Last week I started reading my first draft of The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 after months of creation without looking back to do any rewrites or edits. I took the advice of seasoned authors and wrote with the single-minded goal to finish the story and not check back on what I’d written (as I’d done with my other works) until it was time to do a rewrite. And what I discovered took my breath away!
I’m a Pantster. I do not outline or have a storyboard with cards and post-its all over my wall. I have one notebook which I use to remind myself of particular details I need to include in the story relating to characters or descriptions or vital plot twists that will make the story better and more exciting. Those thoughts come to me when I’m not writing but doing other things completely unrelated to the craft like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, watching TV, or when I’m just about to fall asleep – the latter being the best time to come up with great ideas. When I sit at my computer I allow the story to tell itself without any interference from my perfectionist brain. I do not have a muse (that I know of), but I do believe that my stories come from a place I cannot describe, a place where the magic happens – that source you cannot explain to someone who has never had the privilege of creating magic with words.
Whenever I write and allow this inexplicable process to take over, I am always left dumbfounded by what comes out of me. So, when I began reading from the beginning, I was amazed with the incredible detail and power and beauty of the story. “Did I write that?” I frequently asked myself as I tightened up my style, got rid of extraneous words and redundancies, and checked spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I have been drawn into the story anew; I experience the turmoil and chaos of the battle scenes, the love stories, the grief and joy of the characters I fell in love with – the characters that are so much a part of me that to say goodbye to them is a special kind agony reserved only for storytellers, I believe.
Rewriting is hard work; it requires an unemotional approach because it is meant to remove the detritus that accumulates, the bad habits that have crept into my writing I’m still trying to get rid of, and the stuff I know my readers won’t be interested in. Sometimes its a brutal process, especially when you have to get rid of entire scenes or delete a sub-character you really love. But it is necessary in order to create a product as close to perfect as possible. (You do know that no work is ever perfect, right? That would remove the soul of any story.) Rewriting and editing polishes up the frenzied creating that went before, that first ‘pen to paper’ moment when the fire in your belly and brain is urging you to create just like an addict’s urge to satisfy his cravings. The latter is the most exciting part of writing – for me, anyway. I have no inhibitions, I do not concern myself with perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation (my typing skills are not fantastic as it is), and I do not get in the way of whatever/whoever is working through me. And that is when the magic happens!!
My readers are going to be blown away by the final book, but before they get their hands on it, it’s my responsibility to make it a smooth experience for them. It is my duty to make sure nothing creates a bump as they lose themselves in the story. My goal is to take them in so deep, to hypnotise them so completely, that when they are rudely pulled back into reality by the demands of normal life, they cannot remember the passing of time. All they do remember are the emotions of getting lost in a story so completely that time stood still for a little while.
Don’t you want power like that? I do. I have never received a greater compliment than when one of my readers tells me they couldn’t put my book down until they finished it – all 700 pages!
Rewriting is not for sissies, it isn’t for those who are only interested in the emotional aspect and who do not care enough about the quality of their craft. I have posted on this before: Balance between passion and knowledge is vital. It takes experience and patience to rewrite in a way that keeps the passion/emotion/magic in the story alive and then compliments it with great grammar, punctuation, and style. If we can learn to find the balance then we can be better storytellers. I make sure I learn something new ever day to improve my craft. I encourage you to do the same.
I love reading your thoughts! Do you agree with having balance between passion (that first frenzied, magical draft) and knowledge (the more emotionally removed process of rewriting and editing)?
What a week!!! What with finishing NaNoWriMo before the deadline, and then chaos erupting in my life as though it was waiting in the shadows for days, watching and preparing for an all-out assault, it didn’t get me down when it finally attacked! Instead, it showed me that no matter how tough things appear they’re not really so bad. All I have to do is stop and breathe.
