Category Archives: Of Broken Things

Why I decided to Concentrate on editing during this NaNoWriMo

Typing furiously throughout the month of November.

Why am I doing this, you’re asking? Isn’t NaNoWriMo for pounding out the first draft of a story and not worrying about editing it until later? 

Well, because I have been there and done that, and I have several finished first drafts of several stories to prove it. They have been gathering dust in my desk drawers for a few years  while I chase the new shiny story during the next NaNo and completely ignore them. I really don’t need to add to that pile… yet. I KNOW how to put words on a page. I KNOW how to power through the self doubt and the lack of motivation, and to just get to the finishing line, no matter how bad you think your end product is. I have won several NaNos and have always worked through December afterwards to finish my manuscripts, so I think I’m pretty good with first drafts.

It is time to take my writing journey to the next step – it is time to take that smoking pile of dung that some of those first drafts are and try to wrestle an actual story out of them. 

So for this NaNo I decided to tackle the very first novel I wrote back in 2013 during my very first NaNo and do a complete revision and rewrite. Since I had lost the digital copy (as I had mentioned in this post), I basically had to start from zero words and type everything back up while doing my changes and corrections. It was hard and grueling work, and my brain done fried a few times during that process, but I’m happy to announce that I did it! I typed everything up and beat that sucker into a better shape then it was in as a first draft! The novel now stands at 110k words. 

There are still some scenes I am not entirely happy about, but most plot points have been fleshed out and all the plot holes (that I am aware of) have been fixed. Next step in the process would be to go scene by scene and decide what drives the plot, what adds to the story background, and what serves no purpose and needs to be integrated into different scenes or cut out entirely. After that, the more tedious revision process starts – fixing grammar, editing for readability, making sure my names and character descriptions are consistent throughout the manuscript. 

I have never done anything like that before, so I admit that I am daunted by the enormity of the task ahead of me. However,  I had a chance to purchase a powerful tool to help me with this endeavor. As a NaNo winner, I had a discount on Pro Writing Aid. From the demos I have seen, this is an invaluable editing tool, especially for a non-English speaker like me. I am very excited to put it through its paces during the month of December and report my findings and observations.

I think my biggest fear when editing and revisions are concerned is the sheer enormity of the task ahead. Like how do I whip this monster of a manuscript into shape? And just thinking about that makes we want to give up before I even started. For example, I have been procrastinating and writing this post instead of tacking two scenes in chapter 1 to decide if I want to toss one of them or combine the two together and rewrite. 

So my plan for now is to eat the elephant in small bites. Today, I will tackle those two scenes. Tomorrow, I will run my first Pro Writing Aid report and work on fixing those problems. It might take me more than a day to go through each report and that’s okay. However, since I need a deadline or I will procrastinate forever, I am setting myself a goal of having all the edits I can complete on my own done by January 31st 2021.

Hopefully, I will get that accomplished. And as a motivational reward, if I accomplish some of my mini goals along the way, I will work on an accompanying short story that explains how Aiden got his artificial lung and patches of artificial skin all over his face.

BAckups and the importance thereof

Ideal backup system… that I didn’t have.

With NaNoWriMo coming up on us once more, I thought of doing something different this time around. Instead of starting a brand new manuscript, I would dust off the very first story I wrote for my very first NaNoWriMo and try to edit at least 50k words. 

My reasoning for that was two-fold. First of all, I had been so busy at work since August that I didn’t have time to even think about a story to write, yet alone plan it out. I am a pantserish planner, which means that I need to work on the backstories of my main characters and have at least some of the worldbuilding figured out before I start writing. I usually also do a loose outline of where I want my story to go, though most of the time the plan doesn’t survive the encounter with the enemy. Most of the time, I am lucky of my beginning and my ending stay the same. The rest of the story usually meanders through paths I hadn’t even imagined when I initially planned it out.

Nevertheless, I need to have at least some structure before I start writing. I tried to go complete pantser during NaNoWriMo 2020 because I had been just as busy at work in the previous months and couldn’t plan anything, but that didn’t turn out so well. Oh, I still managed to pound out 50k words and won NaNo, but the story is a complete mess that will need a serious rewrite to wrangle it into some semblance of shape. Oh, and I discovered only about 90k in what the story actually was about, so…

Plus I had at least 4 different first drafts just lying in my desk drawers gathering dust. If I ever want to publish at least one of them, I need to learn not only how to finish a first draft, but also how to edit it well enough to transform it into a final draft. So I decided to dust off my partially edited first draft Of Broken Things and give it another go, especially since, from what I remembered, it didn’t particularly suck.

