Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Writers write. If it’s possible to boil our craft down to one simple truth, no matter what our backgrounds or specializations are, it’s this: writers write. And often, we really love doing it.

Occasionally though, there are times where we writers hate writing, or find ourselves becoming disillusioned with it. This can happen for a number of reasons, but in my general experience, writers tend to go through these phases where they just don’t want to write when the business side of writing, or things in our personal lives, starts having a negative effect on the act of writing itself. Recently, a friend of mine talked about how, for a while, writing was starting to lose its appeal to her, to the point where she wasn’t enjoying storytelling and was thinking about quitting. She later realized that was because, in order to keep her sales up, she was writing stories that she wrote to sell well.

Of course, all writers who sell their work write stories they think will sell well, but it’s not usually the main goal. Usually, we write stories we ourselves want to read or stories we feel we need to tell and would have fun doing it. My friend was writing stories that were designed to sell, but were not necessarily stories she enjoyed writing. Her field was becoming so crowded, she felt she needed to write this way in order to compete. But all it really did for her was make writing less of a fun activity but a chore.

It was only when she realized that she needed to get back to writing stories she felt passionate about and decided to stop doing stories calculated to do well in a crowded field that she started to enjoy writing again.

Similarly, I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts with writing for a while now. I still enjoy the act, and I’m not sure there’s anything that would make me hate writing, but then some things came up:

Back in March, when I found out Rose was going to be published by an actual publishing company, I was ecstatic. I was on a high that lasted for a whole week and a half, like pure joy had somehow been pumped into my bloodstream. But soon after that, the company sent me back my manuscript with notes, and the feedback they gave me…well, they noted many issues with Rose. Issues that really brought down my high. I’ve been working on this novel for about four years now, and just seeing so many problems pointed out wasn’t pleasant.

The fact that the novel needed so many rewrites didn’t help either.

Not only that, but there was some stuff in my personal life that I was dealing with, personal stuff that I’m still dealing with. I won’t go into details (not because I’m not comfortable talking about it, it just doesn’t feel like the right time to do so), but the first couple of months of 2018, while still full of good things for me, had some unexpected obstacles and issues that weren’t widely reported outside of a close circle of a select number of individuals.

It’s crazy how this anime could get me out of my funk so easily. God, I love you, Sailor Moon.

Those obstacles and issues, as well as seeing all that needed fixing with Rose, just sort of brought down my enjoyment of writing in general. And I wondered how I would get it back.

This evening though, I had the weirdest pep talk from the most unexpected source: Sailor Moon (bare with me here). As you guys know, I LOVE Sailor Moon. It’s one of my favorite anime ever, and I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Recently, the first half of Season 4 was released on DVD with a new, more faithful dub (meaning original Japanese names and no editing to make the story more appropriate for children), and this week my copy from the library came in, so obviously I’m bingeing it this weekend.

Here’s where the pep talk comes in: one of the episodes from that season involves a friend of Sailor Jupiter who happens to be a novelist. The novelist has recently suffered some personal setbacks, and they’ve made it difficult for her to write. But by the end of the episode, through the intervention of Sailor Jupiter (and a vision of a winged unicorn, but that’s beside the point), she regains the will and inspiration to write.

All throughout that episode, I felt like it was talking to me. I saw myself in the writer, and every time a character offered her encouragement, I felt like I was the one getting the encouragement. By the end of the episode, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. Yes, I still have personal things to deal with, and Rose still needs a lot of work, and they’ll continue to plague me for the foreseeable future. But I’ve got it in me to keep writing and editing and get this story to the point where my publisher will put it out there. And after that, I have over a thousand stories I could pick from to tell, with a few more coming to me each month. The possibilities are endless!

And all because I decided to binge-watch Sailor Moon this weekend (one of these days, I’ll have to blog about how much this show and its characters mean to me).

