Manuscript Revision

Last week, I managed to sit down and write a scene from start to finish, and put it neatly in my folder of necessary scenes. I would like to point out that this is progress, although it’s not as speedy as I would like. It’s also a lot more plotsy-plotsy than I usually am when I’m writing a first draft.

I’m enjoying it, although I don’t think I could have gotten to the point of writing that without the choppy, experimental scenes that I did write in my first draft. This is more polished right off the bat, and maybe even orderly.

If I continue to do this–and maybe do it a little faster–without any kind of deviation from the plan, no “look, a plot bunny!” behavior, I should have a finished and relatively polished manuscript by the end of April.

Which would be nice, particularly if I intend to go to the conference I have my eye on. Obviously, being at a conference with a manuscript in hand would be better than being there without one. I’d still be able to drool on all the nice agents and authors, and attend workshops, but having a manuscript does have it’s benefits. It’s one of the things that would make a difference in whether to spend the money NOW or wait until later.

The scene did, in fact, come in close to (a little over) my allotted number of words. Good for it! And I’m pleased with the results.

I’m going to walk away quietly, now, before I jinx the whole thing by being over-confident. Hubris is always punished, you know. **Not falling into that trap.**

192,000 Sandhill Cranes

We went out to Audubon’s Rowe Bird Sanctuary for a quick look at some early crane migration action. The weekly ‘census’ informs us that there are 192,000 of these guys running around the corn fields, right now. (They take pictures from an airplane, and count heads, apparently. )

Birds on the ground and birds in the air. The sound of them calling to each other really is spectacular.

The bird sanctuary, itself… You can use one of their telescopes to look at the birds while they settle in for the night. It’s not that far from the Platte River. They also offer bird-tours for those who are willing to get up at the ass crack of dawn to go look at birds in near-freezing weather. (It may be slightly warmer toward the end of the migration. Slightly.)

They have bird blinds and bird-guides.

Oh, look. It’s a conservation potty poem. Also from the Rowe building. (Still beats the classic, If It’s Brown Flush it Down from the **ahem** “good ole days.”)

This gate leads out to the trails. You can see just a little slice of the Platte River in the middle right-hand side of the screen.

The gift shop has a wide variety of crane-supporting gifts. Most of them have cranes (some of them even Sandhill cranes) on them.

There’s also a whole world of origami supplies here–which shouldn’t have surprised me–so you can fold a few thousand of your own paper cranes. (Or birds. Or go a completely different direction and fold frogs or airplanes.) They’re also giving away paper cranes that have already been folded. (or trying to. They have baskets of them.) I’m only slightly tempted to point out that this would be the wrong kind of crane.

They probably already know, and I’m not really sure what the American equivalent to paper cranes is. Something affordable and gift-able.

Choosing A Book

I spent most of the night up reading a couple of nights ago. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. You know how it is. Grown-up responsibilities, and the need for a job mean that most of the time, I have to actually wake up. At a predictable hour. And function.

Being quite honest, I’m not sure I’m on my “ideal” creative schedule, either. Given a choice, I’d probably be up all night reading or writing or something on a regular basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into the Zone as easily in say the mid-afternoon or evening. Even when I was a kid, it’s into bed… one more chapter… and then, seven or eight hours later… I’m blinking at the sunlight.

Writing can work the same way, too… maybe it’s supposed to, and maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my excuse for lack of discipline. Maybe I really do focus better at some times of the day or night than at others.

Let me start by confessing… the book I was reading wasn’t on the list of Hugo/Nebula winning books that I intend to be reading. I got caught up in a sample of an e-book, and then, I bought the e-book, and after that, I read the e-book.

All of it.

In one sitting.

And now, I’ve purchased the next part of the series, and I’m probably going to wind up reading that, too.

I was up all night reading, and by the end of it, I was crying my eyes out. It’s been a while since the last time, there, too. Partly the book, and partly my own losses… I have no idea the size of the parts.

So, now… I am reading All of the Books That Have Won Both The Hugo and the Nebula And also Sandman. The weird part of it is that I don’t really feel as though the list has grown… not that much, anyway.

If I’m very, very good, and if I don’t wander off into the omni-present internet bookstore too many more times, I might be able to get through the list in a year. The list is growing. I’m assured, for instance, that Blackout and All Clear will only make sense as a pair, and only if read in that order. So one more book to the list. And there are a couple of others that are not the first ones in their series.

I’ll make it through, eventually. After all, what are the odds that they’ll hand those awards out to the same book again, this year?

Why I Walked Away From That Book

I read a book description… because, let’s face it, reading book descriptions when you really, really have no intention of buying anything which is not already on the shopping list….is a bookworm’s version of going to the casino. You can keep doing it all you want, but if you keep going long enough, you’re going to wind up owning a shiny new impulse book.

I got lucky this time, because I didn’t buy a book… well, I didn’t buy two books… technically. Yet. I do not have a problem. And people should quit waving books under my nose, if they think I do!

