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Editing Update: Home From Camp

Note: this post is part of an on-going (and possibly never-ending…) series. To read the earlier installments, click on the following links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that last month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and set myself a goal of editing 50,000 words. I had never set an editing goal before, so I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.

If you follow me on various forms of social media, you may have already seen this:

and this:

So, I mean, yes, there was some success to be had. However, I feel like the 70,030 words edited there looks and sounds waaaaaaaay more impressive than it actually is. Some of that feeling can probably be attributed to the fact that I am a gigantic hot mess—so much so that I’m pretty sure I can be seen from space. Like, there are astronauts at the ISS right now, looking down and going, “OMG! What the hell is that—Oh. It’s just MJ. Never mind.”—who would feel that way regardless of the actual results.

But here’s the thing…it doesn’t feel like I’m making much meaningful progress. I’m going through the pages, correcting errors, and culling dialogue (just…so much dialogue) and adjusting the narrative to tighten and strengthen it or whatever, but I think the book still has the same fundamental issues it had when I began.

I just have no idea what those issues are.

I cannot shake the feeling that I am writing (now editing) this book wrong. That I’m rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or something. And I can’t even explain it to anyone without saying something like, “I think there’s something wrong with this book, but I don’t know what, and I’m worried I’m not smart enough to fix it.”

Because how can I be smart enough to fix a problem I can’t even diagnose?

So, I’m starting off May not quite sure what to do or where to go from here. I’m trying not to force things, to give my brain the space it apparently needs to get its shit together or whatever, and to trust that I will eventually figure things out because even though I don’t remember it, I most likely felt the same damn way while editing the three books that came before this one.

But I’ve never done well with inactivity.

And…during my family and friends visits last month, I was reminded (more than once) that there are three people waiting to read this book, who have already been waiting years to read this book, and who will have to keep waiting probably more years to read the book because I am taking so damn long to finish it. Which makes me feel bad because I am extremely blessed to have any people interested in reading anything I write, and who continue to be interested in reading anything I write even though it takes me so damn long to actually write anything, and it sucks that I can’t do a better job for them.

Which adds to the pressure and compounds with the inactivity and my already terrible levels of anxiety or something science-y sounding, which all means that this gigantic hot mess is just getting bigger and messier.

Which is why, despite the fact that I left Camp with a winner’s badge (and a really cute mug. I ordered a mug that, if my significant other asks, I desperately needed…) and an impressive-looking word count, I’m not feeling particularly impressed.

But at least I have a mug.

Stay safe and well, all.

Editing Update: Army of the Undead

As the title would suggest, I am working on edits. This is an ongoing (possibly never-ending…) series, so if you missed them and are interested, check out the first two installments here and here.

So, I started writing The Coileáin Chronicles a long time ago. And because I am, at the very least, a semi-plotter, I had plans in place for certain characters. Meaning that, years ago (like, as in a lot of years. As in my 18-year-old niece hadn’t been born yet), back when I was still working on the first book, I had planned for a certain character’s death to occur in Book Three. It was going to be a beautiful death scene chock full of meaning and emotion and whatever else goes into a good death scene. Wailing and keening and all that good stuff. Whatever. The point is, it was going to be fantastic, and I couldn’t wait to write it.

But because I’m me and because I’m the slowest writer on the face of the earth, I didn’t get to write that scene until 2021. No matter, though, because here it was at last—my opportunity to write this scene, this scene I had waited decades to write, the beautiful, emotional, meaningful death scene for a character who had been a pain in my ass more often than not over the years. Oh, I was finally going to kill him (spoiler alert: it was a him) and be rid of him at last.

And then the scene didn’t work.

So I tried another way. And another. And another one after that. And none of them worked. At long last, my brain offered up this possibility: maybe this character wasn’t supposed to die after all.

Which, of course, made me super happy because I love it when stuff like that happens. I mean, sure, I spent all this time carefully working out the details of a multi-book series in an attempt to squeeze every available drop of storytelling juice out of the concept, just for the character in question to burn it all down to the ground like he’s the freaking disaster girl meme. He goes skipping off into the sunset while I’m standing there, looking at the ashy remains of my plans.

Who wouldn’t love that?

I mean, come on. All this character had to do was die. Just take a damn sword in the gut and die. Just fall down on the ground and die, but nooooooo. He couldn’t do that.

But again. Super happy. Just…so super damn happy.

So, I was all, “Fine. Go ahead and live, you jerk. But you had better come up with something for you to do now that you’re walking about all not dead, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it for you.”

Which was apparently a mistake.

Because it started an epidemic of characters declaring themselves free of my carefully created plans.

Which, again, just delighted me to no freaking end. Because when one is attempting to write a big battle scene in which a lot of characters are supposed to die, it’s always helpful when none of those characters die.

Just…so, so helpful.

Anyway, that was the first draft, and I eventually found my way to the end of that first draft, shoved the manuscript in the metaphorical drawer, and walked away. Three months later, I took it out, printed out a copy, and started reading.

