Monday, October 26, 2015

Gearing Up For NaNo

Hey there. Long time, no post.

I've been busily prepping Mender for NaNoWriMo-- or I was until last week, when I realized I was in danger of over-prepping and spending all my enthusiasm for the book before I start writing. It's tricky, because there is so, so much research to do-- it's alternate history, but I feel like I need to know as much as possible about the real history, culture, and customs of the period so that all my deviations are intentional rather than the result of ignorance. Add to that the pressure of writing non-white main characters for the first time, and writing a polyamorous romance when I have no personal experience with it, and I know I have a lot more to read and learn and ask about.

But I also know I need to get a draft of this story down while the heart of it is still beating, if that slightly melodramatic metaphor makes sense.

A week ago, feeling myself starting to get overwhelmed and fatigued by all the prep, I actually forbid myself to do any more of it. Instead, I've been reading a ton*, searching for old paintings and maps of Boston, and picking songs for the book's soundtrack. So far, the songs I've picked are selections from the soundtracks to the movies The Last of the Mohicans, Lincoln, and Belle, as well as the miniseries John Adams, plus a bunch of Chieftains tunes. A pretty good reflection of the mood I'm going for.


*including The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton, a Fantasy/Polyamorous Romance that I thought was amazing. It was like Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series, but if the six main characters were in a group marriage.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Diversiverse: The Broken Kingdoms

This is me participating in the fabulous A More Diverse Universe reading challenge, in which a blogger reads a book by an author of color and then spreads the word about it. Simple, yet incredibly helpful for readers looking to expand their reading horizons. I know I'll be eagerly reading all these reviews to learn about more fantastic spec fic authors of color I should be reading.

I chose to read the Fantasy novel The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison, the second book in her Inheritance trilogy. I read the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a few years ago, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't as impressed by it as I'd expected to be. I think that was less the fault of the book itself than how much I'd heard about it before I read it. THTK was nominated for a Nebula, and I'd read a lot of gushing reviews about how it was the most intense, dazzling original debut EV-ah, so when I read the book I was expecting to be totally blown away, and instead I thought it was a very well-written Fantasy novel with an interesting world and some fresh ideas, but also some re-hashes of stuff I've seen done better in other books, and a romance with way too much melodrama for my tastes.

But. The Broken Kingdoms. OMG. This book did in fact blow me away. The intensity here didn't feel at all like melodrama to me, maybe because most of the action is taking place on the mean streets of the city rather than high above it in a shmancy sky-castle. The violence and struggle of poverty becomes a backdrop for a struggle at the highest levels of human and divine power, and we see how the decisions made by kings and gods play out in the lives of those at the bottom of the power pyramid.

The main character, Oree, is a blind artist from a dispossessed people, and oh yeah, her ex-boyfriend is a god. The Inheritance novels explore the relationships between gods and mortals, but while in THTK that relationship was crashing, epic drama set against a backdrop of O Fortuna, in TBK it feels like experimental jazz fusion-- more casual and urban and complex.

Not that there isn't drama here-- the big stakes are classic Fantasy "entire world will be destroyed" stakes. But the littler stakes and story moments didn't feel overshadowed by that. Oree is a masterfully created protagonist: her identities as a blind woman, a black woman, an artist, a religious believer, and a possessor of strange powers all combine to make a character who felt fresh and totally un-stereotyped to me: passionate yet circumspect, determined to live independently yet longing for companionship, full of faith in her God yet having that faith shaken to the core when she actually meets him.

Lastly, I want to point to something I also appreciated about THTK: Jemison has created a Fantasy world in which race matters and racism is woven into the fabric of society. And not "race" as in "elves oppressing dwarves".I'm talking gulfs between humans with different racial characteristics. Light-skinned people creating a power structure that oppresses darker-skinned people. So often Fantasy flinches away from examining the everyday atrocities of racism, even while it has no issue with (and, some would argue, too eagerly embraces) depicting a male-dominated culture in which women are sexually brutalized. Racism and the challenges of cultural pluralism are some of the themes I'm most interested in writing about, so I'm always excited to read Science Fiction and Fantasy from the diversiverse.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Checking In

Well, it's the 14th of September and I've only done 6 hours of work on Mender this month. I'm going to be busy these next few weeks if I want to make it to 50 hours.

I've sent out seven queries so far, and gotten one rejection. Submitting a novel is more time consuming than I realized, what with the personalizing of query letters and tweaking of sample pages and crossing of fingers.