And I wound up with this nifty blog post about my jaw getting all scraped up from dragging on the ground.

The editor described this book as “a love triangle set in the harshest period of American history.“Except… it’s set in the Great Depression.

The Great Depression is not the harshest period of American History. I mean, yeah… people waited to get married and you sent your kid back to the butcher, if he brought a roast home with the bone still in it, but… The harshest period in American History?

It’s a historical novel, so really… I admit I’m gonna place a high level of emphasis on historical accuracy. And well, that… “harshest period” is already straight up wrong. Not a matter of debate. Not a matter of opinion.

The Great Depression wasn’t even nominated.

I think I could sit here and list my top ten harshest periods of American History, and the Great Depression still wouldn’t be on it. I think I could let the non-Americans who read this blog have a go at it, and even if they don’t have any real interest in American History, they would be able to come up with harsher time periods.

No. I really don’t think you can make any kind of a defense for that statement.

If that’s the historical inaccuracy in the description… if that’s the kind of thing the editor says, I’ll pass. I don’t really want my head all full of could-be facts and sensationalism.

IWSG: That Revision Stumbling Block

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! To Join in, go to http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

 

The awesome co-hosts for the March 1 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

 

I’m half revising and half writing, right now. I have a list of scenes that are missing from my manuscript, and I’m writing those scenes. I’m doing fairly well with the writing part, at the moment. A couple hundred words over my lunch hours, and more when I get home, and sometimes, I even have words early in the morning which is not exactly easy for me. I tend to get sidetracked by news, and newsletters, and the occasional outside obligation.

My insecurity kicks in somewhere between writing and revision. I’ve hit the point that I know I can write a book. I have the trunk full of first drafts to prove it. That was a milestone for me. Yes, I can write a story and sustain it over a hundred thousand words.

It’s the editing that gets me. The revising until the thing that entertained me is 1.) Clean enough not to annoy the shit out of other people and 2.) Clean quickly.

I’m fighting all the jerky starts and stops and unseemly chunks that come from being a pantser, and I’m never entirely confident of my ability to do so in a reasonable length of time. I’m not even sure what a reasonable length of time is.

At this exact moment, I’m fighting to revise into something presentable within the next couple of months. (This after having dragged my revision out over a countable eternity.) I am going to pretend to be well organized and disciplined, and hope to have a manuscript ready by then.

I will not chase plot bunnies. I will stick to my color coded index cards. I will approach those yellow cards–the ones that suggest I’m going over my allotted word count–with great trepidation and parsimony.

I will work on one scene at a time, and I will finish it before I move on to the next.

Even if the next one is the good one, where the dragons go to Madame Tussaud’s, and the pixies all wind up covered in melted wax.

So, tell me… was there a particular point at which revision became streamlined and efficient for you? How many goats did you have to sacrifice to bring that about? Hints? Tips? Anything?

Maybe That’s Where Trappist Monks Come From

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent. I had to look that up. Not being from a liturgical background myself, Lent comes and Lent goes, and mostly what it means to me is yummy fish tacos and 40 days of my Lent-ing friends being in vile moods ranging from I gave up sugar to I gave up serial murder and cocaine. (Wait… you mean my friends didn’t give up serial murder and cocaine?!!)

In my childhood, Lent was something that just existed on TV. Something that either showed piety, or got laughs. You know, like Corporal Klinger giving up atheism for Lent? It’s not that we didn’t have Catholics and Lutherans… it’s just that they existed in their own schools over there, somewhere. And in the event that there was mixing, you were much more likely to be talking about Girl Scout cookies and camping than religious dogma.

So, I had the abridged, television explanation: Lent was the time leading up to Easter, and you gave things up for it. And then–when the Lent-ers ran out of private school in 9th grade and we wound up in school together–Maybe don’t offer to trade sandwiches, and don’t eat that chocolate in front of them. You know… it’s a tradition, and it’s good they’re doing it.

So, I was quietly supportive. You know the drill. “You can do it” and keep my mouth shut about the fact that I’m not doing it.

Oh, yes, I was ever so appropriate and supportive until…

One day I ran into a friend who had given up smoking for Lent, and there he was… cigarette in his teeth, doing his best imitation of a chimney.

Well, screw quiet support. I liked the guy. I liked his kids. And frankly, children deserve a father with pink lungs and an intact aorta.

What are you doing?

Well, panicking, obviously. He knew he’d been caught. And by the way, I’m not even slightly fooled by that look of confusion on his face. Cheater.

I thought you gave up smoking for Lent.

And that confused look just stays there. Like he doesn’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about. Lent’s over, he said.

What do you mean, Lent’s over?

To be honest, until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that people gave things up for Lent temporarily. It never crossed my mind that after Easter, they all got to go back to drinking, smoking, and serial murder. I mean, if a thing’s a sin, isn’t it a sin all year around?

Nope. What they really meant was, I gave up smoking for the duration of Lent.

