Category: Jasper

Editing: Seeing the Light!

Yesterday, I finished up and polished the short-short story I’ve been tweaking on and off for a few years now.  It’s amazing.  I’d compare this feeling to what I had when I finally finished a rough novel draft.  I can now breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next step, as well as work on edits to my novel.

There are a few things I learned about the editing process along the way:

*Don’t expect perfection.  Writing, like any other form of art, is subjective.  You can work on the same piece for decades, rewrite, scrub it clean of fluff, add description, and set the entire scenery on fire.  No matter what you do to it, there will always be a reader or critiquer to find a flaw in your work.  Now, this isn’t a bad thing.  Maybe they didn’t like how you worded a particular scene, but you disagree and feel it’s necessary.  Maybe they don’t relate to the characters as well.  Maybe they just hate your genre.  But for every person who finds fault with your writing, there will be others who love it.  At some point you need to take a step and decide whether the flaw you’re trying to fix is really a flaw or just an indication that the reader just isn’t a good fit for your writing.

*Don’t expect to get it right the first time.  Take another look at my first sentence.  Not taking into account the time it spent on the backburner, I’d estimate I spent a month or two working on this piece.  The story is less than 1000 words.  My novel is not even close to second draft status, and my first novel is also far from polished.  Editing will take time.

*Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Looking through my rough draft I noticed many spelling and grammar errors.  There were even more plot inconsistencies, POV changes and other miscellaneous things that were just plain wrong.  It’s the worst part of the writing process, because you wonder to yourself what the hell you were smoking while you were writing it.  But that’s the nature of the draft.

It doesn’t mean you should aim to fix everything in one go.  I’ve tried to do that.  I tried reading through quickly, jotting down notes in a “to fix” list that took up pages, before I became disgusted with myself and put the book down.  Don’t do that to yourself.

I read a tip somewhere, and unfortunately the source escapes me, but it compared editing to looking at your story through a camera lens.  The first time around, look at your story from a “zoomed-out” view and focus on the thornier issues of grammar, excess fluff, and things that make it generally unreadable from a technical aspect.  That’s your second draft.  Next, take a look at those POV changes and figure out who should be saying what in what scene.  Finally, tackle the plot holes and inconsistencies.  My order may be off, but take care of one issue at a time and you’ll find your plate much lighter.  The process takes longer this way, but see the previous point.

I hope this is of use to you.  I’m going to take this advice to heart and use it to finish up Poplar when the Jasper series isn’t calling my name.

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Six Sentence Sunday #1

In the spirit of creating more content to post here, I will be taking part in Six Sentence Sunday.  Most of my entries will be from my current work in progress, Jasper City.  So let’s start off with the first six sentences in the story:

“We were forced to our knees in a straight line, with our hands tied behind our backs. Nothing but desert wasteland surrounded us.  Stray dust attacked our exposed faces, threatened to blind and choke us before the guards were through.

They put me at the end of the line, with my children all before me.  A tall man stood directly in front of us, the hood he wore obscuring all the details of his face.  He fixed his attention on Timmy, the first in line.”

What do you think is about to happen?

Gearing up for NaNo 2012

After taking a break in June and August for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to get back into writing again.  Lately it’s been a lot of revision on my plate, and I’m wanting to get back into the creating stages.

For revisions, I’m on my second draft of Jasper City and the final stages of cleaning up a short story I wrote years ago.  My goals are to submit the short to Writer’s Digest’s upcoming Short Short Story Competition in November, and Jasper to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award next year.

But lately I’ve got a new idea that’s been poking at me.  It surrounds a project of mine for NaNo 2009 and a character I didn’t use often enough.  It’ll involve a rewrite of that project, but I’m confident it’ll result in a better project.

Lunacy was a downy-soft science fiction story surrounding a group of astronauts on a mission to collect fuel for their planet in hopes to ease the ongoing energy crisis.  Horrible mutations, a homicidal monster, and catastrophic failure ensued.  The rewrite will focus on the mission’s leader, Elizabeth Smith, as she seeks treatment for her physical and mental afflictions while a pesky reporter hounds her for the truth about what really happened out there.

I need to put a plot together, but there’s plenty of time.  Usually I have a good portion of the outline out of the way before the NaNo site’s annual reboot.

Accomplishment!

Last night I finished an important milestone: The rough draft for Jasper City is now 100% finished.

I’m aware that it will need work and serious editing, but the words are down. That’s the first major step. I hung in there from the beginning to the end, and to be honest, I’m more proud of this story than anything else that I’ve written.

The city of Jasper once shone. Now it lies in ruins and rust.

