Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘Writing and Editing’

Do Not Feel Alone

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on August 18, 2016 at 6:40 pm

Do not feel alone when you write: remember that one day someone will read this, and will not see you lonely at your desk, your hair undone, the tissues piling up. Feel transformed by the words you write, as though they are sprouts or moulds living inside and feeding off you. Pretend you are surrounded by people watching you, waiting for the unique vocabulary and visual imagery pouring out of your finger pads. One day someone will read this and if they think it’s good they’ll want to be your friend. Do not feel alone alone when you write.

Do not ask yourself questions when you write: know that there is nothing more important than trusting instinct and believing that the word you chose out of nowhere is the very best word. Let the winds of poetry roll off your back and the craziness that possesses wolves at full moon time possess you too. Move forward, like a blind woman with a purpose that she has since forgotten. Trust that the answers will come to you as you reread the words you littered behind you. Do not ask yourself questions when you write.

Do not check Facebook when you write: guess that there is probably someone you know minimally in an incredible place you will never visit because you live your life inside your head. Miss a whole day of group wedding photos and baby videos; use that energy not wasted to write fictional versions of these things! Don’t answer a friend request because you are making friends in your stories, and you can make these friends do and say anything. Do not check Facebook when you write.

Do not read someone a passage: like when you recount a dream, you can be sure that this person will not think the passage is as great as you do. Spend time instead making the writing better, so that person will one day want to sit down and read what you’ve written as though you are a real writer whose book they were given to read for a school assignment. Write that person to whom you don’t want to read your passage into your passage in a venomous way, to supercharge your writing. Do not read someone a passage.

 

 

Do not do any of these things when you write, but do them all when you edit.

Feel alone! Let it seep into your psyche until you become a better writer for it, more cynical and isolated, the world your very specific oyster of which only you and the words that you strung together are trapped.

Ask yourself questions! Let the questions become answers become changes, big and small.

Check Facebook! Editing’s boring!

Read someone a passage! See where they wince and where they laugh; where their eyes light up and die down. Even ask them for a suggestion.

In my summer of play-acting again as a writer, I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m not a very good writer. In trying to identify what was going so wrong, I realized that I was acting as an editor while also trying to be a writer. To separate the two parts of my job into creating and cutting is a distinction that works for me in theory, but hey, if I want to check Facebook, that’s a good time to place my editor’s hat on, and if I want to write down whatever comes to my head, which I always do, I am free to call myself back to duty as a writer.

The whole thing is unworthy of categorization until I decide for myself that I need to be more productive and proficient at my job, at which point I might block out times for writing and times for editing, or choose to only edit on paper and only write on the computer. But as the laziness remains, I’m free to continue on this path of two-headed destruction, writing a sentence, rereading the sentence, hating and loving the sentence, changing the sentence, deleting the sentence, and somehow, at some point, my life becoming the sentence.

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Shouts from your editor

In My Writing on July 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

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(photo from flickriver.com)

WELL, COULD IT BE SOMETHING RECOGNIZABLE THAT TELLS US SOMETHING IMPORTANT ABOUT GIL?

WHAT WAS THE PAMPHLET?

THEY ARE ALWAYS FACING EACH OTHER

THEY ARE ALWAYS TAKING CARE OF PARTS OF EACH OTHER

WHAT DO THEIR EYES DO IN THE PRESENCE OF THE OTHER?

JILLIAN HASN’T NOTICED THAT GIL IS A PART OF HER!!!!!!

JUST TAKE ALL THIS OUT. MESSY.

PARIS

JOB INTERVIEW

WHO MEA IS

EAST VS. WEST COAST

AND HAVE THE TWO OF THEM MOVE AS THEY TALK! AND DO GESTURES! THAT ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT THEY’RE FEELING!

HOW DO THEY RUN?

WHAT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE A LIMP PIECE OF CAKE? IS IT TALL AND SORT OF LEANING?

WHAT DOES JILLIAN FEEL WHEN SHE PICKS LI UP? WHAT DOES LI LITERALLY FEEL LIKE?

THAT PEOPLE ARE FROZEN ON THE SPOT AND MAGICALLY TRANSFORMED WHEN THEY MEET SOMEONE NEW (WHO THEY WILL COME TO KNOW VERY WELL AND WITH WHOM THEY HAVE A SPECIAL CONNECTION). SOMETIMES COULD THEY JUST NOT REALLY NOTICE THEY ARE MEETING ONE ANOTHER?

