The Rough Draft
Many years ago, more now than I care to admit, I finished my first manuscript. I was sitting at my kitchen table and had just finished a four-hour writing session that culminated with me typing the words The End on a page. I saved my document and felt the rush of excitement that meant the last two years of hard work was completed and my book was done.
I had no idea what I was talking about.
What followed was several months of self-doubt and hard lessons learned that I would like to share with you to hopefully help you avoid these very mistakes.
I thought my finished manuscript was, well, finished. This is a lesson that is of the upmost importance for every writer to learn, yes, every single one of us. That lesson is that your rough draft, or first draft, is just that. It is going to be rough and the first of many drafts. Stephen King once said that your first draft is the worst your writing is ever going to be.
When I finished my first draft, I made the huge mistake of thinking that it was perfect and finished. I was sure publishers and readers alike were going to line up to get their hands on it as it stood.
It really bothered me when people began picking out the mistakes and giving me ideas to make my writing better. It bothered me because I had this illusion that I was done working on that project and could move on to the next one.
Its ok to feel accomplished for having finished the rough draft, and you should. That is a huge feat that not a lot of people get to experience, and you should enjoy that moment. The work, however, is not done.
Take your time going through your work. Add the details you weren’t sure about. Fix the comma splices and other little issues you stumble upon. Make sure the story is as perfect as it can be and that you are happy with it. Once that is done hand it out to a few readers and let them take a look at it. Make sure they are going to give you honest feedback and be prepared to take honest feedback. If you are going to ignore everything, they say than don’t waste your time or theirs.
It does not mean you are a bad writer if your first draft has errors, its supposed. In a first draft your goal is to get the clay onto the potter’s wheel. Put your ideas on paper. You can come back and clean them up, organize them and stack them up nice and neat on the next go around.
Celebrate the victories though, celebrate the finishing of the first draft and even the finishing up of the second. You deserve it.
Keep on writing everyone.
As some of you may know, and some may not, I am currently in school for my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. What comes with that is a lot of writing that you guys have never read. I have to write everything from short stories to novellas and even plot out full on novels. I was working on a piece today, only a little bigger than 500 words, and I thought it was not half bad. We will have to see what my Professor thinks about it. I decided to post it here and if you guys seem to like it, I will post more of my classroom writings here. Hope you guys enjoy the short story, Jessica's Bonfire.
The fire had begun to die, the brightest flames started to dwindle to nothing more than embers and ashes. It was time, but Jessica stayed a little while longer.
She lifted the cigarette to her cheap, Maybelline rep lipstick covered lips for another drag. It was a matte 695 Divine Wine-red lipstick if anyone cared, but no one ever did.
No one ever noticed Jessica, but they would after tonight. The flames from the bonfire she had made in her backyard finally extinguished completely. The coldness of the Autumn night air crept in like monsters waiting for the light to go out in your room before sneaking out of your closet and from under your bed.
Jessica pulled her new American Eagle hoodie, bought just for tonight, a little tighter around her large midsection. The kids at school called her Biscuits, but her mom said she was perfect the way she was. She had tried to tell the kids at school what her mother had said, but they didn’t listen. No one ever heard her.
Jessica could feel her adrenalin pulsing through her veins with every heartbeat, and she tried to prolong what was about to happen a little while longer. She knew what she had to do, but she didn’t necessarily want to do it.
Why hadn’t they all come to her bonfire like they said they were going to?
Why hadn’t they tried to be friends with her?
Not a single person showed up, and she had gone on to Facebook to see why not. That’s where she found Sara Jinkins’s posts about the Standing Up Jessica Party. She had kept it a hidden group and everyone that Jessica had invited to her bonfire had gone to Sara’s party instead. A party that was nothing more but a giant middle finger to her.
Jessica felt the tears begin to well up in her eyes, but she knew she couldn’t cry, not yet. It would ruin her new make up she had begged her mom for. She would cry, not until everyone else was crying first.
She pulled the cigarette up again, but as she put it to her lips, she watched the glow of the burning tobacco claw its way to the filter and go out, just like the fire. Just like her hopes for a normal life.
With nothing else to do and nothing else to hold her back, she knew it was time for her to leave and pay a little visit to the Standing Up Jessica Party. She just hoped they wouldn’t mind her plus one.
“Let's go.” Her voice cracked with fear, pain, humiliation and half a dozen other teenage emotions. She turned on her heels and marched through the dirt, following the path that led back to her parent's house where her 2001 Ford Focus was waiting.
As she walked, her feet tossed dirt over the pentagram she had drawn in the soil and the smears of blood that had come from her hand.
The fire was dead, and almost all light was gone, but there was enough for Jessica to see the shadow begin to follow after her.
