This is my story, not yours?

December 30, 2012 § 3 Comments

One thing that many writers seem to actively struggle over is the idea of perspective. This is especially the case in the beginning of a writing project, when all kinds of questions are raised about perspective. Do I write in 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person? If the former, middle or latter, why that? What purpose will it serve? What benefits will said perspective have over the other perspectives? How will it help me in my storytelling? How will it help my novel and my characters? The questions are endless and they’re all fair questions. Certainly, they’re questions I’ve asked myself before beginning on a writing project.

To this day, my biggest writing project has been my novel is Saoirse, which I’m still in the process of editing. My second draft is almost at an end and I’m already thinking about my third draft (which is actually what inspired this blog post). Here’s the thing. Throughout the whole process of Saoirse’s creation, I’ve struggled with the ideas of perspective, of how to tell the story through a perspective that really shows its assets.

The novel began, in its first draft, with 2 perspectives, both in the 3rd person narrative. It was a 50/50 split between my two main characters Saoirse and Cillian, where insight into both of their minds was shared. When I began my 2nd draft, this saw a drastic shift where I basically erased Cillian’s perspective altogether so that the novel was 100% Saoirse’s 3rd person perspective. The reason for this? Well, essentially I found Cillian’s perspective to be a distraction for the majority of the novel, especially since much of his story could be told through Saoirse, who the novel is really about. But beginning to think about my 3rd draft, I realised that maybe the 3rd person doesn’t serve Saoirse well at all, maybe what the novel needs is a first person narrator. I reached this conclusion because of a bountiful of reasons, most of which would give away the ending of Saoirse, which I would rather not do, so I won’t talk about that.

Here’s the thing though. When I began writing Saoirse, I was unsure about a lot of things – I was unsure about practically all of it. What I wasn’t particularly unsure about, though, was the perspective. I was fully satisfied with how the perspective was going. But this changed with the 2nd draft, and will change again in the 3rd. Maybe by the end, I’ll have come full circle and be back to a 50/50 perspective between Saoirse and Cillian, who knows? The point is that I’ve reached the realisation that perspective is highly important in the art of storytelling, but it also requires a realisation of your plot and characters. In the 1st draft of Saoirse, I was entirely unaware of where I was heading. In the 2nd draft, I was still trying to come to grasp with my plot. My perspective changed as my novel grew and although it requires a lot of work to reshape a 3rd person narrative into 1st person, I believe that ultimately it’ll be wholly beneficial to my novel.

So I’m not saying we should stop asking all the questions about narrative. Rather, we should ask more questions, keep asking them as we write word after word. Maybe we’ll never be fully happy with how the story is told but there’s no shame in changing perspectives, changing narratives and shaping your story in various ways – even if only to see how it reads from another angle.

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The Biggest Problem

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

I feel like the biggest problem with editing is that usually you need to be aware of what it is that you’re doing. You need to be at the top of your game, you need to be aware of grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation, etc. These are thing that you really don’t think about when you’re typing up the first draft. With first drafts, you could be writing up until 5am in the morning, your grammar has gone out the window but it doesn’t matter because you have the words. The first draft is about having something to work with.

Which means that the second draft is to actually work with this something. You can’t really edit at 4am in the morning because the punctuation all blends together and you don’t really know if what you’re doing is right or wrong.

The other problem is that you’re editing the plot, so that means you need to be actually be aware of your plot so that you can avoid plot holes. If you’re like me though, you can’t actually plan so you don’t have proper plot outlines and character sketches. This is problematic because at the beginning of your book your main character has black hair and blue eyes but by the end she somehow has brown hair and green eyes? That’s… not right.

This also constitutes that you’re constantly on your toes to be able to catch these things out (though in all honesty, your novel should go through a few edits/rewrites and a couple of beta readers before you’re ready to send it off to agents/publishers). Since I’m a person that is hardly ever conscious of what she’s doing, being aware has proved to be a tad difficult. I’m used to multi-tasking when writing; talking to 5 people on skype, 5 more people on facebook, browsing tumblr, tweeting on twitter and writing all at the same time. You can’t really do that when you’re editing because you need to focus.

This is kind of my long-winded way of saying that I haven’t edited much this week.

But I’ll get to it! Promise!

