#amediting – Make it Bleed

The best decision I’ve made so far with this round of edits – aside from, you know, doing them – was to turn on Track Changes. Now whenever I feel like I’m treading water and getting nowhere, all I have to do is flip to “show all markup” and see just how much I’ve done.

Aaah.

Of course, all that red doesn’t say anything about the quality of the edits, but it sure is pretty to look at.

T minus 10 days and counting and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m going to make it, and not just at the last second. 60-ish pages left to edit, 2-ish scenes let to (re)write. I’m starting to get it into my head that I’ll have time for another read through. But let’s not get too cocky – something is bound to happen and eat up all my soft deadline cushioning.

But I’m already starting to plan what I’m gonna do when this is off my desk. Sleep. Read. Buy a chocolate cake. Eat it all. And then start writing the next book. Which I am SUPER excite about, FYI.

In the meantime, I’ve still got 10 days, so here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! raucous gambling, mythology tweaking, and polite civic discourse.

Chapters: 25 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 94,090 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: “Does a camel chew cud?”

Stop! – It’s Beta Time!

Betas, man. What would we do without them? They’re magical creatures, willing to take the time out of their days, weeks, (months?), to glance over an unpolished manuscript and not only give feedback, but give supporting details and thoughts and comments and maybe – hopefully – a few ideas on what they think might help.

When we’ve been elbows-deep in the entrails of our book for months (years) on end, a beta helps us step back and see the body instead of the gore. Or, perhaps, a better metaphor: when we’ve been behind the scenes, constructing the scenery for our play, all we can see is the bare wood, the struts, the bad paint jobs. Our betas help us see the scenery from the audience side, where it’s clearly a quiet night scene in Paris or a warm rooftop in Peru.

Thing is, we writers spend a long time trying to capture what’s in our heads in words that will somehow, perfectly and exquisitely, recreate those same scenes and moments in the reader’s head. This is, of course, impossible. Until we become telepaths or create the technology for brain-to-brain transfers, that translation will be imperfect. Some things will always be lost. And we, the writers, will always be acutely aware of those gaps and errors.

Our betas, however, cannot see into our heads. They can only see what every reader will see in the end: what’s on the page. So – thank you, betas. Thank you on behalf of all writers, but also thank you on behalf of just me. At a time when I was 100% frustrated and done with my WIP not lining up with what was in my head, you helped me to see what was actually on the page. And also fix what was there. Without betas, I’d be running endless editing loops for the next 5, 10, 15 months. Instead, now I have a plan and a way forward, an end in sight.

That said, where have I been the last few weeks? I usually update on Tuesday because that’s when I have the most time, but these past Tuesdays I’ve been feeling the crunch. First I was finishing up one last round of edits so that I could get Book One out to betas, then I was beginning the next round of edits courtesy of those amazing betas. Now I’m 100 pages into the last heavy edit / mad attempts at polishing with my deadline fast approaching. Today I added 2600 new words and an entire new chapter that will need to be polished once they’ve had some time to sit and ferment. I have 160(ish) pages left to go, two more new scenes to write, and seventeen days. I got this.

…right?

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! tense talks over tea, avuncular uncles, and exciting! research! scenes!

Chapters: 14 chapters out of 33 edited

Current word count: 90002 out of 90,000

Fun Google searches this week: What the parts of a screwdriver are called

The Final Countdown

I’ve hit the final stretch which means I just want to be done already. If there were writing goblins, I would leave out whatever fruit or knick-knacks they desired to finish this for me.

I can see the end in sight, but I still have to get there. In the meantime, I’ve reached the previous Rocks Fall Everyone Dies point I’d left myself at before, so it’s a bit slower going. These are all new words, so I’ll have to go back and polish them. Just have to remind myself that I will polish them and that it’s okay for the first round to be crap.

Now more than ever I’ve got to keep my head down and focus on the words.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! violent storms, knife fights, and angst. So much angst.

Chapters: 31 chapters out of 32 edited

Current word count: 80035 out of 90,000

How done am I?: So done.

Accountability and Stars

The way I’ve held myself accountable over the years has shifted a bit. In the very beginning, there was NaNoWriMo and its daily word count goals coupled with an awesome little graph that rose slowly, encouragingly, over the course of a month. Outside of November, I tried to replicate that beautiful graph by plunking my words into a spreadsheet and that worked for a while.

