I Hate These Word Crimes…

The Yeas and Nays of Building Beta Armor

This year, I participated in an anonymous beta event over on Absolute Write. They’re an excellent resource, even though I don’t say much on there. The Bewares forum is my go-to whenever there are #pitmads or magazines I want to submit to.

I participated in the beta project because right now, with how the non-writing life is going, I can’t commit to a long-term CP swap. I tried and I just cannot find the time between the child, the ever-changing work situation, and the extra classes I picked up to teach to afford reason one. My time is limited and I’m not very good at balancing critiquing and writing (oh, and editing).

This involved a mandatory three crits on the first 750 words (and the hook, if you wanted to) and that’s it. You could do more if you wanted, or you could stop at three. If you wanted to request something to beta, you were free to during or after the crits were submitted. It sounded perfect: minimal commitment to stretch those critiquing skills and an opportunity to be exposed to many critiquing styles.

Now, a little known fact about me: I am an origami crane.

My skin is as thin as paper. I don’t think it’s because I think my writing is immutable, magnificent art. I think it stems back to a feeling of not being good enough mixed with perfectionism. When people point things out, I experience this strange mix of acute embarrassment and shame.

Why didn’t I see that to fix? Why did I think that was good enough? I should rewrite this entire novel. Every word is bad.

I was hoping the beta project would help me stop that cycle of thoughts. It’s anonymous, which let people say whatever they’d like without it being attached to their names and reputation. It’s also something on a short amount: my first 750 words.

The amazing organizer of the event (who deserves a bottle of her favorite liquor and a few spa days after this) posted last night and my group of writing friends and I read/skimmed through them. I won’t lie: I skimmed and then went to erin and asked if any would make me angry. She said no, and she was honest.

Thank you for preserving my safe space, erin.

So I went back, in between rounds of being Grandma and Grandpa Shark because my daughter cannot curl her fingers to do that part of the Baby Shark dance, and read through them.

All of the critiques had solid advice. I saw where I had confused people. I saw where I had some iffy grammar and paragraph styles. I had one person do a lot of line edits, which I wasn’t so interested in this round because I’m still fiddling around developmentally, but s/he said that my writing was good so I’ll take that.

I even was able to see the common denominator and come up with was to improve it (where I started the start).

Did I feel that acute shame?

A little, to be honest. But nothing like I have in the past.

Did I see some that I scoffed at and went, “You just don’t get it!”?

Sure. And I’m sure when I look back, I’ll put that reaction aside and be able to see the good in it.

Did it help thicken my skin?

I think so. I’m nowhere near alligator (at least theoretically) and maybe haven’t even moved into chinchilla stage, but this is another attempt at putting myself out there that I can count as successful.

Will I do it again?

Yes. And I’ll look for CPs when I have a better time management and/or more time. And I’ll always ask for beta readers. Because even if I have that initial reaction, the benefit of having more eyes on a project and more brains helping me work through the sticky bits, the better the project is.

And if I want to publish someway, somehow, this is vital.

Anyone else have any fun beta stories to pass along? Horror stories and/or celebrations?

[#reviseandrevive] An Introduction

This year is the year I’ve decided to get serious with my writing. And to do so means editing, revising and eventually publishing. Last month was editing – developmental on my side – so this month is putting those edits to work in my revision.

My novel is the same I was doing last month for #editnfriends.

The Final Rose is an epic fantasy novel that I hope feels like a Final Fantasy game has been written in prose. It’s currently long at 137,000 words and is only looking like it’ll get closer to 150k that I’d like.

The basic premise is:

Every seven years, droughts hit Adomar. To appease the Gods and bring rain, a tribute bearer is chosen by the divine to travel to the Floating Islands and barter for blessings. Never before had a tribute bearer returned.

This time, the chosen tribute bearer is the princess of Adomar, Ziove. In an effort to save her from the fate of the others, a traveling part is established. The strongest knight. A well-known mage. A summoner with knowledge beyond time. And a peasant to serve as bait and barter.

To choose the peasant, the king frames it as a challenge to be won, complete with prize purse. Task Tannes, a local con artist and thief, decides that the purse is worth the trouble it will take to flee his responsibilities.

But when he can’t escape and is forced on the journey, his life changes completely. It turns out that there are things more important than gold, and it is worth the sacrifice to save it.

The main character is Task Tannes. The other POV character is his rival, Sir Geir, the knight master of Adomar. In alternating (not symmetrical or in any given rhythm) POVs, I hope to show how each goes closer toward the middle (and beyond) to understand each other and help save the princess.

