Tweaks, Changes…Bleh…

I don’t know of anybody – and I mean, anybody – who enjoys editing and rewriting his own work. Cannibalizing what you’ve toiled over is a self-defeating concept. Like all the work was for naught. Now, additions and upgrades are another matter. For example, if I built a house, I wouldn’t mind putting in a porch; adding a deck; or trading in a nasty old couch for a new one. Those are all necessary improvements. Changes put forth in order to make things better. But when it comes to editing, rewriting, or just plain starting over – I hate it. It’s a loathsome process; one that never takes as long as I’d like, nor does it translate with the same results as my first draft. Still, it must be done. And still, I must go on with the understanding that it’s simply a part of the process.

Case in point, my local writer’s group put the screws to my latest work just this past weekend. They’ve been helping me by reading through the first draft of a novel I’ve been hashing out. A novel I’ve been creating for almost 9 months (yes, 9 stinking months), but it all came to a head last week when several parties involved said, “You need to go back and edit a lot of this.” And grudgingly, I agreed with them.

Ugh.

Imagine painting a five-story building – by yourself – and when you’re finished, you realize you used the wrong color. That’s the type of feeling I got. And what’s worse, I agreed with them. I knew that it needed some tweaks. I knew that it needed some changes. I knew that it needed a new coat of paint, so to speak. But my first reaction was this: ain’t no way I’m doing that again

I’ve always been good at getting my first draft done “well”. Like a good chef, I don’t need to grill four or five burgers until I get the proper patty. One shot and I’m done. But taking on a project such as this has made me understand – or rather, come to grips with – my own shortcomings as a writer. The first draft is never perfect. And if it is, you may be kidding yourself. There’s always some blind spot the writer is missing. So lucky for me, I have another set of eyes to poke and prod at what I’m doing. That way, before it gets to final print, I’ll know I’ve put the story through its proper paces.

But until that time, it’s back to the rewrites and revisions. Doing so with as much joy as I can muster. Which may be even harder than the rewrite itself….

 

 

So…what’s next?

I’ve been fired up since I finished Spirit Run. Not because I’m really angry or because I’m disappointed with the story – no, not at all. I’m fired up for a plethora of other reasons. I’m experiencing some new activity in this writing gig and it’s a tad overwhelming. How so? And what does that look like? Well, thanks for asking….

There’s a realization I’m having and it’s about as good as it is bad. Over the past year, I’ve been amazingly fortunate to be a member of a local writer’s group – one that shares, critiques, and encourages one another’s work. That has been remarkably life-giving. For example, remember when you found yourself surrounded by people who spoke the same “language” as you? You could share, in a group, the same kinds of thoughts and aspirations that this other group of people had? That’s a great feeling.

So…that was good – wait, amazing.

But that was only the first step into a much larger universe. Once you get to a place where others share a similar vision, you will eventually find yourself limited by your own resources. In other words, the affirmation you needed has worn off and the need for more third-party support becomes increasingly relevant. You need a team of other highly skilled, highly proficient individuals who can further maximize the bigger vision. I wrote about having skill sets I wish I had a couple weeks ago. Well, that post is having extreme truth in my life. And it’s happening now.

As such, I’ve been trying to accumulate a team of the following individuals:
– Editors
– Illustrators
– Social Media Experts
– My fiance’ (which has already been established as part of the team but incredibly crucial all the same)

I’m still doing the agent search thing, but I’m not sitting on my butt, waiting around either. I’ve decided to take a little more initiative and put some feelers out to even more media realms. And the responses have been very good. The more knowledge I can assimilate, the better. And knowledge is what I need if I’m going to be anywhere near effective in this fast-paced, fast-moving environment. How do you create good techniques for editing and not create bad ones? What is proper pricing for digital imaging? What’s not proper? And so on and so forth. It will be an ongoing process, I’m sure; one that will not happen overnight. A reality that my generation has a hard time believing is true. And unfortunately, I have a hard time reminding myself of daily.

So…here’s to the next “I don’t know” turning into “I understand now.” Here’s hoping I can get there sooner than later.

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 9

I hope it’s no secret by now that Spirit Run is a story dedicated to the unseen. A place that’s invisible and open to interpretation dependent on the individual. Where he is in life, where he’s going, and where he’s been. And we all get to experience the “invisible” in different ways. For instance, I was reading a Twitter post this morning via National Geographic that said something like this (and I’ll paraphrase): “Science allows us to see what cannot be seen otherwise.”

