Tag Archives: editing

Godawful Early Schedule Week 3 Results

Not my wordiest week. To be fair, though, I did lose two days.

We (my family) left home on Thursday evening to head in to St. John’s. Weird timing for a trip, I know. But when one of your favourite authors/a great friend/an amazing person is in town, you make the trip. I got to see Krista Walsh again, and this time I got to show her  a little bit of Newfoundland.

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Totally worth missing a day of work for.

Two, actually. I spent Thursday packing and checking little tasks off my to do list rather than writing. So that’s two days I didn’t add anything to my draft.

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Worth it.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were split days. I drafted early in the morning, then did other work after the boys went to school.

Monday and Tuesday were all about the book that came back from my editor on the weekend. On Monday I did a quick pass accepting or rejecting the little changes my editor had made to fix sentence or paragraph flow (mostly accepting… she’s good at what she does) and dealing with minor fixes. On Tuesday I went through and did the bigger fixes that required deeper thought: looking at places where something had seemed wonky to her, where I needed to re-think blocking in a fight or bring a character in who had sort of disappeared from a group scene, questions about whether someone’s hand was inside or outside of someone else’s clothing.

And that was actually it. I usually plan on post-editor edits taking a lot longer than two days, but this time everything went smoothly.*

So on Wednesday I used my later-morning time to draft the back cover copy for that book, get the ball rolling on cover art, and format the book so I could send it to beta readers.

As for the early morning drafting, I had great mornings on Monday and Tuesday, even if it was hard to get started. Up at 5:30, writing by 6:00. More than 1,500 words Monday, almost 1,900 Tuesday. By Wednesday, though, I was already feeling burned out (after those big mornings and pushing myself to get through my edits). I slept in until 6:20 and only wrote for half an hour.

Strong starts to the week + burning out by the end seems to be a pattern for me. Actually, it’s the pattern of a lot of days, too. I think I’m scared of not using the energy when I have it because I don’t trust it (or the available time) will be there later if I try to pace myself early on. That might be something to look at in future weeks.

For now, the goal is to keep going with this early morning writing schedule. I’ll still be using early mornings for drafting, and then later mornings will be either for more drafting or for taking care of all the things I still need to do for pen name this month (post-beta fixes, cover art, proofreading in ebook and paperback, planning the next book for NaNoWriMo, figuring out promotional stuff).

I might be able to get this draft of my project (we’ll call it Phoenix here for clarity, though it doesn’t have a title) finished by the end of the week. I’m really hoping that boosts my motivation to keep going. I can feel myself getting lazy even though my deadlines are quite critical at this point.

Hours worked: 12 (3 writing, 5.5 editing, 3.5 other work-related tasks)

Words written: 4,000

Pages edited: two passes on 90K word book (no read-through, just editorial fixes)

Other stuff:

  • cover copy for Atonement written
  • cover art in progress
  • Atonement sent to beta readers
  • family stuff (trip to St. John’s, curriculum night at school, making salt crystals at home because that was a cool thing that happened at school)
  • exercised most days

Not too shabby, really.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, CANADA!

 


 

*The time it takes to do these edits and fixes also depends on what kind of edits I’m getting. My pen name Urban Fantasy stuff isn’t receiving the same kind of deep substantive edits that I’ll be getting on my current project when it goes to my other editor. That one could involve massive rewrites after I get the book back. Every book in the Bound trilogy needed big revisions and edits after that editor got his claws into them. Lots of work, but they’re far better books for it. And I learn a lot every time.

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April Wrap-Up

So… April is over. How did that happen? It seems like I was just setting my goals for this month, and WHOOSH. Gone. Time to set some for May.

Crazy.

I know things have been quiet here while I’ve been focusing on my actual writing work, but here’s a quick recap.

LIFE

Drank a lot of coffee. Drank even more tea. Had a CT scan on my head. Bought myself flowers (not related to any of the previous, but it happened).

