Editing is Finally Going Well

Stone Arch

I know I said that before, but it is… I’m more than halfway through my first edit pass on Resource Economies. I’ve identified a couple of minor issues and one major one in terms of structure, but nothing that I would call a show stopper if it was software instead of book writing. My main concern is something that may or may not be a major issue. I have two main plots, and they don’t really intersect. I’m worried about that, but I think I will leave that to beta readers. I think both are good, and both affect the story arcs in a major way.

The core theme is the interaction of two civilizations, one of which is steeped in superstition and ignorance, the other which is trying to move forward, even if it is often not doing so terribly well. Both plotlines reflect that struggle and come out of it. The main thing is that one of the struggles is more of a struggle and the other one is less of a struggle. I hope people will enjoy both. Oh, the one with less struggle might be darker than the one with more struggle. Nothing comes without a price.

I will be posting some excerpts from Resource Economies as I get edits done. Just teasers, it won’t be free on the site unless people decide to do the patreon thing… sorry, I’m trying to make a living at this stuff.

Having said that, there is a lot of things I think are valuable in the book – I actually plan to post some excerpts to the survival subreddit, because it has some concrete survival tips. So does A Long Walk come to think of it… maybe I should post it there.

I’m trying to work out the marketing as I do the editing. I think dipping back into that world has really inspired me. I miss that world, the simplicity of it. I love the Jenny Dark stuff, but it’s definitely more grey when it comes to who needs to be killed. Zombies are pretty obviously not worth worrying about.

This post is going to get well and truly rambly now.

I had a few ideas for things to add to the World of the Dead books. One that’s high in my mind is a book about a kid who survives the apocalypse by hiding out in a hunting camp (modelled after my families camp) but doesn’t run into another living person for five years, when he meets a girl around his age who is also a survivor. It’s kind of a survival romance concept, with a lot of the focus being on the two of them growing to know each other. By this point, they would be around seventeen or eighteen.

I also want to do a series of stories set in the city of New Hope, the largest human stronghold left after the zombies (yes, it is named after the movie… one of the founders of the city is a huge nerd). Kind of slice of life stories in a city where anyone who dies comes back as a zombie and resources are stretched to their limit.

So, that’s stuff that’s being added to my writing queue.

I’ll get to them someday.

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Today is an Editing Day

Woman with Sword

I’m behind in my editing. I have a couple of novels that are halfway through editing, two more that are ready for it. I have an easy time writing, at least usually, but I find editing to be a huge pain.

I created the story… it’s a good story. Why do I have to go back and do more story? I know, that’s a silly way to look at it, but it’s kind of built into me.

See, I’m not a writer. I mean, sure, I am. I write stuff. But what I really am is a storyteller. Everything is about telling the story. Editing isn’t storytelling. Sure, you get a better story out of the end, but it’s being a critic, picking apart a story, figuring out what makes the story work and what doesn’t. Telling a story is different, to tell the story you have to turn off your critic, you have to just tell it, not overthink.

Sometimes I think maybe Dean Wesley Smith has the right idea, don’t do story edits, don’t try to silence that inner storyteller, instead focus on line edits. Get the grammar right, get the spelling right, trust your storytelling voice.

Of course, then I think about the first draft of A Long Walk, and I realise that’s a very stupid idea… I mean, I had a single POV, many of the events happened in a different order. Different people died. The ending was different (the general tone was the same, but the details were quite different).

So, I think it’s an issue for me, I need to get comfortable with editing, and I’m still not there. No matter how much I try to be I go through periods where I start to get into editing mode, do it for a bit, and then go chasing the next shiny story idea.

See, I did it again. I spent most of the day on Medium or on programming tasks… I’m just updating this now at the end of my day. Yeah, I have to get more comfortable with editing. Two hours tomorrow, no matter what else happens. I have a medical appointment and I will take my draft, force myself to sit at a cafe with my highlighters and no computer. Stick my phone in my bag… that should do the trick.

Sad when I have to trick myself to be able to do such an important part of my job though.

