Editing, Fiction, Process

Adventures in Editing: In One Sitting

_AdventuresinEditingA little back story, after several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015.  I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and have started the process of editing in earnest.  Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft.  Thanks for reading!

I do believe in the adage that to write is to be a constant student of the craft.  I see this as I discover new writers or glean some nugget of information in the writing blogs that I peruse.  However, while all things can be good in moderation, I have found that too much information causes creative paralysis.  I rediscovered this as I started thinking about how I was going to approach the editing process on AL.  My current draft is hovering around a chunky 113k mark.  I feel OK about the beginning, I’m a little meh about the ending – it’s there, but it needs some loving, and the middle?  Uff da – don’t get me started on the middle.  There’s good stuff there, but there’s flab.  Oh sweet Lord, there’s flab.

But as I’ve purchased my red pens and have mentally been gearing up for the editing process, I found myself paralyzed.  First and foremost – do I have the tools to accomplish my goal?  This goes beyond red pens and Post-It notes.  Do I have the knowledge to bring draft one to a better second draft?  That question tends to paralyze me.  It’s not only do I have the knowledge, it’s also a question of efficiency.  Gestating a book and getting it ready to send it off into the world takes time, but do I approach the editing process correctly?  Are there things that I should be considering as I read my draft that I don’t know about?  Should I take a(nother) class where I learn more about the editing process?

There was one concept in particular that kept me procrastinating on the start of my current round of edits.  Somewhere along my journey, I read you should read your draft from stem to stern in one sitting at the beginning of the editing process.

I don’t disagree with this concept and I think that the intent behind this is so that thoughts and perceptions remain fresh in the author’s mind and that any mental progress isn’t interrupted by having to read your draft in several different sittings.

And I really, really tried to do this with my latest draft of AL.  I did.  So how long did it take me?  Four days.  So do I think that my novel is now doomed because I wasn’t able to follow the advice of the experts?  Nah.  I think in my dream world, I’d have endless amounts of time to chase my dreams of fiction and publication.  But in my real world, the world that fills me with ideas and introduces me to potential characters and … well, pays the bills … it took me four days to read my draft and rediscover my old friend Kate and her father Simon.  I realized that there were a couple extraneous characters that could be jettisoned.  I saw plot threads that were started and then fizzled out.  I got what I needed.  And now I’m crafting my action plan to go forward.

So the moral of the story?  I’m learning to cut through the noise and I’m finding what works for me on this creative journey.

I’ll leave you with the following thought. I came across this status update in November on Facebook from Louise Penny.  I liked this … this encapsulates my hopes as I hop from a shitty first draft to my second draft and beyond: “Started the second draft of the next book yesterday. The first few chapters are, of course, the ones that need the most editing. When I started this book, I knew the outline of the plot, and some of the themes, but as the book went on things evolved. These first chapters drag their knuckles on the ground. Need to have them stand upright. And in the next draft will make them lean and strong and swift. And, if I do a fourth draft, will see if I can teach it to make cappuccino.”

Advertisements
Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Done with Winter Edition

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

On Sunday, I was rambling the woods on my parents’ farm; on Thursday, my corner of Minnesota got about a foot of snow dumped on it.  I am done with winter.  Let’s be done with snow, m’kay?

It’s been a quiet week on the work front and I’ve been finding all sorts of readables on the Interwebs:

I’m pretty verbose about my love of L.M. Montgomery and “Anne of Green Gables.”  One of the fan sites on Facebook linked to this 1986 New York Times article talking about the American debut of the beloved Canadian TV series.

I’ve probably missed about 90% of the shows / movies / etc. that James Franco has been in, but I like him all the same.  This was an interesting article from Rolling Stone about a brilliant artist.

Obligatory George Clooney article.  (Seriously – I think that I’m stuck in the 1990s or something.  I have referenced Clooney in my fiction on TWO different occasions.  He is my measurestick of hotness.)

