Category Archives: editing

Mists of the Crossworlds – the story changes yet again.

Not over

First of all, I wanted to thank all the wonderful people who had agreed to beta read this story. Your advice was priceless and very insightful, and I owe you big time! You took the time out of your busy life to journey with Lori through the mists of the crossworlds and bring back your impressions, and the story will only get better because of them.

… and the result of it is that the story will change yet again. Oh, all of my beta readers loved the Mists in its present iteration, and I could probably publish this novella as it is, but upon reading the comments, I realized that there was yet another layer to the story that begged to be explored. So I decided to postpone the release to see where else this story could take me.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you probably know that Mists is one of my works that had undergone the most transformation since its inception a year ago. It had started as a measly 4k words short story which described how Lori lead a caravan through the crossworlds. Then It grew to 8k and sent Lori looking for her friend and bringing him home. But then I decided that Theo wasn’t a lot puppy and that having him brought back home safely wasn’t really the end, so they went on another wild adventure that jumped the word count of Mists to 20k and transformed it from a short story into a novella. And now this new layer will add at least another 10k on top of that.

I’m afraid that by the time I’m finally done with them, Mists would have grown to the size of a novel. I am a bit baffled. I have NEVER encountered a story that just kept throwing new content at me every time I thought I was done with it before. It’s almost like it doesn’t want to be finished or something…

Bangs her head on the desk

Sobs hysterically in a corner

Goes back to the drawing board to outline the rest of the story

So yep, I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this one. Now the tentative release date for Mists is June 1st.

On the bright side, I finally found a beautiful cover for it once it’s done and ready to go out into the world, and you are the first to see it. Ta-da!!!!

 

Mists of the Crossworlds.
Mists of the Crossworlds.

Isn’t it beautiful?

And now I’m going back to my dark writing cave to put some more words on the page. I have a vague idea where this story wants to go, so I need to work out the details. Hopefully, once I’m done with this rewrite, Mists will be truly and finally finished and ready to be published. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that though, since I’ve said that at least twice before…

The cyclical nature of the creative process.

WordCount

A couple weeks ago Chuck Wendig wrote an excellent post about the emotional milestones of writing the first draft of a novel. It describes my own experience perfectly with all the highs and lows, so I would definitely say it’s recommended reading.

That post also made me think about the creative process in general and the various stages I go through between the new idea in my head and the finished product. And I realized that that process also has its highs and lows, but that in the end, it’s cyclical. I thought it would be fun to share my observations with my readers and see if anyone’s experience is similar to mine.

1. Shiny new idea aka rabid plot bunny.

That’s the beginning of every new story, isn’t it? A fluffy plot bunny comes hopping  into your brain and kicks every other idea out until its the only thing you can think of. It’s so fresh and new and exciting, and you can’t wait to start writing this story down, because you know without a doubt that it has all the makings of a true masterpiece.

There is only one slight problem. The plot bunny is never a whole story. It might be a scene, or an idea, or a group of characters, or even just a “what if this happened?” moment. No, the true story is still playing hard to get. You need to do some archaeological digging to get to it. That’s where stage two starts for me.

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2. The rough outline.

Now this stage might differ from writer to writer, depending on whether you are a “pantser” or a  “plotter”.  Some writers might even skip this stage altogether. I’m not saying that one method is better than the other. I’m just saying that I’m very much a plotter. I can’t write a story without knowing where it’s going and having an approximation map of how to get there, so I tend to write rather extensive outlines.

That’s the stage where I grab that plot bunny by its fluffy ears and shake it until the details of the story start tumbling out.  By the time I’m done with my outline, I know exactly how the story will start and how it will end, but most of the stuff in between reads like “stuff happens to get the protagonist from point A to point B,” or “I have no idea how she ends up here, but I’ll think of something.”

But it’s a good enough road map to follow and I’m usually so sick with the whole outlining process by that time that I’d rather start on the first draft now, before I get too tired of the story, and work out the kinks later.

3. The First Draft.

Chuck gave a very accurate description of the emotional roller coaster a writer goes through during the first draft. Needless to say that after the three months it usually takes me to finish the first draft of a normal length novel, I am an emotional mess, and the only thing I want to do is throw that draft in a drawer and forget about it.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to tackle another first draft. Sometimes, depending on how difficult the story had been for me, I feel like I never want to write another new story ever again… So by this time I have reached the next stage of my creative process.

4. The editing adventure.

Since I don’t feel like chasing another plot bunny right at the moment and going through the highs and lows of a first draft again, I go digging into the Dropbox folder where I keep all my stories and unearth a story I had put aside when that plot bunny had gotten me distracted 3-4 months ago. I print out the story, get my faithful blue pen out and dive into editing.

