Rewriting for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a daunting task. Though I’ve been fortunate and won the past five years I’ve participated, I have also failed to reach the ultimate goal of 50,000 words. I get it, sometimes life just gets in the way or your story doesn’t end up working out the way you originally wanted it to. So since NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching, I thought I’d share a piece of advice on a way to (possibly) make NaNoWriMo a little less painful.

I’ve spoken about rewrites before and why I believe they’re a crucial part of the writing process, but I also believe that it can be helpful for something as intense as NaNo.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days (even if you’ve done it many times like myself) is terrifying. It works out to 1,667 words per day – a hefty amount, especially if you aren’t used to writing that much consistently. And of course, it’s not just the word count you need to worry about. There’s plot, characters, settings… not to mention the little details all writers have to worry about constantly. Stressed out yet? I know I was in the first couple years participating.

Enter the rewrite. All of a sudden, characters are familiar, settings haven’t changed a ton (if at all). And plot? Yes, it’s the most likely part to change of a rewrite project, but surely you still will keep elements of your previous draft’s plot structure.

The idea of writing 1,667 words every day sounds a little less daunting now, doesn’t it? Without the added stress of a brand new everything, NaNoWriMo isn’t as scary. Yes, it’ll still be hard, probably harder than any other writing project you’ve ever taken on, but it won’t be as difficult. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

So there you have it, some food for thought at least. Just another possibility to make NaNoWriMo a little easier for everyone out there. As always, good luck to all the writers out there participating this year. Keep writing everyone.

Until next time.

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Why You Should Rewrite and Not Edit

Congratulations. You’ve just finished a novel. You’ve taken some time to decompress and relax, away from the world of writing, but now you need to dive in and start getting your piece ready for publication.

The first edit. That’s a term I’ve mentioned before, even written a whole post about it. Though looking back on the process I went through then, I should have probably titled that blog post The First Rewrite. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what it really was.

There’s a difference between an edit and a rewrite, and I don’t know if everyone always remembers that. Editing is a broad term meant for modifying, correcting and condensing written material in preparation for publication (at least, that’s what the Google definition gave me I just looked up). Rewriting is slightly different, more specific, I guess you could say. Google defines it as writing something again to alter or improve it. Similar to editing, but yet different.

For writers, we will eventually need to do both editing and rewriting before our manuscript will be publication ready. Most people assume that an edit is the first thing you should do upon finishing a first draft of a manuscript – I like to think differently.

To put it in other words, there’s a difference between polishing up something which is silver and polishing up something which is nickel. Though the nickel may still look nice once it’s all nice and shiny, it’s going to pale in comparison to the polished silver. The silver will hold up better over time, and is more valuable. This is the difference between doing an edit and a rewrite (or a series of rewrites) and THEN the edit. If you simply edit a piece, you’re only polishing up that piece of nickel, which won’t stand out amongst the rest of the field and won’t be a high quality. But, if you take your time and rewrite your manuscript before putting it out there in the publishing world, you’ll wind up with a piece resembling silver – something of value and good quality.

Analogy aside, rewrites really are an integral part of the writing process. Maybe it’s taken you a couple of years to finish your manuscript. Well, chances are your writing style has matured and changed in those couple of years since when you first began it. If you go through and do a rewrite, you can add that maturity to your piece and make it richer – make it better. Most writers don’t like doing rewrites because it takes so much time – and personally to me, it always feels like I’m completely scrapping the however many months of my life I dedicated to writing that draft. Yes, it does take time. And yes, it does feel like you’re throwing away months of good work, but it will also make your final product better. You can learn from your previous draft what worked and what didn’t work and use that knowledge to your advantage. You can stop yourself from making the same mistake again.

I want you to know that it’s not like I believe editing isn’t important – editing is EXTREMELY important to the whole writing process. I just think that edits should occur as a step after the rewriting has been completed.

So there you have it – a quick reason why I believe rewrites should be preferred to a simple edit while in the early stages of your manuscript preparation for publication. As always, if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

Until next time.

How I Fell in Love With My Antagonist

Years ago, when I first set out writing my trilogy, I couldn’t stand my antagonist. Granted, most people don’t tend to like the villainous character in novels, but I really hated this guy. He’s possessive, obsessive, abusive, and just a downright asshole to my protagonist throughout the whole trilogy. With qualities like that, why would I ever like him, right?

That’s the way I felt for a very long time, and it’s only recently when I’ve started to rewrite the whole series that I’ve had a change of heart. See, while editing and fixing up the plot holes I’ve found throughout my novels, I’ve had to learn more about each and every important character that passes through, including Noah, my horrific antagonist. All of a sudden, there’s love and sympathy for him which was never present before. The reason why? I’ve learned about his backstory.

