Category Archives: Let Go

Letting go of LET GO (for now)

It’s been a ridiculously long time since I wrote about what I was writing. That’s mostly because it’s been a long time since I actually wrote anything. I started to write the first draft of 2000 MILES in April, but I stopped after 15k. I was just sort of making it up as I went, and it wasn’t working for me. Some people can write entire first drafts on the fly, but I’m not one of them. I think I underestimated my ability to write without any real outline. After several weeks of barely making any progress, I stopped.

Part of the reason I stopped, though, was also because I turned to editing LET GO. I got some CP notes back for that one, and I went through and reread that manuscript. I still really love those characters, all of whom you can read about here. There were also parts of the novel that made me laugh, and I figure that’s always a good sign. The feedback was generally positive. I got some great tips on how to tighten up my writing.

I did, however, get some notes that addressed issues that I probably should have dealt with before I sent it out to people. Natalie’s storyline doesn’t really make that much sense, and her storyline doesn’t really go with Chloe’s and Samantha’s. While that part doesn’t really bother me (since Samantha and Chloe start spending time together partly because Natalie is gone so often), I do wish that her storyline made more sense. There’s a bit at the end that I sort of threw in there while I was writing, and it doesn’t really work.

I’ve also realized that Samantha, the MAIN main character, has no real storyline, at least not until most of the way through the novel. Until then she sort of reacts to those around her and gets to know Chloe. That part of the novel I like, but she definitely needs more going on in her life. Sadly, I don’t have any real idea how to fix my Samantha problem right now. I know how to fix Natalie’s story line, and Chloe’s story line doesn’t really need that much work, but I’m completely stuck on Samantha.

That’s why I’ve decided to put this novel on hold for a little while. It’s stupid to spend this much time and energy trying to fix a novel that I have no idea how to fix when I have so many other novels to work on, novels that I do know how to fix.

Of course, that brings me to my most recent conundrum: which novel do I work on now?

I have two novels that I want to work on right now. The first is ALONE, a YA/NA political dystopian that I wrote for NaNo last year. I have the first draft completed and have started the first draft of the sequel. It needs to be completely rewritten, but I’m much more hopeful about it now. I know people are sort of over dystopian novels right now, but I need to write this novel. Plus, it’s different from the other dystopian novels I’ve seen, as this is a very political novel.

The other novel I really want to write is TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE, which I first wrote for NaNo 2011. That was the first manuscript I ever completed, though I have like three different versions that I started and then stopped. That was back before I had never heard of “contemporary New Adult,” back when I thought this novel would fall under the “literary fiction” category. I still love lit fic, and there are definitely still elements of it that will be in this novel, but I have a new understanding of what this novel is going now.

I love both of these projects. ALONE is important to me because it deals with several political issues that I care deeply about. TILT is important because it deals with unemployment and helplessness, which I think is something that a lot of people can relate to these days. TILT is one novel, which I would not take me that long to plot. ALONE is the first in a trilogy, and I don’t quite know how books 2 and 3 end yet, although I’m much closer to figuring that out than I was when I finished the first draft.

Right now, I think I’m leaning toward TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE, as it’ll be easier to write. I’ll probably end up sleeping on it and deciding in the morning. I’ve been doing school work all day, and I need a break from thinking right now.

Character Monday: Natalie Hurst (from LET GO)

Character Monday is something I came up with one night when I was supposed to be editing. Each Monday, we share one of our characters with the world. This character can be from any of your stories – past, present future – as long as it’s an original character. You can share as much or as little about your character as you’d like!

Today, I’m sharing the last of my main characters from my New Adult novel LET GO.

Name: Natalie Hurst

Age: 22

Appearance: 5’8 and chubby, with green eyes and light brown hair. She usually wears jeans and a sweater, which is why she freaks out whenever she has to wear something else.

Background: Her parents are lawyers who hate the fact that she’s wasting time on a sociology degree. Natalie plans on spending the rest of her life helping troubled youth – if only she could find a way to help her own brother, Lewis, who is constantly getting into trouble.

Personality: Natalie’s a very mild-mannered type of person. She wants everyone to get along and hates confrontation. She freaks out about things outside of her control and tends to throw herself into whatever she’s working on.