Since last week Wednesday, when we had an insane storm with hail the size of tennis balls sending Joburg into chaos, hubby and I experienced the added fun of the following: first, his hard drive decided it was done with life and shut down permanently, therefore we had to fork out money for another; secondly, our internet went down and knowing how notoriously slow our phone company is we phoned them with pretty low expectations. And our fears were justified when, five days later, we finally got the internet back only to be told that we now need a new modem because they’d upgraded our line to make it faster and the old one was no longer compatible! Aaarrgh! Another lot of money gone just before Christmas!! Then, (I think this is fourthly?!!) our outside drain decided to get blocked and our delightfully friendly chairlady of the Body Corporate told us it was our drain and at first she wasn’t prepared to do anything about it and basically told us to sort it out ourselves. That is until I got all huffy (hubby is way too nice!) and explained why it couldn’t be our drain as it was spewing out huge amounts of toilet paper, brown water, which smelled a lot like sewage, and cigarette buts – but we don’t smoke, she does!!! Eventually, she called out the complex’s plumber, who quickly discovered that the blockage was being caused by roots and he sorted it out at cost to the complex not us! Hallelujah!!
Now, it’s so easy when things like this happen in quick succession to think that life and everything about it sucks, but when we realised that what we got out of it was a new powerful hard drive, a new powerful modem and faster internet, and a clean drain at no cost, hubby and I were very grateful, indeed. Sure, we are out of a pocket a bit, but my in-laws helped us out with the modem so, fortunately, we managed financially better than expected. All good!
Drawing a lesson from this chaotic, unexpected week, if I viewed the bad days – the frustrations and slogging that writing and promoting and selling my books sometimes bring me – I can either choose to wallow in misery or I can use my irritation to rethink and refocus, even if it means taking a few days off from writing (something I hate to do); I can step back and view my situation from a fresh perspective with a clear head.
It’s important to recognise when you need to step back instead of focusing on what’s not working. The act of such intense focus on what you don’t want will bring down your mood and mess with your creativity and clarity of thought.
I’ve blogged about this before: rest is as vital to your writing process after weeks of intensive writing – like NaNoWriMo brought you. If you have that novel done, or even the start of one, then step back and take your time assessing what you did and rest from the insane, nonstop process to allow yourself to breathe and really see what you’ve created.
As the holidays approach, make time for yourself by going to a spa or for long walks or spending time with your family, who no doubt hardly saw you during November – if you did NaNo 🙂
I have the first draft The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 to finish, and I’d like to do it before next year, but I’m not going to push too hard, not after I wrote most of Part 3 during NaNo and got pretty far. It’s the end of the story and it needs me to be fresh and clearheaded and excited and re-energised to write the ending of a powerful, incredible story that has taken me four years to write! I plan to do it slowly and to do it well, and I urge you to follow my example and rest, then approach it with love and respect and a fresh perspective that will enable you to finish another masterpiece 🙂
I love reading your thoughts! Please leave a comment and tell us about your creative process and if you agree with me or not about resting in order to produce better results.
You can find my works here! Great 5-star reviews for Books 1-3 and my sci-fi short story, The Door. Enjoy!
Feebledum and Feebledee
my brain it says to me,
“I’ve had no fun these past gone days,
to rant and rant and spree!”
I try not listen too much to brain
’cause I’m in pain, you see;
No cash to pay yon fickle hand
that reaches for its fee.
Learning how to change my thoughts
without the brain’s aware,
makes it a tricky, sticky thing
enlightenment to dare.
‘Believe in truth: you are a god!’
makes conscious brain a-freak!
“Such blasphemy I cannot take!”
is its constant tweet!
If I such power do possess,
new teachings reveal to me,
then how can this god make it work
when self-suff”ring’s all I see?
Here I sit all a-scare
’cause faith’s what makes all right;
but when one’s bills cry “Feed me now!”
my heart beats tight with fright.
Writing may my pleasure be
but tears bills do not get,
faith’s all good and glorious ‘t seems,
yet still no relief, not yet.
Blood and sweat and tears made book
and heart’s still filled with joy;
I wonder tho’ when faith will work
and reveal Universe’s real ploy.
If I am great then believe I must
for love and faith are real;
trust in god and God’s silent trust
in me to finally feel.
We’re great, you know, listen well,
all artists big and small,
if times tough are and seem unfair,
then listen to heart’s squall.
Feebledum and feebledee,
your brain might say to thee;
listen not to dark mumblings there
’cause power lies not in see.
Your power lies down in yon heart,
in trust in your deity;
make no mistake believe in faith (unseen)
and it will set you free!
