Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

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 forĀ 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?

How Much Can You Plot the Heart of a Story?

I’m not going to lie, Squiders. I’m having a ton of issues with the edit on the first book of my fantasy trilogy. I’m getting nowhere fast, and even when I do get somewhere, it’s only to find myself facing a cliff face with insufficient climbing gear. I’ve never had so many issues. Normally, when I do an edit, it’s more of organizational exercise, with clear goals in sight. This is just a mess.

As a short background, I decided to write this trilogy at 16, based off some roleplaying I’d done with some friends (not your classic ‘I’m going to write a novel off my D&D campaign’ riff though–this was based on Star Trek). For my second Nano in 2004, I wrote the first draft, mostly based off my 16-year-old thoughts. That draft was extra terrible, but it was the first draft I ever finished. In 2009/2010 I wrote the current draft of the story, addressing a lot of worldbuilding issues from the original draft, as well as some plotting issues. That’s the draft I’m working on now.

When I revise, I tend to follow the method Holly Lisle lays out in her How to Revise Your Novel course, with some modifications, since I’ve used the process several times over at this point and know where I have issues. (For example, I always lay out a calendar and place key events on it, so I have an idea of what happens where and can visualize time passing, which is not something she includes but is something I need.)

(It’s an excellent class and I recommend it, but I don’t believe it’s currently available.)

Normally it’s just the process of going through everything and working through it, and then I’m good to go for the actual revision. This time it’s like pulling teeth.

During the fourth step, you’re supposed to identify your core conflict. And it took me several days, and even then, I had to go with a different conflict than is written in the book, because the current core conflict doesn’t work. The current step is to identify what matters about the story, the reason people will care about and remember the story for. I spent about half an hour last night just staring at my notebook. Overnight I think I’ve worked something out, but I’m still not sure it’s quite right.

This morning I had the thought that instead of hodgepodging this book together over 15 years, I wish I had outlined. But then I got to thinking, well, yes, the plot is a mess and could have maybe been saved if I had outlined (though I think I did outline the current draft, at least a bit), but what about this heart and soul sort of stuff? Can you sit there before a story is written and say “these are my core themes, this is why this story will resonate, and this is why people will care”?

I’ve certainly never done it. But normally, when I go through this revision process, that stuff has already been built in subconsciously. And maybe this story had this too, once upon a time, but it’s gone through so many iterations and rewrites and complete upheavals that whatever that original core was is gone. Or maybe, when I first started this story oh so many years ago, I didn’t understand that a story needed that sort of thing.

Who knows? But now I face the laborious task of adding it back in. Do not envy me, Squiders. This is not fun.

What do you think, Squiders? Can you plot out the core of your story, or is that something that has to come more naturally?

PitchWars, Tours, and Miscellany

Oh, Squiders, what a week I’ve had. Did I tell you that my stove caught fire? I think I did. It looks like we might actually get some money from the repair company, though! (We had someone out to check a burner on it–then the next time the burner was turned on, the entire electric system went up in flames.) But I also had to get the brakes replaced on my car, get a radon mitigation system installed, interview painters because we had a whole bunch of hail damage, etc. But in somewhat positive news, I’ve finally had the trim taken off the car so at least I never have to deal with that madness again.

Anyway, it’s been rough. I mostly want to burrow under my desk and read trashy romances and old Star Trek novels but, alas, I am an adult and have adulting to do. I mean, not that it’s getting done in a timely fashion, but I’m at least pretending.

In writing news, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve got a new City of Hope and Ruin related prequel short story up for free over at Turtleduck Press! So if you liked CoHaR and would like more, there you go! And if you haven’t picked up CoHaR and would like a taste, tadah, free story! There’s also a free excerpt available.
  • So, apparently the application window for PitchWars was the 3rd thru the 6th. I like the idea of Twitter pitches and so have had the schedule open since January, yet have somehow managed to miss every event anyhow. PitchWars is a little more complicated–you pick four mentors and send in your first chapter and query letter, and if they pick you, they’ll help you polish your manuscript and query, and then in November they’ve got a panel of agents that look at the submissions, and I guess there’s been great success at people getting traditional publishing deals through it. Since there was a multi-day opening, I actually heard about it in time to get an application in for my YA paranormal novel, which I’m planning on going more traditional with.
  • I did, however, send in my application about 3 hours before the window closed. I guess if mentors are interested, they’re sending partial/full requests, and you’ll know you were selected before the official announcement on the 26th. I’ve heard nothing. It could be that I’m at the bottom of the queue and people haven’t gotten to me, or it could just be that I was so late into the game that people already had their eye on favorites. Or my submission could suck, but I’m trying to be optimistic.
  • I’ve finally got some momentum on editing the first book of my fantasy trilogy. It needs so much work. But I’m starting to see what it could be, and that normally helps on the motivation front.
  • But seriously, it needs so much work.
  • I joined Wattpad! You can find my profile here but I haven’t done much as of yet. A very nice author (whom you can find here) has been a doll about taking me under her wing and telling me how the site works.
  • We’re doing a space princess anthology for Turtleduck Press this year, so I’ve been working on that. I’m rather pleased with my story for it. I had a lot of fun doing science fiction instead of my normal fantasy–and space adventure science fiction at that.
  • Our long-term blog tour’s on right now. We’re giving away a $50 gift card again, so stop by any of the stops to enter. Thus far we have:
  • All stops have excerpts and blurbs and what have you, as well as tons of ways to enter the contest for the gift card.

