Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bottom-up Approach to Goal Setting

Most methods of goal setting revolve around top-down approach. They require one to set goals for 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, then break them down into months and weeks.

These always end up frustrating me, because what do you do when not everything is in your control, and your goals have to change depending on how things go? This is especially true for writers, or anyone in creative pursuits. Top-down approaches I think are more suitable for businesses, but for individuals (even if we are one woman/man business), going with the flow is as essential as having a goal.

For example, ideally speaking, in 5 years time I would like to have at least a few books published, and more on a contract.

I can make goals based on this. I can decide how long do I have to write each book etc. But what good is that when I don't know when my first book is going to sell? And once I did get the agent, I have no control over publisher's schedule or no idea of how much rewrite or edits an agent or an editor might require.

So while I keep the big picture in mind of what I wish to do with my life, and where I wish I would be a few years from now, finally - after a lot of trying - I have given up making concrete long-term plans.

Bottom-up approach is what I prefer. I know exactly what I need to do today, and this week, and even next week to move forward. As I take those steps, I know further ahead of what I need to accomplish, and on the way, whatever new things I learn or any deviations my goals or my life might take, I can instantly assimilate them into my goals using bottom-up approach, rather than have to rethink the whole thing if I were using top-down approach.

I have compulsive obsession with making lists (making them, not necessarily following them), so setting goals is right up my street. And as the oxymoron organised-messy fits me like a glove, I am striving to have little less messy and little more organised.

And carrying on with that line of thinking, I have ordered a new filofax. I know sounds very old-fashioned. I was considering buying a palm-pilot, but then figured I will have the same hassle I do now - I will end up writing everything all over the place, and will have to combine it (which is the part I never bother with), and simple palm pilots are not easy to get with all the smartphones or whatnots, and of course if it broke or whatever, then back to square one it is.

A friend of mine (whose birthday I forgot because it was written in an email) mentioned that she uses filofax for these things. And a light-bulb went off. It's perfect for me - especially with my stationary obsession - another new thing to write stuff in :-). I actually do have a cheap filofax-like thing from Next I bought years ago, but it's not a "proper" one, and it's got all marks all over it, so I decided to treat myself and start with a new, clean one.

Next step is to FINALLY buy a shredder so I can start getting rid of tons of paper I have accumulated, including old first drafts which need rewrite, and hence don't need to be kept. I see spring cleaning in my future - though with my way - it might last the whole year. :-P

How about you? Are you organised? With just your work/writing or with your whole life? How do you keep it all together?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

2010 - Goals Update & Revision

Nearly 3 months into the new year, and already it seems like so much has changed and yet nothing has. Okay I am not trying to be cryptic here - but I suppose I feel like I have already learned a lot since January, about writing craft, about my processes, thought more about how to move forward - and yet, a lot of these have been internal shifts, mental awareness, so not necessarily much to show for it in my WIP. But internal shift is necessary to apply it in action. And now is the time for action - hence goals need some revision. 

These were my original goals. I have not gone for drastic changes, but I have reduced the list, and put more emphasis on developing my process. I could write two more new first drafts, but what good is that if I don't complete the first book to the best of my ability? The revision is about acknowledging requirement for change, and moving with the growth as oppose to sticking to old goals with rigidity. 

So the new goals 

  • Journal
  • Blog
  • Exercise
  • Website
  • Edit and Polish NaNo2009 WIP
  • Create a short list of agents
  • Prepare submission packages
  • Start submitting NaNo2009 WIP
  • Find an agent
  • Continue with WB course
  • Revise already completed short stories
  • Submit those short stories
  • NaNo2010 - full first draft
And this is the big one that is going to take the time that I was previously going to devote to second book 

  • Work systematically through various craft books and writing course materials to create my own writing/editing system. Experiment. Analyse. Understand. 

Optional Goals (which would be nice to accomplish but I won't worry about them)
Read extra 25 books
Finish outline for WIP 3 
Start editing WIP 2 

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Happy Birthday Blog

This blog is exactly one year old today. And what an exciting year it has been! 

First about the blog - we have had name changes, layout changes, and even address change. I hope the current stuff is here to stay, at least for some time. 

The most important bit - THANK YOU to all my wonderful blog buddies. Your support and participation has been a real motivation behind this blog, and it has made the process all the more enjoyable. Of the many social networking tools, blogging is where I spend most of my time - and it's thanks to you :-) So THANK YOU. 

