Guess What? Revising & Editing are Different!

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo is wrapping up and my project for the month was to edit my novel.

Edit… Simple right? I thought all I had to do was read through it a few times and fix my mistakes so it would be ready for beta readers.  (That’s how I edit a short story.  Why would a novel be any different?)

Boy was I mistaken! Holy crap!

FIRST OFF: I thought revising and editing were mostly the same thing.

WRONG!

  • Revising focuses on how your story reads, filling in plot holes, making characters act appropriately, ensuring the story makes sense, consistency, and flow.
  • Editing focuses on the mechanics of the language.

PLUS – each step in the process has been getting progressively harder… I can’t imagine the challenges I’ll have just trying to get someone to actually read the novel when I’m done!

A TIP I learned – Do NOT edit the document before revising it! All the time you spend editing will be thrown away when/if you discard the scene or rework it. Trust me. I did this.

It takes me twice as long to revise a scene as it did to write it! What’s the saying? Writing is rewriting? I COMPLETELY get this now. I wrote “draft zero” in 45 days. I’m now 30 days into my revisions and anticipate another 30 days at least before I’ll have any kind of draft I’d show someone. For someone who just likes to get stuff done, this is a little frustrating. I focus on completing one scene at a time and this helps me feel like I accomplished something.  How can writing a novel take a full year or two?  I now understand.

Oh! AND the emotions I feel while revising the novel make it difficult at times to continue… (Like not shoving everything into a drawer while staring at a haphazardly strung together “sentence” or my heart sinking at the stiff dialogue.) Luckily, with the downs, come a balance of ups. Like THIS POLL that encouraged me people would keep reading past my first page. (Again thank you to everyone who read it and responded.) These ups, along with just determination to finish what I started, keep me going.

TOOLS that have helped me:

  1. WRITING BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Plot, Structure, & Scene by Martha Alderson. (Amazon link here) I stopped in the middle of the month to read this book after finding some gaping caverns in my plot. This will forever change the way I plot a book. I was doing a lot of the techniques in the book naturally, but having an understanding of them gave me a new perspective. The most eye opening part was how important strategic and deliberate pacing is to keep your reader engaged. Looking at your scenes as to who’s actually in charge (protagonist vs antagonist) helps with this pacing.
  2. IT WAS THE BEST OF SENTENCES, IT WAS THE WORST OF SENTENCES by June Casagrande. (Amazon link here) I’ve been out of school for 20+ years and felt I needed a refresher on sentence structure. I’m not done with this book yet, but already have learned a tremendous amount. I lack skills in sentence structure and other rules of grammar. I’m learning that no matter how hard I try, I’ll still need an editor. I’m cheap and struggle with spending the money. What is the statistic? The average self-published book sells less than 10 copies or something like that?

PLUS – with all of this, I DIDN’T WIN CAMP NANOWRIMO! I set a goal to expand my novel during the revision process from 50K to 80K by adding details and emotions. I’ll meet this goal, but it will take much longer than expected. Deleting things is part of the rewrite. I’m finishing up April at 66-67K, which did not meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goals. BUT I’M OKAY WITH THAT! I’m getting a better novel out of the ordeal and I’ve learned so much about the writing process.  (An additional win – I worked on the novel every day in April.)

So, with all these things and the time and effort into writing, why do I do it? What keeps me going? Because my characters want their story told? Because I enjoy writing? Those are all true, but the real reason… The major driver?

Because I hope one person reads and ENJOYS my book. 

Really, that’s it.

Thanks for reading.

–Joy

 

Nature’s Irony (Flash Fiction)

For a change of pace, here is a flash fiction piece I wrote, but felt was too dark to do anything with.  It was collection electronic “dust”,  so I thought it fits with Earth Day.  A *WARNING* though – there is blood and deer hunting in the story.

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I wiggled my fingers, they had been numb for hours already. I wiggled my toes. Six hours of sitting in one spot, shivering, and waiting for a non-existent deer. Six hours wasted except for the intricate pattern of diamonds, slashes, and dots I carved in the branch near me to pass the time.

That’s enough.  I unloaded my gun and began to climb down the tree when my foot slipped into a loop made by a vine.  Once I struggled free another vine wrapped around my other ankle.

What was happening?  I withdrew my hunting knife and cut myself free, then quickly descended the tree.

Now that I finished hunting, I noticed the fresh deer tracks besides mine in the snow. How did I miss this deer?  With my rifle slung over my shoulder, I pushed a few branches out of my way to follow the tracks further into the woods.  The tracks turned down a runway and when I looked ahead, I saw him.

