Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: When a Novel Needs a Complete Rewrite - Author Life

Hey everyone.

So I've been reading up some blogs lately, mainly on writing craft. Doing that has two effects on me as a writer. One, I grow in my skills and learn how to apply amazing things to my writing. Two, I realize how much my current writing sucks.

It's like I'm in a Facebook relationship with craft and we fall under the "it's complicated" category.

So I thought I'd share one of my old experiences with my current WIP. The feelings that come when you realize a novel needs a complete rewrite. I felt those feelings just last year.

And it's complicated.

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Novel writing is a very very difficult task. Anyone who says it's easy either has a miraculous gift, or they haven't hit the hard parts yet... or they're far too full of themselves.

I always get frustrated with people when I tell them I'm writing a novel. They'll say, "Oh yeah, I want to write a novel too, someday when I have more time."

Hate to say it, but nine times out of ten, that means never. If you don't make time for a novel, time isn't going to make room for you to start one. Novel writing takes dedication.

Which makes things even harder when you have to make difficult decisions.

One of the things I was taught as an early writer was "you have to be willing to kill your babies." That means you have to be willing to change around your novel. You have to be willing to destroy favorite characters or scenes or dialogue. You have to be willing to change names and eliminate chapters. You have to be willing to destroy everything you have worked so hard for in exchange for what MIGHT be something better. That's right. It MIGHT be. You'll never really know if your change is better until you make it. That takes extraordinary faith and dedication.

And that faith and dedication is the exact thing I faced recently when I came to the conclusion that my manuscript needed a rewrite from scratch.

Let me put some things in perspective for you.

I've been working on the world of Zyearth for almost twelve years. I created the first character in 2002 and the first novel (originally called The Island) in 2004 with a friend of mine online. I rewrote the novel in 2010 (Naming it The Stolen Guardian) during my first NaNoWriMo and worked on it until the first draft was completely in the summer of 2011. I spent the next two years building draft after draft until I had what I thought was a draft that was a perfect as it could get - draft number ten. The final title was The Stolen Defender.

Then I sent it to my editing partner.

She agreed that the novel was much better than my first draft, but the comments she made about how slow things were and how forced some things felt made me think (well, first it made me mad, then it made me upset, and THEN it made me think, but who's counting?).

I realized I was tackling the whole thing wrong. I was paralyzed by the old drafts, making sure I got all the previous details and dialogue and scenes that I didn't want to let go of. That's where the problem lay.

The novel didn't need editing. It needed a rewrite.

So I spent the next month reoutlining the whole thing from scratch. That was the biggest baby I have ever had to kill.

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That was the hardest decision I have ever made as a writer. I LITERALLY threw away an old novel in favor of a new one. Twelve years of work tossed aside.

And now I have that new draft. I have that brand new novel.

The only question is, is it the right novel? I guess that's what editors are for. =D

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Novel Themes - Author Life

Continuing the idea of "message" from the last blog...

I am a University English Professor.

It's one of my proudest occupations. When I was a student, my FULL TIME JOB was to analyze literature, find themes, identify characters and traits, look for symbols, and work out the deeper meaning in each piece of literature I read.

Now it's my job to teach others to do the same. It's critical thinking on an amazing level and it something everyone should have some experience with. Critical thinking on this level is what opens our hearts and minds and prevents prejudice and ignorant Facebook reposts.

Looking for themes helps develop critical thinking. Good novels will have a theme that connects to the greater outside world, even if it's just subtle.

I always had it in my head that most authors had these themes in mind when they started writing. That the themes drove a lot of the writing more than the characters.

So when I started writing my own novels, I had it in my head that I would never write the next "Great American Novel" or anything that an English class would want to analyze because I never thought I'd have any great themes in it. I just wanted to write a story.

But as time went on and I explored my characters and world more, I realized that I actually have a TON of deep themes.

Family. Self-sacrifice. Forgiveness. Love. Friendship. War. Brokenness. Mistakes. Racism. Prejudice.

Somehow all these things popped up in my novels. I never planned any of them.

Funny how that works.

A friend of mine suggested that those themes pop up in my novels because they're important to me. I have them on the brain.

I believe this is true. Family is extremely important to me. Self-sacrifice is something I value. Forgiveness is something I've wrestled with myself and I see the consequences of hanging on to thing rather than forgiving them. Love of all kinds, friendship, romantic, family, whatever, is also very important to me.

And of course, the negative things are important too. War is horrific. I hate reading about it, but it is a part of life and it does no good to ignore it. War creates brokenness, but other life things do as well. Mistakes, for example. Racism. Prejudice. All things that ruin a joyful life.

These are things that are important to me. It's important that I talk about these things in my writing. But I never set out to have these themes. They just came out. It's funny that I had to employ my critical thinking and literary analysis skills on my own writing to find them though.

What themes are important in your writing? What themes do you like to read about?

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Is Your Message? - Author Life

Today in the creative writing club I help run, we were asked,

As a writer, what message do you want to share with the world?



That’s a hard question. I never really wrote with a “message” in mind. I intended to have themes – love, loyalty, passion, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, faith. But I never really thought about my message.

So I actually sat down and thought about it. What’s the most common and important issue addressed in my story?

I came up with this.

“You don’t get to choose your family. Therefore, love them as much as you can.”

Family is a huge theme in my stories.

The major antagonist, Ouranos, is being controlled by his father, Theron. Ouranos is desperately trying to protect his sister, Natassa, from Theron.

The major protagonist, Matt, is risking his life to protect Charlotte, his sister, and Izzy, who he was raised with and is like a sister to him.

Both Izzy and Matt are Guardians because their parents were Guardians.

Family, family, family. It’s key to the stories.

