Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rewrite 30 or 40 Times.

“It has been said that Ernest Hemingway would rewrite scenes until they pleased him, often thirty or forty times. Hemingway, critics claimed, was a genius. Was it his genius that drove him to work hard, or was it hard work that resulted in works of genius?”
-James N. Frey-
author of 
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: 
A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

"Take it easy, bro."

I was horrified when I saw this sentence appear in my first draft. The word 'horrified' doesn't even come close to describing how shocked and shameful I felt. The second I got to reading "Take it easy, bro." I was like:

Excuse me, I think I'm gonna puke. 

I mean, seriously. "Bro"?!! What the hell was I thinking?  

Exactly, I wasn't. I was writing but not with clear thinking. I just wrote down whatever came out on my mind (actually, even this reason still can't justify the fact that I note that sentence down in the first place because by god, that is one of the lamest sentences ever!) and when we do, sometimes we become blind of judging our own writing. This is what happens with first drafts. This is why almost all of our first drafts are shits, no matter how experienced, how gifted and how good we are as writers.

Who would have thought editing was this crucial? I didn't. I have written a number of essays, articles for web contents, short stories, lyrical poems and throughout all these writing, I didn't see editing as something as crucial until I come across this first draft of mine. Obviously, it was wiser to read through the essays before submitting them, but the amount of revising necessary was nothing compared to the changes I had to make for this very long story of mine. Editing is crucial because when we write with so much emotion inside of us, we become like little kids running around at rooftops, not knowing the danger of falling over the edge. They won't realize it as long as they stayed ON the rooftop, unwilling to STEP DOWN and STEP OUTSIDE the building to look at how high it actually is from the ground. This is what writers do, a lot of times.

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We stay on the rooftops because it's much more comforting than stepping down and realizing how life-threatening the height is. We stay drunk in our stories because it's much more comforting than stepping out of our first drafts and realizing how crappy our writing is. I'm not saying all writers will write crappy first drafts, even though most of them will (probably 99% of all writers in the world), but there will always be these sloppy parts that bring the entire writing piece down to such low levels that you do want to fix it before you show it to the rest of the world. This is why editing is so crucial and rewriting is essential. It may not be as life-threatening as falling from the rooftops, but when readers found the sloppy parts before you, it will be a humiliating moment for you as a writer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Entering the New Stage: Editing.

I didn't know the first thing about editing when I started on this writing journey. I knew that if I wanted to ever finish a book I would have to enter the stage of editing at some point, but I guess I never bothered to actually learn about the craft as much as I did when it comes to the writing itself, which was a mistake. I should have bothered to learn about it because entering this stage as in about now, I see how different the process is between actual editing and actual writing. 

Many said that authors make the worst editors. To some extent this is true because reading through my own work, I find it challenging to be 100% objective in judging the piece. It's hard to realize the holes, the missing points when you already know the events happening by heart before even reading them through. I've only gone through the first chapters in the plot and I realized the further you go, the harder it is to maintain objectivity because every line rings a bell. The more lines you read, the more bells it ring. I can't imagine how I will be able to judge my characterization when I already know those characters by heart, as if they were real people standing in front of me right now. 

This is exactly why you need to make sure you give enough distance between finishing your draft and starting to edit it. Trust me, a week won't be enough. Spending only a week away from the characters you have grown to love for a year, or maybe two, will not be enough to make you step out of your own story. If you have a deadline, then you have no choice but to work on it as soon as you can. But if you don't, spend weeks away from it, months if you can. I'm not saying don't do anything for months. I'm just saying don't do anything with the draft for months. Work on something else, start a new writing project, whatever it is, keep yourself busy with other writing stuffs so that your mind will be absorbed by something else. This will help you to grow out of your story and build objectivity over it. 