Some symbolism 
Though I hadn't planned on it, and frankly it didn't occur to me until I began writing this post - there is a great symbolism behind the journey from Lost Wanderer's Writing Blog to Writer Revealed. 

When I first started this blog, after several years of writing many first drafts and treating writing as a hobby, I had finally realised that I wanted this - more than anything, and this is what I was meant to do. So when I got serious about writing, I started this blog. At the time, I had good intention and a lot of motivation, but I was lost. I had no idea about all the blogs and information and all the millions of rules of writing and submitting. Before that, I just used to write. 

It has been a long journey, but during that journey, I have come a long way. From a Lost Wanderer, afraid to say I was a writer, now I say that with confidence. I may not be a published author yet, but I am sure as hell a writer, and I will remain one for the rest of my life. So how apt that I happened to choose "Writer Revealed." 

This blog has recorded the most monumental year for my writing - and I plan to continue this journey with you, as I progress to different stages as a writer. I hope you will stick with me. 

And I look forward to witnessing your own journeys, and cheering you along as we all move forward on this crazy-ass path, each in our own way. 

Lots of smiles and best wishes to you all :-)))) 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Editing Frenzy Begins

For the next 44 days, I plan to go into editing frenzy. Getting fed up with plodding along, and procrastinating, and getting distracted, I have decided now it's time to take the NaNo approach to editing. So yesterday I came up with a new plan.

44 days for one full pass editing. This won't be a final version, but it will be a revision of the full novel, with emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

Besides the obvious that I only have evenings and weekends to work, what are some of the challenges?
  • I plan to add a major plot layer, which will mean writing new material worth about 10K to 15K
  • It will also mean rewriting or tweaking many of the existing scenes to accomodate changes these plot layer will bring
  • I have got 302 pages to edit as of today, which with new words will probably push up higher
I have taken my schedule into consideration while making this plan. It's still ambitious for what I want to achieve in the time I have, but if I can focus - intensely - I can do it. Probably.

So here is the plan (and being such nice, lovely supporters that you are, feel free to use your whips when I flounder):
  • March 23 - March 28 = 34 Pages (Hey I have got plans for this Saturday)
  • March 29 - April 4 = 50 Pages
  • April 5 - April 11 = 54 Pages
  • April 12 - April 18 - 46 Pages
  • April 19 - April 25 = 46 Pages
  • April 26 - May 2 = 46 Pages
  • May 3 - May 5 = 26 Pages
Total Pages 302 (+whatever I add with new words)

Total Days 44

Why 44 days?
Because 6th is my birthday, so this is going to be my challenge for this year of my life, and my present to myself - and I might not let myself celebrate if I don't finish it, but haven't decided on that yet. Because for now, failure isn't an option.

So this evening, after work, Editing Frenzy Begins...

Monday, 22 March 2010

A Writer's Mind - Exploration and Lessons

I recently finished reading entries about the writing life from Virginia Woolf's diary. Her husband, Leonard Woolf, published these extracts called "A Writer's Diary" - to give the glimpse of the writer, as oppose to her whole life which her complete diaries include.

It was fascinating, and I think it held more than a few lessons for new writers. To save you the reading (though I highly recommend it), I will share a few things that left a deep impression in my mind.


Virginia Woolf was always affected by the reviews. With every book, she told herself she didn't care. She had heard it all, and she was going to keep being an individual. Yet, when the reviews came, they always affected her, and negative reviews had more affect on her than positive ones.


consider how badly negative reviews are going to impact you. Yes, you can't know for sure until it happens to you, but you can guess. How do you handle criticism in life? How do you feel when people don't like you, or say horrible things about you, or call you an idiot? Okay, so maybe no one calls you an idiot, but what if someone did?


Try writing a really horrible review of your book. Now write a fantastic review of your book. If you have time, write several of each. Put them all away together in an envelope. A month or two later, read them. How do you feel? Which ones affect you the most? This is something to keep in mind for later. There are quite a few authors who never read reviews. You might want to be one of them.


Virginia Woolf wrote her book in long hand. Then typed it all up. Then she revised it. Typed it all up. She also sent chapters to friends, and her husband read them all - I am not sure how many typings went in there, but as you can imagine, it was much harder than our computer days.