As I suspected, I didn't get picked for Pitch Wars. Then last week I threw my hat into the ring for Pitch Madness, a 12-hour twitter pitch event in which agents star their favorite pitches to invite the pitchees to query. (I joined twitter just to participate!) I was starred by two agents, both of whom were on my list, so I am thrilled and scampered to send them queries. It may well be that nothing comes of it, but it's nice to get a little encouragement.

Basically, I've been doing exactly what you're not supposed to do when you're submitting: obsessing over submitting rather than falling in love with a new project.

But no longer. Thanks to work I did on this project last year, I have the preliminary character work done enough. Now I'm moving on to two weeks of worldbuilding, which is where I really need to spend the hours. Alternate Historical is tricky-- there are major diversions in my story world from real history (England has been conquered by France, New England is the site of the exiled British monarchy, relations with the native peoples take a very different (but still problematic) trajectory... plus there's, y'know, magic...), but I still don't want to have anything really jarring with the time period (1850s) without a good reason. Plus there are a bunch of cultures making up my New England kingdom-- English, Dutch, French, Wampanoag, Abenaki, and Pequot.

It would be easy to get intimidated by the research and get hung up here, but I've learned from EN and TOB that you don't really know what in-depth worldbuilding you need until you've written a draft. So, two weeks to get the broad strokes down. Then two weeks for plot, and two weeks for whatever needs a little more attention. Then NaNoWriMo!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Just Submitted My First Query...

...and I feel like I'm gonna barf.

It's all feeling very scary and fraught right now.

Doesn't help that's it's 11:38pm and I've been fiddling with wording changes and formatting for the past three hours.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gearing Up for a Month of Changes

I stopped counting hours for August, but I know I came in way over my goal of 30.

My goals for September:

1) 50 hours storybuilding work for Mender, the first book of the new series.

2) start the submission process for TOB.

The Pitch Wars mentor picks will be announced Sept. 2, but I am 99% sure I didn't make it. I never got any e-mails from my mentor picks asking for more material. Oh, well. Onward to querying!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Beta Experience

I'm doing my last pass (for now) through the MS, and I'm a little shocked at how quickly it's going. Much faster when you know exactly what you're trying to do.

Based on some beta feedback, I am considering radically truncating Act I. In the meantime, I've just focused on cutting as much dead weight as possible from chapters 3 and 4 to help pick up the pace and get to plot point 1 sooner. I weeded out about a thousand words, and am going to take another run at it tomorrow.

23.5 hours for August so far.

But really I want to talk about beta readers.

Before this summer, no one had read a completed story of mine since 1998. For one thing, novels take longer to complete and are more of a time investment for the reader. For another, I never got any novel draft to the point that I was willing to let people read it. And for a third, I was scared of feedback.

I've never been the sort of person who takes constructive criticism well. Not my favorite thing about myself, but true. And while I never had my stuff savaged in a writing workshop in college or grad school, I did learn how sucky it can feel to have other people point out problems in your work. Like you're proudly wearing a dress you sewed yourself, feeling absolutely awesome in it, and then someone gently points out that you forgot to sew a back onto the skirt, and your ass is hanging out. You're glad they told you, but you also kind of want to kill them.

I felt different this time, maybe because I knew I'd gotten the book as far as it could go without outside input. Or maybe because the process of finishing a novel humbled me. Or hell, maybe because I've actually grown a little in the last 17 years.

I've had five betas read TOB so far. And the first one to respond didn't like it, and didn't have too much to suggest about what could improve it. And I wasn't crushed at all-- just thought, "well, let's see what the others say."

The next four were all far more positive about the book and had many nice things to say. They also had many, many helpful things to say. I honestly didn't feel like I was being criticized; I felt like I was being helped by people who'd read the book, understood what I'd been trying to convey, and wanted me to make the book the best it could possibly be.

This was exhilarating, both because it was a relief to feel I had backup and the book a cheering section, and because it's still blowing my mind that five people have read my book. It makes the TOB feel so much more real somehow.

So I was surprised by how constructive and non-painful the feedback was. I was also struck by how right-on it was. There's guy on the internet (isn't there always?) who's fond of railing against the practice of beta readers, insisting that any editing undertaken as a response to beta feedback is ill-advised, because people are stupid and only editors who are paying you have legitimate opinions about your writing (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist).

Of course I think all feedback has to be taken with a grain of salt, measured against your vision of your own book. You don't want to run off and change things willy-nilly just because one reader didn't care for them.

