Editing is the Worst Thing Ever

Is there anything quite as beautiful as writing the first draft of a story?

Every moment is primed with intrigue, wonder, and mystery.

You just paint everything on the metaphorical canvass as you see it in your mind’s eye. Ideas pour forth from you like a soda fountain filled with Mentos

You pat yourself on the back for every clever line, every twist and turn, every unique character.

Then, once the dust has settled, you must look back on your writing….

And realize that literally everything is horrible.

There are plot-holes everywhere, nobody’s motivation makes sense, the action is either too slow or too fast, the plot is too predictable or disjointed. The list goes on and on.

The worst part is realizing you’re actually going to have to fix this crap.

All it takes for your hard work to be torn asunder is the word “why.”

Why didn’t they just do this? Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t he ask her this? Why didn’t she stay at home instead?

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You will have to answer these questions and many, many more 😀

Not only that, but you may have to remove some of your favorite sequences in order for the new continuity to make sense. That means hacking away at that razor sharp dialogue and those gorgeous descriptions, leading you to meander down a road rife with uncertainty.

Well…you could ask someone to be your beta reader and get their opinion, but then they may question your literary genius.

You can’t have that.

But really there’s nothing for it.

It’s just another stumbling block on the road to success, or, as is often the case with writing, another mine in a minefield of never-ending despair and disappointment.

Perhaps in between drafts you should take a break. Let it sit for a while and then come back to it when it’s had time to cool. Then you can turn your keen eye to the festering pile of dung that is your first draft with a clear perspective and can dispose of it accordingly.

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Regardless, I think this may be one of the hardest parts of writing. Besides… everything else.

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Why I’m Disappointed By Neil Gaiman’s “Trigger Warning”

Perhaps I’m just whingeing over semantics here, but I had to get this off my chest.

When I purchased the audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s book on short stories I was very excited. Not only am I a fan of Gaiman’s writing, I am also a big fan of his narration. His dulcet tones and faint English accent make him a perfect narrator.

I was preparing myself for another boring day of organizing charts upstairs at the dermatology clinic where I worked and I needed something to listen to in order to keep the monotony from reducing my brain to yogurt.

So I placed the charts on a table, plugged in my earbuds, and I began to listen.

Gaiman gave a perfect introduction into this collection, explaining how he’d come to discover the term “trigger warning.” He conceded that, while trigger warnings may be well intentioned, sometimes we need to read things that make us uncomfortable, that force us to ponder imponderable things, see the world in darker hues.

He warned us readers (or listeners in this case) that what we were about to read would likely disturb us.

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I listened for several hours, nearly finishing the book in it’s entirety during a single shift. It was interesting, imaginative, captivating, visceral, everything a book should be. However, there is one thing that it was not: triggering.

I loved the stories, loved the narration, but I kept listening with a growing sense of expectation. Is this the story that’s going to trigger me? Is this the story that’s going to challenge my preconceptions about life and put me on a 2001: A Space Odyssey styled journey to self-discovery?

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The answer to that would be a nope.

Again, I loved the stories, in fact I consider this the best short-story collection I’ve ever read.

But with a title like Trigger Warning you expect something a little more…triggering. That’s not to say they weren’t disturbing. There are stories with murder, revenge, cannibalism, monsters, stalking, etc. They’re horrifying and dark with lovely twists and turns, but nothing I wasn’t expecting from something written by Gaiman.

And they were not what I was advertised.

Now, it’s not Gaiman’s responsibility to make sure that I, specifically, have all of my desires met. He is perfectly entitled to write what he wants and I believe he he does an excellent job of it.

However, let me explain why I was a bit disappointed.

There has, I think, been a shortage of books and stories in recent years that truly push the envelope. Books and stories that challenge ideas and behaviors that we see routinely in our day-to-day lives.

In our new easily-offended world there are any number of taboo subjects that deserve to be explored, but it would seem as if  no one has the nerve to tackle them in a literary capacity in a long while, lest someone get their grandma panties in a wad.

I was hoping that Gaiman, in his uniquely stylized way, would touch upon such subjects or, at least, ignore the restraints that these perpetually offended people insist writers use. Nonetheless, there wasn’t much in his book that would truly “trigger” someone, provided that person doesn’t live in a perpetual state of duress.

I just wanted something a little more challenging. I wanted Gaiman to approach the likes of Lovecraft or King and throw down the gauntlet, saying, “No, gentlemen, this is scary.”