My province’s budget came out, and includes massive library closures, larger class sizes in schools, and an additional 10% tax on books (when we’re already the Canadian province with the lowest literacy rate, SWEET DEAL). I get that we need money, but the short-sightedness of all of this blew my mind, and there may have been some ranting on Twitter. *cough*

April is still winter here, even though everyone always forgets that and expects it to be spring. Nine degrees one day, snow the next. At least it’s pretty.

I started Couch to 5K training this month, and just finished week three this morning. What I’m doing now wouldn’t seem like a challenge to most runners, but it is for me. I like the feeling of pushing myself through the hard parts and getting the feeling of accomplishment that comes with that. Of course, I’ve thought of a bunch of ways this is like becoming a writer, but that’s a whole other post.

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Me and my running buddy after week 3, day 1. The snow caught up with us. 🙂

 

READING

According to Goodreads, I read/finished four books in April. The first was You Are A Badass, which was a quick, easy introduction to a lot of self-improvement stuff like overcoming hang-ups (big thing for me, still working on that whole fear of success deal), setting goals, affirmations, visualizations, etc. The casual tone was nice, save for the use of “rill” instead of “really,” which made me want to set the book down and back away slowly. I also read Nail Your Story by Monica Leonelle (interesting take on story structure with ideas and worksheets I’ll be using in the future), The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle (fun story a friend sent me ages ago and I finally had time to read), and The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (lovely adventure/fantasy-with-no-magic romance. Slow to start, amazing twists and excitement by the end. Recommended to anyone who likes my stuff). Oh. I also read Hard as Ice by Victoria Barbour (another Newfoundland author). I liked Against Her Rules a little better, but it was a fun romance read with the same NL vibe as that one. I need to add that to GR…

Next up: Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’m not sure I’m ready for this one, but I’m trying to alternate in-my-genres books and not-my-genres books, and this is next up for lit fic. Wish me and my tear ducts luck.

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Isn’t this cover adorable?

WRITING

April was an interesting month for my work. Into Elurien, my 50K* contribution to a series of stand-alone novellas by bestselling indie Fantasy Romance authors, is going fabulously. It came back from edits needing a little work, but that went quickly, and it’s now out with beta readers. It’s getting amazing feedback from readers so far. One who loved the Bound Trilogy said she thinks she might like this story even better. I’m completely in love with the characters in this one, and will be sad to let them go. I didn’t even know them back in January, and now we’re almost finished… crazy. But it’s very ready to go, and I can’t wait to see it out in the world.

My other project, The Phoenix Game (working title), is proving a bit more challenging. I didn’t do enough ground-work before I started drafting, because I was trying to take advantage of the weeks I had while IE was out with alpha readers and with my editor. I didn’t get to know the characters well enough, didn’t explore the themes and ideas I’m working with in enough depth, and while my vision for the story is massive and beautiful, the mechanics weren’t quite in place yet. Add to that the challenge of writing in third person when I prefer first (for reading and writing), and what I’ve got so far is 30K words of a book with potential, but that doesn’t have the momentum and keen edge that I want.

So I’m taking a break and reading a bit more on story structure before I continue. Yes, it’s just a first draft, but when I know I’ve made a wrong turn I like to study the map and fix it instead of driving off cliffs, you know?

By the time IE is finished and up for pre-order (May 15), I should be ready to focus entirely on this one. It’s the most challenging book I’ve ever written. A YA story with a potentially complicated structure involving the past and the future (as well as gods and mortals), a deep backstory, themes that I’m still conflicted about myself, and a big cast of characters who are all likely to demand more page time than I can realistically give them when my goal is to keep it around 100K words after edits.

And that’s exciting. It’s wonderful. And it’s a little intimidating when the kids’ summer vacation is just around the corner and I have edits booked for January.

But I think writing is like a game. You level up with each finished project, and while I couldn’t have done this one justice a few years ago, I’m ready  for this challenge now.

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So that’s my April. I’m going to go plan for May now. That will include lots of fun stuff for my readers. Not just pre-orders, but teasers, chapter reveals, a character reveal or two, and (if I can find time), maybe some videos for me to post here and on YouTube as I continue to step outside of my comfort zone and do new things.