“They will remember me after tonight.” She said to herself.
The Ending of Things.
All these come to an end, in one way or another. The sun sets for us all.
Even books must come to an end.
I am sure that some of you have seen my posts on social media about me finishing the first draft of my fourth novel. This is the final novel in my Dragon Riders of Arvain series which makes this ending a little special, at least for me.
I have been working on this series for years and to be honest, I have been trying to focus on this series almost exclusively for years. I have worked on a few short stories and a few other ideas but I have tried to put most of my effort and attention into this series.
And now it is over. I won’t go into the details of the book, that would be spoilers and we can’t have that. Finishing a book is something that I have done a few times, three to be exact, and I have gotten used to the feelings of the end coming near.
It was usually excitement filled with anticipation. That is with finish a book though, a series turned out to be something different. Different entirely.
As the chapters grew in number, the word count growing like the weeds in an over grown yard, my excitement did grow. I was excited to finally be at the scenes I have dreamt of for years. Finally filling in the foreshadowing and tying up the loose ends. Then it hit me, a little past the halfway point. I am almost done.
The series is almost done.
The characters are almost done.
Soon I realized that with every new word that wormed it’s way onto the screen and somehow managed to escape my over zealous deleting I saw the send growing nearer. As words turned to pages and pages to chapters soon I found myself at the end, the very end. There I stayed for a while, pondering my choices that had led me here. Did I really want to ed the series, was I really ready to say good bye? What if the readers weren’t, what if people hated it. Soon I was more worried about my ability as a writer then I had been since the first novel came out.
I was scared, scared of typing The End.
It took some time to muster the final words of the series and say my last goodbyes to friends that have stood bye me for so many years but it is all part of writing. There has to be an end, and that is not always a bad thing.
I love reading.
I want to predicate this post with that. I love reading. I started writing because I love reading and I wanted to be a small part of that world. I was once asked if I fell into a Twilight Zone world where I had to choose between reading and writing, where I could only do one or the other forever, which would I choose. That’s easy, I would choose reading. I love writing, but reading is everything.
With that said I wanted to write this short post because today I was doing some editing for my fourth novel and I hit a particular chapter, and dang, I got goosebumps. I don’t want to try to come off as arrogant or something, please don’t take it that way. I wanted to tell you readers and writers about that because it was a reminder of why I write. Why I stay up late and sacrifice time, effort, and money into this craft. I do this for the reading. I have been struggling for a while with school and writing and work but this reminded me that I am writing because I love reading.
Have a great Christmas and holiday season you guys.
“When do you find time to read and write?” A question I get asked a lot and it is one that doesn’t bother me all that much. I prefer that question to the statement I typically get which is “I could write a book, but I just don’t have the time.” I get that one a lot, and that one makes me mad.
Time is an odd thing, and while sometimes it appears to go by fast and others it seems to move slow, we all have the same amount of time. We each get 24 hours a day to spend pursuing whatever we want to. I know I have stated several times before that I am married with children and both my wife and I work. I am a full-time student as well as a writer and avid reader. This means that with our lifestyle we are forced to have order and some structure. For example, this morning I got up before my family did and went to work. I came home 12 hours later, kissed my family and came down to my office to do work while my two kids play in the room beside my office. This gives my wife a break from the tornados we created and gives me time to work. This is how most nights go. We work and keep up the house, we take time for each other as well as give time to each other to be alone. We have gotten into this structured lifestyle out of necessity, not because we wanted to.
This also means that those memes we see where writers say they spend half of their time searching the web and watching videos and they can spend 3 hours in front of a pc and get 0 writing done, this is not an option for me. It might take me a week to get a solid three hours of writing time, so I have to be able to jump right into it. When my pc gets turned on, and my word document opened its time to put some words on the paper and fast. This forces me to stay focused on what I am writing and to be ready to write and continue the story. When I read about a lot of the great writers and writers that can spit out 2 or 3 books a year, I notice that many of them we forced to work after their families had fallen asleep or after work. The made the most out of what little time they had so when they got more time they just got more done instead of slowing down.
Enough about me though, let's talk about you. I am willing to bet you have free time, and plenty of it, it just happens to be tied up somewhere. First thing I did was cut out TV, not entirely but I get about 30 min a day as I am laying in bed, falling asleep and usually reading while “watching.” I ended up quitting video games simply because I enjoyed writing and reading more. If you want to read, but you also want to watch TV, you have to decide which you want to do more. Its ok to not write every single day. It's not ok to stop writing for six months if you want to be a writer. If you want to read you will find time to read. You might and most likely will have to sacrifice the time from something else but if reading is important to you, make the time.
If you were in a relationship and you wanted it to work out, you would find the time to spend with them. Reading and especially writing is a relationship. You have to set aside a little time for you and your craft.