I’ve read a handful of the Sandman comics, I know what he’s capable of.

I only wish he’d gone balls-to-the-walls the way he did with that series.

Or Coraline.

Now that would have been truly triggering.

The Suspending of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

I’ve read recently that Accomack County Public Schools are suspending To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for their usage of the N-word.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can see for yourself in this exert from “Classic novels pulled from Accomack County Public Schools” :

Earlier this month, a parent voiced concerns to the school board about racial slurs in both of the novels.

“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is,” the mother is heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting on Nov. 15. She tells the board that her biracial son, a high school student, struggled getting through a page that was riddled with a racial slur.

“So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means,” the parent said.

Me:

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To those that have taken it upon themselves to suspend these novels, I have one question:

You have read these books, right?

The complaint seems to be that reading the N-word makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, here’s the thing: It’s supposed to.

You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable when you see someone being marginalized in these books. You’re supposed to feel indignant when a man who never did anything wrong is convicted for a crime just because he’s black. You’re supposed to feel angry, sad, sick, etc when you read the N-word.

Furthermore, just because a book has something in it, that doesn’t mean the book is in support of that thing.

For instance, The Dovekeepers has genocide in it. Does that mean it’s saying genocide is a good thing? OF COURSE NOT!!!

Tess of D’Urbervilles has rape in it. Is the author saying sexual assault is okay? NO!!

The entire point of both novels, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is that racism is wrong. That it’s morally reprehensible. That no one should subscribe to this way of thinking.

It’s so glaringly obvious that I’m genuinely bewildered as to how anyone could possibly miss that.

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But it seems as if these people don’t want to look at the big picture. They simply want to obsess over details instead.

Apparently if you don’t read about racism, evaluate offensive language, or discuss why it’s wrong to make judgments about others based on skin color, our checkered past will magically go away and we’ll have always been an accepting society.

Who would have thought it?

Maybe we should ban The Diary of Anne Frank and other books about the Holocaust too because those kinds of books could teach people to be Anti-Semitic.

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Can you name one person, one solitary person, who was inspired to become a bigot by reading To Kill a Mockingbird? One single soul? Do you know anyone who has read this book and thought “huh, racism seems pretty cool, now that I think about it.”

I can see a true racist being indifferent to it or claiming it’s propaganda, but I cannot name anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird or Huck Finn and decided to become a member of the KKK.

If you have, send me a photograph of this person. I want to see them. I want to put them on Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I want them to be poked and prodded by scientists in a laboratory because this sort of thing does not happen. 

I wonder if Harper Lee or Mark Twain ever thought that their books would one day be banned by people who are against racism.

Someone please resurrect Mark Twain so he can write another book about how stupid people are in the 21st Century. I would read it so fast I would tear through it like tissue paper.

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Are Fairytale Reimaginings Becoming Unimaginative?

If you have perused a YA section of a bookstore in the last three years, then you’ve likely come across the cover of a fairytale reimagining.

Perhaps one book tells the story of Cinderella, a valiant warrior, who loses her magical boot in the middle of a battle and an infatuated warlord must return it to her. Or maybe another centers around a wolf-hunter named Red who falls in love with a werewolf that killed her father, the huntsman.

Regardless, I once thought reimagining fairytales was a creative thing to do.

I loved Wicked in my tween and teen years and all the interesting questions it posed about how history can be biased towards the victor.

But it seems like there’s been an overload of “new” fairy tales in the last few years and it’s made me question if most of them are even truly necessary.

Are most of these books actually trying to improve upon or modernize great stories, or are they just using fairytale references as a crutch to make a quick buck because they don’t think these novels could stand on their own?

In truth, it depends on the book.

If there are nods to the classics here and there, it’s tolerable. However, if it follows the exact same path as it’s predecessor, just with more feminism and modern sensibilities, then it becomes predictable and a drudgery to get through.

Because we already know what’s going to happen. 

I think the creative drought in pop culture also feeds into this crisis. The publishing and film industry are so paranoid about losing money that they are just rehashing stories that they know work. Fairytales have been around for centuries so, in theory, stories that feature classic characters should turn a profit.

I’m not saying we should completely do away with reimaginings. Maybe we could just take a break from them for a decade or so and come back to them later.

