Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Look, Updates, & Some Fun Links

I took some time on my last "free" day at the library (Saturday) and updated the blog a bit.  Nothing major, but you'll notice a few new things in the sidebars, and some things have been moved around. 

I added the "Follow" widget over there on the left, just above the archives, so if you're a regular reader, please click "Follow This Blog" so I know you're there!  If you have a blog and I haven't linked to you yet, that will help remind me to do so.  *g*

Also, the status bars are back near the top of the page.  The new one - "Rewrites" - will track my progress as I move through the MS.  Look for a post specific to that in the near future, but for now the simple explanation is:

I'm going chapter-by-chapter through the MS, revising according to my new ubersynopsis.  Some chapters just require editing, some require extensive rewrites, and some require something in-between.  As I finish EACH CHAPTER the final wordcount for that chapter will be added to my Rewrites status bar.  Right now it's at just over 5K; that represents chapters 1 & 2.

Right now my goal is 2 chapters per night.  We'll see if I can keep that up.  (Hooray for caffeine pills!)

I should be aided in my progress by Jen's creation of an accountability circle.  Thanks, Jen!

Another cool link I found on Kait's blog, thanks to her comment here: Crit Partner Match

Remember my Scottish Country Dance partner, Jodi?  She's also going to help me make a period-authentic (or as close as we can get) costume like Elspeth would have worn in the seventeenth century.  Probably not in time for Halloween, not with me so wrapped up in rewrites, but you never know.  I promise to post pics.  Here are some of the links from whence I got my info:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rewrites: Phase One - Update

8 working days.  7000 words written.  Also quite a few hours spent researching and firming up details, and one evening spent learning Scottish Country Dance (see post below).

I'm not where I wanted to be at this point, but when I put it that way, it still sounds pretty respectab(igg)le!

The 7K was not, unfortunately, story wordage.  But!  I'm glad I wrote it.  I'm still in the "organization" phase of rewrites, the one that establishes the foundation for all my future work.  It's good to have a solid foundation, right?  I think I do, now.

I started off trying to hand-draw a timeline, on which I was going to plot all the major events in the book, and get a nice visual on plot arcs and such.  Unfortunately for me, señora perfectionista over here, I got roadblocked by my absolute necessity to have all the spacing between every event to scale.  That's the point at which I started in on my "revisions synopsis" aka ubersynopsis, phase II.

And it has been a wonderful process.  Everythings laid out nice and neat in summary, with one paragraph per chapter.  I can see at a glance the progression of the story.  I made some decisions about plot changes and wrote those in, and now I can just find the appropriate chapter to add them back to the MS.  It's taken me days, but now I have a clear plan on exactly how to attack this.  Betas should be finding it in their inboxes by this evening, for comment before I really get to the meat of the changes.

Another cool thing I plan to do with it is steal the "storyboarding" (heh, is that a form of torture for writers?) ideas of some others - basically, the color-coding - and go through each paragraph and highlight various events with colors relating to subplots, again so I can have a nice visual of the overall shape and distribution of the story.

In addition to the 6K of ubersynopsis-II, I wrote another 1000 words on the character arc that Elspeth follows.  Through discussion with my fellow workshoppers, I decided that a major character change in her (over the course of the novel) would be her ability to trust.  Her father left the family when her mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time.  Then her mother hid the cancer's recurrence from her and died unexpectedly.  Finally, her fiance cheated on her with her best friend.  Difficulty trusting?  Probably.  SO we at first see her resistant to trusting anyone, even Alec.  But he's all the help she's got, and of course with him being the honorable type she eventually learns to trust him and makes peace with the other people in her past.  Then the universe lets all hell break loose on her and the man she's come to trust and love is captured and sentenced to death...  I'll be sending that out to betas for their opinions as well.

SO.  Where does that leave me?  Getting ready for actual rewrites.  I did a very awesome thing and took my MS to Kinko's (now "FedEx Office" blah) and had it printed up: double-spaced, double-sided, and spiral bound.  It was not cheap.  But sometimes I need to see the physical page to revise things.  (Just wait until my post on revising my first chapter for the workshop - you'll see what I do to hard copy!)  I can't make all my revisions on the page and then transfer to the computer; it would take too much time.  But this way I have a hard copy that I can flip through and annotate, and "see" what I want to do on the page while doing it on the computer.  I will also admit, being the first time I have ever seen the entire MS printed, and being in roughly book form, it gave me a little thrill!  Like, holy crap, I wrote a whole novel, didn't I?  *g*

LSB gives my current MS word count as 99K.  So I have brought it down to under 100K.  And I tend to be a "pruner": as I revise, things will get a lot tighter.  Yes, there is new wordage to be written, but as I do so there will also be a lot coming out.  I think my estimate of 95-99K will be right on the money by the time all is said and done.

Alec's pistol

And I do mean Alec's.  *g*

HERE is the link to the page on the National Museum of Scotland website.  It is a Doune pistol made by Thomas Caddell (the First) in 1678.

