Category Archives: writing

Neglected Blog is Sad :(

1978807_321519584667893_6995466395857257882_nIt’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been working on some stuff, and dealing with the kind of roll-with-the-punches situations that life seems to be throwing at me lately.

I’m still playing with brain.fm. I don’t find it quite as effective, but it’s pretty close. I think letting the kid use it a couple of times moved it away from my optimum, but I’m slowly getting it back. I’ve settled on an average of 3000 words per day, one the days that I get anything done, but any time I try to switch back to one of my main projects, it plummets, which is frustrating. I think it’s because the practice projects have simpler storylines, so it’s easier to just sit and roll through it. I’m pantsing them too, which probably doesn’t help with the main projects.

Today, I plan to write a couple of scenes in The Wall Nuts, a few more in Proud Flesh, and a few more in a side project. It’s storming here, because Canada. Six inches of snow. I’ve decided that we all, collectively, need to buy Mother Nature a few drinks and get her laid. I keep checking my email and hoping that my daughter’s dance class is cancelled, lol. It feels like a pajama day. Brrrr.

Other than that, I’m still looking at late May for The Wall Nuts, simply because of editor scheduling. And I’m going to need to pick up some shifts at the old day job, because a couple of big bills just landed on my lap. I hate this in-between state, where I’m making almost enough to manage the household bills, but not enough to handle any emergencies. And this year has been one emergency after another, so it’s just proved the point that I’m not ready yet to chuck the day job and go whole hog at this writing thing. Close, but that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Maybe in another year, once I’ve got the major house repairs done, and a bit of money put away for emergencies. (Because heaven knows, they do seem to like me.)

My niece and nephew are thinking about moving out of the country to look for work, as well. Which means I’m expecting to inherit some of their menagerie. The girlchild may get her snake after all. And I may end up with some sort of lizard. And a dog. And possibly some birds. (Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about menagerie.)

So pray for me to have a snow day. Because I just realized I left the car windows cracked open and the car will be full of snow now. O.O

Don’t Know What Hit Me, But I Like It :)

sloth-soon-memeFor a while, back when I started writing, I hit 3.5K words a day, which is pretty good for a noob. Then life happened, I stopped writing for a while, and my brain went to mush. For the past year, 500 words was the best I could manage in a day, even if I sat in front of the computer all day. I was at the end of my rope, and seriously considering giving it all up.

The last week, though, I’ve been burning up the keyboard. 2000, 2500, 3000 words a day. I can’t say for sure what caused it, but there’s probably a few things. One is that I’m working on three different projects–two that have been stewing in the back of my brain for a while, and one that’s a throwaway experiment, so I have literally zero stress about whether it works, or makes sense, or even gets out into the world. I’m trying it to see if I can make it work and if I can’t–well, no harm, no foul. And I can say that there truly is no harm in it, because with 3K a day going onto the different stories, I’m still making progress that’s way beyond what I’ve been managing. But three new stories with most of their high points already figured out inside my head make the words come easy, and I’m starting to remember how I got those 3.5K days, back when I was just a smidge of ink on the paper.

Another thing I did was find some background music that helps me focus. With the health issues, employment issues, and house issues this year, it’s been tough to focus myself. Anxiety makes it hard not to drop something because it’s not helping you RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. And, heaven help me, I needed some help there for a while. But, after trying to tough it for far too long, I invested in a lifetime account of Brain.fm. It’s supposed to be scientifically designed background music that changes the way your brain works, helping you relax, or focus, or even sleep. I’ve heard varying reports, most of them positive. Being of the scientific persuasion, I’m skeptical, but I tried it, it’s been working, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to poke the bubble too hard in case it bursts. Even if it only lasts for a little while, it may be enough to help me retrain myself to focus properly again.

The last thing I did, and this is going to sound ridiculous–is I started taking this seriously. As a business. I had thought I was beforehand, but I was fooling myself. Now, I’ve got some self-published works, and I’ve discovered I love the puzzle of marketing. I also crunched the numbers and figured out what I’d have to make in sales per day in order to live off my books. It’s not as scary a number as I thought it would be. And I recognize now all the voices from my past, who thought writing was a cute hobby and if you have that much spare time, shouldn’t you have a second job or be volunteering somewhere to pad out your resume? (Ignoring the fact that the writing was my third job.) And maybe it’s about time I stopped listening to those voices, and listened to what’s inside me. Maybe I can take a run at this, make a real business out of it. I know I’m happier at the keyboard than I am at the Day Job of Doom. Why not? Right?

