Maybe I Should Have Been An Editor

Well, my New Year’s Resolution to blog every week is officially dead. Lasted longer than I thought. RIP 1/1/2020 – 2/6/2020.

But enough of that, I’m back after a month long mental health break and ready to make an ass of myself by talking about something I have very little knowledge of.

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Admit it: you heard it in their voices.

Sometimes, when I’m laboring away over my WIP, but even more often when I’m reading, I wonder if maybe I should have been an editor, rather than a writer.

My writing “career” is young, and largely shaped thus far by fanfiction, but last year I learned how much I enjoy the editing part of writing (and I say that doubting my own understanding of the term “editing”). My favoritest favorite part? Brutal, merciless cuts.

I adore crossing out entire sentences. I love circling paragraphs and jotting in the margins “Is this necessary?” Though I haven’t gotten to this point in revision yet, I already have a handful of scenes in mind that are destined for the axe. And I’m excited.

This mindset, perhaps to my detriment, doesn’t go away when I’m not writing, however. In fact, it seems even more pronounced when I’m consuming other media. I’m going to give you an example.

Warning! Hot takes incoming!

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Spicy

In November, in the throes of NaNoWriMo, I, like many other nerds across the country, sat down after work on a Tuesday evening and watched the premiere episode of Disney’s new Star Wars TV show, the Mandalorian. Spoiler… warning?

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I mean if you don’t know by now…

About 30 minutes into the episode I remember saying to my partner, “I’m assuming ‘The Asset’ is interesting and important, because otherwise why would I care about this show?”

Turns out, I was right. Baby Yoda, and the conflict it created in the narrative, was what made the show worth watching. Not the titular Mandalorian (at least not him by himself). So, though I found 99% of episode one to be kinda (read: really) dry, I sat down the following Friday for episode two.

Friends. Fellow Star Wars fans. I’m sorry. I hate to be the one to tell you this.

Episode two was a complete waste of time. 30 minutes of pure, unadulterated filler. Filler content. In the second episode. Of an eight episode series.

The more I thought about what I had seen over the course of two episodes, the more dissatisfied I felt. TV is one of my favorite mediums, and Star Wars is a franchise I genuinely love and enjoy (though I wouldn’t pass standard gatekeeping tests), but this series was falling well short of my expectations.

All around me, however, I heard nothing but praise. My (long suffering and supportive partner) even brushed off my criticism as coming in the midst of NaNo and therefore I was in full on critique mode and couldn’t just enjoy things for what they were.

And, well, maybe there is some truth to that. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would have done. What I would have cut, or changed, or moved around to make those first few episodes tighter and, in my opinion, more compelling. But, that inclination didn’t start with the Mandalorian.

A month before, while on a whirlwind weekend vacation out of state for a family wedding, I inhaled a novel that had been in my TBR pile for months. When I say inhaled, I mean I finished at 4AM the day after I started it. Then I set my kindle aside. Laid my head down. And thought to myself, “I wouldn’t have included [certain chapters from secondary character’s POV]. They really slowed down the pace.”

Honestly, it was kind of annoying. It was a good book, good enough that I didn’t bother to put it down even after a long day of air travel and visiting with my in-laws. And yet, I couldn’t just… let it be a good a book. I couldn’t leave it at that.

It’s part of the reason, I’ve realized, that I struggle so much to finish books. It’s not that they’re not good. Because, objectively, they absolutely are. It’s that I can’t turn off the part of my brain that lets me just enjoy things for what they are. It’s always “this sentence doesn’t flow” or “that word isn’t right here” or “the plot is hindered by this sequence.”

Without really knowing what an editor does, I sometimes wonder… if that is what I was meant to do. Maybe that part of me unable to let media go without critique, something that genuinely frustrates me, is actually a calling that I’ve never understood or heeded.

Or, maybe, I’m just a picky ass reader for no real reason.

All I can do is just try to let go when reading, or watching tv, or playing video games, and hope that my inherent inclination to pick things apart will come in useful when its time to turn my eyes on my own work.