So what’s next? Well, I’m going to go back and rewatch that episode, and I’ll see if I can keep myself from crying while I watch it. And after that? I think I’ll email my publisher, and we’ll talk about my proposed edits for Rose. And then I’ll get back to writing. Because after all, I am a writer. And what do writers do? Why, write. That’s what we do.

And that’s what I’m going to do, now with a renewed sense of purpose. And I can’t wait to get started.

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I try to be a regular blogger, one or two posts a week. But since Saturday, I haven’t really had anything to talk about. Which is crazy, because I usually always have something to talk about. And sometimes, people like to read what I have to say.

But there’s just nothing these past couple of days I’ve wanted to get out there. There’s been no development with Rose or any of my other stories worth mentioning. I haven’t seen or read anything to review lately. I haven’t come up with anything involving the art of writing or the art of horror. There’s nothing big in my life that I feel like making announcements about. And there’s no issue or current event I feel angry enough to speak about (and before you mention “Cockygate,” I’m getting to that).

There were things I thought I might blog about. I finished rereading The Shining, the first time I’ve read it since my teens, but I didn’t feel like I had enough material to make a full post like I did with To Kill a Mockingbird. The same with a post about feedback from readers and magazines; I started it, but in the end, the words just wouldn’t come to me. Cockygate is still ongoing, but there hasn’t been enough new developments that I want to write a post. I have a post for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, but I’m saving that until after I’ve spoken with my publisher about some proposed edits for Rose. And I’m waiting on a few other things to happen before I do some other posts I’ve been thinking of writing.

I could do an entire post about how one of my favorite shows Lucifer was canceled (yes, that happened, and I’m very upset about it!). But that feels too clickbait-y for me, especially after devoting an entire post to Cockygate. That being said, it would do me and an entire fandom a huge favor if you could help us keep the hashtag #SaveLucifer trending on social media. As of the time I’m writing this post, it’s a trending topic on Twitter, with over three-hundred twenty-seven thousand tweets. Believe me, we don’t want this show to go anywhere, so please help us out.

But other than that, I really have nothing special to say at the moment. I’m as quiet as a mouse.

Except…

Except that I can assure you I am still working on stories. Rose is coming along slowly but surely, and I have other stories in the wings. I certainly haven’t run out of ideas for stories or blog posts. And I am as devoted and energetic towards these projects as I’ve always been.

So even if I drop off the blogosphere from time to time, know this: I will come back, and it’ll be with plenty of good news to share. So stay tuned.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.

Just like the last time I posted about this subject, I’m pretty sure someone is reading that post title and is very, very confused.

So if you’re unaware, there are two styles of writing fiction that most writers can be divided into: pantsers and plotters. To put it simply, plotters like to plan out as much as they can before and during writing, while pantsers tend to plan out only a few things, and leave the rest up to whatever they come up with in the moment. Some people do a mix, but for the majority, they usually fall into one camp or the other.

I’m a big plotter, but for a while I’ve been experimenting with more seat-of-my-pants style writing. I wanted to see if that led to situations within stories that felt more natural, more “organic” than something that might feel forced for the sake of the plot. And my experiment yielded an interesting conclusion: except for some short stories (and not many, mind you), I can’t pants for the life of me. And believe me, I tried. I tried to let situations rise as organically as possible and go with the flow. However, what ended up happening more often than not is that I would just sit there in front of my computer, trying to figure out what comes next. Then I’d get distracted, and I’d end up watching a few videos or reading clickbait articles, and then I’d realize that it’s time to make tomorrow’s lunch and get ready for bed, and only a little work has been done, and that just sucks!

I didn’t fully realize how bad I was at pantsing until I was writing an email to my publisher. We were discussing changes I could make to Rose, and I mentioned that I’d really have to think about what changes I would make, as, and I quote, “I can’t pants to save my life.” It wasn’t until I really wrote out those words that it dawned on me how true they were. I can’t pants to save my life. Except for the rare short story, I need an order and an idea of where I’m going. Otherwise, I just can’t write, let alone make a compelling story.

