The finish line is in sight

The second draft of Climbing Yggdrasil is all but finished. What remains is to fix the ending, which all happens rather quickly in the first draft. I did not build the suspense and let the events of the finale ring out as much as I should have. Upon reviewing the final chapter, I have found that it needs to be broken up into at least three chapters.

yggdrasil ending

Each of the colors except blue is getting its own chapter. The blue sections represent a different point of view that occurs at the same time as the action in the pink, green and yellow chapters. Notice that the green section takes up half a page, despite being the most important event of the novel. I remember being ready to just get the damn first draft over with, and so I hastily wrote the end instead of giving it the time it deserved.

New lesson learned: laziness in the first draft makes more work for the second. There is no getting away from doing what is necessary.

I drafted a new version of the blurb and have asked a few friends to give me their opinions. When I have taken all of their advice and used it to create a “final” version of the blurb, I will likely post it here and ask for comments. Once the blurb and second draft are finished, I can send the blurb and spine dimensions to Ellie to get a useable version of my cover. Then it’s off to CreateSpace to print up proofs of the second draft! I could have copies of my book with the new cover in my hand by early August!

In the interest of brevity and being better able to tag my posts accurately, I have decided to try to focus on one subject at a time. This means more posts! This also means categories will now contain more accurate posts going forward, so that I (readers) can find exactly what I’m (they’re) looking for instead of a bunch of posts covering two or three topics at once. This move has been inspired by my previous post, which I reblogged from Winter Bayne (thanks again!).

Typing is faster

I am nearly halfway done making edits in Climbing Yggdrasil. Progress has slowed somewhat as I’ve encountered elements that need a bit more work. Plot inconsistencies were easy enough to fix, but altering entire scenes and adding new content are a bit more difficult. Also, the blurb is tormenting me, though I have come up with a new angle of attack.

I had been feeling a bit off about not having done any writing lately. My efforts to write Project Destiny in a journal had ground to a halt. It had been difficult from the outset; I would spend most of a train ride home (which takes a little over an hour) writing only to discover that I had 600 or so words. Words I had to count. Writing in Scrivener is much more rewarding because of session targets. Every time I open the program, my goal is to write at least 1,000 words. Two days of writing have yielded a total count of over 6,000 words: the prologue and first chapter. I printed up a calendar to have a handy motivational tool pinned to the wall next to my desk. (It’s Wednesday evening as I write this, so no word count yet. Check the sidebar for more up-to-date progress.)

destiny words per day july 9

I also learned from my proof copy of Yggdrasil that I wanted an image to separate blocks of text, because images won’t be missed if breaks fall at the ends of pages, be they print or digital. This time I didn’t have to go hunting around online for an appropriate one: I’ve had eight of Destiny’s symbols tattooed on me for years now. This book (as I expect there will be more than one) will use the orange symbol. In the world of Destiny, orange represents the human soul, language, blood ties and oaths.

orange destiny separator

Getting proper narrative out again is wonderful. Editing remains, of course, rewarding and an integral part of the writing experience. No one wants to pay to read a rough draft. But let’s face it, spilling out those words is just more fun, especially when we get into the flow and they seem to tumble forth so easily. This is another advantage of using Scrivener over a pen, I can almost keep up with my thoughts. I don’t write longhand nearly fast enough, and when I try the words become an unintelligible jumble that I would find difficult to edit.

It feels weird to be steaming on ahead without being part of Camp NaNoWriMo, which is going on currently. There’s no reason why I couldn’t sign up now, though.

I neglected to mention this last week, but I created an author page for myself on Facebook. My posts from here are Publicized there, and I post random status updates here and there between posts. You can also check the sidebar here for the latest updates.

Making cuts, not second-guessing myself

The long weekend has been great for writing, I plan on keeping up the goals notebook as a source of motivation. I got the bulk of my work done on Saturday, which gives me hope that I can keep this up during ordinary weekends. I have five of those before my next stretch of time off.