Muse or God or god or self,
whate’er belief thou declare,
make sure your skill and talent divine
no suffering it ever bare.
by Monique Rockliffe
So, you can tell by this contemplative poem that my days of woe are many!!! Nah, being overly dramatic is all, but, boy, sometimes it’s tough when all I want to do is make a living writing and things seem like they’re just not working out. But, hey, those days come and, thank goodness, they go! Although today I’m in the ‘darkness’ at least it produced an amateurish poem that I hope gives you some hope (and even some amusement) if you’re facing a tough day or situation.
The bottom line is, don’t give up on your dreams or aspirations or goals, especially on the bleakest of days, because that’s when you need to keep your chin up and keep writing, or doing whatever makes your soul sing, with every bit of creative power you have. Whether it’s faith or love or the joy found in nature, a friendship or a pet, grab onto it, hold it close, and just keep going. Everything passes eventually, my friend. And you can always tell me about it if you feel like having a rant, and we can first mope and then get over it together. So drop me a line and share what’s up with you, even if it’s good news. It’ll lift my spirits and give me the encouragement I need to get through one of life’s tougher days.
Yup, yup, yup, I did it! I beat the NaNo deadline by three days, and while the story is not yet finished I have an almost complete novel in my hands that I can publish around mid 2013 after I’ve published Book 3 in my Sword Bearers tetralogy titled The Sword Bearer’s Awakening.
Honestly, I wondered if I could put together an entire novel in one month when it took me three to five months to write the first draft of The Sword Bearers and The Sword Bearer’s Journey – for each book! As I said to one of the reviewers for my sci-fi short story, The Door, after she suggested I turn it into a novel ‘cause it had a tad too much detail for a short story, I am one for a lot of detail – not rambling, I must stress, because I don’t do that – but I like to make sure the reader doesn’t miss any vital information that, if left out, could spoil the story. When I took up the challenge to write an entire story in one month I almost gave into the little voice that kept reminding me how long it took to write my epic fantasy (I’m consistently producing one book a year)! But what excited me about NaNo was the possibility that I actually could do it. I wasn’t lacking for a fantastic idea (based on a very vivid dream I had) and I’m very good at “pantsing”, as people call it – writing off the seat of my pants. The scenes and characters always take care of themselves; without fail they are born without my conscious help and the story develops as if by magic. Yes, I had a rough outline and I knew my characters’ names and personalities, but that was all I had before starting. I knew how the story began and how it ended; the “in between” flowed from my mind through my fingers onto the screen in that process none of us writers can truly explain to a non-writer.
The result: Avalin: A Vampyric Legend, something totally unique in that I have not read similar ideas anywhere yet, and I can only hope it stays that way.
My experiment to fuse different genres actually worked – as I mentioned in my last couple of posts – and I believe I have produced a work of fiction lovers of romance, adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and action will all enjoy. Of course, I will let you know when it’s ready for publication in 2013, so watch this space!!
Now that The Door is published and available on Amazon and Smashwords for you to enjoy, my focus is on The Sword Bearer’s Awakening. This is the third instalment of my Epic Fantasy and I’m thrilled to return to it after more than a month’s break. The characters are so much a part of me that I’ve missed them like I miss very close friends I haven’t visited for ages.
KC, the protagonist, and the antagonist, the arch demon Drakoor s’et, are headed for the Final Battle, a mighty confrontation prophesied about for centuries across the entire galaxy of N’varda and beyond. In this book KC, the Bearer of the Sword of Heaven, is trying to recover from a terrible loss that nearly destroys her mind and has shredded her heart, and as she struggles daily with the lust for revenge that consumes her every waking moment, she knows that her family are depending on her to protect them from the wave of devastation Drakoor s’et has unleashed on N’varda, for if she fails in her duty, if she fails to stop this great evil, then the Universe will forever be enslaved by the demon and his kind.
I hope I’ve whetted your appetite with that little peek into KC’s world. Book 3 promises to be not only about battles between worlds, with u’mans pitted against aliens and demons, but about the battle of the mind and heart, about right and wrong, about what each individual believes is happening in their world and in their heart. It’s about choices and the terrible or wonderful consequences that follow, and about the power of love, truth, trust, and the deep understanding of one’s self.
