[#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!

[#editnfriends] Ain’t No Stopping [Me] Now!

As of this writing, I have two chapters left to edit in my March (Editing) Madness novel, The Final Rose. I have successfully made it through (nearly) 140,000 words without hating myself, throwing up, or throwing the novel in a fit. I think I deserve a reward.

The content edit has proven to be actually refreshing. I objectively looked at my novel, made notations about what was missing, and found it fun to brainstorm new scenes to fill in the gaps. And slicing scenes didn’t make me weep. It was more of a relief than a stress.

So, the #editnfriends topic for this last week is the most appropriate: winding down and next steps. There are a few things I have planned between now and March 31st (like finishing the last two chapters) but my goals for the rest of the year with The Final Rose are:

  • In April, I will revise and rewrite what I need to do. I actually joined Camp NaNoWriMo (you’ll see my November post on why I shy away from NaNoWriMo normally) as a sort of accountability. More than that, on WriYe, April is known as “Resurrection April” where you take an old story you need to revise, rewrite or finish and work on it. (I invented that challenge years ago because I obviously needed to finish something)
  • I hope to have all revision/rewriting done by June. That should be in time for #pitmad, where I will actually feel ready to go for it. Which means in May, I will start devising pitches and bothering people with them. (erin, Ana and Liz)
  • I’ll also be passing out the novel to my beta readers in June with hopes that I can get some feedback by the end of July. It’s a long novel so I don’t expect a really quick turn around.
  • Come August, I hope to be querying or participating in Pitch Wars. And it will be queries from there on out…

In the meantime, I am doing a few other things: looking for a critique partner, beta-ing my friends’ novels (because I have been remiss), reading, and writing. I think I’ll be switching gears and work on my thriller series for a little while to refill the fantasy battery. There are a few fantasy novels that I have in the planning/plotting stages that are just waiting for my attention.

Will these plans change? Maybe. You’ll have to keep reading to find out.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 22/24

Pen refills: 1

Scenes sliced: 7.5

Darlings killed: 8

Tears: 1 (very moving scene)

Current Concern: The romance between two characters seems too sudden. I remember getting the idea while writing and just sort of shoehorning it in. Obviously, I have issues with developing romance in this novel.

[#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.

[#editnfriends] Danger Zone

That’s the nickname I’ve given my editing space at home. It’s really my everything space, since I have a one year old who destroys everything she touches. But for this month (and maybe-but-hopefully-not next month), the main use is editing.

I have most of my document in my Google Drive, which is where my crit group edits and chapter by chapter split is. I reread from there, and then printed chapters one by one. They are in this binder (This is fantasy so it better be thick!):

I’m using tab dividers for chapters because I have a few things I know I’m going to have to go back and forth to for reference. Did I foreshadow the even in chapter thirteen enough in chapter four? Did this character’s last name suddenly appear in chapter six but not chapter one? Things like that.

Most of my plot issues will be figured out in the binder with flags and Post-its and huge red letters asking what I was thinking.

As I block my scenes, I’m using these index cards:

They’re color coded by character POV or character arc, if the character is a non-POV character. This is my main party (note the RPG lingo) so I need to make sure their arcs are complete and sensible.

What I’m ignoring this go-round is any sort of line editing. Why fix words that might change? Or scenes that might get sliced?

The last piece of my editing go-to kit is The Book and The Pen:

(Classic moleskine)

Every critique I do goes in here, written with my no-name fountain pen. I leave my expensive ones to things that don’t make me angry enough to throw them.

Every editing thought. Every comment on a beta read. I have flags which color code based on the community the crit is for (RFIC, WriYe, etc) that I remove once the crit is typed up and delivered.

My own stuff is sprinkled throughout with much harsher words than I write for anyone else. Because who can I abuse best but me?

When I work, I either spread out on the ground (when kid is asleep) or spread out around me on the couch (when kid is occupied with something else). I work best in chaos. When the next post about my work editing space comes up, you’ll see.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 03/24

Pen refills: 0

Scenes sliced: 0.5

Darlings killed: 0

Tears: 0

Current Concern: To make Sayine family or keep her as friend

[#editnfriends] We’ve Only Just Begun…

Image courtesy of erin foster as posted on Words n’ Friends

And so it begins, the quest for a nicely polished manuscript. Truthfully, it began a few weeks ago when I decided to re-read The Final Rose with the hope that it made some logical sense. Sense is there, but so is a sped through middle. Alas, poor words, I meant to write thee.

