Ouch! Editing is hard!

December 5, 2009

I am a murderer.  I am killing words.  I am killing scenes.  I have even killed two characters and pushed another off the page, only to be talked about as if they are not there.

Now, however, I am having trouble figuring out how much backstory to keep in my novel.

My first novel, you see, is Book I in a fantasy book series.  I conceived of this world 25 years ago, and the original story that I began writing at that time is now the backstory for my current series.  The new heroine, Lex, really doesn’t know anything about the world.  I have to decide what she needs to know, and what it would be better to leave unsaid.

On draft 1, I put it all in.  The wise old advisor character spilled all the backstory and told Lex and Ash exactly what they needed to do.  Now I’m having second thoughts on how much he should tell them, and how much they should figure out for themselves.

I think this will improve the momentum, the pacing of the novel, and will also reduce the word count.  (I hesitate to tell you how long the book is right now, but suffice it to say it needs to lose a significant number of words.) 

But I’m having trouble deciding.  When I read this chapter, I still like it just as is. 

Can anybody help me with this dilemma?  How much to cut? So hard!

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Tips for Doing It All

November 25, 2009

I find myself trying to “do it all” more than ever these days.  Motherhood, of course, comes first, and at my stage of life that means hockey games, sleepovers, school performances, being the Girl Scout leader, and orchestra concerts, as well as homework, staying up late enough for your son to let his guard down and talk to you, seeing the New Moon premiere at midnight, and so forth.

Being a wife is also an important but time-consuming job.  Forgive me if I don’t go into too much detail there.

This weekend I’m also trying to be a good daughter, a good aunt/great aunt, and a good cook for Thanksgiving. 

Not to mention working fulltime as a writer and strategist, with my own marketing communications consulting business.  That’s very important also.

But I’ll tell you a secret — the thing I want MOST to do right now is to find a quiet hour or two and keep plugging away on the edit of my first novel.  I have resisted picking it up for DAYS, and have only played around with one chapter of Book II for several days as well.

NOW – my house is tidy, my silver is polished, my groceries will soon be bought, my Girl Scouts will soon have gone horseback riding in the woods tomorrow, and my Thanksgiving dinner will soon enough (on Thursday) be on the table, be consumed and be put away as leftovers.

Then, I am promising myself, I will edit at least one chapter before turning to my Christmas shopping, which I’ve only just started.  ARRRGGGGHHHH.  It is enough to make a person go insane, or just give up.

But, being the positive person I try to be, I’m thankful for such a full life, and thankful that such a fascinating and enjoyable story will be waiting for me to dive back in once I have the time.  I’ll try not to wish away the rest of my life while I wait.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Weekend writing distractions

November 20, 2009

I write for a living.  Corporate communications, marketing brochures, that kind of thing.  But these days I live for a different kind of writing…working on my YA fantasy book series.  Most of it gets written on weekends.

A whole weekend stretching before me.  On Friday after work, I feel as though I could finish my entire WIP, even though I’m only one-third of the way through.  By Friday night, I’m usually relaxed and writing.  Saturday morning I get up, full of plans.  So why is it that the weekends tend to slip away, without me reaching my writing goals?  I’m far too busy to participate in #nanowrimo, plus I want to concentrate on current WIP, so I settle for a series of #nanowriwknd instead.  Even that may be beyond me.  I can’t even bring myself to set a goal because I know I’ll never reach it.

One recent weekend, I kept track of all my distractions in an attempt to analyze what is keeping me from my writing.

Friday, 5:20 p.m. – Daughter pleads to go see Grandma’s adorable kittens.  We hop in the car and go play with them, then admire Grandma’s new furniture and get invited to go out to dinner.

Friday, 7:00 p.m. – Friend drops off tickets to middle school musical (ironically, High School Musical).  Daughter (who wants to be in the production next year when she hits middle school) insists on going and is riveted to the show the entire time.

Friday, 9:50 p.m. – Finally get home from LONG but fabulous (really) production.  Husband has bottle of wine ready and wants to talk about son’s hockey tryouts.  (Yes, I keep that wine far far away from all family laptops now.)

Friday, 12:30 p.m. – Finish evening in which I wrote a total of approximately 50 words on a notepad whenever my husband left the room.

Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – After second cup of coffee, have to get daughter up to let out the dog she’s watching.  End up taking that dog plus our dog on a long walk together.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – Finally sit down to write.  Must check twitter.  End up on tweetchat.  Write 459 words between tweets at 11:15 and 11:45.

Saturday, 12:00 noon – Put in a load of laundry and make lunch.

Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – Back at computer and write another 87 words, then have to stop to conduct research on bomb-sniffing dog training.  (For the book; don’t ask.)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. – Troubled by distractions, decide to work on blog post instead. 