I don’t have any more time than anyone else. I just try to make the most out of what I have. I don’t always succeed but the more I fight for it, the better I get at it.
For those of you who don’t know, I am coming up to the end of undergrad for my Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. I will graduate here in just a few months. With studying writing and literature, I have taken many classes on Literary Theory. If you have never studied this particular topic, it is essentially like those cheap toys you get in kids meals. The toys that are the little red and blue lens and a tiny little picture that looks like a mess of blue and red. When you look through the blue lens, you see one picture, and the red gives you another. These theories are the same as the lenses. We look at one work of literature through different lenses to see different things. It is very interesting, but I recently found myself, over the last few months, having a hard time reading for fun. I pick up a book, and I just can’t get into it, or I can’t read more than a few pages at a time without utilizing one of the lenses to dissect it. This has removed the fun out of reading for me to some extent.
I told a friend about this issue I was having, and they told me a quote, forgive me I can’t cite it I am not sure where on earth it came from. But they a writer was in college trying to learn more about their craft, get a different angle if you will. Their own novel was the topic of a debate, and the teacher had them discussing what the author had meant when they wrote that the sky was blue. Different students gave different analytical answers that sounded very smart but then the author, the one who wrote the very story, raised their hand. The unknowing teacher called upon them, and the author replied: “The sky was blue, the color of the sky was blue.”
We might laugh at that, but it reminded me that I enjoy reading for a reason. It allows me to follow a story and leave the world behind. It is entertainment and sometimes thought-provoking. I was missing the fun and overthinking the entire art of reading. I am working on getting that passion back but refraining from allowing my mind to follow the rabbit's trail and getting lost in my own thoughts. I will simply enjoy the words on the pages as the writer intended.
As an avid book collector and overall lover of the written word, my view points on personalizing books, to mean altering them, are quite complicated. Firstly, I must say that the view points I am about to express are entirely my own so please don’t get mad if you disagree with me.
So, what do I mean when I say personalizing? It can be anything from bending the pages, writing in the margins and underlining/highlighting to the more extravagant rebinding and custom covers.
I think that my feeling towards personalizing books depends on what kind of books they are. For example, I just recently came into a German book collection from a friend at work. These books are mostly pre-1970’s and were in a personal book collection where the owner wrote in each of the books. Some of these books are fiction while others are history books about Germany pre-WWII. Typically, with these kinds of older, some even leather bound, books I wouldn’t want them to have writing in them. But, I realized that he had numbered them in his collection as well as wrote who gave them to him if they were a gift and a brief description of who the person was in relations to them. I now know how much he loved his brother and his brother loved him. I got to see into his life in a unique way that in my eyes added to the collection. It makes it special.
I also have a collection of Bibles and educational books that have notes in them and I like that because I get to learn about the previous owners. Now with that said if a kid grabbed the book and went to town coloring it and made it impossible to read the book I would not be happy about that. I think of books as works of art, like paintings. I want them to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.
When it comes to covers I am a big fan of customizing the covers if it improves them. I am working on rebinding an older paperback copy of Eragon and I want to use leather for the new cover. The reason being it was my first copy of the book and it was me who destroyed it from reading it fifteen times, so I would like to rebind and make it my own. When people do that I think it is neat and makes them unique.
I really think we as stewards of the written word should make them our own but most importantly we must preserve the words contained within. A book is nothing if it can’t be read. The cover and gilding are used to look nice on the shelf and a few notes add character and personality, but the book must be readable.
When people use old books for art projects that’s ok to retire a book in that fashion. To me it’s better than throwing them away. I myself used a nearly destroyed copy of one of the Wheel of Time books to cover my bookshelves in pages. Half the book was missing as was the cover so instead of throwing it away I used it. I think that kind of stuff is, again, art.
But. When it comes to folding pages. Those people are animals. I can not think of any reason to bend and fold pages of a book. I see people doing that all the time and it takes a tremendous amount of self-control not to ask them to stop doing that. I don’t use book marks, I have gotten to where I just memorize the page I left off at in each book I am reading but I hate buying a book and finding out that there are twenty or so creases in the book where previous owners bent the pages and closed the book for long periods of time. It takes me a while to fix that and it’s just not right.
Personalize the books you own, show them the love you feel for them. Rebind them, write notes in them about parts you love. Just don’t bend the pages please. Please.
