Tag Archives: revisions

Winter Sunday Stats #6: Breaking Through 200 Two Times.

As you all know, it has been a pretty eventful week.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on it since I’ve already posted about it, but — just in case you’ve been living under a rock or something — I’ll give it a quick mention:  I posted my two-hundredth entry on this blog on Thursday.  Not too shabby, I should think.

There was that big thing in Washington, too, but that’s over and wasn’t about me.

On to the stats:

On Writing:  The writing stat for the week is 62, which is the number of pages of Meet the Larssons I have revised since last week’s post.  I have revised 204 pages so far, which is the second milestone “200” I broke through this week.  I just hope I can get through page 300 before blog post #300.

The price of burning through 62 pages of revisions is that I didn’t do anything on the outline for Project Hometown or to finish the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”  I’m going to be traveling most of this week for work (someplace warm!), but I may have a little time to write in the evenings.  If I do, I’ll probably work on “Jamie’s Story,” although I may just bring pages of MTL to mark up.

On Running: Today wasn’t bad.  It was 4 degrees (F) when I started my run at 11am (it’s up to 7 as I write this), so once again I was on the treadmill.  I ran 7.37 miles in an hour even (8:08 m/m), which is pretty good.  I got a couple of short runs in during the week, including my first hill workout in over a month.  I didn’t make 20 miles for the week, but I’m definitely getting back into running shape.

The only hitch is that my knee did something odd and painful last night.  I’m not even sure what I was doing — possibly standing up from putting in the DVD for family movie night (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, if you’re wondering) — but nothing memorable.  The pain lasted a little while, fading over about 15 minutes, and felt like it was possibly a pulled tendon or ligament on the inside of the leg, just below the joint.  It didn’t bother me during my run this morning, but it felt very stiff when I was done.  Stretching helped, and I’ll ice it tonight.  But the long plane ride tomorrow makes me a little nervous.

On the iPod: I liked Scott Sigler’s Earthcore so much I downloaded his next book, Ancestor, this week and started listening to it, and I’m already sucked in.  Scott’s entertained me enough already for free, so when I get back from my trip I’m going to pick up copies of Infected and Contagious at the bookstore.  I also listened to I Should Be Writing #109 (interview with Scott Sigler — these new media types are everywhere when they’ve got a new book out), Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 15 (Knowing When to Begin), and Phedippidations #170 (Thoughts from the Road).  I also downloaded a boatload of 80s music the other night, because I was in a discussion with the Siren about a Facebook quiz about the 1980s and realized I didn’t have “I’ll Melt With You” in iTunes.  As it turns out, the 80s music is excellent to write to, because it’s so familiar it doesn’t require any processing power.

Things are getting a little chaotic here.  We’re all in the basement right now.  Unfocused Girl is playing some kind of game on the Warriors website — it looks like a variation on original Adventure — and cackling like a madwoman.  Junior suddenly decided that his old train table — which we stood on end and moved against the wall months ago because he wasn’t playing with his Thomas trains anymore — was the most precious thing in the world, and got hysterical at the thought that we might give it away (in reality, the Siren just planned to break it down and put it in the crawl space until he was really done with it); he’s only just calmed down.  Time to wrap this up.


Revising Meet the Larssons: Three Pages.

The revision of the chapter formerly known as Chapter 14 — 21 pages (through page 172) — took me about an hour, all in, a sure sign that I’m doing it wrong.  Still, I expected it to be easier than the previous chapter, because the events in it still fit the revised plotline; all I really needed to do was line edit and make some relatively minor revisions for character development and add a little foreshadowing.  Still, I never expected this:

Pages 167, 168, and 169 of Meet the Larssons

Pages 167, 168, and 169 of Meet the Larssons

Your eyes do not deceive you.  That’s three consecutive pages with no edits.

I really needed an easy chapter, because the Manuscript Slog has been brutal so far.  Being able to make measurable progress quickly is very encouraging, even though I know that in another chapter or two, I’ll get bogged down again.

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day # Who-Gives-a-Rat’s-Tokhes.

So last night I put a bullet in Chapter 13.  There will still be a chapter number 13, of course; something has to come after 12, and before 14, but it won’t be this one.  I think that of the 15 pages in the original chapter, I’ll keep maybe 5, heavily edited.

There are three points in the book that require a complete rewrite because of the changes to the story arc that I have mapped out; this chapter is the first of these points.  Once I finish the rewrite of this chapter, I’ll move more quickly for a while.  I hope.  I’m up to page 142 as of last night, and only that far because I gave up and brought pages on the train with me.

