Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Epic Editorial Hit-List (List Edition)

This is a post I promised long ago and never delivered. Even though the novel in question is still not finished – it’s the one I’m rewriting the beginning of right now – the list is as complete as it’s going to get. I’ve been through it on a different novel in the meantime; it’s both comprehensive and actionable.

Here it is, then, my epic editorial list. These are all the dimensions that I am examining as I edit one of my rough drafts. I’ve separated it into what I consider the different layers of editing.

Macro Level Editorializing

Storyboarding

Does every scene advance the story or character development?

Is every scene from the best point of view for that development?

Does every scene begin and end where it should?

Are all the threads that weave together by the end introduced early enough to seed the idea and in the proper succession?

Are the characterizations consistent (or believably shifting from one point to another)? Do the characters come across to readers the way they really are (basically, do the thoughts/behaviors/actions the reader SEES add up to the person I know the character to be)?

**This is also where I would consider whether and how to address complaints/critiques from beta readers

General revisions passes (to make up for the fact that I write characters even deeper in their own heads than I am)

Physical grounding – make sure the scene and world are at least referenced, and preferably described at least impressionistically.

Add in sexual tension/physical awareness between them.

Review the dialogue – does it sound natural? Is there any difference between their “voices”? Add in slang from the era where appropriate.

Don’t belabor the point – I overexplain thought processes; minimize it. I like to add a cute little summary after I say something perfectly adequately; delete them.

How does the character think about the world? AKA the INTJ test.

Finally look up any research details I left until the end (which roads might have been taken, for example, or the specific steps of a dance).

Sentence Level Editing

Line edit – AKA, where I make it good

Tightening – can I say it with fewer words?

Clarity – do the words say what I intend them to say? Do they say it in a way that readers can instantly comprehend? Are there too many complex words in a string?

Punch – is the idea presented in the way that is most impactful? Does each sentence have the correct subject or would rearranging the concept order create a stronger reaction?

Sentence structure comparison – have I used too many of the same type of sentence (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex, fragment, or just short/long) too close together?

Long sentence/semi-colon analysis – Do all those ideas really belong in that one long sentence, or would punch and/or clarity be served by splitting them up?

Was the passive voice used? Only save it if it was intentional

Ensure all parallel constructions are, in fact, parallelisms

Do I really need that that? – I pretty much want to use one any time I can. Only about half are necessary.

Do I really need that adverb? – most of the time I either need to change the verb, or let the verb say what it needs to say. But sometimes adverbs are either necessary information or a part of the character’s internal voice.

Oops, that’s a cliché/inappropriate colloquialism!

Copyedit – AKA, where I make it right

The hunt for typos: missing words, homonyms*, words that do not mean what you think they mean

*the usual suspects get special scrutiny: its/it’s, there/their/they’re, vise/vice, two/to/too, four/fore/for, etc., etc.

Antecedent check – pronouns refer to whom I intend them to? No ideas starting with an unexplained “it”?

Dangling modifiers check – are all leading modifiers followed by the noun I intend them to modify?

Identify echoes – where a certain word or phrase is used too closely to itself and creates an unintended callback, or where two characters think about the same thing/use the same logic

Settle on a word, in all the places I put brackets around an idea because I couldn’t figure out the exact word for what I wanted to say

Name spelling consistency for all characters, places, and other proper nouns – make sure it’s always Sebastian, not Sebastian on page 2 and Sebastion on page 122

Consistency across details such as physical descriptions, the timeline of events (you can’t go to church and then declare the next day to be Tuesday), and the blocking/prop action within a scene (make sure no one takes off a shirt twice)

Capitalizing consistency (Season vs. season, Society vs. society, etc.)

Italicizing consistency (ton or ton, modiste or modiste, etc.)

Apostrophe consistency (St. James’ vs. St. James’s, etc.)

Tense and mood agreements; subject verb agreements

Pick a number style and apply it consistently! – whether it’s using numerals for anything more than one digit, or for numbers that would be more than three words to write out

No comma splices (run-on sentences where a comma is being used to connect two sentences instead of either a comma and conjunction or a semi-colon)

Confirm all semi-colons are either joining two sentences in lieu of a comma/conjunction or separating complex items in a list

Make sure there is a comma before all conjunctions forming a compound sentence

Oxford commas! Because I want to party with the strippers, JFK, and Stalin, not the strippers, JFK and Stalin.

