A Change of Scenery

I have a friend, a fantasy writer like myself, who I have known for over ten years.  We finished college together; in fact we met in a writing class; we moved onto the same street somehow, and we see each other occasionally.  I managed to convince her to join my writing group a few months back and she’s been fairly loyal about coming.

Because they split us up for critiques based on how many people there are and how many have brought something, she has not always been in my group.  However, she has enough to see some of the differences when I’ve made changes. After our last meeting, we discussed both our works on the way home.  I made a few comments about things people have said in the past as well as that night and how I’m not sure how to change them because the two characters don’t meet again until the end of the story.  I need the back story to set the whole novel.  She told me that perhaps if she read the entire thing she could give me better suggestions.  So I got her a copy.

Saturday she came to my house and brought the first chapter.  I haven’t read all the notes she made yet but the first thing she said to me was that the story picks up after the first chapter.  This got me thinking again about how to incorporate the back story into this work so the reader understands the relationship between these characters.  The conclusion I came to is I might have to completely change my first chapter.  I might have to take out all the back story, start the chapter later in the scene, and add the back story later.

I haven’t really put flashbacks in my work yet and am not keen on doing it now, so while the notion of changing the first chapter appeals to me, I am still working out how to include the back story without a flashback.  I have a general idea but need to put it into practice first to see if it will work.

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Do you have the gall?

While I am editing my work, I am also reading books.  When I write for NaNoWriMo I don’t touch anything except magazines and non-fiction books, and even those I limit.  I have enough which influences my writing; I don’t need it when I am concentrating so hard.  Currently I am reading “A Dance with Dragons” by George RR Martin.  I love his writing, the fantasy world he’s created without using D&D style elements.  But it burns me that he has no regard for heroes’ lives’ and will kill a character off, almost willy nilly.

I can see why he does this, to move his story ahead, but it’s aggravating all the same and makes me dislike the man.  I want to finish the series (whenever he decides it all ends) but during the reading I will lament.

Of course many writers don’t kill of main characters.  Probably because they don’t want to lose their fans who can become enraged over their favorite being gone and thus feeling there is no need to continue reading this person’s work.  Martin, obviously, has no fear of that.  In fact I know many people who joke that you shouldn’t fall in love with ANY character because there is a chance they will not survive long.

It does make me think though, should people have more gall to kill off a character which people love or identify with?  I have to admit I want to do this myself.  I want to have a character which people love (or love to hate I’m not totally sure which) that I take out.

I did not steal this idea from Martin.  I have been thinking about it since I wrote my first draft of my first novel.  Not the one I am editing, but the one which I decided after 32,000 words wasn’t working anymore and was never going to be finished.  I just hadn’t figured out who and why.  I loved the characters too much, even the ones I hate (yes I have my own).  So, this idea is floating around my head and I will figure out who and when at some point.  Until then I will just keep working and see how the story would benefit from this.

Would you have the gall to kill a main and beloved character?

Boring yourself

Last week I spoke about striving for perfection in my novel.  While I am in a way, I also came to realize that I am starting to get bored reading these same few pages over and over to make them better.  Now does that mean I think a potential reader will be bored with the story, no.  But I do see that I need to move on in the story before I decide I don’t like it anymore and want to stop working on it altogether.

I have to admit I never thought I would get to this point.  I mean I love my own characters, even the ones I hate, because I created them; or at least made them my own in the case of some.  So how could I get bored with them?  Well I think it’s because I want to get on with the story and see what comes next.  It is the same way when I read a book.  I want to keep going so I can see what happens to the characters I like, or despise.  The really, really good books make me want to keep reading until I am done in one sitting.  For some books that is not possible and I rue having to stop.

Now some might ask how I can want to get on with the story when I know it.  All I can say is it has been long enough there are some things I forgot and there are some things that need to be changed so the story becomes better.  Also, I have some ideas for my world that I didn’t when I began writing this story and need/want to incorporate them into the novel.

It could be that boring myself is not the correct term but I cannot think of anything else which fits.

Have you ever been working on something and got bored trying to make it better?

Strive for Perfection

As I have been editing the first three pages of my novel I like some of the new things that have come about.  However, it has me thinking, am I striving for perfection in those few pages?

In a way, I think I am.  I want them to be as perfect as they can be.  I also need them to be good so that the reader is engaged enough to continue the story.  So those first few pages are highly vital.

On the other hand, I don’t think I am.  For pretty much the same reason: I need the reader to become engaged in the story and continue reading.

The rest of the story needs to be good as well but the beginning is where you get people so I think those pages require more critical thought and scrutiny.

What about you?  Do you strive for perfection in your entire story?

