The Last Bit of Longest Road.

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and I’ve come to realize that the journey home is ALWAYS longer than the journey to which ever destination you are travelling. The last couple of miles seems to stretch in front of you, pulling seconds into minutes and making you feel as if Einstein had spoken up too soon when he spoke about relativity (and he should really just have spend some time in traffic to think it over). Also, as it is, the moment you think you’re home free, you find yourself stuck in traffic. Bumper to bumper.

Writing is a lot like this, things go smoothly for the first bit of your journey and then, as you turn to home to finish off those last couple of chapters, things slow down. You find yourself swerving to avoid plot holes, (note to my international readers – South Africa is NOTORIOUS for its TERRIBLE road conditions. Pot holes aren’t fixed. They are ignored. And used to hide elephants in) or stuck with a bunch of personal traffic that piles up around you. You’re at a stage where you can’t remember your whole journey in detail, only knowing that you set out from somewhere and you wanted to see a couple of things along the road which sometimes you never got round to. You think that you know the way to the end of your book, but then due to word works and plot twists, you realize that you need to re-plan your trip and find an alternative route.

And the irony is that getting to the end of your destination is such a VITAL part of the trip. You have to make sure that you saw everything you wanted to see, did everything you wanted to do and that your passengers, the readers, enjoyed the journey (and didn’t get too carsick…). It’s important that they come back for another trip.

I’m in that final stage with one of my stories, where I have 5000, maybe 10,000 words left in a 110,000 word journey that I’ve worked on for almost two years. I always find myself slowing down towards the end, chewing over chapters, struggling to pull my strings together. It essence it shouldn’t be hard because I keep my plots fairly simple. But – my endings are always hard.
I think part of it comes with the regret of ending this particular journey. You as an author want to hold on just that little bit longer, (in my case, preserve my character’s sanity for just a little bit longer before I throw another horrible twist at them), enjoy the last bit of scenery. But, the truth might be that your readers can’t wait to reach the end.

It’s about finding balance and making that last bit of the trip memorable.

I do a few things to make my journey a little bit easier.

  1. I take notes in the beginning. Despite the fact that I’m notoriously bad at planning, I’ve learned the value of paper above memory. I always think that I’ll remember where I want to take my stories but somehow, the best details always slip by me. So. Stick it notes. They work.
  2. If I’m planning a disaster (to be corrected in a sequel) I do try to warn my readers. Or, not warn them per say, but put in little check points to which they can fall back on and say: oh heck – should’ve seen this coming. It eases the impact of a world shattering end (which I am very fond of as a writer).
  3. I try and read through the whole story at least once before finishing it off. This way, I remember small things that I might have wanted to wrap up but didn’t. They go on their own set of stick it notes and will be addressed in the next book.

The end of a story is so important. It is the bit in the book that can really make or break your plot. So, pay attention to it. Take that alternative route if you need to, but don’t make the journey too long. Discipline yourself and – if you are in that last stretch and a series of unfinished business pops up, rather try to deal with it in the next book (if the nature of the problems allow it naturally) because your readers aren’t stupid and are just as anxious to see the end as you are.

And sad. J

But there will always be more. πŸ˜‰

Thank you.

The Honest Truth of Editing.

It sucks.

There’s nothing more devastating than having a piece of work that you were terribly proud of taken apart and positively criticized for 5000 words straight. It’s needed of course, because it makes you a good writer as opposed to a passable one.

About 18 months ago, I realized that my fan fiction work was drawing more readers than I had originally anticipated. The number of readers was a clear shock and quite suddenly it dawned on me that my work was read and that people saw something in my work that was worth coming back for, chapter after chapter. With that discovery, came the realization that I would have to keep an eye on the quality of work that I put out there. Reading through it once or twice wasn’t going to cut it, because inevitably mistakes are missed and sentence which you think might make perfect sense, falls one step short of terrible.

