Tag Archives: first draft

Worst Writing Week: Worst Lines Ever.

12 Aug

These monstrosities are the gems of our bad-writing caverns.

Prepare yourselves for bleeding eyes.

~~~

“I—I’m I’m so sorry,” he stuttered quietly.

~

Mostly because it’s totally out of character: he’d rather get slapped in the face, have all her friends hate him and go without snogging than apologize for being a jerk. Also, ‘stuttered quietly?’ I think I just threw up a little.

~~~

She wasn’t really a bad girl.  She was just a good girl who made bad choices.  Or maybe she was a bad girl, with the potential to be good.

~

Um, yeah.  Telling instead of showing?  Boring, inane character description?  A narrator more confused than the character?  All of the above, I’m afraid.

~~~

The whole idea is ridiculous. If I’m going to kill someone, it’s going to be because I feel like it. Not because their name came up in a raffle. And trust me, I’d be steering clear of the elderly. They’re like Slimfast for the undead.

~

I don’t even know, you guys. I don’t even know.

~~~

“It was about a five thousand years ago,” Sherrell answered. “It’s pretty hard to believe that cardboard even existed then. Anyways, the people on the island only found three pieces of the cardboad, which was cut into four pieces. They found the first one buried in rich earth, another was found just miraculously floating around in the air and the last was found burning in a fire, but was saved before it was impossible to read.”

~

Okay. Allow me to WTF. Cardboard? Oh, sorry, cardboad? Five thousand years ago? Honey, cardboard was invented in 1800’s. And it is paper. And it is not cool in any way, no matter how much you infuse it with magic. Nor will it stay intact and readable if it’s been buried in the earth, put into flames, or just casually exposed to air for a friggin’ five thousand years.

It’s. Paper.

ARGH!! I was such a stupid child!

~~~

Furious on the inside, I rose stately and walked out of my office, feeling his presence behind me, tailing me.

~

Ugh, a mix of bad adverbs, too much action, and hanging clauses. This one’s not too bad actually, but I lost all of my really old work in a harddrive crash last year 😦

~~~

The young man looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, at least that’s the expression Amelia thought she saw, but he was really awed at her beauty, even though she had twigs in her hair and a dirty brown blanket wrapped around her.

~

It’s grammatically incorrect, and super lame. I mean, REALLY?! I can’t believe I wrote that AND WAS PROUD OF IT! Ugh.

~~~

Mandy: “I felt uncomfortable, being so nervous in front of him.”

~

Two words: REDUNDANT, MUCH???

~~~

Two beautiful men in one room! If she had been in another place at another time, Celaena Sardothien would have taken full advantage of the wonderful body that the Gods had given her.

But now she was in rags, and covered from head to toe in salty dirt and mud. Celaena wished that the light were not so bright within the room. She frowned. She had diminished. What a miserable state she was in now! Bad luck.

~

Yes, Celaena, it’s bad luck indeed that you’re too filthy to have a threesome with Dorian and Chaol. And I’m glad to see that your priorities are in order–it’s not like you’re potentially about to be executed or anything. Nope–all that matters is your hot body and the fact that you can’t hook up with two hot dudes. Boo hoo. But maybe if you get rid of that bright light in the room, they’ll forget that you look like a hobo and hook up with you!

~~~

Shifting her position to face the newcomer, Tanya cast one of her beautiful beams of sunshine.

~

AHHHHHH. Someone run me through with a broadsword (do you even run people through with broadswords? are those more for hacking and slashing?) Or, better yet, travel back in time and threaten twelve-year-old me with a broadsword. I wish I was talking about magic, I really do. I wish Tanya had been a character with super magic sunshine powers. Because that would be better than the truth…

Because Tanya is supposed to be smiling.

~~~

What are your worst lines ever?

Worst Writing Week: Worst Dialogue Sequence

11 Aug

Dialogue, dialogue! So many issues with dialogue… So easy to make something cheesy, unrealistic, repetitive, uncharacteristic….

Observe:

Worst Dialogue Sequence.

~~~

“A love spell? But he’s a man!”

“There are sorcerers, and families where magic runs on the male side but kings usually wipe them out fast. Men with magic are more dangerous than women it seems.”

“Well, he’s not from a family it runs in because the only other magic family in this kingdom it runs in the women.”

“Hmm, it could run in his family but they might have hidden it to protect themselves, you know.”

“I gotta go and you have to go to sleep. Mom wants you better by tomorrow,” she said as she got up to leave.

~

Poorly inserted exposition, shifts in tone and style from previous paragraphs, lack of dialogue tags, lack of description, lack of individual voices for the characters, general ickness and poor writing.

