Wednesday, October 26, 2016


I am one-third of the way through revising Mender.

I know! It's nuts!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Revising Update

I think I've found my revising groove. There are three tasks to complete for each chapter:

1) Read chapter, make notes on the chapter.

2) Make those changes to the chapter in the MS.

3) Read the chapter out loud to smooth any awkward wording or cut-and-paste boo-boos.

It's kind of nice, because these three things are all pretty different, so I can pick whatever I'm most in the mood to do and make progress. So if I'm like, "Ugh, I don't feel like writing words today," I can just read and make notes on the next chapter.

So far I've made notes on the first 6 chapters, and made the changes to the first 3. I haven't done any of the reading-out-loud part yet.

The first chapter needed a lot of work, and will probably need a lot more smoothing in the read-through. But the subsequent chapters have gone much more quickly. So far, it looks like my first draft was pretty clean!

In the exercises I did before I began the revision, I identified one scene that will need to be cut and replaced with a new one, but that may wind up being the only new scene. We'll see once I get to the dreaded third quarter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Contact With the Enemy

So, good news: I don't think it's too soon to be reading the book. I ripped the first chapter apart (which was no surprise-- the first few chapters always need a ton of revision), and felt like I knew what I was doing and what the chapter needs to be stronger.

Not really "bad" news-- more like "hmmmm" news: I'm having a difference of opinion with myself about the sequence of the revision steps. My original idea was that I'd read and make notes on the entire draft, then make those changes in the Scrivener file. Now that I've made notes all over chapter one, however, I'm wanting to go edit the chapter now, while my idea of what needs to be done is fresh  in my mind. So I think that's what I'm going to do-- for now, at least.

Revision: Step Nine

Okay. Deep breath.

Today I start reading the book. Up until now, I've been pretty confident as I work my way through these revision steps, but from here on out it gets mad murky, yo. I don't know if this is too soon for me to be reading and I should be waiting a few months for it to get colder. I don't know how long it's going to take me. I don't know how extensive the notes will be. I don't know exactly where I'm going to work or exactly what my process will be. That's a lot to not know about something I'm starting in half an hour, and it's making me anxious.

Here's what I do have:

1) A printed copy of the MS. I decided not to hole-punch and bind it this time, because in the past I've found that a cumbersome way to work. Instead, I've stapled each chapter and stuffed the whole thing back into the plastic bag from the copy shop.

2) 30+ pages of notes, including the "to add" list I made as I wrote, exercises, research notes, and a new and improved timeline.

3) Colored pens, sticky note tabs, highlighters, a notebook, and a clipboard.

4) A vaguely-articulated idea that I shouldn't be reading the book in the same places I wrote it. In order to see it fresh, the argument goes, change as much as you can. If you wrote the book on a screen, read it on paper. Change the font and the margins. Read it in different physical locations than where you wrote it. I wrote Mender probably 80% in the quiet reading room of the library, 15% on my living room couch, and 5% in the back seat of my car in the parking lot of The Son's school. I'm going to try reading in several places this week, but for today it's gonna have to be the library because I'm tutoring there later and I don't feel like scampering around town. I'll try sitting at a table, which I almost never do to write. (For some weird reason, I can't write fiction if my feet are touching the ground. True story.)

5) A tentative revision approach, open to much revision of its own if it hinders more than it helps. The sequence:

a) Read the chapter. Okay to make quick corrections of typos or whatever, but restrain from making extensive notes. Try to just read it.

b) Jot down my overall impressions. Anything not working? Do I need more or less description? Are the characters coming off the way I want? Make notes on the MS of where to add/delete or tweak.

c) Review my notes-- what from the list can be addressed in this chapter? Make notes showing where to add.

d) Rinse and repeat 35 more times.

Wish me luck! I've allotted myself 15 days for this step, but who the heck knows.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Revision: Step Eight

Last step before I dig into the nitty-gritty of revising! Today my only task is to gather all the notes and materials I need for tomorrow. I've already printed out 19 pages of notes, and I probably have another 20 or so of handwritten notes to pull out of my notebook. I also have a red pen, 2 highlighters, a clipboard, and a pack of those little tab-like sticky notes. I feel like a soldier preparing for a very strange battle.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Revision: Step Seven

I have what I think is very close to a final query done. I also have a version of the synopsis that is too long (1,300 words) and probably too plodding, but at least accurately reflects the content of the book. There's a reason everyone hates writing synopses: if you've tightly woven your plot, it's hard to leave anything out. For example (and being very vague): in one climactic scene, Mary frees herself from a seemingly impossible situation using tools and information she got during an encounter with a minor character much earlier in the book. If I don't explain that she has these tools and information, her escape comes off as simplistic and dumb, but in order to explain I have to include this earlier, seemingly-insignificant encounter in the synopsis. Bleah. It's good enough for now.

