Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

An Exercise in Creative Thinking

Hey-o, squiders. How’s it going? My brain is still in full freak out mode about figuring out the plot order at the beginning of the book, fully convinced this is the hardest thing it has ever had to do, somehow completely forgetting that we somehow made it through Calculus 3 that one time in college.

I did make progress today though.

I made note cards.

I put each of the things that needs to happen in Act 1 on a card, and then I spent the afternoon shuffling them about upside down and putting them in random orders.

What, you may ask, is this accomplishing.

Well, a trick I learned from Holly Lisle is that, if things aren’t working, sometimes it’s best to re-arrange things, even in orders that seem like they make no sense, because it forces you to look at your story events in a new light. What would have to happen for the order to change to match the order on the cards? Is that better than what you currently have? Does it add new tension or fix some other problem? Does it change something boring into something with a better twist?

And so forth.

So far the orders are completely bonkers, but I can feel things start to loosen up. I’m going to do this exercise at least five times, no matter what crazy order the cards come up with.

Fingers crossed that it all falls into place soon.

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A Lack of Focus

Maybe even an avoidance of focus, if I’m being honest.

I am SO CLOSE to being done with the prep work for the revision. I basically just need to finalize a new order and outline, and then I can write and fix and hooray!

But my brain does this thing, when I am close to the end of a project or when I am at the hardest part, where it’s like “This is obviously VERY HARD and requires MUCH CONCENTRATION, and so I can only work in the PERFECT CONDITIONS” which tend to be never.

(For example, the smaller, mobile one is sitting next to me singing camp songs with all the wrong tunes, which is both very distracting and also triggering.)

This tends to go on for a few days until I’m like SCREW IT, WE’RE DOING THIS which normally goes fine and then I feel silly for letting my brain be weird about it for however long I have let it go on.

As a side effect of my brain being stupid about whatever it’s being stupid about, it gets super productive in other ways.

For example, yesterday (when it was, of course, not good working conditions because the small, mobile ones were off school) I read two whole books, did multiple loads of laundry, wrote a blog post (for TDP), did research for my newsletter, cleaned my car’s floor mats, emailed my doctor, took down the Christmas decorations, texted two people I’d been forgetting to text back, worked out, and made Hungarian goulash for dinner.

Today I’m blogging and I’ve run some errands (though I don’t have a ton of time after work), and I also watched some ghost videos on YouTube, which is a sure sign I am procrastinating. (Also my coffee filter got messed up and dropped all sorts of coffee grounds into my coffee, which was just gross.)

We’re supposed to possibly get a foot of snow overnight, so it’s possible we’ll have a snow day tomorrow, so either it’ll be yesterday over again (with the addition of working from home) or I’m sure I’ll find a way to use the snow as an excuse.

I mean, if I’m being totally honest, it’ll probably be Friday before I get my brain under control. But maybe tomorrow! Fingers crossed and all that jazz.

One would think, as this has been an issue for literally ever, that I would have figured out a way around this, but every project only has one sticking point, and they’re often months apart, and quite frankly I forget things pretty easily. I leave notes but the thing about notes is that you have to go back and look at them or they’re useless.

Anyway, all this is just to say that, hey, I don’t have a project update today cuz I haven’t done anything but think about working on it since Saturday.

(I mean, the thinking is useful, but not useful enough.)

If YOU have ways to get around weird brain procrastination, I’d love to hear them.

I’m Not Trying to Ignore You

God, I am so sleepy. Where did I leave you guys?

Oh, yeah, my FAILURE OF READING. Alas.

Anyway, despite my inability to update my blog on its normal schedule, I have actually been making pretty good progress on the planning for the Book 1 revision.

I finished my visual arcs, and I broke down what needs to stay in the story in the currently messy beginning bit.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but the first, oh, 8 or 9 chapters take place over about five or six months, and they feel a little disjointed. Moving the war to the very beginning of the book and fixing Lana’s internal arc will help that, but if I can consolidate the timeline down to, oh, three months or less, that will also help, especially if I can link the chapters together better.

