Thursday, May 7, 2009

Things to Remember

What I'm listening to: Nothing. :/ My itunes is on the fritz. It should be Going Through Changes by Army of Me.

What I'm reading: The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams

I've got something Ally Carter said posted on my wall. (Not facebook. My literal bedroom wall, right above my computer.) "Don't get it right - get it written." The day I put it up, everyone in my house passed through my room* and asked me about it. Basically means it doesn't have to be perfect the first time, as long as it's done. Editing can come later.

But that doesn't stop me from thinking about my current word-count versus chapters, and despairing. Especially when I happened to catch a glimpse of the first few paragraphs when I restarted my computer, and re-opened Eversong (if it's right in front of me, I'm less likely to forget that I need to be writing every day) and those paragraphs ... really kinda sucked. XDD Not ... oh, what am I trying to say here? *bashes head into desk at specially marked 'Bang Head Here' on mouse pad* Not that it's bad. I believe it's really well written. As a long-time fanfiction author, I continually tell myself "This sucks, it's terrible, no one's going to like it, why am I even posting this crap!?" as I'm writing, post it, receive good reviews, forget about it for several months (or years, in some cases) go back, reread it, and utterly amaze myself at how wonderful it is. Not to toot my own horn or anything, although I'm firmly of the belief that a certain amount of ego is required for artistry - even if no one else in the world likes your work, you'll always know that you did a good job of it.

No, the problem is not that what I've written is written badly (though it can definitely be better, which will come later, and therein lies the problem) it's that they're short. They can be better. They can be more engaging. I'm starting into chapter two, and I only have four thousand words. Granted, it's only the beginning of chapter two, and I know for a fact that there's no 'set word count', specifically, but my goal is at least 75,ooo words, and the first novel is only 25 chapters long. (Give or take one or two. The original outline was set for 26, but the first chapter proved so reclusive that I combined what had been chapters one and two on the outline into chapter one, so that it would have some depth to it, and so that the story wouldn't take nine chapters to get started.)

It's like the devilish NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) you have thirty days to write 50k in words. And not just "THIS SUCKS" over and over again, but an actual, coherent novel. The following instructions are then to shunt it to one side for at least three months and not even think about it until that three month time period is up, at which point you go back and edit, and revise, and polish, and generally drag it out of the slush pile before it has a chance to make it into said pile. I'm pretty sure there's an actual NaNoEdMo, or something similar (National Novel EDITING Month, in which those 50k word drafts get taken out of the milk crate, and get prettied up.)

Do not. Ever. Ever. Submit your unpolished manuscript from Nano to an agent or editor. I found an article about that (somewhere) and was absolutely horrified. It was talking about the massive increase in queries and MSS during December, particularly the first week, and that the majority of those queries and MSS were not only unpublishable, but almost unreadable. There were comments about said submissions that included things like "There were exactly fifty thousand words. EXACTLY. It stopped in the middle of a sentence." and "After every 1700 words or so there was a note reading "Done for the day."

I nearly cried reading that. Who in their right mind would submit something to professionals without proofreading it at the least? I left a comment on the post that said I was utterly ashamed to be among the Nano Writers, if they behaved like that after completion of their 'novel.'

Another thing that makes me weep. Miss Snark's First Victim holds a Secret Agent contest, in which people submit the first 250 words of their completed novel, and a real agent looks over, and comments as to whether they'd be hooked on the story or not. Other people comment, too, but it's a good way to get an agent to look at your work, as well as to get some constructive feedback on your story. It's a good excercise for the other aspiring writers out there too, when you're in a bookstore. Wander through, pick up random books, and read through the first page, and then think about whether you'd actually read the rest, and why, what worked for you, what was it about that first page that really caught your attention, and how the author made that work, and how you can apply it to your own writing.

But now on to the weepy part.

I could only get through five or six of the entries, and they were all horrible. I wouldn't read any of those books if you paid me to do it. Now I grant you, there were likely some gems hidden among the garbage, but wading through all that crap just to get to one good story seemed about as easy as dodging raindrops. It certainly gave me new respect for my future queried agents, and a new resolve to not allow my story to end up in the slush pile. There's a new Secret Agent contest starting soon, and I'm going to do my best to keep up with it, rather than have to read through fourty or fifty entries all at once. (250 words isn't a lot, but two hundred and fifty words in an unconvincing and uninteresting story makes it feel about as engaging as reading through the dictionary.)

*Note from above: My room isn't a bedroom in the normal sense. It's more of the downstairs den that happens to have a bed in it. My house is awesome, by the way. It's got three floors. The middle floor is where the front door is, and it opens into the living room, and directly off the living room is the kitchen. Upstairs is a bathroom, and three bedrooms, where my aunt, cousin, and brother sleep. Downstairs is the garage, back yard, another bathroom, and my step-parents room. Between my SP's room and the garage is an open space with a futon, computer, and television, and since I've moved back in with them, it's been filled to the brim with books. The garage is where the dryer, two chest freezers, and another stand up fridge/freezer are, so anyone needing anything out there passes through my room, hence the reason that everyone saw the sign.

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