Tag Archives: editorializing

Progress Report

I am finally at the part of my novel revision where I am done writing entire scenes and chapters from scratch and am able to integrate part or all of a given segment from my original draft. There will be a few new scenes to write, simply because the current of the story changed a little from its original course, but for the most part the new words are generated. Now on to the endless evaluation, trimming, and restructuring of the 75,518 words left in my doc of the original draft that is not yet integrated into the new one.

I have no idea how long it will take me to make this revision a cohesive whole. Hopefully not too much longer.

The last few weeks (month, even? Basically since I kicked the bronchitis finally and recovered my life equilibrium) I have moved things forward at a good clip. Keep it rolling, keep it rolling, keep it rolling.

Last night I was trying to remember when I actually started writing on this revision draft. Had to check the create date on my Word doc, because I didn’t make a good note of it inside the doc, nor did I make a note of it here anywhere. January 7, for the curious. Basically 5 months ago.

I’ve written 35,000 in five months. Okay, fine, SOME of them were already written, but I am sure at least 20,000 were brand new words. Which is, yeah, okay, not fabulous, but also not that bad when I consider just how little time and energy I have had to devote to this project. I will be happy with my stat’s if I can finish revisions on the rest of my first draft by the 6 month mark.

July 7.

That’s 23 days from now. If I do the same amount of work every day, that’s 3283 words a day moved from the old draft to the new (with necessary trims, additions, and reworkings). If I count it by chapters, it’s a little more than one chapter per day on the old counting (because I am up to Chapter 15 of 42 in the old draft).

Those measures are not unreasonable. They are not unattainable – provided I touch the project every day.

Eye on the prize. Keep it rolling. Come on, muse, just hold your shit together for 3 weeks and 3 days….

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Not Yet Integrated Countdown

The new graft point dropped the number of words not yet integrated into my revision from 90K to 75K. Considering that I am already at 30K, the prospect of adding 75 is much better than that of adding 90. Alas that even the 75 is really going to be, in aggregate, adding about 50K of previously written words and writing 25K new ones because the first version wasn’t right.

There is a segment of the darling section I’m debating keeping in. I don’t think that I will, because I don’t see the narrative function that it serves, but reading back through it, I enjoyed it quite a lot. Perhaps it can be a “deleted scene” that I can post somewhere (here, probably) as an extra to the book when it comes out.

I thought I had it in me to write the next scene tonight, but I made the mistake of reading the not one but two prior iterations of it, and now they are reverberating inside my head too loudly for the actual character voices I was hearing before to be intelligible.

If I want to finish by the end of the month I have to integrate about 2500 words per night, inclusive of any rewriting. Ten thousand word deletion sprees are easier.

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Subplots Falling Like Flies

I am up to 30,000 words on the revision of Anything But a Gentleman and very nearly at an end of the sections I will have to write from scratch. As in, the next scene or two I write might well be the last. Thank God.

I had a thought a week or two ago while driving to work, about more events that could simply be cut out in order to streamline the narrative a little better. It took a bit of mulling on the matter and rolling the new vision around in my head for a few days, but ultimately I realized that I had a darling in my sights. I could shoot to kill without regret.

It was a short intuitive leap from there to realizing that a whole sequence of events that took place basically at the point of integration for old beginning/new beginning were pretty contrived (“plotted”) happenstances rather than natural and organic occurrences that led from what came before. When I took them away and grafted the new beginning to a point a little later on, like a surgeon cutting out a diseased piece of intestine, everything still made sense and still worked – in fact it worked better. The revised sequence of events was cleaner, tighter, and kept the focus a little better on the couple.

I will say that re-thinking the transition between Act I and Act II made me realize how much work I still have to do on the hero and heroine’s interactions and relationship-building, but in a good way. I am both excited to work on those scenes and excited for what enhancement means to the story overall. This story really was one I had to construct all wrong in order to comprehend enough to construct right.