Okay, don't get me wrong. Editing isn't as excruciating as it sounds. It's actually kind of fun. You get to read through this thick bundle of pages that you have written and as you go on, you will realize that you can write. I don't know whether you can write well or not, but I'm sure you can write, because you have written that many words on paper and that proves you have something. I mean, you just have to admit that some sentences will blow you away and you'll be like: WOW! Did I really write that? Am I that awesome? But of course, this only applies to "some" sentences, as in a very small number of them, because most of the things you wrote in your first draft will be crap. Now, to turn those crappy sentences to a masterpiece, you need to go through this editing stage. And to complete this stage with style, you need objectivity, lots of it. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Irrational Exuberance.

First things first, do you know what the phrase "irrational exuberance" means? In case you don't, here's what the dictionary has to say:

Irrational: illogical; absurd
Exuberance: the state of being exuberant
Exuberant: effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic (in other words: very, very, very enthusiastic)

Put them together and you get "irrational exuberance", this state of feeling the illogical tremendous amount of enthusiasm, or we can also say the state of feeling super enthusiastic that it's beyond absurd.

So yesterday, August 6th, 2012, was a historical day of my life. Yesterday I finished my first ever first draft. Yes, finally, after struggling on and off for what felt like a very long time, I finally finished it and the second I realized I was finished I felt a rush of what I like to call as an irrational exuberance. It felt awesome beyond what words could express.

I'm telling you, if you're wondering how it feels to fly, I suggest you go back to your computer, write like a monster and finish off whatever it is you're working on, that's so grand and hell important for you and you will find yourself flying to the highest skies when you type that "The End". (You'll probably fly even higher if you decide to print it out. Once you do and you start flipping through the pages you will be so awestruck at how many words you could extract from your brain and believe me, it's A LOT of words.)

Come to think of it, it's crazy. We should be writing for the "greater good". You know, all those talks on writing to share messages to the world, be the voice that speaks out opinions which are usually being covered up in public, and so on, and on. I'm not saying these are stupid reasons because on the contrary, I think those are noble reasons and we should be writing for those reasons but, man! We can't deny that to some extend we write for the thrill, for that sheer satisfaction we get after we finish crafting words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs and paragraphs to masterpieces that finally speak. It's crazy sometimes when we think about it, that we writers are willing to struggle for years just to get that one piece right, just to experience that one rush of irrational exuberance.

I raise my glass, for everyone who finished their first drafts. Cheers!
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PS: I researched the phrase "irrational exuberance" on the Internet and it was a real phrase. Look it up yourself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Write.

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"Take our another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."

Natalie Goldberg
American Author, 
As quoted from AdviceToWriters.

Keep Writing.

Yesterday I said my goodbyes to probably the smartest and the craziest Professor ever. I didn't even know he existed until about a month ago and it was a huge honor for me to have the chance to meet such a smart-ass like him. That's not the point, though. The point is that before we part ways, he gave me this one piece of writing advice that I think is very important for all writers to take note of: keep writing.

We forget this a lot, don't we? We forget that when we gave in to our sense of comfort, to more sleeping, to our favorite TV shows, to date nights, and so on, and on, and on. We even gave in to our favorite books (although this, to me, is the very best reason to give in), which we still shouldn't do in the first place. We forget that writing should comes first and that our writing time should be treated as sacred hours, not as working hours that you're allowed to skip.

"Keep writing. Even just for a sentence, or a paragraph, because that's the only way you are ever going to get there."  
- JF

Keep writing, every single day. Don't even think about skipping a day just because you don't feel like it because once you do, you're going to do it for the next day, and the next day, and the next day, until you lose your sense of being a writer and you'll end up never wanting to go back to it. Don't think that the next day you will have the "push" to write twice as much as the day before. In fact, don't think at all, just write and write and write, no matter how crappy your day was or how head-over-heels you were over that boy in your class, and one day you're going to look back and realize that you made it through your first book.

Famous authors, legendary writers, our mentors and ancestors, they have said it all, that writing itself is a long and hard process, and without persistence and diligence, you will never get to the end.

PS: that was my first time getting a writing advice from an actual writer. what an honor!

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