Rambling in a post-beta world

There was an unexpected theme in the feedback I got from my beta readers. They said they wanted “more”… More scene setting, more background; essentially, more words.

I was surprised. The whole time I chipped away at my novel draft, I was scared to death of boring my readers with too many words. Come to think of it, I’m pretty much constantly scared of it. It’s a monkey on my back.

Earlier this year, I read Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. I loved it. As a storyteller, I found myself in awe of the surreal and imaginative worlds he conjures with his words. As a (sometimes) technical writer, I marvelled at how his composition was so precise yet so emotional. Seeing that made me see how I struggle to resolve that difference in my own writing.

I write non-fiction for a living. Usually feature articles and blog posts about science and digital marketing, but sometimes professional profiles, business emails, documentation and copy. Because most of my work gets published on the web, there are certain styles and guiding principles I have to adhere to.

Succinctness is one. A big one, in fact. Huge. Being wordy is considered taking the piss with the reader’s time. It’s considered indulgent.

After so long, I feel guilty when I ramble. Don’t get me wrong, I still ramble, but I feel guilty now, where I didn’t used to before. I suspect it shows in my writing. I’m hesitant to describe things too thoroughly, too scared to dwell on a scene for too long. Because shit, isn’t that what you skip over to get to the good bits?

Recently, a friend told me that she loves detailed descriptions. She loves reading in-depth nuances about a scene. It blew my mind. I’d never heard anyone say that before. Perhaps all this time, I’ve been living in a bubble of rushed, “just get on with it” types who don’t want to stop and smell the roses. (Or, read about how the roses smell.)

So I’m in the midst of my edit now. I’ve been told the editing process should take as long as the writing process, so I don’t feel bad that it’s going at a glacial pace. I also don’t feel bad that I’m adding so much more context via so many more words. I’m being indulgent and I’m trying not to care, because my readers have asked for it. And shit, it’s fiction. Isn’t indulgence kind of what fiction’s all about?

Fresh Find: Mated to the Jardan Warrior by Aria Bell

This isn’t meant to be a book review blog, but I wanted to share one novel that really got me fired up about writing for this genre: Mated to the Jardan Warrior by Aria Bell

The writing style isn’t what I usually go for, but I was impressed at how smooth the storytelling was. Seamless from beginning to end. Every line had a purpose, which you probably know is the way good writing should go. I’m terrified of rambling too much in my stories, and boring my readers with meaningless drivel. But writing mostly non-fiction in my day job, I’m also terrified of not rambling enough, and boring my readers with dry walls of text.

So it was great to pick up this novel and find myself excited to get to the juicy bits, content to read the non-juicy bits because they were still told in a nice way, and reach a satisfying HEA ending. I just wish I could find the author on Twitter so I could give her a high five!

My rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)

The next 15 minutes

Phew! I’m halfway through my edit. I’ve been chatting with a fellow writer (one who’s actually been published in the romance genre!), who’s given me plenty of advice about writing and publishing. So there’s a lot swimming around in my head.

I have many questions and, while I know you’re supposed to ask questions when you’re just starting out, part of me feels inclined to just shut up and put my head down and get my work done. Ask with my body and actions instead of with words, you know?

Well, today my body says we did good for getting to halfway, even though I started the week intending to finish by this afternoon. Whether I’m taking a break for today or for the next 15 minutes, I need to just enjoy it and not feel guilty. Even Chuck Wendig says so.

So, *raises teacup*… Here’s to you.

Late night bravery

It’s so late, but I’m on my last couple of scenes for this first draft and can’t stop. It’s strange. I’ve spent months working up to this point, and now that it’s here, I feel so anxious.

I guess it’s because once the first draft is done, the editing process begins. It means I can no longer dismiss the things that are wrong with my plot and prose. I have to confront them, fix them, instead of saying, “Oh, I’ll deal with it later.”

While I don’t advocate drinking on the job, I’ve had a dram of single malt liquid courage tonight. It’s helping. Another thousand words to go. Hopefully the final thousand. Wish me luck!