So now I have a list of just the basic things that need to happen, which looks something like this:

  • Prophecy needs to be around
  • Midwinter component has to show up
  • Bandicore attack
  • Coming of age
  • Midwinter (in some form) so Dan/Lana romance can get going
  • Letters from Queen
  • Meeting with Queen
  • Dan and Lana need to make connection of themselves with prophecy
  • Kira and Cerin need to meet

The bandicore attack has to happen before the letters from the Queen, and those have to happen before the meeting with the Queen, but everything else is up in the air. My plan is to play around with the order to see what makes the most sense from a pacing and arc standpoint, so that’s where I am at the moment.

I also got a bit sidelined by some research. Chapter 8 has existed in some form since the first draft (I think) though it has undergone a variety of changes over various drafts. (Especially since the original version was basically there to show off how badass my MCs are, and that’s not terribly useful.) In short, chapter 8 focuses on sparring to get ready for the war, and it’s awkward and boring and continuously bad, though it does have useful things happen in it (Kira and Cerin meet, from the bulletpoints above, and it provides major motivation for a side character that the MCs will cross paths with for all three books).

Anyway, while I was poking things this past week, I was kinda of like, well, how would they have trained for war? Is there a better exercise they could be doing which is more interesting, or can tie in to other things that have to happen or into character arcs?

And I realize this is something I really should have already researched, and maybe if I were starting the book from scratch today I would have, but this is what comes from having worked on a book for twenty years.

So I spent quite a lot of time looking at medieval armies and how they would have trained (including watching some random documentaries I found), and now I have notes about that, but I haven’t had a chance to go back in and figure out a better way to do the activity (or if I really even need it), but at least now I am informed.

And knowing is half the battle. Pun intended.

Anyway, once again, sorry for the bizarre posting schedule. Things are getting done!

Also, I submitted Hallowed Hill to a contest which was very scary and I almost backed out of doing so like three times, but I did it, and now, while I wait, I don’t think about it.

See you hopefully Tuesday, squiders!

Everything Hurts and Nothing is Getting Done

I mean, to be fair, every year I think I’m going to be productive in December, and every year I am surprised when I am not.

(Imagine the Surprised Pikachu meme here.)

(Actually…)

surprise pikachu meme

Right, moving on.

There’s holiday stuff, of course. Our cards showed up today, so I’ve addressed, oh, five of them and then have given up for the day because I have to double check addresses and I don’t actually have stamps yet. (Well, I have Day of the Dead stamps, but somehow that doesn’t seem seasonally appropriate.) Most-ish of my Christmas present shopping is done, including the selection and purchasing of our traditional Christmas Eve books, though one child still needs a gift, and I do need to do stocking stuffers (including for myself and the spouse). But in general, sitting fairly pretty. It just takes time and effort.

But the biggest issue is the slipped disc I told you guys about.

It turns out I have one slipped disc and another one bulging, and the slipped one is pressing on my L5 nerve root, which is what is causing the nerve pain down my leg. I’ve been trying to get on top of this, so I’ve been seeing my chiropractor twice a week, and last week I also started seeing a physical therapist (mostly because the orthopedic surgeon I went to see said insurance was unlikely to approve an MRI without doing physical therapy first, but then they went ahead and approved the MRI anyway). As you can imagine, four appointments a week is really eating into my time.

And well, last week I would have said I was getting better. But over the weekend I caught a cold (I actually slept most of Saturday) and as you can imagine, coughing and sneezing in combination with a messed up back was a bad combination. I literally only had that cold for Saturday and Sunday, but by Sunday night my back and leg pain was at the worst it has ever been. I haven’t been able to sleep because I haven’t been able to get comfortable, and exercises and positions that have made things better over the past few weeks have now proven to be useless.

