So You Need To Rewrite Your Novel

(Is the title a little dramatic? Maybe? Eh, I’m going to roll with it.)

So! You need to rewrite your novel. Bummer, right? All those hours of work only to be told that this draft just isn’t strong enough, isn’t good enough, some things are working but some things are not, why is there a tortoise in a tank you need to answer that if your readers are going to trust you, and so on.

From here, there are two options:

1: Tell your first and beta-readers to go screw themselves, and shove your work into the world, critics be damned.

2: Take a month off, think about your reader’s comments, and when you’re ready, get back to work.

Now getting back to work could mean a few different things, which is why I advocate taking time off from finishing a novel to working on it right away. For several reasons:

  • You’re far too emotionally attached to it to be critical: this is your baby, man! You’re sweat and blood child, crawling in the world, screaming to be loved as you love it, and those guys over there just said your baby sucks eggs! Which isn’t true.
  • The fixes you think you need to make today are not the fixes that will last tomorrow. As much as your beta-readers are smart and insightful, not everything they say is going to be right for your next draft; likewise, you’re not going to be thinking critically after people have critiqued your novel. You’re going to need time to back away, and then return to their thoughts, and your novel, fresh.
  • Time is the creative’s best tool. There are chance moments when insight strikes from the sky, but many times, a creative person’s ability to mull things over, and work away at it in their mind, until they can come to a synthesis of the best way forward is usually these sorts of edits and fixes will happen.

Take the time you need to absorb the critiques, but don’t take forever: you’re going to want to keep those fires going, and not let them burn down. It’s much harder to jump back into a cold project than a warm one. I myself took a few months off from my critique for Magnetic, but I spent that time asking myself questions about my writing groups thoughts, talking it over with friends, and finding out the best way to preserve the heart of the story, but change the form of it. Now, several months later, the re-outline has started.

Now, I know the title of this post is cheeky, but I want to make a point here: you don’t have to do any of the above. You don’t have to listen to your beta-readers (though you should). You don’t have to re-outline your novel, (but it’s not a bad idea). and you certainly don’t have to rewrite your novel (though it could possibly make it stronger). It’s your project, and it’s up to you how you want to move forward with it. This is what works for me, and I think it’s going to make it stronger in the end.

Do I want to rewrite it? Not particularly. But the art doesn’t ask us to do what’s comfortable. It asks us to do what’s right by it.

So I’m rewriting my novel, Magnetic, as soon as this re-outline is done. And I’m actually really excited about it.

I’ll go through the re-outlining process in a later post, but with the help of my beta-readers and writing group, I have a very cool, clear vision of what this novel could be. I’m changing the tense. I’m adding several new POVs. I’m fleshing out more of the world and side characters. I’m asking for a deeper, more emotional pull from this story, and I think I can get it there. Like I said, hoping to maintain the heart of the novel, but change a lot of the outer layers to get to where I need to go.

It’s going to take work. But I think it’s going to be worth it.

Let’s call this the first post in Novelhead Revisited, and I’ll post more on the outline process as we go. Cool?

Cool.

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Hopeful Ink: Writing in 2016

2015 was a big year for my writing, and I’m hoping to keep the trend going for 2016. Last year, I joined the amazing NYC writing group Altered Fluid, finished my first novel, wrote/started dozens of short stories, and continued to learn from and make friends in the world of publishing. With all that in my back pocket, I hope to make 2016 an even more stellar year by producing more work, stronger work, and pursuing it as far as I can. Below are some of the big projects that I hope to achieve this year, and if no one else reads this, at least I can look at it as a measure of motivation in the flagging days of writing.

Magnetic – This is the novel I wrote last year and is currently in its third draft. I’m revising it, and will be sending it out to my beta readers and writing group hopefully by the end of February. A story of mad science, grief, stand-up comedy, relationships, love, doubt, and faith in the family you’ve chosen, I’m hoping to start sending this to agents by the summer, so fingers crossed!

Empire’s Arrow – The first in an epic fantasy duology, EA is the story of a middle-aged women working for the postal service, feeling as though she’s wasted her life, having to work with her ex-husband  in order to stop a national conflict from igniting. Throw in some memory magic, stone swords, mad empresses, elemental golems, and a suppressed history between two broken people, and you get Empire’s Arrow. Outlining on this is going well, and I’m hoping to start a first draft by the time Magnetic is ready to be sent out to beta readers.

