Editing, Feedback, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Writing

Step, step, step … the novel progresses

I need to make a list of the steps left to get my next novel ready to go. Otherwise, I’ll run helter-skelter and accomplish nothing. Writing the first draft was, of course, the first step. Editing and revision will be the next several steps. I think—hope—I learned a bit writing the first novel, so there won’t be as much work to do this time.

I have my previous task list here somewhere. On my hard drive. Somewhere. I have a gazillion files for The Brevity of Roses. I’m great at creating files, but lazy sorting them logically into folders. So, yeah. That task list is here … somewhere.

During the past ten days, I finished the second and then the third draft of my new novel [Insert Title] and sent it to my alpha reader. Now, I wait to see how much revision she advises. I’m hoping she sends me the perfect title along with her feedback. Or maybe I already have one. I keep adding possible titles to my list. None have really taken my breath away, but my husband has already cast his vote. Though I suspect that’s just because he knows how indecisive I am, and he’s trying to move me along.

One editing tool I’m using this time is my Kindle. Three times during editing of my first novel, my husband printed the manuscript at work, but now he’s retired, so instead of printing I upload it to my Kindle. I read a chapter at a time, with my manuscript loaded in Word, and edit directly. I do miss marking up the actual pages, but the “distance” created by reading on the Kindle makes poor syntax, typos, punctuation and other errors jump out just as printouts did.

Last night, I started reading my manuscript straight through on my Kindle. I didn’t even make it past the first paragraph before I reached for paper and pen. I don’t know why I never heard it before, but when I read that paragraph last night, the duh-duh-duh-duh-duh rhythm of the first four sentences made me cringe. So I noted the need to mix up the sentence beats to add some music to that opening.

“So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.”

Have a wonderful week. Maybe I’ll even find time to comment on some of your blogs … don’t faint.

Editing, Feedback, Writing

Writing in a Bubble

During the time I wrote The Brevity of Roses, I was a member of four different writing groups. Only two were briefly simultaneous, and only one group lasted through submissions of the whole book. My point is that many eyes viewed at least parts of the book while I wrote it. With my novel in progress, the situation is far different. I’m writing in a bubble.

Only four or five people have read the first draft of the opening chapters, less than 6,000 words. I planned not to show any of it to anyone until I finished and edited it once. Now, I doubt the wisdom of that plan. I think that’s partly why writing this book has been so difficult for me. I miss the encouragement. Ideally, a writer should be so confident in their story idea and execution they don’t need cheerleaders.

Yeah, someday …

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about writing a book as a committee project. I had written far ahead of whatever chapters I submitted for feedback. But I needed to hear that someone was interested in reading more, so I wouldn’t give up when the writing got difficult.

I also needed to know the story “worked” for someone besides me. Recently, Heather Simone blogged about seeking feedback on a rough draft. She decided to send the first draft of her current novel out to betas, as she said, “All in hopes that I wouldn’t have to waste time double editing.”

I’ve always claimed to love editing—but that may be because it’s never involved major revision. I’m sure I won’t like it much this time if my beta reader feedback sums up as, “Start over.” Or even worse, “Maybe this one should be stuffed in a drawer.”

Each writer chooses the method that works best for them. Some writers have an alpha reader, someone who reads the first draft, maybe as they complete each chapter. Some may have more than one alpha, which would be more properly termed a small group of first-string betas, who give feedback on an edited version, which is then re-edited before being sent out to a larger group of betas. Others write, edit, and polish before seeking any feedback.

I know, now, I don’t like writing in a bubble. I would like to have an alpha reader. Barring that, I definitely need a small group of first-string betas.

Your turn: Which method do you prefer? And do you let anyone see your rough draft?

Blog Stuff, Feedback, Fiction, Short story, Writing

Research, revision, and redecorating

I don’t know everything, and sometimes, I realize I don’t really know what I thought I knew. So if I want to write believable fiction, I have to research. A recent blog post by Christi Craig started me thinking about what I’ve researched lately.

  • Common sayings using the phrase quicker than or faster than. I didn’t want to use a cliché, but I hoped reading some would help me come up with something original. Still hoping.
  • Modern techniques for inscribing grave markers. I did this late at night after I saw the movie Woman in Black and had to stop because I started imagining ghostly sounds in my house.
  • How alcoholism affects the kidneys. I need to know if a man only two years sober can donate a kidney to a family member.
  • The tobacco growing process in the 1960s. I eventually found my way to YouTube where I listened to people talk about how the process has changed since they were young(er).

Those topics were research for three different projects, but now I’m looking at them and see that I could fit them all in one work. But no. I do not need the distraction of another story idea.

I’ve finally wrangled a few people into giving me feedback on some short stories I want to include in a collection. Then I’ll have to revise/edit them. Sometimes that’s easy, but other times my brain refuses to deal with it and I have to back away for a while. I know I could ruin the story if I force it, so I’ll trust my Muse to sort it out and get back to me.

A non-writing note. I don’t know how you other WordPress bloggers respond to your comments, but I use my Dashboard exclusively. I try to avoid looking at my blog too much because when I do, I want to fiddle with it. In the early days of this blog, I changed themes every couple of weeks, which I’m sure was a bit disconcerting to my new followers. Then I realized that if I didn’t actually see my blog’s “face”, I left it alone. Recently, when I uploaded my new book cover and saw it on my blog, I got that old urge to give it a whole new look.

The problem is, even with dozens of theme choices, none of them is quite what I want. So I’m using one of my private unused blogs to audition each possible choice to see what comes closest. Anyway, don’t be surprised if you come here and fail to recognize the place one day soon.

Hmmm, I guess that’s a kind of research too. What about you? Have you researched anything lately?

Critique, Feedback, Fiction, Short story, Writing

Eventually, it always comes back to writing

So, yeah. I’ve been writing. As soon as I finished the first draft of one story, I started another. Now, scenes from my next novel are playing in my head. It’s a bit distracting, but I’m not going to drop everything and open that novel file yet. These little previews are just the Muse letting me know she’s working on it.

Still, it’s hard to be patient with the story collection project, when I have a novel waiting. I have a couple more stories to write, and then, as I get feedback on the lot, it will be editing time. Recently, I received valuable feedback from someone I’ve never worked with before. She wrote seventeen comments on a story of less than seven hundred words! I had to laugh because that’s the way I critique. I think we might work well together. 😉

In other news: Has the weather this season been unusual where you live? We’ve been dry most of our rainy season, but finally got a good drench a couple of nights ago and then again last night. It’s been so warm and sunny, my peach and nectarine trees were set to bloom, and now the rain has brought a chill back to the air. Has anyone checked the earth’s tilt lately? I know my equilibrium’s off.

You all probably know that Adele won six Grammies Sunday night. Well deserved, in my opinion. I saw a link to an analysis of why her song “Someone Like You” is such a tearjerker. Though the song doesn’t quite make me cry, I do get chills at moments when I listen to it, so this analysis sounded reasonable to me. Now, if only I can figure out how to apply that “appoggiaturaa” thing to writing highly emotional scenes.

And there you go, I’ve brought the subject back around to writing again, so I think I’ll go do that. You go do something you love to do too.

Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Revision, Writing

Whence cometh thy critique?

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

I am working on both a novel and some short stories. Oooh, I just thought of how Demetri Martin writes with both hands at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could type on two keyboards simultaneously—one for the short story and the other for the novel chapter? I could be as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. Not as good a writer, of course, but equally prolific. (Forgive me, I’m writing this with a headache.)

ANYWAY, I’ve been wondering how I’ll get critique on my works-in-progress. I no longer have access to a live critique group, and I’ve never been able to work up enthusiasm for joining online groups where I know no one—or more importantly—know nothing about anyone’s writing skills.

That led me to wondering how you all get feedback on your work. Do you seek it from one, a few, or many? Do you prefer live groups or virtual? Have those preferences changed over time? If you’re in a group, how does yours work? Specifically: How often do you meet? Do you read aloud? Do you receive the work ahead of time and critique at home, so you only discuss it at the meeting? How many members do you think is optimum? Do you critique all lengths of work?

What say ye?

Image © Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948