So if you’ve been doubting yourself, never forget that it’s okay to take some time and say, “I’m going to treat this like it’s real.” And give yourself a chance, even if it flies in the face of everyone around you.

So Close I Can Taste It

drinking-dog-funny-puppy-pictures Two passes down, one more to go. I’ve fixed a lot of weird spelling issues that I think have something to do with my keyboard getting ready to die. (I can’t say all of it was the keyboard–at one point I found an entire sentence that had lived on from an earlier draft, and had nothing to do with the scene it was currently inhabiting.) Some plot problems from the end of the book, which I freely admit to sending out as a hot mess. Better now, but I bet that by the time I’ve gone through everything and it’s ready for publication, I’ll have added 5k words to it. I’ve already added 1300.

I still get lost in parts. Places where I horrify myself, places where I’m just so relieved I forget I’m editing. I hope that means I’ve done my job properly.

Back to aligning the synopsis with the story. I strayed a little, but I don’t think it affected the story negatively. There were some things that just sounded better in précis than they did laid out completely in the text. I want to finish this tonight so I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow. I have one beta to get back to me and I think I’ve already hit most of the changes that have to be made. I might actually get this thing off early. 🙂

Three Dirty Birds and the Dreaded Outline of Doom

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The Dirty Birds are back with a new book! K.M.Weiland and her advice in Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

Zoe: So this will be an interesting book given the range of pantsing/plotting we have among us birds.

Ana: Yes, I think I’ll take the role of the skeptic.

Kate: I’ve already been cheesed-off by someone in the second chapter. (Not Weiland entirely)

Zoe: I should probably actually read those interviews at the ends of the chapters, huh?

Ana: I don’t think you’re missing too much by not reading them.

Kate: Nope, not a thing. Grrrrr!

Zoe: I looked at the interview questions asked, realized they were the same for every chapter…realized I didn’t much care. The actual chapters though have some decent stuff.

Kate: Yeah, the chapters themselves aren’t bad. When I go through them, I remember doing some of this stuff for Bite Me Tender, and not really thinking of it as outlining. But I guess what that comes down to is–outlining is what you make of it.

Ana: I have to say reading these chapters it sometimes felt that the assumption she was working off was that pantsers don’t know ANYTHING about what’s going on in their books or what’s going to happen.

Kate: I found it kind of dismissive of anything that wasn’t linear. (Why, hello, big red button. Who’s pushing you today?) The fact is, as a very happy pantser, I still know most of what’s going on in my story before I start. And I like jumping around in the story, creating puzzles for myself, having new ideas pop up that I never considered. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to have an outline for one story and have it all mapped out before I start. Except I have a sneaking suspicion that my brain would be all “okay, we’re done now. Next plot bunny!” and that would be it. So, I’m in a Catch-22–do I try it with a good story idea that I’m eager to write and risk losing that story, or do I try it with one I don’t much care about and risk my own disinterest sabotaging me? Or do I just say, “Stuff it!”

Zoe: I don’t feel so much like I’m all done now when I outline (though I don’t actually use the word “outline” when I’m doing it). It’s more like a really short first draft (really short–maybe 10-15 pages) where I’m just telling myself the story. Then I do the real first draft, where I fill everything in…and completely change what happened in the outline. 🙂

But you could try outlining an idea you don’t even have yet, so there’s no bias either way. Just start with the premise chapter and work your way through something from utter scratch. Maybe you’ll wind up with a story you want to write; maybe you won’t.

Ana: I’m probably going to try the things/methods described in this book to outline, or try an outline for my paranormal. Right now, I’m somewhere between outlining and pantsing. Where spending 3 months on an outline makes me want to go hide in a cave somewhere and give up writing all together, while not having any idea at all before I start? That seems daunting too.

Zoe: She spends longer writing an outline than I spend writing a first draft.

Ana: YES.

Kate: Lol, me too! But I love that first part.

Zoe: I just don’t know how I’d take that long to plan something.