Anything is possible.

What were your highlights this month?

*I know, 50K is technically a novel, but series guidelines permit it. Consider it extra value, as it’ll be the same price it would have been at 30K words. 😉

 

 


CRUNCH TIME! :D

Yeah, I put a stupid happy face in the title. It seemed fitting.

The past month or so has been weird for me. I finished up post-alpha reader revisions on Into Elurien several weeks before it was scheduled to go to my editor, and she was kind enough to let me send it in so I’d stop picking at it, and in case she could get to it a bit early.

Sue may be a kindred spirit. She gets it.

Anyway, I had another project to work on after I sent that off. A big one. Probably the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done, in style if not scope or size. It’s a story I’ve been excited about since the idea popped into my head early one morning last year, and I’ve been itching to get to it.

And yet.

This is going to sound horribly unprofessional, especially if you’re familiar with the production styles of other writers, many of whom crank books out in a month, work on two or three books at a time in various states of production, and have no trouble jumping from story to story… but I really hate working on multiple projects.

I just don’t deal well with interruptions. I can’t start working in the morning if I know I’m likely to be interrupted in an hour by Jehovah’s Witnesses*.  I like hours to spread out, get my head into whatever I’m working on… time to procrastinate… I know, it’s a problem. I’m working on it!

My point is, I had a hard time getting momentum on the first draft of The Phoenix Game (working title) when I knew Into Elurien would be coming back before I got through the draft. I like to push through drafts in one go, so the knowledge that I’d be interrupted–even a few weeks down the road–was distracting and demotivating.

So as much as I adore this new book and all of its puzzling challenges, it was actually a relief when I opened my email yesterday to find Into Elurien back safe from edits. I mean, it’s bleeding, but it’s basically cosmetic issues. Big change from my full-length novels, which come back hacked to shreds, requiring a month or more of work to put them back together.

So that’s progress, and I’m excited to get IE done so I can then turn my full attention back to PG and really dig deep into it.

Today I get to return to my beloved Hazel, who’s going to be getting a little character work done to help her story flow well. I get to get reacquainted with Auphel, who’s stealing hearts wherever she goes. And I get to see Zinian again, who’s just… Yeah. It’s getting hard having my heart split between all of my book guys. He’s special. I want one.

What was I saying?

Right. PROGRESS! I’ve got beta readers lined up for the beginning of May. Pre-orders going up May 15. Release day June 15. Parties. Giveaways. Teasers.

And, of course, the cover reveal TOMORROW. AND sending out the newsletter, in which subscribers will meet Zinian for themselves. First excerpt. GAH. Excitement! Flailing!

You can probably tell I’m excited about this book. 😉

Into elurien promo square release month

 

*Yes, they come once a week. They know I’m not converting, but I AM learning a lot about prophecy and beliefs other than my own, which are Totally Useful Things in my line of work. And they’re really nice.


Sworn Update (“Sorry about the footnotes” edition)

I apologize for not keeping you guys updated as frequently as I said I would. Things have been quiet on the blog and my Facebook page, and will continue to be for a few weeks, at least. I’m putting “Bound A-Z” on hold (I’m not sure how many of you are reading the posts, but I will get back to it and finish the series ASAP). I’m not likely to have any other new content here for a while. I know, becoming a hermit is supposed to be a horrible thing for an author these days, but I have other things to do right now that are more important, and I trust my wonderful readers not to forget about me.

You see, edits came back last weekend, and I’m hard at work.

And it IS hard work. I have a great editor who’s willing to rip a story apart to its foundations if necessary, ask hard questions, and to challenge me to put my best work out into the world. He’s very good at his job, and with his help I’m making a good book great.*

You probably would have been happy with what I had before, but my goal isn’t to make you happy. It’s to blow you away, to keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, and to leave you breathless.

