My Writing Plans

shoes on deckAt the beginning of the year I discussed my plan for the year. I didn’t want to share all the details at the time because there was a lot going on (and there still is) namely the building of my house and planning the move. Then my parents went away leaving me to dog sit and that seemed to push my plans completely out.

I’m kind of back of back on track. I have the first short story out for the year, if several weeks behind schedule. I’m editing my fantasy novel (or at least I’m planning for the re-write and trying to stay positive). I am drafting my fantasy medieval trilogy (slowly) and starting to plan a series of novellas.

So I am crazy busy and all this while I (finalise the) building of my house and all that goes with moving. So this year is going to be a big one.

To give you an idea – here are my writing goals for this year (which may change as the year develops):

  • Snow (fantasy novel) to be out around August/September (not sure how likely that is, may be later)
  • Medieval fantasy trilogy to be fully drafted this year (all three books, total around 450,000 words)
  • Iski Flare Book 1 to be ready for release by Christmas.
  • Weekly blog posts with where I am at and tips to help other writers at a similar stage.

And all this while working full time, mothering full time and ….lots of other stuff.

So to make sure I can do what I want to with my writing I have a plan. (Doesn’t every writer?)

I have to pull my finger out and get on with it. I will get up and continue to write (or edit) for an hour first thing every day. I will fit in another hour of writing or writing related activity every day (probably in the evening) and use my free lunch times and weekends (when the child is with her dad) to get more done.

I have worked out roughly how many hours a week I have (about 15, give or take a couple).

Now if I used this 15 hours appropriately and productively I think I could achieve the following in a week:

Either:             Write about 22,000 first draft words

Or:       Edit somewhere between 5 and 15 scenes

Or:       Draft, edit and smooth out 10-15 blog posts

Or:       Outline or plot a single story idea to the point I could start a first draft.

When I first wrote these figures down I was quite surprised. I have a pretty good understanding of how long different activities take as I record my writing times and review regularly. So I’m sure that with focus the above figures give a close indication of what I could achieve.

So my plans are in place and underway. And they have been for a while now; it is just that I haven’t shared. Now that my projects are flowing reasonably well, if thickly, I’m more confident in how they are going. I’ll share my six monthly review in July to show how I’m going in meeting these goals.

The long road to editing success

thelongroad

Or so it seems. As I work my way through two editing projects I thought I would share where I am up to…

For my larger work I am trying a new process, aiming for one serious edit and then it is done. To do this I am using a process mapped out by another writer, taken from a Holly Lisle workshop, Susan Dennard has simplified the process and set it out, with worksheets, how it works for her.

In a recent writers group meeting we discussed those writers that tell us that we have to do it their way because that is what works. An insistence that the process will not work in part and that we must follow their instructions completely. And it is interesting the variety of authors we have read, or completed workshops with that give us this view for a range of writing practices. Covering everything from drafting and editing to the whole writing process.

I thought it was about time I attempted editing with a serious plan. I am trailing this process to discover what parts of it work for me. We are all different and I believe we should take what we can from other writers as we develop our own writing practice.

I have started at the beginning of Susan’s process and I’m reading through the entire manuscript. As I read I make note of the issues I come across. This is ideally simplified on the hard copy with a reference in the margin relating to the type of issue I find. Then in my notebook I make a detailed note of what that issue is. I am focused on four main areas: plot, character, setting and other (doesn’t fit in any of the others).

It is much slower than I thought it would be. The amount of time required has made me realise just how out of sync I am at the moment; how I have not been concentrating on my writing as much as I would want to and that my set writing times have slipped.

Anyway, once I have read through the entire manuscript and made note of the problems I will have a good idea of what needs to change and hopefully how I can fix it. I am also using my beta-reader notes during this process as well. Several of my readers have marked the manuscript for problem areas and provided a summary at the end detailing major issues and what I could consider as options to fix it. This is a very useful process, and one that you need to do with an open mind and a thick skin. It is essential to remember not a personal attack it is constructive criticism of the work.

Just yesterday one of my readers was telling me how she had wanted to provide honest feedback. I agree that honesty is the main point of the exercise. If you don’t want honest feedback don’t put your work out there.

I find that writing and re-writing a story I am too close to really see where the problems are. The feedback helps ground me and see the story from the readers’ perspective, which is essential because I am writing for readers. If the audience doesn’t like it, then they won’t read it, or buy the next one….

Susan’s notes describe how we should first determine what we have written and then look at what we wanted to write. I am still looking at what I have and although it is taking time, I know it is worth it for I want this to be the best story it can be. Once that part of the process is complete I can start on what it needs to be – or what I want it to be.

Have you trialled someone else’s system? What did you learn from the experience?

A taster from my next book

Searcher Cover-page0001

I may have got a bit carried away now that the parents are home and my time is (more or less) my own again. I have started the major edit on my fantasy novel (and that is scaring me silly) and trying to finish off Searcher for release.

I am hoping I haven’t pushed myself too far too quick. While I edit away I thought I would introduce you to my next story and share a taster from Searcher.

 

As the siren sounds I join the queue at the nearest machine. I pull the translucent white cup from the allocated space where three small pills sit innocently in its bottom.

One green. One white. One red.

I gulp them down and reach for the small cup that sits in the second compartment of the food machine. It contains not quite a mouthful of water but enough to help rinse the food tabs down. As I move away from the machine to let the next in line take their turn, I chew on the edge of the cup but there is no flavour. There is no flavour in anything.

The tabs satiate but I still hunger.

Food in its tablet form has no substance and I often wonder if the colours are meant to indicate something. Someone ahead of me received two green and one white. He lived through the experience.