I think the most wonderful stories exist out there as a result of NaNo, and I can’t wait to read some of them. Allowing the magic to flow unfettered and unencumbered by too much thought or concern about detail and perfect grammar and spelling and just ‘letting go’ has produced those brilliant stories you hear about, the ones that will take people on journeys they never forget and, in some cases, never recover from.
Even in the editing and rewriting process may I encourage you to not mess with the magic? Don’t think too long or too hard about the ‘feel’ of it; just let it be and build around it with the knowledge you possess. If you sense that it is losing its magic then let it be for a while until it calls you back, and then continue slowly. There’s no rush, after all. You need to decide what’s more important: passion or knowledge, or a perfect balance of both.
Any NaNo tales? Leave them here!
- My Characters and I are One – a Journey into The Sword Bearers Series (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
Beside the absolute joy and immense pleasure I get consuming a good cup of coffee and a yummy slice of rich cake, it also makes me feel completely relaxed and at peace with the world, as if nothing matters more than that exact delicious moment. Every muscle in my body eases and I gaze out at the world with confidence, filled with an awareness of everything around me with great clarity.
Yes, yes, I know you’re all thinking the same thing: That’s pretty farfetched, Monique, and I agree with you, but . . . maybe not as farfetched as you might think. We can all agree, I’m sure, that when we partake in the greatest pleasures of our lives (and I mean all the greatest pleasures:)) we have moments of great tranquillity and inner joy and a warm physical sensation we can only describe as happiness and contentment because as endorphins, or ‘happy chemicals’ as I like to call them, are released into our systems, very frequently we have moments of incredible clarity and awareness. We pay attention to the people around us, what we and they are doing, what we’re saying, and what we’re feeling. In other words, we become intensely aware of our existence and we pay attention to the minutest detail.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
Yup! Writing does the same thing for me, just like dancing did when I was still performing. Writing makes my spirit soar and fills me with a joy I can only describe as euphoric. No wonder I tell people I’m totally addicted to storytelling – there’s no bigger rush for me! When I sit down at my laptop and begin expressing myself and allowing the magic to flow unchecked, then I become intensely aware of every detail, every nuance, every shift in storyline and what my characters are doing – this includes what’s not working and how to fix it.
The thing is – and here’s why I’m writing this – you have to allow those moments of absolute joy to overtake you if you want to enjoy the full benefits of what the Universe/your Muse/God wants to show you. If for some reason you stop the flow, or you don’t give in to it completely, you miss something vital that could make a huge difference in the long run, a difference that could turn your good book into a great book.
In life, embrace those glorious ‘Coffee and Cake’ moments and look around: notice others, notice yourself, notice what you’re feeling and thinking and then pursue it like a starving person, because in those moments you are more of your true self than you’ll ever be at any other time.
And this is what you need to do when you’re writing!
I know you all feel the passion and joy I’m speaking of when you create because then you wouldn’t do it. It’s so obvious to me when, for example, I read authors’ self-promo’s for their newest releases. I can feel the joy and passion in their words and in the way the invite you to share in it with them.
My goal today is to encourage you to fully embrace that almost mindless exhilaration you feel when you make magic at your computer/typewriter/notebook, and to never be afraid of it – because IT IS ALL YOU! I’ve had moments of not fear per se but that scary feeling you get when you’re falling, and I’ve paused in my creating and pulled back from it because I’ve entered another level of ‘power’ I’ve never experience before. But over time I’ve learned to trust those feelings and allowed them full reign over me and the creation process because I’ve come to recognise that what I’m experiencing is, in fact, FULLY me! And why should I fear myself?
I believe that we need to work everyday towards allowing the Universe/our Muses/God – whatever your personal belief of where your power comes from – to take full control of us in our everyday lives and when we write. I don’t think we yet fully understand just how much power we possess as creators, but what I do believe is that in those moments when our heart rates increase and adrenaline pumps through our veins like fire and our eyes open to a greater understanding of the story we are currently working on, then we MUST give it full control and we must not fear it!! Those are the moments we become truly alive and truly great! Trust in those moments and don’t pull back from them but embrace them eagerly because you are embracing your true self!
