Writing Techniques: Out of Order

It’s almost safe to say that no writer writes exactly the same way – it’s a unique process for most. Some folks must have absolute silence, some prefer total isolation, others can be productive in a busy coffee shop whilst other patrons are slurping lattes and chatting with friends. It’s all up to the writer.

And how a person writes vastly differs as well.

When I was writing I’m With You, I wrote the first draft entirely in order until around chapters 13-15 range (can’t remember the specific chapter), then I got stuck. I tried to slog through it, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to puzzle out that segment, so I just moved on to what became chapters 17-19. I had a better idea of where I wanted that portion of the store to go and what I hoped to achieve with it, since it’s a fairly contained section of the narrative. Thus, it was easier for me to draft.

I used to think I had to write in a strictly linear pattern – point A to point B to point C and so on – so when I hit a roadblock, I’d just… stop. Several bouts of frustration and stress later, I’d manage to get momentum going again, but it didn’t occur to me until around my college years that I could write out of order. I could go from point A to point J if I wanted. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can seamlessly link the parts together after they’re all done.

That realization – though simple for some, it was a groundbreaking revelation for me – actually first came to me while writing essays for college. English majors have to write a lot of essays. A crap ton, one might say. And the bane of many college writers is the intro paragraph, which contains the dreaded thesis statement. I used to sit and stare at my computer for ages, trying to think of a compelling intro with a powerful hook, as the cursor blinked mockingly at me from an empty document. To be fair, I’ve encountered many other students and writers who also thought that you had to do the intro first. How else would you know what to write, if you haven’t yet set it up?

I learned, by my senior year, that, as long as I had at least some idea of what I was going to write about, I could just skip the intro, write out the rest of my essay, and then hope motivation and momentum carry me enough to pump out an intro by the time the rest of it is done. Or, if sudden inspiration happened to strike, I could go back and write it out at any point. There are no rules dictating the order in which you write an essay, or a narrative, or any piece of creative work.

By my last couple of semesters, my drafts starting looking like this:

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For the record, I do still believe that intro paragraphs can die in a hole. As you can see, the start of this draft is ugly, my thesis ends with “something something something,” and I haven’t even got a title.

But here is the final version, which came together as I was writing the rest of the essay:

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A bit wordy, but it gets the job done. Your thesis and intro can take shape during the development of the body paragraphs. A lot of the time, I would have no idea how to word my thesis, but I knew what I was trying to prove… and working through the meat of the essay helped me find the right words.

For my current MS, I got stuck on a particular chapter for months – but I didn’t dwell on it very long. I didn’t forget about it entirely, of course, but when I felt hopelessly stuck and had no idea what to write next, I just moved on and kept chugging away at the other sections of the story, the ones I did have a clear path for. Ultimately, I worked past the roadblock and got the chapter done. So, if your writing patterns and habits seem a little unorthodox, don’t let others tell you that your style is out of order. Sometimes, being out of order is exactly what a writer needs.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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Writing Rewind #12: Wings of Fate Chapter 8 Part 1

I’ll straight up admit that I’ve been putting this next installment off on purpose, because it includes the storyline I’ve been dreading. The romance subplot. My reasons for hating it will become more prevalent next time, but this is the set up to it…

Now that I’m older, I’ve actually done a total 180 on my stance regarding the main “romance” of this story, so revisiting will be difficult because I basically want to erase the entire thing and pretend it never happened. But I’m going to do my best to dissect all the issues without imploding from the massive cringe-fest that is about to unfold.

Last time on Writing Rewind, we found out what the mysterious mission is all about! It involves a floating land in the sky that was definitely not influenced by Castle in the Sky from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, no way no how. What adventures are in store for us this time as we vault into Wings of Fate Chapter 8: The Hated Day?

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Oh boy. It’s a Matthias-centric chapter. Brace yourselves for the avalanche of “cold” and “icy” character descriptions!

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That entire first paragraph is an abomination and deserves to DIE. I cannot fathom why I felt I needed to describe Matthias in vivid detail EVERY SINGLE TIME HE’S MENTIONED. He’s basically the Tin Man meets Mr. Freeze meets Frosty the Snowman, WE GET IT, GOOD GOD.

