Cutting it out

On the plus side, I’ve finally nailed down the main theme of Project B. I know exactly what the entire story should revolve around. And now that I know that, I can move forward at a much smoother and more consistent pace. I had an idea that this one particular section I’d written a few years ago might work as the true opening to the novel, and much to my surprise, it works perfectly in that position.

On the downside, I’ve cut two full chapters that didn’t relate to it all that much. One chapter I knew I was going to throw in the Outtakes bin because I was just writing something for the sake of writing and getting into the mood of the story. The other chapter was an older bit from a few years ago that I can actually still use later on in the story. So all in all, it evens out.

Still, I’m not too bothered by writing scenes that I won’t use. It’s all part of the writing process. I have tons of outtakes from different projects over the years hiding in folders and notebooks in Spare Oom. And like most writers, I might sometimes dig them back out to use elsewhere. Meet the Lidwells, for example, has quite a few scenes that were originally for a trunked idea of mine called Two Thousand, which worked quite nicely. And there are a LOT of Mendaihu Universe outtakes just waiting to be used elsewhere.

Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating when I do that, but I don’t feel too guilty about it, to be honest. I’m not being lazy, far from it. I’m recycling and reusing something that works much better elsewhere. Sometimes it’s a scene that I think is a fantastic idea, and I may have even written a rough version during a Daily Words session, just waiting for a forever home. But really, the most important part is when I place it where it’s supposed to go, and the entire project suddenly comes into clear focus and makes so much more sense.

That’s when I feel most proud of my work — when it all falls into place like I want it to!

One more time for luck

Hopefully this go-round will not be as stressful…

SO! The other night I finally finished the latest revision go-round for Diwa & Kaffi and I think I did a pretty good job. So now what?

Now I read it again.

Yeah, writing a novel and prepping it for submission or publication (self or otherwise) does in fact include multiple rereads of the same damn words you’ve been reading over the last few months. It’s no wonder some of us start questioning if our work is worth anything or just a pile of crap.

The last round was to fix some major prose issues I’d had (and to write that ‘scene goes here’ scene, natch) and anything that stood out that needed work. This current round is going to be the Nitpicky Grammar and Word Choice Round, and I’m hoping it’ll be much smoother and quicker. Things like verb tenses, pronouns, repetitions, and so on. Spot-fixes.

Oh — and I need to see if I can find someone to check my Tagalog. I use it sparingly and there’s about 25 or so phrases or sentences out of two hundred some-odd pages, so it’s more about just making sure I used the best word choice and didn’t just hazard a guess by using Google Translate. [Which, y’know, I actually did as a placeholder until I get someone to help.]

Then I can finally submit it!

Yet More On Editing and Revision

On average, I say I go through about three to five versions of each novel I write before I call it done or ready for submission. I always write chronologically from start to finish, and only rarely do I write a scene ahead of time. I’ll take each completed version and revise the same way. The only difference here is that I’ll also read the entire thing on my e-reader at night, multiple times, during the revision process. I started doing this with my trilogy for a few reasons: one, to connect with the novel as closely as I can, and to become aware of what works, what doesn’t, what’s fine, and what needs adjustment.

However, one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed while editing and revising Diwa and Kaffi is how often I’ve been shifting scenes. It’s rare for me to take a scene from, say, Chapter Twenty-Two and move it back a month earlier in the story chronology to Chapter Seventeen. And I’ve done this at least three times already this time out! This did not happen with Meet the Lidwells and maybe only once with In My Blue World.

This is the magic of editing, same as with filmmaking; a strong scene that’s out of place in one part of the timeline might fit perfectly (with a few minor changes) somewhere else within the story. It’s the part of storytelling where the writer becomes aware of not just the plot but the pace and the flow. Sometimes it’s better to state my point once, strongly, rather than vaguely and repeatedly. I found these misplaced scenes work better as previous scene extensions, primarily because it makes that previous scene stronger and thus more memorable.

And in turn, this gives me the purpose to reread the whole thing again, once the scenes are in their new places. That particular go-round will not just look for any additional issues I may need to fix, but to make sure the flow and the mood are to my liking.

