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.

What Do I Do With That Over Grown Manuscript?

I can’t decide whether I’m horrified or relieved by the size of the cuts in my new revision. On the one hand… well, I don’t have to make sure there are commas in all the right places. On the other hand… When, exactly, did cutting (cuss, cuss, expletive, derisive snort) thousand words become not a big deal? I’m not going to mention the number. I’m not even going to look at the number. Not until I’m done butchering.

The good news is that I might actually manage to make this into one book. And maybe even one book of a marketable length.

The bad news is that now, I have to actually write all the parts that aren’t in the draft, but are in the outline I’ve been working on.

Any other pantsers in the neighborhood? How do you get your manuscript organized? Plotters?  Well, any organization tips for beginners (or, you know… small children?)

Neighbors, Editing, and Freezing Rain

The neighbor is outside in the freezing rain, huddled in the corner, trying to suck in her nicotine fix before the real storm gets here.

Not to sound like an ABC special, or anything, but… well, I am rather enjoying being inside in the warm, instead. My fingers and toes especially like this.

So, here in the warm, I’m trying to organize the pants-er special that I’m revising. All I want is for it to be basically chronological before I keep moving on the revision.

I exported it from my writing software into Libre Office, and now, I’m cutting and pasting it back into my writing software. (This time in order, with the tangents removed.) I think I have more tangent than novel, right now. But I’m recording the pages disappearing from my Libre Office copy, so I have some small way of recording progress. I think I’m right around twenty or thirty pages down this evening.

I’ve found pieces that are so old, the main character’s appearance has completely changed.

And way, way too much on the romantic subplot. Well, I have to do something, when I can’t think of anything to write. We’ll pare it down. Add more explosions, and maybe an extra knife fight.

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.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Get Involved

Resolution #3 is to take the time and energy to be actively involved with my creative communities. I’m a little hit-and-miss on that one. It’s hard to find my local creative community, and being quite honest, a little harder to find common ground with them. Well, I’m taking the effort. Will track them down. Will take brownies and chips. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a little better with online communities, at least in part because I can cherry pick the parts I like. No one on the internet has ever asked me to help them move, for instance. And finding people who are working on the same challenges I am is sooo much easier.

So, I’m working with some groups to get to where I want to be.

I’m taking on the 52 Week Writing Challenge (Found it on Medium.)in 2017. The challenge is to write one something every week for a year. There’s no specific something it has to be, but something. A poem or a book chapter every week. I’ve already talked about my desire to write and publish more short stories, so **surprise** I’m going to commit to writing one short story every week in 2017.

Fifty-two short stories. That means four for the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and four for the StoryTime Blog Hop. Probably one or two for my blog during the Holidays. That leaves forty-two that I can submit to magazines or contests. Which, all said and done, would probably do wonders for my career.

I’m going to hold off on committing to NaNoWriMo until closer to the date. I might be ready for a new project on November 1st and I might not.

As always, I’ll be jabbering away at the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums… Which are really one of the most supportive and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. And keeping up with this blog (which may or may not be less solipsistic in the future. Prob’ly not.)

And I will be jumping back into my revision with both feet in the new year. Hoping to start annoying agents–and eventually, the unsuspecting public–with my work as soon as possible.

So, what challenges are you taking on for 2017? What are the best communities to push you forward? What’s made you a better writer?

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**

 

And the NaNoWriMo Results…

At the beginning of last month, I set out to write a novel–50,000 words of one,  anyway–in 30 days.

And… I was going to do this one sheet of paper at a time, in hopes of a cleaner draft and ultimately, an easier revision. (I’m always looking for an easier revision.)

I was behind from day one.

Obviously, write longhand and then type is not the best strategy for speedy drafting. And that really wasn’t the point.

At the end of the month, I had roughly 14,000 words. That’s not great, and it’s not even average for me. (I usually wind up closer to thirty or forty thousand words in a month, and I aim a little higher than that in a good year.)

I was also blogging–mostly unrelated–and that would add a few thousand more words. Haven’t counted. And there’s the short story I wrote for the Advent Calendar this year. Oh. And I never really got away from the revision I was working on before I started Nano.

So, I started on November 1st with ONE piece of paper on a clipboard and a pencil.

And I started writing the ONE scene that was lodged in my mind.

And then, what?

Well, I found a few more scenes over the course of a month, but I never really got into the story. It never started to feel like one of my stories, and I never really started having fun with it.

Maybe I was a little afraid of this one. It’s the kind of thing that has to be done really well. Otherwise… it would fall off the edges, and either turn into a sermon or a farce.

So… what I learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

  • writing longhand DOES produce cleaner drafts BUT in my case, at least, the reduction in speed adds up to a reduction in passion. I’m not sure which part of that is going to be useful in the future.
  • I may be better off to write as a NaNo Rebel, and work on whatever I already have in the works.
  • Even if something sounds more efficient, it may not be the best path for me.
  • I still need to get out there and be a part of the community, even when things aren’t going well. I started tanking in word count, and withdrew. I didn’t do a lot of the social things on the Nano Site that I would have liked to.

For next year… I’m not really sure what the goal should be, but I’m probably going to keep working on whatever I’m working on when it gets here. I’ll also focus more on the community building aspect of it.

So, what about you? Lessons learned? Strategies for next year?

Team Holly and NaNoWriMo

I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–which begins November First. And Holly Lisle–of Holly’s Writing Classes–is sponsoring a team for the event. That makes this the first time that I’m doing Nano as a member of a team. Look at me! I’m a joiner. See? I have a banner and a team-name to prove it.

So, here I am being a team player.

The goal for Nano–the individual, ONE person goal, that is–is 50,000 new words in a month. And that used to seem impossible. Until I did it. And then, it just seemed difficult. Until I decided to make my writing goal 1,000 words a day. And then, it just seemed slightly hectic.

This year hasn’t been great. Life happened, and I got out of routines that worked for me, and into treading water. I’m hoping to get back into routines, and make some effort toward nicer, cleaner drafts that will revise like a dream.

Right now, that cleaner draft thing seems impossible to me. We’ll see.

The idea that pops into my head is that I should be taking ONE piece of paper instead of a notebook. So I have to focus, and make use of ONE sheet instead of starting over and starting over.

The thing that I don’t want to to quit doing over nano is the blog. Which is a new habit, and a new routine. I think this works fairly well for me. At any rate, it’s not dangerous.

With a little bit of peer pressure and a lot of force to keep me in line, I might get some real work done over Nano. We’ll see.