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.
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.].
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.
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.
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!! 🙂
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 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.
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.
Okay, actually I blame my ex from ’94 for handing me a copy of The Stand while we were working on True Faith, but the point remains: I blame Stephen King for introducing me to the Large Ensemble novel. I read a wide assortment of his novels in 1993-95, intrigued by his style and his characterizations, and it was The Stand that grabbed me the most. I’m extremely picky when it comes to stories with End of the World themes (they don’t bother me, I just have very little interest in them), but this one fascinated me, because it was such a sprawling piece of work. A doorstop. And the edition I read was the expanded version that had just been released. And I loved it. Still do…specifically that version.
I loved the idea of a large ensemble in a novel, because I was fascinated by how each character’s life intertwined with the others, even if they never met face to face. I loved the idea of each character’s unique development and evolution throughout the course of the novel. I especially like how each evolution had a specific role within the main plot, whether it was a large role or a small one.
That’s one of the reasons the Mendaihu Universe novels are always an ensemble affair. Like the purging and repopulating of the human race in The Stand, I wanted to show that the awakening and ascension of spirits in the Universe weren’t merely relegated to the main characters, but to everyone in the world. Not that future MU stories will also have a large cast; I already have some ideas focusing on a minimal number of characters that we may see down the road, and I’m quite sure I’ll have a Tales from the ARU sequence soon enough.
Writing large ensembles is tricky work, because you need to be a really good note-taker, or at least have it down really solid in your head. Switching from one POV to another is simple enough; you just need to pay attention when you do it. More often than not I kept with a single main POV character throughout an entire chapter to keep it simple — and in the process I got to play with that character’s evolution within that length of time. And on a higher level, I had to make sure the main plot kept moving. It was quite the juggling act, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.
I know a lot of people who aren’t big on ensemble casts, or doorstop novels for that matter. They prefer a slimmer cast (and a slimmer spine!) in their books. Shorter, more concise stories, ones that don’t meander or take forever. Events that affect a small group rather than the entire planet. I tend to switch between the two; one of my favorite novels is Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which essentially has two main characters and about six secondary characters, and the plot mainly focuses on how the house affects the characters. And on the other hand, I also love Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto manga, which spanned 700 chapters and has an incredible array of main, secondary and tertiary characters who all have unique personalities and play an important part in the overall plot.
I say all this because I know that some readers may find the Bridgetown Trilogy a bit long; A Division of Souls is nearly 150k words, which is quite long even for a genre novel. This made me think about playing with convention, maybe taking the opposite approach that the 1994 edition of The Stand took: what if I created an abridged version of the trilogy, and leave it up to the reader to choose which version they’d like to buy or download? I’m totally fine with taking that step, because I learned from Douglas Adams: there’s always more than one way to tell a story. I could conceivably edit out some minor characters and leave out a few scenes here and there and still have the same story.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m refusing to listen to reason by whinging that severely edited versions of the books lead to them being less than pieces of art. Yesterday I bought a copy of one of my favorite 90s movies, Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. The original 1991 version Warner Bros released is around two hours long; the director’s cut, which I picked up, is 288 minutes — that’s over four and a half hours long. I get that Hollywood needed a much shorter movie. I was fascinated when I watched the first twenty minutes and noticed something: at the 20 minute mark in the Hollywood version, the main female character (Claire) meets the main male character (Trevor/Sam). In the director’s cut, they haven’t even met yet, let alone Claire getting to the destination where they meet. There are number of short establishing shots, bridging scenes, and emotional moments that are there to show how the world looks and behaves in this fictional 1999. Each version tells the story: one is crisp and concise, the other is slow and deliberate. Both work the way they’re supposed to, and both are enjoyable to watch.
And like any director’s cut of any movie, there are going to be fans and detractors. Some audiences hate long films. Others love the idea of an ‘alternate’ version of their favorite movie. This is where I started thinking: why not alternate versions of my novels? Am I willing to spend all that extra time playing around with different versions of my stories? Am I dithering in wanting it both ways? And realistically, would anyone really care either way? Well, some of those questions really don’t matter all that much in reality. I’m not looking for Hugo nominations here.* I’m not looking for scores of fans; I’m just looking for readers who’ll have fun reading my universe, whichever version they so choose.