I suppose this could pull me into a never ending cycle of edit-revise-read-etc., but I think I’ve done this long enough to know when it feels finished to me. When it feels less like a project and more like a book I’m enjoying reading, then I’ve done my job correctly.

Vacation fly-by: More revision notes

I’m still going through In My Blue World and making notes on what needs fixing. There are two MAJOR fixes to be made: one, that I need to change the POV to omniscient 3rd person, and two, that a number of sequences need to be pasted together. It’ll be a big undertaking that I won’t be able to start for another week or so, which of course is making me twitchy.

On the plus side, the story itself is solid — it’s tight and there aren’t that many holes and continuity issues I need to fix. It’s only the prose (and the first chapter or so) that needs cleaning up. And the cover is already done! I’m still aiming for an October/November release at this time. *crosses fingers*

So…what about the Apartment Complex story? Good question. I’ll still be working on that when I can and take my time, as I purposely haven’t assigned a drop date for it. [There is also the cover art issue, but that’s another post entirely.].

Okay! Back to work…

On Revision: Paying Attention

erasing
Yeah, that’s gonna need to go.  [Source, Makoto Shinkai (of course), The Garden of Words.]
While on our little weekend trip up to Mendocino this weekend, I chose to bring my tablet along and read what I have so far of In My Blue World.  I haven’t done this since I started writing this version back in… *checks date* early April.  So far I’ve found a few things worth noting:

–The first entry needs work.  A LOT of work.  Interestingly the very next day’s work is just fine and pretty close to what I was aiming for.  So perhaps that means that I’m getting better at openings!  Heh.
–It remains in the eldest sister’s point of view for most of the first third until I suddenly go into multiple first-person POV.  [They have their own chapter or scene, so I can easily slap a chapter header on there to help the reader.] Which is fine, because I did that on purpose.  I’d written multiple partial scenes before starting this draft which are in other POVs.  I purposely left gaps in this section to insert them in.
–As expected, many characters aren’t quite nailed down until about a quarter of the way in.  [For instance, I had Zuze’s sister Trischa be younger and weaker in the opening, but later on she’s older and more of a badass.]  Thankfully this too is easy to fix, with a bit of revision and rewriting.  Nothing that will ultimately unravel the story for me.
–I need to nail down the rules of magic just a bit more, as they seem a bit too bendy for my tastes at the moment.  They make sense for the most part, though there are a few moments where they kind of drift into MacGuffin territory.  Again, easily fixed.
–I have exactly two characters that started out with promising fates, and I kind of forgot about following through.  That tends to happen a lot when I have far too much fun writing the other characters!  Again, easily fixed.
–The Antagonist/Evil Overlord/Bad Guy needs to be reined in just a tad bit.  This one might be tricky, as his character is very much a reactive, calm-but-insane sort of dude.  The balance here is to show him acting in what he fully believes is logical and right, but others seeing him as completely batshit dangerous.  The good thing is that I have him nailed down already, so I just need to work backwards to fix his earlier scenes.
–Secondary Antagonist needs to have her backstory straightened out.  She too is nailed down at this point, so it’s just her earlier scenes I need to revise.

Thankfully, that’s all I found (so far) that needs work.  I don’t plan on doing any of this revision just yet, as I’d like take the next few weeks to finish the novel.  All the revision, cleanup and post-production will take place in July, and maybe into August if it’s needed.  I’m thinking the drop date at this point will be mid-September.

The tricky part here is paying attention.

I call it such, because whenever I do a ‘read what I have so far’ session, I try to remember all the fiddly bits that might need work.  It’s a mix of self-critique and a line edit.  I pay attention to my reaction to certain passages.  I see a scene and remember how it’ll tie in with another scene further on.  I’ll also think about the story as a whole.  It’s kind of a giant jigsaw puzzle where I keep tabs on the image shown on every single piece.  What seems weak or out of place will get the revision.

I should probably add that I do the copy-edit and the proofread during the e-book formatting sessions.  That’s where I’ll distance myself from the story a bit more and look at it as a reader than a writer.  That’s usually when the formatting and editing errors pop up, and those are the easiest to fix.  And once I’m happy all around, that’s when I’ll upload it to the publishing site and set a drop date.

