The Importance of Being a Critter

By K. Trian

It’s been a while since team T. K. Trian has scribbled down any blog updates. To be honest, we have been very busy lately (real life gets in the way. Blah). And not only are we still endlessly editing and revising Solus (that novel is a friggin’ juggernaut), we’ve done some other critting on the side. Critting as in critique.

I’ve come to realize how incredibly useful critting really is.

1) You understand better what helps, what hinders your own reading experience.

2) You are not as blind to someone else’s text as you are to your own.

3) You understand better what makes writing effective. The verb choices, the flow, the balance between description and action, and so on.

Of course I also feel like an asshole from time to time. I try not to bash anyone, and I want to end the critique on a positive note. But sometimes it’s difficult to rein in the reactions, and lo and behold, I’m getting snarky with the poor, bold writer. As if it wasn’t scary enough to put your work out there, but now you have to deal with some jealous little spinster of a bitch (unless they checked my bio and saw I’m married) who doesn’t even practice what she preaches! Yet I don’t believe in treating the person looking for feedback with the silk gloves on either, so to speak. I’d be doing disservice to them if I, for the fear of appearing cruel, decided not to be honest.

Which, I guess, adds one more thing to my list why critting is important:

4) You hone your writing and communication skills.

Of course, it’s not just the critter who has to show some respect. The writer has to be able to accept the critique in a sensible way. Don’t get defensive even if you feel like that dumbass spinster-bitch didn’t get your amazing vision. Just thank her. Ignore the things you disagree with. Your work is your work. Yes, you will hopefully share it with the world one day, but it doesn’t mean you have to compromise everything because someone said so. Sure, if it’s a choir of people telling you your grammar is awful, listen to them. Chances are, your grammar really is awful.

Besides, I don’t know about you, guys, but I tend to learn really damn well through trial and error.

This also goes with critting. There are still some shitty crits by K. Trian out there on the internet.

But hopefully I’ll get better and can help fellow writers in their quest to become better at their craft. I must say, I’m immensely thankful to every critter out there who’s helped with our writing. You are doing an important job; keep at it, and it’ll make you better writers as well!

On a completely unrelated note, here’s a picture of our dog ogling at a moose.

IMG_3956

Sunshine and bon-bons to y’all!

K. Trian

When Nerdy Girls Get Bad Boys

by K. Trian

Disclaimer: this post is written humorously, even ironically. Please don’t take any of this awfully seriously. My intention is not to mock your taste in literature.

I got my monthly Goodreads update and browsed through some of the new hot stuff they advertised. I came across a novel called The Collector by Victoria Scott. It’s about this sexy demon guy who comes to collect the soul of a nerdy girl and then falls in love with her. At least that’s what I deduced from the blurb.

But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.

And I think this the girl; Charlie (!), he falls in love with:

She looks like a porcelain doll… beat three times with an ugly stick… glasses, frizzy blond hair, a spray of pimples. and a stick-figure so not attractive on a seventeen-year-old.

Ah, your regular author’s wish fulfillment story, right? Well, I wouldn’t know about that. The author’s a cute young, married woman, so let’s not get a-judging here, but what caught my attention was this whole premise of a bad guy falling in love with the nerdy girl.

You know, that’s not really in accordance with my life experience. Guess when the bad boys started noticing me? When I turned bad myself around the age of 14. Guess when nerdy guys liked me? When I was still outwardly nerdy (glasses, shirts with pictures of horses, stick-figure). Guess which one I wanted: the nice, nerdy guy or the bad boy?

You guessed it.

The latter me was invisible to the bad boys, to the “flippin’ awesome” who knew they had “good looks, killer charm and stellar confidence”. No, they weren’t dazzled by my wits and quirky sense of humor and intelligence. They liked the dumb blondes (because they put out, right?). But I consoled myself in books with heroines as spazzy and glassy as me, who were ugly, maybe a little chubby or too skinny, unassuming, shy, but oh-so-smart. And in these novels, they always got the hot guy; the bad boy. The nerdy girl evoked some deep yearning inside the boy who then abandoned his tool-y ways and threw himself at her feet. And she could be herself! The little old nerd with pimples and a plank for boobs!

Enter real life.

Let’s start with the good news. I landed the bad boy. Got what I wanted, all right. The whole package of muscles, tattoos, guitars and guns, and enviable looks. So happy ending for the nerd girl.

But how did I get it?

Changed. Stopped being shy. Dressed to kill (and it doesn’t mean skimpy, but it’s not horse sweaters either). Stopped being the unassuming heroine from my teenhood novels. Took risks and turned adventurous. The guy wasn’t gonna drop on my doorstep to collect my soul and fall in love with me. So I crawled out of my shell and ‘improved’ myself. Or more like, found myself.

