How to Survive, Break Out of Jail, and Join the Revolution

Today, my novel’s primary antagonist is breaking out of jail. She’s moving from being one of the many people who work for her particular government–very high up, actually–to being disillusioned by her recent experiences, and generally willing to fight for what she believes in.

Yep. I said “antagonist.”

She’s done fairly well for herself, considering she was more or less just the faithful maid when I started.

I don’t actually have themes, but if I did, this one would probably be about figuring out what you really believe, and then being true to yourself. I think everyone in it is re-evaluating their oldest beliefs and basic assumptions.

Maybe the theme would be something along the lines of beliefs changing with time and experience. I don’t know. Ask an English teacher. **adds another explosion**

This particular character could be the main character of her own book, and sometimes, I think maybe she should be. If I wind up doing a series, she probably will be.

Celebrating the Little Things

I made it to the end of my pre-revision revision today, and now I have a fairly chronological version of my story with something resembling plot and a hundred thousand (ish) fewer words than the previous version. Yes, I still have word count issues, but they are so much smaller than the ones I was expecting.

Some of those words are things that will go into the next book (if there is one) and some of them are just plain cuts. Some of them are strange new versions of things I already wrote, and some of them don’t fit in with the timeline I finally decided on.

One of my main characters gets arrested–surprise–and that more or less wipes out a whole series of scenes that would happen… if she weren’t in prison. And I cut out a whole lot of love scenes that are… well, mostly just mushy. That’s the biggest area where I’m overwriting. They tend to be a strange combination of “let’s cuddle” and “so, tell me about yourself.” That would be basically me talking to myself, and working out different chunks of story.

I also removed a fairly sizable chunk where I’m working on a different story. Like, contemporary murder mystery popping up right in the middle of my scifi manuscript. Don’t know how that got there.

So, now I’m debating what the next step is. I think it probably involves going over each of my main characters’ timelines, and making sure that everything is there. I have plot-grid dreams. Something to keep everything together and on track.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just celebrate being done with this part.

 

Early Morning and a Cup of Tea

I get up early to write. Sometimes, I work on new words, and sometimes my revision. If it’s a weird week, and I’m behind, I wind up working on a blog post for the day. Today, I’m working on a blog post.

So about my revision… I have nearly 60 thousand words in my to be cut file, and another 12 thousand in a file of scenes that involve my main characters falling in love. (Some of it’s repetitive, and some of it’ just that the book isn’t supposed to be a romance.)

I have another 29,000 left to put into the neat, tidy order it wasn’t written in, and all together, that brings me to a lot of words for the final product. I’m well above the generally acceptable word count for traditionally published novels, particularly those by a first time author.

There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t really expect to be one of them.

Which means that for every word I put in, I have to remove at least one word from somewhere else. I’m getting a lot more liberal with that machete. Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure there are still prime candidates for slashing. It’s just that now, they’re in chronological order.

Ideally, I’d like to have the whole thing finished by April, so–you guessed it–I can go to writers’ conference in the mountains with a manuscript in hand. (Probably the big part of making up my mind about whether to go is will I or won’t I?)

Revision is still a long process for me. It’s not as smooth as I would like it to be, and there are still some **I’m a Pantser** steps that I always feel like I could get rid of, if I just tried harder, and numbered the scenes a little differently in that outline I don’t write before hand.

So, that’s it. My quest to get my WIP in shape and down to a good fighting weight.

Juggling Timelines and Cutting with Vigor

I’m making progress on putting my manuscript into chronological order. Most of the time, it’s my own stubbornness slowing things down. Oh, yes…. I’m aware that I just cut out that whole timeline, but that scene is so good.

I’m moving things from wherever they happened to fall in the old manuscript file to their places in the new one, and labeling as I go.

I  have 169 pages left in my original disorganized chunk.

I started counting somewhere around 497.

I’m also cutting a lot of words (or at least throwing them into the cut this file. I’m not a barbarian.) And that’s a good thing, because the manuscript is over the limit, and besides, every word I cut is another word I don’t have to revise later.

I’ll have to write new chunks later, to fill in a timeline that was diverted to send a major character to prison.

I’m still on a tight word budget. Mostly, every word I write will have to be cut from somewhere else, or I’ll wind up with a series that doesn’t begin with a stand-alone. But… I’m not as hopelessly over as I was before the organization and machete-ing.

I’m getting there. Slowly.

Organization for the City Landfill and Tidying for Writers

I went all Moleskine-y at the beginning of the year, partly because 2016 dropped me into a dollar-store calendar with write-in dates morass, and partly because I happened to find an almost-new Moleskine in the basement, so why not? Blank pages, and the elastic’s still good.

I’d never realized how important having a calendar is to me, until I didn’t have one. I need to write down my progress to feel like I’m making progress. I think it helps with other good habits, too. Did I or didn’t I take that vitamin? Did I actually eat breakfast, or did I work straight through? And… just how often and how long am I sleeping in, on weekends?

I feel better, if I know I’m making progress, instead of just thinking, and I work harder, if I know just exactly how many blank pages there are in my calendar.

Right now, it seems like the answer is a lot.

And…yeah, I’m sleeping in on those weekends. Not in the sense of “until noon” but well and truly beyond what I do on a normal day.

I’m writing every day, though, and after a while, it will add up. I like to keep a daily word count, and also a running total. Monthly, yearly… I also keep track of what I’m doing for my revision, but that’s a much fuzzier kind of math.