Here’s what the manuscript looks like these days:

Meet the Larssons manuscript, Jan. 15, 2009

Meet the Larssons manuscript, Jan. 15, 2009

The problem with doing so much rewriting is that I’m not sure it’s any better than what I wrote originally.

I went to a support discussion group for novelists on Monday night, which was very interesting.  It’s the fourth meeting of the group, so I was sort of coming in the middle.  I had the feeling everyone else had been an English major, which I emphatically was not, so I hadn’t read most of the books that came up in discussion.  It didn’t matter, though, and I mouthed off as blithely as I did when I hadn’t done the reading for classes in college.  It was fun to talk about writing with other writers live, face-to-face.  Not that there’s anything wrong with you people out here on the intertubes, it’s just that most of you are figments of my imagination.  The group meets once a month, and I’m already looking forward to the next meeting.

That’s it for today.  I just wanted to document that I continue to plug away.  I endure, which is more than anyone will be able to say about this ^(*&^*# novel.

Faster Than a Really, Really Slow Bullet.

My “pages revised” counter for Meet the Larssons has moved a whopping two pages (that’s 0.4%, for those of you playing along at home) today, from 105 to 107 pages revised out of the 500-page printed manuscript.  Revising those two pages took me over 90 minutes, because I also rewrote a page I rewrote yesterday, and wrote an additional page or so of material. It feels like I’m writing the whole book all over again.

On the new shiny object front, I made some headway on the minor character synopses and started putting together the expanded plot synopsis for Project Hometown.  The word meter looks like I added 2350 words (up to 8476) but a lot of that was cutting and pasting from earlier steps in the Snowflake Method.

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 6: The Value of Crit Groups.

I got back to MTL tonight, but I’m so tired from going out last night and getting home late that I was only able to slog through eleven pages (87 down, 413 to go).  Of the eleven (not quite half of old chapter 10/new chapter 3), I cut four pages entirely without adding replacement text.  I’m worried that after all this cutting, I might have a very tight, well-written short story instead of a novel, but I know I have at least as much to add in the middle and end.

About six months ago, I attended my first ever writers’ critique group meeting.  I found a relatively new group through Meetup.com, signed up, and posted the chapter I slogged through on Sunday and Monday for comment at the meeting.  I had no idea what to expect, but I went into it with a fairly open mind.  I was a little concerned by the one guy who posted a forty-page memoir excerpt (we had a ten-page limit) that was all one paragraph, but based on the other samples posted his was an anomoly.

Putting aside the run-on memoir guy (who didn’t bother to read anyone else’s work in advance of the meeting), most of the other writing was pretty good, and certainly the general level of quality was about where I was or better.  The people in the group seemed perfectly nice, and respectful of each other’s feelings.  Still, I haven’t been back, and I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why.

As I’ve said before, I’m looking for new-to-me podcasts about writing and other subjects to expand my listening.  I recently saw a mention on someone else’s blog to two podcasts for writers that I hadn’t heard of before (I’m really sorry if it’s your blog — I lost track of the post and can’t find it through google — please claim credit in the comments and link to your original post).  One hasn’t put out a new episode in a couple of years; I’m listening to the back episodes now and will post about it when I’m done.

The other is Writing Excuses, in which hosts Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells, and other semi-regulars talk to each other and other writers about different topics of interests to writers.  Each episode is only about 15 minutes long (“Because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart!”), and they aren’t limited to science fiction or fantasy topics.  Writing Excuses is in its second season, all of which is available on iTunes or on the blog at the link above (CDs of the first season are available for sale).  Occasional problems with sound quality aside, Writing Excuses is an interesting, informative, and often funny podcast.  The hosts are younger writers (well, younger than me, anyway) at different stages of their careers (some are just beginning to earn a living by their writing, while Sanderson is very well known and just took over the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series).

In episode 5 of season 2, the Writing Excuses team discussed critique groups.  Several of the hosts talked about how important their writing groups had been to their development as authors, but one mentioned that one thing that can drive him crazy is a writing group where the participants don’t just tell you what did or didn’t work for them, but offer you suggestions on how to fix your story.

Bam!  That was exactly what was wrong with the group I tried last spring.  The leader of the group and a couple of the other attendees didn’t just want to tell me what they thought was weak, but they also had very firm ideas about how I could make it better.  And I hated their ideas.

One member of the group gave me a couple of useful notes during the meeting, then handed me a markup of my chapter at the end.  I took it home, but I was so discouraged from the meeting that I never looked at it.  The only reason I didn’t throw it away was that Mrs. Unfocused did read his comments, and said that they made sense to her.

