Monday, 31 August 2015

Weekly Update: August 23 to 29

Weekly word count: 0
Editing countdown: 19 of 23 (3 this week)

I'm so close to getting Metamorphosis done for editing.  By next week's post I want to be able to say that I've done it and can now move on to writing new stories.  I've gotten a couple of questions, asking how long it takes me to edit a chapter.  If I don't have a lot of new material to write, it takes me around 3 hours to go through a chapter.  I do multiple passes.

The first pass is to go through and look for any inconsistencies.  As I write my first draft, I often make a number of major plot changes as things occur to me.  However, I've learned to simply make notes and press forward rather than going back and rewriting everything to match.  If I go back, I get caught in a loop.  I make notes as to what changes I've done and what chapter I've made them in and then I can adjust the different scenes during revision.  This is also where I make a note of any scenes or dialogue which I feel isn't working well.  I don't actually do the changes yet though.

The second pass is for description and reactions.  I make sure every setting and character has adequate description (sometimes I get so caught up in the action that I forget in my first draft).  Then I use different types of reactions (physical, intellectual and emotional) to deepen the point of view of my characters.

The third pass is to rewrite any scenes which aren't working or which need to be tweaked to match previous events.

The fourth pass is to trim out words which I tend to overuse (I have a list) and passive voice indicators like "was" "had" and "has".  There are times when the passive voice is appropriate but the word count will be lower and the pacing will be quicker if it's minimal.

The fifth pass is to search for Canadianisms and adjust the formatting.

The sixth pass is a final read through for final tweaks and then I add the finished chapter to the master file.

I have to say that I find editing to be the second biggest challenge of writing.  (The first is promotion.)  But there is something inherently satisfying about seeing the polished work, even though I know my editors are going to rip it apart, since that's what I pay them to do.  It's good to know that I'm delivering something which I'm proud of.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A Link Between Renovation and Writing

I will admit to being a bit of a reno-show junkie.  I love watching non-functional or ugly stuff get ripped down to the framework and then something beautiful and wonderful built up in the same place.  It's one of the reasons why I made my hero a contractor for Whispers In the Dark.

I see the same process when I'm editing.  I know it's a mixed-subject for writers.  Some writers love editing and are intimidated by the blank page.  Some of them hate the editing, preferring to move on to shiny new stories.  I probably lean more toward the latter than the former, but there is an elegance in finding the right finishing touches.

When editing, the key plot points are like the framework and drywall.  It's possible to move walls and support beams, but it takes a lot of work.  Adding in more description and adjusting dialogue is like doing a fresh coat of paint and adding the right light fixtures and window treatments.  It can completely change the sense and feel of a particular scene.

Then it's time for staging, the last finishing touches of furniture and accessories.  The tiny bits which make the different between good, great and brilliant.

Maybe I'm stretching the analogy a little far, but I believe almost any story can be made great just like almost any house can be made into something beautiful.  It's all a question of the amount of work the writer is willing to put in.

Last week, I was feeling down and overwhelmed about my work.  Now I'm ready to pick up my hammer and paintbrush and get started all over again.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Weekly Update: August 16 to 22

Weekly word count: 1800
Editing countdown: 16 chapters out of 23 done (3 this week)

As much as I'm enjoying working on the sequel for Whispers In the Dark, which I am now calling Dreams and Visions, I'm running into a time crunch.  Despite my best intentions, I'm finding I'm too brain-dead after supper and after the kids go to bed to actually edit with any semblance of intelligence.  Which means I need to fit it into the day.

I'm telling myself it will still work out okay.  Once the kids go back to school, I'll have a few hours each day (okay, most days) for writing.  If I've got my edits done, I can concentrate on writing Dreams and begin the detailed plot outlines for the sequel to Metamorphosis.  I've already got a lot of ideas for things I want to interweave, so now it's time to figure out how it all fits together.