I know a lot of people dread that process, and it can be tedious and heart-breaking to take the jumbled mess of a first draft and make the words better. But after the trials of the draft when you give birth to the story, having a stack of pages to edit feels really good. So I dive into my edits, I hack and slash and rewrite about 80% of the draft until I’m more or less satisfied with the end result. And by the end of that process, I’m so burned out on editing that I start actually looking forward to writing a new story again, even if I had swore in stage 3 that I would never do that again.

So I send my edited story to some brave beta readers and eagerly open my mind to the next plot bunny willing to hop in and take me for a ride. And the cycle begins again…

It’s funny to discover that I start each stage of the process full of excitement and energy, and that I’m usually burned out and eager to move to the next stage by the end.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced this cycle as well? Is your creative process different? Drop me a few lines in the comments, because I would really like to hear from you!

WIP roundup – What I have in the Pipeline for 2015.

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Since December seems to be flying by at Mach 3 speed and 2015 is almost upon us (already??? *panics*), I decided to roundup all my ongoing works in progress and decide what I want to accomplish in 2015. That way it will hold me accountable, but also let you know what (hopefully interesting) new things to expect from me next year.

When I look back at where I was in December 2013 compared to today, it’s easy to see the progress I have made. Last year, all I had to show up for my writing efforts was a half-finished first draft of my NaNoWriMo novel Of Broken Things.

I have been a busy little pen monkey since then. So here is the list of WIPs I have in the pipeline for 2015:

Mists of the Crossworlds (a novella)

Lori has the very rare ability to shift into the crossworlds, the strange plane that connects different words together. She guides merchant caravans for the Guild who has absolute monopoly on crossworld travel. But one day the mists start calling Lori’s name, and her best friend has gone missing. Lori is faced with a though choice:  will she hide from those voices in the safety of the Guild Tower, or will she dare step off the beaten path in order to save the person that matters to her the most?

Mists started as a short story that grew a little longer, than even longer, until it became a 20k words novella. The first draft is finally done (unless it decides to grow some more on me). From all my WIPs, this one is the closest to be finished. My plan is to rewrite / edit it this January, then find a professional editor and cover artist. The end result will be self-published around April 2015. I am in equal parts trilled and terrified by that prospect.

Of Dragons and Magic

The Eye of the Norns Cycle (collection of inter-related short stories)

As an Eye of the Norns, it’s Ryssa’s duty to right wrongs that would threaten the balance of the great Tapestry of the world. The problem is, she doesn’t choose the wrongs to right. She has to accept to be led by the Norns and has to discover the right way to resolve each problem. Her powers help in that, but are killing her in the process. And she can’t ever stop. And she doesn’t know if she is making a difference, of if her actions have a deeper meaning. But that won’t stop her from searching for one.

The first story of this cycle, A Small Detour, had been published in this anthology. But I felt that Ryssa’s story wasn’t finished with just one little short story. That’s when I had the idea for a collection of short stories relating Ryssa’s adventures and sorted in chronological order. The first draft of the second story, The Price of a Mistake, is finished and awaiting editing. The next two short stories are in the rough planning stages. My goal is to publish several volumes of 4-5 stories each. The goal is to publish the first volume around fall 2015. I don’t know yet how many volumes it will take to finish Ryssa’s story, so that’s a long term WIP.

Of Broken things (a science-fiction mystery novel).

When Aiden Stapleton, a successful private investigator, accepts to look into the murder of a seemingly ordinary college professor, he unwillingly crosses the paths of a government official eager to cover up traces of some shady research and a mysterious killer bound on revenge.  Now five seemingly unrelated professors around the country are dead, an illegal “snow” lab had been burned to the ground, there is a crater in the Arizona desert where a secret experimental complex was located, and Aiden’s life is in danger. And all of those seemingly unrelated events have something to do with Project Cassandra.

This is the first novel I ever finished. Right now it’s in the editing stage and I’m about halfway done with pass one. Since it’s my very first novel, there are A LOT of changes to make for this to be even remotely readable. So my goal for 2015 is to finish at least the first major edit and find beta readers for it. Long term goal – self-publication in 2016.

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

The Choices We Make (a fantasy novel).

It was supposed to be a routine escort mission for battle mage Sky and his partner: escort a runemaster, wait for him to poke at the wardstones for a few hours, then portal back. Only the mission turned out to be a death trap. Now his partner is dead, the runemaster has had his brain fried, and Sky owes a life debt to a half-blood. But Sky has no time to deal with his guilt and hurt, because breaches open everywhere in the Kingdom and people start disappearing. The Order of Battle Mages needs to discover what or who is behind this before their Kingdom plunges back into the horrors of the Half-Blood war from the ashes of which it had risen three hundred years ago. Sky and his new partner will be in the thick of the events, whether they want it or not.

