Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Editing Process

So I just finished my first proper novel.

(pause for happy dance)

I've written a novella and I've technically won Nanowrimo four times (but I never bothered editing those). But Freak Show, my space opera about the performers of an intergalactic sideshow, is now as complete at 85,170 words, and as polished as I can get it.

It's a weird feeling of accomplishment, pride, and bewilderment. Did I really just finish the thing I've been working on for nine months? (I totally understand why people call their books their babies; I took almost exactly nine months to bring this thing into the world, and now I'm already stressing about whether I can get it into a good college. I mean publisher.)

Anyway. I'm always interested in seeing people's writing process, so I thought I'd share mine.

First draft

I didn't allow myself to edit as I write, except for small typos and things I'd forget to change if I don't do it at that moment. It's pointless for me to go back and edit for continuity when the plot veers from my plan, because I know it could be all for naught if I change my mind again. And boy, did I change my mind. One character went from being the damsel in distress to the villain, and another went from innocuous side character to secretly the villain's minion to the person who basically saved everyone else a bunch of times.


Second draft

After waiting a few weeks for the novel to "rest" (read: I never wanted to see the thing again, and also my aunt was visiting and I was too busy anyway), I read the first draft, making notes as I went (this is where I found all those snarky "notes from the editing room"). Then I went through and changed the Big Things: removing mentions of erased plot lines and characters, making sure people are always named the right name and act the way they should, making sure there's enough foreshadowing of that big important thing in chapter 12... I did some copyedits and small sentence tweaks if it occured to me, but it wasn't my goal at this point. I also wrote brief outlines for the few flashback scenes and decided exactly where they should go.


Third draft

Now that I knew for sure what things I needed to reference or foreshadow, I went in and added the flashback scenes. I also finally figured out names for some of those minor planets I've been calling [Krypton] and [Gallifrey], and eliminated some other placeholders like [airplane word for "steering wheel"].


Fourth draft

Here I got rid of all the placeholders, named the few things that still didn't have names (like the Big Evil Corporation and the Super Important Element) and did a line-by-line edit. By now the story was about as good and cohesive as I could get it (I did delete an entire scene because one of the flashbacks could convey the information much more effectively, but other than that it was pretty solid), so this involved rewriting and tweaking at the word level. I also restructered chapters. In the original draft, I had 16 chapters, about 3 scenes each. I had inserted chapter breaks as I wrote, but I didn't always have a clear direction and there was definitely room for improvement. I now have 25 chapters, most around 2 scenes long but some 3 or 4 and a few where 1 scene is its own chapter. This draft also ended up being a lot of going back to foreshadow things so the later chapters make sense.


Fifth draft

Here, I finally did a spellcheck. My manuscript had never been spellchecked, except for by my own eyes and brief instances where I Googled something because I can never spell "bureaucracy". I'm really surprised there weren't too many problems, except I've apparently been spelling "succumbed" wrong for my entire life. I also checked on some notes I wrote during the last draft, like "How many times did I use the word 'dichotomous' or the phrase 'a long, long time ago'?" (2 and 1, respectively). This was also when I went through and standardized things like whether "forcefield" is one word or two.

So it still hasn't really sunk in how big of a deal this is. I feel a little lightheaded (but then that could be my medication... :D).
Next stop, #PitMad on September 8!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More Notes from the Revision Room

Quick book promotion before the self-mockery starts. Want an advance reader copy of Circuits & Slippers? Fill out the form here:

Now back to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

So I'm trying to get my manuscript in shape for #PitMad on September 8. It's really close to being as good as I can get it, so it just needs just a final pass or two of edits, and that means I get to find notes written to myself.

At some point you should do a search for how many times you say "a long, long time ago" because I'm slightly concerned that it's more than one.

Check the frequency of "dichotomous," too.

Numbers don't mean anything anymore! (I rearranged some chapters and it was very confusing)

I don't really know how space works and I think I'm just subconsciously trying to make things up that are plausible enough that they don't anger Neil deGrasse Tyson.

