Oops

I guess it’s been a while since I updated. I have a perfectly valid excuse! No, I really do.

I spent the final four days of 2011 editing. Almost non-stop. Thursday and Sunday both came and went in a flurry of words. Reading, cutting, adding, cutting, changing, reading reading reading. For me, editing fiction is a very particular activity. I have come to terms with the fact that it will never be a tidy process.

On New Years Eve, I ran around outside with some sparklers at approximately 9pm, Perth time. I have more of a tradition of celebrating New Years with Sydney, who are three hours ahead of us at this time of year, than anything else. This is simply because I would normally be asleep for any celebration here! This year, I greeted the turn of midnight in my hometown still editing. Approximately twenty minutes later, I touched the last line and declared it a success! I’d reached my goal!

I woke to the first day of 2012 with my mind buzzing; I knew something I needed to go back and modify more. I often wake up with story ideas, since my subconscious is very well trained in making adjustments and working through problems in my writing. My sleeping mind was totally right, and I spent all of yesterday editing even more.

Last night, I provided my beta readers with their copy of the story. I hope to hear back from them pretty quickly about their initial impression, and just hope I haven’t overlooked some kind of atrocious error! But honestly, I am confident in the place my story has come to, and I am really looking forward to getting right back into drafting book two.

At the end of the second draft, traditional means of word count estimation puts TDM at 54,500 words. Yes, that breaks free of being a novella by 14,500 words. I knew when I began editing that this story would stretch to become a short novel, and I simply had to accept the fact. It changes what I will do with the series, slightly. I haven’t made any firm commitment to how I want to publish TDM, and won’t until the final edit is complete!

In the meantime, I have a sequel to write.

~A

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The gift of humour

I am super lucky to have some of the best friends anyone could hope for. They appreciate my sense of humour! Who would have thought that was possible! It swings from the wildly exaggerated, to completely dead-pan (though that’s hard to translate to text), and while I certainly amuse myself, I don’t usually consider myself a funny person.

The husband is outrageously proficient in humour, and expressing it through multiple mediums. He honestly makes me laugh every day. It makes for some very interesting conversations about my writing work, though. I will express an idea or a concern I have, and he will usually recommend disarming the entire situation with something humourous. I rarely take his advice, but if we ever co-author a book like we have discussed, it will definitely feel the presence of my comedian husband.

In the meantime, we’re working on other projects together. Youtube videos and comic strips are in their respective stages of planning. Though I can’t give too many details, we also have an independent video game in production with a programmer friend, and that has a significant dose of our joint humour. It’s usually a good sign that, after our brainstorming sessions and I’ve written up all our notes, we both still find it funny later (and our programmer also gets a good laugh!).

When I read through my writing, I often come across moments of character interaction that make me grin and chuckle. Some characters are intentionally humourous, while some just have flashes of wit. The interesting part is trying to give them diverse thoughts and behaviours, and making sure that carries through well. Making a character express a sense of humour which I don’t necessarily share becomes a very interesting experience.

The single way to find out if I’ve succeeded in these endevours is to share my work with others and receive feedback on those characters. There are certain things a person just can’t judge on their own, and the presentation of the varied types of humour is definitely one of them. While I may or may not be a funny person, some of my characters definitely need to be!

~A

How do you edit?

With only three chapters remaining until I’ve completed my second draft of TDM, I’m getting that niggling feeling I might be missing something, or going about this all wrong. I don’t know where these thoughts come from! I can’t explain the irrational doubts which enter my mind. I’ll be working away merrily, then BAM. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”. The answer to that is a resounding no, but we can all agree that none of anyone knows what they’re doing, so it’s all okay.

But to sate my curiosity, and my innate need to compare, I thought I’d just put it out there: how do you go about editing a manuscript?

I started out by reading the whole story. At least, I think I did. There’s a very good chance I got half way (or less) through it before I started making changes. I’ve been trying to work methodically, start to finish. At the beginning of a session, I will go back a scene or two and refresh my memory and get into the groove of the story before I edit further.

There have been many instances where I’ve changed something, and had to go back to much earlier in the story to modify something small for accuracy. Or worse, browse through the previous chapters to figure out what I already wrote, sometimes because I just need to verify my own memory, and sometimes because I can’t recall exactly what I changed.

It feels like a whole lot of back-and-forth. Am I doing something wrong? Is this the normal way to edit? Am I just terribly neurotic? (Yes.) Will this all get easier with practice, or am I going to be stuck with this method forever?

I’ve mentioned in another post how I love to collect and save words of wisdom and inspiration (Just half of a fully forgotten memory). One of the gems in my collection comes from INTERN’s NaNoReVisMo (another alternate to InSecDraMo). I can take a lot of comfort in seeing what INTERN deems vital during editing, because I can compare notes and see that I’m doing a whole lot of what she’s mentioned. That’s important! My feelings are being validated! I might almost be on the right track!

But let me know what you get up to when it’s time to polish your story.

~A

A step into the past

Revealing character insights is a very complicated business.

I come to a “flashback”-style moment in my book, I don’t know if I want it. Is there a better way to integrate that information? Can I make it more seamless? Or is it fine to just have the main character narrate their reminiscing? I don’t know, because I’m too close to it, I don’t have an objective opinion when I’m so deep into editing. No one else will know the answer without reading the story, but I don’t want to give it to my betas yet. It’s not ready for that read-through.

