Because the song told me so!

There I was, working through my book, re-typing and re-drafting… and then three things happened:

  1. It got hot… so hot… my head doesn’t like making sentences when it’s hot. (It’s actually lovely, if all I had to do was sit in my garden with a book and a glass of wine – as I did yesterday – but today I have work and writing and stuff…)
  2. I realised, although I’d merged chapters and scenes to improve the pacing, I still hit the same point where the prose just works and the story flows and everything is great. The first 80 pages are not like that.
  3. However, just after I realised this, I watched The Lost Boys and listened to the theme song, Cry Little Sister, and instantly knew what needed to change – although, oddly, the song and the story have nothing in common!

I have two major things to change:

  1. At the moment, my MC is scared of the Big Threat straight away, I need to make her intrigued at the start, to draw her in and increase the curiosity of the reader
  2. To add a new character. This may or may not pan out, but I think I need someone to act as a sounding board for the issues the MC is facing.

So I now have half a book printed out to revise, and the other half still waiting to be typed up… and I’m not sure which is more important. All I do know, is that I’m not going to hit my 4th July deadline.

How are the temperatures in your neck of the woods?

Advertisements

Red edit hiccup

I’m still in the red edit zone, so no completed chart just yet. Instead I have these:

Yes, I’m making the grievous error of not just a prologue, or epilogue, but both!

But, let’s gloss over that for now.

My red edits have gone really well, and I technically finished them last night, after a full-on day of reading my own words, cringing, and occasionally being wow-ed.  In fact, there are several pages which don’t even have any edits on them at all!

I added reason and sense to some of the plot points that were somewhat lacking, and a bit of emotion where I’d forgotten to show it. I cut a lot of useless stuff, including a whole character (RIP MC’s boyfriend, but he was kind of pointless, and ended the relationship in the same chapter he was introduced).

Despite all the cutting – some days, I hovered around the exact same number, even though I was writing furiously – I added 2261 words to the story, which means it now stands at just over 40,000! Still too short for a novel, but on my way. By adding four more chapters, I should easily make that up to 45,000.

I swapped around some of the early chapters, but I’m still not completely happy. The opening feels sluggish and dull – but I think it’s necessary to set the scene. Due to the nature of the story, I can’t use flashbacks (which I usually love, so this is hard for me). Perhaps, when I get to the beta reader stage, fresh eyes will be able to point out the problems.

Big question: Prologues and epilogues, love them or hate them?

 

 

The green edits are done!

Green edits

I originally allowed myself thirty days for this part of the process, but did it in fifteen! As I got closer to the end, I reduced the date goal, because I like tidy graphs…

Normally when I edit, I meander around – reading, adding notes, watching TV, going back over the same parts again and again to get them perfect… on the first set of edits, I hear you ask? Well, yes, I am was a perfectionist.

But, no more! I’ve finally learnt. I worked steadily through the comments I made, although some of them still exist because I’m not quite sure how to execute them just yet.

There have been a lot of other changes though, a lot of additions (including, finally, a character’s reaction to an event that affected her deeply, but I ignored in my first draft!), and an awful lot of crossing out. However, the opening chapter is still shockingly bad, and the last chapter is dragging – but that’s okay. In fact, they might even still exist when I’m ready to share with my beta readers.

In the past, I have only shared my work when I’ve gone through extensive drafts, and made it as perfect as I can get. If people so much as point out a spelling mistake or punctuation anomaly, I’m devastated. I consider this to be a huge step forward in my writing attitude.

 

Green edit page
These edits have been nicknamed the green edits, because of the green pen. The next edits will be the red edits. And, because I do love a chaotic-looking draft, I’ll be making the changes on this same print-out!

Years ago – stop me if I’ve told you this before – my favourite subject at school was technical drawing (Yes! I’m so old, that was actually a separate and specific subject!) I loved the lines, the angles, the pencil chaos that became clear when my black pen – in two different thicknesses – created the picture. All the pencil marks were essential to get the right lines in the right place, but eventually they were erased and my cube (in my first year) or my detailed house floorplan (in my last year) was revealed.

I approach editing a manuscript in the same way, and it’s so satisfying when I see the final story revealing itself.

Next up: the red edits, trying to get my first and last chapters improved, and possibly extend the length. It may not be a very long novel – some of my recent reads have been under 50,000 – but I’m currently at 39k. That’s a good novella length, but I’m desperate to get a novel under my belt – my long-term goal depends upon it!

How many different colours do you use?

Do you edit by hand, or prefer to do it all on the computer?

