11/9/2016: Early Editing Notes

I am just now starting the post-first-draft editing process. I am finding the idea that I will have to rewrite large portions difficult. Perhaps I had unconsciously expected that I would go straight into polishing—making things beautiful, moving them where they fit—but not re-drafting what are essentially new first-draft sections. I knew, on the surface, that this would be required, but apparently, it hadn’t sunk in. But that’s what I’m going to be doing. Interesting thought. It’s good I’m doing this. So right now, I’m figuring out what parts need to be redrafted.

It’s a bit of a downer, since I had thought I was done with this part and could move to the next phase. However, perhaps that’s just wrong thinking. I am at the next part. This is significantly different from creating from nothing. I have a framework, a loose but single body of ideas, and the things I now create come from and fit into that framework. THIS is the next phase. Not the final polish, but the filling of gaps, the reworking of broken and ill-fitting pieces, and the rounding of corners. Once I get all the big stuff reworked, I get all the medium stuff reworked, then the smaller stuff, then the miniscule stuff, THEN the polish.

So… how to redraft? Do I just find the parts that don’t fit and start from scratch on them? Write from clusters, write without an end in mind, largely right-brain creation? Or do I try to figure out exactly what needs to be written, exactly what will fit, exactly the right things?

Should I read through sections and visualize what needs to change in them? Perhaps I should read through them and then do the whole first-draft style of those same sections and allow whatever needs to be put back in there back in there. Should I stick to sections in chapters, whole chapters, what? I expect having flexibility in where I change things helps. I’ll get ideas on other parts as I change things.

Another note. I keep forgetting that this is my first time writing a novel and that I’ll have to figure out what I’m doing as I go along. I keep getting road-blocked because I’m not sure how to move forward and don’t have the fearlessness, or perhaps the perception of freedom, to just plow through. (5/16/2017 The intrinsic and ill-timed requirement that what I create must be perfect stifles me more than pretty much anything else. Spackle first, then sand, then paint, then touch up. I take that back. Grab long thin things, like sticks. Put them together. Cover them with something flattish. Keep doing it, using different materials, different configurations until you end up with something to block bugs and wind and perverts. Then punch holes in your wall—just go crazy—and hang pictures and shelves and towel hooks and curtain rods all over. Take things off and move them. Toss some in the dumpster and get some new stuff and try those. Then Spackle the unused holes, then sand…)

At this stage, I’m not sure how much the graph/chart of themes and plot and time help me. All that stuff will probably change, and I’ll just have to make a new chart. Super annoying. Of course, it may be only as a result of the chart that I’ll see something that needs to be fixed… so yeah.

I just wrote some notes on what (my main antagonist’s) island needs to be like, what development needs to be done there. And I also have to develop magic and a ton of other stuff. I wish I had the drive to develop these open ends that I had when I was working on the game with my brother. I suspect that my addiction-breaking has something to do with my lack of motivation right now. Hopefully it ends soon. I have a lot to do.

Rather than charting, I could mark spots in the text (like &&& for finding them later) that relate to themes and then keep a paragraph-form of the developments of those things in a Word document. I would have sub categories of the various relationships of each of the themes. Of course, that means going back through the text.

On all of my developments, I need to make an action list. Otherwise I’ll just forget all the theory (inevitable) and nothing will be done.

9/30/2016: When To Edit My First Draft

Stephen King recommends stepping away from your first draft for at least six weeks. And in the meantime, go write something else. At least until you forget about the first thing. So that when you come back to it, it is an alien thing, and something to whose parts you have little emotional attachment, should you need to alter or remove them.

Would this be the best route for me?

I worry that if I step away, I may forget what it has become in my mind. I have spent all this time developing these characters, these metaphors, these plots, and they are fresh in my mind. What if time-away drops them from my head, and I am not able to pick them back up from a read-through later on? One might suggest that such would indicate that my first draft didn’t communicate what I thought it would. But one could also say that I simply suck at reading.

Also, this is the first of several books in a series. What if starting over causes me to lose my place (see the first point), and I’m not able to progress? At the same time, what if going on without a break leads to a dead end, when I go back and find something that absolutely needs to be removed from book one but upon which a second-book part (or the whole thing) is based. It seems like I’d either need to write all parts and then go back and edit them all or else write them as individual units—finish one before starting the other.