~~~

“I’ll kill you!” she shouted.

“Not if I kill you first!” he answered.

“I’d like to see you try.”

~

Um, somebody hurry up and kill somebody here, because this discussion is doing nothing for the story and right about now I wish you both would die.

~~~

“Enjoy your swim?” Charoleen asked, finally coming out of the room with the table and couches, where she had been crazily writing and planning.

“Yes, it was lovely. You should all take one,” I answered.

“Maybe later,” she said. “I’ve got too much to do.”

~

Let me just recap this for you: Charoleen comes out, asks a dumb question, says she has too much work to do, and returns to her room. *Facepalm*

~~~

“No. Trust me, I’ve changed plenty of spare tires. I even know what a lug nut wrench looks like!” Brandy sarcastically replied, realizing he thought she was the helpless female.

~

Erm, besides “sarcastically” being total overkill, I used to love using dialog tags like “replied,” “cried,” “whispered,” “bemoaned,” etc, etc. I got over that. 😉

~~~

“You know,” Celaena said in her cool, cultured voice: “I’ve killed men with less than this.”  A slow smile spread across her face as she saw, from the corner of her eye, the overseer take an unsure step back in fear.

“You’ve heard the story about the hairpin incident, haven’t you?  Imagine: a harmless, innocent hairpin—what harm could it possibly do?  Now, picture that hairpin jammed all the way through a man’s eye and into his brain.  Lovely, isn’t it?”  Celaena laughed lightly.  “That was one of my more creative kills, actually.  Now, I want you to think about what I did with something as harmless as a hairpin and imagine what I can do with this pickax.”  She looked expectantly at the overseer, who was holding his whip defensively.

“Yer-yer can’t do anything t’me!”  His hands shook and his red face was nearing a sickly pink.  “Yer’ve been condemned by the King ta work until yer death in these salt-mines!  Yer ain’t en assassin no more!”

A pathetic way of reassuring himself.  Celaena stared at him blankly.

~

I honestly don’t know where to begin. The overseer’s accent? The over-writing? The redundancy? The fact that Celaena sounds like a psychopath? It’s like a perfect storm of idiocy.

~~~

“What?” Jenny asked.

“What, what?” Sherrel asked back.

“What, what, what?” Beatrez joined in, now out of the water but behind a tree.

“Who just said the last three what’s?” a confused Jenny questioned.

With that, Beatrez ran silently back and slipped into the water.

“Beatrez,” Sherrel said looking at the tree Beatrez used to be behind, “You can come out now.”

“What, what, what, what?” Beatrez joked coming out of the water.

“What, what, what, what, what?” Jenny said.

“What, what, what, what, what, what?” Sherrell tried out their new language.

“What what, what what what what, what!” Beatrez exclaimed enthusiastically.

~

…I’m not even going to touch that.

~~~

The other boy came questioningly forward. “……………………”

~

Yes, I used that many periods. *Smacks twelve-year-old self* WTH. In my defense, it was because way back when when I posted this to Fanfiction.net, you had to use like a thousand periods or it would change your ellipsis to just one dot. 🙂

~~~

“Dear, if you would like, you may stay at my house until the storm passes. I’m afraid it won’t be very merciful today.”

Amelia smiled, looking relieved and almost awed at the woman’s kindness. “Oh, but I couldn’t…”

“Nonsense. I would rather enjoy some company, Amelia dear.”

Amelia looked at the woman. Did I tell her my name? Amelia then felt very unsure and confused, and very uncomfortable. “Actually, I’m fine…”

“Don’t worry, Amelia dear. I don’t bite. I happen to know that you’ve been through a lot. Come to my house, and I’ll send a messenger to your father, telling him that you’re alright.”

Amelia backed away a few steps. Should I really trust her? She seems nice and all, but…“How do you know all that?” her voice held suspicion in it.

“Amelia, I know many, many things. Now, you may come if you wish; I will not force you.”