Now, the biggest reason I do that—take at least three months in between drafts—is to give myself the freshest eyes possible when I start working on that second draft. If I just roll directly from one draft into the next, the things that need fixing the most run a big risk of not being found and not being fixed…which is, you know, kind of the point of creating that second draft. I have stopped seeing what’s actually on the page because my oh-so-helpful brain knows what’s supposed to be on the page and offers me a recap like, “Oh? This old scene? Nothing to see here but a bunch of sad and sarcastic characters being sad and sarcastic. Everything’s fine!” when everything is, in fact, not fine. The time away from the manuscript allows me to forget things—not everything, of course—but it makes a huge difference in me being able to spot those problem areas. After three months, they stick out like very sore thumbs.

But anyway, I started my read-through and started making my notes and went through what I’m certain is a very reasonable number of pens and highlighters (still time to enter my world-famous guessing game giveaway…) on my way to the aforementioned battle scene. Along the way, I was reminded of changes I had made to the original concept of the story. Some worked out well, some fell a little short, some really didn’t stick the landing, and some didn’t even get close to achieving that much.

Typical first draft fare, really. But needless to say, I was getting pretty damn curious to find out into which category the big battle scene would fall, especially with my army of the undead running around being all undead—which, again, was a development with which I was totally cool.

And given how cool I totally was with it, imagine my surprise when I read the scene (well, scenes, really) and I…didn’t hate it?

Which, of course, didn’t bother me in the least.

And that character I had waited years to kill, that character I had berated loudly completely supported when he decided to foment insurrection create his own adventure was, perhaps, the biggest surprise at all.

I read his scene (you know, the one in which he was supposed to die) and when I got to the end, I went, “Huh.”

Which is, in case you didn’t know, MJ Speak for, “I didn’t hate that.”

It’s not, by any means, a perfect scene. There are some issues that will require some finessing to really make it work. But the concept is…interesting? This character who’s been a chronic pain in my ass for years is suddenly…interesting?

He didn’t come up with a complete plan for what the hell he’s supposed to do now that he survived the battle, but he sure as hell planted some intriguing seeds that I now have to do…whatever the hell it is one does with seeds. Germinate them or whatever. (Note: I don’t garden.)

I had a similar reaction to a couple of the other characters who joined the army of the undead. I’m not sure what they’ll be doing in the next book, but I’m damn curious to find out.

Which just goes to show how it can pay to be flexible. Even hard-core plotters with their hard-core plans can (if they’re open to it…) end up somewhere unexpected…and in my experience, the story is better for it.

Even if, in the moment, it leaves me all

So, so happy.

That’s gonna do it for me today, folks. As always, thanks for stopping by. It’s always appreciated.

Stay safe and well, all.

Heading Upta Camp

April 1st is right around the corner, which means it’s about time for me to head upta camp (Name! That! Reference!)…

Camp NaNoWriMo, that is.

Camp NaNoWriMo, for anyone unfamiliar with this event, happens twice a year: April and July. It’s part of the NaNoWriMo organization but is different from its November counterpart in a few ways. Camp events offer participants more flexibility with their goals. You can set your word count goal to anything at all that you want. 50k, 10k, 100k. Whatever. You can also work on an already existing novel without labeling yourself a ‘rebel’. They even offer a couple of different tracks for people writing memoirs or people trying to finish those already existing projects. They even allow participants to set editing goals.

Which is what I’ll be working on next month.

I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo many years, but this will be the first year where I have set an editing goal. I have no idea how it’s going to work, or even if it will work, or if it’s a remotely obtainable goal for me.

Also adding to the unknown this session is the fact that my significant other and I have some family and friends coming to visit in early April, so I won’t really be able to give Camp NaNoWriMo my full attention (or as close to my full attention as anything gets these days, anyway…) until about halfway through the month.

So I could be setting myself up to fail. I really don’t know. It’s an experiment, and it doesn’t really matter how it goes. Either way, I would be working on editing Full Circle, so I figured why the hell not give it a shot.

So, stayed tuned, I guess, for editing and Camp updates.

Provided I have some.

Hey—it could happen.

That’s going to do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by. It’s always appreciated.

Stay safe and well, all.

Editing Update: Onto Step Two

In case you’ve missed it, the theme of my year (and possibly next year and maybe even the year after that) is editing and revising a little hot mess of epic proportions I like to call Full Circle, the third book in my epic-ish fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles.

In my last post, I talked about Step One of the process. Or, you know, my process. There’s no one process that works for everyone. We’re all delightful individuals, so what works for me may not necessarily work for someone else. Which I imagine is true. I mean, it barely works for me, so I can’t imagine it working for anyone else. But whatever. That’s a different post for a different day, maybe.