I'm finding myself curious to see how my developmental edit goes this time.  (A developmental edit looks at overall plot and character development.)  Last time, the challenges were mostly descriptive.  I see things so clearly in my head that I sometimes forget to actually write down what's happening.  I've made a real effort to overcome that in this draft, so I'm hoping there will be less to do.

I'm always humbled with the amount there is to learn with writing craft.  The different subtleties and techniques to create different impressions.  I enjoy the learning and the chance to find the perfect way to express the vision I have in my head.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rational or Supernatural?

Everyone has a default explanation for what happens to them, based on what we believe is possible.  Those who are into conspiracy theories will be more willing to believe something is the result of systematic lies and deception.  Those who believe authorities can be trusted will believe any irregular results are from errors instead of deliberate concealment.  Pessimists expect things to go badly and prepare accordingly.  Optimists expect them to go well and anticipate success.

My friends and I used to play a little game when we watched X-filesWould the monster of the week prove to be supernatural or rational?  I invariably guessed it was supernatural.  The man could walk through walls or the girl has a psychic connection to the killer.  Of course, sometimes, the man was a clever illusionist with a trapdoor and the girl was actually dating the killer and participating in the murders.  I got a fair amount of teasing for my willingness to believe in the weird and fantastic.

I like believing there is more out there than we currently understand.  I still believe we will scientifically understand what is behind the myths one day, just as we now understand the mysterious process of how diseases pass from person to person and genetic traits can skip generations.

Someday we'll know what people are seeing when they report interacting with ghosts or seeing a scene repeated out of the past.  Someday we'll know what inspired the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness monster.  Someday we'll understand extrasensory perception.

For now, I'll enjoy the wonderful breadth of possibilities open to my imagination.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Weekly update: August 9 to 15

Weekly word count: 1200
Editing countdown: 2 chapters edited, 14 of 23 completed

I'm trying not to be disappointed in myself.  I wanted to get 3 chapters  of Metamorphosis edited this week as well as continue to work on the sequel to Whispers In the Dark.  However, one of the chapters I edited had to be almost completely rewritten, so it took me 4 days to get it right.  I still need to keep pushing myself though.  There are only 3 more weeks of summer left before my self-imposed deadline to have the draft done.

I am pleased with how the sequel for Whispers is coming along.  I didn't get much written but I did spend a day building a detailed outline.  I want to continue with trying to write (although I've learned from experience not to write in the same universe when I'm trying to edit as my brain gets confused between story lines).  I'll give it another week before I put aside the writing to focus exclusively on editing.

I'm also starting to think I need to take a break from reading articles and listening to lectures about how to improve my sales.  Apparently, I'm doing everything wrong.  Either I'm not spending enough money, or I'm not focused enough on my brand (or too focused on my brand).  It just leaves me feeling depressed and hopeless.  In the end, I don't think anyone really knows why one book takes off and others don't.  There's no magic formula, only readers recommending the books to other readers.

The important thing is to keep offering quality stories.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Talking To Dead People

Everyone loves a good ghost story.  There's real pleasure in the little shiver of fear we get from sharing frightening and unusual circumstances.  But we don't tend to think too much about the actual ghosts.

I guess most people don't really believe ghosts are real, even when they're enjoying the stories.  I lean more towards believing than not, although I like to think I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to most of the reported stories.  I believe most encounters have a rational explanation but there are a small number which aren't easily explained.

What keeps drawing me back are the "what if" questions.  What if some people really did become ghosts?  What would their experience be like?  What circumstances could make someone into a ghost?

My family teases me because I'll often end up crying while watching the various paranormal shows.  I imagine long-dead soldiers still struggling to fulfill their duties or murder victims wandering aimlessly, trying to find their way home.  The idea of people being trapped somewhere between worlds bothers me.  The idea of myself being trapped that way is why I'm so interested in mediums.

Mediums are those who can (or claim to depending on your skepticism level) speak to the dead.  Some mediums describe it as hearing whispering voices, others say it's more like a feeling and still others claim it is indistinguishable from speaking to the living.  Some do it for profit and some do it because they feel an obligation to help trapped spirits and the living people they're tormenting or disturbing.  Some do it for both.

