Tag Archives: editing

Reading, Writing, Lack Of Editing

Amazon Prime Day. Wow. Great way to separate me from my money guys, thanks. I think. Among the things I purchased that I didn’t need was something that I probably should have done a long time ago: Kindle Unlimited.

Yeah. Let me tell you how it’s gone so far. On Saturday, I read four books. I didn’t do anything else, and my family didn’t seem to miss me. That should be a concern, but hey, the kids are teenagers and live in their own worlds and Hubby knows I check out from time to time and allows it to a certain extent.

On Sunday, I read two books, felt guilty for ignoring my family, and Netflixed an entire season of The Last Kingdom with The Girl as penance. That was not exactly quality time, but I listened to her chatter, responded when appropriate, and didn’t pull my hair out. I also felt jittery, like I’d had too much coffee. In retrospect, it might have been the Swedish Fish & Monster Java combo I used to get me through the last couple of episodes.

Somewhere around 2 am, while watching Richard Hammond’s Crash Course on Amazon Prime Video with Hubby (my long-time insomniac), I realized why I was bothered by reading so many books lately.

First, I’ve always said writer’s block isn’t a problem for me, and that’s true. If I sit down to write, I can. Not always on what I want to write, what I might need to make progress on or finish, but I can write something. It’s why I frequently have multiple works in progress at a time, and why any given book is almost always written out of order. In other words, I don’t write chapter 1,2,3,4, etc. It goes more along the lines of chapter 12,1,4,6,9,3,2, etc. I think I sat down and wrote two books beginning to end in order. Neither are published yet. (A’gust and it’s sequel if you’re wondering. Both are sequels, more or less, to Chrysanthemum.)

Anyway, while writer’s block may not be a problem, progress is. And I wanted to have Desperate Wishes finished and published by now. I should have. At the rate I usually write and where I was in the manuscript, there wasn’t any reason for that not to have happened. I forgot to factor in teenagers, and then the lasting impact of dealing with them. Or the spectacular crash of my computer and loss of quite a bit of material on two of three projects – didn’t count on that either. So taking time out to read, or work on the two other projects on my desktop, makes me feel a little guilty. Guilt isn’t exactly productive.

The other thing about reading those book was that, while the authors wrote good stories, one of them clearly didn’t hire a good editor. Another didn’t hire an editor at all and I suspect didn’t do well in high school English. I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she graduated, but my good will only goes that far.

Nimoy was snuggled up with me all day on Saturday and she noticed my displeasure at the editing dramas unfolding before me in digital black and white (stretch, yawn, baleful glare, shift away so her back was to me, then fall back asleep in clear disdain). See? Failing to have even a half-decent editor glance at your book affects a lot of people and felines. It’s hellish.

Second, while I appreciated the good books I came across, I’m going to ignore them. Sorry, they’re just not important for rant purposes, although I will review all of the books on Amazon and maybe Goodreads later. (I don’t use my name, you don’t get to see the trash I read.)

Where was I? Oh, the good story but bad writing – sigh. It wasn’t even bad writing. I’ll let style issues go nine times out of ten because style is a matter of personal preference and I realize – as an adult and a writer – that people prefer certain things. I can’t read Charlaine Harris’ books. I loved the True Blood series on HBO and people kept telling me to read the books, but I can’t. Her style makes me want to slit my wrists. Obviously she’s a successful writer and her style appeals to, or at least doesn’t bother, most people. My problem is just that – my problem.

If it’s not a matter of style, but poor grammar, editing, writing, and execution, where does that leave me? Leaving a bad review. Or a mediocre one, the story underneath was good.

Again with something that is clearly my problem, I don’t like leaving bad reviews on good stories. Particularly when the review ends up being actually more of a critique. The author can read the review, fix it, upload a new version of the book, and eventually my review will be buried and fall off per Amazon’s new policies. Assuming the author is willing to do that, and take my advice in the future.

