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.

IWSG: So, Do I Still Fit In?

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

The Insecure Writers’ Support Group posts on the first Wednesday of the month. More information and the sign-up can be found here.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG will be Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Buter!

When I was working on my first novel–the one in my bottom desk drawer–I was working at a bookstore. I was in a writers’ group, and even though my novel wasn’t up everybody’s alley, we all got along. We had fun. It was a community, and I felt like I belonged.

Now, I’m drifting. I’m in a more mundane job, and my real-life creative community? Well, it lacks cohesion. Here and there, I run into people who write. We have a coke, we talk… the structure and routine are missing. And progress? I really don’t know. I guess you can talk about writing whether you’re getting words or not.

I’ve started thinking of going to a writers’ conference. I’m finally at a place where I might be able to afford it, and where it might actually be worth the money. And let’s be honest, the idea of going out and spending a weekend with my own kind doesn’t sound bad, either.

Hello, insecurities!

Absolutely everything, from finishing my revision (I’m not counting it out.) to what I’ll wear, and the general–and terrifying–fact that I won’t know anyone, I’ll get lost on the way to class, and I’ll probably forget my locker combination.

It’s been a long time, and I’m jittery abut the whole thought.

Anybody else in the same boat? When you’ve been away from other creatives for a while, how do you get back in?  Just close your eyes and jump, or wade in carefully? Any tips?

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.

Military Culture, Universals, and Sentient Cephalopods

I was perusing the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference’s website the other day. (Can’t decide whether I’m daydreaming or actually shopping) and I ran onto a seminar about writing military characters. (past conferences brochures, if you’re looking.)

Now, let’s be honest. Most days, that’s the kind of seminar I’d probably forego in favor of something else. Actually, basically anything else, because I’m not writing a war book, or even a book based on the Planet Earth. (I think we can all agree there are very few United States Marines in space.)

But I do have military characters.

More than one of them.

And they’re pretty major characters.

They’re not human. They’re not from my time period, or my planet, and you can’t look them up on Wikipedia and figure out what they did in the last twenty-seven battles.

I know who won, and who lost, and I know that the guy who lost hasn’t completely given up his cause. I know what the guy who won did in order to win.

But the specific details listed in the seminar aren’t things that would apply. The language is different. The uniforms are different. The weaponry is… well, definitely not current technology.

So, now I’m thinking about universals. The things that arise from function, rather than culture. The things that would be the same in 8th century Greece as in 20th century America. The things that stay the same, whether you’re two-legged foot soldiers or a fleet of talking space squids.

Are there universals? What commonalities do you see? What differences?

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?)

Things to See and Do in the Cybersphere

Holly Lisle is bringing back her  How To Think Sideways course, starting right now. It’s a comprehensive course on how to write a novel, from the idea to–well, dropping it in the mailbox, if you’re publishing traditionally, and publishing, if you’re going the indie route. It also–and this was the tipping point for me–comes with access to Holly’s forums, which are some of the nicest, most supportive, and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. It’s a good community.

I happen to be a moderator over there, so be sure you say hi, when you’re there. Yeah, mostly, it means I answer questions, but sometimes I also get to be moderate.

This month, Juneta Key is hosting the StoryTime Blog Hop. The basic rules are:

 

  • Short Story/Flash Fiction up 1000 words
  • (PG RATED–No Violence, Erotica or Foul Language)
  • Genre:      GENERAL Speculative Fiction
  • DEADLINE JANUARY 20TH, 2017 (Get your links to Juneta by then.)
  • MUST DO:  Pre-schedule post to Go Live with other participants.  Failure to do this may cause your link to be removed from the lineup of story participants when the rest of the links are live on the day.  Info for pre-scheduling here (required). 

The stories don’t have to be for children, but as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t use anything that will make the children’s authors in the hop put a bag over their heads.

I’m still chugging away at the 52 Week Writing Challenge.  One of my good influences just dropped out because of a family thing, though, so if you wanna join in, and be my new icon of writerly virtue, there’s an opening. Or, you know, if you want to join in and be a bad influence, or just write quietly in the corner. Plenty of space for everyone, and only a week in.

 

 

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.

Read More… BUT…

2016 was a year.

It hit me pretty hard, personally, and I think that shows in every corner of every month. I’ve taken on more than I can chew, not just because I wanted to escape, but because I wanted to say yes. I wanted to say yes to every awesome thing that came up.

So, I said yes. Actually, kind of a lot. And to more things than I probably actually had (compressed, bad year, emotion-ridden) time for. In a normal year, sure. Why not? This year… Well, it was a year.

I need to catch up. I still have a review to write, and some beta-ing to finish. Both for really brilliant, talented writers.

And then, I’m going to say no, for a while. I think. If I can remember how.

I’ll get my own writing back on track. Which it hasn’t been. Since it was more or less steam-rolled a few months ago.

And then, I’ll read more.