Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

WriYe and Editing

First of all, fantastic news, squiders! They found my journal/workbook class for me! Hallelujah! Words can describe how happy I am about this development. (Now to get on it.)

It’s editing month at WriYe (probably to line up with NaNoEdMo–National Novel Editing Month–is that still a thing? I’ve been in the online monthly challenge community for so long I can’t keep track anymore.) and so this month’s blog circle questions have to do with that.

(While, technically, revision is the process of changing story elements–writing new scenes, removing old ones, changing character arcs, etc.–and editing is technically stuff like fixing punctuation, grammar, and the fact that the character’s eye color went from hazel to brown on page 15, we’re going to follow general convention and equate editing to “the act of changing a story, hopefully for the better.”)

Describe your editing process. What is your biggest challenge in editing? 

I think I’ve talked about my editing process in great detail before here on the blog, but if I haven’t, essentially I do several months of analytical work, looking at plot and character arcs, which scenes are essential and which are not working, if there’s characters that should be removed or combined, if there’s confusing parts or if a prop comes out of nowhere or if some aspect of worldbuilding is falling apart.

And THEN I outline the story, put each scene on a color-coded note card, and start the revision/rewriting process.

That typically gets rid of the major issues, and if the story still needs some work, it’s mostly minor things.

Bonus:
Tell us about your ideal critique partner. What do you look for in a critique partner?

Ha! If we’re going for ideal, someone who reads the chapter/story quickly, who points out things that are good along with the things that are bad, and someone who can look at a chapter as part of a larger story and make insightful comments on character and story arcs. Oh, and someone who is into your writing and loves to get it.

But I’ll take what I can get. If I get feedback eventually and it’s at all insightful, I consider it a win. 😛

Happy Thursday, squiders! I hope you didn’t get bomb cycloned yesterday like I did. (But all the trees are still upright and we didn’t go without power overnight, so it wasn’t terrible.)

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Using Outlines for Revision

A lot of people consider outlines as something you need before you start writing your first draft, but I would argue that they’re a much more important tool for the revision phase of a project.

That’s not to say that having an outline when you’re doing the initial writing isn’t helpful. In a lot of ways it is. (Please refer back to the section about why you need an outline for more on that.) But revision is a whole other beast, and if you’re unprepared for the process, you can find yourself putting out draft after draft and never really getting the book/story you’re looking for.

Revision is the process of taking the book you have and making it the book you want. But if you don’t know what you want…

That is why I highly recommend using outlines for your revision process. And the more thorough the outline, the easier it is to put into place. Even if you’re a pantser, use an outline for revision. The story’s been written. You know how it goes. The point now is to make it coherent, logical, and beautiful, and to prepare it for whatever the end goal of it is (whether it’s to share with a few friends or family or send it off hoping for traditional publication).

If writing is a right-brained activity, revision is left-brained. And having the right tools and processes make left-brained activities flow better. Having an outline can help you see where you’re missing scenes, where scenes don’t make sense, where you can add in more conflict (or streamline some that’s too complicated).

And once you’ve planned out what needs to go where, then you make it do so.

I like to use a combination of phase outlining and note cards for my revision process. Note cards in particular can be very useful, because each scene is its own card, which means you can rearrange scenes or add/remove them without disturbing the entire outline.

So, if you’ve had issues in the revision steps of the writing process, look at adding some outlining in. It can also help to note what in particular you have to keep rewriting (character motivation, plot flow, etc.) and focus on that in your outlining.

What say you, squiders? Do you think using an outline for revision is helpful? Alternates or other tools you like instead?



In Praise of the Critique Marathon

There’s a lot of writing groups out there, and they offer a lot of different things. It’s been my experience that you have to test drive them as well–some may not be a good fit culturally, or the members may not be at the same level as you, etc., etc.

I belong to quite a few writing groups, and I try to attend/check regularly (depending on whether they’re in-person groups or online). I belong to one group that I found through agentqueryconnect.com (related to agentquery.com, which is a useful website to check out agents) that is much more focused on the end parts of writing than most of the other groups, specifically revision, submission, and marketing.