An Editing Adventure

July 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

So right off the bat, let me tell you that I’ve been finding editing quite difficult, especially to get initially started but I think I’m kind of getting the hang of it now.

Some important things that you should probably do when editing:

  • Keep a separate folder for your novel. 

Put all your notes/plans/character-sheets etc. in it. I didn’t do this before I began my editing or during the process of writing my novel. I had random plans in random notebooks. Stray pieces of paper with character information in this folder or that. I found that I needed most of it once I began editing, just to have a good idea of what I was aiming for with my novel and where this went wrong/went right so that I could really see the shape of my first draft and analyse how I want to change that shape for the second draft. I spent almost a day gathering everything up from different corners of my room so definitely try to get organised before you begin editing

  • Laugh at yourself.

This is the fun part of editing, I think. Your first draft is your worst draft. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a load of rubbish but there’ll be a fair amount that you’ll read and think “what…? Did I write this?” I don’t know about you guys but I often write when I’m sleep deprived or on a sugar high so going back over some of my work has been interesting, to say the least. So the best thing to do is laugh at the fact that you can be a pretty crap writer.

The funniest thing I’ve found so far this line: “They gave a brief nod before one protruded a key from his pocket and began tinkling with the lock on the door”. Because tinkling with locks is so much fun.

  • Work through your plot holes.

You know that big, glaring plot hole in your novel? The one that you’ve been telling yourself you’ll figure out later on? Yeah, figure it out now. The second draft should work out the kinks in your plot and characterisation so definitely make that a focus!

  • Edit like a reader, not a writer

As a writer, I tend to get insanely attached to my characters and even my scenes. You can’t think like a writer when you’re editing. You have to be the reader. If a scene does nothing for the plot, take it out. If a scene creates a plot hole for your novel, take it out. If a character plays a role that doesn’t drive the story forward, take them out. Make crucial decisions. They may be your favourite character, it may be your favourite scene but if it isn’t necessary for the current novel, it needs to go! Put these things away somewhere, if you’re extremely attached, and one day you may well be able to use them for something else entirely!

So these are the things that I’ll be keeping in mind next time I’m editing… and through this editing venture because I’ve only barely begun!

I do have some more things to say, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, happy editing!

P.S: I tend to live-tweet my editing. It’s not the most exciting thing on earth (pretty far from it actually) but if anyone wants, you can follow me at @adiba_j on twitter.

So you think you’re a novelist?

June 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

So you’ve finally finished penning down that novel that has been nibbling away at your mind for months and months. There it is in a word document in all its glory. Maybe it’s 50,000 words, maybe it’s more, maybe it’s less. Who knows, who cares? The important thing is that you’ve written a novel!

You’re itching to type up a query letter and send it off to a couple of agents. You’re itching to add all those rejection letters to your collection and maybe, just maybe, receive that one acceptance that will open the gateway between you and that literary world you’ve been waiting your whole life to enter into. Exciting, right?

Except there’s one more step between you and the literary world. Perhaps this is the most important step of all. It’s called the editing and the rewriting!

Well, that’s certainly not as exciting as receiving rejection letters but it does make the possibility of an acceptance letter a lot higher.

I’ve written three novels in my quite short life, which isn’t a bad place to be at for eighteen, I guess. But I’ve edited a total of zero novels. My dad, who really has no idea about the literary world despite being quite an avid reader, always asks me when I’ll be ready to start sending stuff to publishers. I assure him soon, as soon as I’m finished editing. Of course, I don’t tell him that it won’t be publishers I’ll be sending stuff to, but agents. But I don’t want to get him too caught up in unnecessary business that doesn’t really concern him at this point.

I found the novelling process extremely difficult when I first began. My first “attempt” at novel-writing was a total train-wreck. Now, I guess I’m beginning my first proper venture into the editing process of novel-writing. I don’t have much of an idea of what I’m doing because I’ve never really done it before. I have no experience in this. But I know that to achieve my ultimate goal of some day being a published author, the editing is something that must be begun. After all, editing is a large part of the novelling process.

I will be blogging about my editing experience, telling you guys how it’s going and letting you in any tips or tricks that I find useful. Hopefully my first editing venture will not be as much of a disaster as my first novel-writing venture! If any of  you have any tips/tricks/advice on editing, leave me a comment. Otherwise, just wish me luck!

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