Alec was 15 in 1678.  His father bought the pistols for his birthday, to signify his status as a man of the clan.  When he arrives in modern day, he sells them - Doune pistols are very rare collectors' items, quite literally worth their weight in gold.  (And they're made of iron, so pretty heavy.)  Needless to say, he's astounded at the price and has quite enough to finance himself for a while in his quest to find Elspeth.  Too bad fake government documents are so expensive on the black market...

I maintain that the pistol above is one of the pistols Alec sold, and it somehow made its way from the antiques shop to the National Museum collection.  *g*


My computer is filthy.  It's something you don't recognize at home, but since I've had it out and about the past week or so, the smudge on the screen, the crumbs and cat hair in/around the keys, and the dried splashes of milk (I sometimes work at the breakfast table, near where Little Boy sits) are all glaringly obvious.  Yet I keep forgetting to clean it.

I spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon backing up my data stick, trying to error-check and defrag it, then repeating the process when the defrag locked up, all so I could install the most recent version of Liquid Story Binder.  I was eventually successful.  And then they released another, newer version yesterday.  *headdesk*

Speaking of yesterday, I was working in the library (I've got a "spot" back here in reference) when I caught a guy fondling himself.  And not just through his clothes.  Yeah.  So I told the libarians, the police were called, I had to give a was craziness.  DH insisted on driving out here and escorting me home.

In more positive news, I'm loving my new dance shoes.  They're soft-soled leather ballet pumps I bought to wear to my dance class, and I was breaking them in around the house last night.  Very comfortable.  What dance class, you ask?  Why, the beginner's Scottish Country Dance class my good friend Jodi (*waves*) and I are attending on Monday nights for the next two months.  We spent Monday working on some of the basic steps, but we did a fairly complicated jig by the end of the night.  One of our instructors (they're RSCDS certified, so this is "official"!) told me I must have danced before.  Nope, just color guard, but I did preen a little at the compliment.  *g*

Our new bedroom suite ROCKS.  This is the first time in, well, ever that I've owned a bed and mattress that weren't hand-me-down.  We spared no expense (hooray, zero-intrest financing!) and it was SO. Worth. It.  Even if I'm not sleeping more than usual, I'm sleeping much better.  Pillow-topped bliss, even if we had to special-order all our sheets and stuff (California King is hard to find in stores!).  Also, it's nice to have an actual nightstand with, like, drawers and stuff that won't wobble and topple if the cats jump up on it.

Today is the first day in over a month that the weather is acting its season.  We've been having mid-70's-lower-80's weather that was sunny and dry...fine for September (or my preference in general) but today it's misty and cool at 65, much more like mid-October should be.

Having regular internet access again while I'm off has been a blessing and a curse.  I'm reverting to my old habits of looking up anything I want to, any time, and it's somewhat distracting.  On that note, I'd better get back to work.  I only have 1 more day after today (2 if I come here Saturday) and I'm way behind of my goals.  Look for a post about my progress later today.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rewrites: Phase One

Still at it. Work on the second ubersynopsis (revised edition) continues. Yes, it is a BEAUTIFUL Saturday afternoon and I am back in the library. But that's okay. I hope to finish the synopsis and the timeline by tonight. Then I will begin pulling stuff out of the SFD to make room for changes, and possibly inserting stuff if a scene starts to form. We'll see how it goes.

In other news, YIPE!:

I'm seriously debating going ahead and querying, based on that. I mean, the book IS done, and revisions on the full would be ready by the time they'd get around to asking for it, most likely.

Hmmm... *think, think*

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Rewrites: Phase One - Organization and Structure

There's a lot to do is this round, and we spent 3 weeks (as opposed to the usual 2) on it during the workshop.  Even then I barely touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the organizing I need to do.  I wouldn't be surprised if I spend the next couple of days on it, even going full-tilt.  But that's okay, because it should make everything else that much smoother.

So, this session - as you may have guessed - looks at the overall shape of the novel, the main plot arc and any sub arcs, and calls for making any large-scale changes needed before individual chapters/scenes are fine-tuned.

One of our assignments was to post our first and last scenes, and look for symmetry there, and the ending's resolution hopefully relating to questions raised in the first chapter.

I posted my first chapter (E goes to Kilchurn), and my epilogue (A & E's modern wedding).  Even though they both needed work, I was pleased to see that - even more than I realized - the two "chords" were very much in tune.  When we meet Elspeth in Chapter One, she's in Scotland by herself on what should have been her wedding day.  I try to raise the question of why she's alone and what happened to break off her wedding.  Also the underlying question: WILL she ever marry?  Of course, the closing scene is her (second) wedding to Alec, on the same date but a few years later.  And I can see now that even some of E's other issues in C.1 have been resolved by the Epilogue.  So woo for that.  *g*

Today I spent most of my day working on a timeline for the second draft.  The main meat of the story is the same, but there are some changes that I think will really take it to the "Next Level" and I need to see where they fall.  Also I want the visual to be able to connect subplot arcs and make sure everything wraps up in a consistent way.

When I stalled on that, I decided the way I brainstorm best is just to "say" it - either by talking to someone (usually DH, or whichever innocent bystander is around when I get an idea), or chatting, or blogging, or just writing/typing it out.  So I thought I'd start from scratch and write a rough synopsis of the second draft, incorporating the changes as I went.  If I let it "flow" then all the organizational stuff should sort itself out as I go.