So yeah… being a self-published author who wishes to do everything himself, there’s a lot of hats to wear.  I have to be vigilant and professional while working on a hell of a lot of different moving parts.  It’s definitely not for everyone, and I would not blame you for not wanting to take the insane route I chose.  But it can be done.

A lot of it really is about paying attention.

On Being the Producer

I’ve been watching the miniseries documentary Soundbreaking the last few days, and it’s given me a lot to think about.  It’s a wonderful series, focusing more on what it is to create recorded music than it is about telling lurid stories about fame or who knows who.

I knew they were Doing It Right when they decided to dedicate the first episode not to the band or to the music or the industry, but the producer.  Often overlooked unless you’re well known like George Martin or Linda Perry, the producer is an extremely vital part of the production…and yet their job is to make their own work on the finished product as invisible as possible.  Their job, ultimately, is to make the song be as true as possible.

What do I mean by that?  Well, here’s the thing:  they’re not aiming for perfection.  They might want the musicians and singers to hit all the right notes, but that’s not the main goal.  Nor are they solely aiming for the perfect pop hit that will reach number one on all the charts and make everyone involved  hell of a lot of money.

What they’re doing is taking the creativity and the ideas of the musicians and the songwriters, as well as the emotional drive behind the song, and maybe even the happy accidents that happen to resonate with the track, and pull it all together.  They’re also doing their best to make sure the song reflects the emotions of its creator and not their own.

Sure, there are some producers with signature sounds.  Phil Spector, of course, is known for his Wall of Sound (i.e., let’s have forty musicians in the room playing the same thing and drench it reverb until it drowns).  Nigel Godrich is known for giving bands a rich and resonant sound.  Jeff Lynne likes his drums front and center in the mix.  And there are musicians who produce their own work.  But the point still remains: they’re aiming for something specific, something that will make the song ring true.

In book speak: they’re your editor.  They are not there to put their stamp on it.  They are there to make sure this is all your work.  Sure, part of their job is to point out grievous spelling and grammar errors, and maybe suggesting that the plot take a gentle curve instead of a neckbreaking hairpin turn.  But their job, really, is to figure out what the writer is trying to convey, and help them get there the best way possible.

 

As a self-published author who’s decided to do the job of the editor as well, I had to keep this in mind when I started the major revision work of the Bridgetown Trilogy a few years back.  I knew it was more than just about fixing grammar and cleaning up the prose.  I had to connect with the trilogy on a level where I understood what I was aiming for on a deeper level.  But I also had to view it on several levels as well: I had to figure out how it flowed, what I was trying to say with it, and how I was saying it.  Even as the cover creator I had to keep these things in mind — how was this initial image going to tie in with not just the book but the other two as well?  And to top it off: how to produce the end result without making it obvious that I’d done all the work myself?

A lot of moving parts.  It’s a hard job, but with time, practice and dedication, it can be done.

Current Status

umaru-kawaii
EDITING LIKE A BOSS

So!  Yes.  I am currently going through my galley copy of The Persistence of Memories and will be uploading the finished version to CreateSpace to release the official physical version.  [I will also be checking the e-book version as well to make any fixes there as well.]

I think I lucked out this time, as there weren’t as many formatting errors I had to fix, nor were there as many grammar or plot issues as there were in the first book.  I’m sure I’ve missed one or two things, maybe a misused phrase or missing punctuation, but for now I’m happy with what I’ve done with it.  The plus side is that I’m already about halfway through that book already, so this one may even be out before Christmas!

And then starts Book 3.  That may take a bit longer, but we shall see.  If I remain dedicated to editing and formatting this last book, I should remain on schedule for early 2017.  This one’s worth the wait, folks!  I know I ended TPoM on a cliffhanger, but to be honest, it was more like the end of Bladerunner (the version where it cuts to black as Deckard closes the elevator door).

The Balance of Light is the culmination of everything that’s happened so far in the previous two books.  I did my best to tie up as many loose ends as was needed.  I ended it maybe not on a very high note, but an optimistic one.  That was one of the main points of the trilogy: doing the right thing, despite outside influence.  I hope you enjoy that one too…it was by far the hardest book I’ve ever written, but I’m quite proud of how it turned out.

So.  What’s my next writing project?

