Tag Archives: Fitzgerald

Writing Process (9 of 9)

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Letting Go…

… continued from part 8: DEADLINE

This is probably the hardest part. I’ve looked at the book for so long I don’t even know what to think of it anymore. I love it and I hate it. I’m also indifferent about it. Overall, I’m just way too close to it. I could noodle with this or that forever, but I’ve hit my deadline and now it’s time to let it go.

This is where, if you’re self-publishing, you really have to be hard on yourself. You are never going to get it perfect. There is no such thing as perfection. Every author, every director, every artist has to at some point just let it go. Pass it off to your editor to send to the press, upload that file to Amazon and start worrying about how much to charge.

Glaring corrections can be fixed in subsequent editions. I’ve found copies of Fitzgerald that have some pretty bad typos. Who knows how long they were in there. But the important thing to realize is that you’re done. A work of art will never truly be finished in the eyes of the creator. But therein lies the beauty of it. It’s not supposed to be. I don’t write books for myself–I might come up with an idea I like but ultimately, I write it to be read by others. It’s the reader who finishes my books. And they finish it a thousand times over with endless variation. What wonders I would see if I could crawl inside their mind as they flip through the pages, deriving meaning from the unintended and totally missing meaning I tried to put in. But that’s the beauty of it all. Some people will love it, some people will hate it. Never in the history of the world has there been one piece of art that everyone came to love equally.

So that’s it. You’re done. Get it out there and let the readers have at it. I try to learn from my mistakes and improve on my next creative endeavor. And as an artist, I know damn well that I’ll be on my death bed, still with the desire to grow.

I’ve currently finished a short story, Meet Me at the Falls, with fellow authors Zack Keller and Ben Tuller… and for as much as I think I have it all figured out for this book, I know my next book may be an entirely different journey where I abandon these methods deeming them useless and naïve. I’d like to think that I won’t, but for me the point of writing… and for that matter, reading what people write… is to gain a glimpse into the soul and see the wonder and magic in the expression of the human condition.

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Writing Process (5 of 9)

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Critique

…continued from Part 4: Rough Draft

I finished the rough draft! I didn’t think my story would end the way it did, and that’s a very good thing. I’ve surprised myself, even if I knew roughly how it should end. So I’m done right? Not nearly. The journey is far from over. Now that I have something to work with, I must look at it objectively. I compile my massive amounts of notes and address them. I try to get everything into Scrivener and flesh out any parts that are underdeveloped. Then, once I’m satisfied, I’ll look at my general outline. This gives me a chance to really get a bird’s-eye view and switch on the story structure part of my brain.

For structure stuff, I loosely follow the guidelines laid out in the “Hero’s Journey” and even more so in “Dramatica” — but I really just make sure that it makes sense. If there aren’t gaping holes, sections missing or double-beats, I move on. Story theory and story structure are really just tools to analyze what I already have. In an extreme void of creativity they can prove useful to find a solution, but I would never start with an outlined structure in mind. How could I? I don’t know what’s going to happen in the story any more than the characters would, living it out in real-time. They will inform me of what happens next, what they want and try to do and what happens as a result of it. Story structure would get in the way, and at best it would work but come off contrived and formulaic.

Now if there ARE gaping holes or if I’m just feeling like something is missing, I might turn to the old Hero’s Journey outline and see what it might offer. There’s volumes of books and seminars on the subject.

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However, I took two years of story theory at CalArts that focused on the Hero’s Journey and I ended up learning more about constructing story from one year of Dramatica. I would urge anyone interested to check out their site, or take a trip on over to my professor Jim Hull’s blog, Narrative First (formerly Story Fanatic). Jim is an animator and story artist over at DreamWorks and really knows his stuff inside and out. He lays out the basics of the subject in his books.

Dramatica is more than a story book, however. It offers an interactive tool where one can plug in aspects of a story and it in return plugs plot holes, solidifies character interactions and helps complete your story in such a way that it will resonate with your audience long after they’ve put down your book. Worth taking a look, for kicks if nothing else. I honestly don’t use it the way it was intended, but knowing the story theory behind it has helped me out tremendously.

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Once I’m satisfied with the working outline, I’ll scrutinize the details of the story a bit deeper and get more into research. More notes, adjusting things and rearranging. Some parts remain largely unaltered, while others are expanded or improved upon based on the research I find or connections I hadn’t yet seen in the story. The second pass is perfect for making sure those through-lines, themes and foreshadowing are well-placed.

But as I said, the journey is far from over. Here is where the really hard part begins. One has to make hard decisions and really start to craft the story. A lot of the time, my rough draft doesn’t even read like a story. It’s awful, some of it still in bullet point form or a very rudimentary sentence describing the sentiment or action. Hopefully, I’ve gotten down the core of the story and answered the questions: What happens to the characters? What choices do they make? How does it all unfold? What does it mean to them? How does it affect them? Etc…

After writing out an entire novel by hand, I’ll often forget what it’s like to be a reader. Since my book really isn’t at the stage where I can read it like a reader, I find it somewhat therapeutic and informative to pick up some old favorites and re-read them just to remind myself what a book feels like. If something strikes me, I’ll make a note reminding myself to try and apply it to my own work. There is no one way to tell a story and no right or wrong way to write. Ultimately it comes down to taste. I love both Hemingway and Fitzgerald, though they’re vastly different in style. The same could be said about any number of authors. Finding what resonates with you will help unleash your own unique style as it challenges what you innately find appealing or not.

I’d really encourage writers to go with their gut. Use trial and error and pick apart your favorite stories and films as opposed to studying structure and writing. That being said, there are some other books on story structure I would recommend to at least throw into your head (but only after you’ve already written your story). I would NOT recommend the popular book “Story” by Robert McKee. It’s purely critical and offers nothing to the would-be writer — and on that note, take anything these books say with a grain of salt:

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Writersjourneysmall

Continued in Part 6: That Dreaded Second Draft

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