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NaNoWriMo – A Look Back

A Man on a Misty Road

This isn’t going to be one of those posts I’ve been doing, you know, a few words on NaNoWriMo and my progress. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I learned this time, what I think of NaNoWriMo as a whole, and some general thoughts.

Over the course of NaNoWriMo this year I finished the first draft of my fourth novel. Now, interestingly, I have some changes to make to it, but I don’t think there will be many story edits. I outlined the hell out of it, so I knew exactly what was going to happen in each chapter, what the arcs were, who the characters were going to be at the beginning and who they were going to be at the end. A few things changed during the story, but that was mostly events happening slightly sooner or later. I do mean slightly. The biggest shift was one chapter earlier or later.

This is a far cry from my last successful NaNoWriMo two years ago, where I actually reworked the novel from a single perspective to multiple perspectives, changed the ending to better reflect the characters I had built, and overall made the novel a completely different beast.

So, I guess my first lesson was that being a plotter is good. The writing didn’t lose anything, in fact, I think it gained something.

Most of my edits will be line edits, but there are going to be a lot of line edits. I will need to rework the language, the dialogue, the descriptions. All of that could be much better than it is right now, and it will be.

I’m also in a weird position. The book I just finished is technically a sequel. The first book isn’t written though. I put it on hold because of NaNoWriMo.

I also realised that I like to switch projects – one or two from a series, then move to something else. I can get back to it, and I have lots and lots of stuff planned for the world of the dead series, I have my Nic Styx series planned and I’m totally excited to work on that. I have a lot of stand-alone stuff as well. I’m also thinking about revisiting Spellcraft and Heavy Artillery – I have the planned structure and I’m at about a quarter of the way in. I’m thinking of releasing that as a series of shorter e-books, each one being basically a Novella. That way I can have frequent releases.

These are all thoughts that have come out of the NaNoWriMo process.

Some thoughts on it in general: There are a lot of writers out there, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily great for those of us in the business to have the market flooding with new stuff a few months after November every year. On the other hand, I think having more stories in the world is a good thing and I’m happy about it. I think the number of books for sale and the highly competitive market has more to do with Amazon than it does NaNoWriMo. Also, my first time doing it is what showed me I could finish a project on that scale. I would never have gone down this path without it.

If you are thinking of doing NaNoWriMo I recommend giving it a shot, see what kind of story you have inside you.

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Embracing Structure

Blue Light over Blue Water

Every novel has structure. Doesn’t matter if you want it to or not, it’s there. Building a novel without structure is very close to impossible (Will Self seems to have managed it once or twice, but he’s Will Self). You have two choices when it comes to structuring your story, either you decide what it is, or you discover what it is.

I used to reject the idea of planning it. My first novel was written without a plan at all, and it’s decent, but I mostly rewrote it once I finished it. I took the entire thing and changed the perspective on a bunch of chapters, removed whole sections, added new ones. It was a massive overhaul.

The sequel, Resource Economies was a tiny bit more structured, but not much. At least I had many of the elements of the series created, I knew for example that the viewpoint would be third person and that I would be using a limited number of viewpoint characters that would get their own chapters, and that to achieve that I would make the major viewpoint characters each get a full chapter right off the bat. I still have a lot of edits I need to do to make the structure work though because I didn’t plot it out very well. Just an overview.

Now, for A Long Walk, it didn’t hurt the story, I knew the story. For Resource Economies it did hurt the narrative, and I have things I have to fix now.

I plotted An Accusation a lot more. Now, I did discover a flaw in my plot about halfway through the book and had to adjust. It was a matter of characters acting out of character to make the original plot work, so it needed to be corrected because the characters behaving the way they should is too important to discard. It took a bunch of effort. I wrote myself into a corner Roseanne final season style. I figured out a way to fix it without it having been a dream or a story written by the MC (how do you make a character lose all of his money? Drugs. It was entirely in keeping with the established storyline too, since a lot of the story is in fact about addiction). So, plotting didn’t work against me, and in fact getting back on track made the story richer and more in-depth.