This is the WIP I’m working on at the moment. The first draft is a little over halfway done. My plan is to finish it by January 15, 2015, then pick it up somewhere around May – June and start the editing process. No publication dates yet, but the goal is to shoot for 2017.

And then, of course, let’s not forget NaNoWriMo 2015, when I will probably start a brand new novel.

So these are my projects for next year. Looks like I will be very very busy, but it’s rather exciting! And I’m looking forward to launching into this whole self-publishing adventure as well.

WordCount

The More you write, the better you get.

write

While I was looking for a novel to write during NaNoWriMo 2014, I did a little archeological foray into my older, unfinished stories. Not only did I find a project to work on, but I also learned something new about my writing.

I read a lot of writing blogs and I talk to a lot of writers on Twitter and Facebook. All of them say that the more you write, the better you get. Up until now, I was skeptical about that, because I wasn’t seeing progress in my own writing. Other people, notably my beta readers, have told me that they noticed an improvement, but I just couldn’t see it. Maybe because I was too close to my work to notice the difference: I usually let my first drafts rest for only a week or two before I dive into edits.

Well, I understand the truth of this saying now. Choices is a story I had last worked on back in 2012. I got stuck about 25k words into the story and abandoned it. Last Monday, I decided to read through what I already had to see if anything could be salvaged. Well, two hours later, I was forced to admit that I was better off just scrapping the whole thing and just starting from scratch.

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

But that reread wasn’t all negative. It made me realize how much I had grown as a writer since 2012 when I had tried (and failed) to first write that story.

Back in 2012, I had no idea what I was doing, or what writing a novel required. I had no idea about story structure, tension and plot or character development. Most importantly, I had only a very vague grasp on what my writing process was. The result was a barely reanimated corpse of a novel.

I had no outline. I had no idea where my plot was going or if I even had a plot at all. I had a backstory only on my two main protagonists; everyone else, even the antagonist, was just vague shadows in the background. No wonder I got stuck and abandoned that story!

I have learned since then that I can’t write without a detailed outline, a good backstory on most of my characters, and a lot of worldbuilding. Oh, and I absolutely need a clear idea of the ending. So that’s what I will be working on during October, and once I’m done, I have full confidence that I can write this story to the end without problem.

Editing woes

Reading through my failed first attempt, I also noticed just how many rookie mistakes I had made. In fact, I might keep that draft as a perfect illustration on how NOT to write a story. I started with a small prologue that didn’t bring anything to the story and would have been better situated at the end of Chapter 1 or cut out of the story altogether. Most of my worldbuilding and character backstory were huge info-dumps that almost managed to put me to sleep during my re-read. All the dialogues had some truly “creative” dialogue tags when a simple “he / she said” would have done just fine. And, most importantly, I told about my characters’ reactions instead of showing them.

Back when I wrote those words, I didn’t know any better, but now, one finished novel and several short stories later, the flaws of that draft stood out like a sore thumb.

For me, it was an eye-opening but also reassuring experience: I did become a better writer in the past two years, even if I hadn’t noticed it. And I did that by sticking with my stories, not being afraid to write crappy first drafts that I would later edit within an inch of their lives. And I was not afraid to start all over again with a brand new story each time the old one was done. I also read wildly about writing, editing, and publishing.

I think as writers, we need that sort of reassurance from time to time, especially if we are querying our first novel and getting only silence or rejections back. So my advice would be – do not lose hope. When you feel like giving up, open that dusty box where you banished all of your older failures and read through one of them. See how much you have grown since then and feel proud of what you have accomplished. Then put your pen to paper or your fingers on the keyboard and start working on a new story!

One day I might be confident enough in my skill that I might even unearth some of my unfinished stories from 2004-2005, though I rather dread the horrors that might be lurking between those pages.

hourglass_parchment_quill_cover

Know your story or the importance of world-building.

Image by Van Assche -Embarcadero
Image by Van Assche -Embarcadero

There are many elements to a good book. I have already talked about the importance of a good antagonist and fleshed-out secondary characters, but none of this will do any good if you haven’t bothered with the world-building.

