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Back in high school, I pulled some muscles in my neck and shoulder. And I got these lovely things called muscle knots. They are like marbles inside the muscles. When they go active, they mess with the nerves in my hand.
They went active last week. Which means it feels like someone has slapped my hand for hours. And typing aggravates this.
Luckily, I have MacSpeech Dictate software which allows me hands-free typing. It’s come in super handy for blog posts such as this and for e-mails.
As a basic dictation software, it works well for me. And I’m super grateful to have it.
But for editing, it takes too long. Or maybe I’m too impatient. Either way I get frustrated and resort to typing.
There is a command mode for opening different applications and navigating the web, but there’s a big learning curve there for me. I have managed to master a few commands but I also know this will ease off in a few weeks and I’ll be back to a typing fiend.
However, using this software has cut my typing down by 60%. Which is giving my hand a well-deserved rest.
Funniest thing about the software? It does not like swearing. So my best friend got an e-mail about something being ”forking” amazing and another friend received an e-mail about how much I hate this “ship”.
Weirdly enough, douche bag is in its vocabulary.
Overall, I’d say it’s a software worth having if you’re a writer and you want to give your hands a break.
When you write “The End” it really is the beginning of the next phase with the manuscript. You aren’t saying goodbye. You’re saying hello to 3-4 months of revising.
And as I wrote “The End” I knew the first 5 chapters would need major revisions. Because the story went in a different direction than I originally pictured. Shit.
I also had agent, editor, and contest feedback on the first 50-80 pages that I now had to incorporate.
I didn’t want to change anything until I knew where the story ended up.
Today had been rough going. Because I had to change a few things, which lead to 1000 new words being drafted. And rearranging of scenes. And earlier revelations of stuff.
I think it’s coming along, but I dreaded it this morning. When I sat down, knowing I had to add a couple new scenes. I cringed. Revising I like, redrafting is more of a challenge. Because new words take so many rounds to revise.
But they were needed. So I’ll probably spend the rest of this week on this chapter. Which has now become two chapters. But I think it’s necessary. I think it helps the story. Lord I hope so.
It’s amazing how a few tweaks can ripple and require new scenes.
Gotta admit, writing is pretty cool. One of the few things where you get to the end and can fix the beginning.
I am frequently accused of is putting too much pressure on myself. Valid. Though I tend to think of it as goal setting and planning. For example, I decided to use the Margie Lawson Deep Edits methodology to revise my entire manuscript. 340 pages. Starting November 20. Current deadline: December 31. Contingency deadline: January 10th.
Today, I am 170 pages into the revisions. I think I can finished by Dec. 31, but I also like to have a back up deadline. Just in case. Especially with holidays and flu season.
I am also taking an online course from Writer’s Digest Essentials of Mystery Writing that wraps up January 6th. I am starting my 4th week of it with required readings, group critiques, and homework assignments.
Then there’s my WIP which is stuck at 62,000 words. I gotta finish that by March 31. Then I need to have 3-4 months to edit it before I start querying in the summer/fall 2011.
Then there’s the lecture notes from Margie Lawson’s workshop on dialogue cues. I’m reading through them and doing the exercises everyday.
And there’s a pile of books I’m dying to read.
So what’s the point of this post? A recap of all my deadlines–a slice of my writing goals. Most are self-imposed, but it is the only way for me to get things done.
How do you manage your writing life? Do you respond to external deadlines only or can you adhere to your own as well? What is your process to keep to your writing goals?
This is me. Intent upon decorating the tree. So focused on the tree I forget about anything else. Except making the tree gorgeous.
Which is my way of explaining why the word count on my new book hasn’t been reported in 2 weeks. I stopped working on the 1K words a day.
Gasp! *Look of horror*
Not because of chores or daily life. No. I am revising my YA manuscript using techniques acquired in recent workshops. I’m spending hours a day on it.
Which means the next book is stuck at 62K. But I wrote 20 K words in a month. So I know I can. And all I need is another month to finish it. I’m hoping that month is January. Or maybe mid December-mid January. Or March at the latest.
It’s hard. Because I love that story and want to get it drafted, but the YA is finished and needs more polishing. So I reprioritize. The YA has to be my focus.
Can I tell you a secret? Everyday in my list of tasks, I still put write the adult manuscript. I printed out the last 30 pages to edit. If I can get to it.
Have you ever had to stop a WIP (work in progress) to polish up a finished manuscript? Did you do both at once? How’d it work out for you?
I got some feedback from agents who requested the full and charity auctions where agents gave me feedback on the partial. Several mentioned needing to hone my craft more.
Step one–how do I do that?
I had no clue. I already studied NYT bestsellers and author’s first novels. I devoured YA books. I read books on the craft of writing. But somehow I was missing something. Crap.
Then I joined CTRWA and heard about a craft workshop by Margie Lawson. I took down three people in my rush to sign up. (Kidding it was an on-line signup)
During Margie’s session, all the feedback I’d gotten began to make sense. No joke. I heard the words. Read them ten times but couldn’t quite figure out how to fix it.
Cliches–wow. Now I saw them all. Imagine 200 ugly cheap ornaments on your tree.
Then body language, I used simple things like she smiled/grinned/frowned. Never trying to take it to the next level. Oopsy. That’s like stringing lights where each strand has a couple broken lights. Sometimes simple works but not all the time.
Passive language? Guilty. I had several variations of to be that could be removed. Think of grouping ten balls in the same section of the tree. BORING.