I once licked a colleague on the return from a search. A desert planet: hot and dusty. At least the dust had flavour, as did Brin. Salty dust. He did not approve and I did not get to try again. Licking colleagues does not fit the Searcher brief.

I promise this isn’t too far away but given my recent puppy sitting it is a little further away than I had hoped. The edit on my fantasy novel is going to be much bigger than I originally hoped but the story needs the work and it will be much better for it. As I get underway I will let you know how it is going and the strategies I’m using.

P.S. Check out my new page My Books. There are more books on the way.

 

What I am learning from editing

Chapter 8 editing

I have mentioned that my publishing plan has changed a little.

And lately I have been working on a short story for publication soon.

I had thought that I would get the story out, edited and published and then I could settle into the (long) process of editing my fantasy novel.

It is strange how we perceive how things will go. It did not occur to me that I would need to put as much effort into the editing process for the short as I would the novel. But every word is just as important.

Sadly this was only evident after I read most of the short story to my writing group and the suggestions and points starting flowing quicker and thicker than I expected. Truly I thought it was nearly there. And when I considered their feedback I was.

No matter what we are working on each page deserves the same attention.

I am trying to get more writing out to you. It is important to me as a writer to provide the reader with writing. And the more I have out there the greater my chances of being able to write more and ‘day job’ less. But I may have lost sight of some important points in my eagerness to get the writing out.

I want to produce great writing

I want to be producing writing that you not only enjoy but want to read more, and hunger for more and look out for more. Producing any book that is only mediocre writing, whether a novel or a short story, will not inspire you to read more.

I want to build an audience

This of course links back to the first point. If you are not enjoying what you are reading then you will not buy another book. Again it is because I want to create an immersive reading experience that you will want to fall into as soon as you see I have released another story.

I want to love producing it

I do enjoy writing. I find it as immersive writing a story as I do reading a well written one (even though at that first draft it is not well written). I want to continue that and although I worry about the editing process I love to see how the story tightens and smooths and comes together more coherently during that editing process.

It is not about the money

Well it would be nice if my writing paid the bills so that I could escape into it every day. But I write firstly because I love it not because it could be a way to pay the bills and focusing on publishing only to make money will not make me happy either.

 

As well as learning how to improve my story during the editing phase and even learning more about my characters and their world as I consider things I had not during the drafting phase; I am slowly learning that I can make my stories better, learn more about my processes and as much as I love the drafting phase I am learning the joys of editing.

The most important thing is that any writing I produce should have the same effort applied to all stages, whether short or long or epic. Already I worry about editing the trilogy I have started but perhaps I need to think about just how much better it will make the story and focus on that rather than the time it will take. Writing is a slow business anyway and I would rather take the time and do it properly than rush and produce something none of us are happy with.

What part of the writing process do you rush through? Or want to rush through?

Lost in Editing

creative-editing

I am still here I’ve just been focused on the final chapters of my novel. And as I worried about not making my deadline, and that it wouldn’t actually be any good when finished I have been procrastinating somewhat.

I thought that any writing of other projects, including blogging, was a little like cheating on my novel and if I wasn’t writing that then I couldn’t write anything. Which was silly because I know that working on other things can help spur my writing on. It has been a crazy few weeks.

I managed to pull myself together enough to finish the edit on the end of the novel…and so it looks like I will make my deadline after all, which definitely helps my confidence levels, reduces the fear and helps the writing continue to flow.

Now there are only two steps to go before it can go out to the reading group.

I need to rework (that should read: add a new) chapter one and then read through the manuscript as a whole. I am still on track for sending it out by the deadline (mid-August). I just have to keep moving and that gets easier every day.

I am thinking about my next project (and truthfully the one after that as well) and starting to wonder about what to do with this novel when it does come back from the reading group.

Yes, there is that much going on in my brain at once but i’m not sure it is good for me.

If I get too far ahead of myself that will just eat away at my confidence and slow my writing.

I have five hands in the air for the beta reading group, but if you are really keen, please visit my contact page and send me an email.

Editing to the End

 

Image courtesy of Nic McPhee (via Flickr)
Image courtesy of Nic McPhee (via Flickr)

 

I am very focused on editing the end of my story at the moment.

There is more work needed at the end than I initially thought there would be but I know why. It is all the little changes that I have made throughout the manuscript have resulted in bigger changes needed at the end. And the current ending isn’t very satisfying either.

I have turned to research (partly as a little procrastination) to look at what others are doing to edit manuscripts. There is so much information out there about editing, starting from brief outlines to whole books on the subject.

A key factor in editing is knowing what you are editing for, such as consistency in the story and characters, active voice, missing bits or characters. I found this link useful – and very comprehensive.

When it comes to how you work through this process is personal. I lack confidence so I’m not going to do one read through/edit and then send any story out into the world. I edit a chapter and then read through it again to make sure the changes made make sense and I haven’t accidently cut out half a sentence which has left the reader completely lost.

This isn’t the first edit of this manuscript either and possibly not the last. I’m reading each chapter and noting what needs to change. Then make the required changes, read through to check and then move to the next. Once I have the entire manuscript completed I will read it through as a whole to see if it works before sending it out to the beta reading group (some spaces still available).

The aim of the read through is to get an idea of the story from the reader’s point of view. To check that it is on the page and not just in my head. This isn’t as easy as I would want it to be and one of the reasons I’m using a beta reading group. This is because each reader brings their own interpretation to the story depending on their culture, experience, beliefs and emotions. So when I write and read the story I will read it differently to others but I want to make sure it is engaging.

Being able to send writing out for others to not only read but respond to takes a certain level of confidence. Can you edit your work on one pass through, or do you need several, like me?