This will be on my (To Be Read) TBR pile when it’s released:  Nora McInerny Purmort’s memoir “It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too).” Like many Minnesotans, I followed the love story of Nora and her husband Aaron Purmort, who died in 2014 after a fierce battle with cancer. (This love story might have stayed in Minnesota, but gained national recognition after Mr. Purmort’s obituary ran in the Star Tribune.  Seriously, read it.  Best. Obit. Ever.) Mpls St Paul magazine ran a feature on Ms. McInerny Purmort in a recent issue.  It’s worth the read.

***

Listening to: I remember reading Loretta Lynn’s autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” when I was a kid.  My grandpa Stan wasn’t big on books, but this was one that he kept at his house.  So my heart has a huge soft spot when it comes to Loretta Lynn.  This recent duet between Ms. Lynn and Willie Nelson?  Impeccable.

Reading:  See below.

Fiction Update:  Monday marked the beginning of edits of what is either version five or six of “After Life” (AL).  I’m already encountering self doubt and Microsoft Word shenanigans, but I’m in it for the long haul, babies … I’ve been jotting down some future blog post ideas, so I’ll share more through my “Adventures in Editing,” but for the time being, I’ll just leave it at this brief update.

Happy weekend, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: March Madness

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

This was a post from Criminal Minds that I found earlier this month.  The question is a good one: If you had to name one single book that inspired you to be a writer, what would that be?  It’s hard to limit myself to one single book, but if I had to go back to the very beginning of my reading adventure – Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the first writers who captured my adoration as a reader and the person who gave root to the idea that I’d someday be an author.  (Honorable mentions go to L.M. Montgomery and Stephen King.  Why yes, that’s an eclectic list.)

This is another blog post that I read a little while back and while it came from a cooking blog that I frequently read, it resonated so much in regards to how I sometimes feel when it comes to progress that I’m making in my writing life.  Basically – feeling jealous on the Internet and 12 ways to make it stop.  There’s a lot of good wisdom out here, but the important one for me is #12 – Gratitude.  At the end of all things, I’m a ridiculously blessed person and while I move at a snail’s pace when it comes to writing fiction, I’m making progress.  And I do this despite all the other wonderful distractions and obligations I have in my life.  I’m also lucky to have found tribe members that share in my struggles and a lot of support amongst my non-writing friends and family.

***

Listening to: Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch are still in heavy rotation on my YouTube stream.  I have a sense that it’s going to take me some time before I’m sick of these guys.

Reading: Anne Fraiser is still on my counter.  In the meantime, I read two books from a different Anne:  Anne Bishop’s “The Black Jewels” have been making its way through my Kindle.  I don’t typically read fantasy books (George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien are the exception), but I’ve really been enjoying her books.

Fiction Update: Got my short story submitted for consideration in an upcoming anthology. I was happy to have accomplished this given how hectic work was the past few weeks.

Happy weekend, friends!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: In Like a Lion

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

OK – so the weather in Minnesota has been delightful – 60 degree days where I can send my hooligans outside to run off the energy they’ve been conserving over the winter.  But in terms of work?  My lord … as I told one of my co-workers, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel – just hoping it isn’t a train.  But there were still good things to read this week:

I’m a huge fan of articles that are part of a larger series.  Sunday Routine from The New York Times comes to mind, as does the Grub Street Diet from GrubStreet.com.  (I mean – everyone should know that Judy Greer and I are now soul sisters because of our shared love of Panera Bread’s chocolate chipper cookies.)  The latest series I’m into and have subscribed to is called My Morning Routine.  I have no clue why I like to read about what people do during their days (probably envy – I think they all are getting more sleep than I am); but it’s something I enjoy a lot.

A website / blog that I’m a fan on is Scary Mommy.  Their recent post “19 Ways Work-At-Home Moms Lie to Themselves” was a character study in my … erm, routine.

And falling under the category “GET IN MAH MOUTH,” here’s a recipe from Sweatpants & Coffee.  I like brown butter.  I like rice krispies.  And I love bourbon – this recipe just screams “win” to me. (Might need to bring this to my next writer’s meeting …)

***

Listening to: This killed me … what an amazing concept – remaking songs using instruments that were only available in the 1930s.  Oh BBC – I love you.

Reading: Anne Frasier’s “Pretty Dead” is on my counter.  The same spot it was when I hauled it home from the library, but I’m looking forward to reading it.