Character backstory is probably one of the most important things to be super familiar with whenever you’re writing any sort of fictional work. Without it, you have no idea where they’ve come from or what they’ve been through. I think that’s what a lot of new authors forget when they begin working on a piece of writing. Your character’s story may have started being told when you start writing your novel, but in no way is that they beginning of them. They’ve lived a life up until the first chapter of your novel. They’ve been through ups and downs that have shaped and moulded them into the person that they are when your readers first meet them. Without knowing that all-important information, your character is going to come across as two-dimensional and wooden.

This is the problem I saw almost immediately when I started rewriting my trilogy. I knew a decent amount about my protagonist’s backstory – it was relevant to the current plot I was telling so the information was a need-to-know kind of thing. But for Noah, it was as if his life had started on page one of my novel. We never discovered anything about his past, so when he goes and does horrible things, it’s impossible to understand why he’s so mean and the way he is.

It’s only after finally sitting down and letting him open up to me that I discovered why my antagonist is such a terrible person. And in that moment when he finally opened up to me and let me into his life prior to the start of my first novel, I finally understood the reasons for why he is the way he is. Let me tell you, it saddened me. Noah had a horrible childhood, something that no person should ever have to go through, and the choices he makes throughout my whole trilogy all stem from it.

Is he excused for the suffering he inflicts upon my protagonist? Of course not. What he does to her is entirely inexcusable. But I get it now. I understand why he operates the way he does. For the longest time, I thought that Noah just liked to be in control and cause my protagonist pain. I know better now. I know that in his own twisted and messed up way, he believed that he was trying to protect her from the harsh ways of the outside world and keep her safe.

Despite the nature of Noah’s character, he is by far the most interesting and intriguing character to write. I think it might be one of those things where they’re so evil and sinister that you just can’t help but to love them. Reading about him, I see why people are turned off – if I hadn’t created him, I’d feel the same way too. But writing him, it’s exhilarating. I spend so much of my time wondering what he’ll do next to throw a wrench in the works. My protagonist is safe and for the most part, fairly predictable in her behaviour, but Noah, he’s such a loose cannon that anything can happen when he shows up.

In the first book of my trilogy, I never get to visit his mind. I see the whole novel through my protagonist’s eyes. In the second book, things change though, and we get to spend the occasional chapter in Noah’s head. I wouldn’t call his points of view a narrative, but rather a stream of consciousness. The reader is privy to his point of view, but only his thoughts. It’s even different than a first person perspective, where traditionally it’s written with quotation marks, followed by he said, she said – all that jazz. Noah, on the other hand, gives us very little dialogue and instead, gives mainly his thoughts and feelings on what’s happening around him. It’s raw and emotional – exactly how his character is throughout the novels.

Getting inside Noah’s head like this – writing from his point of view – brought another level of intensity to the table that I didn’t think was possible. All of a sudden the floodgates to his mind opened and I was really able to get a feel for what was going through his head in those exact moments. At the time I was writing, I had no clue about his past or anything about his life that didn’t pertain to the plot of the stories, so although I knew how Noah would react or think about something, I had no real clue why that was the case. Now, as I continue to forge forward into my rewrites, and now that I have the backstory I hadn’t been privy to upon writing the first draft, I think I’m able to portray Noah in the way that he should have always been shown. Yes, he is still the villainous character. Yes, I am most definitely still rooting against him. But it’s different now. I feel… something for him.

So maybe it isn’t quite love like I suggested earlier, but rather understanding. I feel sorry for Noah. I wish he could have gotten the help he needed back when he was a child. Maybe things would have turned out differently for him if he had. Maybe things would have been alright for him. Though I guess I should be thankful things happened they way they did. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

Please feel free to comment if you’ve ever experienced something like with with one of your antagonist characters – I’d love to hear about others and how they feel about it all. And as always, keep writing!

Until next time.

Writing Software Worth Investing In: Scrivener

Two months ago I blew the dust off of an old manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2014. I’d dabbled with it throughout the past year, but had set it aside for the latter part to focus on the 2016 version of NaNo and finishing up another old project. So come January, there I sat with an eighty-four thousand word unfinished manuscript. At first, the writing process went great, but I soon realized that one of my main characters was asking me for a pet. I had to oblige, but that meant I needed to go and add in a dog to so many scenes. This was going to be a huge undertaking.

Enter the writing software, Scrivener.

As writers, I’m sure many of you have heard of Scrivener, but in case you haven’t, I’d like to tell you how Scrivener most definitely saved my life… errrr, well… writing life at least.

