Tag Archives: advice

How to Survive a Rewrite Breakdown and Re-doing Your Novel

Welcome one and all to your salvation from insanity! This week has been a roller-coaster of emotional trauma for me and my manuscript as we approach uncharted territory. The dreaded rewrite. In search of some relief from my anxiety, I couldn’t find any articles about re-writing an unfinished draft. There was only one article that I found that could be applied to rewriting for any draft first, second, or half draft, which was exactly what I needed. From the blog of Ryan Casey, he writes a phenomenal post called, “Rewriting A Novel: Five Ways to Make It Less Painful” that I suggest for anyone at any stage of their writing to read. I will most likely be making similar points in my own post, but he has such a clever writing style that most likely will sound much better than mine.

I should preface this post by stating that almost everything that my mentor has suggested this semester has been perfect. I don’t mean that everything a professor says is always right, especially when creative writing is more subjective than most fields. However, my current mentor has been fundamentally right about everything I needed to do to make my story great. During our first classes in June, my mentor suggested that I change the setting, which meant rewriting at least eight chapters. Doesn’t seem so bad right? It wasn’t. That rewrite excited me. It felt like I was moving into a story that I was comfortable and familiar with rather than doing massive amounts of research. So, I am confident in following the lead of someone who has so much experience and knowledge.

So, I started the first rewrite, and I happily worked through the next five months with a renewed sense of purpose.

The other night, I finished writing a detailed chapter-by-chapter synopsis of my manuscript, and sent it to my mentor. Less than 12 hours later, my genius mentor emailed me back with his notes on my synopsis.  I was deathly afraid to open it. It may not be much that I finally plotted out the entire story beginning to end, but it had been such a relief for me to fit each piece together into a working story after a year of self-doubt. Before I read my mentor’s response, I felt free, relaxed as if my novel was finally heading in the right direction. And then I opened his email. He liked the structure of my story, and among his suggestions lie in wait the most terrifying words to be strung together into sentences.

My mentor had…other plans for my novel. Plans that for the first time in the semester, I was not sure of where my novel should be going. His suggestions were insightful and blunt. Both are absolutely necessary when giving critical feedback on a piece of writing. And yet, they didn’t immediately fit as they had all semester long. Instead, I felt confused and exhausted. Confused at how I could make the changes he offered, and exhausted beyond all belief that I would have to scrap over half of the 30,000 words that were already written. I know, I know. You’ll tell me not to be afraid to kill my darlings. I will be honest in saying that I am reluctant to make any big change, but I will if it feels right.

What it boils down to is this. I don’t think it would be possible to write my characters in the way I’ve been suggested. Oh sure, I could force them to be different, but I know in my heart that my main character Cassie cannot be changed in the way my mentor has suggested.

[Insert Panic Attack]

Love the Aspiring Author Bat Meme

Love the Aspiring Author Bat Meme

How do I make my characters become something they’re not? I want to use every sliver of advice I can get from my mentor, but at what cost? At forgoing the purpose of the novel? Should I in good consciousness force my characters down a path that I know is not one they will follow? My brain went into overdrive. In a few short paragraphs, my mind plunged into a rabbit hole of self-doubt. There was a feeble attempt to try and grasp my mind around an entire rewrite, but I was tapped. No ideas left and no energy does not make a good combination for success.

So, where did I have left to turn? I want so badly to apply EVERYTHING my mentor has to offer, but I can’t ethically make my characters do something they’re not able. One of my best friends in the entire world came to my rescue. Maeve, a wonderful, talented, strong writer gave me the best advice humanly possible. She said, “You have a story. Don’t lose sight of it.” Best. advice. ever. I needed to remember why I was writing this story, and all of my attempts to make someone else’s vision work was NOT working. I know that all of my mentor’s advise is invaluable, and yet I can’t lose sight of who my characters are and who I am as a writer.

So, I have decided I won’t need to do a COMPLETE rewrite of my currently unfinished manuscript. It’s only a partial rewrite. There is still a lot that I do need to change, but they are manageable changes–things that I know my characters are capable of doing. At the same time, I would not have questioned or been able to see the opportunity to improve upon my story without the extreme suggestions of my mentor. He is  the evil genius every writer needs in their arsenal, and I am certainly lucky to have spent six months in correspondence with him.

We have now come to the meat of my post after a little over 1,000 words here are some fast and fresh tips for handling the madness of rewriting of a story whatever size, genre, or point of completion. If you’re half way done, on the last page, or already on the second draft.