WE NEED TO LATER SEE WHAT SHE MADE FROM THE MIXING BOWL

MEA DOESN’T CLEAR HER THROAT.

AND WHY IS JILLIAN SO LIFELESS AND CAVALIER ABOUT THIS!!!

AND? WHAT DOES SCOTCH DO TO HER?

WOULD IT BE BETTER IF PEOPLE WERE SCANDALISED? WHAT’S THE POINT OF NO ONE BEING SCANDALISED?

BE ATTRACTED TO GIL! OR NOT ATTRACTED TO GIL.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? WHO WANTS WHAT AND WHO IS GETTING IT?

WHY SUCH A SHITTY ENDING?

Stop and Start Again

In Dreams, Inspiration on February 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I have two categories of things in my life: those that I am able to stop and start again, and those that I am not.

I am able to stop and start again when I go for a run. I forgive myself for this. I am not that big a runner. Once my sister and I ran a marathon. I stopped and started again. It took us a full five hours, which I think is harder than running a fast marathon. I usually start running again when I get new running shoes. I usually start and stop running again on Mondays.

from 123rf.com
from 123rf.com

I am not able to stop and start again when I am feeling upset. I don’t forgive myself for this. I am moved by my emotions. I don’t know how to make them start or stop, but they’re on or off and they stay that way. I am always starting to work on this, until my emotions make me stop.

I used to be able to start and stop dreams. I could tell monsters to stop chasing me; I would tell them I knew how to wake up. I think I still can start dreams – I am writing a book, and all that takes is dreaming.

I am unable to start and stop speaking. I’m always saying something I shouldn’t have started to say. I’m always interrupting. I talk during movies and I talk to pets and myself. But when I stop speaking I find it really hard to start again. The more I practice my French, the more I fall out with my native tongue, unfamiliar with the polite way to start a rude sentence, with how it is you’re supposed to say something simple to a stranger. I speak like a child: unaware I can control my own voice.

I am able to start and stop writing. Other people write things the night before, and I edit one book for years. Editing is relishing in the starting and the stopping. It’s an obsession, useful but too much. I made a childhood career of starting and stopping first pages of what I imagined to be stories. They were always just first pages, nuggets of character introductions to what ended up being really just the same character. I remember thinking I was bad at plot, only good at starting and then stopping stories before they became anything like real life.

Getting To One Point and Then Another

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on August 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I often reach a point in my book where I think this is it. This is a point.

I announce it to myself and to my friends and family. I say: I reached this point. Then I return to my work after a well-deserved break and I read back before the point and I wonder what I was thinking. There was no point I reached. I just stopped and I called it a point.

Drafts are some points I use. They pat me on the back and allow me to feel I am a whole version ahead of myself a few months ago. Little do my drafts know, I am still me, my book is still the same book; it is just an older version of itself, an older draft, maybe a wiser draft.

That isn’t always a good thing. Like myself, like all of us, drafts have egos. My latest draft – haughty Draft Five – thinks it’s light years ahead of Draft 4. It even spelt out its name in letters. It recognizes that it still has terrible flaws, but it sees itself as simpler, less blah-blah than its predecessor (it used that word: blah-blah). Draft Five actually attacked Draft 4 quite aggressively: it tore out adjectives and adverbs, changed the narrator from first to third person and cut out what it called “superfluous” scenes.

But what Draft Five doesn’t know is that Draft Six will soon exist. I will reach the end of Draft Five (which corresponds with the physical end of the book) and I will proclaim myself done with it. I will drop it somewhere and cease to think about it for a short while. I will show it off to people (its first page will get fingered but never read) and I will probably advertise its existence on here. Then Draft Six will commence and I will forget everything I learnt in Draft Five.

Draft Six will ax this and stomp on that. It will stick its nose up at Draft Five’s choice of this word and this scene and it might even communicate with Draft 4 behind Five’s back. Draft Six will be a new reincarnation of my book, but without learning from Draft Five, will it really be any better?

Michael Ondaatje is said to write a book straight through and then put it in a drawer and write the book again and do this same process over and over until he has written his book nine or ten times. Now, if this is true, then Ondaatje has created a perfect system for himself: every few months he gets to tell people he wrote a book. But does it work?

Do we learn, when we get to one point and then we jump to another, without worrying about the point (or the journey) that came before? Do we become wiser just by writing, and by rewriting?