The man known as Citizen 71 is exiled to the streets, where he watches the city continue to rot while raising his newfound family. He sees the plight of the citizens, man and machine, ruled by the greed and bloodlust of one man, and hatches a plan that he knows will fix everything.

Mayor Zero sends out the one man he trusts with his life, the decorated soldier A-17, to put an end to this plan. Haunted by memories of battles past and with the thoughts of his terminally ill daughter at home, all he wants is an end to the conflict and the city’s return to normalcy. Is he on the right side to make that happen?

Jasper City started out with one premise in mind: I wanted to take a heroic character, build him up into something like the setting’s Messiah, and in one final instant tear that image down. The story has since evolved, and the end result doesn’t quite have that formula.

I’m not ashamed to say that I was heavily inspired by a Nine Inch Nails album when coming up with the plot. Year Zero gave me a number of ideas, and some desert punk stories such as Dune and The Book of Eli gave me ideas for the overall, post-apocalyptic setting.

For the City itself, I actually based its culture on North Korea. Some time ago I read the account of an American citizen who took a tour through the insular country. (It can be found here.) This wound up working a bit too well: because it’s strongly implied that this story takes place after the wars on terror go horribly wrong, the citizens sound less like they swallowed a foreign philosophy and more like the craziest Tea Party members.

Now I’m taking a break from the story, and letting it breathe before I go back and try to fix it. But there is no way that I’m just going to let this gather dust now.

New Year’s Resolutions!

This post is a day late, but these plans have already been in motion for some time. I also wanted to hold off until my other blog was ready for posting. Here is what I plan to have accomplished by the end of 2012:

-I have already mentioned the first one in my previous blog post. The 52 books challenge, for me, began this past Sunday. I am currently reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Next week’s book will be CP BialoisCall of Poseidon.

-Finish and polish my drafts of both Poplar and Mint and Jasper City. Poplar will be be self-published, mostly likely through Createspace, while I will take a more traditional route with Jasper.
–As a sort of “sup-resolution,” I’d like to have the first draft of Jasper finished by the end of the month.

-Write the scripts for a webcomic. I have the idea already forming, taking much inspiration from my experiences working at my current job. I’ll likely save this for Script Frenzy in April.

-Take on some more freelance jobs. Hopefully my new blog will help with that, but that’s also just for fun.

That’s actually about it. There are also some things that I’ll have to do this year, and soon, such as move out of this dorm and get an apartment once I graduate, and possibly take on another job to pay the bills once my loan payments kick in. It’ll be a busy year for me, that’s for sure.

As summer camp comes to a close…

Recently The Office of Letters and Light rolled out their newest project, called Camp NaNoWriMo, which was basically a lighter form of the famous November event taking place during the summer. Completely camp themed, with the site decked out in blue tents and campfires, “cabins” in the form of scaled-down message boards, and pep talks with stories about shorts being run up the flagpole, it was delightfully nostalgic.

Unfortunately, my last experiences with summer camp were many years ago with my Girl Scout troop in northern Virginia. They were week-long experiences that I didn’t fully enjoy, due to the fact that the other girls in my troop and I just didn’t get along. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t at least partly to blame for that, but it’s all firmly in the past now.

For this virtual camp, I was given a “cabin” to share with 4 other people, two of which weren’t active, and we were given one page with a message board to chat, give moral support, and occasionally procrastinate together. The unfortunate part is, that cabin is now closed and I can’t remember what usernames they’ve used.

Another positive part of the Camp is that it was essentially two events. The beta took place in July, so OLL could work out the kinks and roll out features slowly, and the full version took place in August. We were given two WriMo months with 31 days, and July had 5 weekends. It all added up with plenty of time to get some quality (more or less) writing done, even with class and work filling up much of my days.

It certainly worked. My novel in progress, Jasper City is 75,000 words strong, with close to 14 chapters and three appendices. Before someone reads this and thinks that wordcount isn’t something to get hung up on, I might never have made this much progress without the Camp NaNo event giving me the motivation. I have a lot to thank for the OLL.

In order to avoid using NaNo events as a crutch or the only reason why I write, I’m making a new effort. Armed with a shiny new blank notebook, I’ve started to push myself to write a little bit each day, at least one page’s worth. Writing longhand gives me time away from the internet and all of its lovely distractions, and writing at all helps me to keep that part of me well exercised, like a muscle. I’m continuing my process on Jasper City, just slowly. But it’s enough.

“There was one particular incident, one that he remembered fondly, with Cynthia. They snuck in to the City Guard offices in Robot Town, and this place was redecorated with torn shreds of fabric and fire when they left. Dex took part in this out of genuine outrage, which Cynthia perhaps wanted little more than to see something in this wretched town burn.”