All asides set off with commas on both ends

Check every use of “only” – is it in the right place, modifying what I intend it to modify? The lesson: how many different ideas can you get by moving “only” around in the following sentence? “The thief stole my pants yesterday.” Lily’s answer is seven. There are seven discrete ideas to be had based on which word “only” is modifying.

Proofreading

Names/titles capitalized as they should be

Quotes around dialogue, punctuation before/after as necessary

Smart quotes in proper alignment

All ellipses converted to the wider layout

Ellipses at the end of a sentence are followed by a period

Every sentence ends with punctuation

Every sentence begins with a capital letter

All em-dashes and hyphens are what they should be

_______________________________________

I know that looks like a lot. It is, but when the rules of grammar, punctuation, and style are ingrained in your mind, most of these can be done simultaneously. These are potential violations, but it’s not like a flag is going to get thrown for all of them every play, you know? They’re just all the spots I know to look a little more closely at. But the magnitude of my modest little editing list does explain why so many hire-an-editor advocates recommend multiple editors – it takes a very special person to keep all these strands in mind at once. Like an INTJ. Heh.

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I Have a Newsletter!

I think we all remember my rant about address disclosures in commercial emails such as new release newsletters, right? (Really, who could forget?)

https://lilywhitelefevre.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/on-newsletters-privacy-and-government-interference/

I finally figured out a workaround that felt acceptable to me. No, I was never able to figure out how to offer a discrete subscription to only certain announcements here on this blog, but then it hit me: WordPress doesn’t restrict me to one blog.

So I grabbed the complementary WordPress domain to my current demesne, and that will be my newsletter. Subscriptions to that blog will be separate from subscriptions to this blog. I can direct readers to it without the fear of turning them off because I post so many things that aren’t book releases.

If you want to check it out, here’s the link: https://lilylefevre.wordpress.com/

Feel free to subscribe if you want to know about my new releases – and worry you might miss the simultaneous announcements I make here. 🙂

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Progression of a Scene: Layer 2

I have integrated my rough-drafted conversation into my narrative flow on novel restart 3.0. Here was layer 1 of my revisions/cycling edits (where you go in and edit the last scene you wrote before you start writing again, as opposed to saving all editing for after the final draft – I am a cycler, which may be why my final editing session changes so relatively little if I got the story right). Below is where the scene stands now after I went in and drafted in my narrative writing. I decided I didn’t like their banter broken into verse, so I took that out. I need to make one or two more passes through this scene, but I will likely doit  on the novel-wide edit. Primarily I need to add in more physical description of the world around them (as opposed to merely character blocking and expressions), and I need to dig out the sexual tension if more physical description doesn’t do that.

This should offer you a better sense of how I write. I have to build my writing out from being nothing but a narrative inside a character’s head to something that creates a followable story.

LEGEND:

[bracketed comments] = editorial aside explaining what I did if it’s not a textual change that can be noted by changing the color of the words involved

black = original words

blue = compositional mode additions

red = editorial change

To recap the scenario: a masquerade. Their Lord and Lady Winter costumes match; hers, intentionally, because she wanted to match a man from her past and thinks the hero is he. He’s not. He takes her for a courtesan he’s supposed to meet there. She’s not.

Up close, she was beautiful.  Her eyes were startlingly blue, almost like faceted sapphires, and framed by dark lashes so long and so curled they brushed the top of her mask’s eye holes.  The skin around the silver papier-mâché was fine-grained and glowing.

The bosom which had caught Lysander’s attention across the room looked magnificent at touching distance.  He simultaneously wanted to yank down the fabric covering her and leave that perfect frame in place while he lost himself inside her.

He had no idea where John—or Tristan—had found such a creature or what she must have cost, but Lysander was unequivocally, profoundly grateful for her presence, and for the smirk that remained on her lips throughout his perusal.

He should speak.  The two of them could not simply stand there in the midst of the ballroom staring at one another, and he had been the one to approach her.

Unconsciously, Lysander smiled his most charming smile before voicing any words. Then he recalled his mask.  He left the expression in place anyway as he greeted her with a shallow bow.

