Writing While Writing: “livestream” highlights

So I’m going to try and read through my manuscript tonight so that I just get it off my plate. I’m not going to make notes, and since it’s only about as long as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets it should only take me a couple of hours. However, I will be “livestreaming” my hilarious reactions to my manuscript when something comes up.

And when I say “livestreaming”, I mean writing a blog post that will be published after the fact with no sense of spontaneity whatsoever. It’s not quite Writing While Writing, but it’s close enough.

Let’s rock.

~~~

  • So I’m reading a hard-copy, and instead of turning the page I almost tried to scroll down with my mouse wheel. Good start.
  • Useful note-taking is essential. Case in point: “Amphibious line-break! Put in asterisk”.
  • Sorry, that was “ambiguous” line-break. Not as interesting.
  • Oh lampshading. My favourite writerly habit. Apparently.
  • Tallulah steps into her bedroom and puts down her backpack, worded as “divesting herself of her baggage”, haha sure you did honey nothing bad will happen in the next 120 pages
  • Fed up with flat dialogue? Have your main character make incoherent animal noises, spell them out phonetically and put them in quotation marks instead
  • It’s always fun discovering all the instances of sexual innuendo that have made their way into your prose that you legitimately did not intend to put in there oh god it’s happening again
  • “Nineteen steps. Nineteen feet. If each step was a foot, and it was probably more than that.” Lesson: when trying to measure vague distances, have a POV character do it for you and just make them as incompetent as you are so you can explain it away as “exploring the character”
  • Crowd-sourcing time: is it “soy sauce” or “soya sauce”? WordPress says “soy sauce” but over two decades of calling it “soya sauce” says “soya sauce”
  • Wow, dad character, you are not helping in making this conversation less tense
  • You go Tallulah, standing up for your new friend after spending the last two chapters being really selfish and patronising towards her. Character development this good obviously doesn’t need an explanation, otherwise I would have written one into the story
  • Whenever you encounter symptoms of huge plot-holes in your manuscript, especially if those plot-holes have been there from the very beginning, your best bet is to completely ignore them. I mean have you seen some of the shit that gets accepted for publishing? If anything you should leave them in, so that the editors will pick up on that instead of those side-characters you’re really attached to but know serve absolutely no purpose in telling the story. Gotta think three moves ahead
  • Also if you ever have the opportunity to make something happen in your book, don’t
  • Just hint at it so that your readers know that you could have done something; it’s important to remind them of your absolute power, and part of that is refusing to use it at any point in the storytelling process
  • Also make sure to keep your characters thoughts and feelings really indecipherable; that way when you have to reread the entire thing from start to finish you will have the experience of reading something for the first time and wondering what the fuck is going on
  • Yeah you’re not creepy at all designated creepy character well played very subtle
  • Now, this is very important: if you are a man writing a Strong Female Character, make sure that you have them be really aggressive and violent whenever faced with people who are not to their liking, especially if those people are men. Violence is never unwarranted if it’s a woman doing it to a man, and feminists will admire you for understanding this basic tenet of their ideology. Give yourself a cookie for totally subverting gender stereotypes and breaking the patriarchy, and make sure you use this as an example of how “not all men are like that” in the future
  • Actual comment on a paragraph: “WAOW”
  • Cheap jokes at the expense of the religious community are totes hilarious when told by your designated edgy non-conformist character this is very important
  • Banter doesn’t count as filler so use lots of it
  • If you foreshadow something that will happen later on in your story, you could follow through – or, alternatively, you could not only not follow through, but lampshade the fact that you’re not following through so that your readers know how self-aware and clever you are
  • Who’s a clever writer
  • I am
  • If you’re writing within the YA paranormal genre make sure you completely copy and paste a scene from Twilight into your book so that people take you seriously
  • Make sure that your Strong Female Characters are only capable of expressing their wit, anger, self-deprecation and interests through sexual innuendo in order for them to be as realistic as possible
  • All of your female characters should be Strong by the way otherwise you’re a misogyny
  • You must have lots of symbolism for the key themes of your book otherwise your readers won’t know how they’re supposed to think or feel when things happen
  • When your protagonists do creepy things, just remember that they’re the protagonists and everything that they do is automatically morally right
  • Actual comment: “OH MY GOD SHUT UP”
  • Make sure to have your Strong Female Character wear strange clothes in order to show off how unique and quirky and alternative they are, unlike all the other girls
  • When you’re speed-reading your own story because you don’t care what’s happening, that’s a sign that you need to try harder to enjoy it, not a sign that it’s shit
  • When you feel a physical sensation of displeasure upon re-reading something you wrote because you were speed-reading it because you don’t care what’s happening, that’s a sign that you just aren’t committed enough to finding every single thing in  your story that you might theoretically be able to find a use for later regardless of context, not a sign that it’s shit
  • Actual comment: “DIE”
  • Remember that plot you used to have? No? Good. Now when you rewrite your entire novel from scratch you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything
  • Characters discussing food doesn’t count as filler so use lots of it
  • Remind yourself of this fact by leaving yourself enthusiastic comments such as: “HOW FUCKING INTRIGUING”
  • Oh designated comic relief character. You are actually kind of funny
  • “She wondered if that was normal, and how she should feel about it based on whether or not it was, which she didn’t know.” Actual comment: “>.<“
  • (Seriously though I like that sentence)
  • Randomly end a paragraph with a comma instead of a full stop, dash or ellipsis in order to fully simulate and demonstrate awareness of authentic speech patterns because you’re such a clever writer yes you are
  • If you forget the events of two chapters ago in your own story while writing, just turn it into part of the story by making your characters have trouble remembering those exact same events
  • Actual comment: “DON’T CARE”
  • Actual comment: “WHERE ARE YOU KEEPING THE STORY”
  • Actual comment: “SHUT UP”
  • Actual comment: “FUUUUUUCK SO BORING”
  • When you find your scathing comments on your story more interesting than the actual story, that’s a sign that you lack discipline and are unable to objectively look at your own work, not a sign that it’s shit
  • Somebody might have been angry, but they also might not be. I’m so pleased we spent a page and a half discussing this, and I’m sure it will be come central to the plot at some point in the future
  • That was a joke. It is vital to maintain a sense of humour while rereading your piece of shit manuscript in order to see how you should try to fix it
  • For example, I have thus far concluded that soaking my manuscript in gasoline and then setting it on fire would lend some much-needed cohesion to the narrative
  • Be sure to have your characters who fall into the Youth demographic not only text each other, but that said texts are written in txt-speek for maximum authenticity
  • It’s better to have too many commas than not enough
  • But let’s be honest you can never have too many commas
  • If you’re really worried you can throw in some semicolons to spice things up
  • Actual comment: “Does anything in this chapter matter???”

