Offering a printed-out (nearly final) draft of your novel to a beta reader is like handing over a still-bleeding hunk of your soul.
And now for something (gasp!) non-writing-related February 28, 2016
So I’ve done that thing, that British thing where you set off into something less than a drizzle or even mist, more of sodden air that doesn’t realise that there’s gravity for a reason, sure, go ahead, defy it, don’t fall to the ground but condense on my glasses so I can’t see, but it’s not actually raining, you see, so you keep your umbrella in your bag, nah, no need for it.
Then it starts to drizzle, but it’s not that bad, only the odd spot or two of rain, so you duck your head and keep going. Pull up your hood time, that’s all.
Okay, now it’s getting worse, we’re talking actual drops now, and you debate digging out the brolly, but you’re already damp and about half-way to wherever you’re walking, so do you really want to have to deal with a wet brolly for the rest of the day? Something that gets everything else in your bag soggy when you stow it away, and in any case, you inevitably forget to take out to dry when you get home so it moulders slowly for weeks as an added bonus. To say nothing of the fact that it’s gone a bit gusty so it would probably be blown inside out or right from your hands, and you’d end up chasing it down the road, like you do after a toddler who doesn’t know how to look both ways. Hell no, who wants to deal with that?
So you tug your hood down lower and soldier on, and then the next thing you know, you’re soaking wet, trudging through a driving rain, literally soaked, clothes like you wore them right from the washer, hair plastered against your head, socks drenched from puddles over the top of your shoes, with your umbrella still dry and safe in your bag because you’re wet through already and almost there so it *really* doesn’t make sense to dig it out now.
And then when you get wherever you were going, and people take in your bedraggled appearance, and someone inevitably remarks, “forgot your brolly?” and you shake your head and say, “didn’t feel like getting it wet,” this earns not looks of scorn but nods of total agreement.
The Flip Side December 21, 2015
So the year of the edit draws to a close. I feel like I’ve been three rounds with this story and been KO’d each time.
This is how you learn your opponent, no? Their head tilt before a low kick. The way they favour their left leg. The feint before a jab. The weaknesses. The tells that reveal who they are, who they really want to be.
I see you, story, so much better than I ever would have thought at the end of that stream of consciousness draft that poured out of me too fast to breathe. I see your feints, your fumbles, fancy footwork meant to dazzle but really distracting attention away from that unprotected flank.
And I also see those moments when the words peel themselves back up off the page and make magic, all on their own.
So, yeah. Editing.
It’s been… strange. I put the book away for a few months after finishing the second draft in August, filled with this grand idea that I’d pound out a quick first draft of something else. First drafts are not usually a problem for me, remember? The opposite, in fact. But this time…
Ahem. Who are these strangers and what the hell do they want? Normally, I love figuring all this out but now, for the first time I was aware—stub your toe in the dark type of shocking, total, instant knowledge that your inner map does not overlay the real world accurately—of how much longer and wider the road is.
How dirty my opponent is prepared to fight.
Because for the first time, I couldn’t do it. For the first time, I sat down to write and couldn’t simply dip the battered tin cup into the well of the subconscious, haul up wriggling words that couldn’t wait to fling themselves on the page.
Not writer’s block, though. No. Plenty of ideas, no problem there. More like this book, this goddamn book that I still love so much, this slippery just-one-more-draft-where-I-show-you-the-tricks-up-my-sleeve book. It’s gone and got itself more. More depth. More layers. More nuanced, conflicted characters. More painful choices for them to make. So much bigger than it was at the end of the first draft that my brain doesn’t have room for a new story at the moment.
And how strange it felt to sit down to do something, to want to do something, and realise that your brain won’t cooperate. Yeah, I could have forced it, but not the best choice. That would have been more like scurrying back to shore after finally battling out past the breakers.
Plus, I trust my subconscious when I write my books, so I supposed I should trust it when it tells me it still needs the brain-space for this holy-hell-ain’t-you-done-yet book. That working on something else would mean letting go of some of the pressure building, gelling, fermenting for this final draft.
The book is stronger, but somehow, to my utter surprise, so am I.
Round 4, here I come.
See you on the flip side.
Awkbot Anthology time again–and this time, it’s Orange! October 27, 2015
The Awkbot Clarion Class of 2012 is once again releasing an anthology to fundraise for the Clarion Foundation–and you can grab it now for pre-order from our homepage on a pay-what-you-can basis. All money raised goes to the Clarion Foundation.