I hope so, because every time I write a sentence I want to feel like I’ve finished a sentence. Every time I write a chapter, or a draft, I want to feel like I’ve completed something. Writing is hard enough without being hard on ourselves.

So here it goes: I just wrote Part One of Draft Five and it is far superior to anything I have ever written. Take that, wretched Draft 4.

Things I Didn’t Finish Today

In Inspiration on July 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm

 

 

 

 

 

Dismissing the Adjectives

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on June 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I took out all the adjectives. No longer do my characters smile a certain way, or say something other than how they say it. When I find an adjective I think I need, I find a way of squishing it together with the noun that it modifies. I have created such hybrids as wiseman and redcar.

A book called The First Five Pages told me to do it. It’s on the list of bestsellers at Indigo, so I initially didn’t want to read it. I’m not going to be that person carrying around three copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. But I knew it was what I needed. I borrowed it from the library.


I’m near to being done my book. I need now to make my sentences flow so that agents will read it, so that I can read it. I need to start new paragraphs with tabs, and I need to get rid of fluff and other stuff. I was warned that rhymes in prose are the worst. I love it when I find one; it makes me feel that my writing is magical.

And then, of course, adjectives and adverbs must be removed.

“I heard a few small whines”? Really? How big can your whines really be, Gil?

“The first time I met Gil”? Oh yeah? Did you meet him a bunch of times?

Story telling became storytelling.

Lobster tail became lobstertail (I need to say whose tail).

And then I started changing other things too. Hey Mr. Lukeman, why do your interns have to be “angry” and “overworked” when they’re reading my manuscripts? Wouldn’t being overworked make them angry? And “the next five thousand manuscripts” – isn’t that a bit wordy, not to mention unrealistic? And an editorial assistant, couldn’t that just be an editorialassistant?

Red scrawls and editorial loops on more than just the First Five Pages of this book suggest that maybe I should have actually bought it… no, that I should have bought it.

Strict Notes

In My Writing on June 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

The power of my writing is most evident in the brash notes I scrawl to myself on the margins of my drafts. I figure that if I write these clever suggestions down then the work is almost done, the task I assigned myself almost completed.

(taken on my MacBook)

The notes on my first draft are encouragements like “Good,” or kind reminders like “Be wary of time lapses like these.”

Some are questions to a later self: “What should each road trip segment begin with?” Maybe that one was actually a teacher-like prompt to always remember to use a capital letter.

Some notes are sophisticated, out to impress: “Jillian’s pseudo-amnesia should serve a critical plot purpose.”

Then I find these game changers: “I don’t think Jillian’s parents should die,” “Jillian doesn’t work at this bar,” (and later, on the same page, “Jillian doesn’t work here!”)

Certain notes are only for me to work out: “kind of like a trust fund, but not Eastcoast USA.”

Some notes mock me: “I muttered” is just repeated in quotation marks next to the original, to make myself aware I’m writing stupid.

Some require so much work! “A sense of freedom… change words, sentence structure, settings, action…”

Some are from a God-like writing mentor. “Describing people sets the scene just as well as describing the setting or the scene. Be attentive, do this well.”

Often the notes are so vague and indecisive they prove to be no help. “Remove (impermanently) moments that go nowhere.”

Other notes are so stern: “Jillian does not say this,” and “You can’t just make ppl rejoin the group when you never mentioned they left.”

Then there are these beauties, where I sit back and say, yeah, that’s right, and I feel motivated to change things. “Jillian cannot be this bright and okay in a conversation with a stranger the night after her life fell apart even more.”

But then my later self sits down to edit, with a pen and all these sticky notes and pink margin scrawls, and she sits back appreciatively and thinks, what’s the use in changing things when this note was so on the mark?

(“Actually, this ending is really predicatable. But good on returning to the original thought that started off the blog post.”)

Top Ten-ish Writing Exercises

In Thoughts on Writing on May 31, 2012 at 10:50 pm

1. Start things. Don’t finish them because these are exercises.

2. Make fun of everything. Be serious about everything. Then try and just go in between.

3. Read a dictionary backwards. Try new things for once.

4. Shake a box and in it have all these suggestions. Never pick one.

5. Read so many books about writing that you can write about writing but nothing else.

6. Go live somewhere.

7. Write in a different language. Don’t know one? Make one up. We’re just trying to get you to use letters here.

8. Staple words together. Paperclip like ideas. Don’t do anything with any of it, but admire the organization.

9. Sit and sit for so long that you get the feeling of writer’s block. This way you can talk about it with conviction.

A Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a...

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