Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Ten Most Annoying Things About Editing a Novel

I've been working on editing my novel for a couple of years now, and it hasn't gotten any more fun. I thought it might have gotten more fun at some point, but no, it's just irritating. So, in light of this experience, I decided to make a list of the ten most annoying things about editing a novel. Feel free to add your own in the comments, if you want.

1. It Will Never Be Done... I'll Die Before It's Done...

Editing takes SO LONG! There's rewriting, more rewriting, restructuring, more restructuring, waiting on critique partners, rifling through critiques, deciding which critiques to listen to, cutting stuff, fixing plot holes, line edits, MORE rewriting... I knew editing took a while, but it's such a long process. Of course, it's partially because I procrastinate so much. The procrastination takes up the bulk of my editing time. Additionally, I'm also sure that It Will Never Be Done, because there will always be something to fix. And some readers will be unhappy, no matter what. You could edit until the end of time and someone will still be talking about how your book is problematic. I think about publication and it does not seem like a thing that's actually going to happen. Not because the market is difficult or whatever, but because I will never be done editing.

2. "So you'll be the next J.K. Rowling?"

I think literally every time I've talked to anyone about how I'm a writer, they tell me I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling. Mind you, the vast majority of these people have not read one word of my writing- they're not praising my talent. They are just that deluded about how publishing works. They hear that I'm done with a book and are wondering when the cash will flow in. For some reason, they got the idea that the publishing process is Step One: First draft. Step two: Fame and fortune. And then they tell me I'm "just being modest" when I explain that that is not the case. Believe it or not, I didn't create a flawless first draft, as nice as that would have been.

3. I read it so many times that I don't know what it is anymore

I've read my manuscript so many times. So many times. To the point that I can't tell if it's good or bad, so how exactly am I supposed to edit it? I know, I know, that's what critique partners are for, but I'm the one who has to make final decisions at this point. Also, there have been many times when I just didn't tell the reader a vital bit of information because I'm used to it being common knowledge, since in my life, whether or not Topaz is an aunt or cousin is common knowledge, since I've read this book so many freaking times.

4. "I'll fix that later" Later has arrived.

When writing a first draft, it's important to let go of perfectionism. If you come to a difficult part, remember that you don't need to get it perfect right away. That's what editing is for. Then you get to the editing, and you have to do all the hard stuff.

5. The knot-in-your-hair parts

I have long, curly hair, and sometimes when I brush it there's this part in the back, always too far for my arms to reach without aching, that gets into this Big Giant Knot of Doom, and it's a hellish nightmare to brush it out. Some scenes in editing are like that. Info-dumps that must be made entertaining and easy to read, for example. Transition scenes that are boring but you need SOME sort of transition. Story-telling scenes that can't just be a speech. They are agonizing to fix.

6. Killing your actual darlings

People always say "kill your darlings" about editing, which means "cut that scene you got so attached to if it's for the good of the work as a whole." But for me at least, I put so much unnecessary junk in the first draft that "killing my darlings" the first few rounds of edits is just killing a lot of stuff that I didn't like that much anyway. Now I have to get rid of scenes I enjoyed and it's annoying, to say the least. Though I did have a taste of that on my first edit when I got rid of a Mean Girls reference. That was a sorrowful day.

7. Too tired for the greater good

Sometimes you know that a big radical plot change would improve the book immensely. Like, changing a character's gender, or making the villain have a totally different motivation, or starting the book two months earlier. But damn it, you are so tired, and you've worked on this version of the draft so many times that you don't want to have to essentially start over again. So you will make do with the inferior story because who cares at this point.

8. Comments on Chapter One

Note to my critique partners: First, let me start with a disclaimer. I love having my ego fed. Please go ahead and tell me how wonderful my book is at any time. Additionally, I love constructive criticism. Tell me that my writing is weak in one scene or other, or that you don't understand what's going on. But please. Do not complain about something when you are NOT DONE YET that is something that could clearly be resolved LATER. If you're on Chapter Two and you think that I really ought to include that minor character more, you really liked them, why don't I include them more... how exactly do you know I'm not going to? You have twenty-four chapters to go! If you're sad about how I'm treating the characters, I'm glad I'm having an emotional effect, but you haven't reached the end yet so don't act like I've already given them a sad ending! Just read the whole thing! Gah!