Kate: I think she must like a really detailed outline. My outline for Bite Me Tender was more of a brainstorming session that lasted about fifteen minutes, scribbled all over the page, and then the story I actually wrote had nothing in common with it except the names and Levi was a werewolf. Go figure.

Ana: That’s often how it goes for me. I have this amazing idea for this brilliant story! And then by the time I’ve written it, the story has very little in common with that original idea. (In fact, I could probably write the story I’d first thought of too, and sell them as separate stories and no one would know!)

Kate: Two birds with one…word processor?

Zoe: I think not using what’s in your outline isn’t a bad thing—you eliminated those things by thinking of them first.

Kate: And I think that’s part of my process. I know, doing the rewrite on Knight, there’s a lot of changing happening there. Every rewrite makes some fundamental changes in the way I present material, and what scenes I use to get my points across.

Zoe: I have a new book to start on the first. And no idea what’s supposed to happen in it, so I’ll be using this book and the next two weeks to try and get a handle on it.

Kate: That sounds like a plan. You can keep us updated on how it’s working for you.

Have we actually talked about what’s in this chapter yet? 😛

Zoe: Ha. So, chapter one covers the misconceptions of outlining, which we all have heard (or held), and the benefits of outlining. And…I’ll admit I just skimmed because I don’t need to be sold on it; I want to get to the meat of doing it.

Ana: I highlighted a part where she talks about how much she hates discovering that she has to do rewrites. I love discovering that I have to do rewrites, but mostly, because for me that goes hand in hand with realizing how I can make my story stronger, so I’m initially all excited.

Kate: Me too. I rewrite all the way through the story.

Zoe: That’s how I feel too. Writing a story (including the rewrites) is kind of like doing a puzzle. Or a painting, I suppose. You keep going back and figuring out how to make it even better. (Actually I think I have that backward: you keep figuring out how to make it even better, and go back and do it.)

Ana: The next part I highlighted was where she said that an extensive outline was a first draft (which I agree with), but that it only took maybe a quarter of the time. I think that’s a very individual thing. My first drafts certainly don’t take as long as her outlines. (And I cringe to think that her first drafts take a year, when you do the math.)

Kate: Considering the way publishing is going now, one draft a year isn’t a sustainable pace, if you want to make a living (or even a decent part-time job) off writing. We’re not all George Martin.

Zoe: (Thank goodness! The pressure that man is under…)

Ana: Then I think, reading on, that her writing process as a pantser must be very different from mine, because she describes frequently writing 5k word segments only to realize they lead her to a dead end. I can honestly say that usually doesn’t happen to me. I usually think at least that far ahead. (For example, when I get an idea that I want to try following, I make a quick flow chart for myself to see if it even leads to any outcome that would help my story.) Pantsing doesn’t have to mean you never think about what you’re doing.

Kate: See, in my head, my stories are a web of connecting events. Some events don’t show up at first, because I don’t yet that I need them, but once I get to the one they should connect to, it becomes obvious. I’ve never written 5K words only to say “This isn’t going anywhere.” (Actually, I should qualify that. During my complete mental funk this year, when I forgot how to write, I did do something like that. Only because I was writing a sequel, and I left too much time in between the two stories. I reread chunks of the first, but missed some stuff that my subconscious mind remembered. And it blocked me once I got so far. Once I clued to the problem, the ‘block’ went away. I know exactly where I’m going with it now.) When I’m on my game, I never run into that problem.

Zoe: I’ve written 40k, 50k words that haven’t gone anywhere. I’m happy to write even when I have no idea what I’m doing with it. Someday I’ll steal stuff from those manuscripts.

Ana: I have written entire drafts that didn’t go anywhere. But it wasn’t because they led me to dead ends. It was just that by the end of those, I’d come up with a much better story than the one I’d told.

Zoe: Mine were dead ends. 🙂 (Gah, the entire first few drafts of Man Made Murder were dead ends. I kept taking a long running start and ending up in the same unworkable spot.) Once I changed nearly everything—it worked! 😀 😀

Ana: Yay! The next bit I found interesting was her claim that foreshadowing was impossible when pantsing. That doesn’t hold true in my experience. During my first novel I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but my brain kind of pulled it together in a way that made sense by using seemingly unnecessary details I’d put into the story to tie it up. So when I reread the whole thing there was a lot of unintended foreshadowing.

