So Currently…(3)

Reading…

I’ve been reading more nowadays than I did in the whole of last month. I definitely needed lighter reads and on a whim, I decided to read Akilah Hughes Obviously. I really admire and respect her as a content creator and her biography was entertaining. I do have to admit that I wish there was more cohesion to how the book was structure. The beginning was great but the further in, I lost a little interest because the ideas seemed so random. I’m still happy I read it though!

Along with that, I recently started the novella The Black God’s Drum by P. Djeli Clark. I loved his book, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and picked this one up because of the promise of sky pirates and African Orishas set in some steampunk post-bellum New Orleans. I’m only a few pages in but I’m hooked. I mean, how could I not, right?

Writing…

Oh yes, it’s actually happening this week. I always find editing and revision the most daunting part of writing (I know, doesn’t everyone). Right now, I’m reading through the first Grim History arc, Hunger & The Hanging Tree. Expanding and tweaking and retooling some of the plot points. I’m also starting to rearrange events to fit into the revised outline. After the first initial edit, I’ll go back and check for instances of passive voice and maybe get around to actually getting further into the second arc. A good way to procrastinate on editing is working on a point further along in the timeline.

Later in the week, I want to write a post actually discussing the specifics of this story rather than tease the title. It’s been two years so…

Watching…

I’m watching shows again. I tend to get into weird periods where I can’t bring myself to engage in TV shows or the like. Not due to lack of interest but due to my fear of commitment. When I watch things, I tend to get consumed by it if I really like it. Or can’t get into it completely because…I’m honestly not sure.

I’m currently watching Derry Girls which is putting out some absurdist comedy vibes that I can completely get behind.

I haven’t watched anime for a good while and now I’ve picked up three shows (two courtesy of Mother’s Basement Summer review list). Namely, Rent a Girlfriend (more character depth than the title will have you believe), The Misfit at Demon King Academy (comedy gold), and Fruits Basket (season 2 is giving me all the feels with its amazing character drama).

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

How NOT To Open A Story [An Analysis]

I’m currently reading C. B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick, a YA book where  Jess, born to metahuman superhero parents, tries to discover her natural talents by taking up an internship with a villain (unknowingly so, of course). It has an interesting premise and an inclusive cast of characters.

I’m only 50 pages into the story and…I already have opinions. It’s still too soon to judge the book by its story but the opening checks off a number of boxes for what NOT to do in an opening.

I just wanted to get these thoughts out there because it gave me a visceral pang. A bad opening can turn a reader off to a story. This is such a good premise but its execution doesn’t bode well if these mistakes creep up later in the narrative.

I’ll also preface this list by stating that I’VE COMMITTED THESE MISTAKES.

guilty

The first draft of my Festival of Shadows story is a great example of some of the worst things you can do at the beginning of a novel. Hopefully, this will help an aspiring writer who wants some tips in revising their opening chapters. I know it helped me!

So without further ado…

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Nothing turns off a reader fast enough than burying them under a mountain of information. The book started out promising enough. It kicks off with some excellent opening lines illustrating a moment of action:

Jess grits her teeth, going for a running start. The gravel on the trail crunches under her feet, the wind rushes through her hair, and she can taste success. This time. This time, she’s gonna make it.

But as the story continues, so much is thrown at the reader. I feel like in the first fifteen everything about this post-apocalyptic world is thrown at the reader, including but not limited to: solar disaster, the onset of World War III over resources, initial nuclear destruction, Jess’ family dynamic, Jess’ parents status as superheroes, her personal insecurities with her lack of powers, how class differences influence driving habits, and a whole host of other things.

It’s hard to get truly invested into a world when the writer gives you so much to digest. It slowed down my pace as I tried to keep track of everything.

INFORMATION REPETITION

It’s one thing to have to take notes on the story you’re reading due to the volume of information. It’s a whole other beast when you see the same information explained to you again later. Sometimes within the same chapter.

One example I found was how the narrative keeps relaying the fact that Jess’ parents are the “C-list local superheroes, Smasher and Shockwave.” This wouldn’t bother me so much except that it’s constantly stated within the first few pages in a similar manner.