From the wondrous mind of my beloved friend, Maeve, I have two pieces of advice for the rewriting process.

1. “You have a story to tell. Don’t lose sight of it.”–In other words, no matter where you are receiving feedback (professor, beta readers, friends) never forget that YOU are the one writing the story. You ultimately know what’s best for your characters and the meaning for your story.

2. “Don’t force it. Percolate a little.”–Take a break from your work for a while. At the very least a week or two. Work on another piece or read a book that has been on your list. If you can separate yourself from your work for a little time, it will make the rewrite a whole lot easier because you’ve had time to recuperate and refresh your mind.

Now onto my contribution to the list of ever-evolving tips:

3. If it is within your capability to do–print out what you have written so far. Take a highlighter, scissors, or sonic pen, and find the best and worst parts of what you’ve written. Find parts that you can save or parts you know work. They will serve as a reminder of your overall goal in the rewrite (unless you’re scrapping everything). The worst parts or aspects you are no longer keeping should never be deleted or removed from existence. Highlight them for another story or use to avoid making those mistakes during the rewrite.

4. Always always have an outline for your work in progress. Whether or not you have one for your story before the rewrite isn’t AS important, but making one for the rewrite is. You may go insane trying to rework everything if you don’t have something to guide you on your way. I know some people don’t outline their novels, and they are lucky to have such an organized mind.

For most of us, the outline or synopsis helps to pinpoint major scenes and create story arcs that would not exist without proper planning. I happen to have a full chapter-by-chapter synopsis of my work pre-rewrite, so that I can do a sort of “before and after” of what my book will become. In my opinion, it makes it easier to see the transition of my story, and helps smooth out those plot holes that were otherwise invisible the first go.

5. My final tip is this: Be prepared to kill your darlings. Kill them fast and kill them good. It may seem counter productive to claim that I am willing to kill my darlings and then doubt perfectly good advice when given to me. But here’s the thing. Killing your darlings is a very different task than following someone else’s story.  Either one can be devastating, but you have to do what’s best for your story no matter what the decision is. This means taking out your favorite scenes or your favorite characters to make room for the RIGHT scenes and the RIGHT characters.

The further you delve into a story, the less it becomes about your brilliant,  authorial ideas, and more about how you can write the character’s story in the best way possible. Yes, it is your story, but you’re writing about the characters lives, and what you want may not be what is best for them. Trust in your characters, in how much you have grown to love them. Let them speak to you and tell you how the story should be told. And for goodness sake, wait until you are alone in the comfort of your work area to have conversations with you characters. You can’t very well public the next great piece of contemporary literature from the padded cell of a psychiatric hospital.

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What is your advice for those trying to rewrite? Share in the comments below. Happy reading and writing!

 

 

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My Bengal nightmare… I mean kitten

So it’s been five months since my boyfriend and I purchased our Bengal kitten, Nyla and I think it’s time to introduce her to my blogging family. If anyone has questions about Bengal kittens and is thinking about buying one feel free to comment your questions. I may not be an expert, but you learn many things after a few short weeks with this exotic breed. They’re classified as exotic, due to one of the original parents being an Asian Leopard cat (found in the wild of South and East Asia) and domestic cat.

Five months is a long time for a kitten. A long time for her and for us. It has been a bumpy ride since we picked her up on the road home to Johnstown, PA. Much like other furry pets, she was already nervous about riding in the car and immediately stole our hearts. She remained skittish for weeks after (as expected), but she was so small. And she stayed small. Take a look at when we first got her:

Nyla

She looks like a normal 22 week old kitten, but now look at her….STILL TINY!

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At the same time, our little furbaby has grown. The only time she hides from us now is when she needs her kitty time. I love when she crawls onto our laps or snuggles close with us at night because not every cat has to be a snuggler. On the other hand, she cannot stand to be held or confined in any way. As with any animal, she has her personality quirks, and the struggle she provides when trying to hold her is one of many qualities that makes her unique. I must admit that I wasn’t always a cat lover. Although, my dream of owning a snow leopard is as fulfilled as I can get within the limits of the law. If you’re thinking about getting a mini-leopard of your own, be warned that the breed is expensive and high maintenance—ranging from $200-$1,500 for an F4-F2. Seriously, she does! It is a daily activity that if we don’t play enough she will crawl onto our face and play with the toy claws at the ready.

 

At the end of the day, even after she has clawed my hand to get a toy she is still our crazy Bengal. The breed is naturally more active, never lazy, and in constant need of play time. They are not for the casual pet owner by far and they do not disappoint. Without futher ado, I give you a slideshow of my precious little monster, Nyla. 🙂 Enjoy your daily dose of cuteness and ferocity.