I already know that a very clever author will provide insights like the one I am debating, in a way that doesn’t disrupt the momentum of the scene. Does this flashback take too long? Does it disrupt the flow? I can’t figure it out. It seems to sit well enough, and it’s not totally unique in its delivery.

The degree and speed of which I wish to divulge information is one of those tricky things. I don’t want to dump all the character’s knowledge and feelings at the beginning of the book; there are more natural, poignant moments to reveal certain elements. But I also don’t want to take too long to establish the early motives of these characters. I don’t want it to be one of those books that someone else reads, wondering, “Why would these people do this?”. I’ve experienced that with other people’s stories, and I know I want to avoid it in mine.

I can try re-writing, or I can carry on. This won’t be the only edit the story sees, so it isn’t completely essential to figure it out right now. But it gets me all tangled.

~A

Dream agents

Some writers really want an agent to work with. I understand all the reasons for desiring an agent, largest of all being their expertise when it comes to shopping your book around to their contacts in publishing, and knowing how to handle all the legal/contractual side of things. This knowledge, and much more, is unparalleled unless the writer themselves wants to do all the work of two or three people.

Many agents have an online presence in this day and age, and you get the amazingly unrivaled opportunity to get to know them and see if they are a “fit” for you. The days of querying unknown agents based solely on their other clients is quickly slipping away. I start to wonder if writers get their hearts set on any special “dream agent”, someone they’ve seen around, and think would suit their work and their personality.

Me? I don’t know that I’m at a place where an agent is necessary. Perhaps that will change in the future as I get more writing credits or want to push a larger project. I would not lament the insights of a talented and passionate editor working with me and sharing my love of my books. That would definitely be something special. But even so, I have no qualms approaching big houses alone if I felt I was ready for it (or rather, my story was!).

There are so many resources available to us now that even something like a writer’s contract can be poured over by the inexperienced and unraveled with the help of a search or two online. That’s not to say an agent isn’t worth their weight in gold; a good one who really believes in your work definitely is. To some writers, an agent isn’t totally necessary. To others, like me, an agent would foremost be a buffer between me and the demands of the industry.

With all that in mind, I’ve had my eye on an agent or two over the years. I love their personality and take on writing, but I don’t think my work necessarily fits with their other clients. Same genre, different style, so there’s no telling if they’d like my perspective on the stories. If I get to the stage when I feel it’s time to get an editor, I’ll probably still approach the ones I like most. They might be ready for a change, right?

~A

Dealing with fears

Writing IS fear. I can’t even begin to list all the things you can be afraid of in writing, because it spans from acceptance, to quality, to expectations, and so on. If it’s an aspect of writing, you can damn well be certain you might be afraid of it at some point.

Being afraid of doing something wrong is actually easy enough to overcome. You can make weird concessions to nullify half of the fear. And eventually, it seems like every writer comes to the same conclusion: you have to be willing to be bad. We all suck, and that’s cool.

But what about when you’re afraid of being good? That’s a little trickier. Everyone’s bad. We have terrible days, we can’t write for peanuts, we make mistakes. But not everyone is good, are they? That’s a little higher. That’s above the mark. And it’s terrifying for many people.

It can be really hard to find someone who relates to you, understands your plight, and is willing and able to be your support group. They aren’t the types who will just endlessly cheer you on, but they will also rein you in when you’re being a bit crazy, and will be honest and heartfelt with you. They are the ones who will be able to say, “You know what? You’re strong enough for success”.

Even so, getting over any fear is largely up to you. After all, at the end of the day, you might even be afraid of trying, and disappointing those supporting you so well. Or you might be afraid (irrationally!) of proving them all right. Who knows! Fear is crazy! So you have to make your mind up to ditch the fear. There’s a time and a place for accepting your fears, acknowledging them to see if they hold any validity. Sometimes the thing you’re worried about is legitimate, and you can fix it ahead of time.

But usually, you just need to look it over, realise the fear isn’t serving you, and release the emotion for better things. Say goodbye to your terrors, and embrace enthusiasm and love. It’s all in your head, and it’s all up to you!

~A

Of blueberry muffins and lateness

Yesterday, I forgot it was Thursday. Forgetting what day of the week it is happens frequently; I just don’t seem to follow the same standard of time as the rest of the world. Every morning, I usually wake up and ask myself, “What day is it?”.

Today, I got blueberry muffins. They are both delicious, and the perfect writing snack! Enough cakey goodness that they are worth eating, without the added difficulty of forks and icing/frosting. I mention this only because I am enjoying one right now, and I’m writing this post, and they go together flawlessly.

I actually heard some very promising news about one of my writing projects this week! I won’t reveal anything specific yet, since it will only be a week or so until I know concrete details. Needless to say, it is still ridiculously encouraging to hear positive feedback.

I managed to play it cool at the time. All very, “Awesome, I’m so glad you liked it”, when I probably would have liked to run around giving everyone high-fives. I’ve never been a scream-in-delight kind of person, and good things take a little while to really sink in before I get super excited about them. Of course, that means by now I’m practically dancing in my chair waiting for next week to roll around and award me the final verdict.

And funny enough, having possibilities like this dangled so close, I’m ready to launch into my next major project with a trademark over-enthusiasm for my own abilities (“I only need to write 1,500 words a day to get a novel draft finished in two months? I can so totally do that!”). It won’t happen, but a girl can dream.

~A