Monday’s Writerly Quote

We’ve all been through it, or are going through it. And if you haven’t, hold on to your keyboard, you will in the near future. You finish a rough draft, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. After all, lots of people say they’re going to write novels, but you, my friend, have actually done it.

Now what? The EDITING! And with that editing comes some suffering. Why? I’ll let Stephen King explain.

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Hold up a sec, Stephen! Are you saying I need to kill off my characters? But I’ve got sequels in the making. Nooooooo!

No. What Stephen means is find those scenes that you spent a lot of time on, or those supporting characters you are enamored with, or those bits of phrases and sentences you really thought you wrote brilliantly and be ready to kill them like Uma Thurman looking for sweet revenge after being in a coma.

Here’s the thing: those scenes, sentences, characters, they may be weighing your book down. But it’s hard, because you love them so much. You spent a lot of time on said scene. Or everyone in your writer’s group told you that opening sentence was brilliant. Guess what? Doesn’t matter. Because if you’re serious about telling a good story, even things you love most must be up for execution. It doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of everything you love, it just means you must be willing to.

I had what I thought was a great opener for SHADE. It spelled danger, coupled with an intriguing concept. The line got me high praises at a writer’s conference and I felt pretty darn good about it if I do say so myself. But guess what? I had to kill it. Noooooo! Really, I did. I kept trying to force it in elsewhere. But it’s brilliant, I reasoned. It must remaineth! Nope. I killed it. It doesn’t show up anywhere in the novel. The idea of it does, but not the line itself. But once I got rid of it, I was able to move forward in a slightly different direction and have gained a lot more opportunities with SHADE since.

So kill your darlings my friend. Besides, it’s the one time it’s completely okay to murder something.

Have you had to kill any darlings? Any that were excruciating to do away with? Or do you disagree and shield those darlings like a mama bear?

Monday’s Writerly Quote

When it comes to Superbowl Sunday, I’m really more of the “Huh? What big game?” school of thought. But somehow I ended up at a Superbowl party anyway. I wasn’t really invested in either team, but I did happen to catch the touchdown the 49ers made when they only had 6 points, and it was pretty awesome. But there were two things I really loved about the Superbowl.

1) The Extended Look Iron Man 3 Preview. Robert Downey Jr. just oozes with coolness in this new preview, which certainly made me smile. And now I’m wishing I could travel a few months into the future to see the movie. Argh! May will be so awesome, what with Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and potentially the Great Gatsby. I heart Baz Luhrmann, but you never know with these things sometimes. Anyways, the preview:

2) The Ram Truck’s Superbowl Commercial. I grew up in Idaho and I have family that were and are farmers. Farmers are some of the best people you’ll ever meet and this ad really touched me. It kind of gave me a “Yeah! Go America!” vibe too. It just brings back so many happy memories from my childhood and the love I have for small town people. Plus, love the Paul Harvey!

Okay, I know what you were expecting was a quote, and here it is. This one is from Stephen King:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I remember in my very early days as a writer this was my mindset. I didn’t have time to read because I was so busy writing. But friends, that’s a terrible mindset. We have to make time to read. Period. It makes you a stronger writer and it helps you get a feel for your genre and, I think, helps prevent you from becoming too clichéd because you know a lot of what’s already been done. You start to notice patterns and formulas less creative writers are using and have the ability to avoid them yourself.

I know I addressed this somewhat last week, but I cannot stress its importance. If you want to be a great writer, be a great reader. Take the time to read.

What do you think about this quote? What do you do to help yourself become a better writer? And, for those of you who did watch, what was your favorite part of the Superbowl? Any favorite commercials?

How to Write a Novel – Pt 6: Get it Out!

This is the philosophy of Jae: rough drafts are easy, or rather they should be.

Ernest Hemingway once said:

The first draft of everything is bantha poodoo.

Which inspired George Lucas to write Jabba the Hutt calling Han Solo bantha poodoo for his poor smuggling, when we all know the real bantha poodoo was the first draft of worst Star Wars movie ever, also better known as Episode I: The Phantom Poodoo.  But I digress…

George Lucas vs Ernest Hemingway

Even people who died before any Star Wars are affected by poor writing. Also, don’t get involved in a fight between two bearded men…

The point is when you are writing your first draft, enjoy it!  Write for the pure love and creation of it.  As George Bernard Shaw said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  If you’re afraid of making bantha poodoo on your first draft, you’re likely to get little accomplished, and probably even less likely to enjoy it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Take it from Stephen King, someone I’m sure we all wish we could have even 1/4 of his success of in our careers.

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft. You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. … When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.  (Read the full quote in its entirety here.)

It’s good to do plotting, planning, world and character building, and outlining—but at some point you need to leap into the chasm of story unknown and bring the messy, tangled web of story back out with you.  It won’t be perfect on the first draft, period.  So quit worrying about getting everything perfectly set before you start, and get that first draft out.

My current novel Shade has gone through many, many drafts.  I’m fairly certain it’s hit the ten mark.  At about eight or so I realized it needed a major revamp, which was like completely starting over.  It took me several weeks to be okay with doing that to my novel, but it’s a stronger story now than the first draft, but I still needed that first draft as my foundation to get anywhere.  In fact, I cringe a little when I read over my first draft, but at the same time I’m very pleased with progress I’ve made.

As Stephen says, when you sit down to write, write.  Enjoy it.  Love it!  Be addicted to it.  Believe this will be the best story in the world.  Push your imagination to the very limits and create a fantastic world for your readers to come and enjoy.  Save stress and perfection for later drafts and for now just let creativity freely flow.

Sometimes when I’m writing my first draft, I don’t even properly chapter the thing.  I just write and leave spaces between events, occasionally marking spots where I think a new chapter might work nicely.

You can even think of a first draft as a brainstorming session, where no ideas are wrong until you switch to editing mode.

Let me illustrate this another way (literally and figuratively I suppose).  When I was in college, learning Spanish, there was this girl in our class who seemed to speak Spanish way better than all the rest of us.  She would make conversation with everyone and anyone who spoke Spanish.  I asked her how she learned so quickly, and she laughed in an embarrassed sort of way and said, “I don’t really speak it that well, at least, I think my grammar sucks and I’m probably using the wrong verb tenses.  But I realized the more I speak, despite all the mistakes I’m making, the easier it becomes to speak and eventually the mistakes go away.”

Jae bad spanish

Most of us were afraid to speak to anyone because we were afraid of making mistakes and looking foolish.  In the end, our skill grew very slowly because we were more afraid of making mistakes rather than learning from our mistakes.  The girl whose confidence we envied came because she made hundreds of mistakes without fear, learned from those mistakes, and gained not only confidence in her ability but the knowledge that came with practice.

Write that first draft confidently, knowing that you’ll probably make mistakes, but that with time and practice you’ll shape the bantha poodoo that it is into something well more valuable than even Han Solo could imagine.  (And certainly a far better story than the Phantom Poodoo.)

Ready, set, first draft!

Okay my writer lovelies.  What experiences in writing first drafts would you share with the rest of us?  How do you view first drafts?  How many drafts are you on with your current WIP (work in progress)? 

Tomorrow, sadly, we’ve come to the end of the series.  I’ll share final thoughts and final direction on how to write a novel.  Hasta mañana!

p.s.  After you have that first draft out, please polish it up.  Otherwise you’ll have scores of fans still pissed off about a crappy job you did 13 years after the fact.  Seriously, George, would it have killed you to go over the script just a few more times?