~

I don’t even know where to start! What’s with all the over-usage of the word ‘dear’? I want to cry when I read this… It’s just crap. I mean, REALLY? Oh, the horror!

~~~

Damian, however, made that decision for her. “Hi,” he said quietly, seating himself precariously on the edge of the bed. She blinked. “Accalia said you can’t talk, so just let me say this and I’ll leave.” She blinked again, waiting for him to continue. “I just wanted to say that it was very wrong of me to go and blame you for Sierra’s disappearance, wen I knew deep down that you didn’t have anything to do with it. It was stupid and foolish and irrational, and I’m sorry. I’ve said a lot of things –“

“Sure have,” Gwen croaked, her eyes dull, unlike the usual spark that lay there.

“But Accalia said –”

“That I couldn’t talk,” she said. “She says a lot of things.”

“Gwen, I had no right to –“

“–No, you didn’t,” the younger girl agreed, closing her eyes. Damian waited for a torrent of harsh words to flow from her lips, but they didn’t come. Instead, Gwen shifted her dull haze to his and tried to smile, though it looked more like a smirk than anything else. “Forget it,” she whispered hoarsely. “It’s over. Get on with your life. Go find Sierra. I’d help but…” she broke off her train of thought, her answer a bit obvious as she stared pointedly at the IV feeding into her hand.

“I’ve been looking. She’s on that darn ship that’s headed to god knows where,” Damian replied, his eyes almost sad. “So I can’t do anything about it.”

“Neither can I,” Gwen said.

“No, I don’t suppose you can, can you?” Damian reflected.

“No.”

~

As a kid, I loved to write dialogue in which characters kept cutting each other off. This conversation kept going like that, so I thought I’d spare you! There’s also way too many dialogue tags, and just awkwardness all around. My twelve-year-old self apologizes!

~~~

What’s your worst dialogue sequence?

Worst Writing Week: Worst Description

10 Aug

And the horror continues.

Next in our line-up of Worst Writing Week, where we shamelessly showcase some terrible sections of our first drafts, we have….

Worst Description.

~~~

There was a hesitation her small frame was projecting with a slightly downward tilting chin and nervous hands, but her eyes—though they looked only around their faces and not directly at them—bore a tinge of defiance.

~

Gah, I looooved super long sentences and ’em dashes back then. And over-writing.

~~~

The smell reeled you in like an exhausted fish on a line, further and further, until you were inside the store, staring down at all the delicious, sugary sweetness arrayed before you like a banquet of the gods.

~

I think use of second person qualifies this immediately, but then there’s the lack of periods or semi-colons to consider. Piling too many clashing food similes into one sentence? That’s just extra points off.

~~~

The building resembled a mini castle, complete with towers and parapets. It was four stories high, but three towers jutted out a story higher, and another tower, the farthest from the road, three stories higher. From this highest tower she guessed that you could see most of the 700 acres of land, the castle being right in the middle of it all, with a low brick wall surrounding it.

The 700 hundred acres were dotted with cool glades and even contained a river and a waterfall. Forrest and trees covered all and dirt paths criss-crossed around pleasant picnic spots and beautiful clearings full of wildflowers. Beyond the boundary of the land were more trees that eventually turned into gargantuan surrounding mountains. It all seemed very pretty.

~

If you look to the left you’ll see the instruction manual from which this description was taken, and if you look to the right you’ll see a very embarrassed Biljana smacking herself in the head.

~~~

She stretched out on the clover-smelling grass.

~

Clover-smelling grass?  When was the last time you were sitting in the grass and thought, “I smell clover!”

Yeah, exactly.

~~~

Celaena Sardothien was a beautiful woman—or at least she had been before she had been sent to work at the mines.  Tall and slender, she had a body that was desirable in every way.  Her naturally red, full lips, rosy cheeks, and long, dark eyelashes that covered sapphire eyes gave her a face that every woman envied.  But it was her golden hair that caught the attention of most people.  Even when it was knotted and caked with dirt and grime from the mines, it shimmered and shone like unwashed gold.  She was young, barely past her adolescent years, and full of life and potential.

Her body had been perfect for her previous occupation.  How many men would love to be alone with such a woman for a few hours?  How many women would like to discuss in private what the secret to her beauty was?  Too many.  Celaena’s good looks had made her job all-too easy.

~

When I read this description, I want to cry. Or kill myself. Or both. What the HELL were you thinking, sixteen year-old self?!

