Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Of Revisions and Vampires

So, despite the setbacks of the last couple weeks, I'm here writing my post a little bit early. There's been several revelations I've had recently that I would like to share, a few tips on revising a finished manuscript, before I get into the meat of today's post. In addition to the outpouring of support from friends and family, burying myself a bit in my writing has helped me through some of these days.

First off, I finished my initial revision of my novel, sent it to a few people for opinions and I am preparing to send it in to a professional editor to get it looked at. I'm still not sure it's quite where I want it, but I'm willing to take a break for a little bit while I wait to get a professional opinion. I've got a few new story ideas poking me in the brain that want to see the light of day, one of which I've already started, but it's more the literary equivalent of doodling right now. I'd rather not start another big project before this one is finished.

I've already stated that I like to print my manuscript out in a hard copy to go over it as I'm revising. It can seem like a daunting task, but it's really nowhere near as bad as it seems, staring at that stack of paper. It's just one of those things you sit down and do though. The more daunting thing these days is transferring those changes to the manuscript on the computer. My tip for that, start from the last page and work your way back. One of the things that makes it so difficult to implement changes like that is if you're working from the first page on, then after ten pages or so (or less, depending on how many changes you need to make), your pages don't line up anymore and you start finding yourself hunting through the manuscript for where your changes need to be made. Of course, not many people revise like that, so it's not really that big of an issue.

The other thing I want to discuss in this post is the horrible case of what used to be one of our best horror monsters. Vampires. To get right to the point, it's hard to say if vampires even really count as a horror monster anymore. There are a few cases here and there where they show their old colors; 30 Days of Night and the Blade trilogy are among the best, but even those are getting a bit old. More recently, the Twilight series, The Vampire Diaries, Being Human, and the current trend of urban fantasy books depict vampires as caring, compassionate creatures who are just trying to get by day to day like everyone else. At its very worst, vampires are treated almost like an existing minority, the same as you and me, but just with a few minor differences.

Now, I understand that in this day and age, people aren't really going to accept vampires that turn into mist or giant bats, can hypnotize with a glance and will shrink away from a cross, mirror or holy water. Vampires have had to evolve over time to hold onto their status as monsters, and this can easily be seen in some settings, as they are portrayed as the ultimate predators they are and should be. The current trend though leads them away from being monsters at all, trying to say things you would expect to hear in a group therapy session "Oh, I'm a vampire, but aside from a few small differences, I'm just like you." or "I'm a vampire, but that's ok." The loss of some of their more monstrous abilities is one thing, but giving them new ones just to make them more friendly more human-like is completely unnecessary and an affront to the core of what a vampire is supposed to be.

The question that remains is whether or not the damage done to the vampire by the newer incarnations and popularity can be undone, or if the vampire as a horror staple is finished. This subject could easily be expanded upon to be a book all on it's own, but this is as far as I'm willing to take it for now. I personally don't know why it even happened. Why people felt the need to take something like a vampire and, literally in some cases, bring it into the light. You want something superhuman but light-hearted? Take a look through the fables and legends of any one of a dozen different civilizations and you'll probably find something that fits perfectly. Don't take something and try to make your mark by twisting it into something it was never supposed to be. At the very least, try using your own creativity and try to make something new.

There's a joke that's been made about Twilight and to be honest, it holds a lot of truth to it. It says "He lives in the forest, sparkles in the sunlight, and only eats fruits and vegetables. He's not a vampire, he's a fairy." Under any description, that's what people would call him, but the writer labeled it a vampire, so now we have to deal with the fallout.If we can. That's going to be a horror story in and of itself. Of course, if you want to add your two cents, feel free to leave a comment below and we'll have ourselves a full-on discussion.

~ Shaun

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving.

To start with, I would like to say to everyone in the US, Happy Thanksgiving. In all the rush to stuff your faces and get out to jump in line for the Black Friday sales, please don't forget the real reason for this holiday weekend. Be thankful for what you have, because at almost any moment, you could lose some of it. On Tuesday of this week, my grandpa passed away after nine years of being bedridden with dementia and Alzheimer's. It was a long time coming, but that doesn't take away any of the pain, especially at this time of year where family is supposed to be so important. So please pause and think about and give thanks for what you have on this holiday. Not everyone is so lucky.

As for an update on my current works, before my grandpa passed away I was too excited to have finished my first draft of my novel and started revising already. I only have comments so far from two of the five people I sent drafts to, but initial opinions are very good and I've had several people request the chance to read it or share it with their friends. It is very tempting, but it's something I need to restrain myself on. After all, if everyone's read it before it gets published, nobody's going to want to buy the book. Anyway, I've already started revision which includes printing the entire manuscript out to go over it by hand. That's my personal preference. I like to write out the whole first draft on my computer, then print it out to check over the work before making the changes on the document electronically.

I had several ideas for this post, which include a discussion of the current incarnations of vampires, a look at how to make a good villain, the pros and cons of a character-driven story, and the importance of in-between scenes. The events of the week, combined with the holiday though have encouraged me to put a few things on the back burner. Just for this week though. I understand that life can't be put on hold for any reason for any real length of time, no matter how we might feel about it. At the same time though, some events require you to pause and reflect on them. So thank you for understanding as I pause during this difficult time. Next week I'll have a new post on one of the above subjects.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving and be grateful for the chance to spend your time with family.