It does remind me of where I came from, however, and that is Book Country. Once upon a time, a literary agent named Collen Lindsay went to work for Penguin (Random House) Books, and they launched an online service for potential authors. Writers could upload their manuscripts for other writers to read and critique, allowing them to improve and get useful feedback about plot, structure, grammar, style, voice, etc before submitting it to a literary agent or publishing it themselves. This isn’t a new idea, and it wasn’t new then either. There were, and are, several sites like this out there. I happened to be part of this one since the beta stage, along with a few other people who have also since published.

For me, it came to a point where I wasn’t getting anything new and useful in feedback. Also, I was stuck in a series where if you hadn’t read the previous books, the character development was missing. So I stopped posting, but I still continued to go back and critique, and I followed the discussion boards, and then…I faded away and got lost in my own things.

Apparently my account is still active. Hmm. So I’m thinking, there are authors out there publishing without editing and they need to be slapped. Amazon reviews will do that to a point, Goodreads too. But I can at least drop in on bookcountry.com and maybe give a nudge to the writers who are just starting out.

Apparently Nimoy approves, she just bit me softly then started purring.

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I wrote something. Yay! Now what?

Winner-2014-Square-Button

NaNoWriMo is over. Many of you are surely relieved. Some because they don’t do this sort of thing to themselves and are tired of hearing about it. Others because they did and now they want to collapse into a puddle on the floor. A few wish it would have gone on a little longer so they could get just a few more words in.

Whether you won or not is irrelevant now actually. Okay, winning is better, you get that high from achievement. But honestly, what matters is setting out to accomplish something, giving it your best, and being able to walk away knowing that you really did do everything you could to achieve that goal. As I wrote about before, things come up. I had an unexpected medical emergency in the family that I certainly didn’t account for. Well, that’s not true. I aim high to try to cover for the unexpected, but even then, I fell behind. I fell behind my personal goal, and even the (low for me) NaNo official 1667 words/day goal. That caused me stress I haven’t felt in a while and I actually don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I’m only doing this for the sake of tradition, and I question that every year. I remember writing my first book, my second – actually, ignore those, they went unrealistically smooth. I remember my third and fourth. Holy hell, there are some chapters out there that I swear I bled on every page – quite a feat considering I don’t physically write or print my books. (My little brother is a writer, he physically writes his stories. Pen and paper. I can’t believe it.) But I digress. Whether you got 70,000 words, 50,000, or 5,000; if you fought to get those words down in 30 days, there were emotions, frustration, maybe anxiety and fear. It’s not over.

So what next? In part, that depends on whether your story is done. If it isn’t – finish it. And for those who are still working on their first novel, or their first in a long time, if what you did during November worked to get you farther than you had when you were toying with the idea before, stick with it. If you need a daily goal, or to not edit, or whatever, go ahead. You can start relaxing a little later on the next novel. If you’re a writer a heart, there will be a next one. It’s an addiction. You don’t have a deadline looming, but some people need that. Some people need pressure.

 deadlines

After you finish, well, things get complicated then. I will usually do a quick edit, and I think that’s appropriate for any novel written this quickly. I look for spelling, obvious grammar and punctuation errors, and to make sure I have all the markers for research (or whatever) taken care of. Then the hard part: walk away. I really am serious about this. Walk away and write something else. Get this novel, this story, off your mind. Then you can come back to it for the first revision with a fresh eye. You need a fresh perspective, distance, to catch small plot holes, oversights, and inconsistencies. Yes, you’ll have other people reading to help with that too, but you don’t want them to see the rough versions. You want to show even to those close to you something good, right? Right. To that end, here’s the process (streamlined):

Write Book A, shelf it and write Book B. Shelf Book B and do first revision on Book A. If it hasn’t been enough time for you to really forget, you can skip it and write Book C. Then first revision on Book B. Write a book, second revision Book A. Then you start leapfrogging through writing and revising one book or another.

How long do you revise? “Until it’s done” is the easy answer. Obviously that oversimplifies it. On the first book, make a note of what you’re revising. Some things may be obvious, like checking consistency, plotlines, spelling, punctuation, grammar. Some things you may only learn after you give your first book to an editor. You don’t want to skip this. Even if you have a degree in English, do it at least once, and find someone with references, a history of clients and feedback, and credentials. What did they point out? Add that to your list of things to look for.

