As writers, every book has the potential to teach us something about writing. Last night I finished Shiver* by Maggie Stiefvater. From this experience, I was reminded of many things I knew but now experienced again, reinforcing the importance of each lesson.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read it, please know that I give examples that give significant story elements away!
Here’s some of my learning highlights:
- If you are going to tell a story from two points of view, each needs a distinctive voice. Shiver shifts back and forth between the point of view Grace (bitten human that didn’t turn into a wolf) and Sam (wolf). This is great. However, without their names printed at the top of the page, I’d never know who was speaking until they talked about the other person. Sure, some people are a lot alike–my husband and I think so alike sometimes it’s creepy–but after years together I know that the voice in his head doesn’t sound like mine. On paper, it wouldn’t either.
- Foreshadowing can be great, but only tell the story once. I think this is a stylistic thing, but Stiefvater often tells us what’s going to happen–the deer’s going to hit the truck–and then she tells us again in slow motion. The problem:
- It takes away a lot of the shock value that you would get if you skipped the first telling.
- It can cause confusion for readers. Every time this technique was used, I had to re-read the section to see if what I thought had happened really did and (because the punchline was thrown in my face instead of leading up to it), it if did, then did it happen once or twice? (e.g. was there one deer? or two?)
All this being said, I still love the premise of the book, and I’m left wondering how much wolf is in Grace. Could anything provoke her to change over? Will Sam ever change again? Will his father-figure Beck? While the book isn’t perfect (few are), it leaves me enough questions to want to linger on the story a bit longer.
*Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is part of a trilogy including linger (book 2) and forever (book 3).
>The problem with editing is that you have to keep reading the same thing
and over again.
The writing just isn’t as much fun the 50 bizillionth time around.
Ah time…time is so grand. With time we can set one writing project aside, move on to the next one, and come back to the last one after some time has passed. Then we can see it again with fresh eyes, and be able to really look at it critically, cut out the rubbish, add in more flavor, and–with any luck–find that what we wrote was more brilliant than we remembered.
>Over a month ago, I finished the complete, revised draft of my young adult novel, The Academie. Since then, I have been dying send it off to agents and move on to my next project. What’s standing in the way? Editing. Why? Editing takes patience. Lots of patience.
Unfortunately, no matter how you cut it, editing simply isn’t a quick process. Why not? Because while we might like to hope that our word processor catches everything with its grammar and spell checkers, this simply isn’t the case. It can’t catch if you used the wrong version of a word (hear/here) or if you left out a word, or if you simply haven’t described a particular character with the right kind of detail. Tend to be on the wordy side? The spell-checker can’t catch that either.
So I’ll continue on, page by page, checking to make sure that everything is as perfect as it can be because I know that good editing could mean the difference between getting an agent and publisher for my work or getting my writing tossed into the recycle bin.
One of the problems writers often run into is that they are impatient. I have to count myself in this category. I get an idea and I want it all to come together–right now. Unfortunately, most of life doesn’t work like that. Writing certainly doesn’t.
We all have our moments of bliss where it all seems to flow so perfectly, but it often doesn’t happen that way, and even when it does, we often find later that what we originally thought was brilliant really is…not so much.
So how does good writing come about?
Writing is a craft, and like any craft, it requires time, practice, patience, and process.
What’s the process involved in creating good writing? Glad you asked. Here’s what it looks like:
- Peer review
Hopefully, this looks at least a little familiar–something you may have heard at some point in school, but weren’t really paying attention because you weren’t sure how it was going to affect your life yet. Now that you’re interested in writing, it’s a good process to review again.
I’ll write more on each of these topics over the next week. Check back to find out more.