Why you should want to read her story: Natalie has spent her whole life trying to take care of other people. For the first time in her life, she’s taking some time to focus on herself and her new relationship with a cute guy she met who shares all of her beliefs. But is she slowly becoming the sort of girl she used to hate, the sort of girl who stopped caring about everything else once she got a boyfriend? Can she juggle having a boyfriend with taking care of her family, or will she have to choose?

Want to participate in Character Monday? Just write a post on your own blog and then click on the linky below and share the link to the post so the rest of us can learn about your awesome character!

Finding a process that works for me

Julie wrote a wonderful post the other day about the importance of being happy with what you’ve accomplished instead of always comparing yourself to other people. This is a great piece of advice, especially when you’re starting to doubt your ability as a writer.

I go through moments when I’m happy with my writing process and all that I’ve accomplished, and there are times when I’m not. For a while last year, I thought I was happy because I found a process that worked for me – write a first draft really fast, then throw it out and write a second draft really fast, and then edit that second draft. It wasn’t the process I wanted to have work for me, but it was what seemed to be working.

And then I started following more blogs and people on Twitter. I started realizing that it was time to get serious about writing if I ever wanted to actually get something published. I read articles on editing and saw what other people did. I read about people who took their first draft and fixed it and turned it into a good draft. And I thought, Hey, I can write like that, too! And I decided to try to change my writing process.

To be fair, part of this desire came from one of the novels I finished this past NaNo – LET GO. This is the novel that I started for NaNo 2008. I got about 10k in before I quit. I started it again in 2010 and got only a couple of thousand words in that time. Then I started it again for Camp NaNo 2012, and this time I liked what I was writing. I wrote the last 15-20k for 50k weekend during NaNo, and I ended up with a completed draft that I was actually quite happy with. I spent the end of November/beginning of December getting it ready for Pitch Wars, and I submitted it. I didn’t get chosen, but I learned a lot about writing and queries, and I found a whole slew of interesting people to follow on Twitter.

While all of that was wonderful, there was one thing that came about from all that that wasn’t so great – I got the idea that I could write a first draft that was good. I thought that since LET GO was decent the first time I wrote it, I must have outgrown my old process of write a draft and then throw it out and rewrite it completely. It’s like I forgot about the first two drafts that I started and threw out.

That’s why I was happy when I sat down to edit FOR REAL THIS TIME. I thought that it was a great first draft that just required a normal amount of editing, not a complete rewrite. So when I finally read over it and made a bunch of notes and realized that I did need to mostly start over, I was devastated. I felt like I was a failure, like I was regressing as a writer.

But you know what? I’m over that. I’m sitting here with 8 chapters and 20,000 words written for draft 2 of FOR REAL, and I’m really liking what I have so far. I’m not saying it’s the most amazing thing ever written, of course. I know it’s going to have to undergo one more round of edits before I try to show it to anyone. But you know what? I’m happy with it.

I’ve found a system that works for me. I write a first draft as fast as I can (in this case – 2 weeks). Then I leave it alone for about a month. Then I go through and edit it. I make a line edits and substantive edits. I know every single article written on this topic says not to do this, but you know what? I can’t help it. I went to college to be a copy editor. I was called a grammar Nazi in high school. I can’t read a novel with a pen in my hand and not fix errors when I see them.

When I finish this round of edits, I go about fixing the manuscript. In this case, that meant throwing out most of the book and rewriting it. Now, I will admit that I’ve kept more of this first draft than I thought I would. Some chapters were completely rewritten. Some were moved but kept mostly as they were. Others were added. I’m doing whatever that chapter calls for. The important thing, though, is that I’ve learned to stop doubting my process.

Would it be nice to be able to edit a draft and not have to rewrite almost all of it? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a failure if I end up rewriting all of this. That’s just what works best for me. That’s what I did in college with my creative writing classes. I would write a really fast draft of a story the night before it was due, and then I would throw that out and write a new draft, and I always ended up loving that second draft.

I need to stop doubting myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other people. I need to do what works for me and stop worrying that it’s not what other people do.

I set a goal for myself this month to finish the second draft of FOR REAL THIS TIME. My goal was to write one chapter a day every day of the month, starting Jan. 11, which was the day after I finished the outline for it. I ended up missing one day, but I also combined two chapters, so I’m still on track to finish on time. I’m not doing this as fast as I wrote the first draft, but it’s working for me – and that’s what matters.