I think that’s it in a nutshell. How are you, Squiders? Have you gotten up to anything fun or exciting lately?

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Editor

I sometimes get questions in my email from other people wanting to get into freelance editing, and so I thought it might be beneficial to share my general day with the Internet at large so people can get an idea how this works.

I do want to emphasize that this is me, personally, and that there are plenty of other good freelance editors out there who probably structure their day completely differently. Also probably plenty of bad freelance editors, which is why you should ask for an editing sample before you hire someone.

I also want to preface this with the disclaimer that I work part-time because I am first and foremost a stay-at-home parent with two pre-school children. On a good day, I can get up to six hours of working time in; on a bad, I may only get an hour, or even nothing.

I have three jobs I do (not counting working on novels/short stories):

  1. Freelance Editor (website here) — I specialize in novels and short stories, but also get a lot of college papers and technical documents because of my background in engineering.
  2. Contract Editor — I’ve worked for a company for almost five years now, where I currently edit college-level lessons before they go live on the website.
  3. Grant Writer — In February I was hired by a local performing arts school to write grants for them. We’ve won two of the grants we submitted for already, so not bad for taking over a job I had absolutely no previous experience with.

General Daily Schedule:

6-6:30: Get up. This varies based on when I went to bed. If I’m going to go to the gym first, I get up at 5:45. It’s completely random as to whether or not I will get dressed or just shuffle downstairs to work.

6:45-8:00: Working time. This is my most reliable section because my charges are still asleep. Usually. Hopefully. Unfortunately, it also tends to be my most unfocused. I normally get started fine, but then get distracted with administrative stuff, such as checking on blog tours, marketing stats, and reading emails.

8:00-10:30: Very little, if any work, gets done in this time frame, so I tend to spend this time with the kids and on things like laundry, dishes, yardwork, etc. Sometimes they’re distracted and then I can sneak some stuff in.

10:30-12:30: The smaller one usually naps at this point, and the bigger one is in school on some days, so this is another, and probably my most productive, working time. If I’m working two jobs at once (which is fairly common; at the moment I’m doing my contract editing and editing the second book in a series for a client) I tend to do one job in the first thing in the morning slot and then switch to the other for this slot so forward progress is being made on both. If one has a tighter time frame, however, I will work that one in both slots.

12:30-3:30: House stuff again. The kids and I normally play a game or do a craft. We also run errands at this point. Often to the library. We apparently have 26 books checked out of the moment.

3:30-5: This is a potential working period. It depends on when the littler one took her nap and if she needs another one (she might go down earlier or later, depending, but sometimes not at all), and if I can distract the older one without just plopping him in front of the TV. Sometimes I can enforce quiet time with him (he should nap, but won’t) which is lovely. But rare.

5-8: Dinner and family time, usually.

8-10: Wildly variable. Sometimes I can swing this for working, but a lot of times I’m just too tired. If I do get working time in this period, I tend to prefer to work on my fiction projects instead of paying ones. It tends to depend on deadlines, but I try to work far ahead so I’m not stressed.

I also get a lot of questions about pay rates, and to that I say: make sure you’re asking enough to justify your time. A lot of starting freelance editors ask for or will take basically nothing in an attempt to garner business, and you’re not really doing yourself any favors. I’ve found that clients who insist on cheaper rates are ones you really don’t want–they’re abrasive and rude, and don’t respect you as a person or a professional. Counter-intuitively, potential clients may also pass you up if you’re too cheap because they think you’re not good or not experienced, and that’s why you’re not charging more.

I have a flat rate for developmental/concept editing, and I charge a sliding scale for proofreading/line editing, depending on the state of the manuscript. Some people have a pretty clean document with only a few stray punctuation marks or typos throughout. Other people still put a carriage return at the end of every single line like a typewriter and write purely in run-on sentences.

So, there you go! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Siri’s and my longer blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin starts today! Our first stop is an interview with me, which can be found here. We’re giving away another $50 Amazon giftcard during this one.