And then, almost overnight, it stopped working. I couldn’t keep up with the minimal effort it took to use the spreadsheet. And when days (or weeks) of not writing struck, it became too easy to just… not. I tried starting a new spreadsheet, but inevitably I started too many new spreadsheets and progress stalled and I stopped completely.

After that I floundered a bit. Wrote a little here, a little there. But without accountability, it was difficult to hit my self-imposed deadlines.

Then I discovered calendars. They were perfect – something I could mark at the end of the day if I’d met my goal, and each month was a built-in fresh start. Plus, they served the purpose of, well, telling you what day it was, so I always had one around anyway.

I started by just crossing off days that I’d met my goal. Then I tried writing word count goals on the days and crossing them off as I hit them. This was great for days I inevitably fell behind and also days that I got ahead. And no matter how far behind or ahead I got, I’d recalculate my goals at the start of the next month and better manage my expectations.

Of course, with editing, word count isn’t always a reliable indicator of progress. Sometimes you rewrite an entire chapter, sometimes you add in a few paragraphs, and sometimes you just edit heavily. New words written doesn’t tell you much, but chapters edited does.

So for this round of editing, I decided to mark off whenever I finished a chapter. And I decided to celebrate that with a gold star sticker. Because of course I have gold stars. Doesn’t everyone?

I also tried to project out my goals, but even adjusting for May I’m still wildly off. But that’s okay because lookit all those stars! (The other colors are for exercise-related endeavors. Those are a little… less exciting.)

And here’s the complete month of April, for comparison:

Note that I started editing this draft on April 1st, so this shows my whole editing process so far. And no, I honestly don’t remember what happened on the 8th, but it must have been pretty exciting for all those stars.

Not every writer needs daily accountability, but as someone in the slow-but-steady camp of writing, it really has helped me keep up momentum and avoid some panicking. Note – “some,” not all, panicking.

As far as the actual editing goes, I have reached that point where I kind of want my betas to read it, instead of simply dreading them reading it. I’m still in the Not Sure If This Is One Hot Mess Or Not stage (which includes such great hits as My Editor Will Regret Me and Oh God Everyone’s Made a Big Mistake and How Did I Con Anyone Into Thinking I Could Write??) and likely will stay there until I can finally take a step back and look at the proverbial forest.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening [me]), family feuds, and questionable intents.

Chapters: 27 chapters out of 32 (or 33) edited

Current word count: 72,075 out of 90,000

Coffee’d netbooks: One 😦

Average Hours of Sleep a Night 5-6

The Nitty Gritties

The baby is sleeping better and the days are gradually lengthening. I can see an end in sight. The threads of this story are coming together, tight and snug, while at the same time the notepad I have open on my desktop continues to accumulate little changes – tone shift here, reordering a scene there, small continuity notes for the next run through – the last one before this goes to betas.

This is my favorite part. I love the nitty gritties: attending to details, tracking whose hand is where and what phase the moon is in and just when to drop that teeny tiny tidbit of important information so it’ll seem organic. I love chopping out words and smoothing sentences and fixing a character’s voice.

This WIP no longer feels like I went out to the backyard and dug up a pile of dirt and just left it there, an untidy mess, but it doesn’t feel quite right yet, either. I’m too close to it right now and don’t know what to think. Part of me is confident that this is the worst thing I have ever written. But part of me recognizes that every WIP at this point is the worst thing I have ever written. So: I don’t know. And I can’t know.

And that’s okay. Worrying about how awful this really is can come later. Right now, I need to keep my head down and write.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! ominous weather, grievous wounds, and rooftops on fire.

Chapters: 23 chapters out of 32(?) edited

Current word count: 60,144 out of 90,000

Coffee?: Coffee.

Number of times I’ve listened to that one song while writing this book, according to just the iTunes on my netbook: 128

Random fact of the week: Undyed baby camel yarn is a smooth cream in color. Also, baby camel yarn is a thing that exists.

Write when Baby Writes

Another week, another 10,000 words closer to my goal, another seven days closer to my deadline, another notch up on the panic scale. I think we’re around abouts purple, going on plaid. Thankfully, I do my best work while panicking. It’s also good for the skin! (No, no it’s not.)

Despite a week of horrendous sleep on mine and the baby’s part, I’ve managed to continue making progress. Sometimes, it feels like, through sheer force of will alone. Well, what else is will for but to meet deadlines?

Alas, alas I feel like I’m finally in my element. Am I alone in loving the editing process? It’s so satisfying, like filling a hundred tiny holes so that you finally have a uniform, cohesive surface. If you do it right, it’s as clean and smooth as glass. Nobody can see – or even find – all the cracks you’ve filled in, all the holes repaired. It’s a process of bringing order to chaos and finally, finally seeing a real story with real characters.