Perhaps writers could create their own warrior princesses that have absolutely nothing to do with any previous fairytale.The princess could have a sentient sword or a best friend that was turned into a battle stallion or something. Maybe she could fight her wicked stepfather for a change.

That’d be cool, right?

Could someone get on that?

Amidst Political Chaos, My Novel Progresses

It’s been over a week since I’ve updated this blog and I’ve been feeling guilty about neglecting it. I would use the excuse that I’ve been busy (and I have), but more than that, I’ve been emotionally rung out (haven’t we all) and I didn’t trust myself to use this medium without making it all about my thoughts and opinions about the events that have been taking place in my country.

I didn’t want to talk about politics because a) you probably don’t care about my politics and b) that’s not what this blog was intended for.

As turbulent and scary as the events of the last few days have been, they have assisted me in getting where I want to be with my writing. It’s easier to retreat into a shell and concentrate on a fictional world of your own design when people you love and care about are engaging in a verbal civil war.

I’ve absorbed myself in enough online articles and videos about the election that my brain finally cried “enough!” and demanded that I switch gears. There’s nothing I can do about the political climate. Time to put my focus on something I can control.

I can’t control what other people say or do or think or feel. However, I can control what I do and I’ve decided that I want to write my fiction, thank you very much.

For the next several weeks my primary focus will be on school, work, and my novel. Nonetheless, I will try to update more frequently.

I hope all of you are doing well no matter what side of the political aisle you stand on.

My Novella is a Novel Now

I suspected this day would come. I had just hoped I would be more ready for it.

I realized upon rereading the most recent draft of my latest project that I would not be able to do my characters justice in such a short amount of time.

If I want to tell the story and give it the emotional gut-punch it needs, I will have to increase the length and expand it into a full-length piece.

My original plan was to go big and then just chip away at it piece by piece until it was the right length. However, the longer I write the less likely that seems. The story keeps getting bigger and bigger, the characters have more and more to say. A measly 65 pages won’t suffice.

It has to be a novel.

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But Rachael, you say, what’s wrong with a novel? After all, novels are what really make money. 

Yes. But I am a painfully slow writer. It takes me, on average, two to three hours to write two pages and that’s if I know what I’m doing.

I expected to knock this bad boy out in a month or two. Now it will likely take me over a year.

You don’t understand how many projects I have planned already. Now they will be backlogged forever. Or at least until someone else comes up with the same idea I had and publishes it first.

I love writing this story, but….

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I have another time travel story, a crazy writer story, and a fantasy story all waiting for me to return to them and here I am hacking away at this monster of a project.

Sigh.

Well, there’s nothing for it.

I need to get back to work on this thing, or who knows how long it will take for me to complete it.

For everyone else is NaNoWriMo. For me it’s OhMyGoHoAmIStOnThChMo– Oh My God How Am I Still On This Chapter Month.

Good luck on your projects, good reader. I will need it with my current endeavor.

My Mind Only Lets Me Write at Night

I am a nocturnal writer.

I have been since I was a wee one, scribbling Fairly Oddparents fanfiction inside of a notebook on a long car ride home.

There have been freak instances when I’ve produced quality material during the daytime, but it usually involves having a magic talisman and whispering ancient languages into the wind while standing on a cliff in Ireland.

You wouldn’t understand.

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Anyway, under most circumstances, if I attempt to make sweet literary love to my novels I usually wind up staring mindlessly at my screen. My brain liquifies and I just start thinking about the universe and politics and getting a job and all sorts of horrible things. I feel this sense of guilt like I should be doing something else. Like cleaning or cooking or paying those things…what are they called? Bills? Yeah, those.

However, during the night time it seems like everything just clicks. The guilt is gone, the apprehension is gone, the boredom of being trapped inside my own consciousness where no one can hear me scream is gone. I’m free to explore my mental domain. More importantly, I’m enjoying myself as I do it.

Sometimes I experience the same feeling when it is overcast and rainy outside.

What is this phenomenon? I wish I could say.

Does anyone else experience this issue, or is it just me?

When do you all write the best quality material?

How to Become the Best Writer Ever in the History of the Universe!

Hello, reader. I am a writer person like you. Definitely not someone strapped to a chair against their will.

Do you want to learn how to write like a super-awesome writer guy?

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Becoming one of the giants of literature is easy with these simple steps.

Step One: 

Take something you’ve written. Just anything. It could be a poem, a play, a short story, just whatever. You got it? Okay, now set it on fire. Now take a picture of your literally flaming passion and upload it to Instagram. This is guaranteed to catch people’s attention.