This evening, before I got started hacking away at old chapter 10/new chapter 3, I went back and reviewed his comments on old chapter 9/new chapter 2 and compared it to my own edits from earlier this week.  As it turns out, I had come up with about half of the same edits on my own.  But the guy also noted that one two page, explanatory section read like an office memo and bored the crap out of him (he said it more nicely than that), and I had left it in the revised version of the chapter almost completely untouched.  I reread it, then reread what Holly says about this point in the One-Pass Revision Process (link is in the sidebar, under “On Writing”):  “If the scene just tells the reader about your world or its history, or lacks characters, conflict, and change, put a note in your spiral-bound notebook telling yourself which important points of worldbuilding you’re cutting, and draw a big X through the entire scene.”  So I cut it.  By itself, that one suggestion was worth the hour-plus I spent at that group meeting.  I don’t know that I’d go back — I really don’t want suggestions on how to “fix” it, but I very much appreciated the comments on what the readers did or didn’t like.

Forgive the typos — need sleep.  Just one more thing:

Saltwatch 2008-09:  Days after Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck:  11.  Have you seen a salt truck?  Should we put pictures of the salt trucks on the sides of milk cartons?

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 5: What’s the Third Pile For?

Holly Lisle describes the set up for the Manuscript Slog as requiring space for your spiral notebook and three piles:  one for the pages you haven’t reviewed yet, one for the pages you’ve reviewed and marked up, and one for the pages you’ve reviewed but haven’t made any revisions to.

So far, I only need two piles.  I reworked another 10 pages last night, and 7 more tonight — through page 76 — and I sincerely doubt I will ever need a pile for that last category.  I mean, really, if I got an entire page of MTL perfect the first time, it would be only by coincidence, the same way that if you put a monkey in front of a word processor and let him type long enough, he might turn out a page of comprehensible English.  And yes, I’m the monkey in that example.

By cutting the first eight chapters, I cut approximately 11,900 words.  As I’m editing into the meat of the book now, I worry when I cut lines or paragraphs that I’m cutting too much.  But in addition to all the cutting, I’m doing a lot of rewriting (as opposed to revising):

Selected pages from tonight's Slog.

Selected pages from tonight's Slog.

The front of page 72 - I kept the first two lines, then crossed out everything else on the page and wrote over it.

The front of page 72 - I kept the first two lines, then crossed out everything else on the page and wrote over it.

I continued onto the back of page 72, and then on to page 72.1 in my notebook -- it flows neatly into the original start to page 73.

I continued onto the back of page 72, and then on to page 72.1 in my notebook -- it flows neatly into the original start to page 73.

I do feel like my writing has improved in this past year, though, so I would hope that MTL will get better on the rewrite.  God knows, it can’t get worse.  There’s a reason this part of the process is called the Manuscript Slog:  it’s like wading through a fetid swamp, and being bitten to death my mosquitoes above the water line while leeches drain your blood below it, but in a good way.  Imagine being Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, towing the boat and Katherine Hepburn upriver, and you’ll have some idea what I mean.  In the end, you know there will be the satisfaction of a job well done, a hearty handshake of congratulations, and a helping hand to pull off the leeches.

Which reminds me:  my first blogiversary is coming up on December 17.  Not the leeches, the feeling as though my writing has improved in this past year).  I need to prepare for My Year in Review About Me, with a very special post about me.  Please remember to stop by on Dec. 17, and leave a comment — about me, my year of blogging, whatever else you’d like to say … about me.

Here’s something about me that you’ve probably already figured out:  I am an enormous geek (enormous being the size of my geekitude, not me; I’m kind of short). Because I am an enormous geek, I am unreasonably excited that TNT has produced a new movie in The Librarian series.  The really geeky part?  This is the third one in the series, and only now are the Mrs. and I talking about whether the kids might enjoy watching it, too.

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 3: There Will Be Blood.

I got up early this morning, went downstairs, and got back to the revisions.  I left off last night at page 6.  Pages 7 through 29:  all cut.  I made pages and pages of notes of the key points from the stuff that I’m taking out, but everything in these first 29 pages (except for two paragraphs on page 3) is just backstory.  Here’s what Holly Lisle has to say about that:
“If the scene just tells the reader about your world or its history, or lacks characters, conflict, and change, put a note in your spiral-bound notebook telling yourself which important points of worldbuilding you’re cutting, and draw a big X through the entire scene.”

And if scene after scene after scene contains nothing but backstory and description, well, the “revisions” go pretty quickly:


Pay no attention to the notes on a few of the pages — I started to revise, then realized the scene just needed to be cut.  The notes I’m making now will be helpful later, and soon enough I’ll get through these early scenes.  Then the real pain will start.

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 2: This Is Going To Take a While.