Kate: I found that weird for her to say. I’m convinced that her definition of pantsing and ours are not the same. If I know a certain scene is coming up, stuff just comes out on the page in earlier scenes. Even my throwaway fantasy already has foreshadowing in the first chapter. It needs tweaking, but the space is there.

Ana: I also had some objections to her saying I didn’t know which POV to use unless I outlined.

Kate: Like you wouldn’t know what the conflict of a scene was, or who had the most to lose before you get into it.

Zoe: Yes, I think she oversells outlines here, and she probably didn’t need to. Outlines do have benefits; you don’t have to make it sound like pantsers can’t do anything to talk people into trying them.

Kate: I really think this comes down to her definition of a pantser. The more I read, the more convinced I am that, to her, a pantser is someone who sits down at the computer with an idea–”Two guys meet at a coffee shop and it turns out one used to be the best friend of the other’s brother.”–and then just starts without thinking about it. I’m baffled as to why she talks about how a story bumps around in her head for a year or two before she writes it. Have either of you ever sat down to write a story the minute you got an idea? I haven’t. Admittedly, mine don’t always take a year, but…

Ana: I have, but only short stories. I have also done two NaNo’s without thinking about either story much prior to writing it. One, I trunked. The other I did a complete rewrite of. (But, the first draft only took a month, so… worth it.)

Kate: I can’t even do that with short stories. *sniffs sadly* No seat-of-the-pants writing here.

Zoe: I used to seat-of-pants stories, back when I was doing fanfic.

Kate: Now I’m beginning to question my membership in the pantser club.

Ana: It just works differently for all of us.

Zoe: Not just for all of us, but for every story. You never know what you’re going to wind up doing to get a story written.

Ana: True, but that’s what keeps it interesting.

Kate: Yes. If it was the same every time, I’d get bored. You know, I was just rereading the part of the chapter where she says that pantsers think that outlining takes too much time. I’m not sure it’s that. If it’s something you don’t enjoy doing, why spend that much time on it? I want to come to my stories with joy, not dread. If outlining isn’t fun, if it doesn’t put me in my happy place, why spend that time? I’d rather go back and revise and tweak and play with my words (FUN!) than trudge through an outline (NOT FUN!). Completely aside from the fact that if you aren’t enjoying doing it, then you’re going to find excuses to not do it. And the story doesn’t get written.

Three Dirty Birds vs. the Revision Checklist, Part 3

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We’re over at Zoe’s blog for the last part of our discussion of James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. Tune in next week to see how I handle working through a book on outlining.

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Three Dirty Birds on James Scott Bell's Checklist

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The Three Dirty Birds are chatting about James Scott Bell’s Revision and self-Editing for Publication. We’re down to the end of it now, with just his Revision Checklist to go through. (And, by the way, he has a downloadable version of this checklist at Writer’s Digest, if you want to check it out.)

Kate: The checklist really was the book condensed down to however many pages it was. A nice concise set of questions (I love questions!) to use as you go over your manuscript after it’s been finished.

Ana: Why do you love questions?

Kate: Because it flips my mind into ‘find the answer’ mode, which is way more efficient than just telling me I should make my character more likeable.

Ana: Why?

Kate: I like to solve problems. Question marks are problems waiting for answers. I dunno–it’s just how my brain functions (when it functions).

Zoe: Yeah, it makes for a good cheat sheet. And if Ana asks “why” one more time, I’m going to flick her off her perch.

Ana: Could you really be so cruel?

Kate: Better change the subject, quick!

Zoe: Everyone ignore that squawk you just heard. She’ll pick herself back up. Meanwhile, the chapter opens with a section on Character. Which immediately made me anxious. By the time I got to the third question—Do my characters sufficiently contrast?—I was doing the fetal-position roll-on-the-bed going, “STOP!” (I write a lot of friends, long-time friends. People grow to be like each other after a while, so…I get nervous.)

Kate: But notice that he says ‘enough’. All you need is enough differences to help drive the plot, they don’t have to be polar opposites.