Today I made an emergency visit to my doctor to hopefully get some relief, so now I have prescription painkillers and some steroids, and hopefully these will calm the inflammation in the area enough that my body can repair the discs on their own. Fingers crossed!

All this is a long way to say, uh, sorry for not blogging last week. Did I blog last week? I have no idea anymore.

The good news is that I have sorted out the character issues with Book 1, and am working on a slightly wonky subplot, and then I have another slightly wonky subplot to poke, and then I’m going to do a scene outline and identify what needs changing where. Not as fast as I hoped to be working, but definitely making progress.

Every little bit counts. Progress is progress, no matter how slow, and sometimes I have to remember that.

I hope your December is going better than mine! (And if you have disc tips, I’d love to hear them.)

In the Depths of Character Exercises

Where did I leave you, squiders, before I forgot Tuesday existed? Oh, right. With the grand plans that I was going to have an updated revision outline and be ready to dig into actual revision.

Well, we haven’t gotten there. But there are definitely ideas swimming around, on that front.

When I found the notes for the revision that I did before Hallowed Hill took priority, I also found some character notes I’d started.

You see, back in, uh, 2017, I think, my sister and I went to the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference. Which was a bit of a mess emotionally, for me, but I went to some good panels and reconnected with other writers I knew, and so forth and so on.

One of the best panels I went to was run by a writing acquaintance of mine, Stant Litore. I don’t remember what it was about (though, hold on, I’ll check the archives here…) Aha. I did a panel by panel breakdown, good job me. The panel Stant did was called Bringing Characters to Life on the Page. Anyway, long story short (too late), I was so impressed by the panel I went and bought his book on the subject, Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget.

This is a short book full of character exercises and, at some point between May of 2017 and whenever I started poking at Book 1 again, I did the first couple of exercises with both Dan and Lana and then gave up on the whole thing.

(I am not and have never been great with writing exercises, which is probably a failing of mine.)

Anyway, since they were literally on the page before my revision notes, I was reminded that I own this book and, since a lot of the beta feedback I got was specifically about Lana (we talked about that two weeks ago), I thought, hey, I should run through the book and do the exercises and focus specifically on Lana and see if I can fix the whole thing that way.

Except, of course, this is taking a while. I’m on exercise 11? of 40. The last few exercises have been on character work in general instead of character work in specific, which is less helpful, so I may jump ahead to save time. Characterization is not a weakness of mine, so I’m finding this section a bit tedious.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of things.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to. Maybe next week we’ll be outlining, but who knows with the turkey holiday (I must procure a turkey) coming up and the small, mobile ones being out of school. Monday, at least, I’m thinking of proclaiming Sewing Day, where the smaller, mobile one and I will finish the Loch Ness Monster stuffies we started over the summer, I will finish my mending, and the bigger, mobile one can work on the cloak he so desperately wants (we bought the supplies for it a few weeks ago).

Thoughts on character exercises, squiders? Any you’ve found especially helpful?

Killing My Darlings

Hey, squiders. You’ve probably heard the term “kill your darlings” before. Some people take it to mean that you have to get rid of anything you truly love about a story to make it better, but what it really means is that you have to look at everything and, no matter how much you love something, if it’s not helping tell the story, it’s got to go.

My brain gets in this weird rut every time I start a revision. A “this is the way the story has to go and I can’t possibly figure out a different way it can go, even though this way has problems” rut.

It is ridiculous. I have gutted so many stories. I have added characters, removed characters, smooshed multiple characters into a single character, changed people’s personalities, motivations, arcs. I have taken out what at one point felt like essential plot points, and I have rerouted entire subplots. Or taken out subplots. Or added new ones in.

And, especially looking at Book 1, which I have written three entire drafts of (the first one being 93K, the most recent 116K)–nothing should be sacred at this point. I have removed characters and renamed other ones. I have changed people’s roles in the stories and done personality triage. I have added in a ton of subplots over the years, and the only real thing that is the same from the initial draft to the current draft is where the book ends.