Now, what am I doing now that NaNo is over? Well, I finished at 69,700 words, but I know very well that a good portion of that is going to be cut. Why? I skipped ahead and I shouldn’t have. I chose a book for NaNo that picks up where two other books leave off. These two other books are not in the same series, and – here’s the problem – one isn’t written yet. So I’m guessing about 20,000 words can be distilled to next to nothing after I write the missing book. Then of course I have another problem. I don’t want to force people to read ten other books (not kidding) in order to know what happens in this one. Okay, we’ll say six. Same problem applies. Especially when this is a genie book and I am trying very hard to not make it a series. It’s a collection. You can read them in any order. In theory. I don’t want to change that, so I have to make this a standalone novel. That just happens to assume you’re up to date on the happenings in the lives of the characters that come from other books. That means backstory. I really hate doing that.

So what am I doing? Going back to write the novel I should have written before writing this one. Then I’ll finish this one while that one is shelved waiting for revisions. (See how that works?) This novel is shaping up to be a bigger headache than I anticipated, which says a lot. I knew it was going to be difficult before I even started to outline it. I am not going to get started on that outline.

Take the day off, relax, then get back to work. Finish that novel.

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When Writing and Life Collide

ImageLet’s talk about writing and life. I write and life happens. As a general rule, I’m a prolific writer. Writer’s block doesn’t usually get a big grip on me because I have a great way of dealing with it: I just write something else. Either something else in the same book (so everything’s written all out of order and I have to assemble it later like a jigsaw puzzle) or I switch books. Sometimes I’m writing several books at the same time just to escape the full effects of writer’s block.

That’s not always the most practical approach, just so you know. If you don’t have to finish a particular book by a particular time, it works. But if you have deadlines, either self-imposed or by an agent or editor, that’s not going to work. I don’t have deadlines though, so I can do what I want.

This is where life happens. There have been a few things going on in my life that have me extraordinarily stressed out. One thing is going to resolve itself either in my favor or not (most likely not) in the next few weeks, and waiting for it has me gritting my teeth during the day now instead of just at night. My dentist (appointment next week – also stressing me out) is going to have something to say about this. Another thing that’s related and stressing me out is going to resolve itself very likely in my favor but that’s going to take about three more months, and there’s a deadline I have to meet in about three weeks first. I’m not ready. Oh, and my son’s science fair project is due in two days, he’s not ready. Another time on that.

So, I’m writing (A Thousand Words Novel #3, if you’re curious), and writer’s block strikes. Fine. I move on and start Be Careful What You Wish For #2. (Which I should have been working on already, yes, I know that.) I get a few thousand words into it, lose focus. Not good. Move on and pick up a Young Adult mermaid novel I started a couple years ago and then lost on a writer’s block binge. Nope. Hmmm. A really unique contemporary werewolf romance? No. Huh.

Okay. I’ve been here before. It’s one of those rare times when I have to make a decision. I can force the issue and bleed for every paragraph and write a couple of thousand words a day, but this isn’t National Novel Writing Month, and no one’s looking over my shoulder counting those words. And I know that they’ll be good, but it isn’t worth it. There’s no deadline, there’s no reason for the frustration.

Option two: I can revise something that’s waiting. By revise I mean take something I wrote and do my own first self-edit before sending it to alpha & beta readers and my editor and all that nonsense. Usually books get more than one round of revision, and time has to elapse between rounds so I can kind of forget it a little. Thankfully, I’m forgetful.

Option three: I can take a few days off and just read, read, read and not even open Scrivener (I write & do early revisions in Scrivener, not Word, if anyone’s wondering. When I write on my phone/tablet, it’s in Evernote, and occasionally in NotEverything by SoftXperience). Normally I read a little every day, or a little more every other day. It balances out. You have to read a lot to be a writer. In this case, I’m talking marathon reading. Like stop and read five books back to back sort of thing. Okay, maybe I’ll take a break for Minecraft (that’s new – The Girl’s fault) or Plants vs Zombies (that’s really new and The Boy’s fault) but otherwise, just read. The kids are trying to ‘balance’ my life. How adding video games balances me, I’m not sure.

