Tag Archives: editing

Progress report: The half-way mark

I haven’t done much on the writing front these last couple of months. I am planning a big post-wedding party thing that may be the death of me. I’m also finally recovered from a nasty cold that had me lying on the couch for about 4 days, and feeling generally crappy for a handful more before and after that. But last week, I re-started my stalled attempt at getting through Lesson One of Holly Lisle’s on-line novel revision course. I’ve been averaging about 12 pages a day (weekdays only), and have just reached a mile-stone: I’m 50% of the way through my manuscript. Here’s what that looks like:

281 pages down, 280 to go!

 


Nothing to see… moving along

I’m finally at page 100 of my first pass through Automaton, about four days later than I’d have liked. I think this mostly has to do with my being past the part of the book where I was still finding my story. Sixty pages where two mostly boring people acting like stars instead of the supporting cast that they’re meant to be, while my main character has very little of interest to do but to observer and sometimes to react. Oh, the agony!

But all that is past. Now I’m almost one fifth of the way through my manuscript, and about a quarter of that was done today!  I know it’s going to bog down later, but I’m finally at the part of the story that I care about, and it’s all a big romp from here on out. Whee!

For the next month or two, there aren’t going to be a lot of updates since my current page number will be all I have to report.  But I promise to stop by from time to time and comment on something, even if it’s completely unrelated to writing.


Editing Automaton

I’m just beginning to edit Automaton, but I thought I’d give you a peek at Holly Lisle’s system, and how I’m using it.

The bottom ring binder is my manuscript. You can barely make out some red squiggles in the left margin of the left page. Those are a code that tells me which page in my notes to go to in order to see what I had to say about the passage of my book at that point.

My notes are in the ring binder above my manuscript, as you have no doubt guessed. The notes are worksheets that ask particular questions regarding my story, most of them are “what went wrong here, and why?” though a couple of them are set aside for noting what when right.

At the top, stuck to my magnetic marker board, is a flow-chart, reminding me not to just look at my plot problems, but also to consider characters, world building and other aspects that I’m supposed to be taking notes on. There are five categories, so it behoves me to address them all as I go, rather than running through my story five times over. It’s quickly becoming clear to me that I just need to remember what the questions are; I don’t really need to follow the lines through the process, since most of it is: Read; find something to note; mark it in the manuscript, flip to the correct worksheet; write your thoughts down; if more pages are to be read, continue at the top. It was helpful at first to see the whole process, but it’s actually pretty simple.

My biggest issue is that I’m having to not just read, but to look for specific issues while I’m reading. I was never any good at picking out the plots of stories in my English classes in high school, and I think the focus I bring to bear on stories is partly to blame for that. I enjoyed reading, and didn’t necessarily want to pick apart a good story. Now however, I think I am enjoying seeing the structure of stories, of noting how I might have changed the particulars of someone else’s work. It’s educational, and kind of fun, like seeing back-stage at a theater production.

That’s it for now. I’m on page 18 out of 561, so I don’t know if there will be many in-depth thoughts to share while I work on Lesson 1 of How to Revise Your Novel.

 


Chapter One, Page One

Since last you heard from me, I was in the midst of NaNoWriMo. Between then and now, I got back to my life, while still devoting a few nights a week to finishing that book , which I did in early March. Solomon’s Key (working title) finished up just north of 110,000 words, and while I felt kind of disappointed with it, but I did finish. Perhaps next year I’ll read it and consider if it’s worth salvaging.

That was all just prelude to what I was really looking forward to doing: editing the previous year’s project, “Automaton”. The first thing I did was to run spell-check, which I had turned completely off while I was writing. I don’t mind telling the world that I’m a bad typist (there are likely typos lurking in this very blog post), but sweet zombie Jesus did checking 120,000 words take a while! Three evenings of constant clicking and looking up words to make sure I was choosing the right homonym or puzzling over an odd series of transposed and accidentally doubled letters. And don’t get me started on trying to find words that I thought I knew how to spell, but which didn’t show up in any of the dictionaries I searched through. I can’t for the life of me remember what that word is, so I guess I’m doomed to misspell it again, but I do remember that it started with an unexpected letter. Maybe.

But enough about spell checking! The big thing I did recently is to print out the entire 120,000 word manuscript. On paper. Like it’s 1985, all over again! Yeah, baby, yeah!

As a standard manuscript format (double-spaced, 12-point font), it ran about 561 pages, which I printed front-and-back. It still comes out to be a huge stack of paper.

Manuscript

I can't believe I wrote the whole thing.