Yet my brain still goes into the “HOW CAN I POSSIBLY CHANGE THE WAY THE STORY GOES; THE STORY GOES LIKE THIS” mode every time.

It may be because each draft the story gets ever closer to actually working. The first draft…had so, so many issues. It was a first draft, to be sure, but it was also my first draft. The first complete novel draft I’d ever finished. It was never going to work as it was. If I recall correctly, I wrote half of Book 2 and had to stop, because I’d written Book 1 in such a way that the story was irreparably broken, and there was no way to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.

I had a number of partial drafts before I decided to rewrite the whole thing. The second draft was infinitely better! I wrote drafts of Book 2 and Book 3 (still, arguably, both fairly solid despite the changes I made on the third draft) with no issues. And the third draft fixed many more problems.

It is somewhat infuriating to still have problems.

Because Draft 3 included a number of major changes, and because the book is fairly solid, I think that may be why I’m getting such strong “NO THE STORY CANNOT CHANGE” vibes at the moment. Or it may just be that I get them every major revision and I don’t remember because it’s been a hot minute. Hallowed Hill didn’t need any major changes, just some clarification and a couple of subplots that needed to be evened out, so I didn’t go through this then. And I’ve been working on and off on revising this version of Book 1 since, oh, 2017 or something. So this may also be the longest I’ve been on a particular draft of Book 1 as well.

I did find my notes from earlier in the year when I started ramping up the revision (before Hallowed Hill got moved up in the publication schedule and I needed to switch projects). Which is good, because I totally forgot I was going to move the plot point from Chapter 6 to before the story starts. Ha. Haha.

Back then, I also made a list of problems and potential fixes, which includes such gems as “Problem: First part of book feels disjointed; Fix: Giving Lana internal conflict will help, as will, hopefully, war already being declared” but also things like “Problem: Chapter 8 sucks; Fix: ???”

Good job, past!me. I’m very proud.

I think the next step forward is to look at my subplots and the main plot, and look at what ABSOLUTELY must happen and what is changeable, and move things around in an outline form until it looks right. And then I can rewrite as necessary and, fingers crossed, the book can finally, FINALLY be ready to move to the next step, which will be submission to agents and publishers.

Wish me luck! And cross your fingers that I shall be able to quiet the “OH NO DON’T CHANGE THE STORY” voice enough to get all my ducks in order.

I’ve got a promo for you on Thursday, squiders, and I’ll see you back here on next Tuesday (hopefully with a completed, updated outline).

The Plan for November (and the Revision)

Happy November, squiders! Or IS IT. (I don’t know. Just being dramatic.)

I went to the Nano kick-off party, as I said I might, and I got three years worth of stickers, talked to some lovely people, was a unicorn, and made myself sick by drinking coffee after 10 pm. I had thought I’d leave right at midnight, since I’m not actually writing, but no one else did and then I felt weird, so I hung out for an hour reading back over Book 1, and then I came home and couldn’t sleep (probably because of said coffee. I’d say I’d learned a lesson, but I so rarely try to drink coffee after 10 pm that I doubt it’ll stick).

It took me a few days to get all the way through the current draft (which sits at 116K words), but I am done now and ready to move forward.

My general plan goes something like this:

  • Read through story (done!)
  • Go through beta comments
  • Make revision plan
  • Do revision

I got through the chapter one beta comments and part of chapter two before I had to switch to Hallowed Hill, but I’m going to go back through them.

(As a side note, it amuses me that HH went from premise in late August 2021 to published in Oct 2022, where as I originally said I was going to write this trilogy in 1998, wrote the first draft of Book 1 in 2004/2005, and continue to still be having to poke at it, all these years later. Arguably it could be said that this is because I have improved as a writer over the past twenty years, though also arguably, a 50K Gothic horror novella is not as complex as a currently 300K+ high fantasy trilogy with many many characters.)

I did see issues, though, on my readthrough. That’s to be expected, or else I would not be revising it yet again.