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,” he said, reaching for the one bit of poetry he knew that might suit her attire. he murmured as he stood, offering the one poetic reference he could bring to mind that might refer to her costume.  “Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”

“Do you not think yourself unkind to speak to me of your ingratitude?”

Her question took him aback. Had she been inconvenienced to come tonight? Had he been hard to find? [paragraph break]

While he parsed the meaning of her words, their cadence struck him. She’d replied in the same meter his verse quotation employed, with a slight pause to emphasize her phrasing—she meant to speak in verse. It was a parlor game he knew well from his sister. She always won. He wondered how he’d fare against a lady of the night. Dismally, most like, if she were an actress.

Lysander framed an iambic reply anyway. After all, she might be a dancer.

“Then should I simply note that you’re well met, my lady fair?”

The smirk deepened. “Well met, indeed, my lord.”

He held her gaze. “Am I your lord?”

“Tonight it doth appear you are.”

A chorus of angels could not have sounded sweeter. Lysander took half a step closer—an inch more, and he would have his shoes under the hem of her gown—and tipped his head down to keep their eye contact. She was not breaking it, and he could not bring himself to. He inhaled and smelled roses and some winter spice. Her body was a warm glow against his chest, discrete from the heat of the crowd.

“Then how shall I best please my love?”

“A kiss to shame all lovers here; but first a dance to cast all dancers in despair at their incompetence.”

Damn all, she must be an actress.

“A feather to your cap, my dear,” Lysander saluted, “for I cannot compete with prose so fine.”

She shook her head, mirthful. The movement drew his eyes to a strand of paste diamonds winking in her hair like snowflakes under the candles. “A sorry piece of prose, good sir, for by my count we doth converse in verse.”

“My lady has a clever mind, to match her dex’trous tongue.”

“And know you this because you dream about my tongue?” Her tone was as bold as her words. Every look she gave him from beneath those dusky lashes promised everything he wanted.

Lysander leaned in and lowered his voice. “For cert, my love: the fairest of its kind have I encounteréd.”

“A pretty piece of flattery, if true.” Bold to coy in ten syllables. Definitely a demoiselle of the stage.

He spread his arms. “Can you doubt me?”

“I have done nothing else since took you leave to speak.”

“But why? I’ faith, my lady, I have only ever spoke spake my heart’s confession.pax! I concede. oh, damn all! Pax; I concede.Damn it! Pax, my lady; I concede. You have mastered me.”

She laughed in victory. “’Twas ever thus, if I recall.”

She must win as often as Miranda. Lysander harrumphed. “No one likes a braggart.”

“In a woman, you mean. Men may, of course, talk all night of their exploits without receiving censure.” Her words, Lysander noted idly, flowed despite her no doubt assumed—or, at least, adopted—accent, with no hesitation over her vocabulary. In speech she was more than passable for a lady.  But that much was to be expected; no abbess would allow one of her girls to masquerade amongst the ton if she could not play the part.

“Mayhap,” he replied, glancing around them at the couples beginning to form up. A new set must be about to start. “I, however, prefer to spend tonight in exploits, not in talk.”

Ever a Always the man of action.”

Lysander shrugged, once more meeting her eyes. “Better a man mere master of action than a king of unmet dreams.”

“Am I just a footnote to your action, then? And here I thought myself a dream.”

The words, the tone, the smile—all were drenched in a wistfulness that made Lysander’s chest ache. He grabbed her hand and pulled it against his racing heart. “My lady, you would be a dream to any man, and me especially. Yet, this is proof” (he squeezed her hand) “you are no mere vision, so action you must be—aye, but the pinnacle and the point, and not a sorry postscript.”

For a moment her eyes looked haunted; for an instant the light shimmered wider across her irises. Then she dropped her gaze to their linked hands.

“Your talk of postscript makes me sad. Let us dance, if we aim to.”

And she was right: there were the opening strings of a quadrille.

[right now that is the scene in entirety, where it begins and where it ends. I might add a bit to it – not sure yet. That’s for another night’s work!]

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2015 Goals

Let’s evaluate how well I achieved my 2014 goals:

I am setting a few goals for myself for the year.

