Gearing up

I got the edits from my editor today. Surprisingly, there were few. Still, there were corrections on my manuscript that confirmed there are things to be learned. Always. I am so glad I decided to get an outside eye to do the final proofread!

Now I’m nervous. The editor had some wonderful things to say about the story, and I feel like I really need to try to make sure The Magician’s Doll stands a chance of being read. I love the story myself, and it’s interesting how responsible that makes me feel.

It will be a difficult task for me. I tend to be a private person, but marketing requires you to put yourself out there. Each decision I make, I scrutinize and question myself. I really admire people who do it with greater ease than I do. But if I want to do right by the book, I must try!

I’ve completed the edits, but I will continue to read through the manuscript, yet again, over the weekend. I forgot to write a bio (ugh!), and will need to whip one up. I need to make the final decision on whether to use Createspace or Lightning Source. I need to get my design for this blog and my Facebook page (on which I have not written – again, private person, here!). Things are gearing up.

I just realized. It’s only ten days until I put the book up. Whoa…

Learning from drafts

And I thought writing was hard…

The first draft of The Magician’s Doll was a bunch of word vomit. Every day I strove to meet a word count, and there were days I was not sure what I had written. I wrote and wrote and wrote until one day I realized I had nothing left to write. The story was complete. I learned from this draft that sometimes just plowing through will get you to the end. In the race to finish, I think I was a little numb when I did. Then I was elated. Then petrified.

I was nervous to go back and read what I had written. I put it off for several months. I wrote Encounter Way and worked on editing and publishing that story.

When I got back to The Magician’s Doll, I found I liked it, and started writing the second draft. At this point I had about 100k words. I pieced the different sections I had written in order so that the story made sense. I learned that finishing a first draft got me a “rough something” as opposed to my wait-til-inspiration-hits-me work in progress. And that’s a pretty good starting point.

I made an inefficient choice with the third draft. I started polishing the writing. I looked at voice, took out the “she felt” “she seemed” phrases and reworded them with more active descriptions. I had a lot, well maybe closer to a ton, of those phrases, so it took a while. I kept reference books and a thesaurus close at hand. When I finished the draft, I was down to 96k words.

For the fourth draft, I took out much of the “she said” “he said”s and substituted actions. I learned here that even though readers can tune out the “said”, the pace improves if you can leave it out or use action. In some places, using the “said” worked better, but finding the balance made a difference. This brought me down to 93k words.

The fifth draft was where I started making the big cuts. I learned that this is a step best done in the third draft. All the hard work and pretty phrases and corrections from the earlier drafts? Snip snipped away. Ouch! As an exercise, I made it a goal to cut at least 25 words a page to see what would happen. When I knew I had to cut words, it was amazing to find what I actually could leave out. I did not always hit 25, but I found several areas that could be edited or streamlined for more concise content. This draft brought me down to 86k words.

By the sixth draft I was starting to feel like I’d had enough of my story. I looked harder at flow for this draft, as well missed opportunities for description or action or emotion. I looked at repetitive words. My thesaurus became my best friend. I learned how overusing adverbs could weigh down the prose. I kept tweaking here and there and started to wonder whether my perfectionist tendencies were starting to work against me in making me feel that the story would never feel complete. Once I made it through this draft, I’d had enough. I decided that I would get an editor to do the final proofread.

Then my mother read the sixth draft and mentioned off hand that the main character was a little annoying.

Thus started the seventh draft. The annoyance had actually been a concern of mine, but I figured that since the character grew by the end, it might be justified. At this point, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do, but I did try to soften a few exchanges between the characters and shed some light on my character’s motivations that hopefully helped. In any case, it was important to me that the character grew, so I kept some of her annoyances. From this draft I learned that if I have a concern, the readers probably will too, so it’s important to explore the things that bother me. On the other hand, if the justification for my choices are clear, chances are, it will be good enough for most readers.

The seventh draft, which had less than 86k words, went to the editor, and I can’t wait to find out what more I can learn to make the final copy better.