So for anyone who’s curious about the editing process, here’s what’s happening:

I’m taking a good portion of my editor’s suggestions. We won’t go into details here (hi, spoilers…), but it involves rewriting a few scenes, revising others, and generally AWESOMEFYING EVERYTHING.

Sorry for using technical language. *cough*

After the changes are made, it will be back to the beginning to make sure everything is cohesive and consistent with those changes, plus making it all purty-like. This is actually a bigger challenge than rewriting because it involves so much mental juggling and razor-sharp focus.

Note: Writing a book is relatively easy. It’s making it great that’s difficult and time-consuming, and I wish more authors acknowledged that. Editing is gory and messy, and in its own way, wonderful.

So that’s what I’m up to. I have a little less than five hours a day, five days a week, to work. Well… most weeks. With Thanksgiving (hi from Canada!) and several professional whatchamacallum days for the kids’ teachers this month when there’s no school, I’m getting less than that.

And then there are the migraine days when I can’t remember what a fork is called and spend my days and am completely unable to make with the words, but that’s another issue entirely.

The point is, I’m working whenever I can on my shaky part-time schedule. I think, I edit, I rewrite scenes, I face big challenges, and I do what I have to to make this the best story possible.

It’s hard. Really hard. It’s scary for reasons I don’t understand yet, and sometimes it makes me want to build a blanket fort and hide. Possibly with cookies. Definitely with colouring books.

But damned if it this thing isn’t already becoming amazing after just three solid days of work, and I’m excited to see just how great it can be.

Yes, there’s still a lot to be done. No, I don’t have a release date yet** (but I’m hoping to announce that and have a cover reveal early next month, if anyone with a blog is interested in helping out).

I’m working hard to make sure that this is worth the wait.

I’ll see you soon.

*For any not-at-editing-yet writer types who are wondering: Yes, it hurts. Yes, every critique is a blow to the ego, though I’m learning to reframe things in my mind. And yes, it is absolutely worth it when the work is done and the story is a hundred times better than it was before. I think I’m a good writer, but I know there’s always room for improvement. And oh, do I want to improve. I used to want to hear that my work was perfect. Now I’d be disappointed in any editor who didn’t call me on every whiff of bullshit and challenge me to do everything better. Good enough just isn’t anymore.

**It will be this winter, and sooner rather than later. It will be less than a year after the release of the last book, which puts me ahead of most big publishers’ series release schedules in spite of the fact that I’m doing everything on my own. In spite of my Canadian tendencies, I’m no longer going to apologize for editing delays or for the fact that I can’t focus on work for the eight, ten, or twelve hours a day that would allow me to whip out two books a year. I’m focusing on quality, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for every reader who supports me in this. You guys are the best, and you deserve my best. I thank you for your understanding and patience, and for not going all Veruca Salt on my ass. ❤


Bound A-Z: J is for “Jumpin’ Jehosephat”

Okay, so that title is a lie. No character in the Bound trilogy has ever said “Jumpin’ Jehosephat,” and I guarantee they never will. What we really want to talk about today is cussin’, but that doesn’t start with J.

I probably don’t need to put a disclaimer here, right?

Every author has to make decisions regarding swearing: How much is appropriate, whether it will sound silly if characters in life-threatening situations don’t swear in order to keep a “clean” rating (see the aforementioned Jehosephat). For some of us it’s not a tough decision, at least until our grandparents and people from church start reading our books.

*cough*

Others have to do a bit more soul-searching.

On top of that, some genres offer additional restrictions or opportunities. Writing middle-grade fiction? Yeah, we all know first-graders who drop f-bombs like Samuel L. Jackson (if with considerably less flair), but it’s not considered appropriate to include that kid as a character in a MG book, even as the bully. Historical fiction writers will have to take into account the historical accuracy of slurs and swears. This might sound restrictive, but judging by the insults Shakespeare’s characters tossed out, I’m guessing the research there could be rather interesting.

