Top 5 Tuesday – Stories that I wish I could re-write

Hello my lovelies,

I’ve been joining in with Top 5 Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, as often as I can these past few months and I’m joining in again today. Luckily, Shanah comes up with the topics a month at a time so that we’ve got some thinking space. *phew* She’s so kind to us book bloggers. 🙂

If you’re interested in participating in Top 5 Tuesday, all you have do is write up your post and pingback to one of Shanah’s posts. Make sure you pingback to her post and not just her blog so she can add you to the list of participants.

So on to this week, as you may guess from the title, Shanah has come up with the topic – Top 5 books I’d rewrite. Eek! I can’t write! I’m not sure where to begin, so as we’re midway through NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to share some pep talks that I found on their blog written by some AMAZING authors.

Pep Talk from Jim Butcher

Beware, sweet, innocent, aspiring writer. People aren’t telling you this, and they should be. NaNoWriMo participants are being deceived into thinking that being an author is a good thing. But you don’t know. You don’t know the horrors you might face as a professional, published, full-time author.

I could tell you. I could go on for hours about all the things that threaten my peace of mind. I could for you a tale unfold that would harrow up your carpal tunnels and chill the very marrow of your finger bones: tales of the constant questions, the unending deadlines, the mind-bending task of deciding each and every day which hours you will spend writing.

But never mind all of that. Best not to dwell on the worst. Instead, let us concentrate on what you must do to avoid this horrible fate, and save yourself agonies untold.

First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough: do not sit down at the keyboard and write on a regular basis. This is a trap. You can tell yourself that you’re only doing it to scratch an itch, that you only need to get a few hundred words written and then you can set it aside—but the siren clickclickabulation of the dancing keys will do more than merely produce words on a page. It will condition you to want, nay, to need to do it each and every day.

And if that happens, there is simply no way, in the long run, to avoid the most lamentable and horrible fate of finishing a novel.

Whatever you do, do not seek feedback from readers and other writers. Bad enough that you work in a vacuum, allowing the authoric energies to work their demonic way on your thoughts—if you add to that the feedback of the work’s intended audience, you will only establish the primary mechanism of making your writing more effective for those for whom it is meant.

This is a doubly pernicious practice! Not only does it seduce you to create more material for your audience, but it creates more audience for your material in an infernal feedback loop. I cannot stress to you enough how much you need to avoid this part of the process! Save yourself!

A further horrible mistake I can recognize only in retrospect: do not inform yourself about the publishing industry and the demons who labor therein. Oh, certainly, those people, those editors, may seem to be witty and charming and friendly at writing conventions and on workshop panels, but make no mistake. Their only purpose in life is to draw you into their evil plans, and force you to labor for them while they help you hone your writing craft.

Many aspiring writers are intimidated by editors, and I cannot help but emphasize how much credit you should give to these instincts, placed there for the protection of your sanity and whole mind. If you allow yourself to overcome this natural inclination, it may be too late for you to escape your fate.

Finally, I can only encourage each and every aspiring author out there to quit writing at the first opportunity and never look back. This seemingly harmless activity is anything but, and if you cannot break its hold on you, if you continue to make up one excuse after another to keep typing, if you find yourself promising yourself “just one more novel” and never draw away from it, you will inevitably be drawn into published perdition.

All you need do is quit! Just say no! And you will be saved! But if you continue, and continue, and continue despite all the sane voices trying to sway you, you will be drawn into the maelstrom of madness that is the life of a professional writer.

Dear NaNoWriMo participant, I beg of you, listen to me! You cannot know the horrors you will face! Run! Flee! Turn aside from this dark road!

For if you do not, I fear that one day, you will find yourself writing with other damned souls like me.

Jim Butcher – 5 October 2014

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That’s how novels get written.

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.

The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

So I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

Pretty soon you’ll be on the downward slide, and it’s not impossible that soon you’ll be at the end. Good luck…

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman – 1 November 2007

Pep Talk from Charlaine Harris

For me, even having written quite a few books, the middle third of a book is always the hardest part to write. I have seldom plotted far enough to have any very clear idea of where I have to go to get to the fun part… the end.

The middle is where you prove what you’re made of. This is where you pull up your socks and think of some interesting things for your characters (who should be pretty well developed by now) to do with/for/to each other. And it had better be some good, exciting, and maybe even evil stuff.

Personally, I always kill someone. This enlivens the plot every time, and I get to write another “finding of the body” scene, which is one of my favorites. I have never found a body in real life, but I have found dozens on the page, and every time, I get a creative charge from it. This may not be a particularly attractive aspect of my character, but hey! I’m amongst other writers, and I can tell you the truth.

By the time you get to the middle, you should see the ending of your book in the distance. At this point, you need to start getting all your characters in place for the wind-up phase of the novel. You can continue writing at breakneck speed, or you can spend fifteen minutes right now on evaluating where your characters are, then decide what they need to discover to arrive at the denouement.

