Friday, July 31, 2009

More progress and incoming vacation

My good friend Nick coming in for a visit this weekend, so I'll be taking a break from revising/editing/blogging world for a few days.

However, before I go, here's an editing update:

Part I (chapters 1-8)
  • Revision "1" (as in first pass for this draft on the word doc in comments (which actually involved about three passes over everything)) is done. I've accepted all changes in the word doc.
  • Printed the pages and got through around chapter five making revision 2 on paper.
  • Put in the changes for chapter 1 (and made a few more changes) and half of chapter 2.
Chapter 1 is done. DONE. I'm really happy with it. For the first time, I feel confident that this chapter is ready. Like, agent ready. I compared it to my old document (pre-first editor changes and about my third draft) and really, truly see an amazing improvement. The action is fluid, description is balanced, characters are solid and the hook is strong.

I could pick at this forever. I would say this is about the 12th draft of this chapter (at least)? Some were drafts minor edits, other drafts were cutting sections of text and/or rewriting passages. But I feel like this is it - for chapter 1.

Small victories. They're important. :)

Chapter 2, watch out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gmail seeks to help with my manuscript...

...and fails.

I always send a copy of my most recent manuscript back and forth between my home and work computer. And I just put "Hound" in the subject line. Today, Gmail felt inclined to offer some helpful links as they spied on my email with their little robots.

Sadly, they got the breed wrong.*


*For those who don't know, my book is not about dogs. Hound is a nickname for one of my characters and the book is about the end of the world, zombies and gladiatorial combat. In fact, there isn't a single dog in the whole thing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Revisions, going strong.

I made some good headway on Hound over the last week.

Did more cleaning on chapter 1 and 2, and I think they're good enough for the time being - as in, I need to keep moving forward instead of mowing the same spot on the lawn over and over again.

As for chapters 3-5, things have been a mix of house cleaning and character development. As most people who've been following this blog for a while know, when I made my original outline I planned to kill a specific character at the end of part 1 of the manuscript (chapter 8). When the time came for the death of said character, I changed my mind and killed someone else.

The move was brilliant - the death had greater meaning, more impact, more drama. And altered my entire outline for the better. Problem was, I never went BACKWARDS to accommodate for this change. I never went back to provide the "why this disposable character is now important enough to stick around" and put in the why the now dead person is super important and the loss a poignant one. Sure, I talked about the dead person tons in the rest of the book - but I never made sure the readers would give a shit that said person WHEN they got pwned to deadness.

Duh. And the makings of my most awesomest breakthrough moment for revisions so far.

So, let's see what I've done for chapters 3-5.
  • Made cuts in chapter 3 of some unneeded "flavor text" to keep the pace moving.
  • Overall cleaning up on chapter 3 - reworking sentences.
  • In chapter 4 I spent a good deal of time addressing my "breakthrough" issues. Added two dialogue exchanges and some IM for Kumari to flesh out both of the characters who needed fleshing out.
  • The rest of chapter 4 was house cleaning again - working hard to streamline my action in an important fight scene that takes place in this chapter.
  • I marked a paragraph of chapter 4 that needs to either be cut or moved to a place where it fits better. Still undecided as to if the information is important enough to keep.
  • Chapter 5 was almost completely house cleaning - no major issues.
  • Marked one spot to look at revising further - basically, am I making their life sound too good?

I still need to go back over chapters 3-5 to make sure I didn't miss anything, and that I'm happy with all my sentences (for now). I'm halfway through chapter 6, but that will have to wait until my next post.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Everyone is a critic.

What my cat's ass thinks of my manuscript:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The next level

As I go through revisions for Hound and ponder new projects, both short and long, I've been thinking a lot about workshops, critique groups, networking, conferences and feedback.

As writers who are going through the process of discovering our own skills, strengths and weakness, there's only so much we can do for each other before we hit a wall. Yes, we know what all the blogs of agents and publishers talk about. And we know that there are some consistences and some glaring contradictions between them. We know that there are things we aren't supposed to do when we write - then we see those same no-nos in most of the books we buy from and Barnes & Noble. You know them, the bestsellers who got away with breaking all the rules. And did it before they were bestsellers because it was their first published book (complete with all the rule breaking) that made them successful.

In short, until we aspiring novelists have an agent and are published many times over, we don't really know what the hell we're talking about. We're making educated guesses based on informed research and tidbits we sheen off those who have the experience we lack. Myself included, of course. And I'm not discrediting beta readers - who are essential to the process of writing - or the blog sphere as a whole - which is a wonderful networking and learning tool.

I'm talking about the next level. The expensive level: conferences, workshops with agents, university programs taught by established authors and run by boards of people with years of experience in the industry, or working with freelance editors.

I learned a great deal from the editor I hired, despite my frustrations about the process. She pointed out things a critique group of five failed to notice. And I got what I needed - someone to fully devote their time to my manuscript. When we swap with other betas its a mutual favor and you never really know what you'll get back.

Let's be honest.

