No mistakes, only happy accidents

A few days ago, I twitted about a mistake I made (Ok, maybe not a mistake as such – to quote Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents“) and neglected my outline for just a little bit. By a little bit, I mean a large part of a scene. The result was almost a thousand words of half-decent first-draft quality prose with very interesting character interactions. Alas, I had mixed the characters up. Shameful, I know. In my defense, it was an easy mistake to make, since I almost never name filler characters when I outline, and the two characters shared a few things, like age and lifestyle. The only difference is the character I intended to write about was supposed to have no more than one line of dialogue and appear for maybe half a page, and the one I ended up writing about is an important character, which made the first one a filler, or rather an obstacle to the MC’s progress. A nameless character. Of course you might say that a thousand words for a filler character are too many, but keep in mind there are descriptions, POV character’s thoughts, reactions, and of course the stuff I had on my mind about the important character. Plus, the POV character and that filler one ended up having a long conversation, which was not part of the original plan, but stemmed of how I pictured the important character. My face once I realised what I did was like Arnold’s.


I don’t know how many of you have read G. R. R. Martin’s book, A song of Ice and Fire, but those of you who have, if you watched last week’s show (season 6, episode 1), would probably have something to say about it. Actually, if you have read the books and watched the show, you probably have a lot to say, but that’s a different story. I’m not going to go into it. I just wanted to point out how easy it is to lose track of something planned in advance, if you miss or change one little detail. For Game of Thrones, it was Martin himself, if I’m not mistaken, when he mentioned of the butterfly effect and how the show and the books have diverged because of them. I had read that blog post earlier in the year, and I know he considers himself as a gardener-writer rather than an engineer-writer, but only after my mistake did I appreciate how easy it is to deviate so exponentially by one single mistake, like a few lines of dialogue.

So, any happy accidents you made throughout your writing career that changed things so much for your stories, you had to change everything and rewrite them?

It’s time for the beta readers

Well, the MS has spread its wings and is now away from the nest. Cliche metaphor, I know, but it’s true. It’s in the hands of the beta readers now (thank you all so much for helping out). So far, one of my betas has finished it and raised some valid questions (not to mention the typos that still made their way into the MS, even after all the editing). This is the first time since I started working on it that someone other than me is reading it, an exciting and scary notion. I sent my beta readers a rather long questionnaire to fill (if any of you is reading this, I’m really sorry, but it had to be done) with some 80-90 questions, with YES and NO, and ratings from 1-5, and “other comments” they wanted to add, AND on top of that a critique sheet for those who wanted to say more than a mere comment. I don’t know how they put up with me.

So, now I’m doing my best not to eat my fingernails to their roots, and the best way to do that is to plot the next novel-length story. It’s a sci-fi/cyberpunk story with some mystery elements. I’ve never tried something like that before, so I’m trying to figure things out from a very early stage and save myself all the trouble I had to go through with The Darkening (you may remember I rewrote the book twice after the first draft). I’m working on background stories for everything and everyone, and I’m often working as if I was “reverse engineering” things. Basically I start with where the situation is at the time of the story as well as where will end up by the end of the book, and work backwards in a logical way (e.g. Company Conglomerates own the government. How did this happen? Companies bailed the governments out. Why? Governments went bankrupt. Why? and so on). That’s all world-building, which is fine. My problem is dealing with the mystery element, since I have never tried something similar. I need to insert certain key clues for the main character to find at regular intervals, and their revelation has to come in the most natural way, instead of giving the impression I forced the character to a conclusion. I’m also concerned whether or not the story I have come up with so far is long enough for a novel, AND to make things worse, I also have no ending. I have no idea how the book will end.

What I do know, is that I like this story a lot, and I feel it has potential. I think I even have a title for it. It’s the mystery aspect I’m not sure how to handle correctly.

In other news, I’m collecting a fair amount of rejections for my short stories, so I guess it’s business as usual.

When writing becomes forced

73500 words. That’s how many words I’ve written so far and yet everything I’ve written the past week reflects 100% what Stephen King had written in his book On writing when he described what writing sometimes may look like: shoveling shit from a sitting position… I haven’t read many of his books nor am I yet a big fan but the man described my last week in the best way possible.
It’s not that I don’t know what to write (I have my outline from the Snowflake method), it’s just that a) what I write sounds to me like a five year old child has written it (and if I can’t satisfy myself, how can I expect to satisfy compete strangers?!) and most importantly b) somehow the story I outlined now seems to have huge holes that make me arch my brow as I read the outline. And, to make things worse, now that I’m 70k+ words into the story, I can’t help but feel that my inciting moment has taken too long to appear. Yay… *sarcasm*
I feel bogged down and that I’ve somehow lost something along the way; perhaps the spark, perhaps my focus of the inner thoughts of the character perhaps… I don’t know!
Over the past week I’ve been reading less fiction and more articles from agents. Nearly every one of them simply states the obvious: it’s really really hard to make it in the publishing world. What are the chances that a non-native English speaker can traditionally publish a book, when others have failed? Maybe that’s the reason I feel lost and everything I write seems, well, like shoveling shit from a sitting position.