I use the scientific method of sticky notes, some of which might read, “Regan needs to get a clue that Thomas is not who he says he is,” or, “Soon, Jack needs to find the book!” It’s helpful to remind yourself of your goal.

Perhaps you might want to try setting a new goal a day. Go over what must happen in each day’s pages to move you along until tomorrow. If you have no clue what must happen, leave yourself open to the unexpected. The telephone might ring! Someone might pound on the door! A sinkhole might open in the backyard!

Don’t lose your excitement in slogging through this difficult part of the book. This is what will determine if you are in position to finish your novel. And if you do finish, you can call yourself a writer.

Charlaine Harris – 17 November 2015

Pep Talk from V.E. Schwab

Look, I of all people know how hard it is to put words down on paper. To overcome the dread of the blank page, and the fear of writing something that isn’t perfect. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to exist so you can make it better.

The act of writing a first draft is the act of taking a story idea, a perfect ball of potential, and having to throw it. It lands somewhere far away from where you’re standing, and it gets kind of smushed and misshapen by the fall, and you think, ‘That’s not what I had in my hand, that’s not perfect and smooth anymore.’

And it’s not. But that’s what revision will be for. Right now, you have to take that story idea, and you have to risk throwing it, not knowing how it will land. Writing the draft is an act of faith. It’s faith in the story, and faith in yourself, and that’s scary. But once you have something, you can make it better. The only thing you can’t fix is a blank page.

So you’re going to write a story. Not a book. Don’t think of it as anything so formal. You’re just writing down a story. Something that you will have ample time to make better, once it’s done. And I know it’s hard—trust me, I know. Because the moment you start writing it down, you begin to see all the flaws, all the shortcomings, all the things that aren’t perfect. But you’re also writing down everything you need, your raw materials.

I love metaphors, so let’s try another one. Something a bit more macabre.

You’re not making a whole body. You’re making its bones. You don’t need the muscle, the sinew, the skin. You certainly don’t need the makeup or the clothes. You just need bones. Something to work with. Something to build on. Something to make better, make whole. And you know the general shape of this body. You’ve read books, you like stories; you might not know every minor bone in a hand, but you know the big ones, the skull, and the spine, and the ribs. So go and make a body. There will be time to make it pretty later. But what good is smooth skin without a skeleton beneath?

Go make something. Go shape it. Go carve out or dig up or mold together something out of nothing but ideas, because you can. That’s why you’re here.

V.E. Schwab – 5 November 2019

Pep Talk from Maggie Stiefvater

I hear you’re trying to do an impossible thing.

Good. I love impossible things. I try to do at least one each year. I love everything about that word, impossible, and I love everything about slapping the ‘im’ right off its smirking face. It turns out humans are pretty good at the impossible. Just last month I read an article about an old lady who hand-fought a bear to keep it from eating the collie dog out of her backyard. There were photos. She was covered with claw marks.

Impossible, said the bear. He didn’t realize that was our specialty.

When undertaking the impossible, however, it’s important to remember what actually makes it impossible, because that’s what you have to overcome. The novel-writing part isn’t what makes NaNoWriMo impossible. Time is the only thing that makes NaNoWriMo impossible.

It won’t feel that way. It’s going to feel like the writing is the impossible part. But all of the puzzles you’re going to face—plot holes, characterization woes, bad pacing, words ceasing to make any sort of logical sense—aren’t even really problems; this is just what the writing process looks like. So learn to love that process. The actual problem is that most of these puzzles require time to solve.

Here’s how I fight time:

Know my project. I need to know what I want that final project to look like. Where it sits on the shelf, why I’m writing it, how it will make the reader feel. Then I ask myself with each chapter: does this belong in the book I said I was writing?

Never sit at my computer without knowing what I’m going to write. If I’m stuck, I need to stimulate my physical body so my mind can play: drive, walk, shower.

Unwind each day with thirty minutes of reading something that feels like what I’m trying to make, to remind myself how others accomplished it.

[brackets]. If I know I need a beat but can’t quite get the details yet, I place brackets around the words [fight here] or [scene], so that I know I can go back and fix it later.

Move forward and backward. I go back and edit; I go forward and outline. Rereading and scanning ahead helps me keep #1 in mind.

Ignore word count. I get through the plot first, then I go back and flesh out or cut down as needed.

Now get to work. Time’s not on your side, but everything else is. Remember, you were built to overcome the impossible. And at least it’s not a bear.

Maggie Stiefvater – 18 November 2016

Anyway, that’s it for this week’s T5T, I’m off to read something from my TBR pile. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my post. Now that you’ve read mine, why not hop along to some of the other amazing blogs taking part in this week’s Top 5 Tuesday.

Don’t forget to leave a link to your Top 5 Tuesday post so I can visit your blog if you’re joining in the fun this week or just drop me a comment below.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week and read some fantastic books.

Bye for now. x


9 thoughts on “Top 5 Tuesday – Stories that I wish I could re-write

  1. I rather like that you shared these pep talks. I’m an aspiring writer myself and the hardest part has been getting started. I think I’ll save this post for a rainy day when I need some motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

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