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There. Short, sweet, mostly to the point. And not a “cold” descriptor to be seen…

Next, after Robin spills the beans about the mission and gets Heiwa and Daisuke in trouble with their commanding officers, they are out on the deck with Shirotaka when a little accident happens, and our favorite mute magical girl falls overboard…

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She can fly, she can fly, she can flyyyyyyy!!!!!! And this portion’s not too bad, but it’s got too much fluff.

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I’ve noticed that Past Allie certainly leans toward repetition, or saying things in a roundabout way that could be explained in a much shorter fashion. I’m verbose, basically. And it ain’t cute. And I think it is definitely the worst it’s been in this chapter.

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Wow, look at that! The same revelation with much fewer words! It flows a lot better this way, without all the excess.

Next, Heiwa takes Shirotaka up to Dr. Black to tell him about her ability…

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Why, oh why, does Dr. Black feel the need to pontificate so often? Might as well stamp “I’M A SECRET VILLAIN!” on his forehead.

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I think Dr. Black needs to keep it subtle. Not be so… forthcoming. Like, Heiwa asked one question and he goes off on a rant, and it’s not necessary at all. Also, I think he’d be more upset by the lack of positive reception to the mission reveal than he lets on in this version, so him keeping his response short will work better. Gotta keep some element of suspense.

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There we go! Look how much better it is when all the babbling is chopped out!

Next, Matthias’s frigid ways continue…

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Uh, oh! Something’s up with Mattie! What could it be?

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The set up of Matthias’s hissy-fit and Tango’s musing can definitely be handled in a more… fluid way. Keep the mystery without beating the reader over the head with it. Matthias’s behavior is weird, but it can be shown and not told.

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Much better! Enough to show that Mattie is behaving like an asshat and Tango is perplexed by it without being too wordy. The theme of the week seems to be trimming the fluff, and I gotta say, seeing all the superfluous bits getting shaved away is making my hatred of this plot-line wane, just a bit.

After Matthias blows up in spectacularly unprofessional fashion at Pilot, the commanding officers begin to speculate about his pissy mood…

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So, Tango knows – or thinks she knows – why Mattie is behaving like this. That can be said in far fewer words, and the remaining words can be shuffled around and tweaked to make the passage flow better.

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Clearly, the romance being set up is between Tango and Matthias, so this portion is meant to set up the fact that Tango knows him better than the others and views him in a more positive light. And by cutting some parts out and reworking some others, that message will come across a bit clearer.

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Okay, so this part of Chapter 8 wasn’t quite as bad as I expected, but next time, the real cringe sets in. Will we find out why Matthias is acting like such a jerk to everyone? Will Tango be able to improve his mood, or will her intervention make things worse? Stay tuned, for the exploration of the most regrettable romantic subplot of my early writing career!

For some less regrettable writing, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Writing Rewind #5: Wings of Fate Chapter 3

When we last left off on Writing Rewind, Heiwa met a new friend named Daisuke and attended a “mysterious meeting,” which announced a year-long mission on an airship under the command of the cold, icy, frigid, glacial General Matthias von Schneider. However, Heiwa doesn’t believe he can go because of his obligations to his mother and grandmother, even though he technically shouldn’t have the ability to refuse because it should have been an order, not an optional offer. Will Daisuke be able to convince Heiwa that going on this mission is his destiny?

To set the scene for chapter 3, Daisuke and Heiwa have arrived at a fast-food establishment called Burger Village (my creativity at its peak) where Daisuke and Kato (their cab driver, who comes along for some reason) are going to attempt to convince Heiwa that he must not pass up this chance of a lifetime…

KEY/GUIDE:
Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

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I’m all for similies and metaphors, but sometimes they should just… not. They can be a bane instead of a boon, if you know what I mean. And in my early years as a writer, I over-relied on them to the extreme. You should see my old fanfiction, it’s even worse than this!