This post was literally a month in the making. 2020 has not been treating me kindly and February especially was taxing on my mental health. Thanks to all my lovely friends and followers who are with me on this journey. I hope to be back next week to talk about the decision I made this week to take a break from my WIP.

Until then, my your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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Writing Thin

Hey! Fellow white writers! Just a reminder! Diversity is good! Write characters that don’t look like you! It’s healthy! But! Don’t! Write! BIPOC’s! Stories! Just! Don’t!

Also, don’t try to prettify human suffering. Just a thought.

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Seriously tho, can we not?

Anyway, those of you who are still here, welcome to another week in the life of a struggling writer. This struggling writer, anyway. And, lord, has it been a struggle. As it turns out, deciding mid-draft that your WIP needs a major developmental revision is not something that can be taken care of in a week. My mental pendulum keeps swinging from “excited and energized” to “I’m a terrible writer, all my ideas are laughably banal, and I’m just going to give up on this whole writing thing in general, don’t at me.”

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A visul recap of my week.

I’m caught between the idea that my creative well is running dry and I need to take a break and refill it, and the little voice in my head that continually reminds me I took all of December off, I’ve barely done anything creative this month, I keep making excuses not to write. 

I’m gonna figure it out. Eventually. I’m gonna strike a balance, and this will get written. Maybe even in my lifetime.

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My list of revisions.

Anyway, one of the things I’m definitely going to have to figure out if I am going to get this book done is how to stop writing so damned thin.

I imagine many writers might say that writing thin is a good problem to have, and I believe that is true for a lot of people. For me, however, it’s a bane. As I’ve mentioned before, I started writing when I was 11, and though I started in original fiction by 13 I had been roped into the magical world of fanfiction. Now, my path is my path, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I learned more than you’d think about craft, but one thing I left behind in those years was the ability to describe literally anything.

I relied on the fact that any readers would already be familiar with the characters and setting, and almost everything I wrote was entirely based on interactions. Conversations, conflict, sex. It was easy.

Now I’m kicking myself, because I find myself falling into that pattern even now that I know I have to set the stage myself.

I just did a read through of my second draft. One of the things I realized is that a major character has only ever been described (once) as “tall.” That’s it. That’s all you know about her. Another character, equally important, hasn’t been physically described at all. Most of my cast are little more than floating, talking heads.

Don’t get me started on worldbuilding. Again. I hate it. I mean, I love it, but, actually, I hate it. I have a perfect image in my head of what my world is, but when it comes to the text of the novel I don’t feel compelled in any way to describe it. “What purpose would mentioning the scenery of the countryside serve?” I ask myself. “Does my made up historical context really have any bearing on this scene?” or “Why slow down the pace and ruin the tension just to remind the reader there is a fully fleshed out world beyond this conversation?”

Most of that is thanks to a piece of writing advice I took and surgically grafted onto my heart, and that is: good storytelling is often about good secret keeping. Don’t give away what you can hold onto until the moment is right. And that is the philosophy I have carried into my fantasy stories: don’t info dump when you can sprinkle in the details as needed.

And, honestly, I still think that is really sound advice, but, in rereading this second draft, I think I may have lost sight of what is too much to hold back. The draft reads like I’m being greedy with my world, or that I’ve forgotten that the readers don’t know what I know. I rush from plot point to plot point without adding critical context, because I already know the background of X and Y characters’ relationship with each other, or where A and B locations are on the map.

At DFWCon I had the chance to sit down with an agent and kind of talk shop (I wasn’t ready to pitch yet, obviously, but I still wanted to get some insight). We got into a discussion about word counts for debut authors, and after hearing that I had just finished a first draft, he asked my word count. 105k, I told him. That’s really good for a debut fantasy, he said. Right in the butter zone. I wish I could have been pleased about that, but I knew, deep in my bones, that the only reason I kept it that low was because the draft wasn’t really complete. I had left so many details on the floor, details that would be inexcusable to leave out of a polished manuscript.