Right now, my romance is lacking. I need a lot more set up scenes. And there are parts I need to revise and expand (many). So that’s my focus for the month.

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to watch me suffer through it by reading along. Bonus mission? Participate as well. Use the hashtag on social media. Bother others to do it as well.

Writing and editing may be solitary, but venting is communal.

[#editnfriends] Paths of Victory, We Shall Walk

Editing Update:
Chapters: 24/24
Pen Refills: 1
Scenes Sliced: 10 (including a whole quarter chapter)
Darlings Killed: 7
Tears: 3
Final Thoughts: A bit of concern with this being the first novel to query, though I think it has commercial appeal. It’s a lot of work to do, but I am finally prepared to do it.

I can safely say that for the first time in my writing soon-to-be career, I have edited the longest piece of fiction thus far. Roughly 140,000 epic fantasy words. Twenty-four chapters out of twenty-four chapters (though really, it should be over thirty. Those last chapters were a ridiculous amount of pages). Through the Hero’s Journey rife with romance, betrayal and plot twists.

There were parts I hated. There were parts I loved. There were parts that I forgot I wrote that didn’t take me fully by surprise but made me go, “Oh!” Hell, there were parts while I was making notations where in one chapter, I would write “remember to reference this again” and two chapters later, I had. Past-me knew what to do. Makes revising easier.

And that is my next step: revising. I don’t think I need to do a full overhaul of the story. The skeleton is solid, despite a few cricks in the bones. Some fat needs trimming and a lot more muscle needs to be put on to make it a fully functioning story. It needs to walk, talk and breathe on its own among agents, publishers and book reviewers (I hope).

So I have developed a revising plan (that I’ve already started because this is set to post on Sunday) which will give me a strategy for my Camp NaNoWriMo goals:

  • Character Cards – Color-coded index cards to track character development and progression. Along with this, tracking scenes about romance and developing interest because two relationships just appear out of nowhere.
  • Scene Cards – I have a number of scenes to add (and some which may still be cut). Plan is to write that all up (on white cards) with what chapter they go into, what character(s) they involve, and how it progresses the plot. I can then shift things around.
  • Hero’s Journey – Most of my novels follow the Hero’s Journey (sometimes more loosely than others). So I am going to take twelve index cards, label them with the steps of the journey, and make sure everything seems to be in order there.

With hope, I can get this finished by the time this is posted (and I’ll share pictures on an update post). Because I plan to start the revision – whether it is adding, cutting, or pasting scenes – on April 1st. It’ll be interesting to see how my Camp NaNo progress moves along, being revision instead of words. But at least something will continue holding my accountable besides myself!

[#reviseandrevive] A New Challenger Approaches!

So, last month was very successful for me when it comes to blogging, and I owe most of that to the #editnfriends challenge by Liz. Now that we’ve reached the end of the month, I offered to host a challenge for the month of April. With some help from Liz, I decided to call it: #reviseandrevive

As you readers may know, April is one of the Camp NaNoWriMo months. It’s not a month for 50,000 words but a month with various goals, one of which is revision. This ties into the WriYe challenge of Resurrection April where the goal is to rewrite, revise or finish a novel that you haven’t touched in awhile. For me, my editing and revising of The Final Rose counts.

I know many others may be doing something similar, so a blogging challenge might help keep people going. That’s where #reviseandrevive comes in. The basic weekly premise is this:

The Weekly Layout

So what does that mean? Every Monday, answer the question regarding some aspect of your story process. The writing, the revising, the editing, the crying… All is fair game.

Wednesday, there will be a themed excerpt to share. Wednesday on Twitter has #WIPWednesday which I think you can tie in on most weeks.

Friday is an optional prompt to write a piece of flash fiction (<1000 words) about and share on your blog. This doesn’t need to be related to your WIP at all. We’re all building platforms here and it would be good to let you readers know how I write. As terrible as it may be.

My plan is to have the weekly prompts for the following week posted the Sunday before. So, today I will post for week one AND week two to give you plenty of time. I’m a big fan of pre-writing blog posts so I understand for those of us who don’t have this elusive “free time” in abundance.

Without further ado, your first two weeks of #reviseandrevive:

Week One

April 1st – Introduce Yourself and Your Novel. What are your goals? Are you tying this into any other challenge?

April 3rd – #WIPWednesday: Share with us the first time you introduce your main character.

April 5th – Prompt: Lightning Bugs

Week Two

April 8th – Tell us a bit about your favorite character in the novel. What makes them so interesting to you? If they’re not the MC, why not?