Seven Bullets – This is the codename for a story that I want to tell that is really important to me. It’s something I’ve been noodling for a while, and while I’ve been incredibly nervous to start it, I’ve spoken with enough writer-y friends and publishing friends that have shown me this story can have merit, and is worth pursuing. I’m very scared that I’ll get it all wrong, but it’s absolutely worth it to write it and see what vision emerges. What’s it about? Without getting too deep, it’s about how pain can be random, about  systemic violence against women and minorities, how to move on from trauma, if it’s even possible, and what that looks like. If it looks like I’m being vague, it’s because I am. But time will tell the shape of it all. Hoping to get to this this year.

Otherwise, I’m making two more promises for this year, ready?

1: Sell at least two short stories.

2: Review every book I read on this blog.

One of those is easier than the other.

Fingers crossed both can be achieved, yeah?

Stay tuned, viewers. This is going to be a big year, I think, and I’ll be here to catalog it the whole thing.

Reverse Birthday Giveaway: The Bone Season

Hello gang, and welcome to the second week of the Reverse Birthday Giveaway, a giveaway a week as we count down to my birthday at the end of the month!

Thank you to those who entered for the previous contest, and whose winner you can find in the previous post.

Bone Season

For this week, I am giving away a signed ARC of Samantha Shannon’s, The Bone Season from Bloomsbury! The first in an intriguing epic fantasy series, The Bone Season follows young, powerful Clairvoyant, Paige Mahoney as she navigates an alternate London, ruled by a shadowy organization, Scion. But when she is arrested by them and sent to a Voyant prison, she soon learns of a worse enemy hiding in Scion-London . . .

Samantha is very kind, a brilliant writer, and an absolute blast to hear talk, (just saw her speak the other night at the 92nd Y in NYC). She was gracious enough to sign this extra copy, and I would love to give it to someone who has yet to encounter The Bone Season!

To enter, comment below and answer this: If you could have any magical ability, what would it be and why?

And that’s it! Contest will run until midnight on Saturday, the 17th!

Flight Reviews

Thought I’d get the ball rolling with some quick reviews of the books I read while going to, staying there, and coming back from Ukraine. You’d think four books would be more than enough. I underestimated myself and finished before I came back. That was one long ass flight with no new reading material.

Anyway . . .

among others

Among Others by Jo Walton – (Finished on the plane ride there, next to a guy who I don’t think liked me):

There was so much excitement and buzz for this book, which only grew as it claimed such awards as the Nebula and Hugo. I had picked it up a while back, and figured it was time to see what the hype was about. I was not disappointed at all. A story about a young girl, trying to pick up the pieces of her life after the death of her twin sister by their twisted witch of a mother, Mor has to get used to a life with a father she never knew, in a city she doesn’t want to live in, at a school where she doesn’t really like anyone and not many people like her. But, as with us readers, she finds comfort in her books, in trying to parse out the magic of the world around us, and works to find a medium between the world she has to live in and the worlds she’d rather live in. Deftly written in a diary fashion, with deep insights into sf/fantasy literature of the times, it is a book filled with magical realism, bildungsromanish questing, and literary criticism all at the same time. Hell, I could and will write a whole post on this book. Regardless, if you’re a reader who takes joy in their books, know that Among Others will reach you to your core and speak to you in a language you’ve known all your life but didn’t know you spoke.

The cormorantThe Cormorant by Chuck Wendig – (Finished middle of the week, read on buses, trains and more forms of transportation):

For those of you have read this blog before, you should know that I love Chuck Wendig with a fiery and totally normal passion. (SHUT UP IT IS NORMAL). His Miriam Black books have always been a pulse-pounding, dark romp through an urban fantasy nightmare with everyone’s favorite swearing, smoking, shattered mirror of a heroine, Miriam Black, and The Cormorant is no exception. It is as thrilling, as breath taking, as vicious and violent and compelling as the others in the series. For two books now, Miriam has been fighting against fate, has found ways of giving destiny the bird and going for its throat. In The Cormorant, Destiny starts pushing back. Not only does Chuck give us his signature gut wrenching, laugh out loud, black humor prose, and moments of horror that would make Stephen King blush, he starts to pull back the curtain on the world he’s made, and starts to show us the guts, the inner workings. The Cormorant is another homerun for Chuck, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us in the next installment, Thunderbird.

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – (finished while traveling through the inner workings of Ukraine, across field and stone and stream and then a hostel):

Have you read Prince of Thorns? No? The hell is wrong with you? Go do that.