There’s a fairly major plot point that the first step of is missing (probably got lost in the last revision). Weird vestiges of things I took out. A surprising amount of typos, even for me. And, of course, the disjointedness of the first part of the book and so forth.

When I ran the beginning of the book through the critique marathon, I did ask if people had suggestions on how to fix the disjointedness, and one of the suggestions they made was that one of the two viewpoint characters doesn’t have much internal conflict, so her chapters feel lacking, while that wasn’t the issue with the other viewpoint character.

One of the weird things about working on a story for so long is that things get lost. Things change. And some things get worse when you try and fix other things.

I was 14 when I created these characters. (Said characters were also 14 at that point, though they are not any longer.) I decided I was going to write the Trilogy because I spent a HUGE amount of time making up backstory for a character I was going to play in a Star Trek roleplaying sim. And then the ship only ran for a year and a half, and I was like, well, I put all this work in, and this is a really good story, so instead of, you know, moving the character to a different ship and continuing to play her, I was like, “The only solution here is to write an Epic Fantasy Trilogy and move everything out of the Star Trek universe since I can’t publish original stories there.”

As you do.

There are two viewpoint characters, Lana and Dan. Dan started off as an antagonist–I think he may have been supposed to be the main antagonist at one point–so it’s kind of weird that I included his viewpoint at the beginning anyway, in retrospect. As the story has evolved over the decades, he’s become an equal protagonist to Lana, so I’ve spent a ton of time working on him. Giving him an internal arc, making sure his actions–even the questionable ones–have forgivable motivation behind them, making him a complex character with flaws and strengths and goals.

And Lana, I just…didn’t.

To be fair, Lana has changed since the beginning draft too. (One beta, after the first draft, stated that she wanted to punch Lana in the face.) She’s less stuck-up, less braggy. As you can imagine comes from a character that a 14-year-old made to play herself, she had some Mary Sue-ish qualities. But I haven’t done very much character work on her because, once the Mary Sue issues were resolved (fairly easy, done by draft 1.5, if I recall), she was fine. Benign. Maybe even a bit bland.

But a bit bland isn’t going to cut it, not anymore. And worse, compared to Dan, she comes off as boring.

It was a slog to fix Dan, I’m not going to lie. But I’m really happy with him, in this most recent draft. He’s memorable, he’s sympathetic. No one who has read the most recent draft has suggested killing him off to put him out of everybody else’s misery.

(There’s still some work I’ve got to do, to still make him sympathetic for Book 2, but that is a problem for future!Kit.)

Lana should–knock on wood–be an easier fix. It’s really just a problem in the beginning, before she understands what’s happening in the plot. And she’s not moving from being an antagonist to a protagonist/love interest, because she’s always been that.

I’m hoping, as I go through the beta comments, an easy and appropriate fix will present itself. Otherwise, I have some vague ideas that I could poke out (though perhaps the most logical has its own issues, because it’s similar to some of Dan’s issues and I don’t want the repetition).

Wish me luck, squiders.

(Oh, and if anyone knows if there’s a way to change goals on the Nano site from word count to literally anything else, let me know. I put in a revision goal and wanted to do time, but couldn’t figure out how, so now apparently my goal for the month is 1500 words instead of minutes. Whee.)

(Also, they email me like every day to be like “Start Your Nano Project!” which is not going to happen, because if you select Nano it won’t let you change off the 50000 word goal.)

Print Shop Woes

They say you should edit on paper, squiders, especially if you write on a screen. The idea is that the change in medium helps you see errors that you would miss on the screen (and, I guess, in theory, vice versa).

Anyway, I agree with this, plus there’s something very satisfying about scribbling on paper with a red pen (or sometimes multiple colors of pens, depending on what kind of notes I’m making).

I mean, I can edit on a screen if I need to, but it’s just not the same.

Anyway, since I started two revisions in the past few months, I’ve needed to print out two separate manuscripts. I don’t do it at home, though you certainly could, but I think my printer subscription is maxed at 50 pages a month.