~ Shaun

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How long between drafts?

First off tonight, I want to say my first draft of my first novel is now finished. Now it's time to kick back and take a bit of a break, let a few trusted people look it over for a little feedback and maybe do up a little short story before starting the first revision. Whew. It really is an exhilarating feeling having finished a piece that long. I didn't quite break the 50,000 mark that is generally accepted as a short novel, but I'm sure there's going to be a few parts that need filling in so there is still hope for that goal. I'm reasonably sure it's not going to get shunned for being a couple thousand words short of that mark either. Cut down to 200 - 225 words per page and it's still going to be over an over 200 page book.

A good question to have is how long to wait between revisions. I think the answer depends on the writer. In Stephen King's On Writing he suggests a period of about 6 months. There are several reasons for this and I do agree with each one. It gives your brain time to cool down, so when you come back around to it you can start revising with a fresh mind. Another reason is that you can distance yourself from it. When you've just finished a manuscript for the first time, it's almost like it's your baby. You want to take care of it and the last thing you want to do is go in, change things and hack whole paragraphs out of the work you just finished putting together. Once you've taken a good break though, you can not only read it with a fresh eye, but you won't be so resistant to changes that you know need to be made for the betterment of the story.

The thing is; it really depends on the writer. If a writer can look at a finished work objectively, without all the pride that comes with the accomplishment of finishing any draft; if he can freely hack and slash at his work as he knows and can see that it needs; then there really is no reason to wait months to start the revision process.  The problem is knowing yourself well enough to know how long you need. You should know more than anyone if you need 6 months, 3 months, or two weeks to recuperate your mind between working on a new version of a story that you just spent months or even years on.

I finished my first draft of my novel on Tuesday, November 13 and emailed it out to my trusted companions that night. I'm already anxious to know what their feedback is and get into the thick of the first revision. I decided though that no matter how fast they can read the first version, I'm not going to start revising until on or after December first. Could I jump right in and start changing things? Of course, easily. I know the importance of taking a break though and I'm just as happy relaxing for a bit as long as that story has been weighing on my shoulders and snapping at my heels.

Another suggestion is that between work on different versions of a story, is that you work on something else that's completely different from the one you just finished. That is also a good idea. It allows you to distance yourself even further from the one you just completed, and some writers even use the work of revising an older work as a way to cool down from a writing session on a new piece. That trick is a bit harder to pull off though. The issues of focus aside, it can be extremely difficult to switch back and forth from working on one story to working on another and keep up the level of quality your readers might be used to. When worse comes to worse, you occasionally might even be working on two different stories with characters that have similar names and start getting the works mixed up. So this isn't a tactic I would really recommend to anyone. It certainly isn't one I use or plan to.

I might start a little short story while I'm waiting on feedback on my first draft, but I'm probably just going to take it easy for a bit, revel in the accomplishment that is finishing the first draft of my first novel.

~ Shaun

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Welcome. This is me.

So. Here I am. I'm starting this blog to help me in starting my career as an authentic author, among other things. I've been writing since 5th grade. Mostly short stories, but a few under my belt are novella length and I'm currently working on what should turn out to be a short novel. As of this point, I don't have anything published. But I do have a few pieces out looking for homes and I have one short story that is actually due to be published next month.

I've written everything you can think of. From humor, to fantasy, love stories to erotica. My preferred genre though is horror. There's just something about scaring and unnerving people that just makes me smile a little bit inside. As well, there's something about writing horror that is just more uplifting then any other kind of story. People read as an escape, to get away from the horrors they see every day on the street and on the news. Horror stories just make better escapes because they point out that things could always be worse. After all, no matter how bad your day is going or what emotional, mental or physical weights you find yourself carrying, at least you don't have a psychopath or supernatural monster snapping at your heels. My preference for the Horror story leads me to a lot of the writers you would expect. Poe, Lovecraft, King and Koontz. Bradbury and Matheson appear a little further down the list as well. (I find it interesting that while Lovecraft and Koontz are accepted as words on here, Matheson in underlined as being misspelled. Huh.) Micheal Crichton is on the list as well, with Jurassic Park being one of my favorite books of all time. His last work though, Micro, was unfortunately disappointing to me. It was unfinished when he passed, but the story itself just doesn't feel very original. The science in it might be new, but the story itself is fairly old and has been repeated many, many times in other books and movies. To be perfectly honest, I made it through the first third of the book and just put it down. My mind just kept picking up correlations to other similar movies I'd seen.

As I mentioned, I am currently working on a novel. No, I'm not doing it as part of Nanowrimo, though I did sign up for that a while back and neglected to get started on it when the first came around. I started this novel back in January and after a good burst of energy, I slowed down over the summer due to some heavy emotional trauma I took on. While I'm still working on getting over that, I've picked up my work again and it currently stands at just over 41,000 words. The most I've ever written on one story so far. I have a few more hoops for the characters to jump through before the grand finale, but it shouldn't be too much further. The real work is going to be when I get to work on the second draft. I am already aware of several major plot issues I need to fix and it's already hard to ignore them enough to finish the story as it.

Anyway, that should be good enough for my first Post I think. I'm actually on the hunt for my page of notes on my novel to double-check a few things before I get back to work on it for the night and I still need to keep looking. (Yes, I stopped looking just to start a blog. Get a sense of a bit of ADD?) Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Come on back again.

~ Shaun Horton