Ana: Friends can contrast in subtle ways. I know a lot of people think my best friend and I are pretty much the same. Hell, I’ve been called “Alex” more times than I can count, but I know there’s a lot of ways we actually think very differently about certain topics. Maybe you just need to find one or two of those.

Zoe: Is it strange that sometimes I find sanity with you otherwise nutty birds?

Ana: What, you get to ask questions and I don’t ?

Kate: Uh oh, I think I see some more perch-flicking in the near future.

Zoe: There’s one exercise in this section that I’m tempted to half try, the Chart Character Change one, where you highlight all the passages of the characters’ inner life. I think it would be interesting to read through. (I’m just not going to transfer the trajectory to a chart.)

Kate: I was looking at that one too. It makes me cringe a little, dissecting the work like that, but I can see where it would be immensely useful, especially for a pantser like me. That’s the worry I always carry with me, that the story is still ‘lumpy’, that I didn’t fill in all the holes that were left in it.

Ana: I think writing a synopsis can help with that.

Kate: I’m thinking in terms of making character choices obvious to the reader. (Maybe obvious isn’t the right word, but I want readers to go, “Yeah, I see why he decided to do that.”)

Zoe: With the one I’m working on now, I’m worried that readers won’t make the connections (because they’re in my head instead of on the page). That’s probably more of a plot issue…which is the next section!

Kate: I liked his part on the opposition characters (and i like that he doesn’t just call them the villains). I don’t see it quite so often now, but it used to happen a lot that the ‘bad guy’ would be this one-dimensional character that was only there to get in the way or cause trouble for the MC. Or maybe I just stopped reading those authors. But the idea of writing a biography of your opposition character from the point of view of his loving mother made me laugh, and then say, “Hey, that’s actually a good idea.”

Ana: I can see how it would help you sympathize. I’ve had the problem that I felt too sorry for my opposing characters before. I love getting into their heads.

Zoe:~hides her WIP behind her back and whistles~

Kate: Lol.

Ana: No way Zoe is plotting anything sinister.

Kate: Never. There was a good reminder in there too about making your opposing character as strong or stronger than your MC, which kind of brought me back to Story Trumps Structure again, because he talked about that too.

Ana: I kind of liked what he said about adhesive. You know, what makes your MC continue to deal / put up with your opposing character instead of cutting them out of their lives. I thought the same was true for love interests. (Especially in stories where you have a lot going against that couple.)

Zoe: That’s a good point. And I loved the Don’t Hold Back On Making Trouble sidebar. I can sometimes have trouble with that. (Not with the current WIP, but sometimes.) (Oh my poor characters in the current WIP.)

Kate: I always feel sorry for Zoe’s characters, because I know just how mean she’s going to be.

Ana: Seeing as you’re a cat, I’d be especially careful.

Zoe: No cats are injured in this book. (But men may want a stiff drink before they get into the meat of it.) (You may hear my husband scream when he beta reads it. Just ignore him. He’ll be fine.)

Ana: That’s what you said when you flicked me off the perch. My feathers are still ruffled. One of them may never be the same again.

Kate: That’s okay, Ana. We’ll get you a prosthetic.

Zoe: You’ll be fine. (And I just realized the Don’t Hold Off on Making Trouble is in the next section. My pages flipped when I wasn’t looking!)

Ana: I like the part about the calendar. I always mess up my timelines. Always.

Kate: I’ve seen that happen. And I’ve had to make last-minute adjustments because “oops!”. That’s what I like my whiteboards for.

Zoe: I’ve used both spreadsheets and dated chapters to keep track. And timelines in Scapple! (With a vampire one, I used colored backgrounds on my timeline to denote when it was night and day.) I’m so glad the current WIP takes place in one evening.

Kate: That’s a cool idea, Zoe. I keep meaning to try out Aeon Timeline, because it looks like something I would like, but the learning curve seemed kind of steep when I downloaded the trial, and I never really got anywhere with it.

Ana: Something in me stupidly resists being organized.

Zoe: I haven’t tried Aeon Timeline, but I have found that I prefer freeform tools over purpose-built ones.

Kate: I like the concept of AT, but couldn’t really figure out how to get it to do something in a form I could read after. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, but it’ll be a few months before I have time to play with it again.