~~~

‘Young at heart’ does not begin to describe her. The full, relaxed maturity of an experienced mother with bourgeoisie beauty genes, a favorite grandmother’s disposition, and a chipmunk on steroid’s energy combined in Ally to make the most mind boggling, beautiful, and interesting Barbie reincarnation it has ever been my anti-prep pleasure to encounter.

~

I’m blushing. This doesn’t even begin to make sense.

~~~

A new storm had raged the night before, as relentless as the one that had taken place two and a half weeks ago. The golden sun peaked over the green hills, casting a warm glow on the still-wet earth. The scent of the summer morning filled the warm air, with the birds singing for the start of a new day, perched on the branches of the sweet green trees, and everything was quiet.

~

Clearly, like Kat, I loved long sentences (that last one is terrible!). I guess I didn’t know what semi-colons were yet. And apparently I really liked the colour green. Also, how can singing birds equate to everything being quiet? Ugh.

~~~

What’s your worst description?

Worst Writing Week: Worst Opening Lines

9 Aug

So us LTWFers were talking a few weeks ago and came to a stunningly unsurprising conclusion:

Our first drafts suck.

Others might disagree, but the fact of the matter is that looking back at our first tries after months/years of revision have to be some of the most hilariously embarrassing moments in writing. More so when we realize that we were super proud and happy about these tries, and frequently used to dole out chapters to people like candy.

But the thing is that a lot of the time we’re really hard on ourselves. We harshly  compare the old draft to the new one because of how much more time we had to think about plot holes and character continuity. We’re not being very fair to ourselves. Especially since the final draft is supposed to be better.

And then there are the times we don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

This week is dedicated to some of our worst writing. A confidence boost for all you people that are perfecting your writing with us. Here’s the lineup:

Monday: Worst Opening

Tuesday: Worst Description

Wednesday: Worst Dialogue Sequence

Thursday: Worst Line Ever

So let’s start with “Worst Opening”.

~~~

Pain. It jolted through her small body, racking all her senses and making her stumble. Pain.

Thunder roared and the rain fell, making it so that the ground was slippery and hard to stand in. Bolts of lightning cracked through the skies; showing, for a few seconds, her frail frame; half running half dragging herself along the road.

She had to get away.

Another bolt of lightning, another crash of thunder. Slap, slap, slap, of her sneakers against dirt.

She had to get away.

Trees trailing in the wind, water pouring from the heavens, Slap, slap, slap of her sneakers against dirt.

She had to get away.

~

Aaaaand so begins the melodrama that was my first book (written by little twelve-year-old me)! I actually re-wrote the beginning five or so times, so the final result was very different. But this the first and definitely worse of them all 😀 It…actually hurts a little, right here in my chest, to re-read this, hahaha.

~~~

The day my adventures in life began I was disparing and doubted that anything interesting would ever happen to me.

~

Even at thirteen I knew this was shit and crossed it out pretty quickly. Seriously, little self, I know we had to start somewhere, but really?

~~~

Sarza would never have agreed if Nate hadn’t gotten her drunk. I wouldn’t even have agreed if he hadn’t been so enthusiastic and inspiring about it. Hell, Ally herself wouldn’t have gone along with it if Nate hadn’t shamelessly appealed to her vast inner child with hugs and whispers and candy.

So I guess you could say that our most interesting life experience was all because of Nate. Even though technically, Ally, everyone’s newest, dearest friend, started it by falling in love with motherhood and getting herself pregnant. I remember being there as she took the home pregnancy test with her into the bathroom and the excited screams that came after a few seconds of dulled tinkling and a pause. But it was Nate, a person who’s infallible optimism needed to be cured by a bus accident and intense medication to suppress the mother load of ‘the-world-is-a-wonderful-place’ endorphins his brain insisted on producing, who handed us our college graduation beers (except for Ally, who was happily pregnant and couldn’t have alcohol) and told us it was our civic and Ally-inspired duty to go somewhere we’d never planned to and raise her child ourselves.

~

Run-on sentences, grammatically incorrect phrasing, corny drunken statements… yeah, this is my worst opening ever (this does not prevent me from being very fond of it, however).

