Too Many Thats

I have been making more of an effort to edit Collecting Humanity. The main reason that I’ve been having trouble doing so is because I’ll edit some and then go a long stretch without looking at it. This means that I forget what I was doing, why I was doing, and at what point in the story I’m actually in.

So, a few weeks ago I decided to focus on one specific project that needed work. I tackled the word that.

this-that-these-and-those

What does that mean? Well, I had the pleasure of being able to take a creative writing summer session at WKU.These summer sessions were (and are?) on a rotation of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Time for  A Tangent

In 2011, I took the Visiting Writer Summer Workshop (Eng 467). I was worried that I wouldn’t have another opportunity to take it during my college career while fiction was being taught and everything I’d heard about this opportunity made it sound like something I couldn’t miss. So I signed up to learn some fiction from Professor Robert Olmstead. During this four-week course, we studied fiction by reading some great published works along with writing and editing each others short stories.

In the end, I had three new short stories to continue edit, some lessons on fiction writing, and, more importantly, I met some amazing writers who I still maintain some contact with. One lovely lady even introduced me to Doctor Who later on!

Back to That

One lesson, in particular, that has, for some reason, really stuck in my brain is the lesson on the word “that.”

Olmstead told us that, in many cases, the word “that” is superfluous. If you do a search of the word in your writing (I like using the cheat ctrl + f), you can easily determine whether or not the word is needed in a sentence. Sometimes, of course, the decision isn’t very easy. And, there are also times when the word is needed.

When you are trying to determine this, first read it as you have originally written it. Then, read the same sentence without the word “that”. You can even use your finger to cover the word if that makes it easier.

Here’s an example from Collecting Humanity:

But all his nose was picking up was the fruity bathroom soap that Suzy had picked out.

Read the sentence with and without the word “that.” Technically, the word can remain there, but it isn’t needed.

Now, to me, this is more of a style type rule and maybe even something that I wouldn’t actually call a rule. If you like that that, then you keep that that. But, in this stage of my writing career, I’ve decided to get rid of that that.

That in My Novel

When I set out to write my NaNoWriMo novel, I decided that I was going to try my damnedest to finish this year. That’s part of why this novel needs so much editing.

I try to be more self-conscious about my use of the word that, but as I was writing Collecting Humanity, I wanted to get as many words as possible. This mean that I didn’t care about using the word “that”, and that I probably sprinkled in a few extra where I might not have usually.

After I went through and eliminated the thats that I didn’t want to keep, my word count went from over 53,000 to its current 49,728 word count.

That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? But I still have a Word document that’s over 100 pages long, which is something that I hadn’t accomplished before last year.

Due to its length, it took me several weeks to go through all of thats and decide which ones I wanted to cut. But I’m glad that I’ve finally finished editing at least some portion of my novel.

My Notebook Editing Process

I mentioned last week that I’ve come up with a new way to organize the scenes of my novel so that I can see what needs work. With the hope that it will be helpful, I’ve decided to break it down for you here.

So far, I’ve been writing down recaps of each scene with as few words as possible and then writing down little captions of what point in time they’re taking place. If said point in time needs to be fixed or if I think the scene needs series work, I’m going to write myself a note saying so. Later, once I have all of the scenes’ captions written out, I’m going to work on numbering them–figuring out what order they should be in and what chapters they should be in.

Maybe I should have been giving each scene an entire page instead of just three blank lines. Too late for that!

Anyways, I’m also planning on adding more sections to this notebook, including one for the characters that includes their description and character traits. There will more than likely be a section dedicated to scene too.

As of right now, the pen colors are:

  • Black –> Initial scene recap
  • Purple –> Points in time that the scene takes place
  • Red –> Notes about major editing fixes that need to happen

Those are the only colors that I’ve needed so far. Eventually, there will more than likely be at least one more color with the purpose of marking the order and chapter of every scene.

Slightly Random Note

I mentioned before that I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d spend the money on keeping this domain for another year. Well, while in the spirit of Christmas shopping over the weekend, I decided to buy it for myself.

Lord Chesterfield

Take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.

