Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

As of November 30th, my writing course is at an end. As of November 30th, NaNoWriMo for 2013 is also at an end. So what's next?

I guess a lot of folks ask themselves this question at the end of November's writing marathon, if the blogosphere is to be relied on. In years past, when I finished up a draft of a novel on November 30th, I would already know the answer: I would put the draft away for the month of December, tending to pre-Christmas ridiculousness and then enjoying the holidays before coming back to it in January with fresh eyes and a willingness to edit and revise.

But this year, things are a little different. I am not giving myself a month off. Because besides drafting a novel, I spent the month of November in editing and revising a completely separate project. But I didn't finish it. So here's my next steps:

1. Making a study of setting and character description. I need to learn how to enrich a story with specific, concrete detail without sacrificing pace. As I've mentioned before, this seems to be my biggest current hurdle in writing. And while I am getting better at chiseling out specific details in terms of setting and character, I do not yet have the instinct for when it is not enough and when it is enough. I am trying to learn, right now, how to strike that precious balance. My earlier drafts have an exciting, quick pace that is becoming lost in my POV character looking around scenes and describing them at length. Yeesh.

2. Finding a Mentor. Now, at the end of the course, I am feeling a little lost. I'm not afraid to admit it. The massive benefit of the course was having an experienced, professional, published author off of whom to bounce ideas and get some great advice and sometimes tough love when it came to the work. But the time is up and now I am going to be without that voice of experience. When I think about the revision work that I did before I took this course, I can't help but think that I was floundering. Major big time.

So what to do to ensure that I continue in a progression towards better writing? Here I am a tad bit stumped. An unpublished author like me can't exactly just approach an established, popular author of my genre and ask for mentorship, can she? No matter how much promise I might have or how amazing my work ethic, writers always have their own work to think of. Plus, I'm positive some of the more prolific and popular writers of my genre get such amateurish requests daily. I imagine they have an email folder filled with such silly requests. And so...

3. Finding a Community. This is more like it. What I could do, online or in 'real' life, is to seek out a writing group that I trust. This is a difficult prospect in either sphere. Finding a group of strangers with whom to share a safe space in which constructive criticism is separated from bitterness, professional jealousy and rank amateurish writing is a daunting task. In 'real life' it is made a little more difficult by the fact that my love and I will be moving again before the snow melts and I currently have no idea where we'll end up next. (Did I mention my life is an ever-changing adventure?) So it seems that online is key. Like most things in my life, it has to be portable. It has to be in the cloud. "Life in the Cloud". That sounds like a great title for a memoir, doesn't it?

I suppose I'll have to take this advice to figure out where to start! No matter what I decide, I do think that other writers are required in order for the work to move forward in a productive manner.

4. Reading, reading, reading. I have tons of reading to do, as always. Not only of novels that are in my genre and those whose style I can learn from, but of instructables and how-to books on the craft. Reading is key to becoming a better writing and I intend to do a lot of it.

All right, now that I've come up with some next steps, I feel a little better. I don't feel like I'm panicking at the shear amount of work to be done and the various myriad ways in which it can get done. These endings mean, at least, that the work is progressing and that I am one step closer to a career!

photo credits: Raphael Pinto, Justyna Furmanczyk