As authors, we are the absolute gods of the worlds we create, and as such, we NEED to know how those worlds function. We need to know the physics, the magic and religious system, the races and customs of the people we populate our worlds with. Because if your knowledge of this world is patchy, trust me, the reader will know.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you need to prepare long ancestry lists for all of your characters. The reader doesn’t need to know about your protagonist’s great grand-aunt Bessie, unless she is relevant to the story somehow. But you, as an author, need to know where your characters come from and what they believe in. Your character’s background will help you determine how they will react in different situations. It will also prevent you from making a character act extremely out of character. Trust me, the readers will notice that as well.

If magic exists in your world, you need to know how it works better than the best Magisters in the best Magic Academy. You don’t have to reveal all the rules, you can even mislead your characters (and the reader) about some of them, but you need to know them.

Same goes for different gods and supernatural beings. You need to know their strengths and weaknesses. You need to know how they interact with each other and the humans that inhabit your world (if you have any).

Image courtesy www.tuku.cn
Image courtesy www.tuku.cn

That’s why I consider the world-building to be the most time-consuming process when brainstorming a new story. Creating a character’s backstory is a walk in the park compared to everything you need to take in to account when you start describing the world he or she inhabits. It becomes even more of a headache if your story requires your characters to travel long distances and visit different cultures. Because you can’t just say, “Hey, they are going to cross the Elf Forest. Elves like trees and are extremely arrogant,” and stop at that. Well, you could, but your character’s visit to this Elf Forrest would be extremely shallow and boring. And the readers will notice it.

Even though it’s a time-consuming and demanding job, I really love world-building. I feel like a child in front of an unopened Christmas present – can’t wait to peel off the layers of wrapping and discover what lays underneath. I think it’s the most exciting part of the whole process – discovering a brand new world that nobody has ever visited before and setting its boundaries.

Before I wrap this post up and let you all return to your reading or writing, let me leave you with a word of caution though. NEVER break the rules you have created, even if those rules put your characters in a seemingly impossible situation. Readers will know, if you introduce a Deus Ex Machina to save your protagonist at the last possible moment, and they will not like it. If they are anything like me, they will feel cheated and walk away from your book frustrated with the story.

This story is a chameleon.

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A few months ago I wrote about The Mists of the Crossworlds, a short story that decided to become a novelette after it went through the first round of beta readers. You can read my post about that here if you are interested. So I went back to the drawing board, did an intense brainstorming session (that might have involved some alcoholic beverages), and added another 6k words to the story.

Well, now it’s finally done and ready to be unleashed on the world, I thought as I wrote THE END for the second time. I ran the story through the meat grinder of the first edit, rewrote 90% of it again, and send it to my beta readers yet again.

Then I got the comments back from one of my beta readers, the awesome Derek Pietras, and I was in for a surprise.

“Great story,” he said. “But the ending feels rushed and it feels like you left a good chunk of the story out.”

My first reaction upon reading this was “Not again!” I was so sure that this time I had uncovered everything this story had to give, and I was frankly a bit tired of it. So I put both my draft and the critique away and decided to sleep on it.

Not over

When I came back the next day and got to thinking about the ending of The Mists, I had to agree with Derek – it really felt rushed and abrupt. It left the reader with more questions than answers, which could be rather frustrating.

So I went back to basics and considered the main theme of the story, which is the interaction between the mists of the crossworlds and the Guides who travel the paths. That’s when I saw that while I had brought the protagonist to some sort of resolution in the end, I never even touched the conclusion of that main theme. So my beta reader was absolutely right: this story is far from finished. By the looks of it, I will end up adding at least another 4-5k words before I’m finally done.

While I was thinking about the ending, I realized that there was a whole additional layer that I needed to add to this story. So I’m looking at yet another full rewrite.

I must admit that this realization was both a bit disappointing and rather exciting.

Disappointing because I was looking forward to make The Mists of the Crossworlds my first self-published work. I even had a cover picked out, and I had a list of trustworthy editors. And I had spent the last few weeks educating myself about all the intricacies and pitfalls of the self-publishing route. So yes, I was disappointed that this important milestone in my writing career has to be postponed yet again.

But I am truly excited because there is so much more to this story than I thought when I first started working on it back in March. I feel like an archeologist peeling layer upon layer of dirt to uncover more and more treasures. And this new layer is not something I had planned for when I wrote this draft, yet now that I look at it, the hints are already hidden within the text. How did that happen?

I heard other writers talk about how sometimes their stories or their characters would surprise them, but this is the first time (well, technically the second time with this particular story) that this happens to me. The feeling is absolutely amazing. This is a story that keeps on giving.

So I’m going back to the drawing board again, reworking my outline, and I’m eager and excited to jump back into the writing process. Hopefully, once I’m done with it this time, I will be able to give my readers a truly interesting and well-written story.