On the other hand, people are not stupid. People are your reader. They are also other writers. People can tell you things that might be useful. For me, a majority of what betas pointed to as needing improvement resonated with me as something I knew deep down needed improvement. And a few things I was worried about were actually pointed to as positive things by most of the betas.

It's been interesting how different the feedback is, too. Such different styles, and I'm so glad, because they all caught different things. For example:

One is another writer, who made a lot of the same kinds of comments I make when I beta: I'm not buying this plot point. Your pacing is messed up here. Here's where I'm confused. That last is so helpful, because now I know what needs a little more clarification.

One is copy-editor, who line edited the hell of the thing. The other betas all noted many of my little errors, so I'd already fixed a bunch, but this lady caught eeevvvvvverything imaginable, from many, many unnecessary commas, to head-slapping things like "wait-- I thought it was his front leg that was missing?"

And one is a voracious reader and book reviewer, who wrote a what is basically a review. It was amazingly cool to get this perspective-- all about the feeling of reading it, of being connected to or disconnected from characters, about what story arcs are most compelling, and about the overall shape of the book and how it might become... shapelier.

Anyway, I'm writing a book here, but a huge heartfelt public thank you to ALL my beta readers, including the sixth one standing by to read my post-feedback edit. Thank you for the time, effort, and mental energy you expended just to help a chick you've never met make her book that much closer to awesome.

Now I'm all verklempt.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Submitted

*gulp*

Pitch Wars submissions opened early, so I went for it and submitted today. I spent a big chunk of yesterday in the library, making notes on the subtle changes I need to weave through the books, and then re-reading the MS and beginning to make those changes. I also wrote another version of my query-- at least #15.

I have to read through the rest of the MS for the edit, and need to finish a synopsis-- and I need to do this stuff quickly. But for right now, I am just taking a deep breath.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Where I'm At

I've got six more days until Pitch Wars.

I had a bunch of small things to fix or clarify based on beta reader feedback, and I've done most of that. I have a few more complicated things to address, but it's not vital that they be done by Sunday since all I need to submit by then is Chapter 1. I'll need all revisions done soon, though. Either I'll be accepted by a PW mentor and have to send my full MS, or I won't be chosen and will move on to cold querying.

I just finished the latest version of my query and posted it for feedback last night. So far it seems like this might be it. *insert muppet flail of joy* I need that for the PW submission, so phew.

In the process of writing this version of the query, I realized there's an aspect of Willa's motivation that I've not made explicit enough. Adding this will be complicated-- not in terms of needing to write lots of words, but in figuring out exactly where to weave a few words into the existing fabric of the story.

My synopsis is in a sorry state. I've got a very stripped-down one-page version nearly done. A synopsis isn't officially required for PW, but the rules warn that some mentors will ask you for one to help them make up their minds. So ideally I would have this done by Sunday.

Today is rainy and depressing, so I'm going to try to hit the library for a few hours, and then tomorrow my mother-in-law is taking The Son for a while so I can tutor, but I'll wind up with some extra time as well. My goals for these 4+ hours:

8/11

1) finish making all the relatively simple changes to the MS --got most of these done today; just a few more to do

2) figure out where I want to weave through the thread of Willa's additional motivation

3) finish the one-page synopsis template of the story's main arc --done!

4) if possible, complete two more one-page synopses of the two secondary arcs --got one of these done

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A- for Diligence, C+ for Focus

4 days into August, and I'm at over 5 hours of writing work. However, I keep hopping from one thing to the next. By the end of the month, I want to have my query, synopsis, and a (for now) final edited copy of TOB.

Over the weekend I worked on the synopsis, using this intriguing one-page model. It's too flimsy for my needs, but helped me nail down the central story arc.

Then earlier in the week I got sidetracked into working on M (first book of the new series) using the same simplified synopsis model. I have a pretty good picture of what I want the first quarter of the book to be, with all the various story threads, but I was missing the skeleton of what happens in the rest of the book. Now I have that skeleton!

Then I started going through the in-text comments one of my beta readers made on TOB, fixing the (many) technical errors, and making notes about things to clarify. I got about halfway through the MS, and am going to try to finish it tomorrow. And then I'll probably move on to the query for a day or two.

With luck, all this hopscotching around will get me where I want to go!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

August Plans

New month, new goals!

I fell out of counting my writing hours these past two months. In June I had other goals (and probably worked more in hours anyway), and in July I needed some space from writing demands. But now I'm feeling the need to get back in the swing.

August is going to be a challenging month for finding writing time. The Son is done with camps, and I'm facing down a solid month of having to play Cruise Director. All things considered, I think 30 hours is a reasonable goal.