Who out there hasn't done a swap, put hours into critiquing the others person's manuscript, only to get a handful of comments back from the other person in return? Or that you committed to reading without taking the time to first get a handle on the other person style/taste to make sure it matched your own? Or that your writing isn't in the same place - are you both working on the same draft of your project? Is this your fifth manuscript and the other person's first? Is the other person actually ready to hear feedback (from someone besides non-writer friends and family), or are they just going to tell you they aren't going to consider your advice until they see if the rest of the group agrees 100% with your suggestions?

Getting off that tangent and to the point:

After hearing the great success people have had with workshops and writing intensives with experienced people in the industry, I'm going to take the plunge and the dent in my finances.

Donald Maass will be in Seattle this November to host an interactive workshop. For $339, I'll get to rub shoulders with a very well established agent who represents my genre. After talking with the project coordinator, I feel confident that I'll get a lot out of the workshop - two days long, eight hours each day - including some feedback on my writing from someone with an experienced opinion.

I'm also going to an informational meeting for a workshop program at the University of Washington. After checking out the two teachers, I've decided taking a class taught by a romance author just isn't for me, and will take the session with author James Thayer (though his most recent novel has romanace elements, but he appears to lean toward thrillers) if I like what I hear at the meeting. The board of people who oversee the program is pretty impressive, and include Donald Maass. Also, there will be guest speakers throughout the session. The session runs two nights a week from January 11th to April 19th.

Aside from networking with professionals, this is also going to be a chance for me to meet other writers in person. As great as the blog world is, finding a group to meet in person with is superior (in my humble opinion). Discussions and interactions are different and more in depth when your face to face with people. I really miss the writing groups I've had in the past.

Next summer, I'll be attending local conferences.

I know that I'm lucky I can swing the finances to do these type of things, and I'm by no means judging the people who can't. I just think there's enough proof out there (again, from the information we see on the interwebs and hearing about results directly from people who attended this stuff, experienced and inexperienced alike) that if you can make use of these things, you need to do so. So I'm going to. And I'll be happy to share everything I can with the rest of you, for everyone who can and cannot go for themselves.

And then you can take everything I say with a grain of salt and a dash of my own inexperience.

If you have any experiences from workshops, classes or conferences that you'd like to share, feel free to post in the comments!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sending shorts and editing longs

Yesterday marked the great occasion of me sucking it up and get my butt to work.

First, I finished working on my short story Percival and sent it in to the Shine antho (which closes for submissions August 1). Nothing like waiting until the almost last minute, eh?

Second, I started the fun task of revising and editing Hound. I got my line edit back last week, and am happy to report that things look good. Here's hoping I don't screw it all up in the process of refining my sentences.

I've entered the phase of aiming for perfection,and hoping to land somewhere in the realm of very, very good. Still trying to trim some of the lingering fat, as well as looking at each sentence in careful detail (again) and trying to see if I can make it better (again). I'm also working closely with a beta reader on a sentence by sentence level - a favor I plan to repay when they're ready to have their manuscript picked at. You know who you are. ;)

Yesterday I tackled two chapters, which was more than I expected. My lenient goal was five pages a day, with the dangling carrot of starting my fun new WIP idea called Ala'der. I was surprised to find myself excited to continue and willing to hold off on new writing in favor of working on more revisions. A good sign, I hope, and something I really hope will stick.

What did I accomplish?
  • streamlined the action in chapter 1
  • cleaned up sentences that could be better in both chapters 1 and 2
  • cut five paragraphs at the end of the first part of chapter 1 that included a POV shift and extra info that the story could live without
  • killed one of my babies - a sentence that I adored, but not one of ALL the people who have read it understood the point I was trying to make. I've be resisting cutting it since the first draft, but finally caved. I fail - well, I did fail. Now I, uh, unfailed?
  • added some inner monologue in both chapter 1 and chapter 2, with the hopes that it will pull the reader closer to the MC sooner. (My IM amount increases as the story goes on, but was almost nonexistent in the first part of the manuscript)

That about sums it up.

A long road left, but at least for now I'm excited again about my project. That's a great feeling.


Though I have never seen the movie or read the book, I find this utterly hilarious. :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Was that good for you?

Cause it was good for me!

I just wrote a five page outline for a new story/book I want to write. It started as a short story concept I wrote earlier this week, and officially exploded last night. Today, I was having trouble thinking of anything else when I sat down at my computer, so I just cranked it out in about two hours.

I know, I know. It's not what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm supposed to be editing Hound. However, after being in such a creative drought between work and stress outside of work (as we all know translates into a gaping hole left behind by a muse taking an unscheduled vacation), it just feels damn good to have something down on paper.

I think I'm going to try and do a reward system for myself. Edit x amount of Hound, and I'm free to work on the new idea. We'll see how it works out.

For today, I'm just going to be happy I've done something with my writing. It's been almost a month since I've had any creative urges at all. I'm sure you noticed my less than active blog as another result of the drought.

Bring the rain. Who needs an umbrella?

For now, the new idea will be called "Ala'der."