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Thanks to my webmaster duties for Lea Schizas and her publishing venture MuseItUp Publishing, I have the privilege of listening in on the conversations among editors and artists for the press. They’re an interesting group, and a lot of fun, but this time one of them, Karen McGrath, offered something so profound that I asked for permission to share it with the rest of you.

Whether your days of being edited professionally are still ahead of you, or you’re in the thick of it right now, I think all of us can benefit from considering the following stages a writer goes through:
Read the rest of this entry »
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Hi everyone. Wow, I didn't realize I'd neglected this blog so much. Trouble is that my focus has been largely on critting and non-fiction writing, so I didn't have much to say on the fiction writing world.

So, a quick catch-up:

1) I've redone my website so it now is a pure writing focus. (I mentioned this regarding the image at the top, but I've done a bit of polishing.)

2) I sold a short story that's available online so if you've been curious about reading something of mine, just go to the "For Readers" page of my website. Also, while you're there, check the "Latest News" page for additional happenings.

3) I should have been doing a crossover post all along, but I've started a new tradition on my Stray Thoughts blog called Friday's Interesting Links. Since these links have a heavy writing/publishing focus, they should be of interest to anyone here who does not also follow that blog. Check out this week's here: http://marfisk.blogspot.com/2009/10/fridays-interesting-links.html

4) The outlines:

--The Princess in the Tower is the closest to done of all three outlines, but it still needs some work.

--The Farmer Boy is the farthest from being done as I only did the examples necessary for my class and haven't gone back.

--Let Me Tell You All About Myself is probably about halfway done. The concepts are all there, but the threads to pull it all together need fleshing.

5) NaNo - yes, I'm planning to do NaNo this year, the first planned event since my second year doing it back in 2004 (note I've done NaNo every year regardless :p). However, I have yet to settle on a project, so things are still up in the air.

6) This month I'm going to both Muse Online and World Fantasy. Hope to see/meet in person some of you there.

7) And I've finally started working on a fiction project again...Selkie. I'm in the process of re-outlining based on the feedback, after which I plan to retype the whole thing because so many of the edits are a word here, a phrase there, that will change the meaning significantly. I find retyping allows me to integrate them better.

I think that's about it :). Any questions?
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Wow, it's been a bit since I've posted to my LJ. The absence was far from planned, but is as it is. The writing front has been a bit up and down for me through June and July, though I'm hoping to see that turn around.

I've been writing a bit of non-fiction for Vision (www.lazette.net/vision) and finally critting again, but on the home front, there hasn't been much fiction going on.

Molly stands about 15k from the end. It's not her fault. A combination of family stuff and a serious, knock me on my back, cold put an end to creativity for a bit. As much as I'd like to blame Molly, so I could move on to something else, it's not her fault. There's also the chance that with things so crazy, the hormone replacement isn't doing its job, a lovely thought considering that some day I'll have to go through ending the medication. But since this is affecting my creativity across the board, Molly is not to blame.

Neither is Selkie, another project currently in limbo. I had started collecting action points and possible reworks as I went through all the wonderful crits, but hit that same wall. This isn't a writer's block as much as a creativity amputation. The good news is that it's starting to fade...I'll admit needing 10+ hours of sleep a night has been a part of this mess.

Oh, and it's even affected my reading. I'm halfway through my very first issue of Neo-Opsis. I was enjoying it a lot, but just haven't read any. I started an issue of Discover magazine... The one thing I am reading is Steven Barnes' Lion's Blood, which I was thinking was too slow and I couldn't find the story and and... Until I realized that it's an epic. It's not about a specific tale. It's about a world and its people and how they interact and how their lives are intertwined. It's exactly the type of novel I love...or used to. So I'm adding this to the pile of missing creativity because all I can read right now easily are short, sweet things that don't ask for much.

Oh, and I need to do something with my hands all the time. I went to a wonderful acapella singing group with my sister and had a wonderful time, but if she hadn't given me some string to weave (okay, crochet without a hook and no, the results weren't pretty) I'd have lost it.

So...that's my update (note the extensive use of ellipses because my mind trails off all the time), and join me in the hope that it's coming to an end. For two days I slept a normal amount and had at least a couple hours of productivity, including sending Shadows of the Sun out to agents. Today was a little rough, but still some useful moments. Here's hoping to find a trend in the right direction.

Oh, and as a last note, a bunch of my first drafts have been calling of late, pulling me into the morass of new things to edit so I don't have to do the hard work of a final polish. I plan to resist until Selkie's set.
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I was writing up a note for my Thinking Sideways project when a topic came up that I wanted to talk about here as well, and in more detail.