I feel like this quote by Lord Chesterfield, a man who was born in 1694, really applies to what I’ve been talking about these past couple of weeks. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with time management, and focusing on what I’m going to do for a couple of minutes instead of the stretching hours, days, years ahead makes it much easier to focus and get things done.

This is something that I learned during NaNoWriMo because of my success in focusing on the 1,667 words every day instead of the 50,000 words that I ultimately had to have written.

Frank, Leonard Roy. Random House Webster’s Quotationary. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

Finding Time

Noveling

This past year has been a big one for me and it’s almost gone. Looking back, I regret not completing more writing projects and not using the gym membership that I pay for every month whether or not I go.

The excuse that I’ve used, mainly to myself when I questWinner-2014-Facebook-Profileion these things, is that I don’t have enough time. But, after once again tackling NaNoWriMo this year, I know in reality that I’m just lazy most of the time. How could that be a wake up call for me, you might ask.

This year, I am among the proud winners of National Novel Writing Month.

The novel that I created is probably the only writing project that I finished this year, and it is also the biggest writing project that I have ever completed. Somehow, I managed to slay the beast that is 50,000 words.

Somehow, this project became a lot less harder and unattainable as the month went on. I’m not saying it was easy–far from it–but it was no longer impossible. When you think about it in the short term, you only have to write 1,1667 words a day.

When tackling a huge project like this or setting a huge goal for yourself, it’s easier to look at it day by day.

Can I get 1,667 words, go to the gym, write that one poem, finish that one book report today? Don’t think about what you’re going to do tomorrow or about how daunting the end goal is, think about what little pieces you can get done now, in the moment rather than stressing about what has to be done.

During November, I made sure to set aside at least an hour a day, most of the time multiple hours a day, to work on my novel. Sometimes, I would write more than I needed, and sometimes I would write less than was needed. But I always seemed managed to somehow manage to get caught up. I even finished the 50,000 words during the afternoon of November 29 when it wasn’t “due” until November 30.

NaNoWriMo_Word_Graph_2

 

I almost cried when I saw that word document hit page 100. And then I actually cried when I verified my word count and the video of some of NaNoWriMo’s staff cheered for my victory.

It’s such a glorious feeling to have completed a novel.

And now I’ve started the editing process, which I have a feeling is going to take me a long time considering the fact that it is rather long and also a shitty first draft. I did finally come up with a title that I just might keep–Collecting Humanity. Thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

Blogging

Once again, I haven’t done very much blogging. At all.

I now have plans to blog here at least once a week. I don’t really have a game plan as of yet for what I’ll be discussing, but it’ll be fun as usual!

One idea that I’m thinking about trying out is a series of weekly posts that give you a scene or chapter in a work of fiction that I’m working on. I think that this would be great because it would both keep me accountable and give me the opportunity to share my work.

I’m also going to be blogging a couple of times a week on No Penny Required. This is where I review a number of different things.

Surround Yourself

I’ve steadily come to the realization that I’m currently reading and watching fiction that’s similar to the mood of my main writing project.

Last week, I finished the first draft of a short story that I’ve been working, which is on a much lighter note than the novel I started in November. Shortly after, I finished reading “The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I” by Stephen King and then picked up Dan Brown‘s “Angels & Demons” off my shelf. I also became invested in the TV show The Following.

43615All three of these stories, if you will, are rather dark in nature. I’ve written a review of The Following, but have yet to do so for “The Gunslinger.” And, since I’ve barely started “Angels & Demons,” of course I haven’t written a review for Brown’s work yet. Check out their websites or do some Google-ing of your own, but the point that I’m trying to make is that each of these works can, in some way, be classified in the horror genre.

I can’t stand horror or slasher movies, but I enjoy reading the same genre in book form. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m strange). And I can handle TV shows that freak me out as long as there’s enough plot to pull me in and I have something to distract me before bedtime.

So, if horror isn’t my favorite thing to read or watch, why do I suddenly find myself surrounded by it?

I think it was subconscious’ way of telling me to get back into writing my novel. And yesterday I did start the next chapter of what is already the longest work I’ve ever written. Whether or not King and Brown and Kevin Bacon inspired me to get back to it, I think that it’s benefiting me to immerse myself in this world.

