thoughts on editing, volume 1

Volume is a misnomer. This probably won’t be very long.

I’ve started editing my manuscript, and it is difficult. It’s not because I’m unwilling to be ruthless, because I am a slash-and-burn-no-idea-or-word-or-chapter-too-precious type of editor. I’m not damaging my baby or anything. The task is so daunting, though, that I’m tying myself up in knots over it. I didn’t realize just how crappy the thing was while I was writing it. I’m a 7 on the enneagram, which means that novelty is a huge motivator for me, and there is no novelty in the editing process. I wrote all this already and now I have to go back over it, and refine it, and can I not just start writing a new book now?

But I have a couple of observations about the process so far. There’s a nifty little feature in Scrivener, the writing program I use, that lists all the words you’ve used by frequency, so you can go through the list and find the overused words like really and actually, then delete them almost every time you come across them. I really use really too much.

The other one was first made clear to me via the handy list, but also cropped up in the process of rereading: I fell victim to the sloppy writing habit of giving my protagonist ESP. “She had a vague sense of foreboding that something really bad was going to happen.” “She sensed that he was on her side, despite his really scary appearance.” “It seemed as though he was trying to communicate something.” NO. Gross. The word in my list that clued me in was “seemed.” Like really and actually, there aren’t a lot of places where something seems a certain way but it could in fact be written that it IS a certain way, or at the very least, someone talked about it that way, or thought about it. It’s a part of the showing-vs-telling thing that Creative Writing 101 students are beaten over the head with and have very little idea how to put into practice. My practical advice, from having edited four chapters of my most terrible novel to date, is to not worry about it at first and write an opening paragraph/chapter/section (depending on the overall length of the thing you’re writing) and then go back, salvage the one sentence that basically sums it all up, and nuke the rest. Your writing will not suffer. The parts that go on and on about her tortured experience with peers in high school that lead her to believe she was SPESHUL and DIFFERENT and MADE FOR ANOTHER WORLD (ahem, self) don’t advance the plot, are not interesting to read, and can be gleaned from the one sentence and the supporting dialogue and action that follows.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe writing a novel or two is going to lead me to become an editor or agent or publisher.

That’s the bulk of my observations on the editing process, four days into it. Stay tuned for more! Maybe blogging about it will help me stay motivated. I can only hope.

i wrote a novel

I spent the summer pouring my writing energy into my novel. I set myself a goal of a thousand words per day, every day, and it paid off. I had a handful of unproductive days and a slightly larger handful of amazing days that doubled or even tripled my goal, and in three months, I wrote just under eighty thousand words and wrapped up the plot. So I did it! I wrote a whole novel!

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Now I have to edit it.

I couldn’t even remember how I had edited my papers for uni, so I googled “how to edit a novel.” I clicked on the first three links that looked useful, and received three sets of advice.

  1. This is a twelve-step process and it takes a year. Read your manuscript through eight times. Send it to groups of beta readers between each read-through. Be thorough. This process should take a year; why would you want it to take any less time?
  2. This is a two-week process. Print it off, scribble all over it, transcribe your changes, send it off. Overediting is the bane of writers’ existence. Why would you take any more time?
  3. Edit your novel in four steps, one of which I have already missed the boat on. Use four different approaches.

Option three was written by an editor, rather than by an author, and I like it best, even though I’ve kind of messed it up already. Sort of. What I’m doing is this: 

That’s my fancy trying-to-look-artistic shot, when in reality I scrapped all the colours and I’m just scribbling all over the pages with one pen, and taking confusing notes in my notebook that I won’t understand later. After reading all the editing assvice, I remembered that I used to always print off my essays to edit them because editing on a computer screen was a terrible brain disaster. So I’m starting there. I’d like to have it in pretty good shape by Christmas, which might be a bit on the quick side, but I do not think that setting a deadline one year from now is going to be in any way motivating for me. I wrote the whole manuscript in three months. The editing should take at least that long, but any more and I will be so bored I will burn it all. I already have a couple of new ideas doing their percolating thing, and I don’t want them to be stuck in limbo for too long.

Even if this book does not make it to the NYT Bestseller list, or even through the gauntlet of a mainstream publisher, I am proud of what I accomplished this summer. I wrote a novel. My two current book-doulas think it’s rough but has a good foundation, and even if it isn’t published, I did it, and now I know I can do it, and I am not ready to give up.

I’m a writer! I wrote a book!

i am a famous novelist

Well, I guess I’m not actually famous yet. But I am a novelist, or a partial one. I am a quarter of the way to my goal of eighty thousand words, so I’m posting it on my blog for the world to see. World meaning the five people who read my blog. (Hi Mom!)