One item on my list that I didn’t realize was such a tall order is the blurb for Yggdrasil. I have agonized, I have ask the advice of friends, and still I am not satisfied. I’ve poked around online and found that most writers hate writing blurbs, which comforts me somewhat. Comfort won’t get this damn thing written, though. I struggle with the idea of drawing in potential readers, and I can’t exactly write, “This story is interesting, trust me.” My name carries no weight to the vast majority of readers out there. This makes the blurb more important than the book in some ways.

I did a fair bit of work on the book itself. I finished importing my Yggdrasil notes to Scrivener and began working on the second draft. I scrapped a lot of text from the first chapter, so I combined it with chapter two to create a slightly longer introduction to Captain Renwright and her daring crew. Originally, I had a lengthy description of a mural in her bunk, the artistic representation of the central star Yggdrasil as a burning tree, complete with descriptions of the various worlds orbiting it. I suppose it was fine when I wrote it, but when I have a finished draft in which the crew of the Sylphid actually visits the worlds I blather on about in chapter one, it seemed redundant. So it’s gone. Forever.

Only… not quite. The great thing about using Scrivener is the ability to create snapshots. I created my first snapshot of each chapter as I finished it last year. I created a second after my notes were added, and a third to those chapters I’ve edited. It’s great for keeping me from second-guessing myself. It could be that I never roll back to a previous version, but knowing I can makes me braver about cuts and changes. After every major change, I take a snapshot of the chapter and move on.

One seemingly unimportant change I’ve made is to add a small graphic to separations of text. During editing, I stumbled across a break that happened at the bottom of a page; when I started the next page, it took me a moment to realize I had changed scenes. This is a common annoyance when I’m reading books on my Kobo; there is no symbol to indicate a separation of text, so when they end up at the bottom of the page they’re difficult to immediately notice.

It was a bit of a pain to find all such breaks in the text and insert the graphic I had chosen. Then I had to figure out how to tell Scrivener to keep the graphic centered when I output the file to eBook formats. That’s another lesson learned. Next, I’ll probably figure out how to make Scrivener output a perfect Word document formatted for upload to CreateSpace, with table of contents, headers and footers, etc.

The power of goals

Setting concrete goals for my writing this weekend has already helped me get off my ass. I feel this desire to one-up myself, to do better than what I said I would do. The only thing I haven’t touched so far is blog prep, because I feel like I have a lot of time left and I want to focus more on advancing my books. Yet here I am posting my second extra blog post of the week because I’m excited about goals.

goals progress

I’m especially pleased because it’s only Saturday, I haven’t even got to the extra days of this long weekend. I’m going to keep going and smash my original goals to pieces, then set more for the next arbitrary time period. Soon I’ll be setting word-count goals for Destiny (more on that later).

Now to go spend more time agonizing about Yggdrasil’s blurb. Folks, blurbs are difficult.

Back to Scrivener

I’ve just realized that I should begin preparing for the next step of revision, the actual edits to the draft in Scrivener. As I started copying my highlights and notes from my proof to my computer, I realized that these notes are not nearly enough information for me to properly produce a second draft. To that end, I went into the notecard view of my manuscript and printed it: I got the synopsis of every chapter, three per page, on twelve pages. My entire story on a dozen sheets with plenty of room to write thoughts, justifications and feelings.

cy synopses

These notes will be vital in determining which chapters stay and which go. I want to have a solid reason for keeping every chapter, and I also want to write where new chapters need to be inserted to tie up loose ends or explain things that happen too suddenly toward the end. I’m starting to think that I might need a reread of the draft just for this, ignoring all the notes I’ve made about character inconsistencies, plot details, holes in the world, etc. This chapter justification is probably something I should have done first, so that any cut chapters won’t have already been marked up with notes for edits. I’m still making the rules up as I go, though, and the best lessons will be learned from my own mistakes.