So I decided to ’employ’ a volunteer Beta Reader. I had a rocky start, but eventually settled on a guy which I will refer to as Tenchii Knight. TK literally swooped in and saved the day with my writing. He had a good eye for mistakes, he bothered to explain to me why he chanced certain things, he taught me about Americanisms, sentence structure and he helped to tone down what was a terribly elaborate writing style. TK fixed my writing.

And, he did it with honestly.

In him, I realized the value of constructive criticism, and how sharing your work with someone whom you trust to be honest, can improve your writing. And, he showed me that although writing is a lonely profession, you don’t necessarily have to struggle on your own. He became the person whom I could go to with a terrible sentence and say: Fix it.

He made me better and that is ultimately the goal of writing, to strive to better heights, to improve on your own style and to produce something which you can be proud of. It’s not nice sometimes, especially when I receive a piece of work littered with red comments and fixed spelling errors, but it’s needed. It’s like the sting of an antiseptic on a wound which allows it to heal.

So, yes.

Editing sucks, but a Beta Reader can make it better and flow smoother.

My advice to you is thus.

  1. Find a Beta Reader, preferably someone who respects your work (and yourself) enough to critizise you constructively.
  2. Edit. Go through your work if you decide to make it public in the form of fan fiction or web fiction. In an ideal world, even blog posts should be edited by a third party but honestly, that will take half of the fun out of it.
  3. Take pride in your work. It will inspire you to become better.
  4. Listen to what people say. Often, you might not agree with them, but they have valid points if they are not senseless flamers (definition of a flamer: someone who gives abusive criticisms).
  5. If it all gets too much, sit back, take a break and then come back to your work. You’ll see it in a whole new light.

This post is dedicated to my Beta Reader of 18 months, Tenchii Knight. Thank you for helping me my friend, it’s always appreciated.

Also, to Jenn who comments here, who has more recently started helping me with my stories. πŸ™‚ Credit must be given, where credit is due.

Sinking the Ship.

I read a book once, giving advice on how to write a good detective story. The theme wasn’t really applicable to me at that stage, being more in a fantasy mood, but the advice the author gave stayed with me long after the author’s name disappeared from my mind.

He said that: Writing a book is like inviting people along on a cruise ship with you. Your first step is getting them onto the boat and making sure that they are still with you when you leave port. You must then take your passengers (readers) on a magnificent journey, showing them wonderful sights that they have never seen before, each experience leaving them begging for more. When they are happy and content and settled into your cruise, you have to take your boat and sink it.

A friend of mine wrote about The Quest for Emotionally Complex Moments, a topic which made me remember this piece of advice. I came to realize that this image of a boat, this idea of telling a story, giving the readers everything that they desire and then sinking the ship, was an approach that I loved to use. I loved the yank the proverbial pond out from underneath the duck. I believe that’s why I can’t really write comedy, why inevitably, angst, drama and desperation, find their way into my work. The fear, the terror and the surprise of a sinking ship is where I get my thrill. The key to this is emotion. Emotion is what drives the ship, what fuels your creativity and what plants the seeds of creativity. Emotion is an untameable force, begging for an outlet and whether it finds its outlet in music, books or movies, you know that if enough emotion is channelled into your story, you will get an explosive, anguish filled, breakingly beautiful journey.

One of my readers from The Touch of Green Fire once said (upon completion of the story):

I don’t know what to say, this story was just incredible, i swear to you that
everyday i was checking with hope of an update for this amazing story, i think
it was a journey and a dawn good one if i may say so, they were ups and downs
and a promise of a uncertain future, just like in real life, i certainly
appreciate very much this story and i can azure you that it has a special
place in my heart and in my knowledges, i will cherish this as long as i can
remember and when i forget i definitely would come back, cause a have learn
many things and i have found some answers…

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In this review, summarized (and justified) more than a decade of my writing and the reason why I write.

Life.

In writing, I capture a bits of my life, bits of my emotion, bits of the world. The cruise, the travel of the plot, isn’t just an exploration of my character’s lives and their circumstances but also of mine. Their emotions are bits of mine, chiselled and worked in such a way that I can deal with it myself. Their questions are mine, the answers they receive ones that I have discovered through them, and through life sometimes.