Scrivener is a glorious writing software designed to help frazzled people like me get organized with their writing. Everything that Scrivener does can be boiled down to compartmentalizing. In other words, it basically takes a very large jumbled mess of a text and breaks it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

For me and my manuscript’s pet problem, this helped immensely.

scrivener-manuscript-details

Scrivener’s detailed manuscript options

Let’s say you have a novel. Well that novel is going to be broken down into chapters, right? Easy. Scrivener can do that. But let’s say within those chapters, you’ve got point of view changes, or jumps in time between different scenes. Well, Scrivener can also do that. You can customize your manuscript to have as many scenes within a chapter, all while having them in a separate file so they can be easily navigated through. The best part about this? Every single bit of your manuscript is in the same document. Goodbye alt-tab window-flipping.

 

This doesn’t work for you? No problem. Click on the Manuscript function in the sidebar and you get another version of manuscript organization, though this time it’s on a traditional, more old school looking corkboard.

 

With the corkboard, you’re given different options than the sidebar. First of all, if you’ve set it up you can view the status of each of the files and folders within your whole document. Some of the options? First Draft. To Do. Revised Draft. Done. All of these are tools you can use to help keep your manuscript organized and up to date with current achievements.

Another cool feature? You can use what Scrivener calls labels to give unique markers to each of your file and folders. This shows up in the right corner of each corkboard note. Each label has it’s own distinct colour. Green for chapter, orange for notes, blue for scene, yellow for idea, and red for character notes.

scrivener-corkboard-variation

Scrivener’s corkboard: the hub of all your folders and files

As you can see, for my specific project I currently only am using the chapters label, but you honestly can’t believe how helpful some of the other options were during the writing process. All of these labels and status options made the construction of my manuscript much simpler.

So, how did this help me when I needed to go back and insert a dog into various chapters? Well by working in this program earlier, I was able to use the folders and files to split up my novel by important events and character point of views. When it came time that I needed to go back to old chapters, finding them was a breeze. If I’d been using just a normal word processing document, I would have wasted so much more of my writing time trying to figure out where my chapter breaks were. It would have taken me a lot longer to complete my draft. Of course, it also helped that I’m able to write on each of the notes signifying files. I used this space to write a quick summary of key points that happen during each chapter. Does that ever help when you’re scanning through for certain moments.

The label and status features Scrivener offers was a time-saver as well. Since you’re able to write on each of the little notes, I had no problem locating the chapters requiring my newly acquired pet. Marking them as a To Do was as simple as right-clicking on my mouse and selection the option from the drop down menu.

I’ve only just really begun to utilize Scrivener for my writing. I know there’s still much more I have to discover and learn about it, but I honestly can say that I can’t wait to do so. Scrivener has changed my life, simplifying elements of my writing that used to be so complex and take up a lot of my precious time. I highly recommend it. Trust me, it’ll save you.

If you’ve had any amazing experiences with Scrivener, or you know of another really cool feature I haven’t talked about, please, share it in the comments sections and help a writer out.

As always, keep writing everyone!

Until next time.

 

Life After NaNoWriMo

So it’s official. November has come and gone and with that, another year of NaNoWriMo is over too. To everyone who participated, congratulations! Even if you didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal target, you’ve still created something, which is the core of what NaNoWriMo is striving to achieve. So kudos to you!

With that said, I’m sure you’re feeling a lot of things right now. And you all must equally have just as many questions. The biggest and most common one? Now what? Now that I’ve written a novel, what do I do?

The answer? Whatever you want to. Now, I do recommend taking a well deserved break. Go celebrate, you deserve it! Enjoy the fact that you’ve just created something! Go out and have some fun (because if you’re anything like me you pretty much have been living under a rock for the past 30 days and haven’t really seen the light of day much).

There are a few things I do suggest you do now that NaNo is over.

  1. Write down any further thoughts you have on your novel (if it isn’t complete, or even if you know certain parts need some major revision). Just jot them down so you’ll remember them later on.
  2. Set it aside! I know this many be hard for some (you have just dedicated the past month of your life to this thing!) but you need to take some time away from it. Keep those notebooks or computer documents and files closed for some time (at least a couple of weeks) and don’t go anywhere near them. You need a break from your world and your characters.
  3. Once thoroughly rested, pull out your manuscript and read it over. Don’t edit it, you read. This is important. For this, you are merely a reader. You are not a writer or creator. By removing yourself from that role, you can view the manuscript as a whole – and probably will see it through a much more critical eye. Watch – you’ll find yourself catching mistakes or plot holes you didn’t see when you were writing and creating this masterpiece.

