A general update on... things

I see it's been nearly a month since I posted anything. Well, you probably didn't know, but I've been hiding out in the mountains of northern Idaho, near a historic silver mining town, gathering berries and story ideas, while avoiding the people who wish me dead. No, seriously, I'm still where I always am, doing what I always do. I've just being some prioritizing. In case you didn't know, I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my third child, who is due to arrive almost any day. My belly makes it hard to use the laptop (my lap seems to be missing). And it's uncomfortable to sit for any length of time at my desk to use the external keyboard.

I also have returned to work after six months of being laid off due to lack of work. While it's the same position I held before, with the same company, some things have changed in the six months, which leaves me struggling to do some things that used to be simple. It's good to learn new things though.

Other than that, there's not much worth discussing from my personal life.

If you're curious about the progress of my writing (and really, why else would you read my blog), I have been plugging away at my revisions on Alaskan Hope. I have also shared it with a couple of friends who are telling me all that's wrong with it. They think they're hurting my feelings, but I LOVE all the information and feed back they've given me so far. (Thanks Jennifer and Shelia! You ladies ROCK!)

And now, this is where I admit the truth. I'm so far behind my self-imposed deadlines, I don't have any idea when it'll be available. Right now, I'm forcing myself to focus on making it as wonderful as possible instead of being done as quickly as possible.

Please be patient. I honestly believe it will be worth the wait and will be much better than my previous books.

Ah-ha! A new idea...

As you know, I just finished a rough draft of a novel that I've been struggling with for nearly a year. Tonight, as I'm planning my revisions, a new idea popped into my head. I'm not willing to share many details, because I suspect I'll lose interest once I start sharing my idea. However, this idea is based on a tiny tidbit of information I learned about one of my relatives when I was doing some genealogical research. Which means, it'd be set in the past, not my normal comfort zone, but I'm eager to get started.

My plans for this story consist of: no plans, no outline, just writing as it comes to me. That is, when I have time to get started.

Now, if someone can just explain to me why I get all my ideas when I already have a huge pile of projects underway and a time crunch.

 

So tell me, is this an opening that would intrigue you?

"What do you mean, he hung himself? That's ridiculous. He wouldn't hang himself."

"That’s what the police claim."

"That's BS." I was so upset at the thought of people believing he'd killed himself that I didn't even really comprehend that my grandfather was dead. He was my only relative in this country. He'd come over from Bohemia with my mother and I, to ensure we weren't taken advantage of while we got on our feet in the United States. Mother had died a few months ago in an accident at the market.

Grandpa would never leave me on purpose. Not when I was just getting over the loss of my mother.

"He was found hanging from the tree in back of the apartment."

"That's ludicrous." I yawned, exhausted. I'd been to help a friend of my mother's for a couple days. She'd been burned at the laundry where she worked. Burns on her hands had made it impossible to care for her children. It was now early morning, the roosters were barely crowing, and I was walking home with the boy who lived next to my grandfather and I.

"But why would he kill himself?" I asked again.

"I don't know. The policeman told me to fetch you."

"Well, what if I don't feel like being fetched?"

"Look, Lucy. Whether or not you want to be fetched, I don't need the police looking at me too closely. So you're being fetched. Maybe they can explain all this to you."

"Maybe they can, but I doubt it." I, like most other immigrants, had a deep-rooted suspicion and fear of the police. In our home country, they were corrupt and easily bought for a few coins. Here, we suspected it was the same.

I grabbed Joseph's arm and stopped walking. "Wait. What do you mean, you don't want them to look at you? What have you done?"

Any interest at all?

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel - Part 3

This is the last post regarding combining two rough drafts into one novel. The first one can be found here and the second, here. It's been a heck of a struggle, but I'm happy now with what I'm considering the rough draft of Letting Go (working title). Some difficulties I ran into were: characters (names, ages, descriptions, etc.) Thankfully (?) I'm not very descriptive in my rough drafts so it wasn't too hard to change those things. I did have some problems with getting the names right throughout. For example, using "Find and Replace" to change "Matt" into "Lance" resulted in several places that said, "What really Lanceers is..."

Looking on the bright side, I now realize that I overused the phrase "What really matters," in dialogue.

This was the first time in quite a while that I've actually used scissors and tape to cut sections of the manuscript up and move it around. I probably should have used Scrivener, but I was being stubborn and didn't want to fight with software. That's a mistake that wasted a lot of time for me. Today, after I made all the changes in Pages, I copied and pasted all the new text into Scrivener. I should have just left it in Scrivener and figured out how to make it do what I wanted.

Now that I have a rough draft of one story, I'm letting it sit for a few days before I start my normal revision process. While it sits, I have a notepad nearby so I can scribble any ideas that pop into my head. This way, I might have things sorted out in my head when I start to mark up the next revision. I know many areas are skimpy on details and I add things throughout my revision process.

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel - Part 2

Last time I posted, I stated I was working on combining two similar stories into one novel. I've been trying to focus solely on the first revision for the past week. Of course, kids and life refused to let me focus as completely as I would have liked, but I've made some progress. As I mentioned previously, I have a big pile of paper on my desk and a short list of things I felt needed to be changed. The first 80 pages were pretty simple to revise, just a few little things to change, like character names, time frames, etc.

While I was working on that section and not making many changes, I couldn't decide whether it was because it was so awful, I had no hope of it ever being better, or if it really wasn't too bad. I knew all along that things would get much more complicated when I got to the "second story".

