Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

WriYe and Editing

Hey-ho, squiders. It’s that time of month again. March, in the spirit of NaNoEdMo (does that still exist? If not, it’s certainly left its mark), has an editing theme over at WriYe.

(NaNoEdMo still has a website, but it doesn’t look like it’s been updated for this year. That’s too bad. It’s been around forever, though I’ve never actually done it, because invariably I am not editing in March, or I’ve forgotten that NaNoEdMo is a thing.)

The idea is that by the time March rolls around, you’ve had time to complete your NaNoWriMo novel and give it a bit of a break, so you can approach everything with fresh eyes.

Right, on to the prompts.

What is your main struggle with editing?  Is it getting started? Rereading your own work?

Let me just say that for the most part I really enjoy editing/revision. I like to come up with fixes to problems, and I like to mold the story I ended up with into the story I wanted.

The biggest issue for me is that it’s a looooooong process. The way I do it, I do a lot of prep work first–looking at character/plot arcs, worldbuilding, conflict, story flow, etc.–and that tends to take me several months. Doing it that way makes the actual revision pretty easy, because I’ve got everything figured out beforehand, and makes it so I don’t have to do a million and a half drafts. But uuuuggghhh it takes forever. If I’m the depths of a major edit, that may be the only thing I get done in a year, aside from smaller projects.

How do you handle it?

Hm. Just deal with it, I guess? 😛 I mean, it is what it is. Perhaps over time the process will streamline itself and take less time. And, I mean, I can do it shorter. I only had, like, two months for the edit on City of Hope and Ruin and it got done. But there was more panic.

Bonus: Give your top five editing tips and/or tricks that you wish you learned earlier.

Hm. Okay!

  1. Don’t edit an unfinished manuscript. If you’re constantly going back and changing things, you’re never going to get done, and you’re going to end up with a bunch of things left over from previous versions that don’t make sense. Make note of things that need to change and move forward.
  2. Take a break between finishing the draft and starting your edit. This lets your brain reset and allows you to look at the story more emotionally removed.
  3. Do big picture things first! Fixing your sentence flow and dialogue is great, but if you spend a bunch of time doing that (because it’s easy) and then discover you’ve got to throw out that section of the story because of a plot problem, you’ve wasted time and energy. Whole story things first (plot arc, character arc) and move down from there. Line editing is last.
  4. Make sure each scene is advancing either the plot or the character arc. You can break each one down into a sentence, which also helps you check your flow overall.
  5. Edit on paper, and read your work out loud. You get used to your story, and you can skip the same typo fifty times because that’s just How It Is. Change how you’re looking at the story, and you’re more likely to catch things.

Thoughts on editing/revision, squiders? Should I write a book about editing? Hm. Things to ponder.

See you next week!

Brain Dump

Ye gods, squiders, I am exhausted. I am drinking coffee but it is doing nothing.

Opening night tonight, hooray! I took a really great selfie of myself in costume the other night, but our director said something about wanting to keep the costumes a surprise (my spouse has suggested asking if I can keep said costume after the show, actually, so it is pretty awesome) so it’s just sitting on my phone, doing nothing. But maybe I’ll post it next week.

(Also, I am now in charge of moving a window during a scene change. It’s very exciting.)

Four shows this weekend, strike and cast party on Sunday, and then I can sleep. Hooray!

I found a BookCrossing book on Saturday! Do you guys know about BookCrossing? I remember being really into it, like, 12 years ago. It was everywhere then. I remember I found a manga collection at a con once and it was the most exciting thing ever. But the basic idea is that you leave a book somewhere, someone finds the book and checks it in, and you can watch it travel.

I hadn’t thought about it in years, but then in December the kids found a copy of The Night Before Christmas in a bush (I can’t remember if that one was a BookCrossing book or a related idea), and now I’ve found a romance novel in the theater bar. Madness. Crazy to think it’s still going after all this time, because it always seems like a lot of the stuff I really liked from that time period no longer exist.

Actually, speaking of that time in my life, I was at my local coffee shop/gameporium/comic shop this morning, and they had a volume of Bleach on sale for half off. Have I talked about Bleach here before? After checking my archives, apparently not. Predates the blog, probably, which is insane, because it will be 10 YEARS OLD THIS AUGUST (not unlike Hidden Worlds, har har. I was busy in 2010.).

ANYWAY, I was obsessed with Bleach. Hands down one of my very favorite manga/anime series (the live action was okay). I used to download the new chapter each week once it came out in Japan, once some lovely person went through and translated it into English. It was probably the last fandom-related backdrop I put on a computer. I read the manga, I watched the anime (even the terrible Bount arc), I cosplayed it. I had LJ icons. I have a poster signed by Tito Kube (the manga artist) from San Diego Comic-con 2008, where I sat through three panels just to make sure I got a spot in the room and could see him.

But Bleach is one of those series that goes on forever, and after, I don’t know, 500 manga chapters or something, I got burnt out on the cyclical plot arcs (which boil down to: A bad guy shows up, Ichigo gets his butt kicked and then works to get stronger, his friends and associates also get stronger through association with him, they triumph–and then a new, bigger bad guy shows up) and was starting to lose track of the characters (each new bad guy comes with a dozen or so new characters, at least). So I never finished the series (I should now, since it’s complete).

The coffee shop has Volume 73. Now, remember, I read the chapters directly through the Internet as they were released, so I was like, hey, I wonder where this falls in the series, and if it’s before or after where I left off. But it’s definitely after, cuz I had no idea what was going on, and also there are yet more new characters.

But now it’s back in my head, so maybe I’ll pick it back up.

Once the musical is over.

I’m reading Fixing Your Plot and Story Structure Problems by Janice Hardy for my writing book for the month (it was a birthday present from my spouse back in October, so I haven’t been sitting on it for years like some of the other ones). I think I must have been confused when I put it on my wishlist. In my head, I suspect I thought it was an in-depth look at plotting and structure, but what it is in reality is a bunch of exercises to use when you’re revising your novel.

Which, I mean, great! But I’m actually really good at fixing plot/structure during revision because I’m not great at plot/structure while I’m drafting. So I’m not finding a lot of new information. But it’s my own fault, because it’s not like the book description is unclear. I suspect what happened, since I follow Ms. Hardy’s blog (Fiction University), is that she had an ad for this particular book at the end of an article that was more plot/structure drafting than revision, and I just looked at the title and said yes, that is something I could probably use.

Anyway, I think I’ve blathered enough. I hope your week is going well, squiders. Hang on for another week, and we’ll be out of February.

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.)

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.)