When I discovered Internet writing communities, I was hammered with a bunch of "thou shalt not"s, as are most writers, no matter where they stand on the experience scale.

Even though I had written a ton by that point (two novels, easily 50 short stories, and a couple novelettes, plays, and poems), because of my isolation, I was vulnerable to peer pressure. I figured that I'd been hacking my way through, making it up as I went along, and so must have picked up a ton of bad habits. If the "Internet" says it's right, I must, therefore, be wrong.

To this day, I'm still fighting the impact of that period in my writing career, and to some degree, I'm still vulnerable and carrying out "thou shalt"s that if I took a step back and looked at them, are insane.

Ones I've conquered include "thou shalt not use the verb 'to be'" and "thou shalt not use 'that'" (which has the dangerous companion of "thou shalt replace 'that' with 'which' at every opportunity where 'that' cannot be purged," something resulting in broken grammar on top of unintelligible sentences).

My father broke me of "that" simply because he could not comprehend my sentences and wasn't willing to jump through the elaborate hoops expected so we can avoid a perfectly good word that (note ;)) happens to stand out when overused.

However, this concept has recently hit me on two fronts. One of the processes suggested by Holly Lisle in Thinking Sideways contradicts the "general rules" and is actually something I used to do before facing those same rules and bowing to them.

A while back, a friend edited a book for me that had two separate voices, one omniscient and one close third. She said choose one...but more importantly, choose either. I had a strong omniscient voice when I started writing that was crushed out of me, so I've substituted with a super close third. Now that change I regret with a vague sadness, but a close third is more of what the market is looking for and I'm happy with the new style, except that my third is SO close that it sometimes confuses people. SIGH.

But it's a more recent happening that brought me to writing this post.

I am in the process of collecting the crits of From the Sea (Selkie) into a single document so I can evaluate the trends. First of all, if the OWW trend of controversial stories succeeding holds true, I've got it made :p. I'm working on the third of four and there's significant disagreement about certain characters and situations :). But that's beside the point.

In going through this story and seeing their comments, I realized, had a full-on DUH moment, that I'm still crippled by one of those "thou shalt not"s.

Some time back, I was told not once but repeatedly that it is a point of view (POV) slip to say someone smiled because they can't see their own face. This started an endless round of arguments and warped my writing FOREVER!!!!! Okay, drama over, now that I've realized it, I can fix it too.

Instead of avoiding the act in the POV character, I went about coming up with ways that made obvious what we all know, which is that we KNOW when we smile. So I have smiles curling lips and pulling cheeks and...(sounds familiar? ;)) It's too much. It's ridiculous. It's annoying! I do not question why my critters pointed it out in the feedback. I question how I could have continued on this vein without realizing myself that I'd been had.

Double SIGH.

So I have my work cut out for me in this edit, in the edit of everything written prior to this moment, and in the writing of everything ever after, but I will break myself of this bad habit. I will rise above the "thou shalt"s and just write.

It seems to me there's a sense among writers that every opinion must be validated to hold weight. It's not enough to say this seems awkward to me, but rather some rule must rise from the deep to put authority behind the opinion. Only trouble is that the opinion gives writers a choice whether to adopt the change or stick with what they have. These manufactured rules, though, either make the critter seem foolish or can scar the writer for some time to come.

There are rules about writing. Grammar rules that are fixed (or mostly so) like capitalization and putting an end punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. What people need to remember is style rules are not rules. They're at best guidelines and at worse yokes around the necks of people trying to succeed.

The only rules I've heard that stand firm for me are these:

1) Thou shalt not confuse the reader (unless it serves a plot purpose).
2) Thou shalt entertain.

And, as you can see from the parenthetical phrase after the first, even those have caveats.
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Belated update? I did finally finish the last steps of But a Pretty Bauble this week. The second draft ending word count is just shy of 80k at 79,841.


In case you're curious, besides a spell check in which I found some introduced errors as well as a few I just missed going through manually, my list included the following:
Note: These are small enough that they should not constitute spoilers, and it's a glimpse into my process.


1. Clan not Tribe for the dragonkind
2. Hiba's eyes
3. What is the side of power for the king?
4. How far is it to the mine?
5. Hiba needs to call her father the king sometimes
6. Make sure the dragonkind never use the term nomad for themselves.
7. Check the frequency of "then"
8. Verify no contractions in narrative?
9. Check for "was not"
10. Check for "had had"
11. Chairs in Kader's study. Either at the desk or gone from the table.


This list came about because I noticed patterns in my fixes that I may not have been as aware of from the beginning.