Step Seven is to re-read all the character and worldbuilding work I did before I started the draft, and make any corrections so I have an accurate story Bible. I also need to make a firm timeline using the actual days of the week from 1851/1852. I've allotted two days for this.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Revision: Step Six

Step six is to write my query and synopsis. I have a solid draft of the query that just needs some fiddling, and I have an old version of the synopsis I wrote a year ago, back when I was doing the story building work for Mender. I'm sure the story has deviated quite a bit from what's in it, so that will need quite a lot of work-- but I least I have the framework to hang the changes on, rather than having to build the whole thing from scratch.

I've allotted two days for this step.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Revision: Step Five

The next step is to plot out what happens in book 2 of the series (title: Maker). I did a little of this back when the laptop was in the shop, but now I've allotted two more days to get a rough sketch of the plot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I've been tagged by Sharon for the Real Neat Blog Award! Thank you, Sharon! The directions say to make up your own questions and tag seven more bloggers, but... um... I don't know seven other bloggers. I'll do my best.

1) What bookish activities do you participate in (besides actually, you know, reading)?

I read Sharon's blog! I used to read a few other reader-review blogs as well, but the ones I liked best stopped posting, so now I'm pretty review-blog-monogamous. I do participate in message board threads about books, and in the past month or two I've discovered BookTube, and found a few whose content I enjoy and taste I respect. I'm also in a meatspace book club.

2) What are the five most recent books you've put on your radar (to-read, library hold, acquired, etc.)?

1) Giant Days, Vol. 3 -- released today; ordered today from amazon. 'Nuff said.
2) Lifelode by Jo Walton --added to amazon wish list today.
3) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson --added to my informal TBR list a week or two ago.
4) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater --next book I plan to take out of the library.
5) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs-- ordered the audiobook for a Christmas present for The Son; we will wind up listening to this together in the car.

3) What book or author do you push into people's hands most often?

Most of the people I know IRL are parents, so I wind up recommending The Son's favorite books: The True Meaning of Smekday, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, and anything by Rick Riordan.

4) Library or bookstore?

Ooh, that's tough. For most of my life I would have said bookstore, but in the past few years I've discovered the joys of borrowing books, and I actually spend a LOT of time at my local library, since I tutor there, and it's the best place for me to work when I'm drafting a novel. Plus, both the BAM and the used book store in my area just closed in the last year. So I think library is winning at the moment.

5) Ebook or print? (Feel free to get emotional on the subject.)

Print, though I do have Kindle for Mac and sometimes read ebooks on my laptop (I'm reading War and Peace that way now, after starting it on audiobook). I'm warming up to the idea of an e-reader for several purposes, but I also feel like my brain interacts with text differently when it's on paper, and I suspect there are some books I would much prefer to read that way no matter how comfortable I eventually, inevitably become with ebooks.

6) What was the last book that you did not finish?

It may wind up being the book I'm reading right now for book club: I Love Dick by Chris Krause. I hate this book so much it's making me physically angry to read it. The front matter is like four pages of reviewers hyperbolizing over how this is the most brilliant, important feminist novel to come out of the 20th century, and the back cover is just a bunch of name-dropping of post-feminist celebrities who luuurve it (Lena Dunham! Tavi Gevinson! Alexa Chung!). But I think it is a giant pile of crap that exemplifies everything I despise about the Literary Fiction/Literary Criticism circle jerk of shallow pretentiousness. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that this book exemplifies everything that made me leave my MFA program to move to a small town in the country and start writing genre fiction.

7) Who do you share books with? What are your bookish communities?

I belong a feminist message board that has several book threads (where I met Sharon, in fact), but I don't post to the main fiction one because I feel like everyone's having serious conversations about Highly Lauded Books That Matter, and I'm over here reading space opera or YA fantasy or some shit. Also, because of the nature of that board, threads go on forever and ever and it can be intimidating to jump into a long-running conversation-- like, there's no way if the book you're posting about was just the subject of a 5-page discussion last week without going back and reading a lot of content.

However, I also belong to a baby naming message board, and am a frequent contributor on the book threads there, I think because the book threads start fresh each month, there are fewer people participating in the discussion, and I find the conversation easier to follow.

There's also my book club, which is a kind of hilariously cliché "moms drinking wine and eating brownies and gossiping about the teacher who got arrested for DUI, and oh shit it's 9:30 we need to start talking about the book!" book club. But the women are great and it gets me reading things I wouldn't pick up otherwise. I Love Dick notwithstanding.

That was fun!

I'm going to tag:


And that's all I got. Sorry! Though I'd love to hear your answers, Sharon. We could go back and forth forever.