Coffee and cake come close to what I feel when I write, but nothing beats the combination of me, my laptop, and my Source coming into perfect alignment and making magic!!
Tell me about your own experiences of full awareness, and those moments when everything became so clear you knew you were on the cusp of greatness! I love hearing from you.
Images courtesy of stock.xchng
- Awareness is Magic (labhypnosisblog.com)
This week has been extremely busy and downright exhausting for me, and usually when I’m this tired I find it difficult to write or do rewrites because my concentration levels are just not where they need to be in order to attain my personal standards of performance and achievement in every area of my life. Even though writing never fails to excite me, I find that when I’m tired it becomes more of an effort and like work instead of the easy flow and joy I experience when I’m rested and my mind is uncluttered.
When I’m this tired my mind shuts down, and where writing my Fantasy series can still happen rather easily because of my eternal, almost preternatural, passion for it, writing a blog takes more energy. When I blog I am having a conversation with my friends, but as my hubby knows, when I’m tired I don’t like talking too much. But I am committed to you guys and the relationships I have built up with you, and that to me is never an effort; the act of writing, however, can be. So, all I did today was take a few minutes to sit in front of my laptop and look out the window and allow my mind to wander where it wanted.
Now, I have, and always will be, a fiction writer. I have tried my hand at poetry many times and had reasonable success with it in school, but I’ve never really gotten into it. Karen Robiscoe writes fabulous poetry, and I follow her blog, Charron’s Chatter, with great enjoyment. Frequently her poems are hilarious, but I just know that I will never be able to write like her!! She is a poet; I am not!
*snicker* *snort* (slightly embarrassed look) But today I have tried! This is what my tired brain came up with as it meandered through the messy tangle of limp thoughts drowning in a river of fatigue inside my head (he-he, pretty good, yes??), and personally I think it’s a silly ditty but lots of fun! Give it a bash, even if poetry isn’t your thing, because at least you’ll get a giggle out of it at my expense!! Enjoy!
Let Rested Soul Magic’s Flame Reignite
When words do dwell in shadows’ knell,
and heart and mind reach forth from cell,
yet doors remain closed here within,
and make my soul and spirit dim.
When passion sleeps – a deep, drowning swirl,
and dreams come fast yet nil reveal,
I lay a-pant and wish and long
for more of that which once magic spun.
Magic eludes my heart and mind,
only bringing forth the dark’s unkind,
when I listen not to Source’s trill within,
and harken only to soulless din.
Now I remind kindly me and you . . .
How can you scribe and not hear well,
when heart and mind and soul do tell,
to open up your inner-Sun
and give that golden power Gun?
By nature, Gun must burn and fire,
for soul and heart and mind to flower!
Its sparks must shower upon that within,
that creates and births the magic din.
For absent magic cannot glory make,
neither golden page nor moving tale,
that brings tear or joy or laughter true
to reader, writer, listener . . . or you.
Find rest, dear writer, yon weary soul,
to keep alive yon glorious goal.
Make time for love, light, joy, and fun,
and don’t forget to fire that Gun!
Magic needs fiery Source-born Gun
to make its energy flare and words become spun.
Seek Muse in rest then write as though
your tale shall become this world’s greatest show!
For Gun and Muse and Magic must flare;
three united yon goal shall easily ensnare
each reader, writer, listener and you;
no looking back once choice to fire Gun comes true.
Listen well, dear writer, to heart’s quiet plea
to rest, to find magic, to make magic in thee.
All exists already there in soul’s warm glare,
just trust in the Magic and make Gun flare!
by Monique Rockliffe
Will I ever become a famous poet? Nah, don’t think so! But I had fun writing it even though it’s quite possibly just awful! He-he!
Share your ditties here and there will be no judgement! Promise!! I love hearing from you!
P.S. Wishing all the countries participating in the Olympics all the very best, and to all my blog friends, may your country perform to your greatest satisfaction! Good luck/Break a leg/Chukkas etc!
Both Images courtesy of stock.xchng
- Your So-Called Wrongs Become Right When as a Writer You are Writing (moniquerockliffe.wordpress.com)
- Perfecting Poetry (scholarlyscribe.wordpress.com)