The point of this? Life happens. Writer’s block occasionally wins. Occasionally. It shouldn’t be allowed to be the crutch that many writers use it as. Cowboy up, kiddies. I don’t have to let it win, I can push through it, it’s just sometimes not worth the frustration. I’m not working on a deadline. If I had a publishing house contract, I’d be writing something very different right now, but I don’t.

So, I’m going to go grow some giant mushrooms in Minecraft, then I’m going to tap my fingers and wonder when Transitions is going to come back from editing (new cover for that is in ‘coming soon’ on my website www.toribrooks.com), then I’m going to do some revisions on the sequel for Chrysanthemum because it is still longer than I’m comfortable with. And I have some new books to read. That will get me through the weekend.

 

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Did I Write Garbage? – Part Two

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All right, let’s revisit my ongoing examination on the birth of a novel. When we last left my NaNoWriMo project, Rerun, I’d ended NaNo at nearly 59,000 words, then trimmed 15,000 when I found myself trying to regain focus. And I wasn’t upset about it, I’m still not, although I’m sort of missing those 15,000 words now.

So I started off again with a renewed sense of direction and almost 44,000 words completed. Experience told me I was halfway done. That was by word count. Reality and experience are not pals, however, something I learned last week.

I finished my first draft of Rerun, finishing at 67,404 words. I was not really happy about this. My experience (again! You’d think I’d learn) told me that I was going to lose some of that in editing and I prayed that rough edit I did in December took care of that problem.

Maybe, I’m not sure yet. I did a quick clean up: fixed some dates, checked for consistency, took care of all but one of those “Look at this@@” research notes, and handed it to the alpha readers. All 67,128 words of it. I was so relieved I didn’t lose more I can’t begin to tell you. Of course there will be more editing.

Alpha readers sort of have a fun job. They read it and just give an opinion. Well, kind of. I put mine through the third degree. Let them read the first chapter then I quiz them: who do you think will do xxx? I want to know if the end is going to be a surprise and, if not, at what point they guess or how close they get. Beta readers get the same treatment, but worse. I don’t expect alpha readers to pick apart plot consistency; check my physics, history, or math; or catch plot holes small enough for them to step over. They’re kind of your average reader and I just want feedback.

Beta readers – I require work. I’ll actually edit it and have it short of sending to my editor before handing it to beta readers. I send it to them, all formatted and pretty, with the implied request “Please pick apart this novel and leave me lying in the gutter, twitching. Thank you.”

Handing Rerun to alpha readers is fine, they’ll let me know if I’m on the right track and then I’ll fix what I need to. But I’m still having some nervous twitches about a couple of things. First: I expressed concern before I was venturing into unknown territory and I cut 15,000 words in part to get me back on track. I’m not sure it worked. This isn’t a romance. It’s closer to chic-lit than romance. Okay, not what I was shooting for, but I’ll live with that.

My second concern is: I’ve never written anything this short. I think the shortest novel I’ve completed to date was somewhere around 78,000 words. It is a novel, I haven’t ventured into the novella range yet. I actually had to go double check, but Writer’s Digest (among some other resources) still counts everything above 50,000 words as a novel. I’m on the fence at that 50k line, but I’ll go with it. And it shouldn’t matter, there’s nothing wrong with novellas. They’re the trend, they’re popular, some people prefer them to full-length novels. I’m just a little skiddish because this is so much shorter than I’m used to. I’m not going to pad it just to inflate my word count into my comfort zone. The story is complete as it stands, and I’ll wait and see what feedback I get before decided whether to permanently shelve my apprehension.

For the record, I don’t write short stories either. I can’t. I used to, back in junior high and high school, but I seemed to have lost the ability. Everything I have now that is a short story is actually a cut chapter, although that seems to work.