April 10th – #WIPWednesday: Share with us the most dramatic scene you’ve written so far. Just a small bit of it so we’re all hooked for more.

April 12th – Prompt: Forgotten clothes

Takin’ Care of Business and Working Overtime

Let me just share, for a moment, my weekday schedule:

6:00 am – Up for work, getting myself and baby ready (with assistance from the spouse).
7:41 am – Train one to work.
7:59 am – Train two to work. Baby has stopped napping on the train. Yay. No freedom from the punishment of Peek-a-Boo!
9:00 am – Work. Both lab and teaching every day but Tuesday and Friday.
4:00 pm – Out of work (I don’t take lunch!). Except Thursdays, because then I teach until 7:00 pm.
5:30 pm – Home with baby. More punishment.
6:30 pm – Spouse comes home to take baby while cooking. Baby enjoys “the sizzlies” of the stove. I get to destress.
7:30/8:00 pm – Baby asleep. Free time until bed, preferably by 10:30 pm.

So, on a normal weekday, I don’t start my writing/editing journey until after 8:00 pm.

Are there exceptions? Sure.

Can I write at work? Sometimes. Benefit of my own office. During the summer when there are no classes, I often write a bit.

Does this all cut into my productivity? Oh hell yes.

Before the baby, I used my hour commute both ways to write on the phone or tablet. Or in my stream-of-consciousness plotting journal. I could work through snags or finish up an easy 1k words while blasting music.

Not anymore. This, of course, was my decision to have children so I should have taken that into account.

Before I became and adjunct alongside my main administrative work, I had the time to write at work. I’d have a few hours while a professor lectured before I had to go assist in the lab. Now that I’m the professor?

Not anymore. This was not my decision, really. It was the only way to afford to live.

It’s strange to see what used to be at least four or five hours during the day to write be reduced to two (or less). Years ago, I could join crazy challenges on WriYe or participate in word count goals that are far higher than I have now. (I wrote nearly 200k a month once!)

Having just two hours to really play with (if I take out the hour of destressing and eating, I could have three) means I have to get serious about it. Once the nightlight goes on and the door is shut, my laptop is on my lap. Work has to start. And words should flow and red ink should be spilled.

And what I’ve found is that this makes me not more productive, but more successful. So far this year, I’ve written one novel and four short stories. I’ve put up two novellas for critique. I’ve finished editing/preparing for revision 137,000 words. I’ve never edited more than 20k before now!

I’ve become less voluminous but more focused. More serious. And hopefully more ready for getting this writing career off the ground. It just goes to show…

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”


(Of course, weekends are a different story. I can foist the baby on the spouse and lock myself away for a few hours to work on something. It just means watching her on my own to give back the same time.)

[#editnfriends] It’s Getting Larger!

I have this habit, whenever I write a novel, of glossing over some details. Sometimes it’s most details, most times it’s some details. Whether it’s because of my rush to finish or my jumping from scene to scene nature, it’s not the worst problem a novel could have.

As I mentioned before, what I write the most when I edit is expand. Because scenes need to be expanded to make things make sense. Why am I mentioning a scene in dialogue that never happened? Especially scenes that are interesting, probably more so than the simple line given by a character about said missing scene.

An example of this would be a meeting between the party – sans Ziove – which should have occurred right before they left for their adventure. It would have set up fantastic examples of interpersonal relationships and strife between the four, showing characteristics that I can build upon later.

But what did I do? Referenced it in narrative the next chapter.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t cut some scenes. A few in beginning chapters are just a bit extraneous. It was me writing the characters, getting control of their voices without pushing forward plot. By the middle of the novel, I know their voices. I don’t need these scenes any longer.

Editing, for me, is to specifically pinpoint these scenes and axe them. So remove them, I will.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 14/24

Pen refills: 1

Scenes sliced: 5

Darlings killed: 3

Tears: 0

Current Concern: The pacing of the journey. How fast should they find the roses?


I Choose You!

I have, in my Google Docs right now, about one dozen finished first drafts. They’re not edited. Certainly not publishable. But they have a beginning, an illusion of a middle, and an end. Draft one done.

So every March, when that old edit bug comes a-bitin’, it’s time for me to look in that folder and choose a file. All the file names look up at me, sometimes with fancy title graphics, like flowers waiting to be plucked and made into a bouquet.

That is, at times, the hardest decision to make. Especially being an unpublished author with no deadlines or platform to my name yet. The page is blank and I have a 96 pack of Crayolas to color with, but which color goes down first?