My non-time based goals are to finish my query and synopsis, and also to do yet another final edit for TOB. I've had two out of five beta readers give me crits so far, and they've both been incredible helpful in their own ways-- even though they sometimes disagree. I think having five readers was a good move, because if five people all point to something and say, This is a Problem, you know it's probably not just a matter of taste.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Next Big Thing

So let's talk about my next book!

What-- too soon?

I do plan to return to Eleven Names within the next six months. But before that, I'd like to get a rough draft for the other series I've mind-playing with. This decision is partly practical (if I don't get anywhere querying TOB, I can refocus my energies on developing a story in a different world/genre) and partly visceral (I'm just more jazzed to work on it than EN).

I've blogged about this project before. The pieces of it had been floating around my subconscious for years, and finally coalesced into a story last fall: Fantasy meets Alternate History meets polyamorous Romance. Set in an alternate New England c.1850, with magic. A four-part series... so, a tetralogy, I guess, but what an awkward word.

I worked on it for six weeks in late 2014 and got:

*fairly detailed character profiles for my quartet of main characters
*the beginnings of the alternate Bible stories I need-- basically, just Genesis and Jesus
*a phase outline of the first quarter or so of the first book
*a broad strokes sketch of the series
*some preliminary research: read a few comps, gathered some info on New England native peoples

My plan (which I will talk about in great and gory detail in a later post) is to begin official storybuilding/prep work on Sept. 1. Until then, I'll work on completing my submission packet for TOB, and farting around with whatever I feel like doing on the new project. I probably have a minimum of ten books to read for research to even write a first draft, so I should get hopping on that, too.

Series name: The Sacred Talents
Title of the first book: Mender

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TOB Progress Report

TOB has been out with beta readers for nearly two weeks. Once the crits start rolling in, I'll be doing some editing, I'm sure.

Query v.13 has gotten some good comments, and now I'm letting it marinate. It makes me chuckle, because the thing is bleeding red with comments, like a paragraph on each line-- and then the poster invariably ends with "but I think you're really close!" Thank dog for them. As confusing as it can be to get a lot of feedback, queries are such a tightrope act, and it's so difficult for a writer to see what's confusing about their own work, that I'd be screwed without perspective from other writers who've been though it.

I've been working on my synopsis, following the plan in Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon. The first few steps were surprisingly helpful in showing me things I need to add or highlight more in the MS itself. Today I made a bullet list of all the scenes in the book, and just that is 500 words. Ugh. Getting this thing to no more than two pages is going to be hard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Query v.13 Done

An hour was enough to get a new version of the query done. I've posted it up on AW and have already gotten some great feedback. I made it a deliberately stripped-down version, so I have space to spend a few words clarifying the things that are still confusing. But I think it's close!

Tomorrow I'm going to get started on the dreaded synopsis. Cue the ominous organ music.

Back in the Query Trenches

My brain has had its little holiday. I read a few books, took The Son to Boston to enjoy an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and had my biennial fall on The Parent's bloodthirsty driveway. Not to worry-- I broke the fall with my face. I look like someone punched me in the nose.

Today I'm getting back to work on the query. I've written approximately 12 versions of the thing, each one a bit better than the last. Then I posted it for feedback on Absolute Write, and realized it still kind of sucks. So I'm working on a major overhaul. My plan is to work on it for an hour a day until I have a new version to post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Done! Sort Of. For Now.

The Owl Bearer is in the hands of beta readers! It took me longer than it should have to complete the final read-through and line edit. I wasn't able to work on it for a few days, and then when I tried to go back to it my mind was just like, NOPE. But I got it done, and now I get a blessed few weeks in which I don't have to think about it. I should be working on my query and synopsis, but not this week. I need a break.

Knowing that actual people are reading it is a weird feeling. No one's read my fiction since grad school, lo these twenty years ago. I want beta readers to give me feedback because I've reached the point where I don't know what else to do to make it better. I want to make it better, so I want the readers to tell me what's wrong... but at the same time, it's hard to let go of the cringing embarrassment of letting people read something I know is not perfect. It's a weird mix of feelings: the relief of having gotten this far, the vulnerability of exposing all my writing imperfections, and the gratitude that five people have agreed to spend a little chunk of their lives trying to help me make this book all it can be.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Almost There

In true Excavating the Relic fashion, I will be a few days late finishing the fiddle. I've been working on it, but I think I'm fried from the push to finish the draft, because I can only read it for an hour at a time before I can't focus on it any more and I need a serious break. I did the first third of the book, and it took me so much longer than I thought it would to read it and make notes. But then the type-in took much less time, and I didn't have any trouble at all focusing on it. Weird.