We’ll see what happens to Rerun as it progresses past the alpha and beta readers, revisions, and an editor. I’ve never timed a book from beginning to end, or tracked the steps, so this should be interesting.

 

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NaNo – Did I Write Garbage?

There’s an argument that during NaNoWriMo (and you thought we were done with this) you write a lot of ‘garbage’ because you’re frantically trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days and therefore not paying attention to quality. I disagreed with this oft-heard discouragement partially because I simply didn’t feel I edited any more ‘garbage’ from NaNo books than non-NaNo books, and partially because I think those critics are missing the point of NaNoWriMo. Some writers get so bogged down in making ever sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter “perfect” that they never finish the book. NaNo is all about solving that problem. Making it “perfect” (and let’s be real, true perfection is subjective) is largely in editing and you have to have something to edit.

But I didn’t have any real data to back it up. So, let’s embark on a long-term project and explore the process, shall we?

I ended NaNo at 58,719 words. Yay. Then I came to a writing crisis and had to make some decisions about where I was going with this. So I took what I had and formatted it for Kindle to put it on Hubby’s tablet to see what he thought. Of course I had some disjointed scenes where I knew this was scene H (for example) but it was placed where B should be and scene G was only a three line idea. And some “(Look into this@@)” notes next to things that I looked into and removed. Mostly. And I changed the setting twice between when I started and this point. I also changed my male protagonist’s career, so I went and fixed those little tidbits and generally cleaned things up a bit. I even put in some general ideas on where chapters were going to be based on plot break, as opposed to word/page count, but the word count/chapter is oddly even in this one so far. Only chapter seven (in version 0.25) is radically ‘off’ in the word count range.

Anyway, back to my original statement, which was that some think you write a lot of garbage doing NaNo because you’re rushing. (Fidgets nervously.) I didn’t do a real edit here, this was making it readable and getting it ready to format for Kindle for a test reader.

I’m at 43,721 words now. Yes, I lost 14,998 words. Yes, I’m a little surprised, or I was at first. No, I’m not upset about it. No, I’m not changing my position that I wrote a lot of garbage because I was trying to write too fast. Here’s why:

I had a very vague idea of where I was going with this book when I started, not a detailed outline. I wasn’t even confident in the ending. That’s what sparked this writing crisis. It wasn’t that I didn’t like where the book was going, or I wasn’t comfortable with it, but I know my limits. I read and write certain genres. I’ve ventured into writing a genre I didn’t read before, it didn’t go well. I was starting to do it again. I was turning a romance book into a suspense novel. Now romantic suspense is fine, but not mystery suspense. It’s not in my arsenal.

So, do I take a break and see what it takes to add writing thriller and suspense to my arsenal and then go back and trim some romance scenes, or do I stick with familiar ground and say ‘this is primarily a romance’ and trim the scenes that were leading it off track? I chose option two. And I hadn’t connected those chapters (one is 5330 words, the other is 9991 words) to the main body of the book yet. We’ll call them chapters P and R, they’re that far down the line. No damage done, except to my word count.

Were they garbage? No. I’m saving them. I may use them somewhere else. Together with what I already have, the book is too suspense/thriller and not enough romance. Alone, each could be the major complication in a single book.

I believe I’ve said something like this before: Don’t fuss over making a single chapter or scene perfect until you finish the whole book, you might end up cutting it. I’ve done it before, and I just did it again. It’s part of the process sometimes. If you’re an uber-detailed plotter, you might escape this, but it’s really not as heartbreaking as it sounds.

Be Careful What You Wish For was a NaNo book and I cut the first chapter off of that. That first chapter was a prologue, now it’s the short story Meet Olive (free on Goodreads or ToriBrooks.com). And these two chapters may yet see the light of publication. See? It’s not so bad.

Now we’ll see what happens to those 43,721 words after I finish the rest of the book, revise it, and subject it to readers and an editor. How many will survive that? I did say it was a long-term project.

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