Right now I have plots for Jenny Dark books 1 and 2. The plots are written out in terms of chapters and scenes, as well as around how much space each one should take up. They are divided into acts.

All told writing the plot outline for book 1 took me a couple of days. It has been adjusted a couple of times during writing because it’s okay to adjust when you have a new idea, but overall it’s what I originally came up with.

The plot for book 2 took me fifteen minutes. Not really, but that’s how long I spent writing the outline. I have had the idea for months, and it’s been rolling around in my brain for all that time. The actual writing was quick.

Here’s the thing, I’m writing book 2 for NaNoWriMo. It’s my project. I’m not going to be finished book 1. I will be a long way in, but not quite at the end. If I didn’t have these outline I couldn’t do that, but I know where book 1 ends, and I know how it influences book 2. Making them connect isn’t hard, and I have enough written to make it work. By the time I do book 2 for NaNoWriMo, I will be a couple of chapters shy of finishing book 1, and I know exactly what’s in those chapters. It’s a matter of adding the prose.

So, that’s why I’m a plotter now, why I’ve gone from total freeform to a reasonably detailed structure and outline. If you are a pantser right now, try it. It might not work for you, but it might. It did for me.

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Editing Resource Economies

A Building by the Beach

I’m doing edits to both A Long Walk and Resource Economies right now. The edits are going better than I expected, but I’m discovering something that shocks me… Resource Economies is better than I expected so far. Now, admittedly I’m still near the beginning of the book and the main action is still to come. Big issue: My main character is a bit weak. I have to beef up his sections some, give him more of an early role. I think not introducing him in the first chapter was a mistake, and I can’t just swap chapters one and two, there are elements in chapter two that need to come after chapter one. However, what I can do is add a new first chapter that introduces Chad and gives him a bit more backstory. It works better anyway because I was a bit tell and not enough show with how I introduced him.

There are huge portions needing rewriting. Every page is covered in highlighter (every page I’ve gotten through at least) but that’s cool, that’s what I expected. There are also a couple of story issues, but I expected that. What is gratifying is that the story is more engaging than I had expected it to be. I find myself getting drawn in despite myself, despite knowing what’s going to happen. It’s a strong opening than A Long Walk (although that’s getting an upgrade too – the amount of highlighter in the first chapter of a long walk is incredible).

I’m enjoying the process, which is a change, just a few days ago I was complaining about being scared of it. I think I was worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew regarding editing, but now I’m hitting my stride and it seems possible.

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I’m Scared of Editing

Purple Lights

I have two books in editing and a third almost there. I’m doing this round of editing, I haven’t sent them out yet, although I will be doing so. It’s a terrifying thing for me, and one I haven’t faced entirely. I need to go through these books and re-read them, then figure out what works and what doesn’t. That idea is scary because I’m afraid I won’t recognise it. I’m afraid that I will see things that are crap as good and things that are alright as crap. I’m not afraid of the second one because whatever… if things get cut it’s all good.

I have a bad habit of telling too much in my first draft; I don’t use enough description. My first draft is usually shorter than subsequent drafts, and I don’t use enough description in those drafts either. That’s my big fear; that I won’t add enough to the subsequent drafts. I need to slow down my scenes.

Second biggest fear is around clarity. I need my stories to be tight, focused. When I read I like meandering stories that have strange moments where the main characters go for a picnic or something; I like the plot to come organically, with moments that don’t relate. Maybe that’s part of why I hate the everything’s related trope more than almost any other trope (there is no reason why the villain needs to be the protagonist’s long-lost half-brother, and it cheapens the story. The last time this trope was effective was The Empire Strikes Backs). It is a shortcut to having to create motivations and characters that are likeable. To me the meandering makes me relate more to the characters, but I get that for most people that’s not the case. It means I have to change my ways of doing things.

So, editing is scarier than writing for me. That’s probably also because I don’t find writing 2500 hundred words a day a hard thing to do. I am however a slow as molasses editor; it’s a new skill for me.

So, wish me luck!