1) What was your first book love?
2) Where is your favorite place to read?
3) What do you use for bookmarks?
4) Have you read any books you liked but were embarrassed to read in public because the cover and/or title was so awful?
5) If you could choose any author to write a book to your specifications, who would it be?
6) What is your favorite book couple/love story of all time?
7) Audiobooks: yay or nay?

Revision: Step Four

Step Four is to work out what happens in the climactic scene of the whole series, waaaaay down the line in book four that may never be written if I don't sell book one. But I need to know roughly what happens so I don't miss a chance to start setting it up now.

I've allotted one day for this.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Revision: Step Three

Reading Week has come to an end. In seven days I read, finished, or started:

*Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (last 200 pages)
*Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton (last 260 pages)
*What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-- the Details of Life in 19th-Century England by Daniel Pool
*Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sano Takeda (graphic novel)
*Saga Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel)
*The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
*Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
*The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac (first 40 pages)
*The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (first 130 pages)

Now it's onto the next step, which is to finish the exercises I starred in 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. I've only allotted one day for this step, since I did a bunch of them back when my laptop was in the shop.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reading Week

All the category two items are fixed, and the MS has been spellchecked, exported, and sent to the copy shop.

I've kind of been a grump this whole weekend. Natalie Goldberg once wrote that she's irrationally angry for a while after finishing a novel, like she carried these characters on her back over jagged mountains and now that they've reached their destination they just skip off without a how-dee-do. I thought she was nuts, but now I think I know what she means. I feel kind of like my four best friends just moved cross-country together and I have no idea when I'll see them again.

Good thing the next step to my revision plan is Reading Week!

As I've mentioned before, at my enchanted hippie woodland wonderland college we had something called Reading Week, which was a really just week off from classes to study for midterms. I've always loved the notion of a week in which reading is the main thing you're supposed to be doing, instead of the thing you're doing when you should be doing other things.

This Reading Week is intended to serve several purposes:

*give my grumpy-ass self a little vacation, so I can come back to revising with a better attitude.
*help get the story out of my head, so I'm ready to read it with fresh eyes.
*read some books that include elements from my own book, so I can see how other authors have done it.

I have a stack of books awaiting me, some already in progress. The only one I'm committing to finishing this week is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: Everyday Life in Nineteenth Century England for research. Now, The Sacred Talents is an Alternate Historical Fantasy series, so it's not like I need to worry about being historically accurate, since there was no time in history that that King Francis II lost the British Isles to France and was forced to relocate the Crown to the New World. And I have been doing research as I write. That said, there's a lot of little stuff I just don't grok about which servants are referred to by their first names, and which by their last names only, and which by Mr. or Miss Whoever, and all that other nitpicky bullshit that seems psychotically complicated to a relentlessly informal Amurrican gal like m'self.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Goals for October

New month, new phase of the book, new goals!

First off, I'm not setting an hours goal for this month. I feel like I'm in a good groove with carving out enough time to write, and the nature of the work I need to do this month doesn't lend itself to tracking time. However, November is always very challenging month schedule-wise for me, so I'll probably reinstate the hours goal then.

True to form, I've made a ridiculously detailed 12-step revision plan, with time estimates for each step. Some of these are concrete allowances, as in "I will not spend more than x number of days doing this", while two are much more uncertain, as in "I think two weeks is enough for this, but it's hard to say until I really get in there, and if takes more time than that I am completely at peace with it."

So! Step 1 is to go back and fix/add all the little things specific things that need to be fixed or added. I  have a file in Scrivener (have I mentioned yet that I wrote this book in Scrivener? OMG I LOVE IT. I'm shaking my head at myself for clinging to Word for so long) called "to add", and as little or big changes occur to me as I write, I make note of them there. I took time to fix a bunch of these as the draft progressed, but I still have a to-do list of leftovers.

The list is divided into the categories. One category is things I know I need to change in some way, but either I'm not sure exactly where to do it, or it's an ongoing thing I'd need to read the whole draft to address. The other category is things I can pinpoint the scene in which the change needs to happen.

For instance, and using actual verbatim examples from the list:

"You need to dial down what a dick Paget is." This is category one. I need to take a look at all this character's dialogue in every scene he appears in and make him a bit less loathsome. That's clearly a job for the read-through.

"In the Yule ball scene, mention the approaching centennial." This is category two. I know exactly where the change needs to happen, so there's no reason to not just go and do it now.

I've given myself three days to fix all the category two items, as well as spellchecking, exporting, formatting, and printing out a copy of the draft to read later. I started with 10 category two items on the list this morning, and am now down to 6. A few of the remaining ones are meatier changes that involve rewriting chunks of scenes and/or adding multiple paragraphs, so I'm not expecting to fly through them. And spellchecking is always way more time-consuming than I think it's going to be.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be ready for beta readers by Thanksgiving! That seems nuts, in a good way.