I powered up my computer, went into the folder in which I keep all of my stories… and almost had a heart attack. Of Broken Things wasn’t there. ALL my other stories are there in neat little folders, EXCEPT for this one. 

Queue nervous breakdown.

I went to my drop box where I usually save all of my Scrivener backups and same thing – I have everything apart from Of Broken Things. 

With shaking hands and a developing nervous tick, I did a search of my Gmail inbox… I got bits and pieces that I had emailed back and forth with one of my beta readers, but not the full manuscript.

After about an hour of frantic searching on all electronic mediums where I usually save or backup my work, I was forced to admit that I didn’t have a digital copy of this book anywhere. It’s like the gods of internet and computers decided to erase it out of existence. I don’t know how that happened. I mean, I have ALL of my other manuscripts I wrote, including some half-baked short stories that I toyed with and abandoned. I don’t remember deleting Of Broken Things, and why would I even do that? It was my first ever novel and I actually rather like it…

Anyway, that’s when the realization dawned that the ONLY copy of my first novel that I have is the printed version full of annotation that I had stated editing 4 years ago then put in a desk drawer when I moved to Texas. I am glad that at least that survived the transition, even if the digital copy didn’t. 

Yup, that’s exactly how it this manuscript looks like… all 342 printed and heavily annotated pages of it.

Which, rather ironically, makes it rather perfect for NaNoWriMo this year, because not only do I have to decipher my own edits on a printed copy, but I also have to retype everything back into Scrivener. So I will be getting my 50k words one way or the other and hopefully a better flowing story by the end of this adventure.

However the biggest lesson I learned from this little adventure is – always backup your files. And don’t just back them up in one place, have several copies on different mediums. That way if something happens to one, you can always get it back from a different storage. Oh, and while you do that, do check on your work from time to time to make sure you have the most recent versions of all your files. And when you clean up your backups, make sure you don’t delete anything important by mistake. 

And with that, I want to wish everyone who is participating in this crazy adventure a productive NaNoWriMo. Good luck, let your imaginations fly and your pens follow!

January is almost over and I have some accomplishments to share!

fireworks

January has been a surprisingly busy month for me and resulted in a few interesting news that I am happy to share with my readers.

1. New site.

First of all, I finally took the plunge and moved the blog to my own site. I must admit that the endeavor had seemed daunting and almost impossible at first. After all,  I know virtually nothing about web hosting, or web design, or site building and maintenance. Plus I managed to build a small following for my blog on wordress.com, and I didn’t want to lose it. I wanted to keep my blog theme and migrate my posts and try to accomplish all that without pulling too many hairs and having a screaming match with the computer screen.

I googled several web hosting providers that had so many options with so many different price plans that I got instantly lost. Thankfully, the excellent people on #myWANA channel on Twitter pointed me in the direction of Jay Donovan from Tech Surgeons, who had been more than helpful. He walked me through the entire process, and moved the entirety of my blog, theme, posts, links AND followers to my new domain in the space of a single evening.

So I am now the proud owner of elenalinville.com and I don’t have to worry about my blog disappearing if anything happens to WordPress. As long as I pay for my web hosting, my blog isn’t going anywhere.

For everyone following me through WordPress, there is nothing you need to do. WordPress will automatically redirect you to my new site (another neat little feature I didn’t’ know about).  Those who subscribe to my blog should also still receive updates.

2. Of Broken Things on Wattpad.

Of Broken Things

I have heard about Wattpad before, but I have never looked at the site myself. Well, this year I decided to do a little experiment and created a profile. I decided to put the first major edit of my first novel, Of Broken Things, on Wattpad.

First of all, I wantto share it with a larger readership than just a couple beta readers, but I also want to see if there is an audience for this story. It’s my first novel, after all. I  know it still needs a lot of work and the version I’m posting is by no means final, but if you are interested to check it out. Here is the link for it.

I will be posting one scene at a time twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays until the whole novel is up there. You are more than welcome to read it and leave me some feedback. In fact, I would love feedback!