Rewrites are what shapes words into a story. Perhaps you are the kind of writer who spends tons of time making the first draft as close to perfect as possible - then your first draft is full of rewrites as you search for the perfect word or phrase. But for many of us, who write the first draft in a creative frenzy and then edit and revise, it doesn't mean we aren't any good. It means that a good story comes out of a collaboration of both right and left brain. Creativity and reason combined. Creativity comes in a frenzy, but we need to reason with calm and collectedness. So don't let the rewrites get you down.

James Scott Bell described it best. He said, think of editing as the chance to take a final exam over and over again, and each time you get a better grade. Now if I had that chance in school or college, I would have loved that.

Be True to Yourself

Despite her depression with reviews, despite her attempts to prove that she was no worse than any male novelist, and not limited to women's fiction, Virginia Woolf kept writing the stories she wanted to write. She wrote some things for money like reviews and articles, but her books - her stories - came from her. Despite her fear of them being failure to appeal to the public, she wrote stories for a purpose - to explore her own mind, to explore a technique, to try a new technique, to challenge herself.


Commercial books are perfectly good. And if we are planning to write full time, it is only right and reasonable to want to make a decent living from it. But strive for success while staying true to yourself. You can either be successful because you conform to generic standards, or you can be successful because you create stories that are so uniquely your own and so appealing to the public that they embrace them. Which one would you rather have?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Empowering Characters Emotions

More than half-way through the course, though I feel like I am barely scratching the surface. But a quick review:

So far I have received 5 lectures. 6th will be posted today at some point. I have yet to assimilate a lot of this, because good assimilation only comes after a great deal of practice, and I haven't done that yet.

A lot of the assignments are more suitable for second or third edit - so first, I am focusing on doing the edits on my first draft, and then the assignments.

The material is great. I have already learned a lot just by reading the lectures, and I know that it will help me when I write the next first draft. It is also helping me with my edits.

I have only found one thing wrong with this class - it's way too large. Over 150 people, which means far too many emails in the group, and as some people get into conversation mode, not all of them relevant.

Having so many people also means that Margie can't possibly answer every message. So while her responses are great and helpful, and it is possible to learn a lot from other people's mistakes, it's become a case of whoever is free to be around on the messages all day. Most people aren't.

So I am treating this class as more of a lecture packet. I keep the material, and I will save Margie's responses, and then work through it all at my own pace. I am not really interacting with the class, because again, it's just far too many people, so to actually have quality chat with someone is impossible unless you do it privately - but in which case, I would prefer to get to know someone a little before I start chatting with them privately.

I might take a class again, but it would be just for Margie's responses to people's questions - so that I might learn from that. But it doesn't meet my idea of interactive class just because of the number of people in it.

How about you? Do you prefer taking classes? Online or in person? What level of interaction do you prefer?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Look Beyond the Surface - Connecting with Creativity

This is a post more about the creative process rather than a technique so bear with me.

As you are aware, I am in the process of editing and revising my book. On positive side, I am happy with the story. I can see the potential. I love the characters, and the world.

But it's a gem that needs a damn good polish.

Initially, as I was going over the revised first scene, I knew something wasn't right. It was bit discouraging knowing something isn't right, but not knowing quite what it is. It's not a question of good dialogue or wrong spelling. All that is fine. And yet something was missing.

But while I was worrying about that last week, my muse insisted on playing. I had a non-fiction project brewing in my mind for over a year, and suddenly the ideas started pouring out so I decided to let the Muse be in-charge, and made notes. I say, made notes, because I barely had to think. It was fabulous, and gave me such a high that no amount of caffeine or chocolate has ever done.

I could have forced myself to stick to my WIP, keep trolling through the editing. A part of me did feel guilty for not making as much progress with editing as I had scheduled, but a greater part of me was happy and content, and knew this was the right thing. So muse and I played, and then we took some time to read a new book on journaling, which inspired us to dig deeper into our journal, and now we are both refreshed, and know that we are ready to talk to our main character.

Because after giving myself time to just be creative without worrying about the end product, I also realised what bothered me about my WIP. The overall tone of the story is not yet as I want it to be. The main character's voice seems to casual for the story, or for his own depth.