Saturday, 2:00 p.m. – Just about to give up.  I think this section of my book must be boring, or I’d want to write it.

Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – I do give up, after finally managing to eek out a few more words and reordering some things that needed to be reordered.  I watch the Buckeyes, say yes to my daughter having a friend for a sleepover, and go pick up pizza.  Watch a movie, watch Taylor Swift on Saturday night live, and the day is OVER.

Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – Get up to make pancakes for kids.  Take dogs for walk.  Shower and get ready to go shop with mom and daughter.  Perhaps this p.m. there will be time for writing.

I won’t continue.  You can see where this is going.  By Sunday night, I hadn’t written more than 800 words. 

This weekend should prove no different.  I’ll be tired tomorrow night (due to New Moon premiere tonight) and there’ll be my son’s hockey game and the OSU-Michigan game to be watched.  But, eventually, I WILL get the current WIP written and will feel very proud of myself for cutting through all the distractions!

Reflections on a laptop/wine disaster

November 6, 2009

Ah, a glass of cabernet, its jewel tones beckoning me with relaxation and mirth. Can you think of a better way to usher in a weekend than enjoying its dry fruitiness while listening to dueling YouTube music videos with your husband at the kitchen counter? Especially when, that very day, you were told you had not been chosen for a long-sought job with a favorite client, and you found out your daughter had been exposed to swine flu and is already coughing? OK, so I was a little relieved not to get that job, but all the more reason to celebrate a little. Right?

My husband and I were passing the cord to our under-counter speakers back and forth, taking turns teeing up videos to surprise each other. I had just begun playing Muse’s amazing performance of “Uprising” at the MTV VMAs — or was it Linkin Park’s “New Divide”? — when I reached for something to my right, while looking to my left.

Did you know that a fine wineglass full of cabernet will actually bounce when it hits your keyboard? I didn’t, but I do now. It will bounce, and with each bounce, will spill a little more of its contents while you scrabble to grab it. By the time you get a firm grip on it, it will be almost empty. You will call for paper towels, and your preoccupied husband will hand you two. Two. Ah-hem. More about him later.

As the laptop screen goes dark and the speakers go silent, it will start to sink in what you have done. You will scramble to unplug it and give the speaker cord to your husband and his dry computer. You will try not to think of the fact that you just bought this fancy new laptop less than six months ago. You will try not to remember that you chose not to get the extended warranty or the accidental coverage. Most important, you will refuse to think about the fact that the book you just finished after eight months of nighttime and weekend writing is on that hard drive. The one you just poured wine all over.

You will put the laptop upside down on what, in our household, is referred to as a “car towel.” I don’t know what other people call them; my family didn’t have car towels. When our towels got old we threw them out. But here, in the family my husband and I have built, we keep our old towels for messy jobs like washing a car. Drying a dog. Or major spills of red wine.

That will be the end of the night for you. The buzz will be killed. The music will be silenced. The dread will settle in. You will have a terrible, sleepless night, tossing and turning and wondering how long it has been since you backed up the book on your external hard drive. You have a complete print-out of book I, because you have been giving chapters to the intern at work, who is a huge fan of YA lit. You also have three chapters printed out of Book II. Too bad you had written four chapters.

Of course, the next morning, you will try to turn it on, convinced that your memory of the screen fizzling was imagined. You will be momentarily encouraged when the HP logo appears on the screen, but then it will go black and, in white computer programming type, you will be told to install an operating system. Oops.

When it happened to me, I rushed my laptop to the nearest computer store, the one where we’d bought it, and crept up to their service department to offer it in sacrifice. Please, please, find something when you look, I thought to myself.  They didn’t.  The circuitry was completely fried, coated with red goo.  At least it smelled good.  I paid them $10 and trudged out to my car with the carcass.

Now back to my husband.  He can be kind of  dismissive of things I think are important, but he is THE MAN in a real crisis.  While I administered to our daughter, whom we promptly nicknamed “Swiney,” he spent the day on the phone with HP, finding out what my options were.  We decided to send the computer to the experts in California, and he handled all of it.  When we checked the status online, it said, “Probably beyond economic repair.”  The fee to make the carcass into a working computer again would have been $1,065.00.  I went out that day and bought a new one.

I realized I had been in a period of mourning. Now that sounds ridiculous and melodramatic, doesn’t it? Mourning should be reserved for the end of life, or the end of love. But I’ve been thinking about this, and that’s the only moniker I can put on the way I felt for the two weeks following the disaster.  The only thing that lifted me out of my depression was getting a new computer, and loading my complete literary works (one finished, unedited, unpublished manuscript and four chapters of another) back onto its hard drive.