So I’m back on mainly plotting out my stories. But I’m not sad about that. Like I said, I’m a plotter, so it feels good to be writing in a way I know that works for me. And I’m happy for another reason: this experiment in pantsing was a success in a different manner than what I expected. Thomas Edison once said that his thousand failed light bulbs weren’t actually failed light bulbs, but discoveries on how not to make a light bulb. Similarly, I discovered some more of my limitations when it comes to writing, and how I can improve in the future. Far from a complete and total failure.

And if you have a specific way you write, don’t feel pressured to change it because other writers write differently. We all have our areas and our methods that work for us. If you want to experiment and try something new, go ahead and try it. You never know what’ll happen. But never feel that you have to change how you do things. You could end up going from quality work to not getting anything done at all.

Have you tried both pantsing and plotting? How has it worked out for you?

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I know my posts have been a bit more spaced out than usual lately, but I’m hoping to have more to post about in the new month. Hopefully even a couple pieces of good news (fingers crossed). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

In my last update on Rose, I mentioned that I was probably going to do a whole lot of revisions and possibly a ton of rewriting, owing to the fact that the flashbacks were deemed unnecessary to the story and I had to throw them out or modify them. Well, I am rewriting a good chunk of the novel. It’s not what I’d hoped for, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And while I’m still trying to figure out the final third of the novel, I have figured out the second third for the most part, as well as other things that I plan to include in the story. And one of those things I plan to use is something I call mini-anecdotes.*

Mini-anecdotes are something I’ve noticed a lot in fiction, particularly fiction aimed for adults. They’re not like flashbacks or mini-flashbacks, but they’re related. A mini-anecdote is when a character briefly thinks of a past experience, usually something that can be associated with the current moment in the story. It’s not a flashback, as it’s not going into the character’s past in order to show them something. It’s more like a quick summary of a flashback. A good example would be in The Shining (which I’m rereading now), when Jack is doing handyman work around the hotel’s playground and park, and thinks back to the park he went to with his dad growing up. This not only gives us a bit more on Jack’s past and who he is as a person, but also gives us a brief illustration about his relationship with his dad, which we learn further about in the novel.

Other great examples of mini-anecdotes can be found throughout the Harry Potter books. In the first book, we learn how Harry’s life has been strange since he was small: ending up on the school roof, his hair growing back overnight, a sweater shrinking as his aunt is trying to force it on him. This isn’t a full flashback, but it gives us a very good idea of what Harry’s life has been like up until Dudley’s eleventh birthday, as well as what he’s like based on his reactions to the strange things around him. And in the third book, we get a brief glimpse of Harry’s relationship with his Aunt Marge, how she also mistreats him and spoils Dudley, and once let her dog chase Harry up a tree while laughing at his misfortune. It’s an illustrative moment on how awful Marge is and gives us an idea of what we can expect from her during her appearance in the story.

Now, I’ve only just started identifying mini-anecdotes in fiction, so I’m not an expert at using them yet. Just as you can”t really be a great writer even if you’ve read hundreds of novels, you can’t immediately use mini-anecdotes even if you’ve seen them in hundreds of books. However, I think I’ve identified a few things that might make using them in Rose a bit easier:

  • They’re brief. Seems rather self-explanatory, but it needs to be stated. Mini-anecdotes are usually only a couple of sentences or paragraphs at most. The longest may be only two pages at most, but they don’t go on for several pages. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a flashback, and as I stated in a previous post, flashbacks can be difficult to use effectively.
  • Little dialogue or details. Mini-anecdotes tend to be very bare bones. They may have a few lines of dialogue, but no long speeches. And certainly not enough detail like the shape of a building or all the thoughts going through a character’s head. It’s more summary, telling vs. showing, than anything else. Going into anything more would be going into flashback, most likely. And as I said, those have strings attached.
  • They’re connected to the present. Like Harry’s early experiences with magic or his aunt, these mini-anecdotes have to connect to the story’s present, either to illustrate a point, give us further insight into a character, or just to help us connect to them more. Having one for the sake of having one will do you no favors. After all, you wouldn’t want to have a romantic scene that suddenly goes into a character’s dislike of geese, do you?