I have reached the end of my book, with two chapters and two interludes left to mark up. I’m mostly tempted to throw them out completely and write a new ending, though. While I deliberate, I will continue transferring my notes to Scrivener at a rate of two chapters at a time (it’s very boring work) in between watching music videos on YouTube and other timesinks. I can also begin rereading the book while making my chapter notes. I can do this on my Kobo so that my more specific notes in my physical copy aren’t too distracting. Also, it’s a new Kobo and any excuse to play with it is a good one.

I got my second proof from Creative Digital Studios today (yesterday, by the time this goes live) and am absolutely thrilled. I asked for a few more changes and should have the final result by Friday, which I will definitely have to post about. This will likely light a fire under my ass in terms of getting Draft #2 ready so that I can get my hands on a physical copy with my brand-new, professionally-designed cover.

Momentum

The excitement of receiving my proofs has provided great momentum for tackling the first revision of my novel. I’ve made it through 15 chapters so far, and expect to continue at this pace until I reach the end.

There are few pages that don’t have some sort of mark on them. I’m not specifically trying to find something wrong on each page, I just want to find as much as I can. I expect that once I get to the end of the book, though, I’ll have to go through again; none of my notes so far have anything to do with pace or plot points. I’ve printed up a table of contents with enough space to write notes about each chapter, weighing the level of conflict, if the chapter is necessary to the story or to a character’s development, if the chapter serves some other purpose or should be cut entirely. These are the notes I can’t seem to fit into the margins.

I’m finding it less difficult than I expected to ignore awkward phrasing and typos, though sometimes they make me laugh or smile in the train. My favorites so far are writing “probably” when I meant “probability” and a scene that contains a “conversational silence”. Such things happen when flying at a breakneck pace through a first draft. These types of errors will be addressed at the very end, if the words make the cut. No sense getting bogged down with spelling and semantics if they’re just going to be changed anyway.

tomodachi yggdrasil

One thing my first draft lacks is physical description of the characters. Over the course of writing the first draft, I came to have a good idea of what they looked like. Since I’ve been playing Tomodachi Life on the 3DS, I decided to create each of my characters on the island as Miis. It’s very silly, but I have a graphical representation of things like hair and eye color, height, and dress, to a certain extent; as a joke, I gave Kandace a captain’s uniform and Wendell a pair of pajamas.

Tomodachi Life also lets you program the personality of each islander with five axes: slow-quick (movement), polite-direct, flat-varied (expressiveness), serious-relaxed and quirky-normal. I feel like I know my characters pretty well by now, but this could be a useful barometer for determining whether certain actions or utterances are out-of-character.

Finally, I spent last week exchanging e-mails with the Ellie Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios, who is wonderfully prompt and professional and friendly with replies to inquiries. I paid a deposit and signed a contract last weekend for a book cover design. She sent me an image today of what she’s got so far, which has got me pretty excited. I want to stare at it a bit and mull it over before I get back to her with ideas for changes. I only get two more rounds of proofs at my quoted price, I want to make them count.

Proof copies

My proofs finally came in!

cy proofs

I honestly wasn’t expecting them to have the cover I’d made in the cover designer. I expected something plain with the title and “PROOF” across the diagonal in faded lettering. This is much more exciting than that.

I had them delivered to work, so naturally some coworkers saw and I have been officially outed as a writer. I still feel as though I want to establish myself before letting people around me know, as though they’ll judge me for not having proven my worth as a writer. No one so far has done that to me, though. “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s great! What do you write? When can I read it?” It’s enough to give a man the warm and fuzzies.

I have gotten in contact with Creative Digital Studios with some questions about how they work. I’m hoping to get a nice cover out of them, but there is always the issue of payment. My first inquiry got a reply with an estimate of around $300, which really isn’t that much. I kind of like the idea of getting something done soon, printing it out in color and sticking it on the wall behind my computer screen to inspire me. Hanging it in my office could be neat too.

cy proof notes

Now that I have a convenient, paperback version of my first draft, I can carry it around with me and make notes on the train. I’ve scribbled my color-code on the inside of the cover, but I’ve memorized it by now. I’ll be indicating what chapter I’ve marked up to on the sidebar, more for me than for anyone else, but it’s there if you want to look at it.

