Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Revising Utopia Project, part XII

I am officially over halfway done with revising the Utopia Project.

Wow.

Last time I wrote, it was in late December. Now, in February, I can say that 2012 is starting off as a productive year for writing. Hopefully it will continue to be so.

Since last time, I've written five scenes, over 12,000 words. I credit my logbook, which reminds me forcefully of whenever I fail to make my goal of writing four times a week.

But enough about word counts, scene counts, etc. Though I am a math person, I know that the soul of a story does not lie in the numbers.

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1. Know thy characters. I say that a lot, and I know that it's ridiculous for me to want to have a character-based story with a cast of hundreds (literally. But only a small fraction of those are important). But you, the writer, must understand your characters if you want to feel what you are writing.

Find something about your viewpoint character to like, something that resonates with you, so that you can see things from his/her perspective. Find something about your viewpoint character that doesn't align with your views, so that you don't turn the character into your self-insert and get queasy about writing the character as a real, and flawed, person.

*Note: in first draft, that doesn't matter as much. Right now, as I toss around ideas for GW, there's one character who is essentially me. If you're writing for purposes of catharsis, don't force anything, not even good characterization.

2. Know when to end. In one scene I ditched the last two hundred words or so because the scene had, sneakily, behind my back, accomplished what it needed to do.

3. Rearrange. If you write something that sounds really good, but it happens at a different time in the story, copypasta to your heart's content. Nothing you write is wasted. That doesn't mean you have to use everything you write.

4. Writing confrontations is (sometimes) fun. I swore off gratuitous fight scenes since they irritated me so much when I started revising, but fights or hostile encounters that coincidentally show character dynamics or foreshadow stuff have their place. Putting your characters under pressure and seeing how they react is a good way to see what they're made of.

5. Let function inform tone. If a scene is meant to be a respite, take more liberties with pretty language. Just as readers need to take breathers, so do you. Besides, too much confrontation (see above) can get repetitive real quick. Experiment with subtler ways of creating character conflict.

6. Help yourself. I'm finally at the point where my first-draft writing is decent enough that I can use a lot of it instead of writing scenes entirely from scratch. Yes! When you reach that point, enjoy it. I need to stay on guard, make sure I don't get complacent, but I can't deny that it's a relief.

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Time to write.

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