But you don’t get to choose your family. I often write families who are broken or at odds with each other. Ouranos hates his father, but also loves him, so he struggles to convince himself to fight against his father. Charlotte loves her brother, but she distances herself from him because she hates the fact that he’s a Defender. Matt loves that he’s Guardian like his dad, but he hates the traps his father and grandfather fell into as Guardians.

So yeah, you don’t get to choose your family. You don’t get to decide what they do with their lives or what the consequences of their actions are. But you can consciously decide to love them, regardless of their problems. You may have to separate yourself from that family, you may have to push them out of your life, but you can still consciously love them.

This is what my stories talk about. Loving your family, regardless of the situation.

For me, personally, my family is very important to me. I’ll sometimes even ditch time with friends to spend time with family. I love spending time with my family, whether it’s immediate family or extended family.

So themes of the importance of family comes out in my writing, whether I intend it or not.


A friend of mine, Andrea, read my novel and also said that a major theme that comes out is the stewardship of family. It’s important to steward your family. It’s important to take responsibility for your family. Proper stewardship and responsibility is necessary with family. 

So, as an author, what message are you trying to share with the world? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Do You Write? - Author Life

Today a friend asked me -

Why do you write?




Honestly, I've never had a harder question to answer.

Why DO I write?

So I tried asking myself questions.

Do I want to be famous? - Eh... no. I see the problems with famous people. It'd be fun to have my NOVELS be famous, but I'm certainly not holding my breath. XD

Do I want to make money? - Who doesn't? But this isn't a driving force. I'm not going to quit writing if I don't make a lot of money.

Do I want to entertain? - Yes, but again, it's not a driving force. I will continue to write even if no one likes my writing.

Do I have a message to share? - I guess? See next week's post, but it's not really my main goal as a writer.

So then... if none of those are why I write, then why DO I write?

I started thinking about things in negatives. What would make me STOP writing?

And I thought, and pondered, and thought, and pondered... and I couldn't come up with anything. There's nothing that would stop me writing. I need to write like I need to breathe.

So there's my answer. I write because it's a necessity. It's as important to me as shelter, food, and water. It's just as important for my heart to beat as it is for me to write. End of story.

So... Why do you guys write?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Meet the Blogger." - Author Life

Wow, guys. I've been with you all this time and I never really took the time to introduce myself! So today, I borrowed a questionnare from friend and fellow blogger Bethany Jennings. =D Now you'll get to know me!

Let's get started!

Info

Name: R. A. Meenan. You can call me Rachel.

Age: 29. Gonna hit the big Three-Oh soon! 

Gender: Female through and through.

A Selfie


Favorites:

Food: Vince's Spaghetti is usually a huge favorite of mine, and I love brownies, but really, I love food in general. XD 

Drink: Hmm... I love Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I also love wine of all kinds. I also love hard cider, but that's as far as alcoholic drinks go. 

Book: Trying to pick my favorite book is like trying to pick between CHILDREN. I love many books. But if I had to pick favorites, I'd probably pick The Giver by Lois Lowry and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I could read those books every day for the rest of my life and be very happy. 

Song: Eh, it varies. I tend to jump around favorite songs. It depends on what I'm in the mood to write. I do tend to gravitate toward techno, mild dubstep, eurobeat, and dramatic orchestra music, though I also have a soft spot for house music. 

Movie: I am a weird person. I don't like movies. If I had to pick, either Frozen or The Giver, which just recently came out (I really like The Giver.) 

Band: Um... Pendulum, I guess. It used to be LostProphets, but then the singer got into some serious legal issues with underage sex, so it's hard to listen to them anymore... I'm glad the rest of the band has disowned them. I need to check out their new stuff. 

Solo Artist: Probably Michael W. Smith. I could listen to his voice all day long. 

Place: Anywhere with gorgeous natural scenery. 

Lake Tahoe with my wonderful husband.

Subject: English literature, creative writing, teaching... anything that I have an interest in really.

Sport: I am a huge Formula One nut. It's probably one of the "healthier" sports to be a part of, since it's international and there aren't as many "games" AKA races in a season. Also, Formula One drivers tend to avoid the illegal problems that other sports' players tend to have. 

Formula One FTW. 



Male actor: Uh.... I don't really have one. 

Female actor: Don't have one of those either. 

Life:

Schooling: I was homeschooled all up until high school. Homeschooling was the best thing ever. After high school, I went to a community college, then a UC school, and finally a private So Cal school for my master's degree. I currently teach at the school where I got my Masters. 

BF: Karen Rees, friend of 21 years, and Joe Meenan, my amazing, wonderful husband. =D 

Me, Joe, and Karen at a fun party get together. 

Political ideology: I hate politics. It divides people in a horrible way, so I tend to avoid them completely. Don't make me pick one. 

Religion: I think less "religion," which implies rules, restrictions, traditions, and ideologies and more "personal relationship with Christ." 

Tattoos: No thank you. I'm allergic to pain. 

Piercings: Just my ears. Funny story - I tried FOUR TIMES to get my ears pierced. I get them pierced, then wear them until I could change out earrings, then forget to wear earrings, and they'd close up. I finally got permanent holes a few years ago. I still rarely wear earrings, but at least I have the option for it now.

Languages: English, though I also speak some Japanese. I used to be a huge anime fan, and while that isn't true anymore, the language is still beautiful to me. 

Reason behind your blog’s name: Defender Log... logging any and all information on the Defenders, the Zyearth Chronicles, and the author behind the series. 


Why you blog: Mainly to talk about writing and extra info behind the Zyearth Chronicles, but my other blog, Artistic Journeys, talks about a variety of topics. 

And that's some info about me! Anyone out there blog? Let's see your own answers to these questions!