It's not a gift I'd want to have.  When I created my own medium, Gwen Harris, I actually made her crazy because I thought listening to the dead nonstop would do that to anyone.  She's crazy but it doesn't mean she's not aware or trying to convey something important.  Getting to translate her dialogue into metaphors and impressions was a lot of fun.  She turned into a delightfully creepy and surreal character.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Weekly Update: August 2 to 8

Chapters revised for Metamorphosis: 12 out of 23

It's been a productive week for editing.  Next week I go back to my day job so it'll slow down somewhat but I've got until September 25th to get the manuscript ready.  Then it's December 11th for line edits and a final proofread in January, which should put me right on track to release for February.

I spent most of the weekend putting Whispers in the Dark together for pre-order.  I've heard a lot of stories of draft manuscripts getting accidentally released instead of the final, so I think I'll be nervous about that until release day.

I got my cover for Whispers in the Dark as well as the interstitial and they are gorgeous.

It's been a great and productive week.  Next on my list is to get in touch with some of the bloggers who reviewed Revelations and see if they'd be interested in reviewing Whispers in the Dark.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Remembering Your Inner Goddess

Women spend a lot of time being less than the brilliant goddesses we are.  We're busy managing our lives and usually our kids' and husbands' lives, too.  There always seems like there's something to do, some additional task to make us better or faster, and somehow, our internal awesomeness gets lost.

One of the things I loved about researching for Revelations was going to different burlesque shows and meeting the dancers.  No matter the size or what was going on in their personal lives, they seemed to have a wonderful joy in themselves, a celebration of all aspects of their personality and bodies.  It wasn't just about sex, it was about feeling good and sharing those good feelings with others and encouraging them to feel good about themselves, too.

I was reminded of it last week when I went to see Magic Mike XXL with a girlfriend.  Admittedly, I enjoyed seeing some very good-looking athletic men but I also enjoyed Jada Pinkett Smith's speeches, telling the women in the audience that they were all queens and they should never forget it.  She reminded us that we should be worshipped and exalted as the beauties we are.

I have a quote from Marianne Williamson on a mirror beside my front door.  I look at it before I leave the house:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'  Actually who are you not to be?"

I think this is why we love characters like Samantha on Sex in the City.  She is confident and unafraid to enjoy what she enjoys without apologizing to anyone.  We want to feel that, to carry a little piece of it away with us against the moments of feeling small, inadequate and unattractive.

We are all beautiful, powerful and talented.  We are queens and goddesses. 

And we should never let anyone tell us differently.  Not even ourselves.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Weekly Update: July 26 to August 1 (Metamorphosis finished!)

Weekly word count: 7300 and done!

Okay, not done.  I still have to go through and do my polishing and revising.  My first draft always tends to be light on description and point of view depth, so I go back and add those things in my second pass through.  But the story is written through to the last scene.

There are some areas I'd like to tighten up, points in the plot which still feel contrived and artificial.  I always find that's easier once I have the whole story nailed down in terms of the key plot points.

This is the point which I feel separates professional writers from enthusiastic amateurs.  Admittedly, some people like the act of revising and find the blank page intimidating.  Not me.  I love writing new stories and so this is the part where I need to invoke some discipline and stick with making Metamorphosis better rather than starting something new and shiny.  Telling stories is fun.  Making a good story into a great one is work.

Right now, I want to share what I have with everyone.  I know I will never be more excited about this story than I am right at this moment.  By the time I go over it again and again and finish the editing process, I will have started on the next project and be lured in by the shiny newness.

I had this week and next week off work, which let me do more than usual.  I want to have my polished draft done by September 1st so I can get it out to my beta-readers.  Hopefully I can get the bulk of the revisions done before I go back to work.

I also got the final cover for Whispers in the Dark.  Once the business paperwork is done, I'll be sharing it with you all.