I didn’t just do this to see how many trees I could kill – I did it at the behest of Holly Lisle. See, the other major step I took toward learning to write was to finally enroll in Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel” on-line course. Lesson 1: Read through the entire manuscript, making notes about specific passages and how they failed in the categories of world building, character development, reader interest, etc….  She has a whole system for noting down your observations in one place with only a minimal cross-reference mark in the manuscript itself. I’ll be doing this for the next 561 pages; so far, I’ve done 3.

Her system appeals to me, though I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I feel like Daniel, washing Mr. Miyagi’s cars and sanding his decks, though I’m not about to throw a tantrum (I am only 3 pages in, after all), nor am I being bullied by karate hooligans.

Since I’m only just getting started, I can’t judge how successful it’s going to make my editing process, but I’m sure I’ll learn a huge amount over the course of the next several months. Check back over the next few months as my understanding of HtRYN grows. I’m sure this is going to be helpful though. I love me some organizational tools and methods. This you will no doubt learn as you read my future blog entries.

Looking at that stack of paper, I feel odd abandoning my beloved Scrivener during the editing process; it was designed to be an excellent tool for that purpose, and I’ve been looking forward to using more of it’s potential. But instead of ignoring the directions of my instructor, I’m going to be good and follow instructions. Hardly anything of the process has been revealed to me, and until I’ve been through it all, there’s no point in wasting brain power trying to supplant the tools I’m supposed to use with the one I want to use.

Once I’m done with the course, I’m sure I’ll already have adapted the system to Scrivener, and will be ready to use my new skills in combination with the best electronic tool for writers since the word processor.

Until then, I hope to keep you appraised of my progress.

Wish me luck.


A Cart with no Horse in Sight

For as long as I can remember wanting to be an author, I’ve struggled to focus on my journey, rather than my destination. I forget the feel-good aphorisms about the journey being the worthier part, or it just doesn’t seem to resonate with me. Maybe that’s because I don’t feel “worthy” of any part of authorship. But there is a way of putting it that makes more sense to me. It’s a statement of fact shared by every published author whose blog covers the topic, rather than a piece of advice you can follow. In one form or another, they all say, “you have to enjoy writing to be a writer.”

Well, if you’re like me, then this bit of wisdom will elude you from time to time. Just like every kid who was ever in a garage band, most people who try their hand at novel writing (or hope to get to it some day) have this image in their head of a successful author sitting on piles of money with adoring fans lined up around the block at book signings. I’m no exception. Day-dreaming about my as-yet un-earned mega-success is a favorite form of procrastination from writing.

Of course I know better than to write to become rich and famous. Not only will I probably never be a professional writer, but fame and fortune are supposed to be a by-product of chasing your own shooting star. Focus too much on what you’ll do when you find it, and you probably never will.

My dream is to have a book published by a real publishing house, complete with an editor who argues with me about cutting chapter five. But that’s just one carrot to reach for. Scratch that, I hate carrots. That’s just one cookie that I’m reaching for; there are so many reasons to write.

I want to hear enthusiastic things from my friends, like “When are you finishing the next one?” or “May I become your wealthy patron?” But even that won’t get me through months of first drafts, and many more of revision. Every published author tells me that I need to forget about what is trendy now, or what seems to be a profitable genre, or how much money the movie deal might make, and just write the books that I’d like to read. And while that advice has it’s own pitfalls, I see what they mean.

I’m going to be pouring my heart out ainto a story for upwards of one hundred thousand words, and then cutting them and writing more for a ungodly number of hours sitting behind the keyboard. If I don’t get something out of that experience, then I might as well stow my metaphorical typewriter on the top shelf and get on with another hobby.

Luckily, I do enjoy the actual-writing bit. It’s kind of a thrill to think up the next chain of events, and the struggle to keep my self pointed toward that next touchstone. There’s a certain quixotic joy in typing some really awful dialogue, knowing that later I’ll cut it with a feral, some might even say “crazy” grin on my face.

This isn’t to say that I’ll have a grin on my face the whole time. The fun can fade as you keep trudging along through what feels like necessary drudgery to set up the good bits. But I’m learning a little more about the craft every time I put hand to keyboard, and overall it is fun. If I’m not lining up words, one after the other, I feel like something vital is missing from my week.

Which brings me to Automaton. I’m eager to start on the editing phase of my book, though I feel there needs to be a little more distance between me any my scribblings. But there are two more partly-finished books that need my attention, and likely a fourth come November (I have yet to fit an entire story in anything close to 50,000 words). I’m looking forward to giving those two a proper ending, and a big part of their middles too.

Yes, writing is fun. And it’s hard. It’s revelatory and it’s monotonous. Kind of like a very long journey. Or perhaps there’s another word for it. Maybe novel writing is like and adventure. A little bit. Except for the peril. I’m glad to do without the peril.