My goal for today is to finish reading the second third of the book, and then, if I have time, start the type-in.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Update

1) Word-search edit Act 4, spell and grammar check, copy and paste it into the larger document.

2) Make some small changes I know I need to make-- mostly changing names, or adding a few lines here and there, or deleting one entire small story thread that I inserted thinking i'd need for the climax but then I didn't.

3) Print document and read it. --sent to printer

4) Fix any issues I see: consistency, timeline, chapters that end in the wrong place, plot holes, etc.

5) Read it again, out loud. Line edit as I go.

6) Final spellcheck.

Let the Fiddling Begin

I have nine days to fiddle with the draft before I send it to beta readers. Here's what I'd like to do in that time, listed in order of priority. I am 100% sure I won't get to it all.

1) Word-search edit Act 4, spell and grammar check, copy and paste it into the larger document.

2) Make some small changes I know I need to make-- mostly changing names, or adding a few lines here and there, or deleting one entire small story thread that I inserted thinking i'd need for the climax but then I didn't.

3) Print document and read it.

4) Fix any issues I see: consistency, timeline, chapters that end in the wrong place, plot holes, etc.

5) Read it again, out loud. Line edit as I go.

6) Final spellcheck.

I'm going to work on 1) today, but not until I've done some work for the day job. I've neglected it this week, and I have six documents that need to be prepared and sent out, and a bunch of other smaller tasks.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ran Out of Friday

*sigh*

I ran out of Friday. It's 11:35 and I still have about 1-2 hours left to do... after working 6.5 hours today.  I'm so, so close-- just a few more paragraphs, really-- but they're tricky paragraphs (including the final one), and I'm out of juice.

Tomorrow, dog willing.

One Chapter Left

I edited for four hours today and got the penultimate chapter done. For something I had to pretty much construct from scratch, it was surprisingly painless. Someone once said that a story is like a funnel, starting at the wide end with all kinds of possibilities; by the time you reach the end, there are only so many choices you can make. This was the "tying up threads" chapter, and I could see what threads needed to be tied.

I've done about a third of the final chapter. I'm guessing it'll be about 2-3 hours of work. I've got an hour now before I have to bring The Son to a Cub Scout cookout, and then I'll do more after he goes to bed.

I'll post again when it's done... even if that turns out to be tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Snag

Yesterday I finished another chapter, which left me with two to go.

Today, I sat down to work-- late, thanks to a migraine-- and realized that due to changes I've made throughout the book, very little of of what I had in this penultimate chapter is going to work.

I figured out what needs to happen, made an outline, and got about halfway through the writing, but now I've left myself with a chapter and a half to edit tomorrow. I may need to extend my deadline to Saturday. If so, it won't be the end of the world-- I'll just have nine days to fiddle rather than ten.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Another Chapter Down

I feel like I'm racing toward the finish line now. This is partly because these last chapters are quite short compared to the earlier ones. It's also partly because these last chapters need less editing-- which I suspected would be the case, but it's like a miracle that easy edits are actually happening. And finally, it's partly because I have summit fever and working 3-4 hours a day on it feels like not that much.

I just finished The Art of Slow Writing --which I have LOTS to say about; just not this week-- and she quotes Zadie Smith as saying the best reason to write a book is the way you feel for the four and a half hours after you write the last word. I feel like I'm tasting a little of what that feeling is right now.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Chapter a Day

Yeah, so, somehow I didn't make the connection that I have five chapters left to edit in five days.

New plan: chapter a day.

I edited for three hours and twenty minutes today, and finished chapter twenty-six. This is definitely feeling doable.

The Plan for June

This is like plan inception. Plans within plans.

The overarching plan for the month is to write for 50 hours. That's been working out beautifully so far.

My more goal-oriented plan for the first half of June is to have a MS of TOB ready to send to beta readers by 11:59pm on June 15. I told the readers I got through the Beta Project that I'd be ready by "mid June", and I'm sticking to that, dammit. Plus, my fourth (gulp) bookiversary is coming up at the end of the month, and I will cry if I haven't moved on to the beta stage by then.

I want to have ten days to read and fiddle before I send it out. Actually, I'd love to have ten months, but at some point I have to say enough is enough and accept that it's not going to be a perfect, shining jewel before I let someone read it.