This past year, with #Pub2020, I’ve been able to choose based on what novel I think is most sellable. The Final Rose is a stand-alone fantasy. It’s got compelling characters that go through some shit. It’s got a fun plot. Perfect for a debut.

But other years? It comes down to few things:

Reading the first chapter and going, “Can I handle this much right now?”

Are there more plot issues than I can remember? How was the technical part of the writing? Is the genre something I want to work in at the moment?

If any of those are a “no,” it’s onto the next.

Is this a series?

What book is it in the series? Beginning, middle, end? Do I remember what happened in the last book? Does this involve an extensive reread of the previous books? Where’s my damn series bible?

Is this something I plan to publish?

This is usually the very last question. I eventually want to edit and revise all of my novels. Even those than only friends will see.

But if I’m going to take this whole “published author” thing seriously, I really need to make sure I focus and perfect those things that agents and editors will buy.

How long ago did I write it?

Six months, at least, or bust! It is very rare of me to even look at something I wrote so soon after I write it. I’m trying to adjust and reduce time between but I have a backlog to work on.

If it’s a short story, it’s a different beast. I used to participate in a competition on WriYe that involved writing a short story a week. My goal was always to write the story Sunday – Tuesday, then ignore it until Friday for edits. It wasn’t my ideal amount of time apart, but it was enough.

So what about you, readers? What’s your criteria for the time you decide a story should be edited? Do you keep a schedule that you plan in advance or is it what feels good at that moment?

Editing Update:

Chapter: 13/24

Pen refills: 1

Scenes sliced: 5

Darlings killed: 3

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Task and Ziove need a lot more set up to fall in love. More scenes are needed in the first half with their relationship blossoming. Need to find a way to add them while adding to the plot.

[#editnfriends] Loves Long Past

On Monday, I metaphor-ed that the darlings I must murder are like a diseased appendix. And I have spent this week garbing up for surgery – scrubbing up, betadine, gloves – and preparing for the first incision.

Problem is, my novel really does need more added than taken away. Ninety-nine percent of what I’m jotting down is either:

  • Expand
  • Description?
  • Or How did you end it like this?

So there’s a lot to add. Which won’t help it’s already triple digit word count. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some things to eliminate. And sometimes these are things that I really enjoy both reading and writing.

Here’s an example.

Task and Kyr, my MC and a supporting character, have a lovely banter back and forth during certain scenes. They look at the world, they comment, and they make it a game to see who is better at the snappy come backs. Who can annoy the knight the most? Let’s find out. It’s fun to read. They entertain me. I would think they’d entertain you.

But these scenes serve no purpose to the plot. Or to the story. It is just me flexing my authorial dialogue muscle. So out comes the red-inked scalpel which excises all of these words and moves them to the document labeled, “Nope.”

As for characters, my casts seem to be on the small side. Right now, I have:

Task – The protagonist (POV Character)

Geir – The Foil (POV Character)

Ziove – The love interest

Ikala and Kyr – Secondary but major characters

Haldor and the other (3) Mini Bosses – The antagonists

Sayine, Jules, Cidon, Adom and Kither – Minor secondary characters

King Kvets I – Very minor character

And that’s really about it. There might be a chance, when I get to later chapters, to meld a few things together. Some minor characters that I haven’t listed because they were maybe in one chapter might end up being axed. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, which might be a sign that they should be gone for being unmemorable.

I’ll keep you updated with my handy little section below to let you know if I murdered any characters by excising them from the novel. Every surgery gets a little bloody. Mine will be no different.

So, we’re nearly halfway through the month. Readers, how many darlings have you murdered so far? What are the words you’re writing in the margins the most?

Editing Update:

Chapter: 12/24 (50%)

Pen refills: 1

Scenes sliced: 3

Darlings killed: 3

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Pacing. The first plot twist is in chapter 14 of 24 and over halfway through the novel.

The pacing…


[#editnfriends] I Used to Love Her, But I Had to Kill Her…

“[K]ill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” – Stephen King

It sucks. You reread your novel, that took you months/years to write. You get to this line/scene/chapter/character you love and you still love it. It’s something you couldn’t have written this well if you tried… Except it doesn’t fit. It’s not progressing the plot. It serves no purpose. The character is melding with another.

So you have to do it. You have to take your Red Inked Vorpal Sword and slice it through. (Or, since we have computers, cut and paste it to a Darlings Document that you can visit to pay sympathies to. Like a little row of writing gravestones.)