While these won’t help a writer (let alone me) use mini-anecdotes well, they can be a starting point for their use. And if we as writers can learn to use them well, then we can use them to make our stories better and more memorable to readers. And in the end, isn’t that part of the reason we write in the first place?

Do you use mini-anecdotes in your stories? What tips do you have for writing them?

*At least that’s what I call them. I don’t know if there’s a technical term for them. If there is, please let me know in the comments below.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but Rose has a lot of flashback sequences and other dips into the past within the story, especially in the last two-thirds. I did this for a number of reasons: exploring the characters’s pasts; making them more complex; and just an opportunity to write some sequences to add to the horror element of the story. And there are a lot of horrifying things in those sequences, things that I can’t go into without revealing too many plot details, but they did make my beta readers gasp and stare at the page wide-eyed. They were horrifying moments in the story.

Not to mention, I think that flashbacks can be scary if done right. A good example of this is Gerald’s Game by Stephen King: while the protagonist’s current situation is scary enough, going into her past midway through the story and seeing how her father abused her as a kid was horrifying in its own right. Another good example would be the movie Oculus: that film flashes between the present and the past throughout its runtime, and it’s freaky no matter what year it is (see my Rewatch Review of that film).

Well, it looks like I didn’t do the flashbacks right for Rose. In the notes on the fourth draft from my publisher, they mentioned that all those flashbacks are just bad stuff happening to those characters, and while that stuff is horrifying, it’s not scary. I’ve had a lot of back and forth with them on this, and after a lot of thought, I can see where they’re coming from. After all, while in the real world “horrifying” can be a synonym for “scary,” especially in relation to current events, in fiction that’s not necessarily the case. Think about it this way: Harry Potter is horribly mistreated by his relatives, and what he goes through is horrifying. But if you ask any normal Potterhead what person or creature from the books they would be scared to face, the Dursleys wouldn’t rate very high on that list. The dementors, Voldemort and his Death Eaters, or the basilisk, sure. But the Dursleys? Considering most Potterheads are Muggle in biology and can’t perform magic, anyone who had to face them would probably be invited into Privet Drive and served tea and cookies in front of the TV!

So while showing how many terrible things happened in the characters’ pasts may be horrifying, it might not be scary. And considering how much experience my publisher has and how well-received their books are (have you checked out The Cronian Incident by Matthew Williams yet?), I’m taking this piece of feedback to heart.

I won’t lie, though, I’m a little disappointed, and I’ve been wondering where I went wrong. Or maybe to phrase it better, I’m wondering how I might have done the flashbacks better.

Well, in the case of Gerald’s Game, whose flashback is most similar to mine, they only do one big flashback sequence, not several. That way, it doesn’t become a repetitive cliche or trick. That, and its connection with the current events of the story: the protagonist’s abuse by her father is very much connected to her current predicament, on psychological and symbolic levels as well as literal levels. And with Oculus, the horror behind the story–a cursed/haunted mirror–is scary no matter when it happens. Spinning a tale of two siblings who experience the mirror both as children and adults, and then going back and forth between those two experiences, makes for some great psychological/supernatural horror.

And maybe that’s the thing: connection. In both those examples, the flashbacks, no matter how they’re staged, have very strong connections to what’s happening in the story’s present. Of the ones in Rose, while they do have connections to the characters’ pasts, only one of them has a direct correlation to the current events of the story. And that one’s told to us by the antagonist rather than shown in flashback. And that’s why the flashbacks in this story didn’t work as well as they could have.

