Rewrite Sticky Notes

So, I just discovered that it’s been an entire week since I posted anything. I knew it had been a while, but didn’t think it was that long. Life has gotten more tiring, with my new job and changes to my husband’s work schedule, but I’ll try to handle it a bit better. Starting with this brand new post!

I have a program on my computer I absolutely love. I discovered it back in high school, and I’ve made it a point to have on every computer since (I think it comes standard these days, anyway). It’s called Sticky Notes.

Sticky Notes is exactly what it sounds like. It’s like putting a post-it note right on your desktop. I used them in school to keep track of homework assignments and deadlines. I used them when I worked for an attorney to keep track of court dates. And now I’m using one to hold my rewrite ideas.

If you’ve never written anything of considerable length, you may not understand how much a story can evolve over time. Part of it is the story taking on a life of its own. Characters begin to make their own decisions, and the writer is powerless to stop them. But part of it is the experience of the writer. After putting down 100,000 words, your writing is bound to be better than it was when you began. It’s been commonly said that it takes writing and discarding a million words to reach competency (I don’t know who said it first, but if you’re interested you can read about it here).

That’s where rewrites come in. Editing, proofreading, whatever you want to call it, it all refers to the same process. I used to be really bad about editing chapters I’d already finished, so much so that my forward progress was hampered. This time around, I’m making a concerted effort to not go back and change anything. Forward progress is everything. But there are so many things I want to change.

Enter Sticky Notes. My story has already changed. When I decide I want to change something, I simply begin the next chapter as if that change has already been made. And I write a line in my Sticky Note about what the change is, so that when I eventually finish and begin my rewriting, I know what needs to be changed in the beginning chapters to match the rest of the book.

Here are some changes I’ve decided to make: First off, the feedback I got from my critique partner informed me that my protagonist (Callum) is not very likable. He’s naive, and stubborn, and makes stupid decisions. I want him naive, to a degree, but I was unable to see his flaws. When I rewrite, I want to make him stronger, smarter, so that readers will like him better. I also need to clarify his motivations. To be honest, when I began this story I wasn’t certain myself what his motivations were, so it makes sense that Callum doesn’t know what motivates him either.

Callum is also an orphan. I make mention of it, but I want to pull his dead parents more into the story. I think if I flesh out that situation, I can use it to fuel Callum’s motivations and make his decisions make more sense.

After doing some reading, I’ve also decided to cut out the first 700 words or so of chapter 1. When I began, I wanted to build the story slowly, but I think a faster pace at the beginning would catch the reader’s attention better, so I’m going to skip ahead to the first inciting incident. There’s some backstory in those first 700 words, but that’ll be easy enough to slip in somewhere else.

Lastly (not my last rewrite plan, just the last one I’m writing about here), I need to expand the rules for using magic. I initially wrote them to be very restrictive, and I thought that was a good thing. But as the chapters have gone by, it’s become harder for me to stick to those rules and have the story progress like I want it to. So, I need to broaden the rules and uses of magic. I’ve already incorporated this change, and I just need to alter my beginning chapters to reflect it and prevent continuity errors.

So, there’s a brief glimpse into what’s going on inside my head. This fantasy project is taking me longer to finish than I wanted it to, and I’m so ready to be done and starting rewrites that I spend a lot of time thinking about them. That time will come, though. For now, it’s back to chapter 17. Hopefully I’ll get it wrapped up in the next day or two and be on to chapter 18 before the year turns over.

Intense Chapters Intimidate Me

I’m all set to start chapter 17 today in my current fantasy project. I’m a little intimidated, which is why I’m writing this post first, to kind of warm-up a little before diving in.

I’m really good at writing exposition. I can describe things all day. But action scenes give me a bit more difficulty. I have to think more about how people move and how the dialogue flows. There’s so much to consider when writing action scenes, and yet, many times that’s what keeps people reading and makes them want more.

I try to fit a little bit of action into each chapter, to keep the pace up and keep the story moving. But chapter 17, at least the way I envision it at the moment, is going to be pretty much all action, for the entire thing. A lot of things need to happen. Callum needs to face the antagonist again, and it’s going to be harder this time. He’s going to lose, and the antagonist is going to punish him for his interference. The antagonist is also going to kill off his old mentor, which needs action and emotion all rolled into one.

I don’t know how much space all of that is going to take up. After this, Callum will need to free himself from whatever the antagonist does to him (I haven’t quite decided what that is yet), and whatever he does will require more action scenes. That may end up in this chapter, or it may get pushed into chapter 18. We’ll see how it goes.