Huge chunks of unnecessary narrative/exposition? *Hangs head in shame* The entire top of the tree is covered in Care Bear ornaments. Nothing but Care Bear ornaments.
On the upside all feedback points to the premise being good. So I’m going to download Margie’s lecture packet on Body Language and Dialogue Cues and learn more on craft. I can’t believe what a giant leap my manuscript took in the past few weeks since her talk.
This is probably the only profession where you get continually better over time. I’m excited to see how much more I can improve the manuscript.
Are you struggling to see what people tell you in feedback? Have you had an “A-HA” moment where you suddenly saw what needed fixing in your manuscript?
Today I started an online class 11 Edits You Must Make to Look Like a Pro. I’ve been editing my YA novel for a contest and figured this would be a good addition to my learning.
The biggest help I had came from a published author, who graciously agreed to give me feedback on my writing. She made comments on the first 130 pages and without them I couldn’t have made the edits I did. It takes having someone you trust point out what isn’t working, to figure out how to make it work. Trust me, this is a painful process. No one wants to admit they have a fat ugly baby. But guess what? Most of us beginning writers do.
So I read through her comments and tried to explain away what she saw. That took 2-3 days. Then I went over them again. I trusted this person’s opinion and they spend a lot of time making comments. So I wanted to really weigh each comment. I started to see what she saw.
Once you see what is wrong, you can fix it. So I decided to try making rewrites. I always had the other version to go back to.
3 weeks ago, I started another round of revision on the YA novel. Ouch. But as I worked through it, I saw how right she was. The writing was good for chapter 1-3. Those essential chapters we spend all our time finetuning. The chapters we get feedback on via auctions. Then chapter 4-6 kinda meandered off course. Double ouch. Shit. Why didn’t I see this before? My baby was so ugly.
Then around about half way through chapter 7 I got back on track and the rest of the book went faster. But it still needed work. Dialogue tags when there are multiple participants kill me. It’s my weakpoint. So I worked on those scenes. Sometimes I went to bed dissatisfied. Turning something over in my mind. I’d leap up at 2AM and fix it. I finished all my edits on Friday.
Now I’ve got my online course which may lead to more revisions. It’s a constant learning process. Every version is your best. Or the best you are capable of in that moment. But when you learn–via online classes, reading others work, conferences, writing critique groups, auction feedback, etc.–you grow as a writer and you have to go back and bring your writing up to your new level.
Some people hate revising and would rather write new stories. I hear you. I’ve got a box full of story ideas, dying to be told. But if you don’t take the time to fix your mistakes and work on your craft, at worst you’ll keep making the same mistake, at best you’ll only be able to market your latest work and have a drawer full of stories that weren’t revised and won’t sell.
So my advice (despite the pain and heartache) is to embrace revising. Take your time evaluating feedback, but accept its validity. And try to address their concerns. But always keep your original work.
Because it’s your story and you want it to be the best story it can be, you have to learn to check your ego at the door. Then revising can be a game of constant one-upmanship.
And it’s my b-day today so word count didn’t move from 52K of last week. But Wednesday I’m kicking butt. I promise. I entered a new YA contest on Monday too.
After twenty minutes outside, I announce to the girls, (the whiner, old yeller, and the hellion), that it’s time for dinner. I order them to come inside and offer cookies. What happens? Old Yeller, who usually wanders off, charges at the hellion and they engage in horseplay. The whiner sits quietly by, yanking up the lawn and chewing the dirt.
Again, I call them and say dinner’s ready. What do they do? Ignore me. Worse still, the whiner starts playing with them.
I don’t know what to do with these girls. None of them listen to the babysitter (that’d be me). I can’t get them to do anything without screaming and even then they do the opposite or ignore me.
Yeesh. And I only take them out 1-2 times a day to pee. Imagine being their full-time parent? Then again, they might listen to me if I was.
Was this all I did today? Hell no. But it was the funniest part of the day. The rest of it I spent going over the first 6 chapters of my two novels and editing them to send the proposals out on Monday. This will be my last auction from Brenda Novak’s summer auctions. I realized I need to work on writing scenes with several characters talking. It doesn’t come easily to me. Then again, I rarely engage in conversations with multiple people at once. But I’m glad I recognized this weakness and now I can proactively address it in my writing.
I’m experimenting with the tagging of the dialogue to make it enhance the scene and not suck the life out of it. So there are some he said and she said. But I added more action and description of what the character is doing to the tag. Fingers crossed this makes it flow better.
Weirdly enough, as I was making the edits, I realized the tabbing is flawed in the manuscript. Grrrr. Like sometimes I hit tab and it shows up as such and other times it’s spaced over. So I have to work on correcting that. Time consuming and no idea why that happened.
God the time flew by. When I was bidding–way back in May, I had a full time job and money to burn. Now, not so much. Times changed. Weirdly enough, I think I am a lot happier now. I’m not trapped in my day job. And even though looking for a new job takes up time, I still get to write a lot more than I could before.
And it’s only 1 month until Crimebake and 2 weeks to the next CTRWA meeting!
I’ve also managed to eat well the past 3 days. Trust me as a carb addict, three days is a good start. Things are starting to calm down and come together now that the move is done. I’ve also been good about doing my back and neck exercises. See? Compared to the rebellious dogs, the rest of my day is a bit boring.
And now that the move is done and I am settling in, I will return to blogging 5 days a week! In case you missed me.