Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's all in the Details...

     As a lot of you know, I'm in the editing process right now, with Dirty Blood. It's a roller coaster experience for me (always is) because the monster that haunts me every so often when i write seems to grow a twin, similar in looks, slightly different in personality, when I edit. This one isn't quite so adamant in convincing me I suck. Instead, he makes me second-guess, which is just as annoying, but does, at least, allow me to keep going when I'd have walked away to paint a room by now, with the other guy.

     Other than the inevitable twins rearing their heads, its actually going pretty well. This is the part where I realize how far I've truly come as a writer, just in the past year. My draft of Across the Galaxy needed ALOT of edits. ALOT. Dirty Blood may only need two, or three. That's exciting to me. And makes me proud of myself, too. (Not including grammar) I know my writing is still new, and still improving, but its important that I recognize my own progress. Since I began writing seriously (with the intent to publish) I've always said that it was completely okay to sound 'new' in my writing, as long as I didnt suck. You can laugh, but that is always what I've said, because I know that as long as I don't suck, and my brain keeps working like it's supposed to, I can learn and improve my craft. I firmly believe that writing is a skill, just like any other, and if you want to improve at it and get good, lik bestseller good, you have to practice. Alot. That's the key. No one wakes up one morning and just magically is the next Stephen King, never before having put pen to paper.

     But what about all those people that make comments about certain writers being 'gifted' and having 'talent'? While I think those things exist, I DON'T think that's all it takes to be a good writer, or that those things are magically either bestowed or not. Talented and gifted writing comes from practice. They forgot to mention that part for the rest of us, who are comparing ourselves to those bestselling authors - nevermind we're not supposed to compare - and find ourselves falling overwhelemingly short of the mark. Its sad and depressing and discourages us so we practice our craft even less, or believe in our words a little less. Either way is completely detrimental.

     I also appreciate the editing process because this is where I step back and see the big picture enough to catch the details. That may or may not have made sense, so an example is in order. I was sitting in the garage yesterday, watching my kids ride their bikes and without really trying to think about my story, it popped into my head that I hadn't really nailed Tara's relationship with her mother early enough in the story for you to understand chapter twelve, when they have a blow out. I needed to go back to the beginning and add in some much needed details, like how her mother worries incessantly and it isn't unusual to find her having pulled all the dishes out of the cabinets and scrubbed them and the cupboard, just because she can't sit still with her thoughts. So, yeah the big picture and the details go hand in hand, and when I'm writing the rough draft, I can't stop and see those details because I'm too focused on the overall story. These things are why I like the edit.

     I read a pretty good book about writing called Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. She is the author of Ella Enchanted and wrote the book to be aimed at young adults, but it was helpful, no matter the age. I loved her chapter on capturing the details. She suggested that for a whole day, once an hour, you write down what you smell or taste at that time. So that you begin to notice these things. Like what makes you love pizza or hate broccoli. Describe it. Her excercise helps you bring those details into your story so that as the reader, you are pulled right into the skin of your MC. If you're like me, and you need help with the details, check her out. Now, back to editing.


  1. A very talented author once told me a quote she'd heard: "Great books are not written. They're REWRITTEN."

    You've got a great attitude.

  2. Great post Heather! I am glad that the evil twin brother is not as bad and you can still work with him there. I look forward to read what happens to Wes & Tara.

    I think you make a great point that great writers who have talent have also put in the sweat and time to make their talent great. Like Tiger Woods; very talented, but has also worked very hard. Micheal Jordan; again talented, but worked very very hard on his game.

    I will have to check out that book before I get to the editing stage because I feel that I leave out details too.

    Angeline Kace

  3. It seriously drives me crazy that I can't see my own writing with any objectivity. It could be good, it could be horrible - I really couldn't say! I guess the most we can hope for is that we keep getting better and better. :)

  4. K.C. I know, that's why I love my beta readers so much!!

  5. Started 'Across the Galaxy' last night, and expected to just do a little reading. Then suddenly, BAM! It was midnight and I had devoured just under 1/3 of the entire book in one sitting!

  6. yay J!!! I lo-ove to hear stuff like that! Maybe you'd be a dear and post a review on Amazon and B&N when you're done??!! There might be a free short story in it for you