And it hurts. Because that was a part of you, for a short amount of time. Not forever, not eternal, but your thoughts and hopes that you spat out on paper. That you may have perfected through drafts. And now you’ve determined that piece of you is no longer important.

Removed. Trashed.

But maybe instead of thinking of it like garbage words, let’s think of it as a vestigial organ. These darlings are our appendix (or multiple parts of one giant appendix). They served a purpose once: they helped us get our first draft down and explore our world. They were characters that brought out parts of our main characters to help us develop them more. They were words and phrases that we can look back on later and perhaps repurpose into something new – like an awesome experiment discovering penicillin from mold.

Two things could happen if we leave this appendix in. We (our novel) could survive. There’s a chance it’ll just look a little strange but it’s not going to do any harm. One or two bacteria may be trapped there (one or two things that could be cut) but they’re not causing destruction. Some people (betas) might comment on it, and some doctors (editors) may suggest just removing it during your next surgery (draft), but it’s not dire.

However, the problem arises when this appendix swells with inflammation and becomes this festering organ housing thousands of bacteria. It runs the risk of bursting and infecting your whole blood supply (your novel). To save it requires some major surgery. Sometimes it’s too far gone, unable to be saved.

So, what’s better? Leave in a darling appendix that may burst? Or take these problematic things, cut them, and create a graveyard where you can visit and leave flowers in thanks to darlings past?

Editing Update:

Chapter: 8/24

Pen refills: 0 (but getting there)

Scenes sliced: 3

Darlings killed: 1

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Halden’s entrance is so boring. The fight is interesting but the way he just appears needs an overhaul.


[WriYe Blogging Circle] This is How We Do It

It’s that time again! The monthly blogging circle topic. It’s a bit of #editnfriends and a lot of WriYe. Here are the questions:

Describe your editing process. What is your biggest challenge in editing?

I think I’ve mentioned this a few times on here in the past week, but in case I didn’t make it clear: I am overly critical and hate my words. I have low self-esteem when it comes to my own abilities as a writer. And I rely on friends to tell me that I’m being dumb.

Does that mean everything I write is horrendous and need to be burned? No. Wait… No. Right. No.

Have I found things that I like on rereading? If you asked me last year? It’d be no. But I actually reread a novella I wrote back in 2013 and loved it. Again with that long gap.

So what’s my process to avoid this sort of self-loathing? Here’s a bullet point list:

  • Wait a long time. Try to cut that down to a year. Or two years. Stretch goal: just months.
  • Reread as a reader. Not an editor. Not a writer. Just as if I was there to enjoy.
  • Absorb what I read. Drink a few J&Gs. Write anything else.
  • Go back and start to map out scenes and plot. Figure out what the hell my characters were thinking. Tell them to behave and act like real people. No, you cannot just run off and say “forget this.”
  • Take out The Book and The Pen and write down an editing plan
    • How does the plot need to change
    • How do the characters need to change
    • Basic plot arc with subplots noted on the bottom
    • Short description of how each subplot adds to the main plot and how they get all tied up
    • List of words to avoid during rewrite
    • Reassurance that I can survive
  • Get on the computer. And start again. Whether this is full rewrite, partial rewrite, or line edis.

With luck, The Final Rose will be the same way, even with the crazy word count.

Bonus:
Tell us about your ideal critique partner. What do you look for in a critique partner?

Well, I have a few good ones right now. We have a group that we’ve kept going for a number of years. We write different genres, different age levels, and for different audiences.

I think that helps when it comes to critiquing. We have a system where if it is genre-related or we think it might be, we mark it as [GR]. Other than that, writing is writing is writing. And sometimes it’s nice to have my romance-writing friend tell me that she likes scenes of my high fantasy story.

If I had to get a new one, though? I’d probably want someone else who is currently writing in high fantasy. And someone who is currently reading what’s coming out in the genre. I’m a bit far behind thanks to having a Little Monster, but I try to keep up on the trends.

I’d want someone who knew how to couch their harsher critique in the sandwich method (something good – a problem – something else good), as long as I had the bread to make sandwich, so to speak. And someone who would look at what I am asking for and give me that. Usually, I ask a few questions with my critique requests.

I’d want someone who wrote at a similar level to me, who sent me things that have already been self-edited to the best of their ability. I don’t expect perfection; I expect readability. And someone who has a goal with their novel post-me.

I’m always open for more partners, but I warn you: I am slow as a snail in a swimming pool of molasses.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 06/24

Pen refills: 0

Scenes sliced: 2

Planned Scenes to Add: 5

Darlings killed: 0

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Why did I make Ziove’s hand in marriage part of the prize? No.