* — Yes, as a matter of fact, A Division of Souls can be nominated for a Hugo! Go ahead and nominate if you want, I’m cool with that. 🙂
One aspect of writing and publishing (self, professional or otherwise) that doesn’t always get talked about is the subject of editions. To tell the truth, it’s kind of a boring subject, not to mention it’s one that the writer and publisher doesn’t always want to talk about, for various reasons. With professional publishing, the idea of a second edition is sometimes seen as a distant hope; the publishing house only goes into multiple editions once it’s seen that the book is a big seller, and that the original run of however-many copies has been accounted for. This happens with much less frequency than one expects; this is also why writers are often super-paranoid about possible errors before it has its first print.
With the self-published writer, especially for one like myself that’s just starting out, one might not want to tell one and all, “Hey, I have a new edition of my book/e-book available!”, for the reason that it could be read as “hey, I just uploaded the latest version of my book, which doesn’t have bad formatting and other embarrassing mistakes!” It’s better just upload the new version and just keep it on the QT, and hope no one noticed.
But new editions of your self-published e-book don’t necessarily have to be a bad, embarrassing thing. Well — for the first edition of the physical book you should at least make sure that the formatting is tight and there’s no weird errors, but that’s another post entirely. [This is the main reasons A Division of Souls is still e-book only at this time. I’m about to start in with the Big Galley Fix starting today, so hopefully within the next few weeks it will finally be available at Amazon.] But future uploaded versions of your already-released book doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
Upon finishing her reading of the ADoS galley, my wife stated that I have to go on a strict diet of NO ELLIPSES. I will totally cop to using that punctuation WAY too much (that, em dashes, and italics), to the point that I’ve trained myself to cut them nearly 99% of the time in future editing projects. The Persistence of Memories doesn’t have nearly as many as ADoS did, but I’ve managed to quash nearly all of them. Most of them are hiding in dialogue, where I want the client to…well…you know…kind of avoid having to reveal something they need to reveal, but it can also slow down the flow considerably. I’ve learned to use when and where necessary, and only then.
She also mentioned that, since it contains a large cast, some of which are mentioned early on but not mentioned again for some time. I’d been on the fence on this one, to tell the truth. Luckily, among all the notes and outtakes for the Mendaihu Universe is a solid dramatis personae that I can add before the main text.
The next edition of ADoS will contain a few formatting errors I missed (such as the Case of the Curiously Vanishing Pilcrow), some minor edits, a dramatis personae, as well as the deletion of a number of said ellipses. The cover will remain the same for the e-book, but still want to toy around with the spine for the physical book, as I’m still not happy with it.
Will this lessen the worth of the book? In terms of self-publishing: not entirely. The mistake made here is the belief that once you have the book out there, for good or ill, it’s out in publish and any mistakes will be points off your credibility. I made peace with that some time ago; I still find glaring formatting and editing errors in professionally published books, which just goes to prove we’re never dead-on perfect the first time out. While it’s great to want your best work out there, focus on the story and the execution mostly, and do your best with the editing and formatting. We readers will forgive you if your character’s name is spelled Rbfrit instead of Robert in exactly one place on page 276. It happens.
Again with the music parallel: you’re re-releasing your album because it’s been remastered, not because you hated your vocals on a few tracks and chose to completely rerecord them. You’re reuploading the album because Jimmy hit a bum bass note on Track 8 and a quick ProTools edit made it go away. In short, you’ve already uploaded some of your best work to date; you’re just making it even better this time out. [And believe you me, there are some fans out there who will buy the ‘remastered’ version — and I’m talking books now, not music. If they enjoy the story that much, they’ll have your back.]
So yes — don’t be afraid if you see a minor error in your self-published book. Go right ahead and make those fixes and reupload the file to whatever platform you’re using. It’s totally up to you if you want to make it publicly known that it’s a new edition, but don’t fear it. Use it to your advantage.