In high school I started writing an epic fantasy novel about a girl who was Very Special and underwent Serious Trials and Tribulations while wearing Elaborate Dresses and Falling In Love All Over The Place with Interesting and Older Men. Yeah. I worked on it well into university, until I was taking a full course load plus choir plus basketball and I ran out of time for novels. When I picked it back up again that summer, I was mortified and threw away all my notes.

A couple of times in the intervening decade (DECADE) I opened up the Word file and reread it. I would say “Hmm, has potential, requires a heavy editing hand,” close it again, and go about my business. I blogged, I wrote things for church, I journaled, and I kept it in the back of my head as something I might come back to. A few times I decided to start writing again and could not come up with another idea for a book. Also, there were children.

A few weeks ago I came across a tutorial on the hidden depths of Scrivener (the tutorial is expired, or I would link to it), and I had to try out all the tricks I learned. I opened up that massive file, imported it, and started fiddling around with the program. When I realized I could export an .epub file, I re-reread all 52 000 words on my iPad. Then I started making notes.

Six weeks after starting the rewrite with a nearly complete overhaul of the plot and characters, I’m starting to get into the exciting bits. I’m going to start posting here about my process as a record of the process. So stay tuned! Which probably means check back in two or three weeks, when I remember to post again.

what it really means to be an adult: some thoughts

Lately I’ve been working on my awareness, checking in with myself to gauge my mental state. I started when Clara weaned a month ago, because the hormone fluctuation has had a significant impact on me in the past. I was pretty down for a couple of weeks, and now I seem to be back to “normal,” although given that five of the past six years have been spent gestating or nursing, I’m not sure I remember what normal is just yet. My observations are showing that I spend a lot of time teetering on the brink of feeling overwhelmed, and just a wee push sends me over the edge and, if left unchecked, I fall into stress, anxiety, and then a meltdown or a panic attack.

If I pay attention to what I’m feeling in any given moment, then I naturally assume that my feelings are true, that everything is fine and lovely and my children are wonderful, or life is falling apart and stepping on one more Cheerio is a sign of the end times, or no one likes my Instagram picture and therefore I am meaningless. I might be a wee bit dramatic there, but I find that I am dramatic, if I’m letting my feelings run the show.

But feelings are big. The more I help my kids learn how to handle their feelings the more I reinforce my theory that grownups don’t grow out of childhood, they just add more layers. Grownups are children who have internalized a parent that tells them to eat vegetables and go to bed on time (as I am not doing right now). It’s hard to listen to the parent in my head when I am full of feelings that tell me that everything is terrible and what good is anything. But my inner parent says go outside, go for your run, you will feel better. And the parent is right. So the feelings are not exactly wrong, but lacking the bigger picture.

I’m trying to learn to pay better attention to my inner parent. The one that says that checking Facebook usually makes me feel worse, not better. The one that says that I don’t actually want sweets because I end up feeling gross. The one that reminds me that being the adult in the house means that I have to clean because it needs to be done whether it is fun or not, and that a clean house makes for a drastically improved state of mind. It’s difficult. It’s a strange thing to realize that probably every adult you admired as an kid was making it up as they went along. It’s equally strange to start hearing your five-year-old say she wishes she was twenty so she would be able to do things on her own, and remembering those feelings, and realizing that dang, that dream did not manifest in the expected form.

I think that slowly discovering the inner parent was the work of my twenties, and listening to her is the work of my thirties, or maybe the rest of my life. I hear worrying statements from people older than me that indicate that it’s an ongoing struggle, feelings vs inner parent, or id and superego, if we’re getting technically psychological. I feel like the appropriate response to this is to have a temper tantrum because it sucks and it’s hard, but in fact I will click publish, brush my teeth, and go to bed. Like a grown up.

four sweaters and a shawl

I’ve finished a few things this year already. But in the blogging hiatus, they haven’t been posted.

Two tiny sweaters made from Tanis Fiber Arts yarn:

Baby Abernathy

one is a little Abernathy sweater, which I’ve knit twice before and love

Kriá

and the other is a Kriá and is a proper Icelandic sweater with a steek. (Steeking means knitting a tube and then cutting it for the zipper.)

Two sweaters for me:

Katrine sweater

one Katrine cardigan out of Quince and Co Puffin

My Grande Favorito

and one Il Grande Favorito out of Cascade Eco +. They’re both amazingly cozy and warm and I wear them all the time.

Finally, my Christmas road trip van knitting:

Tosh shawl

a Boneyard Shawl in Madelinetosh Sock. Tosh yarn definitely lives up to the hype.

Currently I’ve got a tiny sweater finished but for the buttons, a spring shawl a third finished, and I’m about to turn the heel on a pair of socks made out of the most gorgeous yarn I’ve ever seen.

Project details, if you want them, are on Ravelry.