Ana: I also liked the “add a character” bit. I’ve saved at least two novels that way after a horrific first draft.

Kate: Sometimes you need that extra personality.

Ana: Or that extra conflict.

Zoe: “Add a character” saved Man Made Murder. He wound up being an equal POV with the original main character. (It also added a whole second plot.)

Kate: I just added a brother into my ‘entertainment for now’ story. I knew I needed a character to do something, but I realized that it would break the story if I had the older brother do it. (And, weirdly enough, I’ve already identified the theme of this book. Go figure.)

Zoe: I figured out the theme of mine last night while doing my reading for this morning!

Kate: Woohoo! Go themes!

Zoe: I was going, “La la la this book doesn’t actually have a theme…oh wait.”

Kate: i liked his ‘Act, then Explain’. I thought that if someone followed that rule, it would do a lot to get rid of the info-dump first chapters you see so often.

Ana: I sometimes overdo that.

Kate: As long as you go back and fix it before you send it off to the editor, then it’s okay. I know my first draft is, a lot of the time, me kind of taking notes for myself. I strip info out of the chapters I write first all the time, because it’ll come up in a chapter that happens earlier in the timeline, but was actually written later in real time. So my early stuff is really kludgy.

Ana: Haha, I have to write in order because otherwise I can’t keep track of all that stuff. He also mentions having too many characters in your opening chapter. It’s definitely a problem I’ve been struggling with in my first novel.

Kate: It’s hard when you have a character in transition, or a character who is being introduced to a group. I usually change my start point when I run into that problem.

Ana: Making it start any earlier is kind of pointless… starting it later would be even more confusing. The only thing I could do is delete characters (at least one might maybe be able to go)… or find some way for them to pop up later in the story.

Kate: Maybe combine some?

Ana: Nah. I’ll just have to spread out their appearances somehow. I’ll figure something out.

Kate: I have faith in you. 🙂

Zoe: And then Bell gets into middles, which is always my favorite part to see in a writing book, because it’s the part I’m always looking for magic answers to. I don’t know if his advice is “magic,” but it is useful.

Kate: Anyone else think he did a better job on Middles in the checklist than he did in the book? Like, it’s longer than the section in the book, and has more meat in it?

Zoe: Yes.

Kate: Very practical. Upping the stakes, adding in the potential for disaster.

Zoe: Making sure your opposition is strong enough.

Kate: Add in a subplot (always fun! Think it’s gonna be easy, MC? Haha, take that!)

Zoe: I thought the “Add Research” subsection was an odd fit for this part. It seems like more of an overall thing than a middle issue, and by putting it here, you’d almost think he’s saying that research is the way to strengthen a sagging middle.

Kate: I suspect he put it there because the middle is where a lot of change is happening in a book, in terms of plot lines starting and stopping, and this is where it’s easy to get caught up in making them work and forget that the setting needs to work too. (It also seemed like something that was aimed at pantsers. I’ll admit to doing minimal research beforehand, and looking up stuff during the writing.)

Zoe: I’m still mentally moving it to the “Polish” section.

Kate: It works there too.

I liked how he broke the stakes down into Plot, Character, and Societal. I’ve never really thought about it that way, and now I’m looking at WIP and wondering how I can add in some Societal stakes. I have Character stakes galore, and some Plot stakes, but Societal? Hmmm…

Ana: I don’t think I’ve used Societal stakes so far. Always been looking for more personal stuff. Oh wait, I had an ‘if you don’t do this, the world may end’ scenario in my first novel, it just never seemed that important. … which says a lot about my characters’ priorities.

Kate: Lol.

Three Dirty Birds on The First Read-Through

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We’re over at Ana’s blog, talking about what we do after we’ve finished our first draft, and what James Scott Bell recommends.

Tuesday Tickle: Kev 'n Mo

Kev pulled into the parking lot and held his breath as he hunted a decent parking spot. The best ones were right at the end of the building where the back doors were, or on the edge, in the shade of the trees that dotted the campus.

Score! He tucked his seven-year-old Mazda into the rim of shade thrown by a big horse chestnut between Badlam Hall and Truford Residence. He glanced up at Badlam’s brick and steel facade, and couldn’t help a silent wish that he’d be assigned as Residence Assistant somewhere else this year. If he was going to get the marks he needed in order to get into the Fourth Year Honors, he couldn’t be dealing with the crap that went on in there. One year in ‘Bedlam’ was enough.