The convenience of the proof does not in any way approach the awesome feeling of having a physical book in my possession with my name on it. All it took (apart from writing the thing) was a little bit of formatting, slapping together the preliminary cover, a credit card payment and time. It has the print date at the back; I received the proofs three weeks after printing. It printed the same day I ordered it.

I’m one step closer to having a finished, polished product.

Those Liebster Awards again

I have once again been nominated for a Liebster Award, this time by Janna Kaixer. I thank you for the nomination, but I have particular feelings about the Liebster Awards and I should write something about that on my About Me page.

However, I am grateful for the thought and I will answer your questions here, Janna.

1. Why do you write?

I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember, and I feel an immense gratification in getting them down on paper and having other people read them. Apart from creative writing, I also journal to sort out all the crazy in my head so I can regain my grip on reality.

2. What do you hope to achieve with your writing? (E.g. raise awareness of something, tell a story, teach a lesson…)

I’m in it for the stories. I couldn’t agree more with Neil Gaiman’s, “We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

3. If you could go back in time and give yourself some writing advice what would it be?

“Don’t stop writing for anything. Yes, your university courseload is heavy, yes you work a part-time job, but you owe it to yourself to write and write often. Daily. At any chance you can get. Also, don’t wait until you’re 26 to give NaNoWriMo a shot.”

4. Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what sort of music?

I tend to listen to my current obsession, though I noticed a trend toward more electronic-themed music as I worked on Climbing Yggdrasil where I lean more toward ethereal vocals for fantasy writing. There was a time when I would listen to Of Monsters and Men’s “My Head is an Animal” every time I sat down to work on Project: Destiny.

5. Where do you get your ideas from?

Questions, mostly. The main idea for Climbing Yggdrasil came when I was watching Firefly and wondered, “How does the Cortex work? How do they transmit data quickly across all that space?” I read about Ursula K. LeGuin’s ansible and how it got adopted into sci-fi lore by many authors, but I wanted something more sinister and came up with synchronizers.

6. What is your writing process? Are you a pantser, a plotter or a mixture?

I used to be a pantser, but I would inevitably get stuck and lose hope, then start over. I decided to plot last year before NaNoWriMo; I wrote chapter outlines for what I now consider to be Part Two of Climbing Yggdrasil, then I went back and plotted Parts One and Three. I like having an outline to guide me, but I’m not afraid to deviate and plot anew.

7. Where do you write best? (E.g. at your desk, in bed, in a cafe…)

I don’t really have a specific place, they all have certain advantages. Home is nice because it’s comfortable and I don’t need headphones to listen to music. A café is nice because it doesn’t have all the distractions I have at home. I can say that I do my worst writing in bed, as I can’t get comfortable and have to keep shifting as I write.

8. Is there anyone that keeps you writing despite struggles? If so, who?

During NaNoWriMo last year, my husband was very good about telling me to go write when he could see I hadn’t done any writing that day. In the past few months, I’ve been good at pushing myself, though I need to get back on track, my writing has slowed dramatically in the past few weeks.

9. If you could meet any Author who would it be?

I’d love to meet Neil Gaiman, and I’m absolutely certain I would be starstruck and bashful and unable to discuss anything worthwhile.

10. What is your favourite book of all time?

Sabriel by Garth Nix. I reread it once a year on average. It was this book that taught me that magic must make sense and have rules, even if the reader does not know all of them. I also love Death as it appears in that world.

Editing at last

Now that I’ve read through Climbing Yggdrasil once, I’m ready to go back with my pen raised and mark the hell out of it. I have post-it flags and matching highlighters in four colors, so I’ve decided to focus on four elements for this next run.

