Hello friends and welcome to another lover of longhand edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Since turning in most recent, and possibly last for the year, romance novella last week I have found myself with the most curious thing: spare time. Wild, I know. Of course, I took a few days off to let my brain unclench a little after I struggled hard with that last romance, but now it is back to the grind.
I had just started what I am, for now, calling a cozy fantasy (though I am starting to doubt that label) when I got my contracts, which meant I had to take a two-month break from the idea. This week when I hauled out my notebook again, I’ll admit it was pretty darn tempting to just lay it aside and dive into something new or different, especially since I’ve been doing some world building on the Border Towns rewrite (more on that later).
But, my better sense won out in the end (for once), and, honestly, it felt really darn good to write until my pen ran out again.
If you’re new around here, it might come as something of a surprise that I prefer to write my first draft entirely by hand. When I’m on deadline I have to switch to typing simply because of the time factor, but absolutely given my druthers, longhand is the most effective method for me to push through a first draft.
Think about it, first drafts can be pains in the anatomy. If you’re like me and many other writers, the propensity to doubt (or even hate) what you’ve written can often lead to just wiping the slate clean and starting fresh. And while I’m of the opinion that no words are wasted as long as you’re learning from what came before, moving backward is rarely helpful when you’re trying to tell yourself the story, like in a first draft.
For me, writing longhand helps stem the tide of backspacing. Part of that is simply because I’m so neurotic, I really don’t like seeing a bunch of big ugly scratch outs on my page, and I really, really don’t like wasting paper and pens. So, when I’ve written a few paragraphs that I don’t necessarily love, where it would be easy to erase them and start over on a computer, when I’m drafting on paper I pretty much have to decide if it’s worth it or if I should just move on. Most of the time, I move on.
Because it’s the first draft. It’s not supposed be pretty and perfect.
Actually, in a way, I consider my longhand writing to be the zero draft of a project. My scribbles are often indecipherable to any second set of eyes, littered with shorthand and misspellings, repeated words are rife, and description is thin on the ground. Then, when its time to transcribe the pages into my computer, I take things nice and slow, fixing errors and rewording things as I see fit. That’s when I identify the places where I’ve written myself into a corner, or repeated a scene idea. That’s when I evaluate what lessons I’ll take into, what I consider, the real first draft.
Plus, writing longhand gives me an excuse to buy sparkly gel pens I’ll actually use and pretty notebooks I’ll actually write in. And what writer doesn’t love that?
But, the cozy fantasy (working title: Pieces of Eight) isn’t all I’ve been spending my creative energy on. Nope, you read that right: I, Kerry Share, have been world building. And its not just any world building. Its world building for a story that long time readers might recognize as Border Towns, my erstwhile WIP that I took to Nano, finished just days before my 30th birthday, and then proceeded to struggle with in subsequent drafts because, as I later realized, it needed major revisions.
That said, revisions isn’t quite the word I would use to describe what I’m doing with the project. Complete overhaul is more accurate. While the premise, characters, and general plot threads will remain the same, pretty much everything is getting a massive makeover. I’m even changing all the names, including the title. Henceforth, Border Towns will be known as Tyranny of Titans.
And the very first lesson that I’m taking from its predecessor is: I can’t just leave the world building for later. I’ve got to have a really clear picture of the space around the characters, the cultures they exist in, and the broader scope of the conflict at the heart of the story, before I can start writing in earnest. So, in the creases between the day job, the child rearing, housekeeping, and drafting Pieces of Eight, I’ve been doing some world building.
I’m starting off slow with just the custom language of the setting. I used the VulgarLang tool to plug in the phonemes of the language I wanted to base mine off of (a secret, in case you were wondering), and generated a few examples until I found one I liked. Then I skimmed through the dictionary (I paid for the full version of VulgarLang years ago and is still one of the best purchases I ever made) provided and chose about 100 words that I liked the sound of and plugged them into an excel spreadsheet. From this list I am coming up with the names for my cast of characters.
I’ve always been really bad at coming up with names in my stories and one of my chief dissatisfactions with the original Border Towns was that everything felt so uncreative because the world had no uniqueness to it. So, this process has been actually kind of fun and inspiring in its own way. I definitely recommend checking out VulgarLang if you’re a fantasy writer, like me, who might need or want a fantasy language for their story but can’t figure out how to make one.
That’s all from me. I’m still trying to think of ways to fill the Friday blog spot, so I may post something random or experimental tomorrow. Until then, my friends! May your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.