  • finish A Yuletide Wedding (prequel/companion to A Christmastide Courtship)

  • revise the novel I finished last spring that I know needs so much work

  • write the 4 companion short stories/novellas that go with Courtship and the other novel, so I can close those loops in my imagination and move on to other character sets

  • finish one of the other novels I have started…either the one I was working on last summer and abandoned before DCon, never (yet) to go back to, or the one I started during NaNo that is still at the forefront of my imagination

Boy, 2014 was an epic fucking fail.

I think I’m going to be more modest with my goals for 2015:

  • finish A Yuletide Wedding (prequel/companion to A Christmastide Courtship)
  • revise Anything But a Gentleman
  • publish AYW
  • rework the ebook files and covers for my three currently published works and republish them

Bonus goal: write anything else. Don’t care what. Don’t care if it’s new, old, related to one of the things I have finished or not.

I am holding Anything But a Gentleman from publication until i have its two companion novellas written and can publish and publicize them together. Perhaps antsiness to publish the main book, once I get it revised, will help inspire me to write them.

Perhaps this year I will not fail so abjectly at the modest tasks before me. If nothing else – I can’t do WORSE than I did last year.

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INTJ and Self-Esteem

Friday at the office, I had another of those eerie INTJ conversations with the only other INTJ I know in non-internet space, a male colleague and work friend (who, in addition to being an INTJ, is, also like me, afflicted with self-diagnosed and highly functioning ADD). You know, the kind of talk where one of us starts describing our state of mind and the thought processes that led to it, and the other says “change the nouns and you are describing my brain right now.” We were talking about how right now, in our work and the sort of work that goes into your personal life (chores, hobbies, etc.), we’re battling anxiety and depression that are caused, in part, by the feeling of spinning wheels – of not accomplishing anything.

INTJs derive self-esteem from essentially two places: being good at things and achieving things. When neither of those are happening at a particular point in time then an INTJ essentially has no self-esteem, because they have nothing from which to draw positive feelings about their greater self.

For example, I don’t find it much of a compliment to be told I’m smart or I’m pretty, because those are qualities I was born with, they are inherent to my being, and no matter what I do or do not do (within reason, of course!) I will always have those traits. So, eh, thanks, but really tell my parents because their genes are what’s being praised. But if someone says something I DID was great – whether a piece of writing, or a cosplay, or just a complicated analysis that I did at the office – then I feel truly complimented, because I DID THAT. It wasn’t just my natural state of being that I have no control over, but something that was worthy of praise because of positive actions that I undertook.

So right now, I am in a funk because I feel like I am not accomplishing anything, and I also feel like I am underperforming at all of my various life roles. To quote an email to a friend: “I feel like a shitty mother because someone else is raising my kid, a shitty employee because the baby constantly makes me late and leaves me with no energy for the job, a shitty wife because I am grumpy and pissed off all the time, a shitty chatelaine because I never have time or energy to clean, a shitty daughter/granddaughter/friend because I don’t often have the energy to call and when I do I don’t want to call because I’d either have to admit I’m depressed or pretend I’m not, and a shitty writer because I simply never write anymore.” It doesn’t really matter to my INTJ brain what society expects of a working mother with an 8-month-old baby; it doesn’t matter if the people in my life are cutting me slack. What matters is that I am not being good at anything, and I’m damn sure not ACCOMPLISHING anything better than survival. It is incredibly disheartening. I do not like not having something to feel good about. I do not like feeling overwhelmed and really uncertain how to fix it, because so much of what is causing the problem is beyond my control.