Well, I'm to the "second story" now, and it's a mess. I've been working and working on it. From page 81 to 111 has taken me most of the past week. And I know it's not going to get any easier in the near future. But, it will be so much better than I originally thought when it is complete.

Now, some thoughts on what I should have done differently. Instead of starting at page 1 and going through the manuscript chronologically, I think I should have made a list of things I needed to fix and then prioritized them (biggest issue to smallest issue). It would have made more sense then trying to remember everything I'm changing and trying to keep coherent. At least, it seems like it would be easier. Whether it really would have been easier is debatable. (I suspect, no matter what, revisions on this novel will be complicated while I patch things together.)

I'm having a hard time remembering that instead of playing with Frankenstein, I should just figure out what I want to convey in each scene and rewrite it if there are a lot of changes. It would probably be quicker and would definitely make future revisions simpler. However, I'm stubborn. And often make things harder than they need to be.

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel

Hoo boy! I've decided to combine two rough drafts into one novel. I currently have about 300 pages from the manuscripts printed out and have to figure out how I'm going to make this into one cohesive novel. I've spent days online trying to find a guide how to do this. Apparently, no one else has ever had the brilliant idea of combining two rough drafts into one novel. So, here ya go. A guide of how I'm doing it. I'm sure I'll make mistakes, but maybe if I warn you of those mistakes you won't make the same when you find yourself in this position.

First off, I suppose you're curious why I decided to combine the two. I have a few different reasons.

  1. Both female characters are about the same age, have issues with their families, and aren't happy until they reconnect with someone from their past. 
  2. I couldn't decide which of them I wanted to work on more at this time.
  3. I was afraid that either of them would fall a little short of my expectations, but I believe combining them would be a well-rounded story (if I do this correctly).
  4. And last but not least, I'm afraid of writing the same story repeatedly. It seems that several of my rough drafts are similar enough (at least to me) that I'd essentially be telling the same story repeatedly, just changing the characters and the setting. What fun would that be for me to write? Or for you to read?

It's been a week since I decided I was going to combine these two stories and I haven't accomplished much.

Today, I declared myself on a "facebook break" for about a week. Hopefully, by the time that week is up, I'll have made substantial progress.

My process so far has been to figure out which characters the combined story will be about, using "Find and Replace" to change those to the correct name (but clearly, there will still be errors to fix during revisions).

I've also imported the two stories into Scrivener and split it all into scenes, marking scenes that have conflict and scenes that are currently boring. (There are a lot of those.) I'm using Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis as a revision guide, loosely. I'm not doing every exercise in the book (so far). I'm also trying to do some things I learned from Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision system. I always end up with multiple revisions, but I do try to keep an eye out for errors like typos starting at the first pass.

Essentially what I have now is 282 pages of really, really, really rough draft. I printed it all out last night and finally forced myself to start scribbling on the manuscript tonight. So far I'm to page 27. The sad part is that I thought it was pretty good when I decided to do this.

Now, when I have a pen in my hand, I'm not so impressed. Which wouldn't normally bother me, but right now, I'm not even feeling much inspiration or clear direction how to fix that which doesn't impress me. However, I will plow through this and I know as I get further into the story, and get the BIG issues worked out the story will become clearer to me.

And the clearer the story is, the more fun it will be to revise. Or so I hope. I don't even have a working title yet, so there isn't any webpage and no blurb about the story.

I'll post more about my experience combining two rough drafts into one novel as I get further into the revision process.

 

Revising a novel

I struggle with revisions. Every time I start revising a novel, I spend time looking for a magic method, a checklist of things to do, and I keep looking until I think I've found the perfect plan. Then I print out my manuscript and start marking stuff up with my pen and the plan goes out the window. I have a hard time keeping things in my head. All the things I planned to fix remain on a sheet of paper next to me and I say, "I'll fix those in the next revision."

I've tried Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision method, and I get bogged down and overwhelmed before I get to the third chapter. I've done Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis workbook for two different novels. One is still in the Trunk-o-writing junk, awaiting its chance to see the light of day again. The second one is Faceoff of the Heart.

Working my way through the Novel Metamorphosis workbook was helpful to realize what areas I needed to work on, but I still have a huge list (okay, not really huge, but still a full page) of things I want to fix. When I look at the list, my eyes gloss over and I start to freak out that I have these things to check for and fix all the way through the 200 pages of manuscript.

The list sits on top of the manuscript in its expandable folder. I look at it every time I pull the new pages out to be revised. And I sigh, because I haven't really been paying attention to those things. Ugh. 100 pages in and I didn't fix any of the things I'd specifically written on my "Plan of Action."

So tonight, when I pulled out the list I didn't just set it aside. I sat down and read it, and thought about each item on the list.

Plotting. Make sure each scene ends a little worse than the previous scene. Yeah, I've actually been doing that. That makes me feel better.

Characters. Better description. Well, hmm. I've never been good at describing the physical appearance of things (not even real items), but I've been adding more about the characters as I get to know them, so they're becoming more real. Knowing someone rocks back and forth on their feet when they're nervous, or their hands hurt because of early onset arthritis HAS to be nearly as good as knowing they have blue eyes and light blonde hair. Right? I mean, we don't choose our friends based on their eye color in real life. 

Sensory details. Include more details in each scene. Oh. I'm doing that without really thinking of it. Maybe I'm not doing as horribly as I'd thought.

Settings. More description again. fail

Okay. I guess fixing 75% of what I'd aimed to fix isn't awful. I can always go back through and add a bit more description of the settings as I type in all these changes I've made. Right?

What's your method for revising a novel?