This group does a “marathon” each summer and winter. These are between 8 and 12 weeks long. Each week you post a section of your work (depending on the marathon, this may have to be a polished work that you’re considering/already submitting), usually a chapter or two. You have to critique at least two other people’s submissions (but can do as many as you like, and there’s a prize for doing the most) and other people come in and look at yours.

I’ve been a part of this group for about a year and a half, but aside from a week here or there, I’ve never managed the marathons before. But I’ve been doing the summer one (I came in three weeks late, but I’m still actually doing it) and it’s been amazing.

A couple months ago, I identified the first chapter of my YA paranormal as being the problem when querying it, so I resolved to fix that problem, and spending a week or two in the marathon seemed like a great way to get feedback. I think I thought I’d either switch projects after that (perhaps the high fantasy book I recently finished and is currently out with betas) or I’d bow out like I have in previous marathons.

But, lo, it was been eye-opening. We’re seven chapters into the book now, and I’m getting great feedback. Almost all of it is pretty minor (which is good, since I’ve been querying this!) but the feedback I’m getting is going to allow me to make this a tighter, more coherent story.

The nice thing about the marathon format versus a normal critique group format (where one or two people go per meeting, and meetings may be every other week or once a month) is that it immerses you more into the stories. It’s like a focused beta, almost. And it’s compact, so you don’t have to wait weeks or months while your group forgets previous chapters before it gets back to your turn. And if a chapter isn’t working, you can rewrite it and stick it back up, and get immediate feedback on what’s working better and what still needs some elbow-grease.

In short, it is my new favorite thing and I regret not doing the earlier ones.

(Though, to be honest, I always intend to do them, and then something else pops up. They’re not at the most convenient times–the winter one is in January/February, so there’s new year sundries that get in the way, and the summer one runs June through August and the small, mobile ones are everywhere and not in school–or I’m eyes deep in writing or another step of the process which is not revision.)

If you have a writing group that touches on critique, I’d recommend this technique. It’s really been way more helpful than I ever imagined.

Have other critiquing techniques you’d recommend, squiders?

Poll Results, Project Switching, and Musical Aftermath

Okay, so judging from the poll last week, the next nonfiction topic we’ll focus on is writing consistently–why you should do it, strategies for doing it, and how not to beat yourself up about it if life has other plans. We’ll start that on Thursday. Woo!

So, in the continuing saga of breaking writer’s block by starting another novel, I have switched back to book one of the trilogy and…it actually felt pretty good. Not like pulling teeth at all. I think giving myself some distance really helped, and now hopefully everything will go smoother.

That said, distance has helped me realize that the new chapter one that took me a month to write is really, really terrible. I mean, okay, not terrible. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever written. But it is lacking in relevant plot points. It introduces characters, the world, the plot just fine, but the action in the chapter itself isn’t helping anything and isn’t terribly interesting on its own. The main characters go through training for much of this book, and so I introduced the training in chapter one. I also switched chapter one viewpoints (this story is dual viewpoint between a male and a female character), so I think I eliminated the training-related tension in doing so.

That being said, it’s not like there was a lot in the last version of the story, so I need to do some brainstorming on what to do about the first chapter in general. Maybe take the training sequence out, or add something to it to make it not just a standard day, or…

But, anyway, things for another time. When I was outlining this draft I’m working on now, I did consider taking the first chapter out and starting with the second chapter (where unexpected things definitely happen during training), but it felt too in medias res-y. I know there’s something to be said about starting in the middle of something, but when you’re setting up a high fantasy trilogy it felt like the reader would be too adrift without at least a smidgen of setting and worldbuilding and plot thrown in. (If you have examples otherwise, please let me know.)

I also considered writing chapter two both ways (from the female character’s viewpoint as the starting chapter and from the male character’s point of view as the second chapter) which I may still do.

But I’m leaning towards just leaving the beginning alone to percolate and plowing ahead with the rest of the draft, and then coming back to fix the beginning later. I’ve heard that it can sometimes help to write the beginning last anyway, since you’ll know your ending and how your theme plays out and can go full circle earlier.

So, that’s that.

