#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

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

January Review

january

First off: Happy February!

Second: What happened to January??

Life happened. In quite a spectacular way. I knew January was going to be tough, writing-wise, what with every distracting thing going on, so I made the (very wise) commitment to simply write every day. No daily word count, no monthly goal, just a no pressure commitment of putting a few words on the page every day.

To hold myself accountable, I marked off each day that I wrote with a blue highlighter. You can see above what the month looked like towards the end. My final count was two days missed, and those were loooong, crazy days without any breaks. I usually write on my lunch breaks, but I have sacrificed many of those to doctors appointments, haircuts, last-minute meetings at work, and therapy at the gym.

Now that some of that Life Stuff has been resolved (but not all of it), I need to regain my focus. I’m going to recommit to writing every day in February and continue making small, but real, progress on this WIP. Hopefully by the end of the month I will have less on my plate – and cluttering up my mind – and will be able to zone the noise of the world out and get back to writing more.

For now, I’m going to celebrate the small victories. I could have easily let January go and written nothing at all. But instead, I got 13,080 words and four chapters into this WIP, plus I read three of the books on my 2016 TBR list. All things considered, I’m going to call that a win.

Trudging Along

20151017_163240


I’ll be writing so much more!
she said.

Having a job will give me focus again! she said.

I’ll have that 20k written within the week! she said.

Somebody has been overestimating herself again.

But hey – I may not have written much this weekend, but I finally got to go and participate in our city’s amazing Dia De Los Muertos procession. We were too late to reach the urn and put in our notes (mementos, wishes, notes about loved ones who have passed go in the urn to be burned at the end of the ceremony), but the whole experience was wonderingly cathartic.

I love the idea of a special time every year set aside specifically to honor the dead, whether they’re your long-passed ancestors or a more recent grief. There are so many cultures that do something like Dia De Los Muertos, but we don’t have anything close in the US. We think by pretending death doesn’t exist, we can make it go away. Instead, we just shuttle all those grieving to the shadows and tell them to come back when they feel better. :/

——

Here is my current progress on OIBM, a YA fantasy ruckus about magical girls, the apocalypse, and exactly whose fault it is:

Fun Recent Google Searches: Polyphemus, the cyclops from the Odyssey

Average Words Per Day This Week: 632 (oof)

Number of impenetrable underground bunkers: 1

November, November

october-32

It’s NaNoWriMo season! In years past, this month would have found me stocked up on candy corn and bursting with plot. Alas, PCOS means I really shouldn’t be eating pure sugar and the events of the last two months have conspired to drag out the draft zero process of this WIP. Instead of candy corn and plot, I have kale and 20k words to go – which, we can work with.

I may not be doing NaNo as it was intended, but by golly, that draft will be finished this month, rain or shine, job or no job –

Speaking of which, I will again enjoy full employment as of tomorrow. Hoorah! Aside from the joy of a regular paycheck and learning something new, I’m also looking forward to having a set schedule again. These past few months of (f)unemployment have been necessary in showing that, surprise surprise, I don’t manage huge gobs of free time very well. I write much better in the corners and edges of life, not right front and center. I write much more when I have a job than when I don’t, which isn’t that surprising.

So on top of having less free time, I’m looking forward to writing more. 20k will be easy peasy. I’m going to harness NaNo’s energy to get that done asap, and then lock this draft away and turn to another story that has been scratching at my thoughts: rewriting City of Wraithes into something much more exciting and awesome.

Here is my current progress on OIBM, a YA fantasy ruckus about magical girls, the apocalypse, and exactly whose fault it is:

Fun Recent Google Searches: How to do a fireman’s carry. Looks easy! I doubt it actually is – now I just need to trick a friend into letting me try it on them…

Average Words Per Day This Week: Ugh, not even gonna look this time.

Number of sinkholes introduced to the story: 1

WIP Check-in: DONE DONE DONE

Is the final draft done yet?: YES

Current page count: 209/209

Shots of whiskey: 1

Current problems with the manuscript: there’s probably something left to fix in the beginning or middle or what have you but it’s small and inconsequential and what I’m trying to say is THIS IS DONE

 

AAAH *FLAILING INTENSIFIES*

It’s done! It’s been almost exactly nine months of working and writing and rewriting and editing and it’s done! Three drafts. Countless words and hours and minutes and days. Final wordcount: 128,121 which is perfect, I envisioned this originally as somewhere between 125-130k and 128 is perfect. I can add some and I can cut some and it will still be the right length.

