Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Self Editing

It's hard. It's really, really hard. I'm in the midst of something new. I poured out a first draft of 83,000 words. Parts of it are good. Parts of it are not so good. I went through and started re-working the most troublesome areas and still wasn't happy with it.

When I tracked down the culprit, I found it right at the beginning. I'd done what I criticize other writers for doing all the time. I'd started in the wrong spot and loaded the beginning up with backstory, which was leaving the rest of my story pretty bland. I'm a firm believer in that you need a solid base if you want a strong story, which means I have to start almost from scratch (at least there's a little framework to guide me this time.)

Before I started deleting out mass amounts of text though, a tiny thought crept into my brain, "maybe I can let it slide for now, send it out to a few Beta readers and see what they think." I've already been working on this one for months, and I've set myself some pretty firm deadlines. But I couldn't do it. I personally get hives if anything leaves my laptop that I'm not psyched to share, and I try not to burden my Beta readers with multiple drafts. I trust my internal editor when she says something's wrong, even when she says, "This needs a complete rewrite." (Although there might have been some cursing involved)

I've seen some work from Beta readers with comments woven into the text, "Do you think this is too much?" And every time I  answer, "yes." They're not posing those questions because they think they can slip something by, they're asking because good writers always question their work, and unfortunately the validity of their own opinion.

And sometimes my own characters try to tell me something's wrong.

"I didn't know why I was acting this way. It wasn't like me." If my character can't explain her actions, then maybe I shouldn't be making her do them.

I feel like there are lots of little signs we give ourselves, flags we wave to say, "Hey, this isn't working," and we let them slide because we don't trust ourselves, or we're so close to the story we can't make them out anymore. Which is why self-editing is so hard. So I'll ask you, how do you self-edit? Are you able to listen to your own gut, or do you need a second opinion? How do you take your work from good to great?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Girl on a Wire

Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties

Jules Maroni is one of the Amazing Maronis, a family of circus folk whose own small circus is failing. To bring them into the spotlight, she pushes them into joining the Cirque American where they come face to face with family rivals, the Flying Garcias. At Cirque American, the past comes back to haunt her, and Jules and her newfound crush, Remy Garcia have to uncover the secrets of the ancient feud if they want to end it.

I don't exactly know how to describe this except that it needed to be much muchier. The description sounded incredible: mystery, acrobatics, magic. I was hoping for something more along the lines of The Night Circus, and instead got something kind of blah.

I was wary from the beginning, with the dreaded prologue that every literary agent says never to use. For good reason. It was all backstory. History was piled onto me, and then somehow we end up rushed into the circus and dancing in the muscular arms of Remy. Surprise. Surprise. What happens next is a lackluster romance in which I have no idea why either character likes the other one except that their parents might be kind of mad if they were dating, they are both attractive, and they are the same age.

The "threat" is kind of the same. Nothing really happens to Jules so the stakes aren't running real high, and I didn't love any of the characters enough to care that much anyway. Then, around page 250, we go from 0 to 60 in a few pages. The mystery picks up from there and I was definitely intrigued enough to keep reading, but I had to slog through 250 pages of nothing to get there. I never got hooked on the romance. There just wasn't enough passion or tension or emotion or anything. It was sort of like be together, not be together, whatever. *Shrug.*

While I was reading I tried to pinpoint why this was falling flat, and I think it was because there was a lot of "telling." At the beginning of each chapter Jules tells us what happened in a one or two page summary that sounds much the same. She tells us the history of her family. She tells us she likes Remy but we don't really see it through action. But then there were parts that shone, like when Jules mounts the wire for her first outdoor walk, because it was described with feeling and tension.

What I did like about this throughout was the voice. Jules is a stubborn, focused, quippy girl with her eyes set on stardom. The author also did her research on wire walkers and circus life, and the way Jules relates this information to us felt authentic, not like a regurgitated lecture. 

It's frustrating because I know I would have really really liked this is if was just a bit more. Even the ending came off a little Scooby-Doo-esque. I wouldn't shy anyone away from reading this, but I don't know that I would recommend it either.