Smasher and Shockwave are the two resident superheroes of Andover. C-list as they may be, they’re celebrated here. Jess knows them as Mom and Dad. [5]

…but her parents were good C-list heroes, constantly working for the greater good of the country, and their home reflects that. [8]

Jess flops on her back and spots the framed photograph of her parents, dressed as Shockwave and Smasher, vibrant and powerful, the pride of their small city. [10]

Playing devil’s advocate briefly, this repetition could show how present their reputation is in Jess’ life and how her initial lack of demonstratable abilities compounds how inadequate she feels next to them.

But note the page numbers. See how frequently the writing reminds the reader of this so early on. It became a real issue for me as I found myself rolling my eyes muttering how I already know this.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Okay, so you’ve all heard this one before.

To top off the other issues, most of the information is told. Sometimes shown, then explained needlessly!

I know that when world-building, it’s tempting to just explain how the world works especially if it’s very unlike our own. Some things have to be explained because not doing so may leave the reader confused. But if something can be shown, do it. Certain scenes in this story could’ve been redone and shown later.

There was one really glaring example of this in the first 15 pages.

The context: Jess has just returned home. She reviews the messages on her Data Exchange Device (DED) all the while saddened by the possibility of not being a metahuman when…

Warm fondness for her best friends distracts her from her disappointment.

Did she smile at the messages that her friends sent her? Did her heart feel lighter? Why not show this through character movements? This sounds more like a vague stage direction than narrative.

As I said before, I’ve been guilty of all of these. Everyone has. As I was reading, I kept thinking back to my own stories where I just threw all the information I could think about the setting in the first few pages. I was still ironing out the details myself. Still discovering different aspects of the world that I didn’t want to forget as I was writing.

Revision is a good way of catching these. If this helps in any way to the aspiring novelist, I’m happy about it. And, I must state that despite my griping, I still fully intend to continue reading. The premise is good and I can’t wait to see what happens (hopefully, after the initial hurdle, it’ll get good!)

But now I want to know…

Were there any books with good premises ruined by awkward writing? Did an opening chapter almost turn you off to a good story?

Or are there any fun little writing misadventures that any of you had with your opening chapters? I would love to talk about them.

Little Miss Perfectionist Hates Editing

Editing and revising is the most stressful part of the writing process. I think most people would agree with that but if you’re normal, unlike me, you knuckle down and just do it, right? Work is work no matter how much you love it.

My ideas and I go through a bit of a honeymoon period. When I first get them, they’re the most beautiful thing in the world. I daydream about it, heap upon it undeserved accolades, and the urge to just get down and dirty with it (the oh so titillating writing process) is too strong to be ignored.

First bumps in the road come with writing. We have our issues. It pushes me to the limit. Sometimes I question our relationship. The rosy glasses shatter and I see it for what it is. Something very flawed and struggling like the rest of them. But it’s okay. We can perhaps work through its issues.

And then editing. This is pretty much when I start burning the furniture. It can do nothing right. There are too many flaws. I hate it more than I thought I could hate anything and I want nothing more than to shove all its ill-conceived concepts in a hole and set fire to it.

But like most troubled relationships, there’s something thrilling in the dysfunction. I come back time and time again to the idea–thinking I can fix it. Sometimes I can, more often I have to live with it until the cycle starts all over again.

What that too elaborate metaphor was trying to say is that editing is hard. It’s impossible, or at least it can feel that way. But I’m too much of perfectionist to just let a story be. I get something from agonizing over grammar, dialogue, scenes, the plot. Tinkering with everything just sends me off on this rollercoaster of emotions that I just get off on.

I go through cycles of love and hate every time I tear into a piece. So yes, little miss perfectionist does hate editing. But she also loves it. As with anything I’m passionate about, I invest too much time and emotion to words, to characters, to ideas.

Even this piece, in its hasty construction, will get the fine editing treatment. I’ll cut lines, rearrange passages, tone down some parts, amp up others, and I’ll love detesting it. Or I’ll hate loving it.