King of Thorns

Done? Good. See, wasn’t it great?

Mark Lawrence brings us back to the world of Prince Jorg and his iron clad dedication in becoming Emperor, but not before bringing a very slow and delicious vengeance upon those who deserve it. Set up with his own kingdom at the end of Prince, King of Thorns burrows deeper into Jorg’s brilliant but fractured psyche, as he plots, kills, and pushes back against the forces arrayed against him, and continues to walk the bloody road to the throne. Weaving back and forth, between reality and dream and memory, past and present and just a touch of future, Lawrence brings all his talent to the sharp prose and dangerous world of Prince Jorg and his merry, malicious men. Most fascinating to me, again, a whole other blog post in itself, is how Lawrence straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy just so, giving us a world that is so broken, it doesn’t remember itself anymore. I can’t spoil too much, but suffice to say, it is one of the strongest and most clever bits of worldbuilding I’ve seen. Going to dive into the final installment soon and I’m standing on literal pins and needles to find out how it all ends.

Probably in blood. Maybe fire. Most likely both.

deathlessDeathless by Cat Valente – (started the morning of the last day, finished on the first hour of the last flight of the last day):

Ah, Cat Valente. If you mixed a quill with King Midas, you’d have Cat Valente, a writer whose very touch turns a story to gold. Deathless has been lauded by the sff community and after devouring it in one sitting, I can see why. It follows the story of a young girl, Marya, who is brought into the world of Koschei the Deathless, Tsar of Life, first as a lover, then a general, and then a traitor. She becomes involved in not just the struggle of Life against Death, but also the Communist regime, that seeps into her town and devours everything it touches. Deftly mixing worlds of story and reality, (or are they the same?), Deathless is a triumph of writing: story, plot, character, magic, history and more. It especially spoke to me, as I had just immersed myself in Eastern Europe for the better part of a week. Seeing mentions of varenyky and vodka and Kyiv, only made me sigh deeper, made me remember my time in Ukraine. A wonderful book by a wonderful writer, Deathless is an experience every reader should have.

New In Writer Land

The holidays were here in a flash and just as soon, were gone. Christmas, gone in a day, 2013 was gone all in a night, and now we’re here, blinking our eyes in the light of the new year.

I mean, it’s February, and I know I’m terribly late to this kind of post, but I’ve been busy, so cut a guy some slack.

From there, my brother Mike and I were whisked away into the dark of the air, and sent across the ocean, to visit my twin in Ukraine as he does Peace Corps work: teaching English, sports, being a generally helpful and compassionate human being.

That’s a whole other post, my experience there, but trust me when I say it was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. So, y’know . . . good times.

And since I’ve come back, well . . . just the usual, I suppose.

Work. Work. Work. Sleep? No, work, just kidding.

I’ve got some work that’s floating around out there, trapped in the breeze, hoping that someone likes it enough to pluck it from the air and bring it home. So we’ll see how that works out. I’m also working on a new project, a novel-y thing. So fingers crossed I can keep up with that with my work schedule. Keep an eye peeled on the blog, as I’m hoping to have something cool involving you guys and this novel thing.

Aside from that, just trying to keep my head above water and find time to write. Working every day of the week ain’t too conducive to the writing life. But you find time as you can. I’ve started dragging my sleep addled mind to bear, and writing on my morning commutes to the city. I force myself to stay up, and get some work at night. Force myself to get up early so I can write before the afternoon shift.

It sucks, but you gotta make the time. Writers gotta write. It’s kind of, y’know . . . their thing.

Let’s see, what else . . .

Oh! Nightmare Magazine will be publishing my story in their April issue, only a few months away, with my story for Fireside coming up right after that in May. Look for an interview with Nightmare too, should be fun.

I’m also hoping to get back into the reviewing habit for this blog. Much as I love talking bout myself, I want to offer more than just my own “wah, writing is hard,” monologues. So keep an eye peeled for those.

And that’s it for now. More as it develops, later at the news at 5.

 

The Beast Awaketh

So, remember that whole, “I’m going to post an essay a day about Nanowrimo,” thing? Yeah, I know, I’m still laughing too!

Seriously, that was . . . a little short sighted of me. I thought juggling three jobs and writing a novel and writing an essay a day would be easy, but eh, c’est la vie.

Hope you’ve all been well. I’ve been a little busy, (see above), but things are going well.

Letsee . . .