(On a side note, printer subscriptions are dumb. All subscriptions are dumb. I hate all of them, but especially software-related ones. Let me use the software or not, you moneygrubbers.)

I’ve always printed manuscripts elsewhere. Part of that is because originally I bound them with a nice coil binder (coil is best–the rest make it hard to turn the pages reliably/lay the manuscript out flat), though I’ve gotten away from that over the years, because then the manuscripts are hard to recycle when I’m done with them, and I don’t need 5 versions of the same story sitting around in different stages. That gets overwhelming really fast.

I had a great solution too. There was a little local print shop about half a mile from my house. I’d walk over, drop off my manuscript file, head over to the coffee shop three doors down, have some nice coffee shop time, and then pick up the manuscript and walk home. The prices at said print shop was very reasonable (and they’d also make bookmarks and business cards for me, so super useful).

But, alas, they moved twenty miles away. I love them, but twenty miles–in a direction I almost never ever go–is too far. Any price savings I’d get would be eaten by gas.

So these docs I just printed were the first ones I’ve done since they’ve moved. I think I mentioned I was going to go to FedEx/Kinkos to print Book One out.

And I did.

And it was awful.

It was super expensive, and it was low quality for what I paid for, and there wasn’t any way to modify my document (such as hide the comments or add page numbers), AND some woman stood behind me the whole time (it was also quite slow) because only one printer was working and was generally grumpy that my job was taking so long.

I think I paid, like, $40, and it wasn’t even the whole manuscript, just the first 250 pages.

So–don’t go there, squiders. Ugh.

So when I needed to print out my Gothic Horror like a week later, I went to the complete other end of the spectrum.

I printed it out at my local library.

I could send the document directly from my computer (hence allowing me to add page numbers, which I never remember to do before I’m actively printing), it was less than half the price per page, the librarians were nice and helpful, and nobody stared at me accusatorily the whole time.

So, in the future, I will probably go that way again. (They also had a display of indoor gardening books that I meant to go back by, but I forgot. Whoops.)

The lesson here, squiders, is that the library is almost always the answer and I should just go there first.

Where do you like to do your printing, squiders?

Trucking Along

Work on the revision for my Gothic Horror continues apace.

I’m actively working through Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel again, partially because it’s been a few years since I did, and partially because I find it’s useful to remind myself of the steps every now and then.

There’s three main parts: triage, cutting, and cosmetic. Triage is looking at what you have versus what you need, cutting is creating (and then doing) the fixes, and then cosmetic is top-level stuff after all the big stuff is fixed.

I really appreciate the way the course is lined up, because it really is so tempting, especially if you’re new to revision, to do the easy stuff first. Fix continuity issues, and weird dialogue, and things along those lines.

I’m essentially done with the triage part now, so I’ve got to push through that and the cutting portion before my end of the month deadline. The cosmetic stuff can be done after I get the editing notes back, because I’ll have more stuff to fix anyway.

Man. It’s a lot of work. But it’s always good, and it really does help the story get so much better.

How are you doing, squider?

Blurry notes

Hey, Not Too Shabby

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Okay, now that that’s out of my system…how’s my new revision going?

Surprisingly well, actually. My Gothic Horror is in much better shape than I thought it would be, from being a first draft. The plot is coherent, people are mostly in character, and there’s only one subplot that comes out of nowhere midway through the book.

That being said, I’m not moving as fast on it as I had hoped. I’d forgotten that May is super busy, with having to get ready for summer stuff, and school getting out, and birthdays, and volunteer commitments, all of which are cramping my editing style.

And, you know, my not being totally stressed out style.

Luckily I’m pretty good about boundaries, and I’m also pretty good about focusing when I need to. That old adage that you get more done the busier you are is certainly true for me.

Or so I shall continue to tell myself so I don’t go insane.

Anyway, wish me luck and sanity. I shall need both.