Andrews would be wonderful. Small, mostly older students who had their eye on a Master’s degree, just like him. He should be so lucky. Kev crossed his fingers, then uncrossed them because that was a silly childhood superstition that didn’t change anything. But, as he shouldered his backpack and locked the car, he self-consciously crossed them again, just in case.

I can hear Ana’s dun dun dun! already…

Three Dirty Birds Before You Revise

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Three Dirty Birds are chirping about what you should do before you revise your book, and what James Scott Bell thinks you should do.

Zoe: First I want to say that I did some of the exercises in the Theme chapter last Sunday, and ohmygod. What a help! It led to me rewriting the current WIP in a different POV, and totally unlocked it. I’m so happy.

Kate: So that’s where you disappeared to this week. I was wondering…

I liked this chapter, mostly because it validated my own workflow, and I always like that. 🙂 I like to edit the last couple of pages from yesterday in order to get back in the mindset of writing, and remind myself of the details of the story.

Zoe: I’m usually a first-draft-fast person, but I’ve changed it up with the current WIP because I love the rewriting process, and the first-drafting process is fraught with frustration and anxiety for me, so this time I’m doing a lot of revising as I write, bopping back and forth between new and old. It’s been enjoyable, and if it takes two months instead of one to finish the draft, it’s not really a problem because the time will come off the other end of the process, when I do fewer revision drafts.

Kate: I’m more like the Susan Meissner quote he included in this chapter–I’m constantly revising, so that by the end, when I have my finished product, it really is finished. It’s not really a first draft, because some of those sections have been gone over 20 times.

Ana: I’m… all over the place. I often have to do major rewrites once I’m done with the first draft, but with the last story that wasn’t necessary as I revised it as I wrote it, kind of like what’s Kate is doing. Heaven only knows how the next ms will go…

Zoe: The only thing I get concerned about with the revising-as-I-write thing is that I go over the first part of the book a bazillion more times than I go over the last part of the book, just because the first part is around longer. It gets peeked-back-at way more.

Ana: Which is probably why I currently itch to rewrite my ending….

Kate: That is a concern. Where I move around within the storyline, writing beginnings, then ends, then chunks of middle, I get parts all around the book that get combed through a lot more, then parts in between that probably get only five passes or so. It does worry me that there are uneven sections, and I try to go back to those spots a bit more as I finish up, but it doesn’t always make a difference. I think, because those tend to be ‘connecting’ sections, in between the ‘tent-pole’ sections. I’d like to think it’s not so big a deal, but the back of my brain says, “No.”

Zoe: In the 20,000-word step-back section, he talks about a book he was working on where “the feeling that I hadn’t quite connected with the book persisted,” and I have a sticky note there that says “Oh God I know that feeling.”

Ana: Hah, yeah, me too. I thought that was an interesting idea though, the 20k step thing. I’m not actively writing a novel, but revising one. I got about 23-25k into it this week, so yesterday was my day off, and today I’ll be going over that section again. Probably after doing some writing exercises from the deepening chapter.

Zoe: (I really liked the Deepening chapter. Looking forward to talking about it when we get to it.)

Ana: He talks about using the Word comments feature. I don’t write in Word, but I love the little window-thingy at the left hand side in Scrivener where I can scribble document notes.

Kate: I never noticed that before! Woohoo! New toy!

Zoe: I love that too. When I actually use Scrivener. It’s so handy. I always forget how to get to the overall document notes area vs. the current-chapter/scene document notes area.

Ana: I think you click the headline where it says document notes and you can switch to project notes? Not sure if it’s the same in Scrivener for Mac.

Zoe: That sounds right. Next time I run into that problem, I’ll come back and ask you again. 🙂

Ana: You know where to find me. Just follow the trail of chocolate.

Kate: Mmmm, chocolate.

Zoe: “Why are all these candy wrappers lying under this tree branch???”

Kate: I choked when he started talking about tables and spreadsheets. Freezes me up completely. I just cannot do that.

Zoe: I can’t either. It’s a sure way to get me to start on housework.

Ana: I quickly skimmed over that part and pretended it doesn’t exist.