Just in time for Halloween, this year’s theme is Orange, and the anthology contains plenty of shivers, scares and spooky goings-on to make it the perfect thing to curl up with as the nights draw in. Curious to learn more? See what BoingBoing has to say.
Last year, we raised $1500 for Clarion, the marvel-mazing place that brought us together and gave us so much.
Hope you enjoy the stories!
Oh–right. My story.
How’s this for a teaser: In LOST MEMORIES OF AIR, the Festival for the Revered Dead draws to a close, and a young girl has to face what makes life–and the afterlife–worthwhile.
Not enough? I’ll even give you the first line:
I like Grandma better dead. Even when she does things like this.
C’mon, you know you want to find out what happens next, so grab a copy, enjoy some amazing fiction, and help support a great cause. The Orange Volume goes live on Oct. 31.
Four scenes to go until it’s not a WIP anymore August 5, 2015
In honour of reaching the highly elusive stage of omg-I’m-nearly-at-the-end-of-this-draft, I present my fave line from today’s edits:
“You realise that if the plan fails, you’ll have framed yourself for murder?”
(And no, the next line is NOT “Guess we’d better not fail”)…
Write-a-Thon time again July 28, 2015
Oops. Very late this year, this being the last week and all of the Clarion Write-a-Thon.
Still not too late to sponsor me or indeed any of the other amazing writers participating. All money raised goes to the Clarion workshop in the form of scholarships for students. Anything helps, srsly.
I did have a big long blog post written for the occasion, but I’m sosososo close to finishing the novel that it has simply sucked up my entire life. I will get it up here soon. Thought it’s as good a testament to Clarion as any that I’m too busy writing the novel to post on my blog, instead of the other way around…
But until then, another excerpt from Nothing and Forever below the cut.
So I’m about 6 months into novel-editing hell.
Accordingly, I’m slowly honing an Extremely Useful Editing Method for People who Hate Editing, which I present herewith for any like-minded parties.
- Yes. I can do this. Or rather, I MUST do this.
- Preferably with minimum tears.
- But first, tea. Everything starts with tea. I am in England, after all.
- Maybe I should, yanno, open the manuscript?
- Ditto actually open my eyes when I look at it?
- Ditto take my hands away from my eyes?
- Note I didn’t say “no tears” earlier.
- Lets really open up this file this time and—
- A spelling mistake. First line.
- Spelling mistake fixed.
- Hey, look at me, I’m editing!
- YES I CAN DO THIS.
- So give up. Because it’s piss-or-get-off-the-pot time.
- Think of all those books on Amazon, in bookstores. All those people could do it. Do you really want to admit they can do something you can’t? You’ve already written the blasted thing. This is the home stretch.
- The dream of the perfect first draft will never die.
- Maybe I just have to dive in there and—
- Wait, I wrote this?
- Why do I not remember any of this?
- Okay, this bit I remember. It sucks.
- You know what else sucks? Romance subplots. I’m simply not a romantic at heart.
- On to the next scene and see what I have to work with.
- The Cut File is my new best friend.
- Maybe this would be better set at the beach.
- I want to marry my cut file.
- Make that a threesome with my ergonomic mouse.
- If I move this scene to later and add in a new one here, then that means—
- OMG OMG EPIPHANY: Your job as a writer is not to solve your characters’ problems for them. That’s their job over the course of the book. Your job as a writer is to give your characters the right problems to solve. What are the right problems? The ones that move them along their arc or force them to deal with the situation that, deep down, they are avoiding.
- It seems so clear. Wow.
- Stare out the window and marvel at this clarity. Wonderous.
- Except—how does that work in practice?
- Maybe if I merge these two characters…
- The dream of the perfect first draft is dead, and my cut file is its elegy.
- New mantra: Is it Scene? Is it Arc?
- Yes, no, yes, yes, no.
- I still think my cut file is a better book than what I have left.
- BUT IS IT ARC?
- Time for more tea.
- Not green tea either. High-octane tea.
- Halfway? When did that happen?
I’m now at the point where I have to read it all straight through. I know that Holly Lisle and Chuck Wendig both recommend reading it through as a first stage, but c’mon, I didn’t get in this mess in the first place by listening to wisdom from the trenches, did I? Besides, everyone needs a hobby. Mine is reinventing the wheel.
But here it is. Yes, humungous but I do the “comment” thing in Word, which means the actual page gets shrunk when you print it. To compensate, I upped the font to 14 pt. So between that and the ridiculously large margins due to comments, it was 435 pages printed out. I think it could kill a cat if dropped from waist height.
I shall keep you updated as and when…