Writing Problems: Rebooting a Story

So the writing project I’m currently putting the majority of my energy into is a novel I began late in my junior year of college. It started as an end of year assignment for an Adolescent Literature Class, and two semesters later morphed into an independent* study with my professor. I worked on it for a while after college, shaped it up as best I could, then tried to find an agent. I failed several times, lost hope, then shelved it.

I used this novel to get into Lesley, but even then I didn’t work on it for years, choosing instead to focus on a new project, Speaksong. Then, about halfway through my graduate degree, I sent the old novel, whose memory still haunted me, to my current mentor to see what he thought. His conclusion: the beginning was kind of boring, but the last third was interesting. Hmm. So I sat on that for a while. I finished my degree, finished Speaksong, started shipping that out to people. Worked on other stuff. But this old novel kept forcing its way up in my mind, until finally I couldn’t ignore it any more. It was time to give it another try.

This is what I knew I had to do when I started on this reboot. First, I needed to shorten the novel. I realize now how repetitive and boring some parts really are, and also I need to get to that interesting final third faster, before I lose the readers. This novel, (originally called Becky since titles are hard but now tentatively named Fairy Story) clocked in at over 40,000 words. I figured I need to shoot for cutting out about 10,000. I also wanted to experiment with changing how the magic in this story (because it’s fantasy, obviously) works.

How am I doing this? I’m retyping the beast, word by word. I’ve split the screen in Scrivener, and am typing as I read through it, figuring out what needs to be altered, what should be rearranged, and what I need to slash out entirely. This involves a lot of scrolling up and down, typing things verbatim, and also writing entirely new scenes to make sure the new parts of the plot connect correctly.

Is it working? Going by chapter numbers, I’ve sliced out two complete chapters. But going by the word count, It’s looking like I’ve ditched at last 5,000 words, more than half of my 10K goal. And I think things are zipping along at a faster pace. I’m getting it down to the meat. Parts are certainly clunky, but I plan on going through at least one more read-through, retooling passages and doing line edits, before I send it off to some critique buds. I’m also clipping along through this process a lot faster than I thought — it’s much easier to cut whole chunks of writing when you haven’t looked at something for years. I’ve got more of the distance I really needed, along with the knowledge I gained in my MFA program, to pick out the horrible writing and useless scenes I thought were so good and so important a long time ago. It might not succeed in the end — the whole story could wind up tossed aside, gathering digital dust in my hard drive — but it could.

Have you ever tried to rewrite something you tossed years ago? Was it worth it?

 

*Three tries and then I went to spell check. Why can’t I spell this word??

 

 

MFA Day 8

Today, today… what happened today? Oh man, I can hardly remember.

Rachel and I got ourselves thoroughly confused, thinking that the second part of the Feeding Your Muse seminar was at the library again – it wasn’t, something, we didn’t figure out until we arrived, late and panting… to an empty room. We had to drive back to the main campus, and missed half of the seminar. Yikes.

Susan Goodman changed up the seminar, to make up for the snow day, instead going over the material for the other seminar she was supposed to host, Telling Your Story – But How? We looked at ways that people can approach a subject to tell it with a different tone.

I went to one of the graduate seminars I had signed up for at 11:30, The Hero’s Journey in 3-D. The study of the hero’s journey, not just in fantasy literature but in everything, is something that I’ve gone over before, but I never get tired of. It’s a great way to look at your story and characters to see how your own idea follows these archetypes. It’s also good to be aware of the archetypes for when your story starts to become too predictable and boring.

Afternoon was finishing the large group workshops for Elley and Rachel that were missed on Wednesday. After I finalized my plans with Chris Crutcher for what I’ll turn in over the semester; nothing to complicated, just writing and rewriting so I can plow through Speaksong and get it as done as I possibly can before the semester ends.

Graduate readings got clogged in the sludge my brain is turning into, but what I was able to be aware of was really wonderful. Despite sheer exhaustion I hung out at the reception for some time with Rachel, not because I felt like I had to be there but because i just couldn’t stop talking to people. Abby and Jan have been really helpful, and it breaks my heart that they’re fourth semester students, meaning that by next semester they’ll be graduating. They’ve both already offered, or even asked, that I send them more of Speaksong, and I gladly will.

I’m ready to go home now. My writing hand itches and my brain is so full I’m afraid it might spill out. Everything is packed to be thrown in the car in the morning; that way I won’t have to worry, and can just wait for the right time to leave.

MFA Day 6-7

There was a snow day yesterday – the University was closed, which meant that the MFA couldn’t take place. Some of the stuff was made up, like workshop times, but other things, like seminars, were lost because the schedule is just too tight to allow for a rearrangement. It’s a little disappointing (I bought A LOT of books for the Got Arc? seminar) but it worked out alright. I walked to Harvard Square with some girls that are also staying in Irving House, and we went out to dinner. We had some great conversations; turns out Amanda has written for Demand Studios as well, and I might have turned someone on to Suite 101! Ha ha.

It didn’t snow today, so the residency went on as usual. We started with a seminar on the process of writing the novel. It was a little dull, but some of the stuff in that panel was just nice to hear; it was nice confirmation that I’m actually doing things right.