Reading my first draft

Since starting this blog, I’ve been unsure of the direction, but as I have decided to attempt to write, and have ready to submit, by the end of the year, I’m going to blog each step of my new-found process, under the Novel in a Year category tag. If you read this post first, it’ll all make more sense! I hope you’ll find it interesting and/or helpful 🙂


And now, for today’s update:

As planned, I read my draft with the eyes of a beta-reader. When I beta for someone, I use the Comments on Word, and I hope I make helpful comments as well as highlight the really good stuff. I know I let a little sarcasm slip in too. I pretended I was reading someone else’s work, and acted accordingly.

Editing pages

It took me six days to complete the read-through, and then act on the easily sorted issues. A lot of my comments simply said delete or unnecessary, which is pretty self-explanatory. Some of them were paragraphs that I could slot into the work at the appropriate point, and some will be longer and harder to solve. There’s a timeline problem relatively early on, a rather large omission of someone’s reaction to a particular event and a whole lot of underwriting practically all the way through.

To be honest, the underwriting is a lifelong problem, so that wasn’t a shock!

Here are a few of the comments I’ve made:

Remember how hard this was to get the right reveal here? Well, it hasn’t worked. Try again

This all needs to be re-written… you know that glazed over look you get when you read something hideously boring… yeah, that

So they’re not going to talk about last night? Jo tried to murder a painting, and he’s okay with that?

Really? We’re smiling at hats, are we? Why not at the coffee, or that mop in the corner?

My next task is to print out the manuscript and mark up where the deeper changes need to be made, where a couple of chapters need to be moved, and to write new sections so that the other changes make sense. I can’t wait to get my fountain pen out and jot notes all over the pages!

Once again, I’ll be using the NaNoWriMo site and giving myself four weeks to complete this part. I might even work out all the stages for the rest of the year, so I’m not doing quite so much guessing about the deadlines I should be imposing.

How nice are you to yourself when you read your own work?

How long does it take you to write a book?

How many drafts do you take? (My personal best is somewhere in the 20s!)

Reasons Why I Should Have Planned

I’m not a planner. I feel stifled if I have plot to fulfill, instead I usually start with a title and the very last line. I sit with my pen poised and let the words flow. I go back and add chapters where needed, go forward to write a killer line, backwards to add a bit of foreshadowing. And the whole thing comes together. It’s a long process. Where other authors can have a book written within a year, mine take a little longer. In some cases they taksimson-petrol-110900e… ahem, years and years.

My current novel is supposed to be a mashup of a character/plot that’s been on the back-burner since the early 2000s, and the story I wrote for last year’s NaNoWriMo, with some other stuff that I’ve started and abandoned within a couple of weeks.

Except, I have a main character that is both named and nameless, in past and present tense, first and third person. She lives in London, a nameless city, on the coast. She’s always an artist and has just won an art award, or won it years ago. Her current exhibition is both on display and cancelled. She has a lodger but is lodging, and a sister who is in varying degrees of existence.

I’m staring at these pages, completely overwhelmed – in some cases, reading the same scene written in different ways, with different outcomes. I have two folders that have an abundance of Post-It notes to remind me where I think that scene might fit, or not fit, or needs to fit.

And I don’t know what do to… Apart from go back to basics and write a plan. Or give up altogether and bake a cake.

Tips, advice and hugs all appreciated right now 🙂

My rules for writers

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers, and, coupled with a conversation I had on Twitter last night, I thought I’d give my own list a go.

For those of you still new to me, here are my credentials: I’ve been seriously writing for publication since I was about fifteen (which is 27 years and pre-internet!), have received at least 300 rejections, had two major writing breaks, and suffer writers block every time I finish a project.

4-book-web-site-picI’ve also had 12 short stories published in small press journals; 19 short stories long-listed, short-listed and placed 3rd, 2nd or 1st in competitions; and three books published by small/indie publishers and one book self-published.

  1. Don’t aspire be the next [insert best-selling author in your genre], be the first you. By the time you’ve read that author’s latest book, and been inspired to write something similar, the industry has moved on to the next big thing. Don’t you want to lead rather than follow?
  2. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Most books go through at least several drafts before they are published. Mine go through many
  3. Don’t be afraid of rejection. I wrote a post about that…
  4. Read, a lot – in your genre, outside of your genre, non-fiction
  5. Don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it. I’ve read a lot of advice that says you should write every day, but it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it
  6. In fact, ignore any advice you don’t think will work for you
  7. Know the rules of good grammar, and then break them, if it works in your story
  8. Know the rules of submission etiquette and stick to them. Agents and editors have a preference, for their ease, on how they want to be approached. Don’t give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even read your manuscript. Janet Reid has a lot of advice. Personally, I learnt from Writing Magazine.
  9. Take regular breaks, preferably outside. You don’t want to look pasty in your promotional material
  10. Don’t give up if things don’t go exactly to plan. Think of plans more as a guideline.

Bonus tip: Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, if it causes you misery or heartache or depression more than it brings you joy, consider whether it’s really the path you want to take.

 

What would you add to this list?