My first scan yields this:

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Oh, look – familiar issues are cropping up again! Superfluous dialogue, awkward phrasing, needless detail… which means it’s time to fetch the trimmer! And there’s some tweaking to do, as well, to help eradicate the choppiness.

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The end result is a bit clearer, not so clunky, and doesn’t feature quite as many similies.

Next up…

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Good LORD, Heiwa could have probably said all of his opening dialogue bit in like… two sentences. That is over-explaining to the maximum, and it must be destroyed!!!!

My first round produces…

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It’s rare, but there are a couple of additions to be made (gasp!), along with the usual rephrasing and cutting. Also, I wish I could eliminate every single time Daisuke says “Dude,” because that was a definite mistake. I still might – it’s up in the air, at this point.

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And there we have it; Heiwa’s blathering is sliced down to a far more manageable 3 sentences, and the awkward sentences have been reworked to improve clarity. A couple of sentences/snippets have also been swapped around, which I think flows better.

Next up, we have…

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For the life of me, I cannot fathom why everyone in this story is astonished that Heiwa would get to go on an actual airship during this (absurdly implausible) mission. He’s a member of the military branch that deals DIRECTLY WITH AIRSHIPS. It shouldn’t be such an uncommon thing, but apparently, this made sense to 15 year old me. So that needs to be phased out, obviously…

Other than that, it’s the same old, same old…

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That first sentence is complete cringe. There are many ways to convey surprise, and in this sentence, Ritsuko is displaying two, and “stunned disbelief” is somewhat oxymoronic. And I’m just plain moronic.

Other than that, this selection is a bit tame, actually! A few redundant thoughts to hack off, and a bit of tweaking, then we have…

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Ritsuko is showing her surprise in only one way, as opposed to two. Some dialogue was rearranged, and other sentences were removed, and we still have a functional passage that isn’t completely awful!

For the penultimate selection, we’ve got…

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Whoooooo boy. This passage can only be described as DRAMATIC AND OVERLY-DRAMATIC. I mean, Heiwa is obviously conflicted about the decision he has to make, but damn… it should not take this many conversations and repetition and blabbing on, and on, AND ON, to come to a conclusion.

So the proposed changes include…

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That red-highlighted sentence is flat-out ridiculous. I am now a firm believer that “orbs” should never be used to describe eyes, EVER. Or certain parts of female anatomy, but that’s just my opinion. Also, I thought garnet was green when I wrote this. It is not green. So… yeah. That’s gonna pop up a lot in the future, too.

Also, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH dialogue for Izumi. The heartfelt words kind of lose their impact when it’s stated repeatedly in various ways and in a massive chunk of as opposed to compacted into a concise version. THAT MUST CHANGE, STAT!

So basically, we need to chop, chop, chop, and polish, polish, polish!

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Ahhh, look how slim and trim the fixed version is compared to the original! It’s so svelte.

So, their interaction is cut dramatically, but doesn’t really lose any meaning. Heiwa and his mom can profess their thoughts to one another and enforce their bond without PRATTLING ON FOREVER.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s this gem…

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Ohhhhhh my. This is just… no. No, no, no. I wish I could deny that I ever wrote this, but alas, it has my old trademarks all over it!

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The axe is going to have a lot to do in this one, because the sappy, melodramatic blabbering has GOT to go. It doesn’t need to be reworked, or preserved. It needs to be terminated.

So, with that as the strategy, our final version is…

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The same ideas have been expressed in two sentences instead of 10+. It’s so simple. Even though there are a lot of words that CAN be said, and a lot of emotional gravitas to be conveyed, they don’t always need to BE said or included. Simple is good.

And there we have it! Chapter 3 is also completed in one fell swoop! If it isn’t obvious, Heiwa has decided to go on the mission after being persuaded by his mother, grandmother, new friend, and a random cab driver. Next time, the mission is underway and we might meet a couple of new characters! That might be chapter 5, though. I can’t remember; I’ve blocked it out of my memory…

Next time, Chapter 4: The Point of no Return … a chapter likely named after the Phantom of the Opera song of the same name. I went through a musical phase in high school, so… yeah…