Editing Weekend

As some of you might know, I recently applied for Pitch Wars, a contest where you pitch your novel to agented authors and editors, and they pick one entry to read and critique. I submitted a pitch for my “New Adult” novel about three college roommates who learn about each other and themselves. My novel wasn’t chosen, but I received some really helpful feedback from one of the mentors I queried – Miss Dahlia Adler. I may not know exactly how to fix my query letter, but I know what to fix, and that is a huge help!

Between November 26 and December 3, I was reading through my novel and making some changes. Since then, I haven’t really done anything as far as writing is concerned. I have enjoyed the break, but now it is time to get some work done. I am going to start by editing the second novel I wrote for NaNo: For Real This Time. I haven’t really given Maggie much attention since I finished the first draft, but I think that it’s her turn. I printed out the draft and have it in a binder. From what I remember about the novel, it actually was a decent first draft – I just hope I still feel that way after I start reading. I hate wasting paper, but I find editing so much easier on paper.

This weekend, my boyfriend and his parents are going out of town, and I am staying at their house to take care of their dogs. I have decided to use this time to get a jump start on my editing. I’m going to try to do my first read through this weekend. I have pens and highlighters and sticky notes and a notebook. My goal is to go through and make notes on parts that need fixing. I am also going to look at the novel scene by scene to see which parts should stay and which parts need to be added. My goal is to have all the changes marked down on this draft before I type it into the computer. I think I often get bogged down with how much I have to do, and I end up getting confused and quitting. I’m now going to take this step by step. This method worked well with Tilt Your Head and Smile (or at least it did before I stopped editing to work on Camp NaNo and never started back up again), and I’m hoping it will work this time, as well.

If there’s one thing Pitch Wars has taught me, it’s that writing one draft isn’t enough. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep going. You have to fix the first drafts. It’s important to write a lot, yes, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t edit. I went to school to be an editor. This should not be the part of the process that stumps me. I currently have seven completed drafts and four incomplete drafts. I’m much closer to where I should be now than I was last year (at least I have finished drafts now), but I’m still not where I should be.

My goal for the rest of this month is to get a decent draft 2 of For Real This Time. I already have a decent draft of Let Go. It’s time I start taking this seriously. I’ve learned a lot this year, and I’ve accomplished a lot, but I still have a lot to do and learn. And I’m looking forward to waking up early tomorrow, waving goodbye to my boyfriend, and then diving straight into editing.

NaNo Wrap-up

I meant to write this yesterday, but I ended up going to the regional TGIO party and helping my boyfriend’s family set up Christmas decorations and stuff of that nature, so I didn’t really get around to it. So, here we are. December. For the first time, I’m actually glad that NaNo’s finished. I sort of lost interest in writing during the last few days of the month. I learned about this Pitch Wars contest, and since November 26, I’ve been more interested in editing one of my manuscripts to prepare it for that contest than I have been about writing more first drafts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Now for some numbers from the past month.

Total number of words written: 243,374

That’s not the 250k that I was aiming for, but it’s still 20k more than I wrote last year, so I’m still pleased with it. At least it’s an improvement. And I know that I could have reached my goal if I hadn’t gotten distracted those last couple of days. And if I had prepared more ahead of time. I had planned on working on three novels. I was going to write drafts one of Alone and For Real This Time, both of which I thought about be about 100k. Then I was going to finish up draft one of Let Go for 50k weekend. I wrote about 45k of it for Camp NaNo, and I wasn’t even halfway through with what I was going to write for it, so it seemed like a good plan.

The only problem with my plan was that none of those novels turned out as long as I thought they were going to be. I’ve never written short novels before, but this time I ended up doing just that. I think they’re going to get longer during the second drafts, as I’m sure there are things that sounded good on paper but didn’t end up working in actuality. The fact remains, however, that even after I added another novella for my Day One project, I still didn’t hit my goal. But let’s focus on what I actually did manage to write:

Choices – 30,531
For Real This Time – 72,000
Alone – 70,000
Let Go – 35,000 (total novel 79,970)
Together (sequel to Alone) – 23,199
Other (short stories and new novel attempts) – 12,644

So I now have 3 finished novel drafts, 1 finished novella draft, 2 complete short stories, 1 incomplete draft, and 3 more novel/short story attempts that ultimately went nowhere. Still, I’m pretty happy with what I did manage to write. True, I should have finished Together, but I really didn’t think that I would get that far. Alone was just supposed to be one book originally. Then I realized that there was too much going on to be just one book, so I broke it into two books. I didn’t really think that I would get to book two, so I didn’t really plan it out much. I have a general idea of what the plot is, but I didn’t break it down into chapters like I had with book one, so I had trouble trying to write it. I don’t need to have every line of dialogue planned out before I write, but it’s helpful for me to have more than just the overall storyline.