Another week has past and with it, time. For this weeks post, I wanted to talk about something that I think is relevant and possibly helpful to those writing. As writers, we are filled with ideas and it is our job to sort them out and put them to paper in a way that people will want to read them and hopefully have some sort of emotional reaction that ends with them liking the work. The problem a lot of writers that I know, myself included, is that the ideas can get jumbled up or out of order. What I mean by that is right now I am writing my fourth novel in The Dragon Riders of Arvain series while also editing book three in the same series. My mind is engrossed in the land of Arvain right now but yesterday a random thought came to my mind. An idea for a new book, if you will. With most ideas, I tend to follow them to see where they lead and if there is anything worth working on. Most of the ideas are cast to the side for later thought or to be ignored completely but this one stuck. I think it is a rather good idea and will be fun to write. Within about thirty minutes I had a plot, a setting, a theme, and characters. I had the most basic of storyboards in my head for how the book would go. All this is great and I could really get into the story, I already have to some extent, but the problem is I am in the middle of another project right now. What do I do?
This is something that I have seen happen to a lot of my friends and fellow writers. They will bring me chapters of their work to read and go over and then about a month or two later they will bring me more but it will be an entirely different story. I will ask what happened to the last story I was reading and they will shrug it off and say something to the effect of they had a new idea and wanted to follow it.
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer that can be said to every situation. As I stated above most of my ideas are garbage in my mind so I don’t follow through with them but the ones I like I do. Now, I am working on The Dragon Riders of Arvain and that is where my focus will stay until the series is finished. Mainly because I love the world but also because I hate it when I have been waiting years for a new book to come out and the author is messing around writing random stand-alone novels. Not cool authors, not cool. So what do I do with all these ideas? I do what any writer does and I write them down. I have dozens of notebooks in my office filled with ideas. The idea for the story I got yesterday I wrote down and I wrote a few pages of ideas for it. While the iron is hot you strike. Once I was finished I moved back to Arvain and continued on. Sometimes the ideas stay on a page or two while others have twenty or thirty pages of ideas for one story. Once TDRA is finished I will go through the notebooks and see what I want to write next.
Don’t push aside great ideas for your current work but you need to listen to your heart and to your readers. I love Arvain and so do my readers. So I will continue working on it until it is done. But I am not locking my self away from good ideas for future novels. Good luck out there, keep your pencils shard and notebooks handy.
The new year brings with it a few months of me scribbling out 2017 as I sign things. The Dream of Shadows, book three in The Dragon Riders of Arvain is coming along swimmingly. That is if I were swimming in lava filled with fire sharks. I detest editing and that is what I am taking my time doing. Going over each chapter to make sure that it is as close to perfect as can be before another’s eyes must gaze upon it.
School is coming to a temporary end as this is my final year before I am given my BA in Creative Writing. At which point I will continue my education and strive for my Master’s degree. School has given me time to sharpen my skills and hone my craft as a writer and content creator. At, least I hope so.
Other than that it is writing and working as usual.
Well, hello readers. I hope you are having a wonderful day today, I know I am. We are going to sit back and have a fun relaxing talk about your writing. That’s right, your writing, not mine. Now I should have mentioned that when you read that I would like you to read it with your best Bob Ross voice, it makes the writing that much more epic.
For those of you who don’t know, I am in my senior year of college for my BA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction and a double minor in English Literature and Professional Writing. I am getting my education on and the getting is good. In the last few years, I have gotten a chance to meet a few writers that were in the same genre as myself and we have gotten to talk and even work together on a few projects. This has given me a chance to have an outsider’s look at a writer in their natural habitat. Here is what I have learned.
1. Don’t be so focused on your work that you can’t see past it. You need to be able to take a step back and see it for what it is. I met a writer that wanted to work with me on a project he had. I was all for it, I love writing until he told me the idea. The idea was for a group of mystery-solving teens who get locked in an abandoned mansion that they think is haunted and have to figure out if it really is haunted and find a way out. When I saw the pitch I jokingly asked if the teens could have a dog with them and he said that was a great idea. See where I am going with this?
2. There is a fine line between giving what the readers want (selling out) and doing whatever it is you want (screw the readers, what do they know about writing?). It’s at the fine line that you want to live. You want your readers to enjoy your writing and inevitably buy your work and tell others about it. You also want to keep the integrity of your work in tacked so as not to write the next Twilight. When readers give you feedback listen to them, hear what they have to say and if you hear it a lot and from many different sources then maybe take it to heart. Some of the writers I met were so closed off to ideas and critique that the stories had obvious flaws that could have been fixed.
3. The final point, and might I add that all these are for myself as well, is have faith in your work and in your craft. Don’t be afraid to stand by it. I recently gave a copy of my books to a friend and I was nervous for him to read them when he told me the caliber of reading he did. He named off some greats and I threw my book in there. I spent the next 24 hours nervously awaiting his text that would tell me how horrible my writing was. Instead, he fell in love with the series and read straight few the first few chapters. If you are a writer and you put your heart and soul into your work, stand behind it.