Revision, History, and Other Things I’m Trying Not to Think About Right Now

It’s been a pretty productive week for me. Consequently, it’s also been a terrible one for my characters. I managed to push through the spot I was stuck on last week. I’m in the middle of putting the pieces together for the main crux of Grim History’s first arc. They’ve gathered in one place, now I have to keep pushing them along.

The story is rough at the moment. Despite being on my mind since 2017, Grim History is still a first draft. Everything is new, uncharted territory. Often imagined, never dedicated to words. It has a ton of issues. I’m painfully aware of it but I’m resisting the temptation to look back and start editing. The last time I started to do edits before finishing the story, I decided the whole thing needed to be reworked. I started at square one again. I’ve got a nasty habit of throwing the whole thing away when I get hung up on one issue.

I’m getting into the habit of writing down perceived issues in a separate document and then moving on. Maybe a note or two on improvements but not too much else. And trust me, there’s no shortage of them. In the document, they’re broken down into the following categories: Setting, Characters, Plot, and Structure. Pretty self-explanatory, right? I plan on going into more detail about each in other blog posts but “Setting” has been especially on my mind this week.

Though Grim History isn’t strictly a historical fiction, I still want to ground it in a specific time and place in American history. Admittedly, I’m not a puritan for historical accuracy. Historical accuracy is hard to judge in fiction (or media in general) especially as our understanding of the past keeps evolving. And also, that concept violently lunged itself out the window since this particular story is teeming with spirits, vampires, and other supernatural creatures that influence the events on this make-believe historical setting. But I do want enough information that a reader can believe its in a specific time and place. The time is more or less set—the early 1840s–but I’m starting to flip flop on where it takes place.

First draft wise, this isn’t important. The details will come in through revision and tons of research. Two things that I won’t commit to until after the first draft.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I’m currently 15 parts into the story and still going strong. I predict the climax is a good three parts down the line though. My goal is to get Arc 1 finished by mid-July.

We’ll see how that goes.

Helpful Writerly Links

Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s a fresh week and a fresh start. And to start off the week I’ll be sharing helpful links to writing, history, and other things I found interesting. Hopefully, they’ll be as informative and/or entertaining to you as I found them.

Enjoy!

Methods for Effective Proofreading by Online English Editor

The top 10 golden rules of self-editing by WriterMag

#6 was a real eye-opener for me

Drafting those many drafts: The 10 revision phases by Jessica Stilling (WriterMag)

How Outlining Has Taken Over My Life

For the longest time, I detested outlining. Well, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic. I was largely indifferent to it.

In the first phase of my writing passion (middle school to high school), I thought writing outlines was pointless. I just wrote. Brazenly, passionately, badly. I was discovering a part of myself that I never knew before and things like planning and outlining were foreign hindrances that I didn’t bother indulging in.

Even as I grew more self-conscious about my writing, I still didn’t think outlines would help me. After all, I was more of a free write writer. My first “novel” was me coming up with ideas at the spur of the moment and then carrying onto the next thing. Why spend so much time on something I may not follow through on? What’s the point of planning stuff out when the best strategy would just be to get the idea down and see where it would take me.?

But those years are filled with basic idea sketches, character thoughts, isolated scenes and WIPs that went nowhere. My early writing self couldn’t get my mind out of  (what I pretentiously termed at the time) “novel-length” concepts. Ideas that couldn’t, wouldn’t, will not fit in a short story. They were epics of adventure, love, magic, and chaos!

But I wouldn’t  put the work into those ideas. I obsess over them, write out the basic start, then move on.

In college, I started to reject the notion of “novel-length” concepts in favor of short stories. I didn’t want to start anything that couldn’t be finished in 20 pages. I got caught up in finishing stories. A lot of ideas were allowed to die because I didn’t think I could complete them. On those rare occasions when I tried to go beyond that, I found myself stuck. I write passionately for 20, 40, maybe 60 pages but then I would get stuck somewhere.

I didn’t truly start to embrace outlining until 2017 when I started the Festival of Shadows. I wanted to write a story centered around a group of characters I created. I also wanted to try my hand in a long cohesive narrative. So I tried outlining and I’ve been converted.

Now I live by the outline. Outlines have become my guide and savior. I worship at the bullet point altar and weep at the feets of schedules and planning. Every major project I prelude with an outline. I’ve finished three different outlines for stories at the moment. Two, I’ve officially started acting on.

But of course, outlines aren’t sacred texts. A good 50 percent of the Festival of Shadows outline was changed, rearranged, or ultimately discarded because I wanted to do something else. My outline kept me on track, however. Even if I didn’t like the initial route, writing it down gave me a better sense of what I wanted to do instead. The writing process usually helped me decide (rather than hoping my imagination would drop me a sign, out of the blue to help me fix all those dirty plot holes).

Outlines help me visualize the plot. I’m pretty good at coming up with the beginning and end of a story. The middle tends to be this big gray blob with bits of clear details sprinkled in. When I try to reach for them, they’re lost in the mess of this big unknown.  I tend to get really intimidated which leads to a lack of motivation. I do all I can to make the idea more and more concrete lest I lose interest (which has happened to me with too many other stories).

My outlining process tends to be pretty involved. My most recent one numbers 14 pages, single-spaced, with lots of bullet points (I’m OBSESSED with bullet points). And that was the second draft of it.

I wish I can be a low key outliner who can get their whole novel planned out on a single sheet of paper. That’s the real dream.