The other notebook is a little harder to describe.

Right now, my sorta-almost idea of how to use it is… Basically all the organization and editing things that need to stay organized and accessible go in the Moleskine. It doesn’t replace all of the spiral notebooks and computer files, but the things like query letter drafts and wrangling that whole comprehensible order thing–those do go in the Moleskine.

I’m working on putting together a functional outline. When it’s finished, I’ll beat the manuscript into submission, and make it look (at least a little) more like the coherent outline. Before I revise the crap out of it.

Someday, I hope to write in chronological order. Last week would be good. I should have worked on that.

I’m not sure if my brain works that way. But I do think having the One Notebook is likely to help me keep things together until I can get it right the second time around. It’s small enough to be with me most of the time, and it can’t be mistaken for any of the other notebooks in my life. It’s also expensive enough that I don’t wind up ripping pages out left and right when I decide I don’t like something.

So… do you write in chronological order, or are you more non-linear like me? How do you organize for revision? What works for you?

Getting Back to Work is Hard to Do

Why is it that good habits are so much easier to break than bad ones?

Let me lay it out for you.

My pattern is this:1.) Get into a good writing habit. 2.) Stop to revise. 3.) Really, really stop to revise. Farewell, new words. 4.)  Fail to make revision a measurable part of my routine. 5.) Try to figure out what happened to the good habit just broke into a million pieces.

Get into a good writing habit. I’m actually pretty good at that. When I’m working on those first-draft word counts, I’ll hit a thousand words or more a day. That’s a lot. In the course of a year, it can add up to more than a quarter of a million words.

Stop to revise.  Well… that seems pretty necessary. Especially for someone who’s been known to cram twenty-seven murder scenes or  five versions of the same proposal into one book.

Really, really stop to revise.  This is where things start going wrong. The word count drops off, and I don’t really land in the next project with any kind of wits about me.

And then… well, just exactly how do you measure revision goals? What do you do to make sure you do enough? And how do you keep track?  Pretty soon, I’m not writing new words, and I’m not revising, either. I don’t switch back and forth all that well.

And that’s it. Progress is slow–or maybe just not noticeable enough–and I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.

Right now, I’m in the revision stage. I would like to finish my novel. Finish-finish. High-shine polish finished. Elegance and refinement finished.

I keep looking for that perfect balance.

Maybe the short stories I’ve promised to write are it. Something I can finish in an afternoon when I’m not revising.

Maybe short stories will be just enough to prime the pump.

We’ll see.

Suggestions and advice welcome.

The Weather Outside is… Well, Writing Weather.

I’m in a winter weather advisory right this minute. Which is a fancy way of saying “It’s Cold.” How cold is it? Exactly cold enough that somewhere, some city person noticed, and typed it into his computer. That’s what makes a little red triangle pop up on my tablet. It is not, in fact, actually cold-cold. You can tell this, because there are currently no farmers complaining about having to collect their cows with a skip loader.

No snow, yet. Just cold.

Between the weather and the rabid shopping season, I’m delighted to be able to have things delivered to my door. And I’m really shocked at how excited I am to have a new calendar on its way. It’s a red one.

I spent most of today working on my revision.

That means I got into the original, un-organized jungle of first draft and looked for pieces that I can sort into Part One, Part Two, and Part Three of my novel. And the **ahem** “save for later” file, which usually winds up being the “throw in the trash later” file.

I recently came to the conclusion that I can squish my whole, 250k plus draft into ONE long-ish, but still viable book. Today, I am sorting, and trying to make the manuscript, itself, believe that.

I’m making progress. I have an outline. I have a plan. I have… a potential avalanche of pages that aren’t going to make it into the final cut.

Oh, well.

Stepping Back to See the BIG Picture

After a month of NaNoWriMo, I’m finally getting back to my pre-existing revision. I don’t want to say I was getting bogged down, or anything, but the novel in question is one of the longest things (word-wise) I’ve ever written. Going from thriller-length thrillers to sci-fi length sci-fis is a culture shock. And I’ve been staring at the leaning tower of manuscript for much too long.

I’ve been working my way through an outline. Something like an outline, anyway. Whatever you call an outline that’s written to organize after you’ve already written.

And I’ve been working on a scene-to-scene level.

Not too bad, and I’ve been making progress, but I’ve been overwhelmed. The sheer number of scenes was dragging on me.

I have this thing–you know–and I’m not sure how many books it actually is. I was posting some of it here, for a while. I can tell you it’s a big thing, and that there’s at least one semi-well-thought-out companion thing.

So, today, instead of looking at scenes, I decided to sit down and look at parts. You know. Part One, Part Two, Part Three… Part 126.   I wasn’t really sure if I was looking for Part One or Book One, but I was taking a step back to think about what I actually have, and what I want it to be.

So, the part I’ve already pounded into shape is in the neighborhood of 37k. I’ll probably trim that down, some, but that’s the number I have, so we’ll work with that.

That leaves me 80–yes, I’m going to cut down–thousand words to play with. And due to some chunky outlining, I’m aware that my novel has three parts total. (No, I have no idea why I thought there would be more.) That would mean roughly thirty to forty thousand words per section. (I’ll be aiming in the neighborhood of 110k, but I did math with 120k.)

So, with some revision and a little bit of word-parsimony… drumroll… I have ONE book, and a companion-thing.

**faints from pure relief and exhaustion**