Category: Revision

And This Is Why It Pays To Share Your Work

Hey, first five chapters? Select-all-delete. I have a better idea for you.

I am becoming better at what I do thanks to the sage words of others. I was afraid to let my friends and family read my novel, but I shouldn’t have been. And it looks like I get to do some real writing this month after all!

I’m so excited for this.

Slash and Burn?

More like bunker bomb. I’m annihilating my book, one chapter at a time.

And it feels FANTASTIC.

I took chapter 1, chopped it all up, threw a bunch of the pieces (1,600 of them!) away and rewrote pretty much all of it, including a much stronger intro that I think really grabs the reader’s attention. And in fixing chapter 1, I stopped hating chapter 2 so much. One was where all the problems were.

Furthermore, I’m no longer worried about my word count issues. I’ve found 2,000 words to edit out in the first two chapters alone, and have lots of notes for cuts in later parts, both major and minor.

I think I’ve nailed down my system for editing, which I’ll share with you. I’m sure it’s by no means original, so I take no credit for it.

  • Edit 1: For story. Plot holes, cutting the big and small bits that don’t fit, fixing loose ends, continuity.
  • Edit 2: For mood and tone. Adding what’s needed to better achieve the feelings I want to set for readers.
  • Edit 3: Dialogue. Making sure it flows and sounds conversational, getting rid of any stray adverbs, improving pacing.
  • Edit 4: Scenes vs. narrative. Ensure a good balance between the two.
  • Edit 5: Paper edit. Just me and my red pen.
  • Edit 6: The one where I hand it over to people I trust to be even more brutal than me.
  • Edit 7: Taking all that marvelous feedback and implementing it.

And after all that I’ll probably still hand it over to a professional.

I have spreadsheets and summaries and documents galore. I’m so organized I’m ultra-organized. What can I say? I’m an editor at heart, always have been.

And Away We Go

I think a week’s long enough to wait before starting editing, don’t you?

I’m curious to know how people work with their document to edit it. Organization isn’t my strong point. I have a single Open Office document with my entire first draft written in it. Obviously I’m not going to edit directly onto that. I’m thinking about copying it in one- or two-chapter chunks into new documents and revising from there. Or maybe this is a good time to get Scrivener, since it chunks up your work for you? Maybe use the smaller two-chapter docs to edit and then paste those into a new, complete second-draft doc so I can see it all together?

The first two chapters present an additional dilemma because I’m planning on deleting 90% of them and starting from scratch. Maybe I’ll paste them into a new doc, and then start writing fresh below, pasting in the bits that I want to keep as I go. I’m starting to wish I had two monitors so I don’t have to keep going back and forth between the new and old versions all the time…

***EDIT***

Almost forgot I bought that highly recommended book on editing. Maybe I should read it and it will give me some tips. I’m really awesome sometimes.

Farewell, Summer

I sat outside in the yard for what will probably be the last time this year, the sun shining on my face, and wrote. We’re expecting our first snowfall early next week, and I work during the day tomorrow and Monday. I’ve loved writing this summer. Being outside has been so inspirational for me, and I’ll miss it until spring comes around again.

It’s probably fitting then that I’m coming to the end of my book just as summer’s also winding down. There’s a remote possibility that I may even finish tonight – I’m on the last chapter, I’ve already written 2,000 words and I still have the whole night ahead of me. Then I have to decide if I want to tackle re-writing the first two chapters right away, or sit on the whole thing for a bit. I’ve been thinking on those chapters for awhile and I’m fairly confident I know what I want to do with them. Then once they’re bright and shiny new I can rest up a bit and do my revisions as planned at the beginning of November. Sounds like a good plan to me…

Adding to my Shelf

I guess I’m going back on my no-advice-books rule again. I’ve seen Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print mentioned on three blogs in as many days, so I thought I’d take a look at it. While I’ve got many great tips on editing after the first draft is complete, this looks like it might be useful as well. For $13, it’s worth a try, I figure (I also bought yet another canning book – sshh, I’m just going to hide it on the shelf with the others and hope no one notices).