~~~

“Sadie scanned the room with her shifty, beady eyes.  She knew he was hiding there.  She could smell the fear.”
~

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I wrote this before I understood the full meaning of the word “cliche’.”  I mean, shifty, beady eyes? I suppose as a twelve-year old I didn’t realize that you shouldn’t use a description that had been used a zillion times before!  And since Sadie was neither a dog nor a witch, I’m pretty sure it was wrong to describe her as “smelling the fear.”  Ah, well.  It seemed good at the time.

~~~

There have been stories told about their kind – the dead who walk amongst the living when the sun goes down.

~

Yep, you guessed it! Another vampire story!

~~~

Celaena Sardothien stalked through the streets of Renaril, cloaked in darkness.  To the ordinary passerby, she might have been nothing more than a caliginous shadow cast across a dimly lit street.  To the more observant, she would have appeared as a person not to be trifled with; a person who would have no qualms about bringing you into her dark cocoon with no intention of letting you leave alive.  In either case, Celaena hunted with no interference.
~

I want to invent a time machine, just so I can go back in time and smack my sixteen year-old self across the face. And then delete this paragraph.

~~~

At the airport, 12-year-old Jenny Cresswell was pacing around waiting to be called to go into the plane for Hawaii. Her twin sister, Beatrez, was patiently reading a book. They are very different. Jenny has honey brown eyes and Beatrez has deep green eyes. Jenny is almost never patient, Beatrez is practically always patient. Jenny is small and quick, Beatrez tall and whitty. [cut] The few things they do have in common was that they both love adventure, they both love to read, though Jenny wasn’t in the mood to read, they both believe in ghosts and mythical animals and such, and they both have the power to send telepathic messages to anyone they want.

~

…Oh dear sweet Jesus. And I used to think I was the shit. I used to go around in all my eleven-year-old glory and read it to anybody who would listen and get them to tell me just how “whitty” I am.

~~~

What is your worst opening?

Guest Article: Endings and Climaxes

22 Apr

Hey everyone! After the big discussion on writing climaxes and endings last week, we’re happy to present a guest article by Kat Zhang on just those issues!

~~~

Endings and Climaxes

by Kat Zhang

~~~

So you’re 50,000 (or 100,000—or even 150,000!) words into your latest manuscript. Things are going well: your main character is lovable, the plot is engaging, troubles have piled up, and your heroine is in over her head. The foremost question on any sane reader’s mind is What’s going to happen next??

Wonderful, right? Except you, as the writer, are scratching your head and pondering the exact same thing. What is going to happen next? In order to build suspense, you’ve put your heroine in a seemingly impossible to fix situation. Maybe the love of her life thinks she’s killed his dog and won’t return her calls. Maybe the Big Bad has kidnapped her parents and hidden them in a top-secret lair in Madagascar. Or maybe she just needs to gather up all her strength and defeat the Forces of Evil. For the third time. With a toothpick.

Not the last one? Okay…

Whatever your heroine’s problems are, yours as the writer is how to end your story satisfactorily. In many ways, this is the most important part of your story. It’s certainly what’s going to be freshest on your reader’s mind when they close the book, and there’s nothing more frustrating than 300 pages of build-up only for all the tension and drama to leak out the last chapter like a squeaky balloon (Breaking Dawn, anyone?). No, you want your book to end with a bang!

The trouble is, endings are what most writers have had the least practice with. I don’t know about you, but I have so many orphan first and second chapters laying around, I don’t know what to do with them! So for everyone close to plotting out the last few chapters of your novel, here are some quick tips.

First of all, avoid the Deus Ex Machina. I tend to agonize over this myself. Many times, it’s a matter of opinion what counts as a Deus Ex Machina and what doesn’t. Think about the first Harry Potter book. There’s little Harry, facing the most powerful and evil wizard in the world, and what saves him? His mother’s love? What?

But it works. Why? One reason is buildup. This seemingly sudden savior was first mentioned in chapter one, and it actually answers other questions raised in the book, such as why Harry was left to his aunt and uncle. It doesn’t hurt that Harry has already been saved by this love once before, as a baby.

If you’re going to bring in something at the last second, make sure to foreshadow it first. Foreshadow it enough so that it seems slightly obvious to you—I’ve learned that if it seems very subtle to the writer, it generally goes over the majority of the readers’ heads. Will a hidden knife prove essential to the climax? Mention the heroine using it to peel an apple in the second chapter, or have her almost forget to pack it. Layer it in between other, seemingly more important things, and your readers will almost forget about it until your protagonist triumphantly pulls it out during the last battle.

