Posts Tagged ‘revision’

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.

Finally Moving

Hooray for April, squiders. The consignment sale is over, the festival is this weekend (and will happen whether or not I do anything specific), and we can focus on being as productive as possible in these last few weeks before it’s summer break.

Some things that are happening:

  • I finally finished the story idea workbook of doom, and I edited the entirety of the outlining nonfiction book, including writing a few new sections.
  • I outlined a new Landsquid picture book and fleshed out more on a second children’s book series (though I’m unsure whether to do it as a picture book or an early reader).
  • I started writing a new novel. I have also realized that said opening scene is bad and have plotted out a new one that is MUCH better, but that’s pretty standard for beginnings.
  • I got through three lessons in my writing class.
  • I’ve outlined a potential class for Skillshare and now need to look at how I want to film/edit it.
  • (WordPress won’t let me get rid of this bullet, so please disregard this aside.)

All in all, not too shabby. But, of course, there’s always more to be done. WriYe is actually proving to be a bit of a distraction here, because I have the three main things I’m focusing on–nonfiction/workbooks/now Skillshare classes, Landsquid picture book(s), and writing class–and some of the monthly challenges are VERY tempting.

For April, for example, the genre stretch sounds awesome–a mix of a college setting with slipstream elements. I definitely want to write something for that. And there’s the addition of a challenge to brush off and improve a project that you’ve abandoned.

The last thing I need is to go into a major revision process. I’ve done so much revision lately that I’m a bit burnt out on the whole thing. But…I think this actually predates the blog…I had a younger YA story I adored. I polished it, I queried it, I entered it in contests–and it never went anywhere, and eventually I shelved it and moved on to other projects. But I still think about it sometimes, and maybe…maybe I could do it justice now? Maybe I could fix it and it could go out into the world?

God, it is tempting. But, goals! And previous commitments!

So I’ve made an agreement with myself. If I get the nonfiction books edited (and any additional workbooks/journals created), then I can read through this YA story. No pressure to revise it or anything. Just read it, see what state it’s in, and see how much work it would take to fix, if it’s fixable. Maybe look at the comments I got from various agents and contests to see what other people saw as problems.

So we’ll see. There’s still 5 more nonfiction books and at least 1 workbook, and April isn’t a very long month.

How is your April going, squider?

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?

A Break from the Madness

Woo, I feel like this week’s gone at a breakneck pace, Squiders. Aside from getting The Short of It out, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m in a musical! I think I’ve talked in the past about trying out for a local community theater, and this time they let everybody in. (I’m not joking–they really did cast everyone who tried out.) We’re doing Godspell, and there was an expectation that a good majority of us would be operating as a chorus, just singing in the back on bigger numbers and not doing much else. Ha. Haha. Oh no. Let’s just say I got over 5000 steps at rehearsal last night. Between the music (a harder version than the original), the choreography, learning to sign a whole song (my “solo,” as it were), and dialogue, this is taking up a lot of my time. We open in a little over a month.
  • I’m still working on my query letter for my YA paranormal. Well, I’m on a break, because I feel like each progressive version was getting worse instead of better. So right now I’m re-reading the book again with the plan to work on the synopsis. And then we’ll go back to the query.
  • I am working on the rewrite of Book One, but it is going really really slowly. I think I’m at ~2500 words after two weeks? The beginning felt really terrible but I read back over it and it’s not actually that bad. One of the things on my To Do list for today is to make a definite plan about when to work on it, which will probably consist of setting a specific time each day and figuring out how to distract the children during that time.
  • My Lovecraft story for the anthology goes pretty well. I’m on the feedback stage, and then I hope to do a final revision and turn it in early next week. I even have a title more or less picked out, which is sometimes the hardest part.
  • I continue to work on my serial, though I’m not posting it up at Wattpad quite as often anymore. It seems really hard to get visibility over there, and it’s just not something I can spend a lot of time on right now. Anyone have any tips for using Wattpad or reaching more people?
  • I wrote a short story for publication over at Turtleduck Press. It’s in review right now, and barring rejection, it should go up on March 1st.

And, of course, we’ve been working on the nonfiction book series here at the blog. How has that been feeling, Squiders? On my end, it feels nice to be getting some progress done on that front (especially because I started in January of 2015!) though it does kind of feel like it’s eaten the blog. And I am a bit worried about writing the parts that I’m not blogging, and getting everything organized, but we’ll worry about that when we come to it.

How are you doing, Squiders? Anything new and/or fun on your end?