After taking the time to be creative through my journal, just enjoying the fun, I can move forward. Editing on schedule is all very well, and I am not against discipline. Discipline is a key to succeed if one wants to have a long-term writing career, but we also have to remember that this isn't a regular, logical job. This is a creative process - and it has its own schedule, and sometimes it knows far better than we do, when we are ready to move forward.

So this evening, I plan to have a good chat with my MC and see what he has to tell me. Meanwhile, I shall continue to analyse my WIP rather than be fixated with making it perfect immediately. I need to understand the problems before I can fix them. I need to look below the surface - listen to what the story and the characters have to say. And sometimes, I just need to throw the schedule out of the window, and listen to the Muse.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Editing = Different Time Management

Since I started serious editing, I have felt noticeable difference in the amount of time I have to do everything - or at least a few different things - I want to do every evening. It's crazy, how much time it takes, compare to writing.

When you only have 3 or 4 hours free in the evening, it's hardly enough time to go through list of 4 or 5 to-dos, and not to mention that I would actually like to have some free time, watch TV, faff around on the Internet, read books etc. So with the editing eating away my time, I had to look very hard at how I spend my evenings.

A lot of things which I took for granted as my daily activities - namely, A LOT of time online - had to be cut down severely. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs - they all get far less time now. Before, just reading blogs would take me about 2 hours because there are so many of them that I like to read. Now I focus on a few every evening, and if I get a chance to visit some more during the day, I do that. Facebook and Twitter are not much of a sacrifice, because I am not particularly addicted to them.

I have also had to watch a little less TV. Generally, I have TV on in the background regardless of what I am doing, because I can do almost anything while watching TV, including writing, except on occasions when I just mute it while I need some silence. I still watch TV while editing, but for more focused, detailed editing, I find it distracts me, so it has to be turned off. I have taken to listening to Beethoven instead, which works as a good background noise too.

But I refuse to let my evenings become all about editing as well, as there are other things I want to do - focus on my journaling for example, and some things I have to do - like workout or cook dinner (unless I order take away ;) so I have learnt that if I spend less time online, I can spend bit more time on other things, and edit, maintain at least some sort of balance.

There is no perfect balance of course - it is a constant battle against procrastination and against desire to go for "fun" goals. But it is a battle that though I don't think I am winning yet, I am definitely not losing.

My motto: get ready my warriors, because we are going to beat the crap out of all the opposition, and succeed.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

On Beginnings

As we have been told over and over and over again, beginnings of a novel are of supreme importance. If the first few pages, or even in extreme cases a first page, does not grab an agent or an editor, they are likely to move on to the next manuscript in the slush pile. Even assuming that somehow you managed to get through them because they recognized the talent, there are quite a lot of readers who are equally impatient. So beginnings are important.

So what do you do when you are writing your beginnings? Where do your stories start? What considerations you give them?

When I write my first draft, I start at whatever point comes in my mind as the beginning of a story. I have never had to wonder about it, because from the moment the story idea takes a seed and by the time I start writing the first draft I know where to start. It feels just the right place.

So why do things change when editing?

I believe it is because when we are writing the first draft, even the most organised writers who work with detailed outlines, we are still getting to know the story. Despite all the planning, a first draft is still very much an organic process - as it should be - so perhaps we put in more details, or an earlier start point than necessary. Agents often mention that from slush piles, books often start much later than the first page. Perhaps, it is the old student in us who remembers all the lessons where set-up was necessary in order to tell a story.

I thought I had started my book just at the right place. It started with action. It showed hero in his ordinary place, before the disturbance occurs. A classic mythic structure beginning. But then when I was editing it, the opening though action, didn't seem strong enough. It definitely seemed like a set-up, and not the story beginning. So I experimented, and tried to write that scene from a different point. I tried it by skipping first 4 pages. That didn't quite fit. So I started a new file, and tried yet another version - still skipping 4 pages, but also slightly rewriting. While I am by no means convinced if it is the perfect beginning, it does at present, feel stronger than the original.

Changing the beginning, and cutting out the set-up would also require rewrites in other scenes because people who showed up in the first few pages, now have to be introduced later, so I am working on changing rest of the first picture and see how everything would fit in.

Now, the book starts with the story, not with the set up. A part of me is wondering if it should be more in medias-res but that question needs some mulling over. One thing is certain, if it needs changing, I will change it.