That leaves me five days to finish the edit. I have just over 9,000 words to go, which works out to 1,800 a day. That's a lot for me, but I think it's doable. Maybe. We'll see.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The End of May

A tad down to the wire, but I made it to 50 hours for the month of May. Third month in a row! Yay consistency.

I've got five chapters of Act 4 edited, with five to go.

About 9,000 words left to edit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Three Chapters Down...

...and nearly done with the fourth.

Numbers game:

*I've edited 40 hours so far in May, with 10 to go before the end of the month.

*I've edited 3.8 chapters of Act 4, with 6.2 left.

*By word count, I'm 45% through Act 4.

*I've edited ~90,000 out of ~105,000 words of the book as a whole.

I'm getting there, but sometimes it feels like a Zeno's paradox situation. Halfway through the book... then halfway through the second half... then halfway through the final quarter...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two Chapters Down

I'm at 29.5 hours in May so far, and am 30% of the way through Act 4.

I'm starting to get excited. Guys, I think I am actually going to FINISH a BOOK!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

One Chapter Down...

...nine to go to finish the book. I'm about a third of the way through the next one.

I was feeling discouraged until I checked the word count and realized I'm nearly a quarter of the way through Act 4. Some of these chapters toward the end are short, yo.

A quarter done is still way behind where I'd hoped I'd be by mid-month... but it's way ahead of one-tenth done, which is where I thought I was based on chapters.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Slow, But Painful-- Part the Third

Good news: the Beta Project has yielded me another beta reader! I've had a few other offers, so it's looking like I have 4-5 generous readers willing to give feedback.

Bad news: to quote The Husband, it's been Slow But Painful lately. I blithely thought I would just fly through Act 4, but here we are at mid-month and I am still on the first chapter.

I was derailed for a few days this week by two tragedies that hit close to home, but I worked for 4 hours today and am almost where I should be in terms of hours. This first chapter is probably the longest of the whole Act. The first scene went smoothly, but the second just took forever. Now I'm halfway through the third. The chapter after this is just one scene that needs only light editing, so I'm hoping the pace picks up. I am nervous about finishing the edit, plus having time for a last read-through, by the end of the month.

But hey! I didn't stop. Go me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Plan

I've worked for 9 hours in May so far.

Act 3 is trimmed, spell- and grammar-checked, and copied and pasted into the master "final" file.

I made myself an outline of Act 4:

19 story chunks in 10 chapters (some chapters near the end are very short).

Of the 19:

14 need relatively minor editing
5 need more extensive editing

Not too awful. I'm already through the first chunk. 18 to go!


Friday, May 1, 2015

May Goals

50 hours a month seems to be working well-- easily achievable, yet enough to make some serious progress. So that will be my overall goal for May.

More specific goals:

*finish word-search trimming and spell/grammar checking Act 3
*edit Act 4
*word-search trim and spell/grammar check Act 4
*one last read-through
*send to Betas!

In addition, I'll have 3 crits to do for the beta project, as well as getting started on any beta offers I make (I intend to make at least 2).

I worked for 2.5 hours today and am close to done with the Act 3 trimming. The bad news is that this tends to take longer than I expect it to. The good news is that I've cut ~1,300 words so far.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Most Stoked

I did it!

50 hours in April, despite the week of zero writing.

Finished writing Act 3.

Got through about half of the same kind of word-search trimming I did for the first half of the book. I've cut ~700 words this way so far, so that's good. I am determined to come in no higher than 105,000 words!

Whew.

I am so, so stoked right now.

Act 4 still to do. Target completion date: May 20.

So Close

It's the countdown to the end of the month, and I am soooooo close to making both my goals. I have to write for three hour and forty-five minutes today, and I have one more short, action-packed scene to finish the revision of Act 3. I know I still have a whole quarter of the book still to go, but I can't tell you how excited I am to have this part of it behind me!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Six Chapters Down

Just one more to go to finish up the most arduous quarter of this revision!

I'm at 41.5 hours for April so far, which means I have a lot to do these next three days, but I am confident I can make it 50 hours, and confident I can finish Act 3.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five Chapters Down

BAM! I am on fire, baby.

I finished the last completely new scene, too. Thank dog. It's all editing from here to the end. No more making up new stuff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Four Chapters Down

Only three more to go to finish up Act 3. They're shorter chapters, though-- pagewise, I'm 75% through the Act. And I'm already like halfway through the next chapter. PSA: when you write 3-4 hours a day instead of one hour, you get 3-4 times as much done. True story!

I've hit 25 hours for April so far. Yeah, yeah, I know there's only 9 days left in the month. I'll get there. Or not. But either way, I'll get closer if I don't ditch the 50-hour goal.

