Edits? I say thee Neigh.

Writing, as they say, is re-writing. Anyone can churn out a first draft, if they just keep plinking at keys until they hit THE END. A lot of people can even write a good first draft. But no one can write a perfect one. I would almost say revision skills are more important than first-draft skills; you can revise a bad draft into a great one, but if you can’t ever get any better than your first attempt… /wince.

Naturally, being aware as I am of the importance of revising… I loathe it.

The first draft is fun. First draft is where the story pours out and the possibilities are open and it all just feels good! Revision — that’s where you have to look at your mistakes. And figure out how to fix them. Fixing is the awful part because of the Pregnant Pony problem.

The Pregnant Pony is a somewhat incoherent analogy I made while ranting to my friend Deni about how much I hate editing. Because you sculpt this pony, right? Like you’re a sculptor, you’ve sculpted a pony, but now you realize the pony is supposed to be pregnant, and you can’t just slap more clay onto her belly. You have to sculpt a baby pony, and somehow get it into her belly, and make room there for it, and then being pregnant is going to change the way the pony stands, and holds her head, and the luster of her hair, and EVERYTHING. That is what editing is like. Trying to make the pony pregnant, after you’ve already sculpted her!

(I later came up with a much more sane way of expressing this — “Revising is like adding nuts to the brownies after they’re cooked” — but of course the Pregnant Pony is what Deni remembers.)

Deni, meanwhile, is also a writer, and she loves editing. She says the first draft is hard, and once it’s out and you have something to play with and fix, that’s much easier, that’s much more fun. In this, as in most things, Deni is a complete weirdo.

I bring this up because I recently spent an entire day, 12+ hours, sitting at my desk frantically revising. My publisher wanted the first round of edits for Secondhand Shadow finished by the end of January. Most of it was little things (there’s a whole different rant in there as to why these little things needed changing, we’ll have to see how willing I am to possibly annoy my publisher by complaining about their standards), but the big thing was, the entire ending needed restructuring.

“You have a Lord of the Rings ending,” I was told. “It just kinda goes on and on.” And I winced and nodded and agreed because I knew they were right. And then I managed to put off fixing the ending — which was going to involve splicing three scenes into one, writing two new ones with bits of old ones scattered through them, and reshaping the final scene into a different setting — until the last day before it was due.

And I did it. I did it all. I fixed everything the best way I could figure to fix it, got my sister out of bed to read over it and make sure I hadn’t committed any egregious screw-ups, and emailed it to the publisher at 11:59 pm. Ahhh, the stench of burning deadline.

Did I do enough? Will I need to fix it more, or fix problems that I created while fixing the old problems? That remains to be seen. But I did it, y’all. Behold my pregnant pony.

That Peculiar Mistress, Inspiration

People always ask writers where they get their ideas. Writers are generally baffled by this question because for most of us, ideas come in an endless, even overwhelming flow. The problem is finding the time to write them all! That’s certainly how it used to be for me. I kept entire notebooks full of half-sketched-out ideas. I would actually cry, sometimes, reflecting on the unlikelihood of me ever writing all the things I wanted to write before I die.

Secondhand Shadow was probably one of my more random inspirations. I had just watched Eragon (…yeahhh) and I was simultaneously sighing over Garret Hedlund’s pretty face and chewing on the “mind-linked magical creature” trope, which I love. And I thought… suppose the mind-linked magical creature was a human? Thus was Damon born.

(So, yeah, the first version of Damon looked a whole lot like Murtagh from the movie Eragon. He evolved from there, but I won’t argue with anyone who chooses to visualize him that way.)

Garrett_Hedlund_482144

In the last couple years, my fount of endless ideas has dried up considerably. Not that I stopped writing. I would pull out old ideas and try to breathe life back into them, which thus far has not worked — and makes me sad because they are good ideas and I want to write them. I’ve also written a crap ton of fanfic (which is a topic for another time), which I feel has kept me in good practice but also possibly sapped my creativity? Like, I realized I was pouring all my Writerly Feelings into fanfic, which is completely fine if that makes you happy, but for me as a person who wants to publish original material and have a Writerly Career, fanfic needed to remain a hobby, something to fit between other things, not the whole enchilada.

I have a new idea now, the first really new idea I’ve had in ages, and I probably shouldn’t talk about it too much because it’ll jinx it or something. But inspiration this time came from an even nutsier place than mediocre fantasy movies. In my first post I mentioned Flight Rising. It’s a virtual pet site with dragons. And it’s become my personal soap opera. All my dragons have little personalities and storylines and relationships with each other. That forced me to think up new stuff, and it throws in a bit of randomness too that you then have to work into your story — like the computer assigning your first dragon a mate that you think is ugly, or your dragon OTP’s highly-anticipated mating producing… one egg, or the site crashing for three days which you decide means there was an earthquake and your lair collapsed. How many dragons survived???!

No, I’m not writing about dragons. But I am borrowing character traits and storylines from my dragons. And I am not ashamed. Wish me luck!