Story
This is the big one. Does the scene or chapter advance the story? Is it consistent with what has gone before? Does a scene foreshadow something coming later? Does it make sense? Where I’m going to have the most work with this one is the opening chapters of the book. When I began the story, I excitedly babbled about it to a friend who asked me, “Why did you start it there? Shouldn’t you have begun earlier?” My original starting point is now chapter eight, so the beginning of the book came after I had already written several chapters, causing consistency errors.

Character
Do the characters show any development over time? Are they consistent? Are their actions convincing given their personalities? Do their actions reveal feelings and thoughts? I feel like the synchronizer and the captain are the only characters that show any change over time as of this moment, and that should change. I’m not saying every character should change by the end of the story, but they have to feel realistic and show realistic growth as they endure their trials. I also have two characters who are pretty much interchangeable in most situations, so I should to more to make them distinct from one another.

Show / Tell
Every writer knows (or should know) this one: show, don’t tell. I’ll be paying particular attention to adjectives and adverbs; they aren’t evil, but their use needs to be justified and occasional. I also want to focus on dialogue tags, trying to work adjectives or actions there into the dialogue so that what the character says reveals something about what’s going on.

The World
Is there enough detail? History? Religion? Does the story give the reader an accurate picture of the setting? Show and tell is very important here, too. It’s important not to bore the reader with pages of history and description, but rather show off the world as the characters explore the solar system, and let the reader infer certain things rather than smack them with statements.

I had originally wondered if each element would get its own reread, but I don’t think I can work that way. I think I’ll be doing multiple rereads and edits, each time trying to find more to correct until I have it as close to perfect as I can get it. I’ll make a snapshot of each version in Scrivener just in case, but I think I’ll do my best to refrain from restoring cut material.

It’s so strange to be making all this up as I go along, but until I try it a certain way, I have no idea if it works for me.

Cover art and self publishing

I have uploaded my first draft of Climbing Yggdrasil to CreateSpace, designed a cover, and ordered proof copies for scribbling in. They’ve estimated I should have them by June 2, in time for me to start a second read-through looking for problems to correct. The book is not as frighteningly bad as I expected it to be, I actually came up with some good stuff somehow! I was most concerned about the end, because I kind of rushed through the last few chapters. The chapters themselves don’t feel rushed, but it’s clear there ought to be more chapters between the ones I have to flesh certain things out so that the reader doesn’t think, “Wait, when did that happen?”

climbing yggdrasil

This generic cover won’t do for final publication; I’ve done some looking into professional cover designers and really liked what I saw over at Creative Digital Studios, but it comes down to being able to justify paying for it. There are other avenues to pursue, and I believe I’m still early enough in the editing process that I shouldn’t be rushing to have a nicer cover done just yet.

I think in the beginning of this whole adventure, back in November when I realized I would actually make it to 50,000 words and finish a book for once, I wanted to try getting it published through traditional channels. Then one of the winner goodies from NaNoWriMo was a code good for two paperback copies of my book through CreateSpace, so I started checking them out and learned how easy it is to self-publish that way. After a message to customer support, I learned that this code is not valid for proof copies; I would have to submit my book for publication in order to redeem two free copies of the final product. I don’t think I’ll be ready by the time the code expires.

The more I played with CreateSpace, the more attractive the idea of self-publishing my first novel became. This wouldn’t mean I couldn’t try a later book through a publisher; it might even help to have a self-published book floating out there (assuming it gets positive reviews; I’ll have to make sure it’s good enough to do that). I could be entirely wrong, publishers might look at a self-published author as some kind of terrible amateur who has no business trying to gain traction in the world of traditional publishing.

I just want to get my work out there for people to read, though. I’d like to have a final draft polished and ready to go up on CreateSpace by November. I should probably figure out what I’m going to do about a cover in the coming months, then.

Anyone have experience with publishing, self or otherwise? What has that been like for you?