What do I know from experience? A good night’s sleep does wonders for an edit session. There’s something about coming back to it the next day that allows you escape whatever blinders had been developed during its writing—or at least that particular writing session—that you otherwise couldn’t possibly notice. And I have written things and come back to them after quite a while, and it didn’t seem so foreign that my ideas were hard to grasp.

But at the same time, all of those things had been polished before I set them down. I may have made mistakes by not stepping away, but the works benefitted from me being fresh on everything when editing, to be sure.

And maybe that’s the key. Read through it right away, edit it until you’re happy with it, put it away for a while, then read through it again and edit it again. It seems like I’d get the best of both worlds.

I definitely don’t feel ready to let go of the writing process yet—I know, at the very least, my ideas have progressed since my earlier sections, and those sections will need reworking. I know that it’s not unified yet, and I don’t want to lose what I have now before making it unified. Else, I might read it, get the idea I had in the beginning, and then change the ending rather than vise-versa. I would otherwise have to read the end first, almost…

I think I am decided. I’ll go back through it as soon as I have the energy and time to, and I’ll edit it until it’s got a decent polish. Then I’ll set it down and come back to it after six weeks or so.

The Process of Writing Mediocre Modifiers

“Brain. I need a word to describe darkness.”

“What quality would you like to modify?”

“It’s night, and there are no stars, so how about just ‘really dark?’ So, intensity.”

“Would you like a modifier of the same category of contextually-determined primary-quality as ‘darkness?’ Or would you rather something of a different primary quality?”

“Sure. The first one.”

“We have numerous matches whose primary qualities would modify ‘darkness’ to lie within the semantic range of ‘really dark—’”

“And make sure it’s one that’s not used often.”

“How about ‘darkness like coal?’”

“Overused.”

“How about ‘ashen darkness?’”

“That’s just an adjective. And somewhat common. How about we stick to nouns? That’ll make it less common.”

“How about ‘inky darkness?’”

“That’s still an adjective, but I like that it’s really, really dark.

“How about ‘ink darkness?’”

“That doesn’t sound right—not nearly as good as ‘inky.’ It’s something about that appended syllable. What’s a word that’s associated with ink?”

“Blot.”

“How about ink-blot darkness?”

“I do not have an entry for ink-blot darkness.”

“Great. Then it’s novel. We’ll go with ink-blot darkness.”

9/23/2017: On Finishing A Piece

I find myself wanting to know where I’m going before I write. But, “You do know. Your right side is doing its thing. You just can’t tell what it’s doing until you write it.”

Just keep writing. Trust whatever comes to mind at the time (MAKE SURE MY RIGHT SIDE HAS BEEN ENLIVENED?). Distrust looking too far ahead—coming up with specifics or links (?) before actually getting to those points (contra intuits/feelings that encompass potential links without involving specifics). That’s utilizing the left too early, I imagine. And usually it’s a result of “wouldn’t it be cool if X happened?” which doesn’t seem like the process for natural creation. Rather than having some connection within the current content, it seems like a connection between the current content and some outside content. But isn’t that right side connection? I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right for some reason. It doesn’t feel like a part of the cluster. It feels like a separate cluster altogether—like connecting it would be moving toward that other cluster and abandoning the one I am already on.

Intuition—that little voice over which it seems you have so little control but that you can easily stifle. It seems I only have indirect control over it. Intend something else that requires it, and it fires up. Intend it, and only the things required to intend it fire up, whatever those are.

Another thought—if I engage my editing too soon, I may not see the connections from my right side. I may need to write more to see the connections. So if I come up with something that I question—something that just makes me go “Enh,” don’t just throw it out yet. Keep writing and see if it’s got roots. Of course, there are times when my intuition tells me “this doesn’t fit.” But I don’t know how to tell the difference yet. Right now, it’s something I’m thinking of that reminds me too much of The Neverending Story. So it seems like it’s my editing side that wants to get rid of it right away.

1/19/2017 I actually read something that Leonard Cohen said about this. I’m not sure if I wrote about it (I’ll find out), so I’ll write about it here. He said you can’t tell if a gem is good until it’s been cut. He said to finish everything before throwing it out. It’s the process that makes it good.

It’s always nice to figure things out and then find out that some more intelligent person figured the same thing out.