I wasn’t signed up for any of the following graduate seminars, so I sat with other students and read over manuscripts. I managed to get a conversation with Chris Crutcher once he was free from talking to some other professors, and we fleshed out my reading list for the semester a bit more. I’m starting to get a more concrete idea of what I will be accomplishing this semester, which is relieving. But, even if we aren’t completely sure on what we pick, that’s fine; Lesley is so flexible with the MFA, which means if I decide, “Oh, I would rather read this book than that book” halfway through the semester, that’s no big deal, they don’t care.

Our small group workshops happened after lunch. I had a hard time giving good comments at times, but I also feel like I managed to chime in well enough to make up for the smaller number of people.

With this part of Speaksong, I was able to get feedback on my villain! And I found out that everyone agreed that I showed my hand too early. I made it too obvious that he was the big bad guy, and the suggestion was that, while I leave in little hints, I need to make him seem less obviously sinister so that it not only makes sense that my main characters trust him, but it becomes that much more horrible (and satisfying) when they realize who he is. They told me this, and I was PISSED – because I knew they were completely right, and I now I have a bit of rewriting to do to make it work. Ha ha. I think this will also help an underlying theme in Speaksong that keeps getting more and more apparent as the story goes on, and as people look at it and give me their comments.

After dinner were graduate readings; it was nice to hear what the students who’ve passed through the whole program have produced. The last person used the journal format to write a zombie apocalypse story. Nice. No Writing for Young People tonight; the only one goes tomorrow, though.

New Reviews – Garden Sky, Alice in Wonderland, Pink Innocent & Megatokyo

Egads, I’ve fallen behind with this. It’s been a crazy, awful week, so I just kept forgetting to post new reviews. Even with two weeks, there hasn’t been too much added up.

Alice in Wonderland Campfire Graphic Novel
Alice

For Suite101, I posted a review for Garden Sky from Digital Manga and Alice in Wonderland from Campfire. To my surprise, Garden Sky was awarded my first ever Editor’s Choice award! Doesn’t do a whole lot for the PVs, but is wondrous for the ego.

Two reviews were posted on Mania: Pink Innocent Vol. 2 and Megatokyo Vol. 6. I think both turned out well. Now I need to finish a review for a manhwa for Mania, but hopefully that will be sent out for tomorrow.

Megatokyo Vol. 6
Megatokyo

I work a few less work hours next week, so I hope to get more than a couple reviews done. On top of that, I definitely have to get edits for Speaksong underway and finish imputing some edits to Becky. I’ll have to send my work into Lesley in a couple months, and I’m just so, so nervous that what I send in will somehow not be good enough.

Too Many Projects

I think I have too many writing projects going on. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but for me more than just a couple of important things can get a bit overwhelming. I tend to concentrate really hard on a couple things at a time, meaning that some stuff I work on falls to the wayside for a bit. Two examples right now: typing Jordan into the computer and actually finishing writing Speaksong have been getting utterly ignored in favor of editing Becky and writing articles.

The biggest problem with doing this is that it’s hard to get back into the flow of a story when I’ve been away from it for a while. I forget what characters sound or think like, sometimes I even forget what I meant to DO. And I really should start working on Speaksong again, since I want to submit part of that for criticism when I start at Lesley. But, I can’t ignore Becky edits, and I really love writing the articles, too.

This whiny post is basically just so I can tell myself to stop procrastinating and wasting time (I waste a lot of time) and just work on all these things, because no matter how the day’s been I feel accomplished if I’ve managed to finish writing goals for the day.

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No new articles this weekend, most likely. We’ll be down in Connecticut until Saturday and the day job takes up Sunday. I’ll at least get something read and ready to review for Monday, though.

I’m a Press Contact! :: New Articles

I’ve been emailing companies to get permission to use their images in articles, and now I’ve been added to the press database for Viz Media. That’s exciting for me, because it means that this is actually a real thing that I’m doing. Also, now I can use images without fear of being sued.

I wrote a little more in Speaksong, and also got my applications together for the MFA programs I’m applying to. VCFA is all set, but I need to figure out how many credits I received at CSC before I send out my Lesley University application. I also have to email my professors to make sure my letters get sent. I also fixed a part of another short story.

I got another rejection letter from a literary agency. I believe that makes four now? Ah, well. Keeping at it.

Here are the two articles I wrote today:

http://anime.suite101.com/article.cfm/introduction-to-anime-boston-2010

http://writingforchildren.suite101.com/article.cfm/organizations-for-childrens-writers

Rewriting

I’ve been working on Speaksong, the story for my NaNo; this was something that I had actually planned out ahead of time, and unlike everything else I’ve ever done for NaNo I think it actually has potential. The problem is, most of my NaNo writing is awful, since I’m spitting it out so fast. So going over the early chapters isn’t just editing–for most of the story, there is complete re-writing involved. This makes it a little easy, since I already have most of the story out of my head and on the computer in detail. But it’s also a pain, since I don’t know what to keep sometimes, and it also feels a little like I’m just redoing something I’ve already done. Maybe this will work, though, and I’ll end up with something of higher quality.

Writing Pen