And Fantasy and Sci-Fi allow us a range of possibilities. This article from Book Riot has a great run-down of the options authors choose. There’s the vaguely-dirty-sounding substitution, the straight-up swear, religious curses based on the world the story is set in, and more.

Anyone who’s read Bound and Torn knows I let my characters swear when it seems appropriate for the situation. As my editor said in his comments on Torn*, “You gave more shits this time, and it worked.” He thought it felt realistic for characters to swear when everything is… well, when the shit hits the fan, so to speak, to not pussy-foot around to keep things universally palatable.

Why use our curses rather than making something fantastical up? Because everything else is translated, too. My characters don’t speak English in their world. If the words “cup,” “hunting,” “dragon,” and “love” are translated, I also translate the swearing when it works. It’s what works for me as a writer, though I do look forward to writing about species that use less-conventional oaths in the future. That should be fun. And there are cases where the world impacts choice of curses. “Gods” instead of “God” for a character who believes in more than one. “Harpy” instead of “bitch,” because that’s really the more vile insult in that world. It’s all about conveying meaning, not going for shock value.

Do some readers hate swearing? Yes.

Do some readers hate “clean reads” that seem awkwardly contrived to avoid realistic language and references to sex?

*raises hand*

It’s all personal taste, and you can’t please everyone. I’ll write what feels right for my stories and characters, as I expect other writers do with theirs. I do think swearing can be over-used to the point where it becomes irritating, or the reader becomes numb to it. I love creative curses, as long as I don’t have to spend too much time figuring them out. But used properly, a well-placed cuss can add a flash of depth or colour to a serious scene, or a bit of humour to another.

“Bad words” are one of many tools available to a writer, no different from metaphors and adverbs and varied sentence length. Just like anything else, we can choose to use them, to over-use them, or to not use them at all to create mood in a scene, establish character, or add impact to a moment in a story.

They just happen to occasionally be a lot more fun than most tools. 🙂

Fun Bonus Fact: The first draft of Sworn included what I (quite modestly) considered the most perfect f-bomb ever. It came from an unexpected character, and in context no other word would have delivered the same impact or meaning. It was absolutely perfect. I was certain my alpha readers or editor would tell me to cut it, but I had to have it just for my own satisfaction. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the story changed, things shifted around, and that moment was no longer essential to the story, so the Big Bad F-Bomb got cut.

This is what they mean when they say “kill your darlings.” Even when something pleases you as a writer, sometimes it has to go for the good of the story as a whole.

*Paraphrased, I can’t find my notes. Okay, that’s a lie. I haven’t had coffee, I’m lazy, and searching through those notes seems like a poor use of time I could be spending on getting the next book ready for edits.


Barking Mad

Last week, I found myself home alone for almost 72 hours. I edited. I watched Supernatural*. I edited some more. I ate quick meals, I planned, I revised, I edited even more.

It was fantastic.

How did I swing this when I usually have a husband and two kids around? Well, they went to the big city (not the one we go to for groceries… the bigger one) to pick up our new dog.

Now, I’m a little fuzzy on the details of exactly how we ended up adopting a Chihuahua from a rescue agency in Los Angeles. I remember seeing his picture on Facebook, posted by a friend who was fostering him in Hamilton, ON (Canada, guys), and thinking he was adorable. I vaguely remember my husband being quite taken with him. There were messages sent between him and said friend, and he started looking for ways to get a carry-on-sized dog from Ontario to Newfoundland. Something about an acquaintance who’s a pilot… my husband having days off work… talking about dog names… figuring it wouldn’t kill the boys to miss a day or two of classes… I know I actually consented to all of this. I’m just not clear on the details.

In my defense, all of my brain power was going toward the book. I’m sure I smiled and nodded and even acted like I had some clue what was happening around me, but it was actually all I could do to not burn the house down every time I cooked something.

Long story short, this is Bruno:

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He’s 6 lbs of cuddles, love, a puppyish bark, and a bad habit of eating EVERYTHING. Like, I was thinking about getting a Roomba, but I don’t think there are any crumbs left around the house for it to pick up. He (Bruno, not the theoretical Roomba) wears adorable sweaters, sometimes chases the cats (we’re working on that), and is fitting in pretty well around here.

jack and bruno

How are they even the same species?!