He was largest deer I had ever seen outside a hunting magazine. He had at least eighteen points on his massive antlers. I cautiously pulled my rifle from my shoulder, put the deer in the crosshairs, and pulled the trigger.

Click.

Damn, I had unloaded the rifle. I slowly pulled the cartridges from my pocket and dropped one into the chamber. I only took my eyes off the deer for a second, but when I looked up, he vanished.

I pushed my way forward a little more, following the runway. At least I was warmer now that I was walking.

Around and through the woods I crisscrossed until dusk settled. I turned back, knowing it was too late to hunt anyway. I followed my footprints in the snow and soon they ran into a thick area of the forest. I pushed through the thorny brush that I didn’t remember. I kept following my footprints and soon the forest was so thick that my trails wasn’t visible.

I pulled out my phone to see the GPS, but I didn’t have reception. I unhooked the small compass pinned to my orange vest, and found north. My car should be that way. I wound myself through the woods in that general direction.

The branches and vines seemed to grab me. I pushed forward, breaking through them. They became so thick I couldn’t move. They held me tight. I felt pain in my arm. The thorns were pressing into me – cutting me. I struggled my hand loose to find my knife, but it was gone. The pain overwhelmed me and the world went black.

I woke in bloody snow. The trees and the vines had receded and now were nothing out of the ordinary. My arm throbbed and I looked down to see a familiar pattern of bloody diamonds, slashes, and dots.

The End

Disclaimer:  I don’t personally hunt, but have no issues with it done correctly (My husband and father enjoy hunting.). Many times, hunters are the best conservationists.

 

 

Would You Keep Reading?

I’m moving right along for Camp NaNoWriMo with editing Love, Lies, & Clones.  One of the first items on my novel editing checklist is to share the first page with someone to see if they would continue to read the story.  If not, then I need to rewrite it.  So…  Here’s the first page, if you could help me by giving me your feedback, I’d really appreciate it.

There is a poll on the bottom of the page, please vote and fell free to offer me any suggestions you have.  Thanks in advance!

I almost spilled my second cup of coffee when Thursday sprang off my bed and rushed to the front door with his tail wagging.

I put the coffee down and followed him. “What is it?” I asked, trying to further excite him. I loved seeing his energy. His entire hind end swayed in rhythm to his tail and his ears perked up. I watched the man approach my door though he digital intercom display while I wondered who would visit me. Someone must be looking for my neighbor.

Crap! The chocolate brown eyes and round face gave him away. My father found me. I fought my instinct to crawl back in bed and bury myself under the covers and go back to sleep.

Instead, I took a minute and gathered my courage while Thursday bounded beside me with his tail wagging and letting out a few excited barks.

I cracked the old wooden door open. “What do you want?” the words were harsher than I expected. “It’s been three years.”

“Can I come in?” He was polite, yet his voice held an edge to it I didn’t remember.

“This is not a good time.” It will never be a good time for him to visit. “I have to go to work in an hour and I still need to get ready.” I didn’t back away from the door, but Thursday tried to push his nose through the gap to get a good sniff of the guest.

My father looked at me, one eyebrow raised and head cocked – the way only a father could do. I let out a heavy sigh and stepped away from the door, allowing him to enter. He strolled across my living room and into my kitchen, finally sitting down at the round pine table. Nothing like making yourself at home.

He looked younger than I remember. Sure, he may have a few more gray hairs and a couple extra crow’s feet wrinkles, but he looked good. Maybe it was because the last time I saw him he was drowning in a bottle of cheap whisky. I examined him for bloodshot eyes, glazed expression, and thought back to our interactions so far. No signs of intoxication.

I didn’t join him at the table. Instead, I distanced myself as much as I could from him, tucking my body in the corner of the kitchen. The lower unit of the duplex I rented was small and despite my attempt, I was still too close to him.

I rubbed my finger on a wear spot on the laminate countertops, waiting for him to speak. Eventually, I gave in to the silence, hoping to get him out of here. “How did you find me?”

“I have my ways,” he said with a sly smile.

“You called James, didn’t you?” Of course he’d call my ex. I had changed all my contact information when I left James, trying to avoid his apologies and pleas, but I ended up giving him my information anyway because we had a house to sell.

Thursday had laid his head on my father’s lap. He avoided my question. “Who’s this?” he said ruffling the light reddish brown fur behind his ears.

I also ignored his question. “Let’s just get to the point. Why are you here?”

“There’s no easy way to say this.” He wrung his hands together. “You need to get out of town.”

I laughed. “You can’t be serious?” Though, he had always been a serious man. “What’s going on?”

“Sit down,” he said eyeing up the kitchen chair across from him.

