Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Painful, but Essential Critique

It sounds so easy. I mean, the story is in your head, just sit down at a computer and pound out some words. Once you are finished you will have a beautiful masterpiece that you will bestow upon an editor and they will be oh so happy to publish you thousands of copies and you will make tons of money and all your dreams will come true. I think I missed the singing mice somewhere in there, but I think you get the gist.

Somewhere along the line you get writer's block and convince yourself to just pound through that chapter, you'll fix it when editing. Eight months later you have a very rough draft of 60,000 words, which is apparently unlikely to ever be published that needs tons and tons of work. Where oh where to start? I sat down at my trusty little laptop and started reading through that very rough draft. Ouch! And so I made my initial run of sweeping edits and try not to cringe at sentences that make no sense.

One thing I've done throughout this process is research. Its my nature, I love to research. So along the way I've learned all the other fun things you get to do, such as have other people look at your beautiful, perfect novel and rip it to shreds. It hurts, it hurts so bad, like being forced to listen to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus while watching Firebirds bad. No, that's not true, nothing is worse than watching Firebirds. Just trust me, DO NOT go try and watch it. You will only hate yourself later.

Editing, revising, and critiquing are all very similar things. The point of all of them is to find things that don't work and make them better. Editing my own stuff is difficult because I am a very harsh critic on myself, but then I get the opportunity to hear a bunch of other people tell me that it isn't working as well. At some point, I assume every author says to themselves, maybe this isn't any good and I should scrap the whole thing. I've had my moment, and I'm over it. For now at least.

So that's the bad, there's also the good. And the good is really good. I was in a panic over going to the critique group. I have shielded this so carefully because I know it is so imperfect that the thought of these other writers looking at it and critiquing it made me want to just scrap the whole thing. But I went and it was great. The people are great, they're really knowledgeable and while they don't always agree, we have a lot of enlightening discussions. And when I've been only able to talk to myself about this baby of mine for the past eight months, it's nice to be able to talk to someone else about it.

Every website, every article, every chapter critique makes me better. And even though it hurts to be told you have a lot of work to do, at least you know where to start. Thank you critique group!

P.S. I think my critique group would point out at least 5 commas that I missed in this post. :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Sister #1 (The middle sister)

My sister is amazing. On Monday she wrote a beautiful post on the Facebook about me, and since it was a group effort I felt I owed her a post all her own.

I think we've established by now that I have a lot of fears. My husband gently puts it that I need a lot of hand holding. I did bite the bullet last year and signed up to lead a class in the middle school youth group. But I didn't want to do it alone so I dragged my sister with me. She didn't exactly kick and scream. :)

So the leader of the big youth group has been begging all year for small group leaders to lead the big group for a week. At the beginning of this year Kelly saw something I didn't, a class that would play to our strengths perfectly. Words with Friends. So after weeks of preparation we finally held our class and it was amazing. My teacher-in-training sister put the program together, came up with games, tempered my crazy ideas- and that was just in the planning stages!

I'll just say we knocked it out of the park. We had other group leaders telling us how great our program was, it was an amazing feeling. Especially when our program was geared to using our words in a positive way!

But what I can't stress enough is I would never have done it without her. I would have been totally lost this whole year without her. Scratch that, I would have been lost my whole life without her. So what I'm saying is: Thank you Mom, for deciding to procreate beyond me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Critique Group

Last night I stepped out of my comfort zone and took off my super soft yoga pants and put on real pants to go to a real writing critique group. With real people and everything! I don't know for sure what I was expecting, but for some reason I think it went better than my expectation.

For starters, I think that I am pretty good with meeting new people. However, it is usually a terrifying experience for me. I get very flustered very easily and I will revert back into myself. When I'm around people I know I need to be the center of attention. But I will take the time to sit back and get to know the group first. That's just the way I am, I like to think it's progress that I can at least admit that much about myself.

So when I came in 15 minutes late (I could kill that terrible waitress), I expected to come into a huge group of 15 people looking at me like I had interrupted a C-section. Instead I found four people sitting around computers who welcomed me in. They weren't overly talkative except for their work. That was the aspect that surprised me the most. When the group finished half an hour before the two hours was up I expected they would sit around and chat a little, but instead everybody picked up and left. Part of it is just that I'm such a natural chatterbox that it's my natural state, but I was so excited to be around people who got it that I just wanted to talk their ears off. I badger my husband with all of it and I have shared my story with a choice few, but it's not the same as someone who truly gets it. The love and passion that a writer feels for their work, it's unexplainable to those who haven't poured months into their baby. So for the first time since I started this journey, I was going to get to sit in a room of people who get it.

And they do. This group is dedicated to getting your piece into shape that it's a publishable place. So at least I feel like I'm in good hands. And they are smart and quick and their writing skills and critiques are so spot on. At this point the biggest concern I have is that my writing is not quite up to par. It was one thing that I thought I did well, my grammar was usually correct and I am pretty good at catching any misspellings. The more I read though on the craft of writing, the more concerned I become that my writing isn't good enough. Not by a long shot. But that's why I'm going, that's why you have to put yourself out there. And next Thursday chapter 1 of HB is going to be critiqued by the group and I guess I'll find out how much work I will really have to do on my technical writing before this is even close to publishable. But now at least I don't have to do it alone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Editing Mach 1: Where to start?

The first read through, ah how it sucks.  I rushed through the last chapters of the story to get them down on paper, thinking that I could fix it in the editing process.  I had such grandiose plans and a schedule.  Best laid plans, right?

Now I sit down and I have my software up and I don't even know where to start.  I have characters coming in and out with no purpose, plot lines with no purpose, a story world that exists in the second half to incorporate into the first half, and just all over terribly written stuff.  Not to mention about two thirds of the way through process I read some articles about not including adjectives and to keep the writing brief and to the point.  So I toyed with it a little in my last couple of chapters and the response I got was overwhelmingly negative.  Now I get to fix that as well.  The one thing I can say that is positive is that since there are people who have read it all the way through, I have a lot of great feedback on how to fix things.

But at the moment I sit down at my computer and try to figure out where to start in my huge list of problems.  Does anyone have a specific way that they complete edits?