Kate: What I’d like is a giant whiteboard I can write and erase on, where I can brainstorm and make notes and none of it is permanent, so I don’t feel trapped. More of a warm blanky feeling than a straitjacket sensation.

Zoe: Sticky notes are my best friends. Messy, disordered sticky notes. Many of them with the sticky strip and the writing on the same side because I didn’t notice the pad was upside down when I started scribbling.

Kate: Lol. You artist, you.

Zoe: It’s my warm, yellow blanky. (Speaking of which…I tried the tip for writing down a story question before I went to sleep last night. Didn’t wake up with any answers—I guess I’ll try again tonight, if I don’t solve it during my writing today. On the plus side, I didn’t have a bunch of dreams I remembered on waking, which for me is heaven. I don’t feel like I’ve slept well if I feel like I’ve been up and running around all night. This is the first night in months I’ve woken refreshed.)

Ana: Zoe–too lazy to bother with dreams. The question thing didn’t work for me, but I only tried once.

Kate: I should try that.

Zoe: At the very least, I have my question jotted down on a note, so I’ll keep thinking on it every time I shuffle through my stickies.

Kate: Writing out questions helps me figure things out. I’m very verbal, so I have to actually say or write a question before my brain turns on.

Ana: I do that, too, Kate. I have a ton of notepads just for talking to myself and never reading it again. Is anyone keeping a running outline?

Zoe: Not me. I’ll do a synopsis at some point, like he suggests in a later chapter, but no running outline. Feels stifling.

Kate: I’d like to try one someday, but not at this moment. Of course, the story I’m currently wrestling with is short enough I can hold the whole thing in my head. When I get back to Knight, it might be a different story.

Ana: How long is Knight?

Kate: At last count, 95K and climbing.

Ana: Nice.

Kate: It’s a good size, there’s a lot of story in there.

Ana: 90k has been my upper limit so far.

Zoe: I’ve pushed close to 100K, but I prefer not to go over. It’s a lot more work, revising (and even writing) those big books! I’m shooting for around 50K with the WIP.

Kate: I really want to break up the werewolf one into three novellas, but I don’t think LI will let me.

Ana: I’ll be revising my 90k book in a few months… Not really looking forward to it! (It’s already kind of broken up. The ‘prequel’ is 70k. There may be another book in the series, but I’m not sure about that yet.)

Kate: That’s going to need a chunk of time.

The last thing Bell talks about is critique groups. I really like mine, though I’ve been inactive in it for the past year, what with work and life and stuff. But the support has been a big boost for me, especially when I’m feeling iffy about a work.

Zoe: I recognized myself somewhat in the quote from Robin Lee Hatcher. I really need to do the creative process alone. I’m not ready for anyone to see anything until it’s a few drafts in, until I get to the point where I’m like, “Okay, what am I not able to see for myself?” And then I go to beta readers instead of a group, because…I’m just more comfortable with the one-to-one thing, with giving drafts to them at separate times.

Ana: I’m with Zoe on that I prefer one-on-one feedback/critique over public execution, but I don’t mind sharing early drafts or incomplete things… probably because I started out by posting incomplete first drafts on the internet.

Kate: The critique group tends to keep me on schedule. We have an upload every week, I try to upload every two weeks, and you HAVE to upload every month. Plus, the practice going through someone else’s manuscript and explaining why something didn’t work is good for going back and revising my own work.

Zoe:: Editor deadlines keep me on schedule. (Which reminds me; I need to get with my editor about when he’ll need my current WIP so I have a deadline for it.)

Kate: I love deadlines.

Ana: I need more deadlines. This self-discipline thing is hard.

Zoe: It’s for the birds! 😉

Kate: Not this bird. Especially since our next topic is “The First Read-Through”. Strikes terror in the heart.

Zoe: I don’t like sharing incomplete drafts because everyone has their suggestions and ideas for where the story should go, and I can’t hear those until I’ve gotten down what I want the story to be. Ooh, the first read through! I’m always excited about that. We should talk about that chapter. 🙂

Three Dirty Birds Talk The Philosophy of Revision

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Over at Zoe’s blog, talking about James Scott Bell’s Introductory chapter to the second half of the book, on revision.