“Really dad, I don’t have time for this right now. Can you just call me later? I’m sure James gave you all my contact information.”

“Yeah, I have all of it, but this is too important to do over a call.” His voice was firm and, like always, his gaze averted my face. “Sit down.”

I felt like a child again, obeying his command by pulling out a kitchen chair to plop myself down on the blue checkered cushion.

He still looked at his hands. “I’ve been asked to help with another cloning project.”

“And why does this make me need to leave town?”

“I turned them down and am afraid of what they’ll do to make me help them.”

 

Clone Cover

(Version 2 of the cover is above.  I’m happy my daughter posed for the photo.)

Cover Art – Love, Lies, & Clones

I was inspired by this post:  https://rachelpoli.com/2016/03/30/the-lost-girl-cover/ and decided to try making my own cover for the novel I’m working on.  I convinced my 11 year old daughter to pose for me.  All it took was telling her, “You’re going to be famous!”  My 13 year old golden retriever, Clifford, only needed the leash to convince him.

The whole thing only took a few minutes and was a much needed break from writing & editing.

So here it is!  Overall, I’m happy with it.  If I actually do anything with the book, I’ll increase the quality of the photo and do something with the font/font color.

–Joy

Clone Cover

 

 

Writing a Novel Versus a Short Story

So, I started writing again in October when I got the itch to finish a novel I started 10 years ago.  Instead, I started writing short stories, hoping this would help me figure out HOW to write. Back then, I told myself I couldn’t write and gave up on it completely.

This time around, I realize you can learn to write, to some extent, so I’ve been focusing on short stories. I took 4 online writing classes which taught me a TON! They are here:

Well, my first “short story” ended up at 11,000 words and I chose to expand it into a novel again. (Long story here: I’ll Never Write Another Novel! (I thought)) Funny that the Novel I intended to finish back in October is in a drawer again.  It’s a vampire novel and I really don’t know if the world needs another one of those.  To my defense, I started writing it pre-Twilight.  I may still finish this during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and put it on Wattpad.  Why do some characters insist you tell their stories?

Anyway, now that I’ve written 30+ Short stories since October and another novel (that’s 2 ½ I’ve completed) I was reflecting on the difference between them. Here is what I’ve discovered.

  1. I thought that in short stories EVERY word mattered, but novels were more forgiving. That’s not true. Every word matters, no matter what you are writing.
  2. You need to narrow the idea down a TON for a short story, otherwise the plot gets out of hand and you end up with a novel crammed into a 10,000 word story. (I have 6 of these saved on my computer that I don’t know what to do with yet.) Novels have the full 3 act structure. Short stories still need a beginning, middle, and an end, but they need to be less complex.
  3. Break the novel down into scenes and treat each scene like a short story. Focus on making each scene a perfect story. This is probably the most successful thing I do that made me reach the end of my current project. It simplifies the whole process and keeps me going.
  4. Novels have more of everything: more characters, more plots/subplots, and more words. This complexity makes it harder to track what you’ve said already and what you’ve haven’t and you need some method of organization.
  5. Just when I would get sick of a short story, it was done. A novel takes much longer. You get more attached to the characters, the story, and the problem, but yet, it is hard to finish because at some point you just want to be done and you know you have a lot to do yet.
  6. Finding someone to read and give you feedback is much harder for a novel. (Though, finding a good beta reader or any readers in general.)

What do you feel are the biggest differences between writing the different length projects?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

–Joy

(Photo from morguefile.com)

white-pen

Do I Kill a Supporting Character?

To kill, or not to kill? (That is the question.)

Okay, bad reference, but I’m still stuck with the dilemma.

I’ve been working on revising Love, Lies, & Clones for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and am torn if I kill off one of the supporting characters. It’s an action/suspense/science fiction piece, so a death could be justified. In my first draft, everyone lives, but I’m concerned this is too perfect.  I wonder if you can have an action/suspense novel where nobody dies.

As I’m revising the story, I see a lot of foreshadowing opportunities that would prepare the reader for a death and it seems like the grim reaper has sharpened his sickle and is knocking on a door.  Oh, I’m conflicted… Is killing someone off a lazy writer’s solution? Or is leaving someone live bad because I’m attached and don’t want them to die?

The internet has plenty of references on the topic:

So what to do… What are your thoughts?   What do you think when you read a novel where one of the main supporting characters die near the end? Disappointed or satisfied when the other characters pull through the experience? I’d love to hear some feedback.

–Joy

Photo from morguefile.com

file2681270483593http://www.wikihow.com/Kill-off-a-Hero-or-Other-Character