Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writing The Hard Stuff

'I want hard stories, I demand them from myself. Hard stories are worth the difficulty. It seems to me the only way I have forgiven anything, understood anything, is through that process of opening up to my own terror and pain and re-examining it, re-creating it in the story, and making it something different, making it meaningful - even if the meaning is only in the act of the telling.'

This is a quote that I found in the book 'Writing Fiction, A Guide To Narrative Craft' by Janet Burroway. As soon as I read it, I knew it held truth for me. I've been wrestling lately with some elements of my story this week, trying to add depth to my characters and make them more real. There's been a niggling thought in my mind about adding a storyline that actually happened to me; something traumatic, that I've worked through in my own life, but still, it's there, with all its remembered pain and sadness. However, I kept pushing it aside because, frankly, the very idea of bringing this element into my story, and into my protagonist's life, scared the hell out of me. But it wouldn't let me go, and I knew after about a week of fighting with it, that it must be right.

Then I read that quote, and I knew. But did I have the courage to do it? To write out of my own pain, to put it on the page?

Finally, one day last week, I forced myself to sit at the computer and not get up till it was down in black and white. The memories it brought back were difficult, but also not as hard as I thought. The act of writing it down felt....good. Right. And I know that my story is better because of it.

And, yes, like Dorothy said, hard stories are worth the difficulty.

What do you think? Have you found that writing about the hard times in your life, the scary stuff, has helped you? Has it made you a better writer?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

And Now the Real Work Begins....

Well, not really.

Writing the first draft was a lot of work. It's just that, in hindsight,
it was a lot more fun than what I'm doing now.


And more editing.

I knew this stage was going to be difficult, but, really. I had no idea.

I know that all first drafts are crappy. I was expecting that.

What I wasn't expecting was how hard it was going to be to rip my baby to shreds. Tear its limbs off, rearrange its body parts. Yikes.

So, the first thing I did was order a few books on editing. Here's what I picked:

1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
2. The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman, and
3. The Plot Thickens, also by Lukeman.

Once I'd pored over the books, I did a quick first edit of my manuscript, looking for any
blatant errors; excessive adjectives, showing versus telling, sound, style, and story arc.
Then I handed it off to my lovely first reader, who, after going over the first five chapters, gave me lots of good feedback.

Whereupon I went back for my second edit.

And, upon seeing the glaring errors that now seem so obvious, I mustered my courage
and started using the 'delete' button. It was hard at first; in fact, it took about a month
before I was ready to get rid of scenes that, even though I loved them, just didn't work.

Now that I'm on a roll, it's really not so bad, because I'm starting to see how
much better it's becoming.

So, excuse me while I get back to it. That 'delete' button is getting a good workout these