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friday, december 17, 2004

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holidailies 2004

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words count




go along way.

i've been working on my first novel for 14 or 15 years now. not consistently, mind you - in fact, i took quite a break there and almost dropped it completely twice. it started off handwritten, but i only reached chapter 6 before i set it aside for about 10 years. that was insecurity taking its toll. as i've mentioned before (somewhere in this journal), i let someone discourage me in my dream to be a published author. while they never said i was a bad writer, to me it was implied - an implication that wasn't helped much by a friend telling me i wrote "strange stuff" (which i probably would go over well today, but her comment and tone turned me towards more standard stuff). that insecurity remains with me today, though i am getting better about it (much to my various friends' relief).

but for 10 years, insecurity reduced my writing to poetry used to express my emotions, letters to family and friends, and gaming related stuff - adventures, creatures, magic, weapons, and entire worlds for my players. those days had their value, but they also ingrained the whole "i can't write" mentality. it's not been an easy journey back to my dreams, i'm just fortunate that writing doesn't require youth. ;)

10 years after putting my novel aside, another friend opened the door to that dream and i pulled it out again. i spent the next 2 years or so trying to write linear-intuitively (from beginning to end without any planning). i made it to chapter 10 with about 3 or 4 revisions of the first 4 - 6 chapters. i stalled, started over again, stalled again, and finally set it aside again.

it took me a year to pick it back up, during which time i tried to write another novel. that one also stalled. and i "learned" the short story. with the failure of my second novel, i began to realize it wasn't my stories that were the problem. i just can't write from beginning to end without planning. it didn't matter that all the writer voices i heard at the time said that's the way a "real" author writes. and it doesn't even matter how well i know the story. this way of writing just does not work for me.

so, i went back to my first novel, determined to use it as a learning novel. i developed a new way of writing (for me, anyway) that uses a building process - each new draft literally builds on the previous one - and planning through plot and character development and outlines. i've developed a class based on this novel plot building method, and am working on a book for it as well (the book will take a little time as i refine the process - and learn it again and again until it is my habit with novel writing). through this process i finally finished that first book - meaning i finally had a complete rough draft.

i don't think anything can beat the feeling of holding my first completed rough draft (except, maybe, my first writing contract). it was a big accomplishment for me. and it now resides in a notebook waiting for a bookshelf to put it on (as does draft 3).

since then, i've had to be satisfied with "little" accomplishments: finishing revisions 1 through 3, getting the whole manuscript posted to my writing group, knowing the prologue was finalized, and so on. small things that in and of themselves aren't really all that much but are leading to up to that final, complete whole. today's accomplishment: finishing the 4th revision of chapter 13. i'm now about 1/3rd the way through the 4th revision.

it's a small achievement - it's not the whole novel (which has another 2 or 3 revisions to go through), but i am a firm believer in celebrating even the little accomplishments. every small step forward is something to celebrate. it makes taking the next step that much easier. it's exciting, motivating, it's something you've finished! accomplishment means growth, even if it's just a little growth. it means over coming. in this case, it means being one step closer to my goals.

no one who says, "look what i did!" should be met with "is that all?" no one should be discouraged from celebrating or being proud of actually accomplishing something of value to them, no matter how insignificant that accomplishment may be to someone else. it means something to the person who did it, and that's what counts. (well, okay, there are limits to those statements, but most people don't usually announce achievements in murder and mayhem. i'm not talking about that kind of thing.) we all need acknowledgment that we've done good. sometimes that acknowledgment has to come from within ourselves, and we are the ones who have to be careful of downplaying our own achievements.

its taken me awhile to learn to be proud of every little step in my writing. for the longest time, my insecurities over colored everything. it didn't matter that i finally finished a tough story or revision because it sucked anyway. i used that sense of not being a good writer to diminish the accomplishment. i still struggle with that feeling of not being "good enough," but it no longer has a part in what i accomplish, and i'm trying to learn to see two things no matter what: what i've learned and what is good.

so, it may not seem like much to anyone else, but this revision has been a hard one. its primary focus is on the language and the sound of the novel. learning to write stripped down short stories has changed the way i write drastically. i "lost" a lot of the poetic voice that influenced my earlier writing, and it is that poetry my alden novels need. so i'm trying to get at least some of it back, and it's hard.

it felt really good to reach the end of this chapter today, to know that i can now type it up and send it off to my beta readers. and that chapter feels good - like i'm finally getting there with the language. it doesn't seem so hard lately, at least not all the time.

it's not the whole novel - it's just one chapter. but that one chapter puts me at about or just over the 1/3rd mark of one of the toughest revisions to date. probably only the polishing revision will be harder (it's so easy to miss those little technical errors).

and, really, that is worth a pat on the back, at least to me.

site of the moment:

ring/clique/fl of the moment:
virtually enhanced
word of the moment: definitive

serving to supply a final answer, solution, or evaluation and to end an unsettled unresolved condition; fixed and unalterable in opinion or judgment; most authoritative, reliable, and complete usually with the implication of final and perfected completeness or precision -- used of research, scholarship, or criticism especially of a biographical or historical study or of a text or edition of a literary work or author; serving to define or specify precisely; distinguishing; exact, express, and clearly defined; real, actual, and positive; definite; complete; fully developed; final; issued as a regular stamp for the country or territory in which it is to be used


Since July 9, 2000

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