To me, it’s important for every writer to devote as much time as possible to 1) writing and 2) reading. How best do we learn our craft than by practicing it and observing the success of other master crafters? And, especially if you find your self delving into a topic you aren’t used to writing, I think that it’s a good idea to read and watch works that are at least somewhat similar to what you’re working on. I’m not telling you to plagiarize. All I’m trying to say is that it might get you in the right mindset or mood for what you’re working on.

Outlines

I’ve never used outlines for my creative writing before, and this is probably due in large part to the fact that I don’t know how. But practice makes perfect, right? The only time that I’ve even talked about outlines on IBW is when I was talking about the lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo. One of those lessons was that outlines are good, but that’s as far as I’d gotten on the subject at that point.

This changed last week, as I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, when I outlined the rest of the novel I’m working on. This is the first time that I’ve seriously outlined something.

Considering my reservations towards outlining, it was an oddly amazing experience. The words seemed to just flow from my pen. I didn’t write down details or actual scenes; it’s just rambling bullet points. But it’s a skeleton of what the rest of my novel is going to be and I think that this is going to give me just the push I need to finish my novel.

Now, I’m pro-outlining.

I’ve been told before by my poetry professor, Dr. Tom Hunley, to write my entire novel in one poem. I have yet to accomplish this feat and I don’t know if I ever will. But last week I wrote what is probably going to be the biggest part of my novel in just a few pages.

The story is done, but the words have yet to be crafted to support it. I’m ready for this journey to start. My novel is about 88 pages long so far and I can’t wait to see what I’m going to reach with the outline I’ve created.

The above outline isn’t mine, but it looks like an awesome idea and I’d strongly suggest that you read the post it was published with.

Deadlines and Making Time

As I’ve said before, a big part of what I learned from NaNoWriMo was the importance of deadlines. And, yes, I’ll probably keep talking about NaNoWriMo…forever. On Thursday, I’m going to have a post about my goals for 2014, so I’m going to try to not make this and that the same post.

Deadlines

If you don’t give yourself deadlines, for any sort of project in life really, it’s less likely that you’ll get it done. And, even if you do, it more than likely won’t be done in a timely manner.

Take blogging, for instance, if I don’t give myself deadlines, I’d rarely blog. Deciding to blog every day throughout the week and making that commitment to you–my readers–and myself ensures that I get it done. Unless the deadlines you’re working with were created by someone with authority (in a work or school environment, for example), you have to realize that you are the only one who can keep you accountable.

Of course, you can ask people to help you with this. Sometimes, you might even have people hold you accountable when you didn’t ask them to. For instance, many people who I work with ask me multiple times a week if I’ve finished the book I started writing for NaNoWriMo yet. They don’t understand that I’ve been taking a break from it for a reason, but they mean well.

time-warpMaking Time

Writing is also, in a big way, Thomas Jefferson‘s idea of “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”

If you have a busy schedule, plan the time slot where you can write. Even if you’re drained from the day you just had or the day previous, sit down during your writing time and write. Don’t say or think you’ll do it later or tomorrow; pick up your pen, open your laptop, turn on your tablet, create a new note in your phone, and write. And, yes, this can be easier said than done.

Since I work 9 am-6 pm five days a week, it can be hard to find time to write. My weekends are typically spent doing things like laundry and grocery shopping and just relaxing with people I love, so I tend to hoard that time. During the week, I try to write some in the morning before I leave for work and sometimes before I go to bed. But, my main writing outlet has actually become a little, black, leather-bound, Mole Skin notebook that I have with me at work. Besides my fiction and poetry writing, I also have written most of my blog posts in this notebook.

Essentially, without my little black book, I wouldn’t get very much blogging done. Then again, some days I barely get any writing done because my wonderful work family enjoys pestering me–it’s difficult to write with someone hovering over your shoulder and asking what you’re doing.

I also have notebooks everywhere, including my purse and beside my bed. Sometimes, when I’m desperate, I’ll even frantically text myself some lines that I’ve thought up so I won’t forget them. Chanting them over and over again in my head only works sometimes.

If writing is your passion, then you need to write. It’s a s simple as that.