First off, I’ve come across a magazine that seeks story and poetry submissions from high school students, and, since the submissions must come from students themselves, not from schools, I assume you can be home schooled if you’d like to submit. And the publication actually pays a fee if a work is accepted, rare in the poetry world. Here’s the link: http://www.hangingloosepress.com/submissions.html. Be sure to tell us here if you get an acceptance. Good luck!
Second off, I’ve announced on my website that there’s a sale on the e-book version of A Tale of Two Castles going on until April 20th, which isn’t very far off. Here’s the link if you’d like to take advantage of it: http://www.gailcarsonlevine.com/news.html.
And third off, a reminder of my tour for Stolen Magic, which starts in a few days. The farthest west I’m being sent (tour arranged by my publisher) is Ohio, but for you easterners, I would love to meet you! Here’s the link to the details on my website: http://www.gailcarsonlevine.com/appears.html.
Finally for the post! On December 1, 2014, Bug wrote, I’ve never actually… uh, finished a story. This NaNoWriMo I got 30k, which is twice as much as I have ever gotten. So, it’s exciting, but I’ve realized that I need to change something, and it’s so major that it’ll change EVERYTHING. Should I just continue and pretend that I already wrote it that way, or start over?
Erica Eliza responded with, First, congratulations for getting that far. Some changes aren’t as big as you think. If it’s something drastic, like switching the POV, I’d say restart. If you can get away with rewriting certain scenes and tweaking lines in others, keep moving forward. (This is still the same Eliza, BTW. I just tacked my first name onto my screen name.)
And Rapunzelwriter chimed in along the same vein. I’m not quite done with mine, but I reached 30K as well and am currently feeling like I have to rewrite most, if not all of my story. I’ve also been having a problem with not being able to recognize anything good in my work. Sometimes I’ll finally finish a short story, and after re-reading it, groan because I see so much that needs to be fixed, and rarely anything good. Any advice?
carpelibris offered, Sounds normal to me! Rough drafts (at least to me) are just a pile of “stuff” you make in order to have a complete thing to work on. Raw material that you can turn into something wonderful.
At the time I replied, Everybody works differently. I’d recommend that you keep going and, yes, pretend you’ve already made the changes. By the time you get to the end, you’ll have a better idea about how to revise.
Now, reflecting at my leisure, I still mostly agree with myself, although I don’t always follow my own advice and I’m not even sure if it applies to every story.
In my experience, just moving forward is a happier way to write. In my novels Ever and A Tale of Two Castles, I did just that. I was confused, I often felt that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I kept going. I finished both books in under a year and a half, pretty quick for a turtle of a writer like me. And I look back on those books as comparatively painless. I’m trying to do the same with the manuscript I’m tentatively calling Bamarre, the prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, which I’m working on right now, even though the process has been interrupted by poetry school.
On the other hand, I did start over–and over and over–in both Fairest and Stolen Magic, and both books were miserable to write. Fairest took four years and Stolen Magic four and a half, although I did write Writer to Writer in the middle.
In the case of Fairest, I couldn’t get the POV right. The underlying problem, however, was that I was at a loss about how to handle the part of the story after the Snow White character eats the poisoned apple. Once I realized what to do there, I was able to write in first person from her POV and everything fell into place. Was it necessary to go through all those iterations to figure it out? I don’t know.
I was even more mixed up with Stolen Magic, and my problem was plotting, specifically plotting a mystery, which has to have suspects (I forgot them in the first 260 pages) and has to be solvable (which I forgot in the second 140 pages). Unlike Fairest, if I had managed to write either of the first two versions, they would have been very different stories from the one that I ultimately developed, inch by inch. I regret that I never figured those stories out; they were interesting, and my curiosity about them didn’t get satisfied.
So I suppose my recommendation is to keep writing new pages if you can. If you can pretend that you’ve made the revisions, if it’s clear enough to you what you will have to do later, then just keep writing. Go back only if you absolutely can’t go forward.
About finishing, I always finish. Sheer stubbornness is one reason. A story that is a figment of my own imagination is not going to defeat me.
Another is curiosity. Since I don’t outline, I don’t know exactly how my story is going to turn out unless I write it. The ending may be clear in my mind, as it is in the book I’m working on now, since it has to prepare this world for the events in Two Princesses, and I know the feeling I want the ending to have, but I’m not yet sure how I’m going to get there, even though (I hope) I’ve written two-thirds of the book.
The last reason, and probably the most important one, goes to the heart of Rapunzelwriter’s final question. I can keep going because I don’t look for what’s good or bad in my WIP (work in progress). In fact, I studiously avoid this question, which will just lead me down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. I recommend that everybody avoid it. If that self-doubting voice in our mind starts piping up, we have to stamp it down with both feet. Yes, we have to decide if our characters are acting according to character. Yes, we need to vary our sentences and remember to include sensory information other than the visual, and so on. We have to be critical in a nitty-gritty, detail-oriented way, but we don’t have to be nasty to ourselves! We have to give our stories, ideas, words, plots, characters–all of it!–a chance to shine. I believe we can squelch our negativity if we pay attention to our self-critical impulses and don’t let them take over.
Even when I finish a novel, the big question I ask myself is, Is this working? Not, Is this good? We can let the critics weigh in on that. We can just congratulate ourselves and do a victory dance and have a party and set off fireworks for having made our way all the way to “The End.”
Having said all this, I also think it’s okay for you (not me) not to finish. If you’ve learned all you can from a particular story, or if you’re bored, there’s nothing wrong with moving on. If you’re a young person, you’re changing at a crazy pace. What appealed to you a month ago may no longer be the slightest bit interesting. So try something else, and don’t worry if that fades, too. The only important thing is to keep writing, because if you do, eventually you’ll finish something.
Here are three prompts:
• We never hear about Snow White’s younger sister, who won’t ever cause the mirror to arouse the evil queen’s jealousy. But this sister has extraordinary qualities of her own, which the dwarfs put to good use. And it’s possible that Snow White’s prince has a cousin. Make their lives intersect and write their story, which may or may not interfere with Snow White’s troubles.
• Go back to your Snow White story and switch narrator in the middle. If you were writing in first person from the sister’s POV, switch to omniscient third or to first person from a different character’s POV. Do not go back. Just keep writing. If the story now takes you in a different direction, that’s okay. When you finish, revise.
• Experience finishing. Take a simple story structure. Could be this: Your MC desperately wants to win a contest. Say there’s a kingdom, and every year the young people compete to find a large ruby, which the king hides. Your MC tries three times and finally succeeds. That’s it, the whole story. Write it in three to five pages. Include two to three other characters, no more. Give your MC a personality. Include dialogue, a hint of setting, and get it done!
Have fun, and save what you write!