Tag Archives: revision work

Author! Author! Where have you been?

Where I write

Writing! she shouted. Yes, it’s been over two months since my last post here and I must apologize for the silence. But I’ve been writing. Yes. Writing. Just not blog posts.

What have I been writing? Perceval’s Shadow, the first revision. It’s done. I finished the edits. I finished entering the edits into the computer. Then I created the notes for the second revision and began sorting through my Perceval series files to find the working file and first draft files for Perceval in Love, the third novel in the series. The working file bulges with notes, research articles, photos, questions, and doodles. I had completed nine chapters of the first draft in 2007-8. My rough outline imagines a good 23 chapters. I have my work cut out for me.

The first step is to read through all the notes and piece together what was in my mind all those years ago. The next step will be to read through those first nine chapters. At that point, I hope to dive right into chapter ten.

But I haven’t been working only on the Perceval series. Last weekend I read aloud and edited the sci fi novella that I finished a while ago. It was the third draft. Reading it aloud allowed me to hear all sorts of awkwardness and mistakes that I’d made, showed me where I needed to punch up the action or tone it down. And I incorporated the feedback from beta readers that I’d gotten in March. I read it aloud over two days. This morning, I went through the edits and entered them into what is now the fourth draft of the novella. I’m feeling solid about it, in my bones that it’s as done as it’s going to be. So, stay tuned for what will happen next with it!

I miss June when I was at home recuperating and not working fulltime. No, I didn’t write a word during that month, but of course now I wish I had. My mind and its response to illness fascinates me. I know when I am really ill because I cannot read and I cannot write. Probably because I don’t regard writing and reading as distractions like TV or movies. When I am ill, I seek distraction so I watch a lot of old TV and movies, binge watch British mystery TV and spy shows. When I am ill, I have time, and my mind focuses on supporting my body in its healing. Nothing must interfere.

My plan going forward? Perceval in Love. And I’ll search for an editor to go over Perceval’s Shadow after I finish the third revision. I am happy to be writing (and reading) again and my mind has changed its focus. A surprise earlier this past week left me shocked: I had Googled my name and the results showed me that other writers had been quoting my writing (giving me credit, which pleased me). The quotes were from essays I’d written about classical music for ClassicalMPR.org. I had no idea that this was happening! How lovely.

I’m Back…I Think

My last post was almost a month ago?! My, how time flies. But at least my news is good this time. My physical recovery has been positive and steady. I’m back at my job, working a reduced hour schedule and working my way up to my regular work schedule. And, more importantly, I’m back to work on Perceval’s Shadow. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get back into my writer’s mind, and to reassure my imagination that it is indeed safe to come out again and play.

I’m now working on the last three chapters. They represent the climax and the resolution to the story. What I’ve noticed especially in the climax chapter is the imprecise description of the first draft, and struggling with making the words I choose create a more precise description of the action and landscape in which it’s happening. For example, Evan Quinn, the main character, is wearing a wool winter coat, jeans, a wool sweater and cotton shirt as well as wool socks and loafers. During the action, he’s forced to jump into a canal in order to save himself. Originally, I had him swimming easily around in the canal. But then I realized, no, how could he be swimming that easily when he’s wearing a wool coat and all those clothes? I’ve had the experience of being in water fully clothed — only once in my life — and the saturated material becomes heavy fast and weighs far more than expected. A knee-length wool coat (on a guy who’s 6 feet 3 or 4 inches tall) would really weigh him down.

Another thing I’m discovering is that I didn’t flesh out the description of locations at all. I guess when I wrote the first draft, I was thinking that I’d do all that writing work during the revision process, eh? While I don’t want to spend too much time and words on location descriptions, I do want to set the scene physically in some way. The location of each scene functions as the stage on which the characters play out the scene. Much can be left to the reader’s imagination as long as I come up with the right, evocative images. Hard work.

Finally, I can say honestly that I’m pleased with the character development I worked so hard on in the first draft. At least I haven’t had to do much work on that. There were some changes in the relationships, but overall, the characters, especially Evan Quinn, are where I want them to be by the end. I’ve got a bit more research to do, especially about Copenhagen, Denmark, and to finish the last three chapters. Then I’ll be entering all the edits for chapter 11 through chapter 23, and I expect I’ll be doing some more editing during that process. My new deadline to finish all this work on Perceval’s Shadow is September 1. At that point, I’ll put it away and work on Novel #3 in the series, Perceval in Love. I have the first draft of the third novel about half completed. I’m looking forward to exercising the part of my brain and imagination I use to write first drafts to finish the first draft of this novel.

It just feels so GOOD to be writing again.

The Different Types of Editing Explained

One of the prevalent strains of flu knocked me off my feet this past week and I’m still recovering. As a result, I have not done much writing, but I have tried to keep up with email. I ran across an interesting blog post at “Writer UnBoxed” that defines and explains the different types of editing. There wasn’t a reblog button, so the link is here.

Professional writers need to know about the different types of editing in order to hire the right kind of editor for their books when the time comes for the professional editing process to begin. I would dearly love to find an editor who could stay with me for all my novels, who could do a developmental edit as well as copy editing. An excellent professional editor is like gold. But there’s more to it than just being able to edit, I’ve discovered. It’s also important that the editor have an interest in the kind of writing I do, the subjects of my writing, and be open to learning if the knowledge is not yet there. It can be a disaster if an editor just doesn’t get your subject matter or has no interest in it.