I spent this week getting slapped in the face with the fact that I am in a bit of a depression, which I had been avoiding recognizing for a while now. It happened because I decided one of my “resolutions” would be to get healthier physically and get back on my losing weight trajectory. (The baby weight is off; has been off for months. I am, however, still 20-40 pounds over my acceptable-ideal weights, have been for years, have been admonished by both regular doctor and OB to get some of it off especially before pregnancy #2, and was in the process of losing some of it when I got pregnant with baby boy.) The way I decided to start was not dieting per se (not cutting calories dieting) but just cutting out junk. I have been at it a whole week, and by the end of the week I was FLOORED to realize just how much I eat my emotions. Feeling stressed? Have some cookies. Upset because I can’t concentrate at work? More cookies. Tired and in need of a pick-me-up? Cookies. No wonder breastfeeding a ravenous little boy wasn’t doing anything after getting me back to starting weight! And in denying myself the outlet of comfort calories, I had to confront the fact that I was feeling really negative things on a DAILY BASIS (sometimes multiple times per day) and that I had, frankly, no idea how to deal with those feelings OTHER than eating. Like…whoa. Whoa damn.  Then I started thinking about why I’m feeling stressed out and upset all the time, and it comes down to being exhausted most of the time (having a baby who wakes up 4-6 times a night every night will do that!) and trying to do all the things I was doing before the baby came in addition to spending most of my time at home looking after the baby or playing with him. So here I am, spinning in circles, barely managing to keep the dishes washed and myself in clean underwear, functioning poorly at work, not writing, not spending any time – and I do mean ANY time – on myself. It’s enough to drive anyone to despair, but my personality type is especially poorly suited to being happy in “survival mode.”

Why? Because there is no sense of achievement or accomplishment. I cannot point to anything I’ve done and say “I am doing this well” (*maybe* I could say I’m a good mom, for a working mom, but that’s it, and such a bare-necessity level of achievement that I can’t feel proud of it, like…WHAT ELSE COULD I POSSIBLY DO EXCEPT BE THE BEST MOM I CAN?!). I cannot look at my day to day or week to week or even month to month activities and say “I have accomplished this task or achieved that goal.” There is nothing for me to use to judge my self-worth against; I have a yardstick and nothing to measure.

I have blogged before about my need to create a sense of task accomplishment in order to feel good about a long project. Right now, my long project is life, and I have no sense of task accomplishment, only the eternal recurrence of days spent on nothing beyond the daily tasks of existing.

I did hit an interesting breaking point with respect to writing. It was this combination of despair and exhaustion and Adam Carolla’s point that “if you really want to do something, you DO IT” and thinking about my favorite song from my favorite band’s experimental album, wherein they wrote and recorded a new song every day for a week – at the end of it came one last song, written, they admitted, from that broken place when you can’t try anymore and sometimes things just well up. I just realized that if I don’t find some way to write in the evenings after a day at work, no matter how tired I am mentally and physically, then I will literally not write for the next 3-6 years. Did I want to write, or didn’t I? If I did, I needed to just do it. So I turned on my computer in that desolate place – drained, empty, desperate, disbelieving, and above all too stubborn to just quit. The first night I wrote four words. But it was four more than I would have otherwise. The next I wrote 339. We’ll see if I can continue. If I can, maybe that can be my sense of task accomplishment: “I wrote something today.”

For now that might even be enough.

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How Many Times

…can I start the same novel?

Tonight makes four. Maybe it’s the magic bullet. One more and I’ve got a full chamber*, hey-oh!

If nothing else, it’s the first one that is starting in a substantively different place. Maybe I had it all wrong, trying to set the scene and be atmospheric before jumping into the action. That (that is to say, description and physical grounding) has never been my strong suit, so why attempt to lead off that way except that I thought it would make a great artistic pretension? Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and realize – I’m not artist enough to pull that off.

Lily just gotta be Lily, you know?

I don’t know if I’ll be any happier with this start later, but I was at least happy enough with it tonight to bring in the hero’s first point of view section from Chapter 1 (which did not need to change). And I gave myself a clear thesis for what the heroine’s goal and intention is with her actions. I gave up the idea of being able to tell the reader without telling them. Fuck that. I’m not artist enough for that, either. She can say flat-out, “I’m here to ruin his life.” Yup. Go get him, cowgirl. Just, ah, pro tip – make sure you have the right dude, first.

Or don’t. ’Cause if you did, there’d be no story.

339 words later, I have officially written something for the first time in I can’t even conjure how many months, and attempt #4 to (re)write the opening of this fucking novel is underway. Post integration we are up to 1824 of a projected 30K.

Now if only this feeling of empty, broken despair that leaves me barren of all fucks as far as quality is concerned will just stay in place for another (pauses and does math) 17 or so nights….

*my personal piece is a 5-shot revolver. So yeah. Full.

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