But one thing we must all keep in mind is though beginnings are important, they are by no means the only important thing. If you want your tale to satisfy the readers, it must have a strong beginning, middle and end, and what you end up with a compelling book that people might be willing to lose sleep over.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Daily Edit - Tried it?

Finding out what my writer likes is bit like shopping for clothes. Clothes may look great in the shop, but unless you try it, can't be sure if they are just right for you. Just like that, different methods of writing, editing, planning may sound great, but because my inner writer only gives opinion after the fact, I have to provide her with the options so she can tell me what she liked, what she didn't like, and what she loved.

This is all part of discovering the way I work - unless I try new things, I might settle for something that works fine, and miss out on something that may work even better. So settling is a no-no.

So the next experiment I am planning is that with my next WIP, I intend to try daily edit. Write new words, then review them next day, before writing the new words. I don't know whether this will work, because I am concerned that inner editor might want a total control and may never move on - but it's worth an experiment, if it will give me even stronger first draft.

Do any of you do this? Does it work for you?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Your Best VERSUS Best For Your Story

This week I started "proper" editing. In theory I have been editing this book for the whole of February, but in practice it was more about brainstorming a plot layer I want to add, making some revision notes, and generally worrying about how daunting the whole thing was, and how I was never going to get that damn book finished because I was never going to get on with the editing.

Of course the rational part of my brain knew it was silly. After all, I have edited short stories and I am perfectly capable of doing it. I wrote and edited 20000 words Thesis for University. So it's not the editing - it's the fear that everything has to make sense and tie up and flow smoothly through the entire book, and somehow my vision just won't translate on the page. But of course that was silly, because unless I actually start doing the work, it's not going to get done.

So having plucked up the courage, and also having run out of excuses to do more brainstorming without actually applying changes, I started proper edits couple of days ago. Doing so, and fitting it in nicely with my first assignment from Empowering Characters Emotions class, I had to examine few sentences individually. After spending more time than what one would usually devote to one sentence, I had two reactions! - WOW and OH CRAP.

WOW - The difference in those sentences was considerable. Of course, it wouldn't apply to every sentence, because some sentences have to basic. But just reading them now, compared to what they were before, I feel proud to read them. That is not to say they are perfect. I might even change them if they don't fit in with the final draft, but they are much much better than what I initially had, and they came not from any clever tricks, but from bit more thought. So that was the WOW.

OH CRAP - was because I realised how much time and effort and thought I would need to give to my entire manuscript, sentence by sentence, if I am to have that much impact on the entire book. Believe me, for someone who dreams of writing one book after another, and considers patience to be a theoretical concept, it's a nightmare. But the end result is worth it, so I know I have to make that effort.

That's what the title of this post is about. Doing your best as you are now, might be enough. It might even produce a saleable book, or it might not. Doing your best, you can tell yourself that you did what you could, so you can live with the end product.

But to do the best for your book might mean you need to push yourself beyond your best. You need to extend your own boundaries, try new things, let go of preconceptions or of a solid plan you may have in mind. You need to think not only of what you want from your story, but what your story needs. Our stories are organic things - they are not just objects churned out of a production line. They come from our minds and soul, bear what we are and what we believe or don't believe. Each story carries an essence of its author. Does it not deserve then to be written as best as possible so that it stands there out in the world as its true self - the original vision that you once imagined in the beginning of creative frenzy, before you started worrying about outlines and structures and publishers?

I believe it does. I want to be a career novelist, but more than that, I want to be a story-teller who portrays the story's true self.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

BristolCon 2010

Last year was a year of great leap in terms of my writing career, so it would be wrong to make no progress this year. And one of the new things I plan to try this year is attend some writerly things. Of course since money and time are both limited, I can't do everything I would like to do so I have picked a couple of things, and one of them is BristolCon 2010.

It's Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention in Bristol. It's still in infancy, only in the second year. I didn't know about it last year, so really glad to find something on my doorstep.

There are benefits of a new convention of course - first, I will have the pleasure of knowing it from the beginning so in 20 years I could say, "Oh I have been here forever" ;) and it's cheaper than usual. But it doesn't mean rubbish, because there are some wonderful writers coming - two of whom are Joe Abercrombie who wrote the First Law Fantasy trilogy and Paul Cornell, who among other things writes Dr. Who episodes.

The convention is on November 6th, but I am already registered, and really looking forward to it.