WHAT NOW?

Well, even though I am calling this my Final Draft, technically this is Final Draft 1 or First Beta Version. What this means is that the story is pretty much set in stone and I have gone through and fixed continuity and typos and grammar and tightened and lengthened and done everything I can to make this the Best Draft Possible before someone else sees it. There are still errors – oh boy how there are still errors – but at this point my nose has been so close to this work for so long that I am mostly blind to them.

That’s where my betas come in. I have a few good friends who I’ll have read this (hot) mess and get back to me on what works, what doesn’t, what makes sense, what doesn’t, etc. Ideally, small tweaks will happen after that and I’ll have the Query Version, which is the draft of the novel that will get sent out to agents. All sorts of things can happen at that point and since I’ve never gotten beyond the initial querying process, I’m not going to speculate on them now.

Over the course of the next two months, my betas will read and get back to me and I will edit and write so. many. query. letters. Seriously, query letters are usually less than 300 words and yet they can take a full month to write.

After two months – or after I’ve queried to exhaustion – I will pick up a new project and run with it. I already have an idea of what I’m going to work on next, but I shan’t allow myself excitement yet. I need that excitement to drive me through the next step of this process, because querying is the hardest thing for me.

BUT ALL THAT IS FOR TOMORROW

TONIGHT – WE DINE IN HELL

– wait, absolutely wrong reference.

TONIGHT – WE CHILL THE FUCK OUT

<3!!!

WIP Check-in: One Day to Go

Is the final draft done yet?: NO

Current page count: 200/209

Shots of whiskey: 2.5

Current problems with the manuscript: I AM A LITTLE TIPSY AND OVERWHELMED WITH TODAY’S REVELATIONS

Almost there! I think most of the worst of the editing is done! It’s just line edits and tweaks from here on out!!

WIP Check-In: The Final Draft and Final Countdown, Day 1

I have a week left until my wholly self-imposed deadline of April 1st to finish this final draft of my WIP. I’m a month late already and April Fool’s Day just seems to be an appropriate time to send this beast to my beta readers.

There is an awful lot of restructuring and rewriting to do in these final days and pages, so to keep myself motivated and accountable, I’m going to check in here and update my progress.

Is the final draft done yet?: NO

Current page count: 177/206

Shots of whiskey: 1

Current problems with the manuscript: too much suspicion, not enough relief and surprise.

 

Other things unrelated to said final draft:

I’m officially doing a second “season” of the Cactopodes tumblr, rather conveniently starting April 2nd. What started as a place to deposit photos of local cacti, namely saguaros, which are all quite individual in nature, quickly devolved into a lovecraftian nightmare about four wayward scientists who got lost in the stygian wasteland of the Sonoran desert.

It’s really quite silly and more of an excuse to be ridiculous – and it is a perfect project to work on once I get this final draft done and out the door. I want to keep writing – it’s never good to take a long break, at least not for me – but I also don’t want to start a new story when I’m trying to query this one. I’ve learned I can’t query and write something entirely new at the same time – it just doesn’t work.

So instead, I’m going to go with nameless, octopoid horrors.

First Draft = Done!

I wrote the last word of the first draft this morning. It felt… oddly anticlimactic. But it’s done. Every scene is in there, from the very beginning to the very end. Unlike draft zero, which was basically a 130 page outline. This is cleaner, more polished. Almost – but not quite – there.

I have a few scenes in mind that I know I’ll need to tweak/rewrite completely, but I’m going to let this baby rest for a day or two. And even then, I will only work on the outline, synopsis, and query for the next two weeks / until March. That kind of work forces me to take a biiiig step back from the novel and really see the whole picture, which will be indispensable when I dig into the nitty gritty.

My plan is to have polished draft one into a presentable draft two by Mid-March, but it may be closer to April at this point. I both hate it and am wickedly curious what my betas will think – I simply have no idea. I’m just too close to it right now.

I guess it’s time to start brainstorming a better title than In the Sand Wastes