The second reason the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone works is the fact that Harry has worked so hard already. The last few chapters are all about him, Hermione, and Ron braving challenge after challenge to reach the last chamber. Tellingly, both his friends are left behind during the course of this journey, leaving Harry to act on his own at the very end. So even if the final “attack” against Voldemort is taken out of his hands, we as the readers don’t feel like we’ve been ripped off because Harry has already proven himself worthy of the victory.

Finally, don’t forget the denouement. Derived from the French word meaning to “unknot,” the denouement is often left out of discussions concerning plot structure. But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant! The denouement takes place after all the major action is over. It allows everyone (characters and readers alike) to take a deep breath, recollect themselves, and take one last look around before the ending forces us to say goodbye. Sometimes, this takes the form of an epilogue, but that needn’t always be the case.

What makes for a great denouement? Well, it’s a good time to show How Things Have Changed, and unless the fact that nothing has changed is the point of your novel, things should have changed! If nothing else, your characters should have developed. Think about the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I’m talking about the movie here—apologies to the book enthusiasts!). The return to the Shire is one big denouement. Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry sit among the other Hobbits, home at last after grueling adventure. Everyone else is happy and celebrating, but these four are in what seems to be their own little bubble. Their travels have changed them. They can never again be as innocent as their friends. (On a happier note, Sam gains the courage to ask out that pretty little hobbit lady he’s been eyeing!)

To summarize:

  1. The ending should not happen out of nowhere. Even if you intend it to shock your audience upon first reading, they should be able to go back over the body of the novel and think to themselves “Ah—there’s a hint in chapter three that this would happen!”
  2. If there is a happy ending, your main character must have earned it through her own actions and growth.
  3. Allow for reflection and proof of growth/change in the denouement.

A lot of work has gone into a novel before an ending can be solidified. But for most, tacking on a figurative or literal “The End” after the last few words is really just the beginning of another few months or even years of editing. Don’t let this overwhelm you—celebrate your accomplishment! Jump up and down a few times! Finishing a first draft is a great accomplishment, and if you’re not in a big hurry to perfect this particular manuscript, it may be a good idea to take a short break to work on other things. That way, you’ll be able to approach your editing with a fresh eye.

~~~

Kat Zhang is currently an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing, who spends all her free time furiously editing her YA novel, HYBRID, to get it in shape for querying. She’s currently finishing a series about a three week trip to China on her blog, but will soon switch over to more writing related topics.

First-Draft-Phobia

30 Mar

By June Hur
~~

My worst nightmare has always been that I would wake up one day and realize that I was no longer a writer.

After sending in my Regency romance to an agent, I decided to start a new book. I rummaged my mind for the perfect story. When I found a possible one, I would be up all night planning it out, and would end up brainstorming the plot to death. The idea just wouldn’t be good enough. And so I’d search for another plotline. I’d brainstorm it to death. And on and on I’d move from one plot to the next. My critique partner told me I was trying too hard. And she was right.

The sad truth was this: After a year and a half spent on revising The Runaway Courtesan again and again—I knew how to edit a book, but had forgotten how to write one from scratch.

I have to thank K.C. Bryne for my state of overflowing enthusiasm to write again. A few days ago I met up with her at Starbucks after our English literature lecture. I told her the issue I was having, of how none of the plots were good enough. Her answer was simple: Write for the pure joy of writing, write for yourself.

Write for myself? I couldn’t grasp onto what the purpose behind writing just for the sake of writing was. Why write for the fun of it? Why waste my time? If I’m going to write a book, I wanted to know that it would be marketable, that it would be original.—This mentality was my stumbling block. My expectation for the manuscript was way too high for me to meet up to in my first draft. How was I to write if every sentence I typed out was expected to be a masterpiece?

The first draft of our book is like a rough sketch, a guiding map, to a work of art.

Observe a famous oil painter: the moment inspiration roars through him, he will sketch it out onto a canvas. And if we were to observe this sketch, one eyebrow would shoot up, and our reaction would be: What the hell is this? We would only see a mess of pencil marks.

Just wait. Be patient.

The pencil markings will disappear, as the brush strokes paint across the canvas, the darker shades first. And we will cringe with confusion—THIS, a masterpiece?

Once the paint dries a bit, lighter shades of paint will then be applied (…or so my art tutor told me).

Then more hours will pass, perhaps even days, as the artist mixes the colours, brushes it onto the canvas, in light or heavy strokes, in dots or blotches.

Then…

Voila.

A masterpiece has been created and it steals our breath away and brings tears to our eyes as we catch a glimpse of the divine beauty captured within each stroke of the brush.

But, with the perspective I had, placed into this analogy, I would have remained stuck on day one, sketching then re-sketching, getting nowhere. So the lesson I learned was: Do not expect a masterpiece by sketch number one. The point of the first draft is not perfection, but to capture the essence of that undecided, ambiguous yet beautiful story in your head.

Just write, write what your heart tells you to write. Your story, at draft one, might not be publishable. It might not even make any sense. But still—Just write! Worry about the plot holes, the grammatical errors, the character development, the theme, the marketability AFTER you have draft one. Don’t let that inspired imagination cool down while you edit paragraph one of your story over and over and over again. Let your fantasy unwind onto paper without being hindered by technicality—even though you might end up with a piece of trash that might require two years to revise. But the point, ladies and gentlemen, is to write for the pure joy of it.   

By Marion Boddy-Evans