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Or, writing, as the case may be.

Going into draft 3, I know this is something I’m going to have to be serious about fixing. I need to learn how to take my time and properly build a world that readers will want to crawl into. I need to figure out how the keep the flow going without leaving important information out in the cold. I’ve got to teach myself that it’s okay to do those things, even if it means a 300k word draft.

Because that’s what revision is for.


That’s all from me this week. I hope you enjoyed Captain Kirk coming along for the ride with us. Next week I hope to discuss The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, which I’ve been reading this month. Which means I need to close up and get it finished. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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Past vs Present

Manuscript News

This last weekend I had the most perfect opportunity for writing. My three littles were spending a few days at my mom’s, leaving my partner and I with a freakishly quiet house. There was also a terrible cold front Friday night, encouraging us all to stay in where it was warm, and, more particularly, in my favorite writing spot, also known as my bed.

I decided I was gonna get a hell of a lot done with this precious time. I challenged myself to write 5000 new words by the end of the weekend. I was feeling inspired, having finally reached the point of the manuscript where events start rolling downhill toward the climax, so 5000 seemed lofty but not unattainable. Not at first anyway.

So I settled into bed with my ambient noise app, a soda, and a bag of candy and was ready to work. I booted up my laptop and, well, thirty minutes later after troubleshooting why the darn thing was running so slow I realized it had probably caught a virus and needed a reformat.

In the end, I saved all my documents, but lost a lot of time. I wound up with about 2000 new words instead of 5, but I’m okay with that, really.


The Weekly Struggle

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Here’s another fun little tidbit about me: one of my writing hobbies of my younger years was roleplaying. I used many different mediums over the years, but where I really found my stride was in online gaming. I won’t bore with the details, but one thing that I took away from it was a love of writing in the present tense.

Present tense made sense in the context of roleplaying in these games, because the things we were writing were supposed to be playing out in real time. However, even as I phased out of that hobby, present tense permeated my other creative writing projects. I really loved how it injected a sense of urgency into my writing. If these things are happening right now, then they require one’s immediate attention. It didn’t even occur to me, at first, how jarring it might be to someone who is has never experienced it before.

When I first began work on Border Towns, I didn’t even think about it. Present tense just flowed out of me. However, somewhere toward the end of November, I stumbled on a Twitter thread discussing the pros and cons of past and present. In that order. And then, suddenly, this was me:

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I’m used to self-doubt, I think all writers are to some degree, but this was a new facet my anxiety-riddled mind hadn’t explored on it’s own. Yet.

I’m comfortable writing in past, I’m just more comfortable in present. I don’t feel particularly strongly that this story must be told in present, that’s just what I happened to use by force of habit. Now I’m clocking in close to 60,000 words and wondering if revision is going to require a change of tense, along with everything else.

Okay, maybe “require” is a strong word. But I do find myself wondering more and more if this will be a manuscript that will be passed on out of hand simply because of its tense. Or, perhaps, the arguments I was reading are out of date and not keeping with modern publishing trends. I don’t know. But I didn’t wonder before, and I now I do.

The net result of all this has been constantly telling myself “carts and horses,” because the reality is the tense of the manuscript is just a fart in the wind until the whole damn thing is finished and ready to go.

Carts and horses, Kerry Ann. Carts and horses.


What I’m Reading This Week

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I put out a call this week on Twitter for some help finding some potential comp titles for whenever I finally get this monsterpiece finished. And lordy, did yall deliver.

I’m starting with Six of Crows, a fantasy heist novel set in the Grishaverse. With multiple POVs and worldbuilding to make a fellow fantasy writer (hello, me) jealous, Six of Crows is a book I’m annoyed to have missed the bandwagon on. Definitely grateful to have been rec’d it and pleased to be able to rec it to anyone else in return.


That’s it for me for this week. May your struggles be few and your words aplenty!

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