What to Change?

When you are in a writing group which critiques your work, you get all kinds of advice.  Everyone is attempting to be helpful to make your work better and, while sometimes they agree what needs to be changed, they don’t always.  So what are you to do?

The first thing to keep in mind is you will never please everyone all the time.  No matter how many times you change your manuscript there will be something someone does not like and thinks you could make the story better.  That’s alright; people are entitled to their opinion.  It’s why we have so many different genres, authors, and authors within genres.

The second thing to keep in mind is that essentially it is YOUR story and you can tell it however you like.  This means you can ignore all the advice you get if you want, although I wouldn’t recommend that.

So with that in mind how do you decide what to change?  Listen to what people say.  Take notes on a copy of the same work they are commenting on so you refer to them later.  If you hear something more than once, it probably should be changed.

Occasionally though you will get one person who just nitpicks things, major or minor, and makes you want to completely ignore them.  Remember you can do this, but if they see the work again they may tell you they still don’t like this, this, this, and this.  It also could be that the genre you write is not something they normally read.  So while you may have a good story, they just don’t really understand the concept of why you wrote it the way you did.

When in doubt though, ask questions.  You know what you are trying to say and, of course, the way it’s written makes total sense to you, but if your audience doesn’t see it then you need to figure out how to fix it.  Without some kind of guidance you might not be able to make the leap from in your head to on the page (and thus into your readers heads).

Are Breaks Good or Bad?

I have to admit I haven’t touched my manuscript in a while.  I have wanted to, life can get in the way though.  Besides working a full time job, I do writing on the side, work with some other gamers on creating games ourselves, am a member of the SCA, a wife, dog owner, gamer, and various other things which come with being an adult; so sometimes my writing or editing just falls to the wayside.

I do think breaks from writing and editing is necessary, it gives you time to get away and see things with a fresh mind.  This can help you see something which was there all along but until you didn’t look at it for a while, you never realized needed changing.  Of course on the flipside of that coin is the fact that the longer you are away from working on your manuscript, the harder it becomes to make it habit to work on it again.

I have hit that point.  It actually didn’t occur to me until the other day when I realized my writing group will meet this week.  I did do some editing to the pages I took the last time but it needs more.  Life just hasn’t been good for me.  Of course it hasn’t helped that many weekends this month I have not been well and thus many things have been ignored, but that is an excuse I need to just get over.  So it’s back to the grindstone for me.

What are your thoughts on taking breaks?  Do you think they are helpful?  Hurtful? Something which perhaps should be “scheduled” in to your writing/editing process?

Red Flags

I started this blog as a way to help me go through my manuscript writing and editing process, and hopefully help others in as well along the way.  However, I also do some freelance writing and editing on the side.  I know many people who do both, you know you have to pay the bills (or try to) somehow while waiting for your novel to be discovered.

Everyone knows there are many scams out there from people who are trying to part you from your money or other illegal things that involve money.  It is something we all need to be careful about and warn each other when we find a new one.  Well I recently had one attempted on me.

I have myself listed on many sites as a freelance writer, some I frequent more than others.  I have received jobs from random strangers via email, referred to me by someone I have worked with.  However, I received one last week which was not.

Now they sent me the article they wanted rewritten and edited, I’ve seen that before so you know what to quote.  I looked it over and asked several questions before saying yes.  I made up a contract and sent it off expecting them to tell me my fee was too high.  In a way, it was but the article was in terrible shape and their English in the emails was just as bad so I knew it would be difficult to get right.  They agreed and sent the form back to me.  I told them in the contract that the project would start once I received half the money upfront (the balance would be due at the project completion).

Well a few days later, I receive an email telling me that the person in charge of the money sent me a money order for their entire project budget, $2000!  I received an apology in this email and three copies of identification.  I requested the return address so I could send the money order back and asked them to pay me my retainer only.  I was suspicious at this point that it was a scam but wanted full proof.

The reply was to cash the MO, keep my fee, and Western Union the rest back.  That confirmed that it was a scam and I stopped replying right then and there.  I contacted my location police requesting the email of the police department and I contacted the site where I was told they found my name.  Not surprising the site had never heard of these people but they thanked me nonetheless and said they would inform their people of the scam.  I emailed both the police and the site the entire email transcript.  If I receive an MO, I will also take that to the police.

Once I did all that, I informed the fraudulent company that I had reported them to both places and that the contract was void since they were scam artists.  I have not heard from them since and have told as many people as possible.  Some said I should have known from the beginning but others said it was new to them but those kinds of things have started showing up in areas they previously had not.

So be careful when you are approached for writing jobs.  If it raises a single red flag, it’s probably fake.