Wednesday, 17 February 2016

How I Write

A user named @rideofvalkyries on Dayre asked me about my writing process, and I thought it'd be interesting to blog about it here as well. I'm still very much a newbie writer, but this is what I've learnt/gone through so far in my writing education.

First, I started as a...

Complete pantser

A pantser is basically someone who doesn't plan out what s/he writers (as opposed to a plotter). I've heard from multiple people that plotters are faster (and probably write cleaner, because they can figure out potential plot holes) and that you can switch from a pantser to a plotter, but I haven't been able to do that yet. Hopefully I can, some day.

For my first two NaNoWriMos, I pantsed my way through them, with the same predictable result: first few chapters were good, but then it fell apart.

Obviously pantsing my way through the book wasn't the best method. But I simple couldn't sit down and write a complete outline, because the later chapters would just be blank.

Using Plotting to Edit?

And one day, I read this book called Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. I had heard that it's supposed to be a really good book on how to plot, and I was certainly inspired by it when I read it.

I tried using it to rewrite Mi and You (one NaNoWriMo novel that I really like and want published someday), and... I ended up being told that my rewritten version's pacing was a bit too fast.

For the record, I'm on the third rewrite of Mi & You (actually it's on a hiatus but...)

Let's Try this Plotting Thing (Sorta)

For last year's NaNoWriMo, I decided to try partially plotting the book using story beats. Story beats are basically this idea that you can sum up your chapters in short paragraphs, so you don't have a detailed outline, but a rough frame with lots to work on. And because I can't see more than a few chapters ahead, I only wrote a few beats at a time, adjusting and writing more as I wrote the actual story and learnt more about the characters.

I'm not sure how that worked out, but it was so much easier writing this than my other NaNo projects. So much so that I'm currently doing all my first draft WIPs this way.

I guess I graduated to becoming a partial plotter, which is a cause for celebration so *excuses self to go celebrate*

Case Study: The Nutcracker King

The Nutcracker King was entirely pantsed, but because it was really short (I think it was less than 15k for the first draft), it wasn't terrible.

As for editing - well, I normally use WriteOn for feedback, but this time, I wanted a professional's opinion, so I hired an editor. I figured I'll probably have the same mistakes for everything, and it'd be cheaper to have a short work edited than a long one.

Best. Decision. Ever.

With the feedback from my editor (Alida Winternheimer, if anyone's curious. You can find her at Word Essential), I rewrote The Nutcracker King. WriteOn (my writing site of choice) helped me find the typos and point out some minor plot holes.

And after a fellow author friend gave me a free copy-edit, I got the cover done and the rest is history.

One More Editing Technique

Because I pants most of my writing, I think most of the improvements take place in the rewrite. The first draft is really me getting to know my story.

Anyway, for Beauty's Daughter (sequel to The Nutcracker King), I decided against using the story structure method in Take Off Your Pants, because the structure wasn't that bad. Instead, I used this editing technique I learnt from this book: 2000 to 10000 by Rachel Aaron

Basically, I went through my story and made a scene list - bullet points of what actually happened. That let me see problems with time (a timeline was also recommended) and other plot holes easily. If The Goblin Apple (third book in the series) comes out relatively clean thanks to the partial plotting thing, I'll probably use this as well.

Oh and yeah, I have several WIPs that I'm working on simultaneously. One is a first-draft, and two are rewrites (I have more on the back burner too)

The reason why I do this is because of the Plot Bunnies, and me being easily distracted. If I have three main projects, it's easier to work on one of them every day, because there's no way I will get writers block on all three.

I could theoretically just work on one at a time, but I would probably end up very distracted and starting too many new stories. This helps me focus enough to be somewhat productive.

And that's my currently writing/editing method. I've no doubt that it will change as I continue, and hopefully it changes for the better.

Monday, 8 February 2016

January Update - How the Writing's Going

I'm sure everyone is sick of seeing this,
so the next time I post, I'll create a new image!
Happy Chinese New Year everyone! (Yup, I get two new years in one year, without the extra age). Anyway, the new year reminded me that I haven't updated this blog in a long long time, and that at the very least, I should be aiming for a monthly update on how the writing's going (if nothing else).

Since I had an exam today (and will have an exam tomorrow), I shall take the straightforward route of directly comparing how I'm doing with my goals. Original goals will be quoted and italicised, and my own self-evaluated progress in regular text.

By the way, if anyone is wondering, I'm totally keeping up with my resolutions :D

Writing Goals for 2016:

1. Publish Beauty's Daughter, which is the sequel to The Nutcracker King (if possible, I want to finish the second draft/main rewrite by this year!)
Ok, I've been neglecting it due to exams, but I'm hoping to finish most of the editing by the end of this month. After that, it's just fine-tuning and getting the cover. If I try for some free pre-publication review, though, I'll have to delay it by four months. Still a bit torn over whether I should do that.

2. Finish the first draft (at least) of The Goblin Apple, which will be the sequel (of sorts) to Beauty's Daughter and The Nutcracker King aka third book in series.
This is possibly the goal that's going to be achieved first. I'm about half done, thanks to exam season, which has made me completely avoid editing in favour of writing new words.

3. Publish one of the short story collections at 0.99 (cause these are SHORT). I have a collection of satirical stories (on Japanophiles like me) and one of Biblical parable retellings. I have to choose one, get a cover for it, and get it copy edited. Any preferences as to which?
On the bright side, I chose a collection (the Japanese satire ones). On the other hand... they need to be rewritten. Looks like if this comes out, it'll come out in the middle of the year-ish, rather than spring holidays, like I planned.

Stretch goals

Looking at how the main goals are going, I don't think I even need to report on the stretch goals. But let's just say that it's not going. At all.

That's my update for January. I'll pop by in early March to give February's update - unless I have more news, in which case, a new post will appear!