Tag Archives: inspiration

How I Edit As I Draft

I write fiction one of two ways:

1. I write without editing and go, go, go until I stop or feel stupid (I’m working on that last part).

2. I write a few pages and then when I get stuck/confused/forget my train of thought I re-read and edit what I just wrote.

Sometimes I’ll set something aside and look at it again the next day. Sometimes I’ll delete and re-write a sentence 10 times before I feel comfortable enough to move on.

My ideal way to write is to just sit down and have the ideas flow out of my brain like a magical river.

This rarely happens. And it never comes out perfect.

Pulling ideas out of the air is more fun for poetry. But my fiction likes fermentation more than spontaneity.

What on earth does that mean?

I use the word fermentation because (like my academic writing) I need to think for a long time and brainstorm (aka daydream) about my story before I actually write it. Because that’s how my brain likes to structure stories.*

Now, when I write poetry I’m a complete “pantser” or discovery writer. I love the unknown of the blank page. Not so much when I write fiction. I’m not a complete “plotter” and if I write an outline I end up spending more time on that than actually writing. But I need some sort of structure to jump off of.

I am a huge fan of free writing. I love hearing other writers talk about it, I love witnessing it. I even love doing it but for the last 2 years I’ve been hopping between 3-4 established drafts of different projects so the opportunities to actually create prose have been few and far between.

I have added new paragraphs or expanded chapters here and there, I call this filling the p(L)ot holes. But not actually writing what I would consider “new” material. Now, here’s the thing. There is one big place in Work In Progress 1 where I need to write at least 2 brand new chapters. There are three places in Work In Progress 2 that need at least 20,000 words of new material. And I need to write a new ending for Work in Progress 3.

But even though I have set up deadlines for myself (again) this year and am DETERMINED to finish these particular projects THIS FUCKING YEAR I am having serious trouble getting into a creative groove and writing this new material because, I feel like, I’ve been editing and considering (too much) where my decisions have taken me and the parts of the storyline that I’ve already locked in place. I’ve closed myself off to just pulling random shit out of the air and running with it.

Editing while I write isn’t bad, sometimes I need it to remind myself where I left off or revisit the tone I was going for, or I found a better tone and I need to change it. But then I either

1. Get distracted and forget the image or feeling I was trying to insert into that section.

2. I get bogged down by all the grammar fixes and structure changes I needed to make along the way and by the time I get to the end of the edit I’ve lost the momentum/motivation to write the new things.

Does this happen to you too?

And then I get upset at myself because how can I ever not want to write?

The problem I have with brainstorming is I sometimes (okay, I a lot of the time, I’m working on it) I feel like I have to get everything perfect in my head before I can write it down. And then I get frustrated or overwhelmed.

I don’t really have a solution to this problem other than I have to REMEMBER to remind myself, whenever I feel that way, that writing is fun and I want to tell my story. Be as stubborn and persistent as you need to be to get the words out.

One thing that has been helping me is a kind of trick or game I’ve started playing with myself. When I’m stuck I challenge myself to write as SHITTILY as I can. To write the worst draft ever. On purpose. Because I can go back and change it later. (Now this might be the start of a vicious cycle because the worse it is the more I have to edit later while I’m trying to write new material and then I tell myself to write that badly and I do and on, and on, and on).

Another thing that I do is if I find I need to cut a big chunk of text or an entire paragraph out but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do, I copy it over into another document and save it for later. If I never use it again I can always delete it or turn it into a “deleted scene” that I might post on my blog later. I hate having a digital folder filled with loads and loads of files but if that’s what I need to do to keep writing, that’s what I need to do.

I hope this little ramble has been helpful. Camp NaNoWrimo starts tomorrow and I wanted to send something out that, maybe if you write like this too, will make you feel less alone.

My Camp project this year will be Book 2 of my paranormal horror series, The Slaughter Chronicles. I’m hoping to finish all the things with Book 1 over the summer and publish it this winter. If you’re interested, you can check out the series’s prequel novella right here 🙂

*

*I keep saying my brain like I’m compartmentalizing. Is that part of the problem?

Photo by Tamara Gore on Unsplash

Red Lineage

A poem inspired by Khadijah Queen’s 2014 Naropa SWP Workshop at the Jack Kerouac School Of Disembodied Poetics.

Red Lineage

My name is jess tying the hawk’s leg red.

My mother’s name is red springtime in a land she wasn’t born.

My father’s name is red markings of the bombs.

My sister’s name is lovely flower red.

My brother’s name is unstoppable fission red.

My grandmother’s name is sorrow on a soft, red wind.

Her mother’s name is went back but couldn’t find them red.

I come from a people known for bombed cathedrals, long voyages across the sea, and bootlegged moonshine.

Remember me.

Bucket List

1. Get a job I don’t hate.

2. Find the scariest haunted house EVER.

3. Do an escape room.

4. Get an RV and travel across the country.

5. Get a boat and live on the river.

6. Go to Comicon.

7. Go to Dragoncon.

8. Have nice cosplay ideas for 6 and 7.

9. Cultivate a yoga practice.

10. Learn Tai Chi.

11. Meditate regularly.

12. PUBLISH MY BOOKS.

13. Visit the Grand Canyon.

14. Be a better birder.

15. See all the birds on my Life List.

15. Learn how to sing. Like, properly sing, not in-the-car-sing.

16. Write a crown of sonnets (sonnet corona) and do it properly…following all the rules…(kill me).

17. Learn how to ballroom dance.

18. Go to a ball and wear a big, floppy princess dress.

19. Grow my hair long. The last time I had long hair was in 1997.

20. Learn how to play a musical instrument and play at shows with all my favorite artists.

21. Join a prestigious writing association.

22. Hitchhike or just walk across the country. Or live in my car.

23. Become an “extreme” minimalist.

24. Be invited to talk about poetry at AWP.

25. Have one of my books nominated for a Locus, Nebula, or Hugo. Just the nomination, I don’t have to win, just tell me you love me.

Gatekeeping in Anglo-Saxon Literature, Musical Traditions, and Lots and LOTS of Poems

Here’s a really captivating article about J.R.R. Tolkein’s scholarship on the Old English epic poem Beowulf and how the white gaze predominates medieval literature.

Book Recommendation: The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. Includes her essay “Grendel and His Mother.”

Margaret Atwood on The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

And now…lots of poems…

The Gardner by Nancy Botta at Rusted Honey

Close Reading by Brandon Som

You Say You Said by Marianne Moore

“An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen” by Alba Cid, translated by Jacob Rogers

Ideology by Aria Aber

Cloth Birds by Dorothy Tse

The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars by Melody S. Gee

River to River by Hai-Dang Phan

A gorgeous haiku from Lize Bard of Haiku out of Africa

Getting a little Biblical now: a poem to Noah’s wife by Maya C. Popa

And my poem for Noah’s wife…

After the Flood

While Noah’s sighs polluted the ruddy beach

littered with the bones of heretics,

their livestock and their predators;

while he thanked God for the early warning,

the strong timber, and exclusion

from the slaughtered multitude

his women walked around him like he was just another corpse,

bobbing and rooting around piles of driftwood and soggy cloth,

picking out the useful things.

I wrote this way back in 2009 after visiting an art exhibition depicting a life sized Noah, drawn in charcoal, assessing the damage of God’s Wrath while looking picturesquely helpless and out of sorts while women scavenged through the rubble behind him. I can’t remember who the artist was.

*

Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash