Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Writing

Oh look, I’m alive!

A friend emailed me yesterday to ask if I was still alive. Because he doesn’t follow me on social media, and I’ve done a woeful job of responding to email for the last couple of months, from his viewpoint, I did disappear.

Actually, I’ve narrowed my interaction through social media too. You may have noticed my sporadic blogging. I have to remind myself even to update my Facebook status. Apparently, I find it hard to write fiction and non-fiction simultaneously. In other words, I can’t think/write and “talk” at the same time.

Now, as you may know, I’m editing that fiction, so I’m still in my own little world. The editing is going well, but my story’s world is not always a happy place. I sink deep into my main character’s head and when she’s angry or depressed that tends to become my mood too. According to my husband, I’ve not been pleasant to live with, lately. (That’s my excuse, at least.)

Writing a sequel is harder than I expected. I had most of the characters already developed, but that’s also limiting. Several times, I’ve wished I could change something I wrote in The Brevity of Roses because it didn’t work with what I wanted to write in the sequel. If I were to write another book I believed deserved a sequel, I’d write a synopsis of the sequel while I wrote the prequel.

That said, I don’t plan to write any more sequels, and definitely not a series. (Did I just jinx myself?) I don’t know what I’ll write next. Oh, I have my first novel that I still think about revising, and I have the beginnings and notes on another novel and two novellas, but I don’t, yet, feel any of those will be next.

Are novelists supposed to have several books, outlined and synopsized, in the queue at all times? If so, I’m off-track again.

Image courtesy of agathabrown / Morguefile

Books, Editing, Fiction, Novel, Writing

A Plan Gone Awry

So far my plan to get some serious housecleaning done before starting to edit has not exactly succeeded. I did get my office dusted and uncluttered (mostly), which took two days, but then I wasted a day and a half on a computer problem. Tomorrow we start dog-sitting again, only two this time. So I have a new plan.

If I limit myself to a surface edit of just a chapter or two a day, I could still cross off a cleaning chore that day. Am I deceiving myself? Probably. I just can’t stand knowing I have all that work waiting—writing work, not housework. I’m expert at ignoring that.

A saner person than I might ask why the hurry to edit? After all, when I do start, I’ll have to face that the brilliant gem I think I fashioned is actually nothing more than rough sandstone. I guess my version of an “extreme sport” is editing. Risking life and limb to make that polished diamond a reality. Ahem.

I had hoped to finish reading Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron before I started editing, but I can’t concentrate to read lately. No, that’s not it. I can concentrate, but when I read a book on writing, I can’t read for long before I get the itch to apply what I just read or check for the mistakes the book warns against.

Anyway, the book description says (in part):

The vast majority of writing advice focuses on “writing well” as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail—they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.

Sounds good, huh?  I mean, who doesn’t want to write a page turner? Let’s hope I can learn a few things to make this next gem shine like the sun. And hey, maybe that will inspire me to wash my dirty windows. Won’t that be magic?

Image of diamond courtesy of jdurham / Morguefile

Critique, Editing, Family, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Real Life, Writing

That Weird Afterglow

Two days ago, I celebrated twice. Friday was both my wedding anniversary and the day I finished the first draft of my untitled sequel to The Brevity of Roses. We celebrated the first occasion with a movie (not good) and a dinner (excellent). I celebrated the second with a huge sigh of relief because I took so dagnabit long to write that draft.

Yesterday morning, I went to my computer to check email, blogs, Facebook, etc., and then that weird afterglow hit me. Yay, I finished the book! Darn, I have nothing to write today.

Instead, I did laundry and made liquid hand soap. Then I started clearing the clutter I’d let collect around me for months. Today, I’ll continue working around the house to keep my mind off the lost feeling that comes from not writing. All the while, I’ll try to avoid conscious thought about the book.

In a few days, I’ll sit back down and open that file again.  I’ll start at the beginning, reading one chapter at a time. This will be a light edit—first I’ll deal with the comments I left myself during writing. Then, I’ll fix typos and punctuation errors, clarify meaning, and correct any inconsistencies that no doubt occurred because I worked on this a full year, and it’s risky to rely on my memory.

The next step will be to send it to my alpha reader, who is an excellent writer and strong in the areas I’m not. After I get my alpha’s notes, I’ll revise and follow that with a deeper edit. Then, I’ll put my little baby in the hands of a few beta readers. (If you volunteered, please remind me.)

I’ll have much more work to do in the coming weeks, but I’m trying hard not to get stressed about that. I’ve done all this before, so I know I’m capable.  I’d like to work on the cover in my breaks from editing, but I need a title first. I might already have one. Might. Just in case not—I’m still listening, Muse.

Well, that’s the state of my writing affairs. May whatever state you’re in be a great one.

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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?

Doubt, Editing, Writing

Scissors and tape, if that’s what it takes!

So yeah, I’m writing this novel, and the words are flowing fairly steady, but there’s a problem. As I’m writing, my inner editor keeps saying things like:

“That scene doesn’t fit here. Remember what happened in chapter five—or was it nine?”

“Are you sure that character’s emotional response rings true at this point in the story?”

“All right, but if you keep that brilliant bit you just wrote, you’ll have to revise the subplot.”

I type her jabs into comments in the manuscript, and then I tell myself to keep writing and deal with those problems later. And I do keep writing, but all her jabs accumulated back there in the dark recesses of later, and started haunting me. A few nights ago, I woke myself worrying I might not be able to sort this book out. What if it’s too discombobulated to fix?

Then my inner cheerleader said:

“Oh pish posh, you can do it! You’re a WRITER! Remember how you had to cut and tape together your last novel? Rah, rah, sis boom bah!”

Wait! What was that about cutting and taping? I did that? Yes I did, but I’d completely forgotten. Have you ever heard a writer compare the process of writing and publishing a book to pregnancy and birth? To continue that analogy, after you have your bundle of joy book in your hands, you tend to gloss over the worst parts of getting to that point.

Indeed, I’d forgotten there was a point in editing The Brevity of Roses where I printed it out and then sat down with scissors and tape organize some of the scenes, and even paragraphs, in better order. I couldn’t seem to accomplish that scrolling back and forth on the computer. My manuscript was a chopped mess for a while, but I worked it out. Rah, rah and all that jazz!

I hope none of you have to resort to scissors and tape, but if you do, take heart. You can fix it. You’re a WRITER!