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

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Brothers or sisters on WIP Wednesday

d78ec673dec2a74d62d4bed3f8dd7badAll of a character’s intimate interactions can help to display or develop character, and in some ways no one knows you better or can more easily push your buttons than your brothers and sisters (or cousins or other close relations that you grew up with.

In this week’s WIP Wednesday, I’m looking for an excerpt that shows your related characters in a scene where we learn something about them because of what they think or how they behave.

They had talked it over at length while still staying with Charlotte, and in the carriage on the way from Essex. At inordinate length.

Charity could not, would not stay in Selby’s cottage. She would go somewhere she was not known, and introduce herself as a widow, using another name. Mrs Smith, she said, for who was to find one Mrs Smith among thousands?

But how she and the children were to live was a problem. Prue would help, of course. She could double the allowance she was paying for Antonia’s care, would triple it if Charity would allow. Tolliver’s work paid well enough, and she had a little set aside.

Charity wanted to borrow Prue’s nest egg. She had some idea of setting up a milliner’s shop. Not in London, but somewhere that was cheaper to live and safer for the children. “Even you said I make beautiful hats, Prue,” she argued.

True enough, but running a business required more than an eye for fashion and an artistic touch with a needle. Prue didn’t want to see her savings disappear and leave Charity and the girls in a worse case than before.

“We need somewhere for you and the children while we think about how best to make your plan work,” she told Charity. “I know a lady who supports women in trouble such as yours. She may have a place.” Or she may never wish to speak to Prue again, in which case they would have to think of something else.

One thing Charity was determined on; Prue was not to ask Selby to support his daughters until they were somewhere he could not find them. “It is not as if he is going to give us any money, anyway, Prue. He barely gave us a thing when I thought I was his wife. Just a few pounds now and again when he visited. He paid the servants directly and is several quarters in arrears, Prue. Oh dear. Should I not pay them before I let them go?” Another problem for her to worry at until Prue was ready to leap screaming from the carriage with her hands over her ears.

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You cannot always choose both

choicesMy usual answer when I’m asked to make a choice between two good things is ‘yes’. Would you like chocolate cake or banana muffins? Yes. Would you prefer to have a bath or watch tv? Yes. Do you want to dance or have a glass of wine? Yes.

And this last two years, since I’ve started writing fiction for publication, I’ve been piling on the ‘boths’. I figure I have four lives, any one of which could be full time: writing fiction, a full-time day job, family and friends (including some fairly demanding responsibilities as an arms-length care giver), and then a whole mix of community activities I’m involved in.

It is interesting, sometimes thrilling, and mostly a lot of fun. But there’s no room for anything else. With a couple of health and family crises simmering since November, somethings had to give. I’m two months behind the frequently revised date for my draft of Embracing Prudence. And my marketing activity is way, way down, as shown by my book sales figures.

Thinking about priorities

I had a wake-up call, recently. I read a published book by a writer I admire, and it sounded to me like a first draft. Lots of long sequences of backstory, telling rather than showing, some odd sequencing stuff. And I think I know why.

Publish a book every three months, received wisdom says, and then live in the marketplace telling people about it. The pressure is on to rush to get stuff to the publisher or (in the case of us independent publishers) to get it on the bookshelf. And the time isn’t there to make it as close to perfect as we can.

I am not playing that game. I want every book to be better than the last. Because I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, I may not always please the same readers, but I need to know that at least I’m improving my grasp of the craft of writing.

Here are my priorities, more or less in order.

  1. to deepen my relationship with God
  2. to look after my family
  3. to stay healthy
  4. to give my employer my best attention and commitment during working hours until the mortgage is paid and I can retire and write fiction as my full-time job
  5. to write books I am happy to put my name on
  6. to share those books with readers.

So writing comes ahead of marketing

When the squeeze is on, as it has been over the past four months, in future I’m choosing writing over marketing. Maybe this means that I’ll have another two years of adequate but not spectacular sales. (My author rank at Amazon generally sits somewhere in the 20,000–25,000 bracket. To put that in perspective, I’m not millionth, but each step from here is tightly fought, and I won’t be anywhere near making even a modest living till I’m up around 10,000th.)

In two years, when the mortgage is paid, I might be able to spend more time thinking about how to get my print books into libraries and book shops, and which review sites and other gate keepers might be persuaded to take a look. Meanwhile, I’m in the writing cave. I’ll pop out to play with my friends. Yes, and to do a bit of marketing, too, when I have time. But my priority is going to be the books.

What’s next from Jude Knight?

I’ve recently been project manager for the Belles on the Combined 2015 Editions of the Teatime Tattler, published last week. Click on the title to find out about it, and to get your copy while it is still free.

While you’re there, check out our previous box set, Mistletoe, Marriage and Mayhem. We’re removing it from publication on 31 March, so get it now for only 99c, all proceeds to the Malala Fund. After 1 April, we’ll each publish our own novella. I’m targeting 8 May with my Gingerbread Bride, which is about Rick Redepenning and his courtship of Mary, seven years before the events in my novel Farewell to Kindness.

Before the end of June, I plan to publish Embracing Prudence. That’s pretty tight, since I’m only halfway through the beta edit, so it may slip (once more), but no later than July.

I’ve made a good start on A Raging Madness. I’m 12,000 words in, and I have the rough plan for the rest mapped out. I expect to publish before the end of the year, possibly as early as September.

I have a 1 May deadline for the novella for the next Bluestocking Belles holiday box set, which has a house party theme. All our novellas have their lives affected in one way or another by the festivities at Hollystone Hall. The venue has its own Facebook page, where we’re posting character sketches and scenery on our way to publication on 1 November. My contribution is titled The Bluestocking and the Barbarian.

And Mariana Gabrielle and I are cowriting a novel that ambushed us when we were thinking about something else. We haven’t set a publication date for Never Kiss a Toad, but watch this space.

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Getting rid of filter words

Image is from: http://inkslingereditorialservices.com/category/mechanics-of-writing/get-out-of-the-way/

Image is from: http://inkslingereditorialservices.com/category/mechanics-of-writing/get-out-of-the-way/

‘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’.

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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.
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#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.)

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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).

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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Spring in the garden is a delight

The Black Evil One and the Henchcat love when I move the hens. They reckon that I just have to slip up and leave the cover off, and they’ll eat like queens for weeks.

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I have been neglecting everything else in favour of the novel. The hens were living in a moonscape; the tomatoes need to be tied up; I managed to treat the trees for curly leaf, but thinning the fruit? If the trees want their fruit thinned, they’ll just have to do it themselves.

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Today, the plan is to spend the morning catching up on the ever increasing to do list.

I’ve moved the hens, but still have to change the sand in the tray of their roost and put clean straw in their nest boxes.

And then catch the flibberty things to dust them with mite powder.

I’ve tidied up around the house a bit, but the grandkids that are staying with me for the weekend are going to help me wash the windows inside and out.

Tomatoes, I will get to you, promise.

Meanwhile, the PRH is going to mow the lawn (nearly 2 acres of it), but first, he tells me, he needs to cut some fillets so he can stack the wood for my new raised garden beds. Fillets, he says, are bits of scrap wood that go between planks to hold them off one another so the air can circulate to let the timber dry. Who knew?

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The title of this piece is the first line from a chapter in Farewell to Kindness. Yes, okay, that’s where my mind is.

Up to page 337 of 506 on the plot line review, and page 97 on the third draft edit. Wait for me, novel. I’m coming!

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