Adventures in Editing: *SpongeBob Time Card Narrator Voice* Almost a Year Later

Around this time last year, I was somewhere in the thick of rewriting and editing my novel. So you could say, on the surface, not much has changed since.

But behind the scenes, a lot has (in my life as well as writing). Since then, I sent the book out to several dear readers, and based on their priceless feedback, I’m even considering making a major change to the ending.

I feel like I’ve been saying that forever, though, because for about a month, I haven’t been able to give my novel the focus and attention it deserves. Life has been throwing me curveballs. And in the scattered moments I have devoted to revisions, my ever-growing list of Things That Need to Change If I Want This Book to Make Any Sense has looked way too intimidating for my already-mushy summer brain, and then I get frustrated.

There have been moments where I wanted to give up. Just close the file, resolve never to think about the misadventures of Brandy/Renee/whatever she wants to be called today again, and attempt to have a normal senior year.

But let’s face it: 1) I believe in this story way too much and I’ve put too much of my life into it to do that and 2) normality is overrated and nonexistent.

So, in the spirit of Camp NaNoWriMo, even though we’re already halfway through July, I’m going to attempt to have a totally revised new draft done by July 29th.

Yes, I’m crazy. Refer to point 2 above.

And why July 29th and not the 31st, you wonder? Am I pushing myself even harder by only giving myself two weeks? Well, short answer: yes. But I know I will have no energy for writing on July 30th because my brain will be all occupied with getting ready to hit the road to see Lord Huron.

Ben Schneider pointing into the void
Yes, I get to see Ben Schneider desperately point into the deep dark celestial void. I just hope he wears his hat.

And what’s in store after I make all the revisions on my Giant List? Well, I hope to read through the story (yet again) to clean up any tiny inconsistencies that my nuclear revisions caused. This will also be another chance to revive any wilting prose or sagging descriptions. After that, I’ll send the updated version out to some more pairs of eyes.

That’s what I’ve got going on in my corner of the universe!

What about you? Share in the comments!

5 Steps to a Productive Writing Session

I’ve been away from my main work in progress for a while, but I needed the break to refresh my mind and now I’m ready to dive right back in. Below are some steps I’m going to try to take as I embark on writing exciting new scenes in yet another rewrite. Your mileage may vary. And we’re going to pretend it didn’t take me all afternoon to write this, okay?

1. Orient your body and your mind.

The physical location where you write may just have as much influence over your productivity as your mental state. It’s like how I usually struggle to do homework in my dorm room because my brain associates my bed with sleep.

If you’ve been away from your story for a while, as I have, you may struggle to remember where you are in it. This might include reading what you’ve written previously to remind yourself, selecting mood music, or simply taking a deep breath.

2. Set a goal.

I like smaller goals; they’re more manageable than meandering to accomplish something big. Plus, it’s more satisfying when you can accomplish many chunks of work. That being said, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve what you thought you would. Such negativity only leads to frustration.

3. Ask why.

I like to find the larger purpose behind everything. If I’m doubting my writing or feeling frustrated, I like to remind myself of both the importance of the scene at hand in relation to the larger story, as well as why I’m bothering to tell this story in the first place. What’s the idea behind it that’s worth so much of my life?

4. Get into the narrator’s state of mind.

As the scene opens, what is the point of view character doing in relation to the other people and/or things around them? What’s their primary emotion for this part, and will it change by the end of the scene? Here I find it important to consider the context, like what’s just happened to them previously.

5. If there’s dialogue, write it first.

What the characters are saying, not saying, wanting, feeling usually flashes into my mind first. If I get it all down, it becomes a skeleton on which the rest of the scene can hang.

Take the First Step

I’m entering Positive Writer’s You Are Enough writing contest.

Before I started taking my writing seriously, books seemed impossibly intricate works of art that must have just sprouted from their authors’ fingertips. Surely I, a psychology major armed only with too many notebooks, a laptop, and an imagination, could never create anything approaching art.

I now have a draft of a novel on that laptop. It’s nowhere near perfect, nowhere near my own standards, but it exists. I created something. It’s a piece of my heart. Your story deserves to see the light precisely because it carries a piece of you.

If you’ll forgive me for straining a metaphor, your writing goal may seem like an insurmountable mountain. You stare at its majesty in awe, unsure of how you, little old you, would ever be able to tackle it. I’ve been there.

You might be tempted to turn around, get in your car and go home. I’ve doubted.

But I dare you to keep climbing that mountain.

You might turn down a wrong trail, trip over a boulder, or need to take a break from time to time. But I can promise you that the view from the top will be worth it. Your perspective deserves to be shared.

The journey, with all its twists and turns, will enrich the story’s final incarnation.

It will take all the inner strength you can summon, discipline that lasts beyond the initial burst of inspiration. You will doubt that writing can be as easy and as difficult as pouring out your feelings and your observations onto the page. But it’s true: our art is that simple and that hard, all at once. There’s no special secret, and certainly no shortcut. The only way you can improve is to do it.

At the end of the road, you’ll be able to take a satisfied deep breath as you reflect on what you’ve accomplished.



Musings on the Midpoint of the Year

My grandma always says that by the Fourth of July, the summer is over. Not sure why that is, but I’ve been trying to use this week to take stock of the weeks I have left before I dive into senior year and really reflect on my personal and academic goals for the rest of 2018.

At the top of the list is making myself competitive for applying to graduate school without losing myself in the process. A close second is writing. But I’ve found that I put too much pressure on myself. So maybe above all I should be thinking about taking a step back and actually relaxing during my summer break.

It’s ironic that we pressure ourselves to use downtime to get ahead.

I hear so much about art coming out of discipline and great writers writing every day. But some days, writing is hard. Life gets in the way of uninterrupted time to daydream. I carried a mini notebook with me all weekend and didn’t write in it once, even though I have novel spin-offs and maybe the spark of another novel that need to get down on the page.

I end up getting mad at myself when I don’t do these things. But should I, really, when I’m the source of my pressure? I’m not a famous author; there are, like, two people reading this blog. And one of them is probably me.

So I want to use my time to make my expectations, for myself and for others, more realistic. It’s okay if I don’t finish my mile-long to-do list in an afternoon. It’s okay if I need to take a break.

I’ve always been jealous of people who could succinctly summarize their worldview in a sentence or two. Whether it’s for a social media bio or an application essay, I never thought I could condense my life into a line. That was another piece of my motivation to consider what I value.

My motto: if you feel something, say it. You’ll feel better after. But whatever you say, make sure you mean it.

If I say I miss you and I want to hang out, I genuinely do. I’m not just saying that to hear myself talk (or text).

Bottom line, don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping. That just leads to disappointment, bitterness, and frustration.

Enjoy the Fourth. Grill, fire off some fireworks, make a great America-themed playlist, have a Ron Swanson quote, or six. 

God bless America.