The point being, I get nervous before writing action scenes. They’re harder for me, and I never feel like I do justice to the scene that’s playing out in my head. Intense chapters, whether they’re action-packed or steeped in emotion, make it feel like the stakes are higher this time. It’s the curse of a writer to be always infected with self-doubt. No matter what we do, it never feels like it’s good enough. Even when you think it’s good, you may look at it tomorrow and decide it’s garbage. It’s just what we do.

So, once more, into the trenches! On to chapter 17, and the action scenes awaiting me.

Talk to me in the comments. What scenes do you find more difficult to write than others? How do you make it through them?

Short On Time

I’ve been neglecting my blog. I know. When my schedule settles I’ll be better able to figure out where it fits in.

I told you that I started a new part-time job. Obviously, it takes up time, and I’m having to rearrange how I normally do things and find a new routine. Example: I worked this morning. It was only a couple of hours, but I did my grocery shopping after and got home just in time to have lunch. After lunch, I cleaned the kitchen and the bathrooms, then I took my dog out to play. By this time, it was 3 o’clock, and I had yet to get out my computer for the day.

I got the computer out next. Did the normal everyday things, checking email, bank accounts, etc. I finally got into my writing, and actually had a success! I finished chapter 16 today, and I have a brief outline for chapter 17, so I’ll be ready to jump right into that tomorrow. I even came up with a new plot twist that I’m excited about exploring. Which brings me to now, when I’m churning out this blog post and thinking about when I need to start on dinner.

I’ve had a busy day. And I’m tired, because my new job keeps me on my feet, and I’m not used to that anymore. Plus, I haven’t been sleeping well, because I can’t seem to shut my brain off after I lie down.

Things will get better. My body will adjust to the extra activity. I’ll be able to schedule my house cleaning chores on days when I don’t work, which just wasn’t in the cards this week. Everything will fit, I just need to go through this adjustment period first. Until then, my posts may be farther apart than I’d like them to be. But, as I’ve said before, this blog doesn’t top my priority list. My writing does. So, when I get out my computer these days, my fantasy project needs to come first. If there’s no brain or battery power left after that, then so be it.

If you’re a regular reader, please bear with me. The point of this blog is to be an outlet for me to share my writing experiences, and fighting for time isn’t a unique experience.

Working Cures My Depression

This week has been emotionally hard for me. I have some personal things going on which have contributed to that, but this post isn’t about those things. It’s work-related, so I’m going to focus on the work-related things that have been difficult, and how I’ve learned to get through them.

I started a new part-time job this week. I’m officially a Retail Merchandiser for Hallmark. I don’t work in a Hallmark store, but I do re-supply Hallmark products to other stores that sell them.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about my struggle in applying for a part-time job. Our family could use the extra money, which is the only reason I was looking. I don’t want to work. I want to write, and chase this dream. Looking for a job felt like I was failing, like I was taking backward steps when all I want to do is run forward. But we don’t always get what we want.

So, I had my first day of training. It wasn’t terrible. But by the time I left, depression was settling in. It hit me that I was stocking shelves at WalMart. I came home to an empty house (Kasey had already left for work), and I just wanted to cry. I tried to do some writing, but the words on the screen just swam in front of my eyes. I couldn’t get past this feeling that my life was playing a cruel joke on me, and I was never going to accomplish anything worthwhile.

I got nothing done that night. I watched Supernatural on Netflix for about 7 straight hours. When Kasey finally got home after midnight, I completely broke down. It wasn’t pretty.

I got up yesterday morning, and the only thing that had changed was that I was fully rested. My emotions were still roiling. The depression was still there.

After Kasey left for work, I began working on putting myself back together. I took a long, hot shower, and spent some time pampering myself. I got focused, and got out my computer. I learned an important lesson back in September while dealing with my query letter rejections. Feeling sorry for myself accomplishes nothing. Getting back into my story and pushing forward is the only way I know of to combat these feelings of failure and uselessness.

So last night I got back into it. I began chapter 16, which was a shift in the story and took some time to sort out, but I’m happy with the 1,100 words I put down. I worked for a couple of hours on my freelance writing application, which you can read more about here in yesterday’s post. Productive work chases away my depression and helps me to feel like a person again.

The emotions are still there. It still makes me sad that I’m working a dead-end job when it does absolutely nothing to further the career I want. The personal issues are still there, and I’m working on those too. But I’m not spiraling anymore. I know what I want, and I’m going to continue chasing it, no matter how long it takes. And when the depression strikes, I’ll deal with it the only way I know how: getting work done.

Talk to me in the comments. How do you deal when depression strikes?