October 13

Slow Down. Breaking down and Setting Time limits

When I’m going to edit my own work, my process is usually predictable and simple.

Step one: Print the entire manuscript out.
Step two: Mark each individual chapter with post-it notes so chapters are easier to identify.
Step three: Break the book into 4ths–to the nearest chapter ending. So if the 1/4 mark is on page 60 and the chapter doesn’t end until page 63, the first quarter will contain 63 pages.
 Step four: Use paper clips to keep each fourth separated and together, except for the quarter I am working on. I do not always order the quarters in chronological order, though I am only allowed to work in one quarter at a time.
Step five: Edit an entire quarter.
Step six: Transfer notes for quarter edited onto computer.
Step seven: Start on next quarter
Step eight:  Repeat step five, six and seven until the entire manuscript is edited.
Step nine: Incorporate final notes and clean up final passages from edit.

During my first semester in Spalding’s MFA program, I’ve already seen a change in my editing processes, mainly due to needing to get my requirements throughout the semester, but the new procedure seems to have a much stronger effect on my novel than my original way of editing.  I can see and feel the changes in the novel almost instantly, whereas I may need to go through the above process three or four times before I truly noticed a consistent change in the draft, sometimes in entire chapters.

What is this new, more effective way of editing? It’s simple really.

I’ve been breaking the novel into sections for my packets. About 40 pages each–to the nearest chapter ending. So if I’m on my third pack of 40–with the packet supposed to end on page 120–but the nearest new chapter ends on page 119, I’d break it a page short. I work on the forty page section for three weeks. I am not allowed to work outside those 40 pages during those three weeks.  If I make all the major changes to the draft before my three weeks is up, I start at the beginning of the forty pages and do a deeper edit, grammar, sentence structure, smoothness, general clean up.  If their are changes I still want to make at the end of the three weeks, I make a note of it and MOVE onto the next section of forty pages.

How is what I’ve been doing, different from what I’ve started doing? Honestly if you break my novel down–at least before I started editing it, I’d have only had 5.5 sets of 40. So, I’d only be adding a section and a half to my original idea, which can’t make too much of a difference right?

I think the difference is the forced three weeks to work on the section. By setting that time limit, I force myself to slow down, to really look at my writing, no matter how much I may want to be done with the round of editing. Without the time limit set, I would push through the entire novel at my pace.  I’d make notes to make major changes, however I missed a lot of the changes that were also needed in that same section because I wasn’t looking closely enough.  This also works to keep me motivated, focused on working on my story, so that I can make sure all the changes that need to happen can be made, instead of delayed for another draft.

If you’re needing a new method of editing, this one may be worth trying.

August 23

Writing Madness

If you’ve been following me on my facebook account, you probably already know that I’m making big changes to my current WIP.

I’m sticking to the plot I originally had, but the biggest changes are Silas’ role and the timeline. These two things require a lot of changes throughout the novel in itself, but I’ll, hopefully, be able to keep a lot of my scenes intact. I’m not so much as changing the story plot-wise–not this one at least–as much as I’m emphasizing new points and de-emphasizing others. And I like the consequences of most of those small changes.

As I told a friend, this draft is really a spaghetti test. For those who don’t know, that’s when you throw spaghetti against a wall and see what sticks.  Some things I already know won’t stick.  Other things seem pretty solid to the wall.  But I keep eyeing the noodles that dangle from the wall threatening to plummet to the floor. I probably won’t know if it’ll collapse or solidify until I’m much further in the re-write.

A lot of the time I feel like I’m floundering. I keep hitting blocks that appear so easy to fix once I figure out the solution, but I keep getting caught up with how it was originally written or with what I originally intended to happen. The changes I’ve made will make a lot of the things obsolete, but it’s also opening up a lot of possibilities in other areas.

Right now my rewrite stands at about 14,000 words. By September 11th, perhaps sooner, I hope to be at 30,000–about half-way through the draft. I’m pulling a lot of scenes out of this draft though, so I’m losing a lot of words. If I were to keep what remains of my original draft just as it is now, and added it to the new changes I’d only have a 59,600 word novel, which is closer to a novella, I believe. It could be straddling a Novella and a Novel, depending on the source.  And I know some people say that 50k is the minimum word count for a YA novel. I do have more scenes and sequences I need to remove to make the book work with the new changes, but I also have things I need to add, change and expand on.  So, I’m sure my word count will get up where I want it/need it to be. Once I get through this draft and start cleaning up the spaghetti on the walls and floors.

These changes make me feel like my novel better fits the description I wrote for it.  Strange, isn’t it.  The book is changing for the description, not the other way around? The description was close but I think the book had less focus on the plot points than the blurb suggested. Now, I’m not sure I can say that. So I, at the moment, don’t believe the description needs to change. The title probably does, but I’ve long suspected that.  And as I write this story I tend to have weird phrases pop in my head–they might work for titles but I think their are things inherently wrong with them.

Right now the title that pops in my head the most is: Serendipitous Pain.

That might work for an adult novel. Not sure it would work for a Young Adult novel.  And if I stare at the words long enough, I start seeing a bondage porno thing playing out. Not at all the image I want for a YA novel. I don’t know why I bother trying to figure out titles though.  I don’t seem to have a knack for coming up with them.  Other titles I came up with include:

  • Political Reprisals
  • Wayward Games
  • Depraved Politics
  • Seasoned Spoils
  • Shadowed Descent
  • On First Appearance
  • Died at the hand of Shadows
  • Vampires Befriending Slayers
Okay. I think I’m done embarrassing myself. But simply calling it Regan Strommen seems too lazy. And some of my oldest titles, like Playing Deadly Games  or All Our Secrets Are The Same probably won’t work. So, for now, it’s going to remain Shadowed.

Recommendations are always welcome on anything writing related–novel changes, book titles or story descriptions. Do you have any? And how is your own writing going?

Write well, even if it sucks.