I’m not going to read it until I’m done my story though. I don’t like the spectre of revision hanging over my head while I write. Even now I sometimes look at my freshly-typed-out work and wonder if I’m just going to cut it in the end, and that’s depressing.

I’m also thinking about trying out Scrivener. It’s another thing I see praised often by writers for its ability to organize everything. Thoughts, anyone? It sure looks pretty. Makes me wonder why I spent so much on coloured index cards and post-its when I could have had them all on my screen. Right now I use Open Office, which works fine, but because I have everything in one massive doc, I do find myself scrolling through my 180-ish pages of single-spaced text looking for a specific reference in a chapter I can’t remember. This happens at least two or three times a day. So getting organized might be nice. I hear it also helps with outlining, my new favourite thing. Did you know, I’m through 1.5 bullet points since the other day? So great.

I guess what I want to know is, is there any point in getting it this late in the game, three-quarters of the way through this book? Will transfering everything over be a giant pain in the ass? Or should I keep it in mind for when I start Book Two and stay the course for now?

I’m buying roughly 200lbs of tomatoes to can tomorrow. I imagine one of two things will happen with respect to writing in the next week: either I don’t do any at all, or my keyboard will be stained red and speckled with seeds while I cram in a few paragraphs in between canner loads.

Goal-Slash-Throwdown

I’m setting a challenge for myself. An achievable goal. A milestone to work toward. And I’m going to write it out so I am held accountable, because there’s nothing more motivating than public failure.

At the beginning of November I’m going to Mexico for a week with my sister. The goal is to have a completed first draft of The Unravelling by then so I can sit on the beach with my red pen and a printed manuscript and start identifying areas for revision.

The last time I went on a tropical vacation, to Hawaii in April, I brought my laptop with me but didn’t write a single word (I also had two kids to entertain, whereas this is going to be a girls-only trip, so there’s that). I aim for this to be different.

So there you go. Ten weeks to get ‘er done. I think it’s doable.

Oh, Shit

I spent my evening hunting around for tips on first-draft editing, and found some stuff – mostly blog posts – that I think will be really helpful. Whereas I’ve been approaching revision with a sense of dread, now I was getting excited about it. So, yay about that.

Then a search engine result caught my eye and I clicked it. It was about standard word counts for various genres of novels. Whether you call what I’m doing urban fantasy or paranormal romance, the standard for both is apparently 90,000-100,000 words. Deviating from the standard can equal automatic rejection for unpublished authors (and I’m assuming I’m considered unpublished because I’ve never published fiction, only journalism).

I’m sitting at 88,000 and am nowhere close to the end.

So now I’m not all that excited about revising anymore. Because chances are good I’m going to be looking to cut around 20,000+ words.

I’m fucked.

My, What A Busy Week

I took my kids to camp for five days, and what with their being in activities for a good half the day, I had a lot of spare time on my hands. Time that could be used to write, only I used most of it to read the book I posted about previously, make notes and analyze what I’ve already written based on what it suggests. It was pretty great – I identified a few issues and developed some more insight into the structure of my story. At some point I’d like to work on some detailed character outlines too.

The hardest part by far was summarizing my story into one short paragraph, but I’ve found that since I’ve done that, I’m a lot more comfortable with the “so what’s your book about?” question, which I’ve always dreaded and fumbled around.

Then once we got home, it was off to a quick 24-hour writer’s retreat by holing up in a hotel with two fellow writers. I love doing this. I want to find away to make it happen every month. I got so much done, had other people to bounce a few ideas off of and came out of it with almost a full chapter done, along with a metric assload of research.

