Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

Revisions: The First Step

A Twitter friend of mine, Patrice Caldwell, recently shared her revising process which led me to share mine and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to not just me but other people if I were to collect those tweets in a post and elaborate on them.

I am revising the novel I finished less than two weeks ago because clearly I can’t stop writing/revising for more than a week without feeling like my life is ending. I haven’t spoken about the novel much on here (but then I haven’t spoken about much here on this blog) but The Wild Ones is part social commentary, part fiction, and entirely feminist.

The novel is vastly different from anything I have written so far and I feel like it could offer the literary establishment something new but only if I manage to whip it into shape. To be completely honest, it is somewhat terrible right now but then, first drafts usually are. Add the fact that I actually the pantsed the entire thing (I’m an outliner through and through and you have a novel that is barely held together.

The good thing is, I am entirely aware of the faults. The bad thing the faults are many. Hah.

Which brings me to Step One When Revising a Novel (any novel):

The First Read-Through

Say you finished your novel one bright November morning and after a torrential outburst of tears at making it through alive, you resolve to leave it alone for at least a month before returning to it. However, you cannot leave well enough alone and send a copy to your poor agent and ask she read it and critique it so you can revise it.

Then barely two weeks later, you decided you have had enough rest and decide to start revising your masterpiece. You read the first page and it’s well enough so you continue reading and make conscientious notes–it’s not perfect but it’s close.

And then you read the page and you realize that what you have written is nowhere near perfect, not even in the same galaxy to perfect. In fact, it’s about the same distance from perfect as the earth is to the sun.

So you leave yourself mean notes because the embarrassment is crippling.

first read

Another tip is to make chapter summaries. This will help you see structural deficiencies and figure what each chapter lacks. A CP suggested that I chart emotional highs and lows but that can come at a later stage.

Ask yourself the hard questions at this stage because you will be able to answer them without much penalty. Trying to answer the hard questions at a later date will make you cry. Loudly.

Chapter Summaries

This is where I am at the moment.

Another thing I suggested paying attention to at this stage is the subtext. I don’t know if authors normally pay attention to subtext but since I’m first an academic, what the subtext says is important to me. There are many ways to use the subtext to add an extra dimension to your writing, an extra layer that will satisfy those readers who tend to read more deeply (like me) and maybe if your book is studied at a university sometime in the future, someone will discover that one esoteric fact/technique you used.

Sometimes the subtext can be harmful entirely unintentionally. Try not to be resistant to the idea that you could be unknowingly problematic. It happens. Though your CPs will be far more helpful in this instance to make you are of any problematic elements in your work.

Just keep in mind that while this book is something you have slaved over, dreamed about, and wept for, at the end, it is not perfect. You will need a certain level of detachment and distance from this novel to craft it into the best it can be. You will need to cut away things that you absolutely do not want to and you will need to sometimes submit to a vision of the novel that doesn’t match the original vision you had of it but that fits it better.

Don’t excuse or try to hide the novel’s flaws. Rip it apart and then put it back together. As I am trying to do.

Lord help me.

I will be back once I move on to Step Two (if Step One doesn’t kill me, that is.)

Happy writing!

Discussion · Roundups

November Wrap Up

November was a rollercoaster. Good and bad things happened.

I found a job. (More on that at a later date.)
I finished the first draft of the novel I was writing. (I will start revisions after a break.)
And my uncle was run over by a car while crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing. Even if he lives, he is going to be bound to a wheelchair. I…am angry.

Anyway, I read a fair bit this month but the stuff I read weren’t books. I read Korean webtoons, a lot. Too much? Maaaybe. I still don’t feel like reading. I think this fatigue of reading comes with writing. You deal with words so much that after a while you just want to turn off your brain. Still, the month wasn’t a complete write-off, bookwise. I did manage to read some books. They are:

  1. The Graphic Canon of Children’s Lit collected by Rus Kick.
    This was beautiful.
  2. Behind the Canvas – Alexander Vance
    This was good but for some reason I didn’t love it as much as I had thought I would.
  3. Lines by Suzy Lee
    This wordless picturebook was amazing.
  4. The Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo
    Apart from one or two stories that didn’t work for me, this collection features some very strong storytelling and absolutely gorgeous illustrations.
  5. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
    Look out for a review of this one here soon.
  6. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
    I seriously loved  this one. I reviewed it on thebookwars.ca if you are so inclined.
  7. Cheese in the Trap Season 1 – Soonki
  8. Cheese in the Trap Season 2 – Soonki
  9. The Ghosts in the Castle – Zetta Elliott
  10. The Phantom Unicorn – Zetta Elliott
Discussion · Roundups

October Wrap Up

October ran away from me. I was busier than I had expected to be, sadder than I had expected to be, and just not in a reading mood. I still managed to read 15 books which I suppose are no mean feat. I mean, it feels like nothing to me. Do you remember the time I used to read about 60 books per month? I don’t know where she went, that girl.