But, to recap, Step One involved printing out a hard copy of the manuscript and reading it and making notes (many, many notes) about what changes need to be made. These changes could be minor fixes, such as typos and missing words, misplaced commas, etc. They could slightly more involved fixes, such as awkward word choices or over used words (seriously—my characters nod so much, it’s amazing their damn heads haven’t fallen off) or awkwardly phrased sentences or interrupted story flow. Or they could be even more involved fixes like continuity issues or characters who mysteriously disappeared who need to be found, and a whole host of other things such as dialogue that adds length but not substance to the story, and narrative that serves an overall story plot arc that no longer exists. This step involves a lot of pens and highlighters because, as a first draft, this story is a mess.

But now, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m moving on to Step Two. I completed the read-through last month, and now I have a 755-paged manuscript with pages that looks like this:

So now, I am hard at work (or perhaps hardly working) on Step Two. The step where I attempt to fix all of those problems I found during the read-through, as well as the problems I’ll find while attempting to fix the other problems because I missed them the first time around, and the problems that will inevitably appear because of the snowball/avalanche effect that automatically comes with making changes to a story.

I tend to start off with the smaller, easier fixes and work my way up to those requiring more brain power. I keep track of those tougher problems in my notebook in a section usually titled “Editing Shit Deemed Too Difficult To Deal With The First Time Around”, and round and round I’ll go until all the changes have been made and I end up with something resembling a second draft.

Which has served me reasonably well in the past (meaning that, eventually, I do actually finish a second draft), but this time, there are some big, labor-intensive fixes early on in the book that need to be addressed RIGHT NOW because they will determine how some later scenes will go.

Which means I am not exactly crushing it right now.

Step Two is labor-intensive and time-consuming (at least for me), and I anticipate this will take me months to complete. Because, you know, it always does.

Right now, my goal is to have it done by April, as we have some family coming to visit early on in the month, and it’s also the first Camp NaNoWriMo session of the year and my focus will be on those two things. Is this goal at all realistic? Hell, no. Not in the least. Could I surprise myself? Probably not, but it could happen.

(Narrator: It would not happen.)

If it doesn’t happen (Narrator: It won’t), I’ll revise the goal, assess where things are, and pick a new date.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Until it’s done.

So, that’s gonna do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by—it’s always appreciated!

Stay safe and well, all.

The Editing Update For Which No One Asked

Normally, my first (and, let’s be honest, usually only) post of the month is devoted to my goals for that month, but as my goals currently all revolve around my editing efforts (or lack thereof…), I’m just going to talk about that instead.

So…consider yourselves warned, I guess.

This is your last chance to cut bait and run.

I mean it. I’m going to talk about editing soon.

Like, right now.

So…here goes…

Okay, so as I mentioned in my last post, last month I broke out the red pens and blue highlighters and started reading through the first draft of Full Circle, the third book in my epic-ish fantasy series, The Coileáin Chronicles.

This is the first step in my revision process. I print out a hard copy of the manuscript and start reading it, making notes (many, many notes) about any mistakes I come across or anything at all I don’t like. It can be a sentence’s awkward phrasing, a weird word choice, out-of-order events that screw with the story’s flow, continuity issues, some stupid thing my characters do, some stupid thing my characters don’t do, characters who were somehow lost somewhere along the way and have to be found and worked back into the story, whatever.

One of the big things I’ve found myself dealing with in this particular story is that somewhere along the way, my plans for the overall arc of the story shifted, but not all of the narrative shifted with it. The first part of this book was especially guilty of this, so now the margins are littered with notes like, “BRING THIS SCENE UP TO CODE!” which I have apparently decided is my new phrase for ‘update your narrative’ because why write that when you can write ‘BRING THIS SCENE UP TO CODE!’?

But overall, it’s been…disheartening. I knew it was a first draft and would have all the problems that come along with a first draft, but even the stuff I thought might be kind of okay has been more…not okay. Which has been discouraging. So much so that the other night, I was getting ready to start reading a new chapter, read the first line, remembered what scene it was, and decided instead to make a list of my Top Ten Roy Kent moments.

So…yeah. The going has been slow thus far. But I am working on it, and I will (hopefully) be able to make things better in the next go-around. (I mean, it’s hard to imagine I could make them worse, but I probably just jinxed myself…)

The goal for February is to complete this first-round read through by the end of the month. Then comes the part where I have to start actually coming up with solutions.

Whimper.

Here’s hoping that February manages to last as long as January seemed to (seriously—did anyone else feel like January was, like, 9000 days long, or was it just me?) because I am afraid I shall need every day I can get. I’m gonna have to read the end of this book eventually, and I already know I wasn’t happy with that three or four months ago.

And on that happy note, here are the stats as they currently stand…

Editing Stats:

Total pages: 755

Pages read thus far: 410

Pages left to go: 345

Number of heavy sighs over stupid mistakes: Too many to count

But what all this means is that there’s still time (lots of time, really) to enter my super cool giveaway. And, really, who wouldn’t want to read this book after reading this post?

That’s going to do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by, all. It’s always appreciated.

Stay safe & well!