Still, I’m quite pleased with most of what I wrote. Choices was my Day One project. It didn’t quite make 50,000 words, but I still managed to write the whole thing in a day, and that makes me happy. I still like the storyline, just maybe not the exact words that I wrote. I’m still glad that I wrote it, and I definitely learned some things about that story that I wouldn’t have if I had planned it out ahead of time. In fact, the title of that story was taken from a few scenes that I thought of at four o’clock in the morning, when I was half asleep, and it tied the entire story together. So I’m actually pretty happy with that one.

I’m also happy with the other novels that I finished. I like the short stories that I wrote. I’m not so happy with the stuff that I wrote during that last week, but I kept writing, and that’s what matters. I wrote more this month than I ever have in a month before, and I’m going to try to focus on that instead of the 6.7k that I didn’t write that would have taken me to my goal. This has still been a great month for writing. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t write, so I’m happy with that. And now for some other numbers:

Most words written in a single day: 30,531 (Day 1)
Least words written in a single day: 1,468 (Day 29)
Average words written per day: 8,112
Most words written in an hour: 4,306
Number of days it took me to hit 50k: 4

Those are good numbers. I’m going to be happy with those. I hit 50k two days sooner than I did last year. I completed 50k weekend two years in a row. I wrote more words in a single day than I did last year. I managed to write 4k an hour twice. I managed to write some first drafts that I actually like. I mean, sure, they need major editing, but I might not have to completely rewrite them all. Of course, I thought that last year and I ended up rewriting that one, but I’m hoping that’s not the case this year. Of course, I guess I’ll find that out when I read over my other drafts. 🙂

45.5 days until NaNoWriMo 2012

Holy crap. How did that happen? Two weeks until the NaNo forums are cleaned in preparation for the new year. It’s crazy. I don’t know how the time passed so quickly. What have I been doing with all my time? I was supposed to be working on the first draft of Let Go and finishing the first round of edits for Tilt Your Head and Smile, as well as working on outlining my NaNo project(s) – not to mention all the homework that I want to have done before then.

What have I actually accomplished so far? I’ve managed to stay a week and a half ahead of my classes as far as the homework is concerned. I’ve added about 11k to Let Go. I haven’t even looked at Tilt Your Head and Smile since July. I’ve added some more notes to my main NaNo project, but I’m not really much closer to figuring everything out than I was last month.

On the plus side, I have gotten more writing done this weekend. We left the house yesterday and hung out at the coffee shop down the street. I managed to write about 3k while I was there. I finished chapter 10 and started chapter 11. I’ve only written about 800 words so far today, but I’m a little over the halfway point for chapter 11, and chapter 12 should be really easy to write. I think I just needed to get over that little hurdle with chapter 9 (which was a big turning point for two of the characters). Now I’m feeling better about my novel again and am starting to get more into the NaNo spirit.

I also found out that one of the people I work with knows about NaNo and is planning on doing it this year. That was exciting. Most of the people at work just look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about NaNo. I’m hoping I can encourage her to go to write-ins or at the very least hang out in the NaNoLanta chat room, as that’s really what helps me during November. Because, despite what it looks like on this blog, I really can write a lot when I sit down and focus. I’ve just let myself get too distracted with other things for the past, you know, eight months.

But that’s going to change now. I have 22 chapters left to write for Let Go. I have 17 chapters left to edit for Tilt. I have at least one novel to outline for NaNo, though I would like to have two planned, just in case I actually manage to write as much as I was hoping to this year. I also have all of my big assignments for both classes due throughout the month of November. I’m going to try to do most of those in October, but I can only do so much ahead of time.

My goal for today is to finish writing the next chapter and a half of Let Go and to finish next week’s reading for my Foundations of Education class. I only have one chapter left to read, so it shouldn’t take me too long. Then I should really write my review for The Fault in Our Stars, which I finished a few days ago but haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.

