August goals

Talkin’ ain’t doin’

Here it comes: actual, concrete goals to hold myself to. I’ll have to start with arbitrary numbers as I get back into the swing of things, and adjust as I go along. Naturally, I’ll try to push myself harder.

In terms of writing, I’d like to have a new novel outlined before August is up. That gives me three weeks, so I’ll set myself a goal of ten chapters outlined per week.

Revision is a little harder. I’m due for another reread of Yggdrasil to see what needs editing, cutting, and where new material needs to be fitted in. I can manage a reread in one week, then a second look over another week to target problem areas.

Of course, I’ll want to make hokey index cards to put on my corkboards to illustrate my progress with these goals. It helps to have them there, staring at me at all times.

I’ll be back next week with updates on my progress!

 

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Losing touch

Life is full of odd little twists and turns, isn’t it? I’m up against a major one right now, and in the process I’ve let myself lose touch with my inner writer. I’ve written only a few hundred words of Destiny, I haven’t been updating here regularly, and I feel sad because of it. I need to get back on the ball.

I have decided the tack to take with Yggdrasil is another full read from start to finish before coming back for notes. I had written a few things in the opening chapter, little bits of awkward and character inconsistencies, before I realized that I need to give the flow another look. I’ve got my fancy proof copy in my bag and will make my way through that during the commute to and from work. Honestly, sometimes I just take it out and look at it. I love the cover. I love the glossy finish. I love seeing my name in that impressive font.

I’ve given myself a three-day weekend, which I intend to use to carve out a huge chunk of Destiny. I’m thinking 5,000 words or more, I’ve certainly got the time. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t manage to quite make 5k, but I’m going to give it a serious effort.

I’ve really got to get my head back into this. It makes me happy, it makes me feel more like a proper person. This is what I want to do with my life. So long as I’m not doing it, I’m not really living, am I?

Second draft proofs are in!

Wow, I got all excited about my milestone, and then I just disappeared… sorry about that, folks. I’m back!

I got my proofs for the second draft of Climbing Yggdrasil! They came in much more quickly than I expected! I went with the glossy cover this time, the matte one looked all greasy even after a person with reasonably clean fingers handled it. Here’s a picture of the new proofs, complete with new cover (thanks again, Ellie!):

2nd draft proofs

I have to admit, I had a little emotion when I saw them. There was only one witness, however, and she didn’t manage to snap a picture. They’re gorgeous and I love them, but I wanted a little more time to distance myself from the revisions before launching into a new round of editing. There’s no law that says that I have to start editing as soon as I receive proofs, though. I’m likely going to sit on them for a little while, then crack one open and break out the vicious highlighters.

I really hope to have the next draft be the final one. I really need some external feedback, though. I’ve reached out to a few people, asked them to be as cruel as possible, expose all the flaws that are there. We’ll see what they turn up.

Next week is a return to my usual schedule: posts every few days ranging a variety of subjects, such as: goals, Yggdrasil, Destiny, etc.

Second draft of Climbing Yggdrasil

The second draft of Climbing Yggdrasil is finished!

yggdrasil ending

I had broken one chapter into three, in order to give the events of that chapter time to build and breathe. I really struggled with the second and third of those chapters, then I went off the scripted path and discovered meaning there, I ran with it, and it worked.

I came up with a “final” version of my blurb to send off to Ellie for the cover. Now that I have a page count, she can set the spine so that my next set of proofs has the proper cover.

I’m excited. There’s a vague sense of worry that maybe this excitement is premature. Maybe, once I read the second proof, I’ll see that this isn’t that much of a leap forward, that so much more work needs to be done. That’s tomorrow’s trouble, though, and the beauty of drafts is that I can take all the time I need to get it right.

I’m going to have a new proof copy in my hands within a few weeks! With my beautiful cover!

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!).

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.

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.

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.

Ripping the book apart

I can’t get over the separation that’s come between me and my first draft of Climbing Yggdrasil. I was just rereading a chapter, vaguely remembering what it was like to pound it out on the keyboard, and spotting little things that annoyed me about the text. Places where I was vague instead of expansive. Opportunities to do more, mostly.

As I read aloud to my husband, certain patterns emerge, things that seem a touch repetitive that I have to question. Then when I go back and reread it silently, I take notes and decide on what reinforces instead of repeats, what patterns are acceptable. In this latest chapter, our pilot’s parents reiterate a few times that they are happy the crew of theĀ Sylphid takes care of their boy. This seems normal for a couple of farming folk whose son goes gallivanting across the solar system for years at a time between visits. (I also counted each instance and didn’t get past three, so that doesn’t seem excessive to me.)

“Just as long as you keep my boy out of trouble,” Manda murmured.

Yet I am still a little stunned by the effect time has on writing. It’s still mine, but I feel no reluctance to tear it apart and twist it painfully into something better. I am better able to see it as a reader who demands satisfaction rather than the sensitive writer who is protective of his baby.

And it’s kind of fun to rip things apart. I’m curious to see how I’ll take criticism from my beta readers. It shouldn’t be hard, my husband has already brought up things I hadn’t thought of in the vein of, “The way you wrote it is good, but wouldn’t it make more senseĀ this way?”