Good question.  I’m still not sure!  I’ll let you know when I have a more solid idea!! 🙂

Editing Complete!

tbol-last-page
(SPOILERS) The last page of the third book in the trilogy.

Oof.  Note to self: as much as I’m happy that I’ve FINALLY finished galley editing The Balance of Light, in hindsight I probably should not have stormed through the last six (albeit short) chapters in one marathon session last night.  I climbed into bed and passed out around 11 last night.  Exhausted, but happy.

That said…one MAJOR hurdle has finally been overcome!  TBoL was a beast in need of taming, and over the last few months I did my best to do exactly that.  Most of the prose that got the axe contained a lot of chaff to begin with — a lot of lengthy phrases that were culled down to much shorter sentences, a lot of visual cues that were cut, a lot of filler words that weren’t needed.  As this edit took place purely on paper, I have no idea how many words I cut, but I’m sure I cut a lot of them.

So what’s next?

Well, next is the physical printing of The Persistence of Memories.  I have a galley copy here that’s been marked up and everything, I just need to clean up the e-book and prepare the physical copy for release.

Then, one more time with TBoL: create the e-book and physical copy for release.

And that’s it?  No more work on the Bridgetown Trilogy?  I can put it to bed?

Well, not quite.  I have something special that I’d like to prepare for a March 2017 release; something to celebrate it being twenty long years since that first writing session that started it all.  A special e-book release, maybe with some fun extras?  And maybe shiny collector’s edition versions of the physical releases with extra stuff?  Who knows.  But it’s gonna be fun!

And then I’ll have to think of what to work on next!

Cooler heads

west side story cool

Cooler heads have presided, and the edit of The Balance of Light has been reeled back in.  I’m keeping it a single book. It won’t be the sprawling epic that my Writer Brain threatened earlier this week.  Heh.

Printing out the manuscript seems to have worked wonders, as I figured it would.  Having done a galley edit with a test copy of A Division of Souls (which helped me find a lot more issues I’d missed), doing the same for Book 3 seems to be working out just fine.

Which reminds me — remember that first chapter I deleted a month or so ago?  Yeah, it’s back in again.  Why, you ask?   Well, again, cooler heads.  I realized that starting the story on the original Chapter 2 was an even WORSE idea.

So…what does that mean?  I need to delete at least 50k words somewhere in this behemoth.  Where the hell is that going to take place?  Well, that’s a good question.  This is another reason for the printing out of the ms…so I can give it another reread and find those soft squidgy spots that can be cut out.  Scenes I can merge or leave out.

This is still going to go far past my original deadline, but again — I’m okay with that.  As long as I’m going in the right direction, that’s all that matters.

Still Editing, Still Busy

image
No, really, I’m getting stuff done! Honest!

Hey there, everyone!  Lots of movement here in Spare Oom.  The Day Job has been keeping me busy, though I’ve been sneaking a few minutes here and there to edit.

At this point, it looks like the release of The Persistence of Memories will more than likely be end of March rather than February…I do apologize for the delay, but this edit run is taking a bit longer than expected.  I’m still about a quarter of the way through, but I’m making good headway.  I’m giving myself a bit more of a buffer so I can do the formatting and the cover, and so I can release both the e-book and the physical version at the same time.

I’ll have more to blog about my editing processes to date, but that will be after everything is done.  Yay, future blog posts!  And thank you for your patience, as always!  I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.  This one’s still my favorite of the three.

But seriously, I’ve been taking extra steps to make sure I get all this work done on time and with minimal distraction.  I’m still utilizing the habit of closing down all web browsers when I’m not using them for something important (like checking my word choice against the Merriam-Webster website).  I’m even doing this during the day when I’m editing during slow moments, as you can see from the above picture.  Making good on my plan to scale back on my internet usage in general has worked out just fine.  I’m more productive and less distracted.*   Once I post this, I’ll be closing down the browsers again.

* – Okay, I may have returned to my FreeCell playing habits, but the trade-off is worth it.  A five-minute game is a lot better than a half hour of Twitter.

Oh — and if you’re curious, here’s the wallpaper I currently have.  I took this out Spare Oom window with my nice camera during a rather spectacular sunset late last year.

End of the day, 8 October 2015
End of the day, 8 October 2015