I would agree with this statement. Science certainly does permit access to a realm that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye. Who knew that every single thing is made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’? And how else might we learn what lies on the surface of the moon and beyond? The human ability to create, dissect, and analyze the most minute and far places of the universe is really astounding if you think about it. No other creature in the known world can do that – only us.

*pause for effect*

I was fortunate to hear a speech this weekend that covered topics related to human science and discovery. The speaker talked on what the world must have been like when we discovered how the Earth was not the center of the universe. It was our planet that was moving, not the sun. People’s brains must have been turned inside out. And when our atom smashers discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons – well, you get the picture. Scientific ventures continue to unlock more of our universe, but in the 21st century, we know that the Earth rotates the sun and we are made up of atoms. This is common knowledge. These may not seem as exciting to the seasoned scientist, but they are scientific fact all the same. And as we move forward, only the new and the undiscovered will pique our interests as adventurers. That much is also true. In other words, we are delighted for what we know, but we are driven even more to find out what we have yet to understand.

This story is teaching me a lot about this human reality. As much as I want to have a handle on everything I encounter, I am reminded how I cannot get all the answers at once. What’s unseen is intriguing enough though, so I do what I can to unveil those yet-to-be-revealed parts of my life. But first, I must simply be open to the idea of not knowing. In that way, I can find what it is I am looking for. Philosophical? Sure, it absolutely is, but it’s also a truth, I feel. Spirit Run‘s latest section, 9, delves deeper into this concept. My characters might have thought they were guarding a male spirit, a “Son”, but in reality, it was a “Daughter” the whole time. Their willingness to see through the journey made that revelation possible though; a revelation that’s amazing to them. I feel like science and faith find themselves in the same boat on that one. Sometimes our pursuits of one thing lead to the discovery of another. And it happens when we least expect it.

And I’ll be honest, I like having a good surprise in my story too.

Editing … or Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 6

Stories are best understood when they are read straight through. No interruptions. In a perfect world, that’d be the way to do it. Even if the book is 1,000 pages, it would do a person good to start reading and then finish what he is reading in the same sitting. Or at the very least, within a short time frame. But hey, I’m sure that doesn’t happen very often. I, for one, can’t sit and read for more than 15 minutes. If I’m thoroughly engaged, then yeah, I’ll stretch that time limit. It’s not ADD, it’s just a lack of interest. Or lack of patience. Or I’ll remember that I have other things to do like, run an errand or something. But if the story is good enough or if my mind is clear, I’ll stall a while. I’ll wait until I get to a good stopping point. There’s always that point in the story where I, the reader, can take a break.

I find my editing process to be like that more often than not. I’ll look for those breathing points, taking 15 minutes to reread certain sections rather than read all the way through. This is ideal if all I’m doing is reading, but I’m not. I’m changing things too. And that’s a slippery slope if you’re going over your work with a fine-toothed comb.

It’s better to do a thorough read of your work when you’re editing. This is of utmost importance. Selecting pieces and parts of a story as you go along can be harmful. Just as much as a reader doesn’t start in the middle of a new book, neither should a writer when editing his work. The times when I’ve returned to my work and just “picked a random spot” have been the most frustrating for me as a writer. I find myself being disillusioned by the part I’m revising, angry that the tone or feel just isn’t living up to my expectations.

That doesn’t sound right.
That doesn’t feel right.
That doesn’t fit with that.

This can be dangerous for a writer. Unless you’re catching the emotions and thoughts from prior sections, you may feel like your work – as a stand alone – is missing something. But don’t freak out. It is missing something. What it’s missing is the rest of the story. The feelings, the added conflict – everything that makes up the entirety of what you’ve crafted. If you need another analogy, think of it this way: architects and builders don’t build the roof before the foundation. They begin with the foundation, aka the beginning, and work from there. The same should be the case with revising and editing. Once you’ve done a few reads, you’ll find that your brain will recognize those sections where you could do something different. Or you could say something better. It’ll never be altogether perfect, but you can certainly get to a relative state of peace so long as you make the effort to understand as much about your work as possible. Then, you can give it over to another set of eyes if you wish.

This is something I’ve been working on as I go through this story. Where, when, and how to do effective editing. I feel like reading through my entire work can be overkill but it’s also necessary. Otherwise, I may run the risk of changing too much out of context. A delicate balance, but once again, a necessary evil. And it’s definitely an evil to any person who can be as impatient as I can be.

