Posts Tagged ‘revision’

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?

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?

Long Tour Aftermath (and a shark)

Happy October, Squiders! Though the leaves have not turned and today is the first real autumn-y day of the year. Get on it, autumn.

Anyway. Siri’s and my long blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin has come to an end, and now I can comment on it and whether or not I felt like it was worth the time and money. Just to recap, we bought a multi-month tour, which ran from July 14 to Sept 29, and each week we’d provide a guest post, interview, or something along those lines for that week’s blog, depending on what they wanted. (Some weeks we had two blogs scheduled.) On the day the blog post went live, we’d stop by the post a few times to answer questions and thank the hosts, etc.

We used GoddessFish promotions, which, coincidentally, is also where I get some of the promos I post here, such as The Ever Fiend from Monday.

So, results. I feel like we got a lot of great comments on the stops, and people seemed generally excited about the book.

Now, sales? They haven’t been amazing, and I don’t know that they can directly correspond to any of the tour stops. Actually, a fourth of the sales we’ve made since the start of the tour to today have been since the end of the tour, whatever sense that makes.

There is a definite bump of adds to people’s “To Read” lists on Goodreads with each tour stop. Whether that will translate into ongoing sales in the long run, I can’t say. We’re still sitting at a 4.15 score on Goodreads, which is pretty good.

We did get some reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon from the tour, which is very nice. (We’re sitting at a 4.5 score on Amazon, but there are less ratings there since Amazon doesn’t let you leave a rating without a text review anymore. Unless I’m crazy.) You guys know how crazy it is to get reviews, so it’s almost worth it just for that, especially since everyone liked the book.

(If you don’t know how crazy it is to get reviews, it’s like pulling teeth. Leave reviews. Authors will appreciate it, even if you didn’t like the book. I mean, as long as you’re not mean about it. Mean reviews are the worst.)

Would I do it again? Hmmm, not sure. In the direct work to sales ratio, the results weren’t great. But the reviews are nice, and it was a good way to reach a ton of people I never would have otherwise.

(The last three stops, if you want to see them:

Blurbs, bios, excerpts and links at all stops, as usual.)

Now that that’s over with, who wants to see the shark I sketched this morning?

shaaaark

Now that I’m doing sketchtober, I remember that shading has always eluded me. I also tried to draw my youngest, but she kept moving.

You’ll also be pleased to know that I continue to take my revision planning seriously.

nerd

(Next to market it says “things to buy, rumors to overhear” in case that’s unreadable.)

How are you, Squiders? Other authors, any marketing things that have worked well for you? Non-authors, what are your feelings on sharks?

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?

Why You Need to Plan Out Your Revisions

Our revision is finally done, squiders! \o/ (That’s a little guy throwing his hands in the air.) I mean, until we get comments and stuff back and have to finalize things before release. But huzzah!

I don’t normally stuff my entire revision process into 5 weeks, but this process, and especially the last few days, has reminded me how important it is to know what you’re changing before you get into it.

Because revision is exhausting. Someone once told me that writing is right-brained, but revision is left-brained. You have to take what you have and make it a coherent, entertaining, relevant story. Your character motivations must make sense. All foreshadowing must be properly foreshadowed. All characters and important plot objects must be firmly entrenched in the story and not come out of left field later.

And, as I have been reminded but has also been true on previous revisions, by the time I get near the end of the book, my brain hurts. I can’t think anymore. And if I haven’t written down what, specifically, needs to change, I’m too tired to figure things out. Which is not good, because you want your ending to be amazing, so that your reader leaves feeling satisfied and/or motivated to move on to the next book, in the case of a series.

There’s also the issue with revision fatigue, which is where you know you’re changing things, but you can’t tell if you’re making things better or worse. Again, if you’ve planned your revision out, the odds are the story is getting better, even if it doesn’t feel like it, because you’re moving in the right direction.

How does one plan out a revision?

Well, it varies from person to person, but, in general, you look at your overall story. You look at your plot and character arcs. Are they complete? Are there steps missing that need to be added in? Do they logically make sense? Are you using your setting to its fullest potential?

And after you identify issues, you make a plan for changes. Do things need to be added? Do things need to be removed? And you plan where those changes go.

And then, after all that, you start revising. And because you know where you’re going and how you plan to get there, you can power right through fatigue and brain death.

Planning! You can get through a novel draft without it, but your revision is going to be a million times harder without it.

What do you think, Squiders? Have you revised without a plan? How did it go? If you do plan, how much work do you put in before you get going?