So what’s next? Since so much of the novel is in flashback, I may have to do a whole lot more revising. Hell, I may even have to rewrite a good chunk of the novel. Which isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with: as many of you may recall, I had to go back and start over on the first draft back in college because the first attempt went in a direction that didn’t help the story.

Still, it’s a little annoying, and I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do for these changes (though I have ideas). Hopefully, whatever I come up with, it’ll come out for the novel’s betterment, and bring it one step closer to publication.

Fingers crossed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’ll happen after Rose comes out. Specifically, what sort of stories I’ll work on once I’m done with Rose.

I know that’s a crazy thing to think about at this point. I’m still doing revisions on Rose for the publisher, and likely they’ll have me do more revisions before we get to publication, and then there’s the publication, and then a whole ton of marketing and other work just to make sure the book is read and sold and reviewed and whatnot. Thinking about future projects should be the last thing on my mind.

But of course, being “logical” has never been one of my strong suits, and dreaming about the future has been what’s helped me get to this point anyway. So why not wax on about what might happen after Rose?

Well, there are a number of short stories I’ve been thinking about working on. I very much want to edit Hannah, the ghost story I wrote back in January, and I want to write a few stories that have been circulating in my head for a while. I also want to eventually get back to the novelette I was working on that was giving me so many challenges, and see if I can get a bit further in that, if not finish it up entirely. It may end up becoming one of those stories where I revisit it every now and then to see if time has given me a clearer vision of how to improve and/or finish it (I’ve got a few of those). And I’d like a few months to spend on all of those, just to see what I can come up with, and if any of it is publishable.

And of course, I’ve been thinking about what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I’m ready to write a novel. Probably, that won’t be immediately: Rose has challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged by a story, and I want some time to refresh my mind before I make a commitment to a project that I could end up working on for years and years. But I have some ideas on what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I am ready to make that sort of commitment.

For one thing, it won’t be a sequel to Rose. I could write one, and I have ideas I could develop into a sequel for Rose, but I don’t want to return to the world of Rose just yet. Especially when I can’t guarantee I can make the story better or on par with the original so soon after finishing the original.

For another, I’m not yet ready to return to the world of Reborn City. Yeah, I know there are a couple of big fans of that trilogy who want the final book, Full Circle, already (I know a few of you are probably out there), but I’m just not ready to get back to that yet.

And finally, I want to do something that’s different. Think of it like houses: I don’t want to try selling Castrum on a house that’s basically the same one they bought, just on a different block and with a different coat of paint. I want to sell them a house that’s just as good as the first one, but an entirely different design, while still retaining the Rami Ungar architecture (is this metaphor getting too weird/complicated, or does it still work?).

All these books are different from one another. I want to do the same with my books as well.

I mean, look at Stephen King: he followed Carrie (a psychic girl who gets revenge on her psychotic religious mother and the bullies at her high school) with Salem’s Lot (vampires invade a small Maine town, and a writer and his allies have to stop them), and then went on to write The Shining (a family that includes a psychic four-year-old becomes the winter caretakers at an isolated hotel haunted by something dark and evil) before creating The Stand (a super-disease causes most of Earth’s population to die off, leaving the survivors to engage in an apocalyptic war between the forces of good and evil). None of those are carbon copies of the other, so I want to do something very distinct from Rose.

And I have a few novels I can choose from. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, so I have plenty of options, but there are a few stories I can think of that would make great projects. There’s one in particular I’d like to work on when the time comes, but it’ll depend on a number of factors, including if I have to pitch something to the publisher (I’m not sure if that’s something I have to do, but it’s something I’ve thought about).

Still, there’s plenty of time to think about all that. I just know that when the time does come to think about all that, I’ll have plenty of ideas to work with and consider. Hopefully whatever I choose, it’ll make for some good reading.

In the meantime, I’m off to work on Rose for a little bit. Here’s hoping I can make some good progress before I have to hit the hay tonight. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!