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 5

I’ve been excited to write this story for a while. I should probably mention that. But the build up to this part has been leaving me dry. Yes, there was a run-in earlier with a potentially dangerous opponent but it didn’t turn out to be a major bump in the road, if you will. However this part introduces a much more imposing enemy. How exciting, right? There’s some crazy screaming off in the distance, the barrier that the Trio made is getting rocked, and every other angel in the field of lights knows that something is up. Basically, there’s a ton of chaos happening. And I like it.

You need this kind of tension. Some foreboding angst to keep things interesting. May sound sadistic – and it could be, to a point – but every story has a good conflict. It’s a necessity for crafting any story. If it’s all rainbows and butterflies, then you are probably doing something wrong. Hence, there’s an ominous figure – a shadow – slowly creeping into the fray. What it wants and what it’s doing is still a mystery, but that’s a good thing. Any reader should know that’s it not good, whatever it is. And ironic as it sounds, that’s a positive for creating conflict in the story, a conflict that needs resolution.

There’s plenty more to do before the end, but I’m enjoying the road to see what’s next.

Till next time.

Special, Bonus, Extra Features…for writers

Some years ago, our VHS tapes were traded in for DVDs. Do you remember this? Home entertainment changed – No more recording shows on a clunky recorder. No more rewinding or fast forwarding to that funny “whizz whizz” noise. And no more home movies being taped via that huge shoulder-mounted tape recorder that your family owned. Movies and television shows were making the jump to Digital Video Disc. Picture quality was better, sound was smoother – VHS tapes were soon to be obsolete.

Sigh, I think I just had some serious nostalgia….

Well, sweet nostalgia aside, the arrival of DVDs brought another big thing with them: the “bonus disc”. For the science fiction geek, it was the holy grail of movie fandom. The Lord of the Rings was one of the first to cash in on this concept. Not only was there the “regular” DVD, you could also get the DVD with “special features disc”. Three hours of extra footage that included interviews, how the hobbit’s feet were made, and original cut scenes. It was all there. But wait! That’s not all. Some time later, the “Special Extended Edition” disc was released and the Tolkien universe rejoiced. Now you had the movie, the bonus features, and hours more of scenes that extended the experience. Wow, right? The DVD was more than just an upgraded conduit for home entertainment, it was a money-making missile aimed straight at the hearts and imaginations of anyone who wished to be closer to the cinematic experience.

But I won’t rain on the parade. Bonus discs can and do offer some interesting insight to any fan who is willing to pay a little extra. Imagine having the opportunity to find out just what someone was thinking when they filmed that pivotal death scene? Or why the director decided to nix that particular musical score for the climax? The bonus disc allowed for this to happen. Granted, not every question could be answered but the window had been opened.

As a writer, there is no special features disc when it comes to writing books and sharing story. You may get a bonus disc, which we may call a “sequel”, but that’s about it. I found this to be a unique insight; one that a friend of mine brought to light recently. Whenever I share a story with people I know, they give me immediate feedback. Then they may ask me questions. Why did you do this? What were you thinking about there? To which, I can reply and answer. But if you’re writing something for people beyond your social circle, there’s no Q and A time. This may appear to be an obvious concept, but let me extrapolate that further.

You see, stories are interpreted differently from person to person. The visuals created in their head are theirs and theirs alone. But a writer may have a different vision. Or will provide details meant to create that vision. As such, some readers often miss the intimate details of a writer’s vision. Writing is an intimate experience for the writer, but it’s not always as intimate for the reader. Writers provide, readers receive but a reader may miss the point of what the writer is trying to convey altogether. Yes, it does happen. And when that happens, there’s no bonus disc for the reader to dive into and find out what the deal was. It’s up to interpretation – no added interviews, no backstage with the film crew, and certainly no added scene to fill in the gaps. There’s great mystery and excitement in that because let’s face it, you can’t please everyone. But there is little opportunity for interaction if there are still lingering questions or a desire to seek more information.

Well, no worries because now we have blogs. It’s a writer’s very own “special, bonus, extra features” hub for sharing any additional thoughts and comments. Space is available for feedback (should you choose to accept it) and along with that, virtually anyone can pick the brain of the person they enjoy reading. That’s a cool concept, but overwhelming too. It’s something I’ve enjoyed though and I continue to look forward with each new post I make. The same can be said for anyone else’s work I follow or comment on. And what’s more, it’s free. No extra money needed to comment, post, and everything else. Way to go, social media. Nicely done.

Till the next bonus features post then.