Well, in big news, I’ve made a second short story sale to Nightmare Magazine, headed up by the Mighty Wizard, John Joseph Adams. It’s a horror story, now entitled “It Was Never The Fire.” Soon as I get news of its arrival, I’ll let you know. I’m very excited to work with JJA and Nightmare, and over the moon to have sold another story.

Print

As a young author, every sale is just another brick in the foundation, another sign that you’re doing something right. Hopefully, I can keep it up.

Of course, I have to give a shout out to my mentor, the inimitable Kat Howard, who has been kind and insightful and incredibly gracious with her time. She’s worked with me on a few stories, and every time she not only highlights what’s working, but provides solid ways in which to improve the story without changing it so that it’s something different entirely. If you’re an author in need of critiques or guidance, I cannot recommend Kat highly enough. She’s fantastic.

Likewise, if you get a chance to take a class with Mary Robinette Kowal, do it. I took a weekend intensive short story workshop, and it was a great experience. For three days, seven other talented writers and I sopped every bit of knowledge from Mary that we could, (as well reveled in her 17[!] typewriters). It was a lot of fun, and well worth the time and money. If you get a chance, jump on it.

So yeah, life is a little busy. Aside from all the great stuff above, I’ve been bouncing between a full time job, a part time job, a freelance gig, and finding time to write. Surprised as hell that I managed to get Nano done this year (though thanks to Mary for allowing her workshop to count towards the full count!), but I managed it.

The novel is progressing forward steadily, though I’m taking the next week or so to outline through the end. Nano made me blow past whatever outline I had going for me, so I need to plant my feet in the dirt and steady myself, take stock of where the hell everyone is and then move forward again.

This novel has been my brain for some time, and it feels great to actually get it on paper (or the process at least), but it’s been making me think. For some reason, and this may be because I’m a sadist, or I have way too much ambition, but I have an idea for a Grand Universal Theory for my works a la Brandon Sanderon or Joe Hill. What are everyone’s thoughts on that? For, against? Special circumstances? Sound off in the comments and let me know!

For now, I’m wrapping up a few short stories, while waiting on a few other stories that are out in the aether (and not that silly red cloud from Thor 2, calm yourself Malekith). One’s over with Shimmer Magazine, while another has been with Tor.com for a bit. So fingers crossed, folks.

I’m going to stop promising this or that or the other thing on the blog. I always seem to set a bar for myself, look at it later and go, “Oh, uh, yeah, but uh, this thing? Sorry, have to do this thing!” I really do enjoy blogging, but it’s going to have to be on the, “whenever I can steal twenty minutes,” kind of schedule.

Still, keep an eye on this space. I’ve got some fun giveaways coming up, especially for all those writers out there. Some nice beers too. Because yum, beer.

Links of Note:

Geeks Guide-My buddy Eric Smith’s book, The Geek’s Guide to Dating is now out, in all it’s shiny glory! Grab a copy, it’s a fun, insightful read. Watch the blog for a review and giveaway soon. Now to go test out his advice. ::grabs han solo vest from closet, covers self in Axe Cologne cloud::

-Mentor Superstar Kat Howard has a new short story out with Apex Magazine, and it is beautiful and haunting and all sorts of scarypants in its implications. Check it out, and if your heart is hurting afterwards, well, be careful.

-Fireside Fiction continues to not only be one of the sexiest magazines out there, it continues to provide wonderful stories too! Check them out and subscribe!

Worldbuilders

-All around wizard and gentlemanly writer, Patrick Rothfuss, has officially launched his fundraiser, Worldbuilders for the year! Go and donate. It’s for a great cause, with great things on the table.

Alright space cowboys, be good. Write on.

Giveaway: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

IT’S THE FIRST CRAFT BOOKS GIVE-AWAY.

::muppet arms, muppet arms, a thousand balloons popping at once, hyperventilation, oh god I’m going to pass out, I’m going to pass out::

Thanks to the ever kind Paperpack Princess, Nicole, I have an extra ARC of Steelheart that I would love to give away to one of you very fine readers! US and Canada only for now.

Steelheart

The only thing you have to do is this:

Comment below and tell me what your favorite Brandon Sanderson book is, and why.

That’s it. You don’t have to follow me, (though you can if you’d like), you don’t have to reblog me a thousand times (again, nice but only if you want to), and you don’t have to wash my car (though if you can get me a car, that’d be swell).

The contest will run for a week, and that night, October 3rd, 2013 at 11:59 PM I will use my Mysterious Magical Random D20, to whittle down and choose a winner.

So, off to it, readers!