We must be crazy. I have a book to get out in the next few months, and edits just keep getting deeper. We’re probably moving this summer, and we have no idea where. We have a dog and three cats (one of them kind of old) already. Our family was pretty great as it was. Why rock the boat?

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Okay, the improved satellite reception provided by those ears is actually nice. But other than that, and having a companion for Jack when the family goes out, and giving a three year-old dog his forever home, and having another furry little buddy to hang out with…

You know what? Never mind. I answered my own question.

*I’m only on season 2. I’m told it doesn’t get really good until season 4, but something pretty is keeping my interest for now.

The scenery. I really go for creepy houses and graveyards. Yep.


So Long, Farewell…

I’m typing this quickly, and at 5:00 in the morning. There’s a feeling of adventure about being up at this time of day when you’re not used to it. It feels like the days when my parents used to wake us up early so we could get the long drive to my grandparents’ cottage out of the way before:

a) traffic hit in Toronto

or

b) my brother and I were awake enough to “ARE WE THERE, YET?” the whole way

…I’m not actually sure what the reasoning was, there.

The point is, ADVENTURE.

Well, my friends, I’m on a different kind of adventure this morning.

Edits are back, after a few delays in getting started and finished. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not pretty. There’s more work to do than I’d anticipated based on early reader responses, thanks to some amazing ideas from my editor on how to make this thing kick more ass.

Like, ALL OF THE ASSES.

Mature, I know.

Mature, I know.

It’s the advantage and the disadvantage of getting developmental/substantive edits, I guess. There’s no “I can whip through this in a week by accepting and rejecting line edits,” which I imagine feels pretty sweet. There’s more gnashing of teeth this way, more re-writing of scenes and re-considering of elements, and more hard questions about everything. It leads to more self-doubt, for me at least, and more heartburn.

But damned if it doesn’t lead to a better, stronger, more satisfying and more entertaining book in the end. Bound was good before those big, bad edits. It came out of the fire far better. I’m aiming for the same here, and want to create the most amazing book I can for the readers who are making all of this possible.

So what does this all mean?

For me, it means a lot of hard work. I still want to stick to the time-frame I had planned, but… well, remember when I joked about becoming an editing-cave troll through much of the winter?

I thought at the time that I was exaggerating. I was not.

It means you’re going to see less of me around here, and on Facebook, and elsewhere. That stings. Authors these days are expected to stay on top of social media, and quite frankly, I enjoy it. I love you guys. Chatting with you in comments and posts makes me smile.

But that’s why I need to back off. Because you deserve the best.

Torn is a good story. It’s one I believe in, and one beta readers already loved. And after going through editing notes, I believe it can be great. Better than Bound (and isn’t improvement always the goal?).

It also may mean a delay in the book’s release. It definitely means I’m not putting a firm release date out there until I’m at least through the larger re-writes. If I were free to work on this all day, every day, I’d say there would be no problem sticking to my original goal. But I’m not. Technically, writing’s not my full-time job–my family is, and they’re not going to be pleased if I throw bags of uncooked ramen noodles at them every day for the next few months instead of cooking, or if they have no clean underwear… ever.

I know. Totally unreasonable, right? But I’m basically stuck working the 5 hours a day when the kids are in school, weekends off.

So here’s the plan.

I’m using this up-early time to write this post, and then to go over notes again, read through the line edits, see what changes I’m going to make, and which I’m not. It’s not an easy process, but it’s step one. After that, it’s organizing, brainstorming, re-writes, minor edits, line edits… and then my wonderful second-round beta readers will get their hands on it and tell me how we’re looking.

I’ll keep you all up to date on what’s happening as we go.

Yes, I’d still like to do pre-orders by the end of February. Yes, I’d still like to release in March.

But quality first. This isn’t an assembly line.

It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.


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