Now I’m thinking… what if I wrote my story? What if I distorted that fantasy into realism? Who would read it? Would I have read it as a nerdy teen? Maybe, I don’t know. I think I needed my fluffy fix back then. I think I wanted to know I was okay as who I thought was the real me, and I could still be loved by the sexy anti-heroes of the YA novels. It’s a shallow thing, really. The message: you’ll get the bad boy even if you stay chubby or stick-like and wear glasses and forget skincare and don’t bother learning any social skills.

Some guys might ask: do you chicks really want that bad boy? Are tattoos and muscles and killer charm all you care about? Of course not. It wasn’t what I cared about either. I just wanted to be happy and loved like the heroines.

So now I haven’t got riches or fame, but I’ve got love. And I think that’s what I partly owe to my teenhood heroines. They planted that seed for romance and gave me relatable characters. It’s not healthy if your only life goal is that hot bad boy, but I guess these stories kinda made me feel like “yeah, I can get and achieve someone or something ‘flippin’ awesome’ even though I seem to be nothing special.”

And I haven’t changed from the inside. I’m still that nerdy girl who got a bad boy.

K. Trian

P.S. I might even end up reading these Dante Walker novels if they’re anything like the YA fluffiness I read as a kid. For the sake of nostalgia, if nothing else. Plus, I love unlikely heroes and heroines!

Sources: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13449677-the-collector

The unbearable lightness of editing

by K. Trian

It was well put on writingforums.org, if my memory serves me right, that your novel is not finished after you’ve typed the last word. That’s just your first draft. The finished work is, of course, the one you have proofread, edited, sent out to be beta-read, edited again, read through, edited, tweaked, turned, added and deducted, sent out again, edited, edited, edited…

True, there are editors out there, but they don’t re-write your first draft to a publishable form, so, really, there’s no escape from editing.

I’ve come across several comments about how much writers dislike editing and proofreading their works. Understandable. It can get boring, or even embarrassing, very likely infuriating, and such was the case with me as well. But now I have grown to really love editing.

It’s like calculus or algebra, which I hated back in school, but I have come to enjoy now: the intricacies of mulling over sentence structures, weighing adjectives, catching filters and expositions and renegade commas—just to get to my end result, neatly marked under a straight line like a math problem in your notebook.

Sometimes I treat our work like it’s research, an article we have written to a scientific journal. I try to manufacture a map inside my head; how the elements connect within the novel, whether its structure is cohesive, whether I can pinpoint the goals of the characters or draw the arch of the plot. It’s challenging, especially with our WIP, Solus, because it’s a mastodon of a novel.

I also want the story to look pleasing to the eye. The dialogue and narration parts are neatly in order, there are enough paragraph breaks, I even ponder the words—“Could I have assonance or alliteration here? That’d look and sound nice!” And then there’s all the sculpting that must be done! Am I repeating myself here? Is this sentence necessary or have I achieved the effect I wanted with a certain utterance? Am I explaining too much? Why are there so many howevers, seemeds, reacheds, nods, frowns and smiles? Do I really have to mention whether it’s the left or right hand, or whether he aimed his gun or just shot at whatever? Can I show the surroundings without huge info dumps?

And even after all this work, the writer is still blind to their mistakes (at least we are!). It’s easy to edit others’ works, way easier to spot illogicalities and grammar errors. But with your own work… well, we have read Solus 1 well over half a dozen times, and every time we come across mistakes and faulty logic and ‘goddamnit this doesn’t make any sense!!!’ –situations. Every. Single. Time. Just yesterday we were reading a part where the main heroine, Lise, fights robot sentinels in an abandoned research station. Something struck her as odd three or four times within several pages. How did we not notice this verbal fuckery before? And how many times does Reggie, the male hero, grin on one page? Way too many. What’s with the grinning! Get some help, dude!

Editing can be frustrating and painful, but it can be fun too, especially when the writer can laugh at him/herself. Yes, at first it unnerves you, even disgusts you, but you tell yourself the world wants you to do it, that you owe it à tout le monde. Can’t give them a half-assed work, can you? You know it’s gonna hurt, so you have to ease on to it, take it easy, fix little things here and there. Sure, at first it does, hurts to find out you are not as brilliant as you thought, but little by little you get used to savaging a part of you, your manuscript. And maybe even learn to like it! Yes, editing can be unbearably fun!

So good luck to all of you aspiring or already published writers. Pull the editor’s hat on and get polishing your masterpiece!

-K