I had meant to cease work on this and start work on the project I mentioned last post in June. Well, today is May 31. I feel like I had a breakthrough today, and I am loath to squander that. I am sure I’ll find new shoals to wreck on soon enough, eh?

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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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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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Project Management

I finally downloaded Scrivener to give it a try and see if it can be of any help with the project of partially rewriting and then streamlining that long novel I’ve been working on since September 2011. You all remember, I’m sure: the one that’s been sitting drafted but in need of epic rewriting since around June 2013; the one that got put aside because of DragonCon prep the rest of that summer and then me being pregnant and unable to write and then me having a new baby and therefore no time to write. So here we are at the end of 2014, and I am realizing that I will never write again (okay, okay, for the next 3-5 years, depending on how many children we have) unless I learn how to do it at night. So I’m going to learn how to do it at night. And what could be more efficient on the nights when I have no easy scene sketching words to write than to focus on the project with the shortest number of words left? So I said, fuck it, I’ll give the Scriv a try and see if it can help do what I’ve been admittedly too intimidated and/or disorganized to accomplish on my own, and that is figuring out exactly what needs to be shored up and reinforced in the architecture of the story as a whole.

So. Scrivener.

I have thus far only imported my Word doc and split what was one huge file into 44 chapters (plus prologue and epilogue), research, and notes, and added a quick summary of the action in each chapter to the “note card” outline view. Whew, boy, that was a chore – it took an hour and a half, the entirety of baby’s nap last Sunday.

Just seeing it all laid out has helped it all make a little more sense to me, because I can see more of it in my mind’s eye at once. The parts that need to be revised seem smaller when taken as their constituent parts. Also, I had forgotten that at some point last spring I went through and made a legend (by highlighting swaths of my doc) of the parts that can be deleted because they are now irrelevant and the parts that still occur but need details changed. Some of the scenes that I originally thought needed to be reworked can actually just be deleted, and some of the details changed amount to about two sentences in a scene. The amount of work is assailable.

I am still intimidated. I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, except that the beginning is still weak, has always been weak, and in my head is still a bit fuzzy and squishy and uncertain, and I have never been good at writing without knowing exactly what it is I’m trying to get across.

But at least I can count up all the scenes that need to change now. Well begun is half done.

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The Progression of a Scene

Since my original post of this excerpt was a true rough draft – which for me means basically dialogue, void of physical grounding, blocking, and character thoughts – I thought it would be fun or at least informative to show what I do in editing* to make it an actual narrative scene and also how I tweak it to make it that 3% better. (*I say editing…in reality it’s what I do when writing. I have mentioned before that I have two modes of writing, compositional and inspirational. This scene was written in the inspirational mode, so primarily what the changes will be are what I add when I integrate it into the narrative in compositional mode. I also tend to tweak wording as I go along, rather than only in a formal editing pass, so most of these word swaps would naturally occur in the drafting phase rather than the editing phase.)

I will copy this post and publish a new version as the scene changes, so that each layer of tinkering can be viewed discreetly.

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.

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,” he said, reaching for the one bit of poetry he knew that might suit her attire. “Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”

“Do you not think yourself unkind [line break – trying out a means to emphasize the poetry. Not sure I will keep it]
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? 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.

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

“Well met, indeed, my lord.” [increased indent, again to emphasize verse…all or none will be kept in the end]

Am I your lord?”

“Tonight it doth appear you are.”

“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.”

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

“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?”

“For cert, my love: the fairest of its kind I have I encounteréd.”

“A pretty piece of flattery, if true.”

“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. You have mastered me.”

“’Twas ever thus, if I recall.”

“No one likes a braggart.”

“In a woman, you mean. Men may talk all night of their exploits without receiving censure.”

“Mayhap. But I prefer to spend tonight in exploits, not in talk.”

Ever a Always the man of action.”

“Better a man mere master of action than a king of unmet dreams….”

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