9. Critiques =/= This is your book now

Let me be perfectly clear, I will accept the harshest, most biting, vicious critiques of my book. I will, of course, go home and cry bitterly for about one month afterwards, but I'll accept it and bear you no ill will and take it into serious consideration. However. What annoys me are the Suggestions. If you have an idea, sure, I guess you can share it, but I'm probably not going to do it because I already have my own vision for the book and I'm going to stick to it. I'm talking about stuff like "why don't you make these two characters get together" or "at this part I think that there should be a battle!" or "you should put dragons in the book! right here at this part even though that would dramatically change the plot that you clearly have set in place already." I get the temptation to make headcanons, but they should remain in your HEAD, or at the very least, admit that these are your fantasies and not actual suggestions that I'm going to do.

10. Reading your old writing

Oh God. It's so terrible. And it's terrible on two fronts when it's someone like me who takes years and years to finish stuff, because on the one hand, you have how bad your writing was, but you also have reminders of who you were when you were a couple years younger. I wrote the first draft of my book in tenth grade, and I had some really awful ideas in my head in tenth grade. If you're reading my book and you think Mae (my protagonist) is insufferable, it's because I was insufferable in tenth grade. Only now I'm making that an amusing flaw of hers, not a great trait because she is oh-so-special. Ugh. It is painful to remember the past.

Anyway, I should probably go to bed because I have class early tomorrow and my roommate also probably wants to sleep. "But why didn't you just write the blog post earlier-" Shut up, voice of reason. I was doing very important work (not at all binge watching shows, no).

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Small Poems

Once again, posting this super late because I just procrastinate a lot.
This week I thought I would share some poetry and some thoughts on a particular type of poetry. So, a while ago I read this poetry collection commentated by Lemony Snicket and he said something along the lines of, "I've read a lot of poems that are too long, but none that are too short." In my poetry seminar last year, my poetry teacher often had us do an exercise where we would eliminate all but the most essential lines of the poem. And there's a publication at my school called "The Cliffhanger" exclusively for short, unfinished pieces of writing.
Basically, what I'm saying is that short poems can be a lot more powerful than long ones, both for the reader and for the writer.
Writing small poems can be pretty therapeutic sometimes. While it's sometimes good to write a long-winded poem and lose yourself in all the words, you can get to feeling like you're constructing a big long art piece rather than just getting some words out. Which can be good, but if you're trying to relax or get some thoughts out, sometimes it's best to just write little poems. If I get struck with tiny bits of imagery or emotion, I can scrawl a few sentences and not feel like I have to make a whole long poem out of it. Or if I have a bunch of unattached feelings, I can do several poems instead of feeling like I have to link them together somehow.
So, I decided to share some of my small poems that I've written recently, and possibly some I've written in the past if I can't find enough from the past few months.

When the hunger that is not hunger comes,
I want to pull at the black sky
until it uncoils as a rope.

Then the stars would be all alone
and the rest of space
would be swallowed and swirling
inside me.

To butcher your poem,
drain it
'til it's a bag of bon words.
Then skin it
and bury the skeleton
in papery ice.

Then wait
for spring.

Dry as chalk,
when I talk
the words go up the wrong pipes
the ears choke on them.

Syllables coil on the mouth
as a snake skin.
Better to keep quiet,
keep the fear in.

A strange kind of winter 
this is-
made of water
rather than ice.
I haven't yet
seen anything die.

As stirring
and shaking 
as a silent orchestra
desperate to play
even a verse

Is how the spring is,
shivering in the wings,
dancing in her head
beneath the earth.

Siphoned the last drops
of what you were
right out of the last holding cells.

And they left
one letter. 

(Here's some from before the last few months, some of which I've already published here)

soft incense, thunder
        brushing my hair

elephant curls itself
         into the starry darkness

Early whistle of rain
and I am exhausted
            ah god
            violet, exhausted 

I look on trees naively,
as though they are my friends,
who cannot speak as I do
with lungs and mouth.

And yet at least
for my imagined mind
they sing-

I'll never know whether
their music is real
or merely
an imagined thing.

I almost saw them through the trees-
the ghosts of things I'd lost.
But then they disappeared again
to that place that I forgot.

I can pick your voice
out of the stairwell,
like a thread unraveling from a tapestry.
To a well-practiced ear,
even to an ill-practiced ear,
it sounds like the main voice
of the chorus.
I ignore it.


I hope you enjoyed those poems! The first six I all wrote this semester- the last five I wrote either last semester, over the summer, or in high school.
If you have any small poems of your own, feel free to share in the comments! Or even write one of your own just for fun.
Thanks for reading,