What was the biggest lesson I learned from the drafts? There is always something to be learned in writing and editing each draft forced me to improve. I found many flaws, I agonized over every word, every piece of punctuation, I scrutinized my sentence structures and grammar, and even though I am far from perfect, I see the difference between the first and the seventh draft. Working through each draft fueled my desire to learn more.

I guess that’s why writing is a little like giving birth. There’s the pain of creation, but the work does not stop there. You have to follow up with the nurturing, the growing and the learning needed to make it the best child it can be. And that’s the reward.

A Writing Journey, Summarized

I started writing The Magician’s Doll several years ago.

My writing repertoire at the time consisted of a short story in college, some comedy sketches, and a whole lot of journal writing. I learned from my journal writing that most of what I had to say was as interesting as balancing a checkbook. From the short story and comedy sketches, I learned that writing, at least for me, is hard. Really hard. Like ‘forget this!” hard.

Then I took a sketch writing workshop led by Ranjit Souri (Ranjit teaches at Second City in Chicago, and if you would like to learn about sketch writing, he’s terrific!). Under his instruction, I learned about structure, and it opened up a whole new world for me. Whereas before I had floundered in a sea of confusion as to how to get my ideas into a coherent form, learning structure gave me the freedom to create. I started to enjoy the process of writing. A lot.

That’s when I started to think about writing a novel.

I don’t remember how I came up with the idea for The Magician’s Doll. I do remember starting to write a few paragraphs of the story and then staring, staring, staring at the computer screen. I had no idea how to get through the daunting task of writing a whole novel. It was another wall.

So I started taking online classes. Writers.com was my favorite site. I had taken other classes that could crush fragile spirits, but the classes there were warm and encouraging. The instructors were top notch, and they taught me the different pieces that make up a novel: scenes, characters, dialog, setting, plot, etc.

I learned that classes can give you tools, but in the end, it’s left to the writer alone to assemble the story. That part escaped me for years. I did other things like look for fun word processors; I read all sorts of books and articles about the craft; I moved closer to work with the idea that I would have more time to write. None of these efforts brought me closer to completing my novel.

Still, I kept in the back of my mind, always, that I would finish my novel, even if it was the only novel I ever wrote.

When I finally decided to just do it, finish it already, I took another terrific class at Writers.com to help me crash through that final wall. Working through that first draft was, for me, an endeavor so arduous that my elation upon completing the novel felt more akin to shell shock. But complete the novel I did.

Then I discovered that the work doesn’t stop there. Editing, submitting, and then all the tropes that come with self-publishing: covers, formatting, marketing. You have to love what you’re doing – that’s my biggest lesson.

But I love my story. I am thrilled that all those years resulted in a product about which I am so happy. I look forward to the day when I am far enough removed from the novel that I can pick it up with fresh eyes and rediscover it. No matter what happens, I did it. I wrote it.

My E-readers

I have four dedicated e-readers right now. The Nook Simple Touch, the Kindle Touch 3G, the Sony PRS-350, and the Sony PRS-600. Maybe I’ve gone a little e-reader crazy.

In a way, though, I can’t really say that I have. I buy ebooks at both Barnes & Noble and Amazon, so I need those e-readers. I use the Sony-PRS 350 for library books, and its size is so perfect for portability, I just can’t do without it. Ok, maybe I don’t need the Sony PRS-600, but the PRS-350 is so great that I thought getting it in a larger size would increase my reading pleasure (it turns out size is not what does it). But all in all, it’s hard to find one e-reader that can cover the spectrum of purchases I make and the needs I have for portability.

In an ideal world, there would be one document format for ebooks. In that world, I would only need two e-readers. One with the form factor of the Nook Simple Touch, and one with the form factor of the Sony PRS-350.

Oh well. Until then, I can challenge myself mentally trying to remember which books are on which e-reader…

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just as good a time as any to start a blog. Thankfully, my list has pretty much stayed the same over the years.

I give thanks for my family without whom, life would mean nothing. I give thanks for my friends without whom, life would be bleak. I give thanks for the luck I have, living in a country where people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, because as I turn on the news, I see people who must still fight for said right, and I realize that it is something I can never, ever take for granted.

And then there’s chocolate. As anyone around me knows, I am always thankful for chocolate.

Happy Thanksgiving!