After this is done, the hard part begins. Here is where you have two different options, and they will entirely depend on whether you finished your novel’s plot during NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t, this is the part where you need to dig in and finish it. If you’ve skipped over filler or boring scenes, guess what? You have to write them now. If you still need your climactic ending? Look what you have in store. It’s difficult, I know – trust me, I’ve been there MANY times – but you need to do it all now before moving onto the next step. It’s important. You may never finish your novel otherwise. Take it from someone who’s had this happen to them.

If you were lucky and managed to finish the whole plot to your novel during the month of November, you get to move onto something else entirely. Get ready. It’s going to be a doozy. The first edit. Now, I’m not going to go into this topic into detail, but if you want to read more about it, I did another blog post about it in the past which you can find here.

Beyond the first edit, and the subsequential rewrites which will follow, I recommend letting a close, trusted friend or writing partner read your manuscript over. If you feel comfortable with it, maybe even give it to a few different people. A beta reader (or two) is always something you should consider when you’re moving down the stream towards publishing.They can help catch things that you might not see anymore due to the close relationship you share with both the characters and plot. Having someone read your work that hasn’t seen it before will help catch unwanted errors you’ve become unfazed by.

Following beta-readers comes another few rounds of editing. Eventually, you will come out with a polished manuscript ready for the publishing world.

Publishing (and all the different routes involved with that) is where I shall leave this particular blog post. I feel that’s a topic that needs to have a dedicated section (or at least an article) all to itself. Another day, another time.

As always, happy writing everyone, and congratulations once again to all the Wrimos out there! Win or lose, you all achieved something wonderful this past month!

Until next time.

After the First Edit

After a long and painful process, I have finally finished the editing of my first manuscript. What now? That’s the big question. I have so many different things that I can work on it’s not funny. Like no, seriously, it’s not funny. I can do editing, re-writing, actual writing, story-plotting… There’s a lot of options for me.

So, what am I going to do? Right now at this moment, I’m not entirely sure. Most likely I’ll get back to actually working on writing another project. There’s this novella I’ve put on hold for a good six months which I’m itching to get back to, so that’s probably what will end up happening.

I have to say, now that I’ve finished this manuscript, I’m kind of at a stand still with it. Where do I go now? Do I try and find some literary agent willing to take it on and work towards getting it published? Or should I try self-publishing? Or will this just be a novel for me? There’s a lot to consider and I have to admit that I’m a little loss.

So, that’s all I have for words of wisdom this time around (even though yes, I know there were no real words of wisdom in this particular entry). When I have some interesting development in something or I just get bored and decide to fill you all in on my writing life, I’ll post something new.

Keep writing, everyone!

Starting the First Edit

Seems to be that I’m not too good at keeping this blog updated. In fairness to myself at least, I have managed to finally complete the first draft of my trilogy in my time away from the blogging-sphere. But of course that means I am in the terrible part of the writing process: the first edit.

I think that’s what this entry is going to be about today.

So I’ve started to edit the first draft of the first novel in my first trilogy. Lots of firsts, right? I have to admit, I think doing this edit has been so much more difficult than actually writing the darn thing (and I’ve only gotten 12 000 words into it). Coming up with the initial plot and characters seems easy in comparison to deciding what stays and what goes.

I’ve gotten so used to the way everything works in the story; it’s a shame that I have to go through and chop, change, and add elements into it. But alas, I know I must. Just from reading through the first few pages, I notice that my writing style flies all over the place – my writing has evolved so much over the past year or two that I can see a change in it so drastic that I NEED to do re-writes.

I’d say part of the reason why my writing has evolved so much lately is due to a professor I had this past winter semester in school. He taught my creative writing class, every Tuesday night from 6:30-9:20. One thing that I definitely took away from that class is a simple message he gave us.

People don’t like melodrama. Keep your writing simple, clear, and real.

At first when I heard this, I thought my prof was crazy. Here I was, writing a story FULL of melodrama (a physically abused girl who gets thrown into an awkward love triangle between an ex-boyfriend and a psychotic boyfriend). So what did that mean for my story? Should I just toss it out and give up writing it because it will never sell?

Instead of doing this (thankfully), I continued working on it, amalgamating the first three chapters into one and revising the scenes so there was less “drama”. Originally I was only going to do this for the final manuscript project due at the end of the semester, but when I opened the story to begin work on the second draft, the words of my professor were still in my head. I continued to edit my work using his suggestions and found that I liked the way my new draft was sounding.

So I realize that I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent from my original intent of this entry, but my little anecdote is relevant to the topic of the first edit. I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you work on the first edit of your story, or manuscript, or novel, or whatever you want to call it, try to let go of the way you did things originally. Sometimes a new approach to your story is all it takes to move to that next step towards getting your novel published.

Well, that’s all from me for now. I’ll post again when I can think of something else profound to say. No awesome writing quote from me today – I’m all awsome-ed out.

Until next time.