3. The Choices We Make is finished!

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

Today I have officially finished the first draft of my second novel The Choices We Make (and I have already celebrated with a glass of wine  or two, so pardon me if most of this post doesn’t make sense). So as of today, I’m not only a real writer who can finish her s@#t, but also a serial finisher! (or a repeat finisher? Not sure, confused now. As I said, much wine has been had)

I must admit that the feeling that you get once you finish something as big as a novel is absolutely exhilarating. I was on could nine when I was done with Of Broken Things, and I’m back there right now as well. Of course, I will be back into editing hell soon enough with both, but for now, I’m celebrating.

I have also realized something else while I was working on the first draft of Choices – this is by no means a stand alone book. This is the first book in a series, and I even already have the main idea for the next book.

A year ago, if you had asked me if I would ever write a series, I would have laughed at your face. I thought myself incapable of sticking with a story for longer than a single book (heck, before last year, I thought myself incapable of finishing a story at all).

Now I KNOW there will be at least one more book based in this world and telling the story of these characters, and maybe even a third one. The plan is to get to work on it for NaNoWriMo 2015.

4. I’m on The Indie View Reviewer List.

Last but not least, I have joined the Reviewer list on The Indie View, a site that helps indie authors find bloggers willing to read and review their books. I have joined this list because I know how important reviews are for book sales. Reviews (and word of mouth) sell books better than any expensive advertising campaign ever will. I always read a couple reviews on Amazon or Goodreads before I decide to purchase a book. I also know how difficult it can be to get those first few dozen reviews, especially for an indie author.

I have received a surprising amount of email since I joined the list. Some books weren’t really in the genres I am interested in, but a lot are books that I am very excited to read and review. So to all the authors who contacted me and whose books I agreed to review, I want to say, thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your book! I will post a review, I promise, I’m just a bit overwhelmed with the demand right now. I’m slowly working through my list though.

 

Well, that’s all the news for now, folks. All in all, it’s been an exciting January. Hopefully the rest of the year will be full of great and exciting things as well.

Editing woes – the burnout.

In the past four months, I have been steadily working on rewriting / editing my novel Of Broken Things, and in the past two months I had been doing only that and nothing else. I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo with this revision, so the pressure was on.

On hindsight, joining Camp NaNo was a mistake, because I had been struggling with motivation to pick up my work for the last two weeks, and I was feeling increasingly guilty about it… which made me even less happy about diving into the revisions… which made me even guiltier for not doing it. Vicious cycle!

Lack of Motivation
Lack of Motivation

It took me a while to realize what was happening, but last night it hit me like a ton of bricks – I had burned out on revisions. This realization was rather surprising, because it never happened to me before. Well, to be honest, I have never had to tackle such a big revision either. I had only edited two short stories before and both of them had been knocked out in a couple weeks. So this is the first time in my (short) writing career that I meet face to face with this particular monster.

I have learned two things from this misadventure.

1. Burnout happens even when editing.

I had read plenty of blogs about writers experiencing burn out when they write their first draft, but never about the same happening during the editing stage. Guess now I know that you can get burned out while editing as well. Lesson learned. Moving on.

2. I need variety to thrive.

I guess I have a mind form of ADD, because I can’t concentrate on one project for a significant amount of time. I think two and a half months is about my limit. That’s how long it took me to write the first draft Of Broken Things. Anything longer, and my attention starts wandering.

I had started editing the novel in April, but I took a couple breaks to finish writing a novelette as well. However, since about May, I have been doing nothing but editing. So I definitely need a change if I ever want to get to the end of this process without ending up hating my story with a passion.

Conclusions:

1. I am putting Of Broken Things away for a couple weeks at least and starting on a new short story, which will be a continuation of the short story A Small Detour published here. I already have the outline ready and printed, just need to sit down and put pen to paper. I think the freedom to just write whatever comes to mind and not worry about grammar or punctuation will be exactly the change of pace I need.

2. Sadly, I will have to withdraw from Camp NaNoWriMo this year, but I will definitely be there for NaNoWriMo in November! I even have a bright new shiny idea for the novel I want to write during that month. With characters and even a beginning of the plot as well! Can’t wait to start on that one, actually.

And finally a question for my fellow writers. Have you ever experienced this kind of burnout? What do you do to shake it off and get back on the writing horse again?

Of Broken Things – five things I’ve learned revising Part 1.

pen-and-paper

I have passed yet another milestone on my long journey as a writer. Last night I finished rewriting / editing Part 1 of my novel Of Broken Things. Yes, it took me the better part of three months, so some might consider that I’m moving at the speed of a tortoise. But it doesn’t matter to me, as long as I’m moving forward.