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The Story Grid

Pussy Willow

I’ve been reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne the last couple of days. It’s part of my quest to become a better writer, and I am adding it to the curriculum for my become a better writer course (I’m the only one who is taking this course).

I’m impressed with it. It’s a great way to develop a story, at least so far. I’m about a third in, and I’m already learning more about the books I’m currently writing and getting a lot of ideas for how to plot my upcoming books. I have eight or nine books planned (as in I know the story, the ending, and the main characters). This method has allowed me to figure out what I’m doing in a great deal more detail.

There is a lot of insight there, and it’s clear that Shawn Coyne is a very, very knowledgeable editor. He’s focused on story edits, and the story grid is about story edits, not line edits. Grammarly takes care of most of my line edits – it’s pretty amazing how effective it is. Anyway, back to the story grid.

I will be able to say more once I finish the story grid, but so far I’ve completely and totally revamped the way I have plotted my existing books, mostly I fit the stories onto the grid, and that gave me a clear picture of where I was missing, where I was inconsistent.

I think I will be able to create much better stories using this method, and I highly recommend the system to anyone.

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Grammarly for Automated Editing

Distant Misty Shores

I just got myself a copy of Grammarly Premium. Finally spent the money and picked it up. So far it’s excellent. No, I don’t agree with everything it says… it seems to have an issue with tense from time to time (I am writing my current novel past tense, Grammarly keeps trying to make individual words present tense where it makes no sense), but it helps a great deal. There is a very legitimate case to be made for spending the money if you want to be a professional writer.

I started going through A Long Walk, and there are many, many improvements recommended. A Long Walk is in pretty good shape for story edits, so it’s mostly line edits that it needs. I think that using Grammarly; I will be able to take care of ninety percent of them. Of course, it doesn’t do everything right Sometimes it does things that are very strange. Above it tried to change line to lined. That would make absolutely no sense.

Anyway, a new tool for my toolkit. I look forward to using it, and with any luck, the content of this blog will improve as well!

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Book Length

Cloudy Skies Reflected on a Wet Beach

A Long Walk is a fairly short novel. It’s a bit over sixty thousand words. The sequel, Resource Economies, is a little over seventy-four thousand words. My books actually tend to grow a little bit in second draft. Of course, I cut but I also grow things. My first drafts are sparse, word light. I do them to get the ideas out, to make the scenes exist. Second draft I usually add a lot of description, more sense writing, more details. For example, A Long Walk started at just over fifty thousand words and by the time I had the second draft it was over sixty. I suspect that Resource Economies will grow more than A Long Walk did (I’m basing this on what I wrote and what I want to add right now).

Also, A Long Walk is going into revisions for the second edition. I know it will grow. One thing that I should have done better is more detailed violence and gore. I will be adding to it. It might end up being another ten thousand words, maybe only a thousand… I don’t know yet.

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A Second Edition

A Misty Road in the Morning

When I publish Resource Economies I will also be re-releasing A Long Walk. There are a few edits I have found, and there are some typos and the like in the prior version. Also, the dedication makes no sense anymore.

Because I’m doing the line edits anyway I’m going to tackle structure and story edits. There are a few changes I would like to make. They aren’t strictly speaking essential, but I feel like they would improve the novel. I will be adding to the action sequences, making them more visceral. I will also be making it clearer where the antagonist is coming from. There are some subtle details that I don’t think anyone has picked up on (at least nobody has mentioned them). I might or might not make them less subtle.

Anyway, it’s a big change. It will also come with a new cover, although I haven’t decided what it will be yet. I’m thinking something like Jasper and Naomi back to back with zombies closing in, maybe Robert in the background semi-transparent.

Whatever I do, I have to do it, I have to create that image. Trying to decide if I need to break out the pencils and digital ink kit or hire someone to create it, either in photos or illustrated. I could also shoot it myself, would involve hiring three models and a studio. Hell, I could throw in Mona. Okay, I think I know what I want to shoot now. Thanks, this has been a very helpful conversation šŸ˜‰

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