False Starts

Oh heyyyy

So today I wanted to talk a little bit about the absolute struggle of figuring out where you should start your story.

I’ve always struggled with beginnings, no matter if I’m writing a novel, a short story, a poem, an essay (introduction paragraphs are the bane of my existence), or what have you. But I’ve never realized how much of a hurdle they really were for me. I didn’t like them, but I always managed to write them and make it work.

As you know I’ve been *ahem* struggling with revisions. I’ve basically been ripping my hair out for the last two months trying to get this story together. But I didn’t realize that the reason nothing was coming together was because I was starting my story in the wrong place.

I was getting so excited about all the things I had in store that I was skipping over some major plot points and character development that I didn’t even know I needed. All I knew was that something was wrong but I could not figure out what.

Enter post-its and letting things simmer.

I’m not kidding these two things saved my story. (And my hair.)

What I ended up doing was this… I basically threw up every little thought I had about my story onto post-its so I could see everything that had been battling for attention in my head out in the open. And it helped me so much. There wasn’t any pressure to try and fit things together, no stress of filling plot holes or tossing things that didn’t make sense. This was an absolute thought dump.*

A small sampling of the thought dump with the bonus of my super motivational calendar

Then I looked at everything I had written down and I let things simmer. I didn’t ignore my story, but I didn’t try to control it either. I had all my ideas out, I could look at each and every one of them and just absorb them for what they were. Ideas.

After a few days of this, I had an actual idea of where I needed to start my story. I was able to look at all my ideas and see where they needed to happen and what needed to happen before them.

Then. I got to writing.

I made a very basic outline through Scrivener’s corkboard of the events I wanted to happen and I got to work.

And now, I feel amazing. I know what needs to happen but better yet, I know where my story needs to start. And spoiler alert! it wasn’t where I had originally thought. Not at alllllll.

So, that’s all I have for today. Let me know if you have ever struggled with false starts and please feel free to share how you were able to figure them out! (I know I could definitely use more advice!)

Thanks for reading!


*Side note: I’ve done thought dumps before (as I’ve mentioned in past posts) but I’ve always done them in a word document. I’ve realized that I need to see all my thoughts in my writing in a physical form. Not in text on my computer that I need to scroll through. 

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Now what?

Hai!

So, I wrote a draft…um…what now?

This is going to be a catch-up post. This means this one is going to be a bit long. I really want to start writing about things that I’m dealing with right now, but first I gotta recap what has already happened.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to hold it against you if you don’t care about all of this recapping, but future me will care about all this. And future me is a demanding bitch.

ANYWHO

Once I finished my first draft I wanted to jump into revising immediately. Keep in mind, I finished my first draft around 3 am––only a few measly hours away from my full day of classes. Did I care? Nuh uh. I started rereading right away.

Ah. Mistake.

As I wrote the first draft I came to realize that I would need to revise quite a bit, but reading it back…well let’s just say the anxiety set in. And it stayed.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my first draft. I actually really like it. Surprising, I know. I mean it’s riddled with errors and lacks many of the aspects of “craft” (does anyone else hate that word? I feel so pretentious when I use it) but it’s really not half bad. Still not good, but not terrible!

The anxiety came because I realized that the story I had wanted to tell was no longer the story I needed to tell. Basically, through writing my first draft I realized I needed to200 create a new storyline for my characters.

Do you get my anxiety? All that work, all that crying, all that self-doubt, all that hand cramping…and I’m changing everything? WHAT IS LIFE?!

This is when I realized I had to take a step back. I was too emotionally attached, too invested in the story I had written––the story that no longer fit these characters I had come to really know and the world they were a product of.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking a big step back. And it was really scary to do that at first, but now I really feel fine. Now, I don’t think this has anything to do with me being super disciplined (I’m not) or patient (I’m really not). Honestly, I think what it all boiled down to was the fact that I had others read my first draft while I played the “let things simmer game.”

Basically, I was able to release the death grip I had on my novel because I knew it wasn’t just going to sit on my computer for a month. It was going to be read, and I was going to get feedback from my most trusted individuals. So, things were moving forward, even if I wasn’t really doing anything.

Flash forward to last week. My mom finished reading my book. And she loved it! Big surprise, right? She’s my mother, she kind of has to love it. But, in truth, I wasn’t really looking for praise or even really constructive criticism.

But isn’t that why I sent it out for feedback? I mean yes, but remember, I was pretty confident I was going to need to change almost everything I had originally planned and written for book one, so while I appreciated those things, they didn’t really benefit me.

So, what was the point?

Essentially, I just wanted someone to understand my world so I could throw at them all the things I think I needed to change. Reading my book before I talked with them would 1. allow them to understand what the hell I was talking about (I write high fantasy…you ever try to explain a fantasy world to someone who isn’t familiar with it? Yeah, you feel my pain.) and 2. give them the capability to really tell me if they thought these changes would benefit my book.

I’m still waiting on my sister to finish, but my mom and I had a long talk a few days ago about all the things I was thinking about, all of the new ideas that had formed in my mind while I was letting the draft cool on my computer.

And it was SO HELPFUL.

I can’t even tell you how much I got out of our conversation. Just being able to bounce ideas off of someone who now really knows my world was just…ah priceless.

So, what am I doing now?

Well, as I said, I’m still waiting for my sister to finish so I can talk to her about the changes I want to make, but my waiting days are over. Over I tell you! I need to start revising.

Now, instead of feeling stressed about how thoroughly I’m going to have to gut my first draft, I’m excited! Really excited. Because now I know that these changes are for the best, and when I’m through with them I’ll have a draft one step closer to the story I want to tell. YAY.

Oh boy. Did I tell you it was going to be a long one or did I tell you it was going to be a long one?

Thank you for sticking through that, I appreciate it. Also, sorry if tenses got weird in there, it’s hard for me to talk in past tense for the recap while I’m also presently feeling some of these things…you catch my drift?anchorman-yes-jumping

But, now we’re all caught up! Yip yip.

So, I really have no plan as to what I’m going to be talking about next…I guess we’ll both just have to see what challenges I face as I revise! Goody.

Thanks for reading!

–Katie

 

Finishing the First Draft

Okay, so I’m a little late with starting this blog because I  finished my first draft about three weeks ago. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about the experience…because oh. my god. What an experience it was.

For a really long time, I thought I hated writing first drafts. Namely, because I could never actually finish one. And I won’t lie, the beginning of my current WIP took forever to complete. But, after struggling with getting words onto the page for a long, long time I finally took the advice I had heard so many times over the years.

And that advice was to let your first draft basically be a pile of crap. For a while, I had thought I was following this advice, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t really letting myself write absolute shit. I know this because once I finally did (basically, when I finally took my inner editor and shoved her away in a drawer), I was able to bust out insane word counts on the daily (I’m talking anywhere from 5-15k). And finally finish my book.

And it felt so effing good. I cried, I cheered, I really just felt like the most amazing person to ever grace this world. And in truth, I didn’t really care that I had most likely written a draft that was terrible.

Ultimately upon completion, I realized that I actually kind of love writing first drafts. As long as I can find the right mindset, the mindset that basically says, “I don’t give any shits if this sucks”, I think the experience of writing a first draft is pretty amazing.

For me, it felt like I had been liberated, kind of a weird way to put it, but that’s honestly how I felt. I had finally put this story that had been in my head for years onto the page. It existed. FINALLY. And sure it’s going to need some major work, but for now? Who cares?! I wrote a book!

Now, going into revisions…my feelings changed quite a bit. But, we’ll get into all that in my posts to come.

Stay tuned!