Of course, this feeling will only last for another day or two, then we’ll be right back in the depths of despair, but at least the process is predictable, eh?

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! self-inflicted angst, broken promises, and more (always more) corpses.

Chapters: 16 chapters out of 35(?) edited

Current word count: 40,731 out of 100,000

Body count: 3

Excursions outside: What is this “outside” you speak of?

Cups of coffee: Let’s just… not go there.

Sunny Days Ahead

Ever since that snowfall two weeks ago, Michigan has been all sunshine and flowers. Within the space of a weekend, every tree here has burst forth with leaves or blossoms. Spring is quite literally in the air. And by spring I mean pollen.

Here’s to you, allergy-sufferers. May your antihistamines not make you drowsy.

Instead of enjoying the everything’s-not-covered-in-ice weather, I’ve been holed up working on this (semi-)final draft. But I can see the neighbor mowing his lawn from my window so it’s just like being outside. Right?

But the end is in sight and soon – so soon, but not that soon, maybe another month, honest – I will be handing this not-so-shabby draft (can we just start calling all final drafts the not-so-shabby draft from now on?) over to my handful of delightful and I-swear-I’ll-pay-you-in-wine-and-chocolate betas and then picking up a glass of lemonade while sitting and relaxing on the front porch with all the windows open and nothing to do but watch the cars go by and the fireflies wake up and –

Aah, who am I kidding. I’ll be busy working on the next book while my betas read. Who needs rest and relaxation when you can have caffeine and anxiety, amiright??¹

 

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! desiccated corpses, moonlit vistas, and awkward flirtations.

Chapters: 12 chapters out of 35(?) edited

Current word count: 30,116 out of 100,000

Desiccated corpses in novel: 2

Desiccated corpses in real life: 0

¹No really I’m fine mom, I’m just exaggerating and not drinking 10 cups of coffee a day that would be entirely too unhealthy of course

April Snow Showers Bring May… Final Drafts?

Evidence of said April snow.

Well, one can hope!

I’ve been down on myself a lot during this particular writing process. I feel like my first draft was wildly different from my draft zero, which of course was the most awful awful that ever awfuled. And my first draft still has a lot of problems. How could I have been so far off? How could I need so much rewriting, and now, so much editing? I thought I’d come so far as a writer, and yet –

Despondent, I picked through the old drafts folder for the Impossible Contract. I rediscovered its draft zero and idly skimmed through it – and was quickly surprised by what I found. My fond memories of the process, where everything went smoothly from the very beginning, complete with candy and unicorns, were 100% incorrect. No, it hadn’t gone smoothly. No, I hadn’t known what I was doing from page one. No, it hadn’t been a neater process than the one I’m going through now. I’d still needed to rewrite and rethink my draft zero going into my first draft and my first draft going into my final draft.

If anything, that draft zero was more of a mess than this one. For instance, Amastan, a side character in TIC who is the main character in Book One originally didn’t even exist. And yet, that draft zero still became a book that I’m proud of.

And I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I’m struggling a bit with this ending, but how did the draft zero of TIC end? “Rocks fall, everybody dies.” Not even kidding.

So okay. I’m willing to admit that the despondency is just a part of the process. That my draft zeros are always a mess – and that’s okay. It’s to be expected, even.

Just remind me of this when I’m neck-deep in Book Three, mmkay?

 

And now we have the current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! angry spirits, angry drum chiefs, and angry cups of tea. J/k on the cups of tea. Of course tea can’t feel anger. Everybody knows tea only feels contempt.

Chapters: 8 chapters out of 30 edited

Current word count: 19,500 out of 100,000

Scenes Changed: 5

Cups of Tea, consumed by characters: 1

Cups of Tea, consumed by Author: 12

Bees?: None. Most pollination is done by flies in this world.

Hello, hello

Wow, babies man. Thinking you can write a book while juggling a newborn and a job must be the mark of a madman.

Add updating your blog to the mix and, well.

Hi. *waves*

No news, as they say, is good news. And in a way, it is. I’ve been steadily working on this book (one of three, the second of which is already written, go figure) and after six(ish) months I have two rewrites and I’m finally starting on the not-quite-final draft. Thus, the life of a pantser¹. But I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Unless that light is a train. Which, you know, might explain the tracks and that no-longer-distant rumbling.