I'm also signing up for the Beta Project over at Absolute Write. You submit your entry (info about your story, info about what you're looking for in a beta, and the first 750 words) to the moderator (who must be a saint-- this thing sounds like a bitch to organize). The mod posts all the entries anonymously, then pm's you to let you know which two you've been assigned to critique. So every one gets two critiques of their sample. Meanwhile, everyone can look through all the entries and choose which ones they'd like to beta. With luck, I'll come out of it with a few writer-betas (who are useful in a different way from reader-betas, which I also need). In any case, it's a big external push to have this edit done by mid-May. Ish.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Back in the Swing

Between crunch time at work and traveling for The Son's school vacation, I haven't written in a week. I am not giving up on 50 hours for April, though-- it just means I have to work my butt off for the next 10 days.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Three Chapters Down

Things are rolling along much better now, and I'm feeling much perkier about the book. The cops have broken up the pity party.

I'm at 16.5 hours for April so far, and this next week it's going to be a huge challenge to find writing time: The Son is on school vacation; I have a ton of tutoring work to do-- sessions, prep, and admin; we're trying to smooth relations between our cat and my mother-in-law's cat, whom we're cat sitting for; we're going out of town to visit The Parent for a few days; and I have an article deadline. I'm going to try to do an hour a day, but that will leave me playing catch-up the last third of April.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Checking In

I am out of the gloom, so thank goodness for that. I've written the two new scenes, and have decided to shift one other scene to Act IV. So that leaves 8.5 scenes left in Act III, only one of which is brand new (and fairly short). That feels totally doable by the end of the month, though I can already hear God laughing. I'm over making time predictions, though-- that's so 2013.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Two Chapters Down

Five more to go to finish editing Act 3.

I need every teeny milestone I can get right now. I'm in a dark pit of yuck about the book again. Not so much about the actual book-- more about how long it's taking me to write it.  I am cringingly embarrassed to keep coming back here and posting that I'm not done yet. I have always had issues with finishing things; it's one of my least favorite of my character traits. Blogging about the book feels like a weekly exercise in self-loathing.

Gee, aren't I a ray of sunshine today? Really, I'll be fine. I am stamping the adage "the only way to finish things is by NOT STOPPING" on my forehead and moving on. The next two scenes I have to write are from scratch, which is bumming me out. Draft three and I still have to make new shit up?? Why didn't I just make up the right shit the first time?

I need to keep telling myself that right now is the worst of it. Once I'm past these two scenes, there is only one more from-scratch scene in the whole book. The rest of it all just straight-up editing, and will move faster than I'm moving now.

If I don't stop, the book will be done.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Wrap-Up

I did it! 50 hours of editing in March.

I'm just finishing the monster scene I've been mired in for like a week. I've also been inspired to work on a later scene, so have been flitting back and forth between them and have them both pretty much done.

For April, I'm doing another 50 hours. Really, my goal is to NOT STOP until I am done with this draft and ready to send the WHOLE thing to beta readers.

Friday, March 20, 2015

One Chapter Down

Happy Spring! Now if it would only get above freezing so that three inch sheet of ice on my walkway steps would finally melt.

I've finished revising the first chapter of the dreaded Act 3. Now I'm on to a long and talky scene-- another which exists in the last version but needs extensive reworking. The scene after that, though, is one that needs only a few little tweaks and some prettying up.

I'm up to 36.5 hours for March so far.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mid-Month Check-In

30.5 hours of editing in March so far.

The fiddling with the first half of the book is done-- well, mostly. As I work on scenes for Act 3, I think of little tweaks to better set up what's coming.

At the moment, I'm hacking away at the second story block. This is a scene that existed in the last draft, but that needs extensive reworking. Basically, I had two scenes in this Act with Willa and another character. I decided to swap the locations of these scenes. The essentials of the scene-- location, action, topics discussed-- don't need to change, but the tone does.

In the old version of the scene I'm working on, Willa was absolutely furious with this character, and the betrayal she felt made for a very tense and bitter conversation. Now that the scene has shifted to just after the mid-point, her whole mood is completely different. She's thrilled to see him-- has in fact been pinning all her hopes on him-- and he is going to completely let her down. So whereas the old version of the conversation went: betrayed fury --> righteous indignation --> confusing offer leading to ambivalence, the new version goes: happy excitement --> confusion --> irritation --> confusing offer leading to ambivalence --> chilling realization that something is seriously off here.

That's the state of the writing at mid-month!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Still Trimming...