Simple ones like 1,2,5,6, and 11 are often items where I started out one way and ended up deciding to make a change. Those I may jot down on the continuity sheet of my world building spreadsheet during writing, or they may be an unconscious change that I notice during the first edit pass. I added this sheet to my process because of my copyediting work as I would have to note down the discontinuities so I could get a preferred value and track whether I'd made the fix. However, that made so much sense and worked so well that I ended up applying it to my work as well.

For word frequency or things like 8, 10, and 11, what I'll do is a search and replace with highlighted word for the offending item. Then I change the page size to 45% or lower...something that allows me to see frequency across a number of pages. When I find a cluster of the highlight marks, I flip back to readable with my cursor on that page and see what I want to do in context. Sometimes the frequency is appropriate after all, and globally changing anything just leads to jerky writing.

The contractions in the narrative decision was a toughie for me. Yes, I LITERALLY searched for a single quote mark through the whole document and wasn't that fun. This was something I had never faced, or at least not in a long while, because I do use contractions in the narrative normally. However, something in this particular book called for a more formal style outside of dialogue. I won't know if that was a good or bad call until I get feedback, but for right now, it's what I went with.

And then the distance to the mine? That was pure idiocy. This idea came on me hard and fast, I rushed through the prep, and jumped into the writing like a thirsty nomad falls onto the sand before an oasis to cup some of the precious liquid between his hands. Some simple things, like recording the distance where I could find it and prevent continuity issues before they were born, got lost in the mad race to have this story take form beneath my flying fingers.

So, there's a glimpse into my editing process. But I'll tell you, the most important part of all is simple: Even after focusing so totally on this draft to get it edited by the deadline I had set, the story still resonates. That spark that drove it into my mind still lingers on the page...for me at least.

 

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Today signals the end of the first edit pass on But a Pretty Bauble.  All told, it was pretty easy, though I do have doubts about the overall, and about the ending in specific.

Am I ready to release it to critters? No.

I have a couple steps still to do:

1) I have one note of something I need to seed better in the beginning because it becomes crucial.
2) I have 7 continuity elements to check from the time it takes them to get to the mine and back to whether the dragonkind ever refer to themselves as nomads, to an overuse of the word "then."  Those will be fun to squirrel out :p.

Honestly, considering it was a raw rough draft, that's not a heck of a lot.  I added less than 5k in new text as I edited, though, and some sections were rewritten from scratch.

The oddest part of this was the outline.  Often I'll update things that change, but there were many scenes that when I read the outline blurb, I expected a continuity nightmare.  The writing didn't reflect this at all, but the difference between the writing and the blurb gave an interesting peek into just how the story had changed.

Anyway, the point is that it has moved to the next level.  It'll be interesting to see the reactions.

And stats:
Edited Today: 2,497 words
29 Chapters complete - 105% of the novel
0 Chapters remain
-3,891 Remaining word count
79,483 Current Total
75,592 Original Total
 

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As a writer, I find myself gaining comfort in the oddest things. Today, I made myself cry. Not outright balling, but a tightened chest and watery eyes as the words on the page twisted my heart.

 

Now this is a novel I wrote. This is a novel that I know the ending to and already know that it'll come out all right.

 

So I have to wonder at the words affecting me, and hope that they'll affect all my readers in the same way.

 

I'm having some difficulty with But a Pretty Bauble. It's the kind of difficulty most writers claim to want with all their hearts, but facing the possibility in reality is nothing to write home about.

 

I have made some line-level changes, though there are whole pages that are "perfect," and have caught only one continuity error, a minor one. I'm swept up in the story, and this first draft is so far from raw that it's unbelievable.

 

Which is where I get to the problem. Have I achieved the impossible and produced an almost perfect draft (in comparison at least)? Or am I still, after letting it sit for three years, too close to the story to see the flaws?

 

When I weep, is it because I know how this should be, or because identifying with Hiba in this moment is impossible to avoid with what I managed to get on the page?

 

I'm not used to being this confident in a book, and at the same time having so little confidence :). But only time...and critters...will tell.

 

And stats (Note that I've passed the halfway point :D):

Edited Today: 6,301 words

16 Chapters complete - 59% of the novel

13 Chapters remain

30,773 Remaining word count

44,819 Current Total

77,493 Predicted Total


P.S. One of these years I'll do a complete Coma Wedding update.  As it stands, I'm moving forward and nearer to the point where I haven't finished the outline :P.
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Umm, did I say less complicated? My goodness I believe in layers. I am now about a third of the way into But a Pretty Bauble. I am finding nothing major (probably a sign I can't see them without help) and enjoying the story. It's funny to see how the story mutated away from the outline though. Hiba was supposed to be a spoiled princess with nothing but fluff between her ears, sort of a Middle Ages chick lit heroine. Well, that didn't work. She's innocent and ignorant, but mostly because she's led a sheltered life, and boy does she try hard :). And Bab is full of himself and so confident, right up until he's proved wrong. He accepts the correction well, while holding himself to blame for failing to realize it in the first place.