I wrote 13295 words in October and I am proud of that. Every word hurt.

Bo Gum sad.gif

Anyway, here’s what I read:

  • 3 graphic novels
  • 3 literary novels
  • 3 middle grade novels
  • 2 adult genre
  • 1 poetry collection
  • 2 YA novels
  • 1 nonfiction

I feel that is quite eclectic a range, don’t you?

Here’s the list of titles I read:

  1. Chemistry by Weike Wang
    So fantastic. I adored this.
  2. Boundless – Jillian Tamaki
  3. No Rules – R. A. Spratt
  4. The Big Bad Fox – Benjamin Renner
  5. Demi-Gods – Eliza Robertson
  6. Murder in Thrall – Anne Cleeland
  7. The Poisoned House – Michael Ford
  8. Don’t Call Us Dead – Danez Smith
  9. Song of the Current – Sarah Tolcser
  10. The Glass Sentence – S. E. Grove
  11. 300 Arguments – Sarah Manguso
  12. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  13. The Cloven Viscount – Italo Calvino
  14. A Conspiracy in Belgravia – Sherry Thomas
  15. The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo

On Being Alive

We are, aren’t we? In gasps and outrage, in shock and horror, in reluctant smiles over the most unexpected happenings, and always in sorrow.

2017 has been a battlefield in many ways and from the looks of the world, things are just going to escalate until our hearts are but repositories of pain translated into things we can endure.

I have learned many things over the course of this year. For instance, how to get sunk deep into a story, so deep that you can smell the air in the city you made, so deep you can hear your characters laugh and cry in real life. I have learned what it means to carry around a broken heart because you are somehow never enough. I have learned to value people and their stories and their silences. I have learned to look at the world in moment and notice the minute details. I have learned not to accept the limitations the world seems determined to place on me. I have learned to continue writing even when every word hurts. I have learned to be more than what I am.

And I have met people. Good people who inspire me in small and big ways. People who with their passion and desire for life and work have inspired me to keep holding on.

Generally this is the kind of post I would write on the last day of the year but I have also learned that life is short and can end unexpectedly so just in case, let me get this out.

Discussion · Roundups

September Wrap Up

It’s not yet October 1st but it will be by the time I finish composing this post. I am hideously tired but made the mistake of drinking a large mug of chai with enough caffeine to keep me going for at least two hours into the a.m.

So I figure I will talk to the internet (or the void, whichever makes you feel better) about the books I read in the month of September.

I am at that point in my current work in progress where it is slowly taking over my all my mind so chances are my reading progress will slow down significantly. I hope I do manage to keep an average of 20 books/month for the next three months because it seems like a shame to read less than 250 books this year.

Anyway. In the month of September, I read 20 books. As I recounted on Twitter, they were:

  • 4 picturebooks
  • 5 graphic novels
  • 3 nonfic/poetry
  • 2 MG
  • 2 adult (fantasy) fiction

If you were to ask me what my favourite of these books were, I would laugh and tell you to go away. I DNF often and if a book manages to lose me before 50 pages, I stop reading it. I have too many books to read to slough away at something that I can’t feel. (Exceptions occur frequently.)

Here is the annotated list:

  1. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
    After I got over the fact that I probably would not like Xifeng, I was able to enjoy the complexity of her character and the story she was being woven into. I enjoyed the writing and the world and I am ready for the next one in the series. Give it to me now please.
  2. Brave – Svetlana Chmakova
    I don’t know what it is about Chmakova but she has a way of making her characters come alive. Like right in your heart alive.
  3. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – Ben Hatke
    It’s Hatke so I automatically loved it though I felt it was too short and the medium is unable to give the story as much complexity as it deserves.
  4. The Way to Bea – Kat Yeh
    I wrote this brilliant review on this book on The Book Wars if you are curious to know what I thought of it. (Spoiler: I loved it.)
  5. The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan
    I loved this one too but it has a CRUEL CLIFFHANGER, AUSMA YOU MEANIE.
  6. Castle in the Stars – Alex Alice
  7. Gray Wold Island – Tracey Neithercott
    CHARLIE KIM IS AMAZING. Basically. He is my fave fictional character.
  8. Spinning – Tillie Walden
  9. You Bring the Distant Near – Mitali Perkins
  10. Adios Barbie – Edited by Ophira Edut
  11. Nejmah – Nayyirah Waheed
  12. Mind = Blown – Matthew Santoro
  13. Akata Warrior – Nnedia Okorafor
    This WAS SO GOOD, DAMNIT. I want moaaar.
  14. Molly & Mae – Danny Parker
  15. Come With Me – Holly M. McGhee
  16. The City of Brass – S. A. Chakraborty
    This was every bit as good as I wanted it to be.
  17. After the Fall – Dan Santat
    Omigosh, this picturebook just made me weep. I WEPT.
  18. Imagine – John Lennon
  19. The Changeover – Margaret Mahy
    THIS IS SO GOOD. I hope it is repackaged and remarketed to contemporary audiences who can enjoy Mahy’s genius as it ought to be enjoyed.
  20. Pashmina – Nidhi Chanani
    Well, I want more from Nidhi. This was beautiful and tugged at my heart.
Discussion · review · Review Copy

The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino

Nonexistent Knight

Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 15th 2017 by Mariner Books
Source: Raincoast Books

I have been a fan of Calvino’s ever since I read his If On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler but I have never had the chance to actually give much time to his other titles. Mariner Books recently repackaged and released his older titles in this sparse minimalist style that I adore.

The Nonexistent Knight is about…well, a nonexistent knight. If you are Calvino, you can write about nonexistent knights and very well at that. The story is told from the viewpoint of an initiate nun in an obscure order. The nun is very much a character in this novella and brings her own experiences to the tale she is telling.

Calvino makes use of a dizzying array of techniques to tell the story of this nonexistent knight who is bound in the armor he wears and by his habits. Not gonna lie, I was uncomfortable by the fact that the villains in this book, the enemies of the Christians were the Muslims but Calvino didn’t focus on painting any group any shade of black. Calvino looks at war and the stiff, unyielding, set of rules is often made to seem ridiculous especially when juxtaposed by the reality of a thing. For example, the romance of the armor is depleted when the person inside the armor is only too dismally human with human failings and flaws. Or when the chivalry of a knight is for naught when the damsel he is rescuing would much rather not be rescued.

All in all, Calvino’s The Nonexistent Knight is not a book you can speed through but it is something you savour in sips and dips, appreciating his wordsmithery and the way he tells a tale.

Discussion · Roundups

August Wrap Up

Another month has zoomed on by and I am left befuddled at the speedy pace the year assumes during its latter months. I have zero expectations that September will go by any slower. But hey, at least we’ll be done with the heat so that’s a good thing, right? I do so love autumn.

Anyway, I read 23 books in August. A lot less than in July but these were all substantial and weightier than the pbs and graphic novels consumed in the previous month. Here’s a list:

  1. salt. – Nayyirah Waheed
  2. Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh
  3. One Hundred Shadows – Hwang Jungeun
  4. A Play of Shadow – Julie E. Czernada
  5. Words in the Deep Blue – Cath Crowley
  6. Maisie Dobbs – Jacqueline Winspear
  7. Shade, the Changing Girl – Cecil Castellucci
  8. Art of the Street: Rio de Janaeiro – Andy Cantillion
  9. Spellbook of the Lost and Found – Moira Fowley-Doyle
  10. The Princess Saves Herself in this One – Amanda Lovelace
  11. My Life with Bob – Pamela Paul
  12. An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors – Curtis Craddock
  13. Sarabella’s Thinking Cap – Judy Chachner
  14. Brother’s Ruin – Emma Newman
  15. Warcross – Marie Lu
  16. The Masked City – Genevieve Cogman
  17. Maya Lin – Susan Rubin
  18. The Burning Page – Genevieve Cogman
  19. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Elena Favilli
  20. Gone – Min Kym
  21. How to Make Friends with a Ghost – Rebecca Green
  22. The House of Binding Thorns – Aliette de Bodard
  23. The Nonexistent Knight – Italo Calvino