Also, my musical is over (closed Sunday), so I can no longer use that as an excuse to not write. I’m hoping this means I can get a little more momentum going. I was, in theory, going to be pitching this draft at the end of April, but I’m not sure I can pull out a 100K word novel in a month and a half (or that I want to), so I may have to revisit that as well.

Musical went well! I’d do another one, if they’ll take me.

How was your weekend, Squiders?

Performance Anxiety

Let’s take a breather from the submitting/publishing for a moment, squiders. I’m having a problem at the moment that I suspect a lot of other authors occasionally run into as well.

I’m calling it performance anxiety for simplicity’s sake.

You guys know that I’ve been working on organizing a revision/rewrite of the first book of my high fantasy trilogy.

(For newer people–I outlined this trilogy in 1998, wrote the first full draft of Book 1 2004-2005, rewrote it 2009-2010, and am now hopefully doing the final major revision/rewrite, using what I’ve learned over the last several years.)

And I’m done with my prep! I’ve looked at all my conflict arcs, revamped characters, changed plot and pacing, re-outlined, looked at my worldbuilding and setting, tweaked character arcs, set theme and tone and meaning. I went through the last draft with a red pen (which is always a bit cathartic) and scribbled all over the place.

I’m ready. I can sit down and start typing any moment now.

I’ve been at this point since Monday. Tuesday I had three glorious hours to myself with which I had hoped to chug out a few thousand words. Instead, I played games on my phone and wrote a single paragraph. And I’m not even happy with said paragraph.

Last night I again had some writing time. Did I write?

No. I chatted with some other writing friends about writing and got sucked into tumblr. (::shakes fist:: tuuummmbbblllrrr)

I know why I’m not writing. It’s because I spent seven months organizing and fixing everything for this revision and still feel like I’m not quite organized enough. It’s because I told myself years ago that I’d have this book published by the age of 35, which is now only a few months away. It’s because I’ve been working on this story for over half my life and I’m worried I’m never going to get it done right.

What if I write it again and it’s still not good?

What if I’m not good enough to write this story?

Logically, I know that if I just get going, it’ll be fine. I’ll get into my groove. If nothing else, this draft has to be better than the last one if only because I am a much better writer now than I was seven years ago. And I’m certainly never going to meet my goals if I never try.

I know all that.

But there’s still an emotional block sitting in the way.

I’m going to try again in a few hours. Wish me luck.

Any tips for getting past this sort of thing, squiders? Things that have helped you in the past?

Ironically, I’ve been invited to write a story for a Lovecraft anthology, which is something that is on the edges of my comfort zone, and I’ve been procrastinating on that instead working on the story I’ve already written twice. (But now it’s done and I have no more excuses, alas.)

Goals, Accomplishments, and Zombie Alpaca

Happy arbitrary division of time, everybody! But a new year feels good, doesn’t it? I feel good, anyway, like there’s a year of possibility out there just waiting for me to take it.

To get things started, look at this awesome mug my sister got me for Christmas.fear them

Ahahahaha. Sometimes she has excellent taste.

(Sometimes.)

The rest of this post is the obligatory reflection of how 2016 went and how I hope 2017 will go. At the beginning of last year I made a spreadsheet of all the things I wanted to do and gave them general time frames for completion.

I only completed two things on the list, but I think that’s a bad reflection of how the year actually went.

  • I revised, edited, published, and marketed City of Hope and Ruin (with help from my intrepid co-writer Siri, of course). That’s no mean feat in of itself, as you guys probably know.
  • I also wrote a near-novella length story for To Rule the Stars and went through the revision process with that. In addition, I did both the print and ebook formatting AND the cover. I’m pretty dang proud of that. (The cover in paperbook form is gorgeous and I regret nothing.)
  • I wrote and published a CoHaR-related short story/prequel which may or may not have made people cry.
  • I wrote several (not sure how much, but probably at least 10K) thousand words on my nonfiction books, both here on the blog and in the books themselves.
  • I redid the book description for Shards and redid the back matter for both it and Hidden Worlds.
  • I’ve done several drafts of my query letter for my YA paranormal novel.
  • I completed the revision prep for the first book of my high fantasy trilogy, which took about six months because it was in a terrible state.
  • I’ve continued to shop short stories to appropriate markets.
  • I’ve also continued to write monthly installments of my stealth scifi serial (say that five times fast), and have also started posting it to Wattpad.