It’s interesting to look back and see just how far I’ve come on my journey. Last October, I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to write 50k words necessary to win NaNoWriMo, but I did. Then I was convinced that I would never be able to finish the first draft, but I did that as well.

And when I looked at the 300 pages brick that was my finished first draft, I was convinced that I would never be able to edit that. Heck, I had no idea how to even begin making it better…

Well, three months later, I am a third of the way through with the revision, and it’s not as bad as I thought. Yes, it’s long and painful and rather soul-draining at times, but I can really see my story getting better, so it’s all worth it in the end.

So now that I have some editing experience under my belt, it’s time to share with you a few essential things I’ve learned. Those tidbits of wisdom are, of course, personal, and might not reflect your writing experience, because hey, we are all different, and so is our writing process.

1. The first draft sucks.

My first draft was a hot mess. It doesn’t help that when I write my story down for the first time, I just go with the flow. I never re-read what I wrote the day before or look back to edit, I just charge on ahead. Sometimes I follow my (very loose) outline, sometimes I go on a tangent and get lost in the woods before I limp back on the long and sinuous road to The End. So the end result is full of typos and repetitions, ravings and plot holes big enough to swallow a semi. There is a good story buried somewhere in there, but you need to get out your mining gear and be willing to do some hard work in order to dig it out, clean it up and polish it till it shines.

Which brings me to the next tidbit of wisdom:

2. Editing the first draft = rewriting 90% of it.

Blue blood on the page!
Blue blood on the page!

I had noticed that when I edited my short stories. I had dreaded that when I started editing Of Broken Things, but I had hoped that it wouldn’t be the same. Sadly, it was. If you look at my printed copy, you would think that I bled all over the pages (that is if I my blood was blue), there is so much ink on them. I have moved scenes around, rewritten some of them from scratch, hacked and slashed and merged some of them together. Some pages might have maybe one or two untouched sentences, but most have none.

3. If you didn’t use an outline for the first draft, you better make one before you start editing.

Seeing how many things need to change during the editing process, having a detailed (preferably scene by scene outline) is essential. Starting a major revision without one is like going into the woods without a map or even a compass – you will most certainly get lost and probably do more harm than good. You have already finished this story, so you should know what it’s about (or I hope you do). So re-read it, outline it, mark the scenes that advance your story, those that need to be changed, and those that have no business being there at all. Take notes. They will really help you once it’s time to beat this baby into submission, ahem, start editing.

On a side note, it’s also good to keep a list of all the names and places, as well as a good timeline of your story. After all, you are working on filling in those plot holes, not creating new ones.

4. Save your original version before you start hacking and slashing.

ALWAYS save the original copy of your work before you make any changes. You never know what scene you might desperately need back two days after you happily threw it into the incinerator and pressed the Burn button.

And while you’re at it, save your progress regularly as well… in multiple places. That way if your power goes off expectantly, or your laptop shows you a blue screen of death and refuses to be revived, all that hard work is not lost forever.

5. Keep going.

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

It’s hard work. I had thought that writing the first draft was hard; well, it was a walk in the park compared to editing it. There are moments when I want to bash my head against the wall because I have I know a scene sucks but nothing I do makes it any better. It would be so easy to get discouraged and just give up. After all, you’ve done it already, right? You finished that story. You got to THE END once. Why not just leave it and write something new next?

Don’t give up. Leave that scene that makes you want to pull your hair out. Take notes on what doesn’t work and continue with another scene. You’d be surprised at the wealth of ideas you come up with when you come back to it the next day. Even if you’re not happy with something during the first revision pass, you can always change it during the next one. That’s the good thing about writing – nothing is set in stone until the book is published. Once you realize that, the whole process becomes very empowering.

So what do you guys think? What is your editing process? What problems have you encountered during your revisions? What lessons have you learned? I want to hear from you!

Of Broken Things – a #luckyseven snippet.

Lucky Seven.
Lucky Seven.

My friend Isabella Norse tagged me to play ‪#‎luckyseven‬, a bit of fun for writers.

The rules of the challenge are simple:

  • Go to either page 7 or 77 (or 777 if it’s that long) of your manuscript.
  • Go to line 7.
  • Post 7 sentences / lines.
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same.

