Saturday, July 18, 2015

Out-Witting Dreck

I've always loved writing, and I've always loved science fiction. And as an aspiring writer in junior high school, I wrote several sci-fi stories (averaging roughly 18,000 words each) which could be charitably described as dreck.

18,000 words each. And if memory serves, I wrote at least four of them.

That's a lot of dreck.

And yet, at age 13, I had the chutzpah to submit one of said dreck-lets to a notable science fiction writer/editor, the late Roger Elwood. In reply, he was kind enough to send me a Xeroxed form rejection letter (photocopied crooked), rather than point out the many glaringly obvious reasons why 13-year-olds are so rarely published.

I've learned a few things about writing since those days, mostly about how to out-wit the dreckification that can so easily creep into any genre of writing. (And since I'm currently writing my first science fiction novel in about 40 years, this is important.)

My first line of defence, always, is Wendy. She reads each chapter "hot off the press", and gives me immediate feedback. And in a house full of creatives, we have embraced the necessity of the "honest opinion" as being equal in value to the "encouraging word". (If it's sucking canal water, she'll tell me.)

Second phase:
Thanks to the magic of Microsoft Word, each and every chapter looks like this at least once. Insertions, deletions, revisions, complete rewrites -- it's not moving forward until the red is gone. 
Next phase:
Yes, I actually print out the entire manuscript. It's amazing how changing mediums from screen to paper causes the story to read differently. Entirely new insertions, deletions, and rewrites are inevitably created.

Nit-picking phase:

Kindle quotes vs. paperback
Kindle and paperback are different formats. (Meaning: you have to manually edit all the apostrophe's and quotation marks.) It's remarkable how reading the story through this editing lens will result in yet another round of insertions, deletions, and rewrites.

And after all this is said and done (at least once), then the story can be sent to a few beta-readers for their input, which invariably results in repeating at least a couple of the afore-mentioned phases. And, ultimately, to the story's release in book and e-book format.

To answer the most obvious question: YES, this is very time-consuming. But it's also a lot of creative fun, and very satisfying as each revision edges incrementally towards publication. And also so very, very necessary if I seriously want to "just say no" to dreck.

And, hopefully, also avoid badly-photocopied letters of rejection.

Did anyone catch my use of the literary tool known as "foreshadowing"?

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