So tell me, my fellow writers, has something like that ever happened to you? Have you had a story that just kept evolving and changing its colors, like a chameleon?

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Writing is a life-long journey

writing - lifelong journey

Let me start this post with a personal anecdote. I have a full-time job and a family, which doesn’t leave much time for writing. In the past year, I had slowly taught myself to write whenever I had a few spare minutes, but I do the bulk of my writing at night before bed and during lunch. So I’m pretty used to showing up at restaurants with a notebook or a printout and a pen, and usually people don’t pay much attention to the crazy lady in the corner boot mumbling to herself and scribbling furiously in a notebook.

But last week I had an interesting encounter which made me think about what I am, what I do and where I go from here.

I had a “writing lunch” at Applebee’s last week when the waitress asked me what I was doing. I told her I was writing a short story. She seemed genuinely interested and asked if I had anything published.

Got anything published

This is when the first shift in perception happened. See, up until May this year, I had been a pre-published or aspiring author. But then my short story, A Small Detour, got accepted and published in this anthology. If you are interested, you can read my post about this exciting event.

So when asked about published work, I could legitimately answer, “Well, yes, I have a short story on amazon,” and give her the name of the anthology. And then something extraordinary happened: the waitress came back with her Kindle and made me input the name of the anthology for her. And then she bought the book!

Of Dragons and Magic

And I realized something important – I was actually a published author, even if all I had published so far was a short story. When I began my writing journey last October, I hadn’t even dreamed to be able to achieve that within a year.

This also made me think about why I do this. I mean, when I started the first draft of my novel Of Broken Things, getting something published had been the sum of my ambition. Ten months into the journey, I realize that for me it’s a life-long commitment. Money is not the end goal (though it would sure be nice to earn some) and neither is fame. My goal is to create compelling stories that people would want to read, because seeing the excitement in the waitress’s eyes when she said she couldn’t wait to read the anthology was the best reward I could ask for. She would spend a few hours blissfully lost in the wonderful worlds the authors have created, and one of them was mine.

So where do I go from here? Well, I continue writing of course, because the more I write, the more ideas pop into my head waiting to be put into stories.

I’m halfway through the first major edit of my novel Of Broken Things. I have the ghost of an idea along with most of the characters for my NaNo 2014 project.

I’m editing a novelette I had written back in May, and I have another unrelated short story to edit as well.

I have finished a new short story set in the same world as A Small Detour and about the same characters, and I have ideas for at least three more stories in this world. Once I finish them all, I am considering self-publishing them as a series. More about that in future posts.

I also want to dust off a project I had started a couple years ago. Back then I was just dabbling in writing; I had no idea that writing was hard work, and that first drafts always sucked, and that you had to push through it all, good day or bad day, to get to the end. I got frustrated because what had seemed so awesome in my head turned out total crap on paper and abandoned the project. But the story had potential and I love the characters, so I want to give it another chance.

Oh, and did I mention the dozens of half-baked ideas clamoring in my head and which might or might not turn into full-fledged stories?

Life-is-great-570px

So all is well in my world: I am a published author, I am still in love with what I do and I have plenty of ideas to last me for a while!

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!

Sometimes it’s not quite done when you think it’s done.

onceuponatime

 

I had an interesting experience the other day that I thought I’d share with my fellow writers (and readers). I had finished my second short story and sent it off to my beta extraordinaire. The feedback I got caught me by surprise.

“Loved the story,” she said. “That’s a very good first chapter. Where is the rest?”

“There is nothing more. The story is finished,” I answered.

“But it’s not! I want to know what happens next. This episode is over, yes, but the story itself isn’t finished.”

I didn’t try to argue with my beta because experience taught me that most of the time she was right anyway. Instead I went back to my story and thought long and hard about it. At first, I couldn’t see how I could continue it – in my mind, the story was finished. But something kept nagging at me for the next two days. I was neck deep in the revision of my novel, but my mind kept coming back to that short story, over and over again.

And Friday I finally had that ah-ha moment. You know, that moment when the scene you had been struggling with all of a sudden comes out seamlessly, or when you manage to fill in a particularly baffling plot hole? Yup, that moment. To me it was the realization that my beta had been right – there was more to my story than I thought at first. And I knew exactly where that story still had to go, and where it would end, for good this time. Now I just have to find the time to sit down and write it. So what I thought would be a short story turned out to be a novella instead.

It’s the first time this happened to me, but it’s true that I am just an apprentice, as far as writing goes. So I am wondering, did something similar ever happen to you? And if yes, how often?

I want to hear your stories. How often did you think that your story was done when in reality it wasn’t?