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.

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.

The Morning Writing Hour

I woke up at a quarter to three this morning, with the cat staring me in the face, and clearly wondering why I’m not awake and working on my novel. The cat cares.

Well… the cat is a creature of habit. He expects the same thing to happen every single day. If I had the sense to feed him as soon as I get up, I think he’d be pouncing even more enthusiastically, which would probably be good for the novel. Chances are, it would be good for me, too. Less sleeping in, less destruction of my routine.

Later on, when it is summer, I’ll be able to get up and actually go somewhere. Out on the porch, in the fresh air, to write. There might even be daylight by the end of my time.

Right now, though, it is cold. It is dark, and the electric lights are doing nothing to convince me that it is morning. I don’t have a problem getting up an hour early before I go to work, but damn, it’s hard to get up on my days off. My mind refuses to accept that sleeping until seven is sleeping in, and so I do. At which point, the rest of the world has started, and there isn’t any time left to just sit and write.

I’m battling distraction. Do I need to know that the guy who beheaded another guy on a Canadian bus has been released from lock-up? No. Or that Twitter recommends eating spiced pears after sex? Not even slightly. Hate the texture of pears.

I need to wake up and get some work done. I need to feel like I am getting work done, and right now… well, I probably am, but I don’t. Tracking revision progress has always been tough for me.

Maybe I need old-school notebooks, with ink and no eraser.

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.

 

I Hate My Novel… My Short Stories, and also my Signature

I’m down to that place where I hate my novel. I have some of the novel on my e-reader, and it looks… well, disturbingly like a book. You know… the kind of book where people point out typos and misused words, and where you’re not completely sure whether it was written by an adult, or an over-zealous toddler.

My past self has also used the e-reader’s note-taking capability to leave me a series of obscene jokes and asides. I can’t completely decide whether I should cut the things that the note refer to, or if I should emphasize them, and call the book ‘funny’.  It’s a little like having a book with audience partici—pation going on in the background.

Clearly, I thought I was being funny at the time, but there’s nothing like arrowing your way over to the note in the middle of the page, fiddling around with e-reader button(s) and winding up with a sophomoric comment. There are, of course, just enough useful comments in that version of the text that I can’t just throw it away and start over.

Right this second, I’m debating whether I’m throwing too much away out of my revision out of a desperate desire to make it go faster.

I’m down to 39 pages left in that revision organization of mine. And I really do think about taking those thirty nine pages and throwing them all in the trash. The trash-trash, not the probably cut from this book file.

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.

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?