My current WIP is a murder mystery set in a science-fiction world. It’s called Of Broken Things and here is a brief synopsis:

When Aiden accepts to investigate the murder of a college professor, little does he know that he will stumble into a cover-up operation involving a secret research lab, people with special abilities, and one soldier bound on revenge.

And here is a small snippet from page 7, line 7 of the current version of the novel:

***

“Alright, Marjory will see us at 2 pm, which leaves us a little bit over two hours to kill. Fancy eating something a bit more filling than coffee?”

Aiden nodded enthusiastically. When Ricky mentioned lunch, he became aware of just how hungry he was. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had had a decent meal.

“Excellent!” Ricky said. “Then let’s go to Illiano’s for old times’ sake.”

***

Pfew, here we go. First ever snippet from my work posted on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter, if you don’t count A Small Detour, the short story I was lucky to get accepted into this anthology.

Alright, now that I have done that. Here are 7 more writers I want to tag: Jayme, So I pondered, Peter, Dimyanti, Jenny, Denise, and Cat. You guys feel like playing along?

Editing my novel – first steps.

Editing woes

 

My big adventure as a writer started November 2013 when I attempted to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to write at least part of my first ever novel. I plowed ahead and even won NaNo with a nice 55k word count. My novel, however, was only halfway done. So I persevered. I applied butt to chair for the whole of December (well I made a break for the holidays) and half of January, until I had finally put THE END on my manuscript. I ended up with a 100k word brick and an immense sense of satisfaction. I did it! I had finally finished something. For the first time ever. Yay me!!!

So I put my first draft in a drawer and busied myself with writing a couple short stories. That was also fun and challenging in a different way than writing a whole novel. When you have a very limited amount of words to tell your story, you have to be a lot more careful about the choices you make.

Short stories were also my first serious attempt at editing a piece into something good enough print (still working on that, first story is on version three so far). I had tremendous fun editing and rewriting them, trying to see if I could tell my story better.

But now I am faced with the 100k brick that is my first draft, and I must admit that the task of editing it is daunting. I mean it took me two weeks to tweak a 5k words story well enough to be able to send it to my critique group, how long would going through THAT many words take me? I admit that I am terrified. I have been circling around this text since beginning of March, unsure where to start.

I even sent it to my wonderful beta who had been there with me every step of the way while I was writing the darn thing. I think she sensed my rising panic, because she advised me to break the story into manageable chunks, to re-outline my novel now that it’s finished, breaking it into scenes, and go from there. That’s what I have been busy doing for the past week.

I must admit that this advice was invaluable. Not only do I have a clear Excel spreadsheet with every scene making every chapter, but I also have a better understanding of what is going on in my story. I now know how the events unfold and link to each other. And I already see a few problems that need fixed. I didn’t notice them when I read through the manuscript before, even though I felt that something wasn’t quite right.

So now that I have that clearer picture, I can start working on my plan of attack. Hopefully, I will manage to make my novel better (and not get paralyzed by fear in the prospect of the cheer volume of words I have to edit).

But this is the first lesson I learned about editing a novel – a detailed scene by scene outline is a must.

The process is ongoing, so stay tuned for more!

Of Broken Things – first draft finished.

Last night, I crossed a very important milestone: I finished the first draft of the novel I had started in November 2013 for NaNoWriMo. For me, it is a huge accomplishment, because I have never actually finished anything before.

Sure, I have plenty of stories that I had started and abandoned after a couple chapters, when I got bogged down by plot inconsistencies, couldn’t see my characters clearly or had no clue where my story was going, or simply got bored and went off to write the next shiny new thing. But not this time. This time I stuck with it, through happy moments when words flew onto the page faster than I could write them down and moments when every single word seemed to cost an ounce of my own blood. I stuck with the story, with the characters and I brought it all to a satisfying conclusion.

The feeling is… exhilarating, electrifying and a bit scary. I have done it. I finished something. I proved to myself that I am a writer, that I can tell stories from beginning to the end. That’s the exhilarating part.

The scary part is that I am entering uncharted waters now. I have never finished a draft before, so I have no idea how to go about rewriting and editing it, and what steps to take to transform it into a book it deserves to be, a book that I wouldn’t be ashamed to send out into the world. It feels like standing at the entrance of a labyrinth with no map and knowing that you have to navigate through it to the other side. It’s kind of paralyzing.

So I need help and I need advice from everyone who has been in my shoes and had already tackled the editing hurdle. Where do I go now? How do I even begin?