The need to be accurate even in books that touch on fantastical subjects was something we talked about a lot. Even though my book has a strong fantasy element to it, I like the details to be logical and realistic whenever possible, so I don’t like to just make something up if there’s proven science out there instead. It sure makes for slow going at some parts – I think I know more about tsunamis and evacuation plans and the webcams of a particular city than anyone else I know, but I feel so much more confident in my writing than if I’d just fabricated something and pounded out the scene in fifteen minutes.

And then we watched The Day After Tomorrow. So satisfying to be writing an apocalyptic book while watching an apocalyptic movie.

And once again my iPod never fails to guide me when I need it – I triggered on a couple of major character/relationship dynamics while I was driving to a friend’s house today. Which I’m going to add to my “things to remember” doc immediately after this so I don’t forget. Something about the sunroof being open, it being a hot, sweaty evening and the right song at the right time brought it all together for me. Thanks, brain, for being so tuned in.

Since my experience with this last book went so well, I’m considering looking for one on how to revise or edit a novel from the first draft. Having never done such a thing before, I’m at a complete loss as to how to go about it. When I re-read a chapter every so often, I make little changes here and there, but that doesn’t feel like a proper revision.

Oh, and before I forget,

***drumroll***

Isn’t that something to see? And there’s still so much cool stuff coming up.

I Got The Blues

I’m developing a serious hate-on for my first chapter. Even when I was writing it I thought it was a bit weak, but now the further I progress – and the more I read about proper first-chapter development – the more I want to rip it up (or since it’s entirely digital, select-all-delete, I guess) and start fresh. There’s way too much back story and not enough dialogue, and a lot of it comes off a bit smug, I think. Chapter two is on similarly shaky ground, although it has some elements of mystery and foreshadowing that are important to the rest of the story. Both deal with character development, I suppose – it’s not like the first 12,000 words are a recitation of the periodic table of elements or anything similiarly pointless – but when I read it back to myself, I think “boring, boring, boring” or maybe TL;DR. Which is the kiss of death for any novel, as I’ve been told over and over. I care about Callie because she lives in my head, and I’ll listen to pretty much anything she tells me, but I’m not sure, having just read the first chapter, that anyone else would. By the time you get to the end of chapter two, I think there’s definitely incentive to keep reading, but the fickle reader, short on time, might decide to move on to something else if the first ten pages don’t capture their interest.

But I have a problem, and that problem is revision.

I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve never revised anything I’ve written. Ever. I don’t do drafts. I do final products. This is how I would write papers in university: I would do all my research, get all my supporting arguments and quotes in order, then sit on it for a week or two and plan the whole thing out in my head, going over and over it until I liked the way it fit together. Then, usually a day or two before it was due, I would sit down and write the entire thing in one sitting, from beginning to end. I’d usually check it over once for spelling and grammar – I often mis-type ‘from’ as ‘form,’ for instance – and then print it and submit. The end. I graduated with a GPA of 3.78 so obviously the system works well for me – when it comes to 5,000-word papers, that is. Obviously this project is a bit bigger than that, which is why, without all the mulling and stewing and planning in my head beforehand that’s occurred with the major scenes but not the connecting ones, I’m sometimes only able to produce 500 words an hour.

So I find myself in unchartered territory here. I need to revise. I need to strip and chop and rebuild and strengthen. It’s not what I’m used to. It’s not something I imagine I’m all that proficient at – I need to find some good ‘how to revise your writing’ blog posts – but sooner or later, I need to head down that road. And with all my unfamiliarity with the process, I have no idea if I should be doing that now, while it’s especially bothering me, or just keep moving forward, and make that the first agenda on the revision task sheet. I have a feeling if I don’t deal with it soon, my feelings about chapter one are going to get worse and worse until I start to question the entire project’s worth, which won’t be good for my future as a novelist. But it seems like such a step backwards, a giving-in to the inner editor who really needs to just shut up and let me work, dammit. I am open to suggestion and wisdom and experience from all sources.

Next up in the series I may start calling My Failings As A Proper Novelist: Why I Also Don’t Write Outlines (But Should Get Over That, Already)

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