Fiction Update: I met with my South Metro Writer’s Group this week and it was invigorating.  We have a new member that brings great energy to our already vibrant group and I appreciate all of the insights they’ve given me on my work.  This week, I workshopped a short story that I had sent in for consideration in a different anthology.  It was rejected and while I knew that it had been passed up for good reasons, I wasn’t sure what those reasons were.  Getting their outside perspective was extremely helpful.

And – now that I’m exiting my season in (proposal) hell, I’m looking forward to cracking open some “After Life (AL)” and starting a new round of edits.  Deep breath.  I got this.

Happy weekend, dear friends!

Random

Midweek Mind Dump

midweek mind dump
Source: FreeImages.com

I had a couple random thoughts that were floating around my writer’s mind this week and thought … why hell, I’ll share them with you.  With a nifty/cryptic graphic of a BRAIN.

Anyway … here’s my writing life mind dump:

  • “I love the ‘what-ifs’ of storytelling.”  That thought occurred to me this morning as I reflected on an awesome evening with my south metro writers group. They read and provided feedback on another short story I’m trying to polish.  The ideas that came!  What if this character was an older gentleman instead of a young man in his 20s?  What if the main character didn’t have a sister – that damn Mallory is just taking up space in my story!
  • My voice recorder app on my phone … I do not condone distracted driving, but there’ve been plenty of occasions where I’ve pulled over on the side of the highway and dictated my thoughts onto my phone.  Sometimes there are gems to be found there.  Sometimes there’s absolute crap. But it’s all good, all part of the “what-ifs.”
  • My dad and I are going to be collaborating on a project in the near future. Alas – it is nothing scintillating like an oral history of his high school stories, but it’s important. My dad’s a volunteer fire fighter for my hometown and he’s heading up a committee to explore grant opportunities to help acquire equipment, etc. Dad: “I had all of this information jotted down, but it’s everywhere – on the back of envelopes.  Now I can’t make sense of my notes.” As I looked around my desk at the stacks of Post-It notes, the story ideas that are jotted on the back of shopping lists (that were originally oil change receipts), I realized that the nut truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

That’s all from me.  Have faith, dear readers … the weekend will be here soon!

Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Friday Fare: Waitin’ for the weekend

Friday FareFriday Fare is where I post links to the random articles that have resonated with me during the week. Sometimes they make me smarter, sometimes they make me hungry … sometimes they have to do with writing and sometimes they are just plain random.

The Interwebs have been ripe with damn good articles this week:

I’ve made no secret of my adoration of J.T. Ellison.  Her (adopted) hometown paper wrote an awesome article about her path in the writing world and her recent successes.  And so yeah, I’m biased because I’m a fan of Ms. Ellison’s, but considering how the newspaper industry has gutted their editorial staffs and the tendency for “quantity over quality” I was gratified to see that the reporter did their work and contacted more than Ms. Ellison and one other person for a quote.

Brian Freeman is a Minnesota author who has a cultivated quite a following with readers through his Jonathan Stride novels.  While I always joke that I’m usually about 10 years behind when it comes to following trends, I actually hopped on the Stride zeitgeist in 2005/6 when his first novel “Immoral” came out.

If my local writers group, the Rochester Literary Guild, had a patron saint; it would be Bob Dylan.  I think a pilgrimage to Tulsa is in my future …

***

Listening to: I’m still kinda obsessed with the Dave Rawlings Machine and I’m going to be damn unapologetic about it.  This song slays me and has been added to the soundtrack list for at least one of my writing projects.

Reading: Read another Alexandra Sokoloff book.  And it was good.

Fiction Update: It’s been a crazy work week with some daunting deadlines.  I did make it to the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime meeting where I got to hang out with some of my tribe members and do burgers and beer with my writer friend Emily.  But for the sake of sanity, I’ve been focusing on work and trying to be a decent family member this week.  I’ll spend some time this weekend working on finalizing my short story for submission.  That deadline’s March 15th and I’m feeling pretty good about my story and the edits I’ve gotten back from fellow writers.

Wherever you’re reading from, I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!