Sunday retrospective

steampunk-eye1The middle week of November 2014 was all about the edit.

I posted when I decided to kill one of my favourite characters.

I wrote several posts about editing:

I also wrote a post about heat-ratings. Both more and less sex than people expect seems to upset people. What is an author to do?

And I referred readers to a nice post from Danielle Hanna, about using lists and careful analysis in developing your characters and your plots.

And on the day I finished the draft for the beta readers, I wrote a post on beta readers


A Baron for Becky is done

I’ve made the final beta reading changes. I’ve sent it off to a couple of trusted readers for their comments. I need to give it one more read through when I’m fresh, and then it goes to the proofreader.

A Baron for Becky is done. It started to be a novella, then a long novella, and now a short novel. But it’s done.

That’s all I wanted to say.



Beginning to think about edit for Farewell to Kindness

A_Quiet_Read_by_William_Kay_BlacklockI asked those beta-reading my novel to come back with feedback by the end of December, but I’m already beginning to get some responses. What amazing people those beta readers are. I’m getting lots of affirmation, but also some really useful advice. Thank you so much, you wonderful people.

If I’m to have Farewell to Kindness up by 1 March for pre-orders, I have a great deal to do in January and February–and I just worked out yesterday that Encouraging Prudence will need to go to beta readers in mid-May to give the same kind of timeline. So the pressure is on, and the excellent feedback from the beta readers is going to be really useful in helping me focus my attention in the final edit.

Because I work in a writing business where everything must be peer reviewed before it goes to clients, and because my commercial writing is for people who ‘own’ the content, I’m used to accepting reviews. But serving the criticisms with a healthy dollop of praise certainly helps!

I absolutely love that each reader so far has become engaged enough with the characters to discuss their motivations. And every single one has commented on the death of one of my hero’s buddies in the final showdown.

K.M. Weillard has written a useful post for beta readers and authors. My beta readers so far have not needed any of her tips, bless them, but I’ll certainly follow her pointers for authors.


Getting rid of filter words

Image is from:

Image is from:

‘Show. Don’t tell.’ Every writer has heard this mantra. I hadn’t, though, heard of filter words till recently. Filter words are verbs that take the reader one step away from experiencing life as your POV character. Leah Wohl-Pollack of Invisible Ink Editing gives this list:

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can/could/couldn’t
  • to decide
  • to know
  • to sound like
  • to notice
  • to be able to
  • to note
  • to experience
  • to remember

I’ve been through my draft evaluating each filter word as I find it. Here’s one passage before the changes:

She felt torn between railing at him for his arrogance and blurting out how uncomfortable she was with the constant prickly awareness he induced in her. Silence seemed safe. She said nothing as he coaxed the horses onto the bridge, then turned to pass the mill.

This became:

Should she rail at him for his arrogance? Blurt out how uncomfortable he made her? She was constantly aware of him; every nerve ending on edge and a strange hollow warmth in the pit of her stomach. Silence seemed safer. She kept her eyes turned away from on his strong hands as he coaxed the horses onto the bridge, then turned to pass the mill.

It’s a great tip. For more, just google ‘filter words’.


Why do I need a beta reader?

betasThe third draft of Farewell to Kindness will be finished this weekend; probably later today. Some wonderful people have volunteered to read it for me, and I’ve been fishing around for clues on what I should say when I brief them. I found a fabulous resource by Belinda Polland at Small Blue Dog Publishing. It explains what a beta reader is, and why we need one. It then goes on to link to more articles about how to find beta readers and how to brief them. Great stuff. Here’s Belinda’s list of reasons:

The fact is, we spend so much time on our own manuscripts that we can’t see them objectively — no matter how diligently we self-edit. These can be some of the outcomes (there are plenty more):

  • We create anticipation or an expectation early in the book, but forget to deliver on it.
  • We describe events in a way that is clear to us but not clear to a reader who can’t see the pictures in our head. (At least, we hope they can’t see them. Are you looking inside my head??? Eek!)
  • We leave out vital steps in an explanation and don’t realise it, because we know what we mean.
  • The characters in our books (whether fictional, or real as in a memoir or non-fiction anecdote) are not convincing, because we know them so well we don’t realise we haven’t developed them thoroughly on paper.

#amediting 3

Cover showing woman archer on village green

I’m in the final pages of the third draft of Farewell to Kindness. From this point on, almost every row in my plot-line spreadsheet has notes in the ‘needs work’ column. I’ve been averaging 35 pages an hour (the train trip to and from work takes an hour, so it’s easy to work out), but today’s output was six pages. Still, I have another trip tonight, and then the weekend.

Next, I do a final check for filter words and egregious spelling errors, and format it for the beta readers.



Cover page shows woman with horse

I have a whole lot of super people who have volunteered to read the novel and tell me what they think. I’m pretty nervous, but very excited.

While it’s with the beta readers, I plan to leave it alone, apart from writing the artistic brief for the cover and book trailer.

Oh, yes, and rewriting the book blurb on this site and on Goodreads.

I don’t expect any of those to take long, and I’ll mainly be focusing on the next writing projects.


Shows masked woman in a forestI want to write Candle’s Christmas Chair (a short story or novella, depending on how much I write, that I want to have ready to give away for Christmas). And, if I’m to have the first chapters in the back of Farewell to Kindness, I need to finish the chapter outlines and main character sketches for Encouraging Prudence and A Raging Madness.

