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.

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.