More soon….

First Draft: Write short or Write long?

The last few weeks I’ve been working hard on the revision work for Perceval’s Shadow.  The work has progressed like a snail moving to the other side of the yard. Why? That’s been bugging me. Why is it so slow? Then I received the January 2019 issue of The Writer, and I found an article inside entitled “Go long & cut, or write short & add?” Aha! This article sparked some serious thinking about my approach to this first draft vs. the way I wrote the first draft of Perceval’s Secret.

I wrote the first draft of Perceval’s Secret by throwing down on paper every thought, idea, description, and scene that came into my head. I remember during the revision process I also discovered that I’d repeated myself often, and cut every repetition I found. I also had a fondness for certain words that I used over and over. They were all cut as well. The point: I wrote that novel so long I ended up cutting thousands of words. That was before I did a line edit where I tightened up the writing, cutting thousands more words.

Perceval’s Secret was my first novel. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I wrote my way into it and then sculpted the story out of the gigantic first draft I’d created. It took many drafts and revisions before I got to a point where I thought maybe I finally had the novel that was really there. If you haven’t been through this process, it’s difficult to imagine the months upon months of work or the sense of uncertainty and inadequacy it produces in a person. I remember thinking when I finished that I really didn’t want to experience that again.

So, when I wrote the first draft of Perceval’s Shadow, I wanted first and foremost to get the story down with all the important plot points. So, I left out description, transitions, and in some sections, whole scenes. I even left out at least one chapter. I wrote copious notes about what I was thinking at the time, and also ideas of what would need to be added in order to flesh out the story and characters. I wrote that first draft short with the intention of adding during the revision process. That decision is the reason my progress with this first revision progresses at such a snail’s pace.

The uncertainty and sense of inadequacy I felt working on the first draft of Perceval’s Secret pales in comparison to the frustration I feel working on the first draft of Perceval’s Shadow. I wish I had written this first draft much, much longer. I’ve discovered that I prefer to cut rather than to add. For one thing, despite all the notes I left myself, I’m not at all certain that I’m filling in the gaps in the same way I would have when I wrote the draft originally. On the other hand, I’ve gained knowledge and snippets of wisdom in the time since I wrote that first draft, and I’m bringing a more mature perspective to the characters and their motivations.

Where I write

Conclusion: I’ve learned that I’d rather cut than add during the revision process. By experiencing both ways of writing a first draft, I’ve gained valuable knowledge about myself as a writer and my approach to revision work. I’ve written half of the first draft of Perceval in Love. I think when I return to finish that draft, I’m going to be filling in the gaps in the first half and adding everything I can think of for that story as I finish it. In the meantime, I continue to slog on with the revision work for Perceval’s Shadow.

P. S. My goal was to finish the first 12 chapters of Perceval’s Shadow, or half the novel, by December 31, 2018. As it stands now, I’ll come very close, but still won’t achieve that goal. Not that I’m going to throw up my hands and give up as a result. I love revision work too much….

Perceval’s Shadow: Revision Work 3

My revision work has begun to settle into a kind of routine: I work on a hard copy of a chapter, making changes in ink by hand. Every couple of chapters completed this way I boot up the computer and enter a “new” file for each revised chapter that I date once I’ve finished entering the changes into the electronic document. This gives the work a rhythm between handwriting and thinking over the hard copy and typing. Of course, I’m also editing as I’m typing. This revision work, though, swings and sashays along.

Then I hit a big hole. I suspected it was coming, but it wasn’t totally clear until I stood at the edge of it looking down into nothing. I needed to add a chapter that would reveal character, develop the relationship between two characters, and reveal an inner conflict. I was nervous. It’s been a long time since I have drafted anything new for this novel. Would I be able to recapture the tone of the prose, the pacing, the voice? I put it off a bit, then when I had a full day off from my job, I sat down at my computer and began working.

Where I write

The whole day surprised me. I was so afraid that I would struggle and struggle to get anything down before I sat at the computer. But then something happened. Looking at that blank page on the computer screen switched on that part of my brain that’s been working on that chapter for months behind the scenes. The words just gushed out of me. I wasn’t even thinking about the structure of the chapter, just focused on typing as fast as the words came. By the end of the day, I’d written 2500 words — a daily record for me.

What did I have then at the end of that day?

Two short scenes and the beginning of a long tracking shot scene. I showed Evan dealing with the aftermath of the chapter 1 event. I showed him interacting with his British artist manager and his Spanish cousin. And there is an emotional change that I hadn’t known was coming until it was upon me. But I realized that this specific change was actually the reason this new chapter is important. And there’s a tension in this chapter that I hadn’t expected as well.

I haven’t yet completed this new chapter. It may require a couple more days of work. This writing has stopped the revision work, but it’s also a crucial part of it. I had known that I may need to write some new scenes or whole chapters for this first revision. My experience with this new material flowing out of me reassures me that it is something the novel definitely needs.

First drafts surprise as they appear like magic out of the imagination, but that magic continues during the revision process. I have this image of my imagination as a laughing child, giddy with play, having a blast as I work. That’s certainly what it feels like in my mind. And then there’s that tingling feeling that cascades through my body when I write something — that’s when I know it’s absolutely right. It’s a wonderful feeling.