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Nyla is my faithful companion, waiting for me by the door and snuggling with me on occasion. She even distracts me from work, so  I respond by writing a blog post about her.  She depends on me to take care of her, play with her and love her. And I will for as long as I live because I am as responsible for her as I would be a human baby. She could hold her own out in the wild, but a human bred her to be a loving pet and that’s what she deserves. She deserves an amazing, wonderful life filled with fun and games AND TREATS!

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I’m so happy to introduce you to the leopard of my home. Nyla, Bubbs, Captain Blackpaws, Bubster. She has too many names to keep track of, but we love her under every single one of them.

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Happy reading/writing my minions!

 

 

 

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Roadblocks in Writing: How to Overcome The Emotional Roller Coaster Called Life

For the last few weeks I have struggled, no, trudged through paragraphs of writing without any sense of direction. I have deleted and backspaced my way out of terribly constructed sentences, wishing for my muse to return to my side.

  What happens when Thalia has left you to find your own inspiration?

What do I have left to do? Find the reason for my lack of inspiration. In the writing world, there is a discrepancy with the existence of writer’s block. I would like to be a skeptic, but with recent events I cannot ignore what’s not going on in my brain. There are a million ways the world can affect my writing, some of the most intense events negatively impacting my work. In my current situation, personal emotions are blocking the progress of my novel, and there isn’t exactly a how to tutorial on curing writer’s block. So, what is a struggling graduate student to do when she has a goal of 1,000 words a week that she can’t meet?

 

WRITE MORE, OF COURSE!

The only clearly way to ensure I don’t lose the drive to finish my book is to just push through. Yes I could take a break until the inspiration returns, but waiting for the story to come to me is like waiting  for teleportation to be invented. I will probably die before it happens. Instead, I must press on, exploring other ways to get my mind off my troubles and back into the creative world where it belongs. Here are a few of my tips for getting out of your writer’s block when life is just throwing them faster than you can jump out of the way. If you have tips or advice for writers who are having trouble getting their story written, feel free to share it here.

1. Read a different genre than you’re writing. If you’re writing fiction, read some poetry to use a different part of your mind

2. Draw or paint something related to your story, it will help visualize and inspire you

3. Read, read, read. Reading your favorite author may be just the spark you need to get back into the game

4. Take a walk and clear your head. Sometimes a little break never  hurt the overall quality of your writing.

5. Focus on writing a different idea. You may have written yourself into a dead end with your current work, but something completely different can help re-route your thought process and give a fresh perspective.

6. Talk about your story with another writer/friend. They can discuss parts of the story you’re struggling with.

 

Any way you look at it, writing like all jobs, hobbies, passions has its emotional limitations. Don’t let that stop you from becoming the next Charles Dickens. Always look up and remember that the writer in you is waiting to build characters, paint pictures with words, and kill monstrous villains.

Happy reading/writing!

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Ever Had This Problem?

I’m going to be incredibly, brutally honest here. Blogging every day or multiple times a day is HARD! Almost as difficult as writing fiction or poetry, blogging keeps you constantly thinking of what to put for your next post. On top of that you have to keep in mind if other people will want to read it or if anyone besides you enjoy the subject of your blog in general.

So, I have found a little blogging humor. It eases my mind whenever I can’t think of something to write and for one time only gives me a subject to write a post on.

 

You think your life is bad when you can’t blog. Take a look at this guy:

 

Don't stress it. Really, don't stress it!

If you look like this each time you blog, maybe this isn’t the hobby for you. Sometimes, that fear of what to write is unavoidable. Writer’s block is probably the toughest thing in the world to get past because there are many factors that contribute to that creative block. Lack of privacy (thinking time), stress, work, emergencies, and sometimes just thinking too hard can make a writer stop working as well as before. Most times, a break is all that you need. Maybe take a nap, do some gardening, or work on something completely opposite. Then, the aha moment can appear in the most unlikely of places. There is no sure fire way to get rid of writer’s block, but there is a start for you. If you can’t think of what to write, don’t freak out. Because you freaking out over the little things may biologically be blocking your creative juices from reaching the grey matter in your head.

Relax. Drink a cup of tea. Read some of a good book and eventually the inspiration will come back to you, I promise.

I hope you had a good laugh at this blogger’s expense because sometimes you need a laugh to get through the hard times. Good luck blogging/writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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