The Importance of Having Scenes

I think I’ve finally figured out why having pages and pages of an outline doesn’t always help me when I write. I don’t outline scenes. I just outline events that should happen, and then I have trouble trying to figure out how to include all of that information. I experienced something similar with my homework the other day. I had to write a 2-3 page reading response, and I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to write. I just had a bunch of notes that I had taken, and I was constantly jumping from point to point, and it wasn’t very smooth or coherent, and it wasn’t as much fun to write as it was in my head because I wasn’t very organized.

The same can be true for my writing. I think I end up trying to include too much, and then I get bored trying to include it all. Take this next chapter I’m supposed to be writing for example. My notes for the chapter say “Natalie and Josh hang out more. He shows her around the office. She goes with him to register people to vote. Then they pass out info on candidates. He argues with Samantha about politics.”

That’s not a scene. That’s a bunch of information. When I made the note, I had planned on having that information cover several days. Now that I’m going to write it, I’m wondering why I did that. Why is it important to see every time Natalie and Josh hang out? Why can’t I jus show one time and then reference the other times? A better note would look like this: “Natalie and Josh are standing on campus, passing out information on the candidates and trying to register people to vote. Two people from the office arrive to replace them, so they go back to Natalie’s apartment, where Josh and Samantha start discussing politics. Natalie respects Josh even more because he doesn’t get angry or defensive while talking to her.”

Granted, that chapter was rather easy to fix, but there are others that aren’t as easy. I need to start thinking in terms of scenes, not events. I keep reading about how novels are made up of scenes that have beginnings, middles, and ends, and I’ve nodded and rolled my eyes and thought, “of course,” but it wasn’t until now that I realized that that’s not how I write. I cant believe it’s taken me this long to figure out what’s wrong with my writing. I mean, I have other problems, of course, but I think this is my main problem when it comes to writing the first draft. My most successful outlines have been the ones where I have more clearly defined scenes. That’s what I need to focus on from now on.

I’ve written the first nine chapters (plus the prologue) so far, and Let Go currently sits 33,674 words. That’s quite pathetic considering I started this novel August 1, but I’m going to try to focus on the positives. I know how to fix my outline. I’ve done all of my homework for the next week and a half. I’m not working this Thursday. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to write at least one chapter a day for the rest of the month. I think I get caught up sometimes trying to write a lot at once, like I did last November, and then I get overwhelmed and don’t write anything at all. I need to stop doing that.

Post 100!

This post marks my 100th post on this blog. I’m excited. I’ve lost track of how many different blogs I’ve tried to start over the years, and none of them has lasted this long – with the exception of my livejournal account, but that was more of a place to rant than it was to talk about anything important, so I’m not counting that one. 😀

I didn’t get as much accomplished over Labor Day weekend as I would have liked, but I still made progress. I wrote 4,183 words and wrote the next two chapters. Sadly, I’m still on the second month of the story, but I only have one chapter left before I can move on to October, so I’ll be happy with that. My goal is to write that chapter tonight. It’s sort of funny, though – I keep worrying that my chapters are going to be super short, so I take my time and try to find things to add, and then they end up being well over 3,000 words long. It’s not that the things I’m adding don’t fit; I guess I just write more than I think I do. Most of the stuff I’m adding works with the story, though, or at least it seems that way now. I never write a scene just to add words. I’ve done that in the past, and it just doesn’t do any good. Now, sure, I’ve written scenes that I know are horrible just to get them down, but that’s different. Writing something you know you’ll have to edit later is one thing; writing something you know you’re going to delete is quite another.

That said, the least chapter I wrote was about 1300 words. So apparently I can write short chapters. Good to know.

I was supposed to write a Top Ten Tuesday post today, but I forgot about it until I got home from work and saw the list of similar posts in my inbox. Really, though, today was a good day to forget about it, as it’s a really easy topic. I was supposed to share the Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List. Instead, I will just refer the curious back to my Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List, as I have yet to read any of the books on that list. Shame on me, I know. I started reading more young adult fiction right after I made that post, and I never really got around to reading the other books I wanted to read. I probably still won’t get to them this fall, but if I have time I would like to.

In unrelated news, I’ve finished my homework for the next week and a half. I don’t know if all of my grad school courses are going to be this easy, but I certainly won’t complain if they are!

And now I should really get back to writing. Samantha and Chloe are about to have their first bonding moment, and I’ve been looking forward to writing this scene. 🙂