It feels like there should be a flashback here but all the important scenes have been done. I could write about them, like, scrapbooking or something, but I think that would just end up getting cut. With fancy scissors.

Double check the constellations, yo.

I feel like I'm not using the word "pageantry" enough. (story of my life)

"No matter how much it scares you, when the people around you are starving, you turn rocks into bread. It isn't a choice; you just do it." That is a line you're proud of?

Have you seriously been misspelling the name of your own ship all along just because you can't be bothered to check whether that's a lowercase M or RN?

And this chapter shall be titled "Jen doesn't know what pollution does."

I just named a city after a character in my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure book. (Or, "I'm an adult and I still have a favorite Choose Your Own Adventure book." It's actually apt, though, because the book is The Owl Tree and my character from that city is sort of an owl.)


[Spaceballs], the placeholder!

This feels like Final Fantasy VII.

Wait. Now I think I stole every one of my characters from Final Fantasy VII. Jack = Cloud, Lily = Tifa, Merulo = Barrett, Diantha = lady Sephiroth, Parthen = Aeris, Pneuman = also kind of Aeris but in spirit form, Theon = kind of Red XII, Ruby and Cara = sort of Yuffie but less cool.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Notes from the Editing Room - Revisions

I'm revising Freak Show. I may have lost a little bit of my mind. Enjoy.


Why do we need the word "amongst"? Did "'among" spend a semester abroad and come back with a fake accent or something? (aka, "I got 6 words into my manuscript before getting really angry at my choice of words")

"...a scandalous font." How can a font be scandalous? Did it have an affair with Comic Sans?

Stop. Using. The. Word. Jagged. (apparently I used it 10 times in 83k words)

Fun new game: does this planet really have multiple suns or is that a typo?

None of this is a lie; she's just telling the truth from a different time. And pretending to be a robot.

Space Negan needs a spinoff. He interests me. (I call him Space Negan because he seems like he would carry a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. And I can't remember his real name)

Why couldn't I have based the story on "We Built this City"? Then I could have named a ship Knee-deep in the Hoopla. (For maximum benefit, read this note in the voice of a child having a temper tantrum. My other story is more whimsical than this one and I just I couldn't take the seriousness for one more minute)

Obviously the problem occurs because it's hard to sing perfectly while simultaneously being a robot on a different planet.

I've just come to the realization that my book is just The Breakfast Club but in space and with grown-ups and slightly more high-stakes laser battles.

If my novel was Breaking Cat News, Pneuman would be Puck.

I know the Mr. Mister song isn't really saying "carry a laser down the road that I must travel," but if it was it would be an awesome theme song for this book. I mean, no one actually carries the lasers and there are no roads but still. I probably use the word "laser" more often than I use "jagged."

Friday, August 12, 2016

People Watching

I don't think I'm alone when I say that I love watching strangers. They're so interesting and inspiring. The little quirks, the choice of clothing, the way she looks at him like he's an absolute idiot and you have to wonder what he did wrong...

One of my favorite things to do in line or in waiting rooms is make up stories about the people around me. Are they married or just friends? What magic item is in that kid's backpack? Does she hunt vampires?

I almost never speak to or see these people again, and have no way of knowing what their real stories are. And that's okay; the fun is in the mystery.

Years ago, however, I was waiting in line at a doctor's appointment and I saw this fascinating older man walking towards me. Very tall, wispy white hair, thin glasses halfway down his nose, khaki vest with many pockets... I just knew he was a professor who moonlighted as an archeologist or paleontologist. And I figured he was probably English. What he would be doing at a doctor's office in a small town in New York, I didn't know. Probably something very secret and exciting.

So Richard (I decided his name was probably Richard) comes up to me, looks at me over his glasses, and asks, "Are you the last in your line?" I can't stress enough how few people in my area have any accent except our vague, almost-but-not-quite-New-England generic American accent, but he had the exact English accent I had imagined.

It took all of my strength not to burst out laughing and ask him about his latest archeological dig.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016