Today I started the “Manuscript Slog” portion of the Holly Lisle One-Pass Revision Process, which is just what it sounds like:  take page one of your manuscript, uncap your pen, and spread ink all over it until it is completely blue.  Pick up the next page and repeat until there’s nothing left.  I got through page 6 of the 500-page manuscript.  And I cut five of those 6 pages completely.  My self-imposed January 31, 2009 deadline feels a little optimistic at this point.

It sounds a little worse than it is.  I’ve known for a while that much of the first 20,000 words of this draft are more backstory than story, but it’s still a little sad.  If these pages are representative of the first (roughly) 75, it means that virtually all my first three weeks of writing will get cut — not just revised, but tossed completely.  I’ll salvage what I can, and maybe post some pictures once the manuscript starts to look really grotesque (which was one of Unfocused Girl’s spelling words for today’s test).

The thing about the One-Pass Revision Process is that it does not lend itself to working on the train, because you need to spread out with all your papers and whatnot.  What to do, what to do.  Yesterday, I wrote an 1,800 word short story between the train rides and lunch; I’m going to try to hold off revising it until I’m further along with MTL.  I mailed “Jimmies” off to a magazine, one of the pro markets that requires a hard copy submission, so I had to go to the post office near work, which is a pain now that it’s really freaking cold.  I’ve got another short story in revision mode that I want to let sit for a little while.

So what to do this morning?  Why, I started work on my next novel, of course.  Thanks for the suggestion, honey!  For the next novel, I’m trying Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of outlining and planning a novel.  I know, I know; I’m now stuck using two different people’s methods or processes or whatever; maybe they work for these poeple, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for me.  That’s why I’m trying them; if they don’t work, I’ll try something else.  Right now, I’m just in the outlining phase, so the worst thing that can happen even if I decide I hate outlining is that I start the actual writing of the novel better prepared than I would have been.

Breakfast with Santa tomorrow, which will be fun (even if the breakfast itself isn’t so hot).

Revising Meet the Larssons, Day 1: The Horror, The Horror.

Tonight, I began the Holly Lisle One-Pass Revision Process on Meet the Larssons.  I’ve got my spiral notebook, my pens, and my hard copy of the manuscript.  I’m 90 minutes into the process, and my brain hurts.

I’ve heard or read about Holly’s method from a few sources, most recently fellow Absolute Write forum denizen Amy at The Purple Patch, who just finished revising her novel using this method.  In a little over two weeks.  With surgery in the middle.  I looked for some indication on her blog that the “novel” she was revising was a 24-page picture book, but the descriptions — and the photographs she posted — suggest an ordinary length adult novel.  Darn it.

I can promise you that I won’t finish revising MTL in two weeks; my goal is more like two months.  I have the manuscript printed out and sitting on the desk in the study.  It’s 500 pages even, more than five centimeters thick (the only ruler I could find is a metric-only High Sch001 Musica1 ruler, which someone must have given my daughter; I’m surprised it’s still in one piece, because she hates HSM). It is somewhat daunting.

Tonight, I did the steps that come before tackling the manuscript itself.  The first step was writing down a brief theme for the novel.

Yeah.  Because in high school English class, my favorite part was finding the theme of whatever book we were supposed to be reading.

But since I’m the one who wrote the damn book, I ought to be able to tell you what the theme is without having to work at it.  This part should be easy, right?

Heh.  It took me half an hour, although some of that was wasted looking for a Shakespeare quote that might have been my theme (but isn’t).

I also wrote down several sub-themes (including the Shakespeare quote, so that wasn’t entirely wasted effort), a one-sentence statement of what the book is about, a one-sentence story arc for the main character, and one very bad paragraph describing the story (or at least describing what I expect the story to be by the time I’m done with the revisions).

Enough dithering.  I finished the first draft on October 8, 2008.  Time to hack it to pieces.  This weekend, I start what Holly so aptly calls “The Manuscript Slog.”  Hooray.

If I Hate Editing So Much, Why Am I Doing So Much of It?

I took my fourth — and what I think is my last — pass through TTB today and dumped it on Mrs. Unfocused for a final proofread. Once she’s done with that (or sooner, if she tells me she can’t stand to read it again), I’m going to type in the changes and send it out. I think I’ve caught all the typos, tied off the loose ends, cut what could be cut and added what needed to be added, and I am thoroughly sick of the whole process (thus my prior post, I Hate Editing and I Must Be Almost Done Editing), so any further revision would just be pointless mutilation. Which I am wholeheartedly against.

I now have the final title for TTB, and have kissed the working title of “Test Tube Beneficiary” good-bye; I got the title right last night, after trying several that were just awful.

I had to stop myself on several occasions today from making picky word choice edits and just stick to fixing glaring errors. How much editing is too much? The answer, at least for this story: one more minute than I have spent so far.