In the spirit of optimism, and a nod towards tradition, I’m going to check in here and keep y’all updated on this last (haha), heroic push towards a (not so) final draft.

Without further ado, here’s current progress on Book One, working title Redacted, the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who’s more than just a little tired of this shit. Now with more! relatively benign crypts, exciting exorcisms, and ever-present sand. Oh god. So much sand.

Chapters: 2 chapters out of 30 edited

Current word count: 6,222 out of 100,000

Shots of whiskey: 0

How much sand?: So much sand.

¹Pantser, noun: One who writes without an outline, i.e. by the seat of one’s pants.

2016 Books of Awesome, Part One

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back at the books I read and share with you the ones I enjoyed the most – the ones I would recommend or the ones that just struck me deeply.

It’s always interesting to me to look back at what I’ve read, because it gives a broad picture of what I was up to, what interested me, and where I ended up. It’s a more subjective measure of my year than anything I could come up with on my own.

This year I only read 31 books. Life kind of… happened. Between learning a new job, struggling to write, three months of total exhaustion, moving across the country, having a baby, and then struggling to write again while also juggling said baby (not literally, of course – I’m not a monster), I found it difficult to fit in as much reading as I once could.

Taken in a different light, I should really be saying – wow! Somehow I read 31 books! But that doesn’t please the perfectionist in me, so we’re just going to skirt around numbers and dive straight in to the best part: talking about books.

I made a goal at the beginning of the year to read mostly women, mostly fantasy, and especially aim for voices outside the mainstream white, straight, & male. I did end up with a few of those, but otherwise I stuck to my goal, even if I didn’t finish my 2016 TBR list. And interestingly enough, although I “only” read 31 books – a far cry from last year’s 52 and the prior year’s 70 – they were top notch. I loved almost all of them, which is why even though I read less this year, I still have ten awesome books to share with ya’ll.

Without further ado, here are my 2016 Books of Awesome, Part One:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

“Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. For his crew, he pulls together: a convict with a thirst for revenge; sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager; a runaway with a privileged past; a spy known as the Wraith; a Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums; and a thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction — if they don’t kill each other first.”

I loved that the world in this book was so heavily Slavic. It made for a nice change of pace. Speaking of pace, it’s a bit breakneck which made it very, very difficult to put down. I read this in two days. It’s so much fun and I never saw what was coming next. Even better, it’s a complete story in itself, but enough threads were left open for a sequel – which is definitely on my TBR list.

 

The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn

“Nineteen-year-old Bill Shunn is a man on a mission—a Mormon mission, that is, trolling for converts door-to-door a thousand miles from home. This riveting memoir—by turns hilarious, provocative, and thrilling—traces his accidental journey from that humble beginning to hunted fugitive and international terrorist.”

I love me some funny yet poignant memoirs occasionally, and this one did not disappoint. This was a delightful and informative look into the world of Mormon missions and just what those pairs of well-dressed young men are doing in your neighborhood. Interwoven is the story of Joseph Smith, the man & the myth behind Mormonism. I learned way more than I’d expected and had a fun time at it, high praise in my book.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep the Wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.”

I picked this up based entirely on the idea of a dragon preying on a small village that wasn’t actually a dragon. I loved this because of the cranky wizard at its heart and the actually-quite-terrifying Wood. The MC is plucky and equally cranky and the story runs ahead at equal amounts trot and gallop. There’s even a kick-ass best friend to help balance out the romance.  This is the kind of fairytale for grown ups that I adore.

 

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

“January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?”

Ooooh, I love Duyvis’ writing so much. First her magnificent YA fantasy, Otherbound, and now an apocalyptic YA with both equal amounts terror and grace. But the terror is all in who is considered useful enough to live post-apocalypse and who gets to decide. When the marginalized have a hard enough time in daily society, what happens during the end of the world?

For an apocalyptic story, it was surprisingly hopeful. I loved how Duyvis never focused on chaos and anarchy, and instead drew more than enough tension from mundane questions, which in turn made the worldbuilding feel especially realistic.

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.”

As usual, Seanan spins the creepiest, most entertaining yarns. I always love how she’ll take a particularly common cliché and worry at it until she’s completely turned it on its head, yet it still remains achingly familiar. This knack shines brightest with fairytales, her forte, and here she is, exploring the inevitable, yet unexplored, consequences of all those tales: what happens to the children who come back?

There’s much more to the story than just that question – like murder and mystery and a self-identified ace main character- and it’s all somehow wrapped up within the confines of a novella.

 

To be continued!