The reason for this is because the author of the ‘How to’ book provided me with another piece of advice: When you have left your passengers to flounder around in the water, with no hope of being saved, throw them a life jacket and pull them aboard another vessel. You will have their gratitude, and loyalty forever.

For all the anguish in my stories, all the dark and desperate pain, there is also hope. And absolution, and answers if not the ones that you always want.

Because my friends, that is what I try to capture in my work, through emotion:

Hope. And Life. And inevitably, Love.

The Healer’s Touch 18 – Rewrite.

Good day everybody.

If you’re here for the first time I bid you welcome to my blog. This is my little home in the internet, so please make yourself comfortable. There’s coffee and biscuits (somewhere) and lovely house guests. πŸ˜‰

Today, I’m just going to write a little about why I decided to do a rewrite on Chapter 18. If you haven’t noticed, quite a lot of time has passed between 18 and what should’ve been 19. It was purely because I had been struggling trying to make Chapter 19 work. In general, I’m very fortunate when it comes to my writing, because I do it about as easily as most people make coffee or breathe. I know where my stories go, I know what I want and I know how to get it. It was then very troubling to me when I sat with Chapter 19 and realized that i could not make it work. I tried very hard. I started a paragrapth and got to about 1000 words then realized that I didn’t like it. I deleted it, and started again. No success, so I scrapped that bit and tried a third time. When that didn’t work, I realized that I had a problem on my hands or rather, I admitted to myself that I had a problem. I had known it when I wrote Chapter 18(1) but refused to awknowledge it because I had been pretty rushed to put the chapter up.

The truth was that I had once again tried to push my characters to do things the way I’d have done it instead of trying to make them do it their way. When I realized this, I thought that I could work around the problem, but the truth was that I needed to rewrite the whole chapter. I’m at a very critical part of the story – where the main mission, ie – getting Kim’s mother home, is the in process of being completed (or so we hope, no telling what might happen). I need to start wrapping up some threads, get in the required action and still have my characters whole at the end of it. I know how this will end, and it’s almost important that I start implementing that to leave room for, yes it’s going to happen, a sequel. With the chapter that I wrote, that just wasn’t possible.

I am losing a bit of dialogue I really liked, namely:

Kim stepped closer and rested a gentle hand on Shego’s wrist, feeling as if she was gripping a stick of dynamite that could explode at any second. “We have to,” she said softly. “You said that I’m not a hero Shego, not here – but the truth is, you became a hero again the moment you decided to help me. The moment you decided to risk your reputation and your own neck to help me find my mother. You didn’t turn me into a vigilante villain, you’ve become the reluctant hero, responding above and beyond the call of duty.” She tried to entwine her fingers with Shego but the woman jerked back suddenly with a curse.

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I really liked that bit. I might try and work it in again, but the way it’s going it isn’t. Lol. Oh well, you win some, you loose some.

If I have caused a certain amount of irritation with the rewrite, I humbly apologize. I know how much I hate it when writers go and change something I sank my teeth into, which is why it took a lot of consideration for me to do this. Although I won’t promise it, I can assure you that this will most probably be the last time I have to do a rewrite on this story. J

Also, writing fan fiction is about learning what you can and cannot do. There’s been a big debate on the internet of late in some circles whether fan fiction is good or not and whether it does more harm than good to author’s reputations ect. I’m not going to get involved in that, but I would like to point out that if it’s done well, and innocently (ie – not exploiting the creator’s rights) then fan fiction is a wonderful way to explore your own style, to get used to the process of writing and to improve your work. This rewrite has been a wonderful exersize for me, and it’s taught me that I shouldn’t just leap into something and carry on if I know it’s wrong. πŸ™‚ that’s not the way writing works.

We’re in the last stretch people, it can only get worse from here. I thank you for your patience and your reading,

Alyssa

@-;—

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