~~~~~~~ 

June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the response of an agent who requested her full manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

Revising the Monster-Of-A-First-Draft

4 Nov

Have you ever read through your massive first draft and felt faint at the thought of having to revise it? Don’t worry if this is you. You are certainly not alone. The way I revised my 90k manuscript was by focusing on these five elements:

RELEVANCE – Weed out everything that is unnecessary. Ask yourself: Does this scene, dialogue, narration advance the plot/development of my story? If not, delete it—even if you absolutely adore what you’ve written. Sacrifices must be made. I, for one, omitted up to 10,000 words (with trembling fingers!) from my manuscript because it served no purpose to my story. Many other writers who have put their manuscript through intense rounds of editing would tell you the same story.

TONE – If I were to ask readers what the tone of Pride and Prejudice was, the immediate answer would be: light-hearted. If I were to ask readers what the tone of Wuthering Heights was, the answer would be: dark. Both works have consistent tones. For example, you would NOT find a scene of Mr. Darcy in the moor crying out Elizabeth Bennett’s name while tearing at his hair. It just wouldn’t suit. Hence, consistency is important! Keep an eye open for anything in your story that doesn’t complement the tone of your overall work. You don’t want any scenes to jut out awkwardly as if it had been cut out from another genre and pasted onto your manuscript.

CHARACTERIZATION – Make sure that the portrayal of your characters is consistent. Here is a simplified example: Cheated on by so many guys, Jane is shown to be jaded with men, and yet, one chapter later, she is desperately in love with John. Lame, I know. But see the contradiction there? We writers, as creators of fictional human beings, must play the psychologist. One thing I learned while revising is that it’s hard to pick up on these issues when editing one chapter per week. What will prove to be most helpful is to read your manuscript all at once. So book a few days off and read from start till finish with a red pen in hand!

SHOW, DON’T TELL – This is an advice writers will encounter everywhere. It is one of “THE” advices to writing a good fiction. Anyone can tell a story, but it takes effort to show a story. An example to illustrate my point would be something Sarah J. Maas picked up while editing my first five chapters. I had written down: “She was subjected to his indifferent stare.” Sarah asked me: “How does one look indifferent?” How, indeed? Maybe his expression was blank? The readers want to know.

HEAD HOPPING – Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s something I did (and still do) often in my writing. But it’s not fun for readers to read. It sometimes confuses the heck out of them (for an extreme case, try reading Virginia Woolfe’s To The Lighthouse). There are some published authors who are able to pull this off very well. I would recommend, however, sticking to the safe side by breaking the story into sections each time the “point of view” changes.

There will be moments when revising your manuscript will seem overwhelming. You might find yourself with an endless list of character inconsistencies, plot holes, and other errors that needs to be fixed. But don’t give up. Don’t let it suck the joy out of writing. Under the jumble of words there is a gem of a story that NEEDS to be told. Just take everything step by step and you will get through it all!

As quoted from Joyce Carol Oates’ book, The Faith of a Writer: “How to attain a destination is always more intriguing (involving, as it does, both ingenuity and labour) than what that destination finally is.”

If you guys have anything else you focus on when revising, feel free to share it, because I’m sure many of us (including myself) will benefit from it.

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June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the responses of two agents that requested a partial of her manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.