~~~

And on that enlightening note, I conclude this session of “livestream” highlights. I didn’t get through the whole book; I’ve gotten to just over a third of the way through, but to memory I’ve also gotten through the majority of the filler chapters so that’s something.

What’s depressing is that, even though nothing was happening, I wasn’t at all frustrated while reading some of those filler chapters. This is either a sign that something works about them, or that I’ve become desensitized to meandering bullshit after reading nothing but YA novels for the past nine months. I remember reading Rebel Belle and getting excited that there was, wait for it, an actual story where stuff happened. I was ready to write a glowing review for this book until I remembered that having a story where things happen should be the bare minimum, not some Olympian achievement of human ingenuity.

I mean I did enjoy Rebel Belle; it’s set in the Deep South but manages to avoid being quite as hideously racist as Beautiful Creatures. I may write a review about it one day.

For now though – got my first Honours seminar in the afternoon, so I’d better get some sleep. Or resting-in-bed at least. I may even end up reading more of my manuscript if I can’t sleep. It’s a win-win situation.

And I know that was very snarky and self-deprecating, but honestly this is going well. It feels good, like the right thing to do, just reading it without making notes, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it until it doesn’t feel right anymore.

(I feel very brazen attaching the “humour” tag to this post by the way) (what if somebody finds out I’m not funny) (then it’d just be lying and you’re not supposed to lie)

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