO CHANCE AGAINST THAT BADLY WORDED SAPPY DIALOGUE. lET’S SEE, THAT ENTIRE CHAPTER WAS USELESS AND DIDN’T DRIVE THE PLOT FORWARD AT ALL AND THAT PERSON IS ENTIRELY TOO PERFECT. WHERE’S HIS FLAWS? MY GAWD I HOPE JESSICA DOESN’T WRITE DRIVEL LIKE THIS OR SHE’LL NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT FROM ME…

oh. my. god.

I can’t even enjoy books for fun now! I’ve heard of the writer/reader brain developing, where one can’t help but edit novels silently in their head. But I never expected this violent outpouring of criticism >_< This happened to me three books in a row. I grappled to say something good about them to redeem a smidgen of my soul. All I got was:

“At least he portrayed a spoiled 15-year-old girl accurately; crying, whining, bitching and all.” 

Or something to that effect. One MEASLY little bone for a 300 page book someone toiled and cried and sweat over. And all I can think of was HOW DID THIS GET PUBLISHED? I’m at the point now where I live in fear of reading any book, even the ones I liked previously like The Abhorsen trilogy and Percy Jackson. I’m scared the red-headed screaming banshee will taint my beloved books and the tumor in my head will grow into cancer.

Please, someone, tells me this gets better!  If I don’t have books I’ll go insane in the membrane.