...but almost done. I only have "was" left to do, which will be a biggie. I did "-ly" today. It's not a matter of ruthlessly eliminating all adverbs and forms to "to be"; it's more about looking at every single one and deciding if that adverb is necessary, or if there's a stronger way to write the sentence than a "she was" construction.

Sunday I took a break from trimming and spent The Son's snowboarding lesson making notes about Act 3. I have a decent outline now, with 20 chunks of story to get through. Of those chunks:

*7 already exist from the last draft, and shouldn't need more work than cosmetic touch-ups

*7 already exist, but need more extensive reworking to fit in with the changes I want to make to the Act

*6 do not currently exist in any form and need to be written from scratch

So that's not TOO horrible.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trimming the Fat

I've got March by the nuts so far-- 4 days in and I've edited for 10.5 hours already. Woot!

I finished Act II and tacked it into the same file as Act I. Now I'm doing search function editing-- searching for commonly abused words and eliminating or rewriting as needed. So far I've done:

suddenly
very
really
every, everyone, everything (holy crap did I have a ton of these)
that
felt
realized
saw

This kind of editing is fun like cleaning out your junk closet is fun. It's not like you look forward to doing it, but once you get on a roll it's deeply satisfying to chuck all this crap cluttering up your life. I've cut more than 1,500 words (weak, crappy words mourned by nobody), which blows my mind.

It's a little scary how insidious this stuff can be. Like, I know you're not supposed to use suddenly. I read once that you can get away with it twice in a whole novel. I would have sworn I only used it twice in TOB. Nope-- there were at least twenty! Same thing with very, that, and really-- I was very sure that I really didn't use them much! ;)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February in Review

I know I've been quiet lately. Not much to say, I guess.

I made my goal! 40 hours of editing this month. Almost half of that has been on one damn chapter, which was such a mess I've had to completely rip it apart and rebuild it. I'm almost done with Act 2 now. In a way it's discouraging-- I've worked 70 hours since Jan. 1 and all I've accomplished it re-editing the stuff I already edited last year. But I know I've made it stronger.

My goal for March is 50 hours. Act 3 is going to take me forever to edit-- it's always been the most difficult part of the book for me, and the whole first half has to radically change. I have no idea how long it will take me to fix it. The good news, though, is that Act 4 needs only cosmetic editing, and I am confident I can get that done in a month. So I'm guessing 3 more months of editing before I have a full draft ready beta readers. If anyone's still with me here and willing to beta in June/July, let me know!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February Goals

I've decided that my goal for February will be 40 hours of editing. I've done 5 hours so far this week, and am on to Act 2.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday is the New Monday

Oops. Forgot to write my check-in post yesterday. Not that I have much to say these days. It's just that usually a long silence from me means I'm not writing, and I am. I've been really consistent about working on TOB for an hour a day, and I feel good about it. This week, I've been using more or all of the hour on editing instead of doing exercises, and have made some good progress.

Now I'm contemplating what I want my goals for Feb. to be. I'd like to increase the pace a little, but not so much that I get overwhelmed. I also have some ideas for slightly more interesting blog content than this!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mid-Month Check-In

Consistent. That's the word for this month. I'm consistently doing an hour a day-- half editing, half exercises. My pace is slow but I feel really good about the changes I'm making. I felt like I was flailing a little in the last run-though of the draft-- I was making things sound better, but wasn't sure what else needed to change to make the story have the impact I want it to. The exercises in 21st Century Fiction are just what I needed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Check-In

Not much to report. I've been consistent about working an hour a day, usually a half-hour of exercises and a half-hour of editing. I'm halfway through Act I now. Not changing much-- just a little shaping and sharpening to better lay the foundation for what's to come.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Edit Update Monday

Not the catchiest title, but it sums up my intentions nicely. I have decided to spare this blog the daily blow-by-blow of working on the edit, and will instead update every Monday until the thing is done.

My update for this week is pretty dull: Still chugging along at an hour a day, still working on the exercises in 21st Century Fiction, still repairing plot holes.

Friday, January 2, 2015

So Far, So Good

I've been working an hour a day. My plan to January is to spend 20-30 minutes a day writing about what I'm writing (using the zillions of questions and exercises in 21st Century Fiction), and the rest of the time working on the edit, starting over on page 1. I expect the first half to go very quickly; it's already had an editing pass, and according to my woven-together arcs it is structurally sound. I just want to make sure I'm laying all the threads I need to for maximum impact later. Also, it's helping to get my head back in the story, which is what I need most right now.