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Step Two: 

Take your college degree off the wall and caress it lovingly. Are you caressing it? Good. Now weep. Go ahead, I’ll wait. That’s it. Let it all out. Let the debt and unemployment flow through you like a river. It’s okay. Your parents were never proud of you to begin with.

Step Three:

Keep a physical diary of all your failures. If you have been failing that means you’ve been trying. And, boy, have you been trying a lot. It’s alright if your tears smudge the ink. This is just your own personal record. No one else will read this. Just like no one else will read those books you self-published or blog entries you posted on WordPress.

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Step Four: 

Drink heavily while you write. This will inspire you to write more and will totally not convince you to phone your ex-lover. All the best writers drank. And they all lived happy, productive lives. Well, aside from the ones that committed suicide or died under suspicious circumstances. But that’s beside the point.

Step Five: 

Tweet every single thought that passes through your mind. Don’t even think about it. Just Tweet it. There is no way this could possibly go wrong. Tweet your politics. Tweet your religion. Tweet about people you don’t know but have heard through third-party sources that they did something terrible and so you must condemn them for actions you don’t know they committed for sure. Why? Because certainty is for plebs.

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Step Six: 

Tell everyone you are a writer. EVERYONE!! Hand out business cards at the grocery store. Give one to that chick at McDonalds who looks like the grease fumes have liquified her brain, give it to those Mormons who will show up at your door any second now. Have you done that? Okay, don’t write now. Don’t write a single word. Go to Youtube. Your work is done. Everyone knows your brilliance.

Follow these steps and I promise you that…something will probably happen.

What?

I don’t have all the answers.

Editing My Novella, or the Red Pen of Death

I’ve put it off long enough.

I must edit the third draft of my story.

It’s been a while since I looked at this novella and, to be honest, I’m kind of terrified. Is it going to be better than I remember? Worse than I remember? I have no way of knowing until I reread it.

Will it stay a novella? Will I have to hack away at it until it’s a short story, or pile on it until it’s a full-length novel?

There are so many questions.

Unfortunately, there are no answers. 

Only the Red Pen.

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The Red Pen snorts at your characters’ backstories and your obvious social commentary. 

The Red Pen cares nothing for your need to impress your friends. It scoffs at your attempts at fictionalizing yourself and rewriting your high school years so everyone thinks you’re great and you date that hot guy from your chemistry class. 

There is no hope.

Only copyediting.

Remember that character you were going to develop, but then abandoned? The Red Pen does. That awkward sexual metaphor you made in the third chapter? The Red Pen noticed.

The Red Pen sees.

The Red Pen knows.

Wish me luck…

JK Rowling and the Inability to Let Go of Harry Potter

A fair amount of people are giving JK Rowling grief about constantly making amendments to the Harry Potter series. While I can understand where they are coming from (and heartily disagree that Hermione and Harry should have gotten together), I can’t entirely blame her for not wanting to leave the Wizarding World forever.

I mean, think about it. Really think about it.

If you’d spent years and years mapping out a fictional universe comprised of hundreds of characters with intricate backstories, laws, spells, social norms, and history, would you want to wash your hands of it forever?

Especially when said world has brought you millions of dollars and world renown? I wouldn’t. I would beat that dead horse until its corpse was drilled into the earth’s mantle.

But we know it’s not just the money that is a motivator. She earned pennies for her Cormoran Strike novel when she wrote it under a pen name (well, until it was let slip that she was the genius behind it) and she has given away a substantial amount of her earnings to charity.

I believe the main culprit is she’s simply lived in Harry Potter’s universe so long to leave it would be like forsaking a part of herself.

I can respect that. I think all of us have spent many years of our lives in the Wizarding World and would not want to completely abandon it.

It can be difficult for an author to know when you should give it a rest. It’s like Leonardo da Vinci once said, “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

How do you know when to abandon your baby?

Perhaps there will never be a definite answer.

All I know is that nothing Rowling could add would destroy my view of Harry Potter. He is safely hidden away in my broom closet where no overzealous JK Rowlings or fanfic writers may hurt him.

I have wonderful memories of reading HP books and watching HP movies, and no one can take them away from me.

Just remember, JK may be able to rewrite HP on the page, but she can never rewrite it in our hearts.

Also, Hermione x Ron forever.

Fight the power.