And fine. I admit that giving up smoking for a month is better than not giving it up at all. That probably is one to think about giving up permanently.

And maybe I really hadn’t thought much about it. I mean, if people give things up for Lent, and never go back, shouldn’t there be a bunch of really old Catholics running around living off water and oatmeal after a lifetime of Lents, and griping that this year, it’s down to the oatmeal?

So, happy Lent, everyone, and if you’re giving up something truly unhealthy, please think of your lungs and aortas–and hell, your erectile function–and maybe really do give it up confused-teenager style.

**this story may have been edited for dramatic tension and coherence.

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.

Undisciplined Mornings at the Writer’s Desk

I’m trying to convince myself to be awake. I’m mostly not, but the caffeine helps me do a fairly good imitation. I will track down the source of my insomnia and kill it later on. (Don’t say it’s the caffeine.)

I’m thinking early morning vitamin D might be almost as good as getting to see a sunrise from time to time. Or at least that it’ll keep me from suffering too much.

Someone drove a truck–in a drunken stupor, not a violent rampage–through a crowd in New Orleans. This is below the fold news, small, unembellished headline on CNN… and that’s why I need the caffeine.

I’m supposed to be working on writing, right now. Instead, I have tweeted, I have caught up on one of my forums (where, admittedly, I’m a moderator, so–excuse!) and I have read the news. Reading the news seems to be a never ending task, lately.

The chapter I was working on yesterday is printed out and scribbled all over, so I’ll need to get back to my computer before I can work on that. I’ll take index cards with me and see if I can get some real work done when I have a chance.

Winter Fun: Snow, Sleds, and Decapitation

It is snowing, again. The kind of white on gray snow that only shows up after everyone’s already sick of the rain.  And the sleet. It’s going to be pretty slick, under that top layer of fluff.

This would be the time of year when Midwesterners tell their kids about their pioneer ancestors, and all those poor children who froze to death in a late snow storm, back in 1890 something. Be sure to take a coat. Because the weather is never guaranteed until at least June, and then, it’s winter again.

I am looking forward to spring. Or the next mini-spring, whichever comes first.**pops another vitamin D pill**

So, in general… the winter around here isn’t long and dreary. Just long and cold. We have storms, the sun comes out, the sky is blue, and the snow is breathtakingly bright. I’ve lived in places where winter is just gray and muddy for months at a time, so I appreciate blue.

This is not ski country. Not enough hills and not enough snow. But once upon a time, my friend’s dad hooked up a sled to the back of his snow mobile, and off we went, zipping through the pastures.

I’m fairly sure that Mr. _________ was not what you’d refer to as a responsible parent. Swinging a couple of un-seatbelted, un-helmeted children from a rope off the back of basically a motorcycle on skis while you do figure eights past trees and barbed wire doesn’t seem like responsible parent behavior.

I’m also quite certain I knew that at the time, and didn’t care.

I’d be horrified, now. I’d probably be calling Child Protective Services.

Or at least yelling at the top of my lungs. You tied those kids to your what?!!

But nobody ever did get hurt. Not badly, anyway.

And it’s still the most fun you can have that close to decapitation.

52 Index Card Pickup

I’m slowly sinking back into my revision, after an absurdly long time away from it. Life happens, and last year, it happened to me. I got a lot of other things done–for instance, that blogging regularly goal, and quite a few new words–but the revision, and the focus that takes were just not one of them.

I just finished cutting away the excess. I don’t want to revise every single wandering train of thought that choo-choo-ed its way through my mind, and that was a lot of bulk. I think that process took away half of the raw words off the bat.

Now, I’m working on figuring out just how many words I have left, and how I want to use those words.

I have about 40,000 words I’m good with. The first chunk of the novel has already been organized and revised, and it’s… well, either breathtakingly brilliant or mind-boggling awful, depending on how I’m feeling at any given moment. Anyway, it’s pretty much done.

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels can be pretty big, but with some guidance from Uncle Google, I see that 100,000 – 115,000 is a good range to aim for. So… subtract my 40,000 words, and I wind up with 60-75 k left to go.

I’m using three different colors of index card here:

  • Green–for the things that are already IN the book.
  • Violet–for the 60,000 words that are well and truely safe.
  • Yellow–for the next 15-20,ooo, which are creeping toward that limit, or possibly over it.

For the new/or yet-to -revise portions of the book, I’m figuring 2,000 words per scene, which works out to 30 violet cards and 10 yellow cards.

Then, I sat down and wrote out lists of all the scenes the book NEEDS. One for my main characters and one for my antagonist/main subplot/whatever we’re calling her. That eats up twenty three of my violet plot cards, and brings the currently planned total somewhere around 86,000 words.

Deep breath, and exhale. I am definitely going to be able to squeeze everything into ONE free-standing book. I was worried about that. Particularly since it definitely isn’t two whole books.

So, now, I’m debating whether I have the willpower to just sit down and write through those cards without tinkering with much of anything on the way.