When that's done (hopefully tomorrow) I'll plot it out on the timeline and connect the arcs as planned.  Then I'll be able to see what sections of the MS need to be cut/replaced, which need to be moved around, where to insert lines or tidbits to tie in the new stuff, etc.

Liquid Story Binder has plotting/timelining features that I hope to get set up someday and would probably help with all this, but for now it's easier (for me) to do it longhand and have a physical visual.  I still do all my writing in LSB - love it.

For now, to bed.  Hopefully the last night on our old bed/mattress - our new bedroom suite is supposed to be delivered tomorrow!

Getting into the groove

I've settled into the nearest branch of our local library to work, and I'll probably be found here for most of my remaining time off.  They've got nice tables with outlets for hooking up laptops, and wifi.  Also there's something about the quiet atmosphere and being surrounded by the sight (and smell) of thousands of books that aids in my concentration.

Only problem is, they don't open until 9:30 and I drop Little Boy off at preschool between 8-8:30 so I need somewhere to go for about an hour.  I think I'll hit the Starbucks near his school for something warm to eat/drink and e-mail time and then come here to get down to business.  Given that I've spent most of the morning futzing around online (backlash for being internet-deprived all summer) that will help me stay focused, I think.

I'm really getting into things as of today.  I've not said as much as I meant to about it, but Barbara Rogan - fellow Forumite (though I've been largely absentee lately), author, former literary agent and editor - offers an intensive online revisions workshop called the Next Level Workshop.  I had the pleasure and the luck to participate this summer.  It sucked up most of my "free" time, and I still have much to do on the MS itself, but the things I've learned and the decisions I've reached have been invaluable.  I'm gonna start a series of blog posts as I work through her recommended 8 "sessions" of revision.

The first one is organization and structure, and I'm starting on that today.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The kickoff

Well, yesterday was a wash due to some other commitments, but today I've settled in to a very quaint internet cafe - just down the road from my office, actually - and I'm spending the morning catching up on teh interwebs before launching Jenny's Massive Revisions Push.  The web surfing is due in part to leaving my all-important USB data stick at home in my rush to get Little Boy to preschool, but DH is oh-so-kindly bringing it to me in about an hour when he ventures forth.

Until I have something more substantive to report, here's a good link to writing advice:

How to Write Fiction

I'll check back in this afternoon.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ramping Up

Again with the radio silence, I know, but all that's about to change.  I did the unthinkable and took 2 whole weeks off work to really push forward with revisions for OHN.  (I had about 5 weeks of vacation time saved up, so they kind of owed it to me!)  I do work this Saturday, and I've got stuff going on this weekend, but from about October 6 until October 19, it's "all revisions, all the time".

The revisions workshop [link] I've been participating in is wrapping up this week, and though I meant to blog my progress through it, obviously I haven't had time.  So as I move through each of those stages during this big marathon push I'll try to get a post in about what I'm doing.

The "big" goal of the next two weeks is pretty straightforward: a Second Draft.  This will be the draft that incorporates the plot changes and such I've planned based on a few readers' comments and the workshop.  When the HNCSD (Hopefully Not Crappy Second Draft) is done, it will go out to betas for comment while I work through some final polishing.

Beginning Monday, I will drop Little Boy off at school as per usual routine, and then take myself and my laptop off to Panera Bread, or Starbucks, or the local library (if they've got wifi) and "work" my normal hours.  Home in the evenings for dinner and LB's bedtime, then likely back on the computer for a bit in the evenings.  But I need sleep too, or I'll fold in on myself and be useless, and I can't afford to waste this opportunity.

The Plan:

  1. Finish slashing-and-burning the SFD (most of Act 4; about 8 chapters)
  2. Organizational Session (new plot and character arcs, timeline the book so I can visualize everything and where the new material goes)
  3. More s-and-b (if necessary) based on the new outline
  4. Draft new material to fill in gaps/make changes
  5. Begin series of edits: character/POV, dialogue, IM, description, language & style, etc. (most of these on a scene-by-scene basis, and combined; this will be the majority of the time spent, as I – currently – have 35 chapters with an average of 4 scenes per)

If I don't get done in the two weeks I'll at least be *mostly* done, and rolling with some serious momentum.  Then I'll shoot for the end of October to have the HNCSD in the hands of betas.  That will give me about a month to make any final tweaks based on their comments and get it ready for submission.

I've decided I WILL submit, no matter what.  If I don't send anything, I disqualify myself from the competition and forfeit my entry fee.  If I submit – something, anything – who knows?  Maybe it will still be good enough.  If not, and I don't final or win, well…I'm still out the entry fee but I can try again next year with the same (presumably improved) MS, providing I don't publish in the meantime.  Honestly, I'd be okay with that eventuality.  *g*

In other words, I don't really have anything to lose by submitting, and possibly everything to gain.  But I still HOPE it will be ready and in tip-top shape, and I PLAN to make that happen.  We'll see.