So no boredom on the horizon yet, then.

In January, I plan to do any changes that come out of the beta read, then read the whole book aloud into a recording App on my iPad. This will let me be my own reader/listener for a complete copy edit, which can be my train-time project for January. I’ll send it for a professional proofread once I’ve done my own copy edit. And then whole heap more jobs to actually publish. I’ve got a little list. (But, if you’ve been reading my blog, you will have guessed that.)


Write with style

vonnegut1A grateful curtsey (in place of an anachronistic tip of the hat, or H/T) to the person who tweeted a link to the Brain Pickings article about Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 keys to power of the written word.

Here’s his list. Click on the link to find out what Vonnegut has to say about each one.

  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble, though
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have the guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean to say
  7. Pity the readers
  8. For really detailed advice…



A necessary sacrifice

ackermann_mourningdress1819On the train today, I decided to kill one of my favourite characters. I’m sad, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do.

I completed the third draft edit on page 135 of 506 pages, so he has around 340 more pages to live. At the current rate, he’ll be dead by next weekend.

I’ve lost over 2000 words in the edit so far, but it’s still a bit of an epic (127,000).


#amediting part 2

I’ve always agreed with the aphorism that good books are not written, they’re rewritten. All power to the elbows of those who can write once and publish. I’m not one of those writers. So how am I editing?

First I went through the draft as I did it, each day checking what I wrote the day before.

Then, after attending the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in September, I completely rewrote the 30,000 words I had up to that point.

Then, as I came up with new ideas, I went back and planted seeds in earlier chapters.

So by the time I finished Farewell to Kindness, I was calling what I had the second draft.

As I approached the end of the writing, I read up on editing, and I posted what I found.

Next, I worked out my own process, which was a kind of an amalgam of everyone else’s with a few of my own ideas thrown in.

I took a long weekend, and – in a marathon 35-40 hour sprint – went through the whole book in hardcopy, page by page, writing character names, plotpoints, story outline, and any ideas or discrepancies in a spiral-bound notebook.


Then I decided that I needed to put some of this into a spreadsheet.

So I’ve spent every evening for the last week (and a few midnight hours) creating a three-tab spreadsheet. Tab one has all the plots across the top (four strands to the major plot, and 16 subplots), and all the scenes down the left hand side. I’ve marked where plots start, where they end, and where I’ve got lost somewhere in the middle.

This let me work out that I need to drop a couple of the minor plots because they aren’t needed, I need to work in a bit more about the Revenge strand of the major plot, because I pretty much forget about it in the middle of the book, and I need to close off some minor plots that I left hanging.

On tab two, I’ve listed all the characters in each scene. I’ve found (and fixed) some name changes by doing this. I’ve also put descriptions of characters when they appear in the book, so I could check that I didn’t change a person’s eye colour, height, or other personal characteristics.

Tab three is a calendar. I’ve added the phases of the moon, and moonset, moonrise, sunset and sunrise where they’re significant to the plot, and I’ve put the scenes in day by day. This allowed me to find out that Rede had an extra day up his sleeve, and could have been back in time to save Anne, so I’ve worked out something to delay him (which, not just incidentally, also allows me to close off my dangling plot lines before we get to the grand finale).

So here’s the spreadsheet. You’ll see it goes right from the left of my desktop screen to the right of my laptop screen.


It’s been a little tedious, but I’m finding it a remarkably efficient way to work. My mind goes off on flights of fancy while my fingers are filling in character names, and all of a sudden a difficulty resolves itself.

Next step (already started) is to rewrite to bring all the ideas into the third draft. I’m pretty happy with the preface and first three chapters, and I’m excited about the changes and new scenes coming up.

The plan is to get the third draft done then prepare a copy for beta readers within the next fortnight. I’ll let you know how I get on.


Pulling all the threads together

I’ve been through all 506 pages of the first draft, and I have a head (and a notebook) full of ideas.

image Now I’ve opened my plotline spreadsheet, and created two new tabs.

Here’s what I’m planning to do.

I’ll update the plotline spreadsheet (plots for the columns, scenes for the rows) from my notebook, and note when a plot starts, progresses, or is concluded.  Then I can see what gets resolved and what gets forgotten about. I’ve added a column to note things I need to do.

I’ve added a tab for characters. I’ll put all the names and titles in scene by scene, and check that they don’t change.

I’ve added a tab for a calendar, so I can plot the scenes against dates, sunrise and sunset times, and the phases of the moon.

I’ll let you know how it works out, but in theory, by the end of the day (6 or 7 hours from now), I should have a marked up draft that I can split to work on on the train.

UPDATE, Monday evening: The answer is that it is taking longer than I thought. I’m up to page 200, but I have the plot threads mapped for the first two-fifths of the draft (and have found some holes, which I’ve now noted on the draft, the character names recorded for two-fifths of the draft, and all of the scenes laid into the calendar – and I’ve found a whole extra day, which I’m going to have to account for, somehow.

By taking this analytical approach, I’m avoiding the temptation to drop back into creative mode. When I finish the analysis, I’ll have all the thinking done that I need to do, and I’ll be able to deal with the draft one page at a time, content that the logistics have been dealt with.

So it’s working.