The re-read is almost over with, thank the many gods. It’s hard for me to go back and look at what I had written because I am overcritical of myself. Common writer problem, I find, and one that we should all work on together. There’s good and bad in all of our writing and becoming self-aware of our strengths would do us good. It’ll make us better writers in the end.

Stepping off that soapbox, I will admit to doing something that goes completely against bettering myself as a writer. I had sent part of this tome of words (About seven chapters or so) to my loyal critique group. I read the critiques years ago and put them aside, never looking at them again.

Well, Saturday, I opened up what I thought was my clean version of chapter one. And it was not. It was covered in critique from erin foster. Critique that I did not want to see at that moment. What could I have done? Closed the damn tab. What did I do? I read it.

And, ladies and gentleman, I have finally seen the light. Nothing in that critique hurt. Everything made sense. (Granted, this was on the second draft so it better have been good.) I think I have discovered the right distance from this novel to start working on it. To mentally acknowledge that these are just words and words can be rewritten.

So, if you are like me and pretend to be tough but have the weak skin of paper, give yourself a few days before reading that critique. Or read it, thank the critiquer (always! Even if you disagree with every letter on that page), and step back. Maybe not three years, like I have, but for a few days. A week. Maybe even a month.

When you look at it again with fresh eyes, remind yourself that the critique isn’t on you, your story (most of the time) or your personal family members (though they may feel that way). This is just letting you know that your words aren’t conveying what you want them to convey. The story isn’t shining through because it has the wrong clothing on.

Change the words, change the outfit.


Introduction to my #EditnFriends Project

So, over on a friend’s blog, is a new challenge. Liz has decided that since March is traditionally editing month for WriYe and the WriMo’ers around the world, she would put out a challenge to those of us (me) who need things to edit. Every week, we check in on social media with the #editnfriends (so mostly twitter). In my eyes, this is a quasi-check in to make sure I don’t get lazy.

Now to introduce my novel, which has a bit of information in my Novels tab:

Title: The Final Rose
Genre
: Epic High Fantasy
Word Count: 137,000
Summary: Found here
Series: No

So, throughout this past month, I’ve been rereading the novel as if I were a reader and not the author. It’s hard to do but I’ve tried to separate out my editor/inner critic. With any luck, I’ll have it done and can move onto part one:

Scene Blocking

In which I ask myself: is this scene moving the plot? Is it in the right place? Is it necessary or extraneous? Should it be expanded? Reduced?

To do this, I’m using color coded index cards based on which character arc the scene is for and/or who the POV character is in that particular scene. With luck, I will be able to then make sure every arc has nice progression and conclusion.

Plot Doctoring

Did I skip over parts in the middle? (Probably) Does everything make logical sense and flow? (I hope so) Do I need to add things? Does the plot need tweaking? Is it something that would happen in that setting or have I stretched too far and made it unrealistic? (And therefore unsuspend disbelief)

Revising or Rewriting?

The last part is to choose which parts to just revise and keep and which parts to rewrite. I’ll be marking those with every student’s best friend, the Post-It Flag. Some will be “Major Revision.” Some will be “Minor Revision.” Some will be “WTF?”

What is my end goal?

I want this novel to be set up for its third-ish draft in April. I know where I have problems – there are scenes in the middle that need to be retooled and rewritten. I know that the word count is going to grow (because high fantasy never stays contained) but I have to figure out just where I need to cut it.

And I have this habit of adding in awesome plot ideas midway through writing and telling myself I’ll fix them in the edit. You can take three guesses on whether or not I ever do, and two can be thrown away.

When that is all done? Onto the rest of #Pub2020 to try and achieve that published dream.

How will I report in?

I will report in here every Friday as a separate post with my main post. And then I’ll be complaining on Twitter, as one does. A lovely 280-characters of crying.