So how does 2017 look?

First of all, I’ve got a short story collection coming out in early February called The Short of It. It will have four previously-published stories and one brand spanking new one. I’m doing final edits on it now, so I’ll let you know more information as it becomes available. I’m going to test out KDP Select with it, so I’ll report back on how that goes.

I’ve also got Shards in a promotion this weekend where it’ll be available for $.99 (It’s normally $3.99). I’m testing some new promotion techniques, and am also interested to see if the new book description (see above) will hatch me any chicks. More information on that later, too. I may post a Saturday post depending on when I get the info from the promo coordinator.

That’s the immediate future. Other plans:

  • My revision of the first trilogy book takes top priority. My mother and sister signed me up for PPWC at the end of April, and if all goes according to plan, I hope to pitch it there. I’ve applied for a session with the acquisitions editor of Del Rey.
  • The next highest priority is the query letter for my YA paranormal. I’d like to start querying it sooner rather than later.
  • I’d like to continue to try out new promotion techniques with both Hidden Worlds and Shards. I didn’t market HW at all when it was released, and Shards suffered from a misleading book description. I feel like they deserve more/better work than I gave them the first time. If you have ideas/want to help, please let me know!
  • I’m going to continue work on my nonfiction book series. The publishing/submitting posts will start back up here next week. I’m also considering moving to a three-times-a-week posting schedule to speed things up.

If all that gets done, I’d like to:

  • Finish the first draft of my space dinosaur scifi adventure novel.
  • Research, outline, and start a steampunk adventure/mystery series.
  • Start a new novel in the Shards!verse.
  • Discuss and perhaps start a sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, or at least work on other stories in the same world.

There’s more odds and ends, but those are the main things.

How did 2016 go for you, squiders? Anything really exciting happen? What are your plans for 2017?

(I know typing this stuff all out is a pain, so feel free to link me to posts and whatnot if you’ve laid it out elsewhere!)

Depth of Setting

Well, Squiders, I’ve talked about Holly Lisle’s revision class before and how helpful I have found it when putting together my own revision process. I still reference the class often, even though I’m working on my fourth revision since I took it the first time.

There’s one lesson, Lesson 7, that deals with setting. As I mentioned sometime recently, setting is something that I’ve only recently come to appreciate as an author. I normally skip lesson 7. I did it the first time through the process, but found it unhelpful, and so skipped it for the next few novels (which were, coincidentally, Shards and City of Hope and Ruin).

But as you guys know, I’m working on the revision of the first book of a high fantasy trilogy, one I’ve been working on for more than half my life at this point (sheesh). I decided I needed to do lesson 7 for this one because of the complexity of the setting. This first book takes place entirely within a non-human species and their homeland, and it’s been hard work over the years dealing with mythology, customs, geography, history, and all the miscellany that comes with building your own society from scratch.

You see, lesson 7 is about setting, but it’s not about the layout of your world–it’s about how your world works. The customs. The philosophy. The way your magic system works and its limitations. What items are available to your characters and why they’re needed/make sense. The objects that make up your world–the doors, the buildings, the plants, the animals.

And I got to tell you, I put this lesson off for a long time. I reached it at the beginning of September. I read back over the lesson. And then I avoided it for approximately three weeks. The thought of having to go back into the story and pull out what made the world work–or didn’t–was overwhelming.

But I finally got my act together and went into it. And I’m so glad I did. Just by going through how the world was designed to work and how it was presented in the current draft actually helped me work through a ton of worldbuilding issues that I’ve been struggling with for years. I hadn’t expected that at all, especially not with how useless the process was with my YA paranormal.

It just goes to show you, again, that each novel is individual and has its own needs.

Of course, now the next step in the progress is to consolidate everything that’s wrong with the novel (the list is practically novel-length itself) and then put together a plan of action for fixing things (and, to be perfectly honest, rewriting most of the dang thing).

Ever tried something in revision that proved to be way more helpful than you expected? Thoughts on setting/worldbuilding?