a writing update

In the time since I last posted, some things have happened.

  1. I completed all four drafts of my first novel. I wrote it, rewrote it, edited it close in (grammar and syntax), then a final edit to fix all the inconsistencies and awkward parts and weak dialogue and dangling bits. That fourth one was a pain in the ass, let me tell you. But it helped a lot. For a first attempt, I feel that I didn’t do too badly, process-wise. Currently the final draft is out with my beta readers. Once I get their input, I’ll adjust things that need to be adjusted (like the first chapter, which has changed quite a bit with each edit, ugh first chapters are so hard) and then pass it on to the AMAZING person who has volunteered to copy edit it. After that, it’s rejection time! I’ve already started working on a query letter. It’s 15% exciting and 85% terrifying.
  2. I started a different writing project with my dear friends Jan and Steph. It’s called Widdershire and it’s an online repository of short writings. We’re having fun and if you didn’t already know about it, you should check it out.
  3. This past week I started my second novel. I am planning a trilogy, in fact, so book 2 is now underway. I have a general outline, which is a better place to start than a terrible twelve-year-old draft. I have new characters and a new setting. My plan is for the first book to be a somewhat upside down Chosen One story, the second to be an urban fantasy with a bit more edge to it, and the third to be postapocalyptic. I’m quite pleased with the ideas.
  4. I have finally found (well, actually Sam found) a babysitter so I have more writing and sanity time. There is no relief like the relief of a burnt out mom getting a break at last.
  5. I’ve been reading so much. Maybe I’ll do a roundup.
  6. I’ve been knitting a lot too, but with less to show for it. Everything I do seems to be fingering weight. It takes 5ever. I will never finish anything.
  7. Starbucks is definitely benefitting from my writing. What is it about coffee shops that makes it so much easier to concentrate? Unless, of course, a creepy-ass dude sits down beside you and stares at you for a couple of hours until you leave. That was so weird.
  8. The spring has been quite nice but the bugs and humidity and heat have started and I am coming to terms with the fact that I’m a weather princess, so I’ll go outside again in the fall. It’s easier to write indoors anyway.

phase 2 complete

(I’m referring to my novel.)

A month ago I finished the first draft, then left my computer at home while we went on our summer vacation to my sister’s wedding and my parent’s house over the course of two weeks. The idea was that I could take a break from thinking about it so that when I came back to edit it, the text would felt sort of fresh.

Mostly I was just freaked right out.

It’s one thing to write a bunch of words on a topic, and yes, I realize that sort of sounds like a humblebrag, but for me it was only moderately difficult to write 78 000 words about a girl who gets sucked into a fantasy world and cannot even deal. Trying to pound those words into something I am willing to flog to any agent or publisher I can find, with the intention that the notoriously rude general public can and should read them, is something else entirely.

Today I finished reading through the manuscript and scribbling all over it. This is a “read-through.” Now I need to go back to the text in Scrivener and apply all the notes I took, like “THIS CHAPTER IS TERRIBLE” and about five hundred places where I wrote “awkward, fix” in the margin. That was quickly shortened to AWK. There are actually a handful of pages where I didn’t mark anything at all, so I consider that a sign that it’s not a total disaster.

I think this next part is the scariest for me. Writing is sometimes difficult, but generally fun. The read through was fun, once I got into it. Trying to sort out how to solve all the plot holes and AWKs and details is going to be really hard and not much fun at all, or so it looks from this side. But we’ll see. After this stage I’m going to pass it off to some beta readers for feedback, which is exciting to me, so I will keep it in my sights.

And for the record I slashed at least 30 instances of “seemed” and 50 instances of “suddenly” and “really” each.

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!