As I look back on the laptop/wine disaster, I realize that I’ve learned some things. Some are obvious. Back up your work every night, for example. (Yeah. Duh.) Don’t drink so much that you are in danger of getting clumsy. Good rules to live by.

But other learnings from this disaster have been less obvious.  First, and this one sounds trite, I know, don’t place so much faith in inanimate objects.  In the end, it is the people who matter, not the objects, no matter how shiny.  Second, a glass of wine isn’t necessary to relax.  The thing I missed during those two weeks was not my pretty computer, or my e-mails or my documents, but the world I’d created and been living in for eight months.  I felt as though I’d been ripped out of it without warning.  (A little like a certain heroine I know.)  To overcome this feeling, I took to writing longhand, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing, either.  I enjoy the flow of words from the tip of my pen, and the writing comes out just as well.

Before the computer/wine disaster, I had actually fooled myself into thinking that a wee bit of wine enhanced my writing skills, lubricating my word choice like oil to a bike chain.  Alas, no more will my writing be enhanced by the fruit of the vine, if indeed it ever was.  Instead I will drink coffee, placing my cup a considerable distance from the keyboard, and be thankful that I have the means to replace an inanimate object when I need to.  I will also be thankful to put this disaster behind me.  Now, back to writing.

Finished with Book I

October 10, 2009

I’m finished with Book I, and celebrating tonight with a glass of cabernet! My #1 and #2 readers (one of them is my daughter) have both read the last 4 chapters and are clamoring for more. I know I have a huge editing job ahead of me — the manuscript is now 122,000 words — but I am so pleased with the momentum of the ending. My poor heroine goes through a lot before the end!

Trying to weave it all together

September 25, 2009

I’m getting close, very close, to the climax of my book.  My hero and heroine have finally resolved (for the moment) their relationship, and they now have several important tasks to complete. 

Suddenly the various threads of the story has led us all here.  Suddenly, it’s as if someone threw all of those threads to me and said, “Here, weave this all together, would you?”  Plus I KNOW that the climax CAN be incredible, it’s just going to take a lot of work to make it that way.  I want to write a book that’s hard to put down, especially at this point in the story.

Thanks to my #1 and #2 readers for their feedback and encouragement.  I was actually tackled by #2 last night when I wouldn’t let her read the next chapter yet.  And #1 suggested I add one more delicious scene between my heroine and my comic relief character, which I think is working!

I found my hero

September 19, 2009

It’s frightening to think someone existsjingle ball press room 141207 only in your head, and then to suddenly see him on the VMA awards.  In all the furor over Kanye and Taylor, I forgot for a few days that I had had an epiphany over my hero during the VMAs. 

I was watching the show when a young man stepped onto the stage, seemingly straight out of my imagination.  His name is Chace Crawford.  This is the guy I’ve been writing about since February.  I sure hope he’s a good actor, because when my book becomes a movie, I can’t see any other possibility than for him to play Ash.

He would need brown contacts and slightly longer hair but other than that he is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.

Over 300 pages/100,000 words

September 18, 2009

I have really been humming along on my blook; hence the lack of posts to this blog. I realized today that I had been in a funk for a couple of days, and it was all because I had created a conflict for my characters and I was mad at my heroine Lex for being so stupid about her relationship with Ash.  I got a good laugh once I realized why I was upset!

Anyway, I reached two milestones in the last couple of weeks — I am now well over 300 pages and 100,000 words.  More important to the process is that I am rapidly approaching the climax of the book.  Still enjoying my visits to Allyria.

Pivotal scene coming

August 15, 2009

I have a pivotal scene to write.  I’ve been putting off a decision about this scene, and can procrastinate no more.  I have to decide what will happen.  Hmmmm.

They’re reading my manuscript!

August 13, 2009

I have made some big steps in getting the story of Ash and Lex to the printed page in the last week.  I gave my “first reader” up to page 149 in book I.  I was nervous to meet with her the next day, but had a wonderful discussion over lunch and was gratified to learn that she has picked up my themes and seems really into the story.   So the next day I brought in 30 more pages for her; I would have brought more but I was totally out of paper for the printer.  She tweeted me late in the evening desperate because I had cut her off in the middle of a sentence.  I bought paper and took in up to page 200 the next day.  She tweeted me that night that she was really anxious to keep reading.  I took this as a very good sign!

Emboldened by this success, I gave all 200 pages to my sister, whose daughter is a brand new literary agent.  My sister is on page 159 and is also very complimentary.  I know that neither of my first reviewers is reading to critique, but their enthusiasm is really fueling my passion to keep going.  If only I had more time!