 

My absolute favorite parts so far? I'd have to say Bab and Faysal arguing, but Hiba and her father runs a close second, and heck, I like it all. Even the bad guy is...well...bad :).

 

So yes, while the uncomplicated part might not have worked out as well as I'd hoped, it's funny and fun.

 

I'm taking Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways class (http://howtothinksideways.com/members/?rid=190), which is a lot of work and definitely worth it. One of the things she has us look at is our interest areas. If I hadn't done that just a couple of months ago, I might not have noticed, but But a Pretty Bauble has a lot in common with Shadows of the Sun, as crazy as that may sound.

 

Now to be clear, Shadow of the Sun = sociological science fiction novel in which two sapient species conflict in a bloody and fatal manner when unaware humans breathe on the embers of a centuries-old conflict that has slipped largely into myth. So, aliens, another planet, jungle, islands, water, fish, humans, scientists, linguistics...

 

But a Pretty Bauble = fantasy novel where a small time kingdom fights with nomads over the right to mine jewels in the desert. So, humans (mostly ;)), this planet, desert, limited water, no fish, pre-industrial.

 

They sound like the spitting image of each other, don't they?

 

Except...both are clashes of culture with lives on the line. Both have misunderstanding built out of secrecy started for protection, and while in one the third party is ignorant and in the other he knows exactly what he's doing, in both there's someone outside of the conflict who eggs it on.

 

Some day, I'm going to be great fodder for a literature class :).

 

And stats:
Edited Today: 5,491 words
11 Chapters complete - 38% of the novel
18 Chapters remain
46,538 Remaining word count
29,054 Current Total
76,836 Predicted Total

 

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It's been a while since anyone has seen this title cross my posts, but I thought a short, fun fantasy might be just the ticket before I tackle another big one.

I went back to reread my early posts about But a Pretty Bauble, and they make me tremble for what's to come.  That said, at least this time I can feel the shape of the novel, the weight of it pressing against my hands.

So far I have edited the first four chapters.  The main characters have all been introduced, the main conflict and major secondary conflict have floated across the page...umm, make that two secondary conflicts...and I'm certainly not hating it.  I think this is a novel I'll require outside feedback on before I can tell if it works or not.  We'll see.  I may be able to see major issues as I get further in.

At one-seventh of the way, though, I'm tweaking, clarifying, and cleaning up some truly horrendous NaNo prose, but seeing no major changes at all.  Oh, and I am faithfully murdering sentence-level darlings that still resonate, but just don't work with what surrounds them.

Whatever happens, I think it'll be a fun excursion from my normally more complicated texts.

And stats:
Edited Today: 4,644 words
4 Chapters complete - 14% of the novel
46 Chapters remain
64,714 Remaining word count
10,878 Current Total
76,253 Predicted Total
 

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After an incredibly long haul, I have reached the end of the road with Shadows of the Sun. Or rather, I've reached the turn where the book can take off on its own.

All that remains is a spell-check run and the submission package (no easy feat, but different from editing the whole), and Shadows will be out looking for an agent willing to shepherd it through publication to bookstore shelves.

The final word count is 134,239, so still rounded to 135k despite my efforts. It turned out that, as I'd feared, I had already done pretty much all the big cutting in the previous pass, leaving only bits and pieces here or there unless I want to remove one of the threads that make up the plot, a drastic cut which I will do if necessary, but maybe the story can stand on its own despite the length. I started at 135,740, so cut more than 1000 words anyway.

And the secondary meaning of this success? I can now focus on NaNo with a whole heart and no guilt...of course I have just one day to finalize my outline, which needs a ton of work. I should get to sleep :p.
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And progress progresses, if at a crawl.

The major changes pass is now complete. Good news? Well, the draft stands at 135,700 give or take a few words. That's still a lot higher than I'd hoped for, but a good 4,300 words shorter than I thought it would be. I did take the opportunity to take out a couple of places that weren't crucial that happened to fall in the same chapters as the major changes, so it's not a clear sign that I controlled any additional word count, but still, it makes the next step a little more plausible :).

And just what is the next step?

Well, that would be the culling pass. The plan is to read through the whole novel, looking for any place I can remove 1, 5, or even 200 words. Honestly, at this point I don't expect to find many big cuts, and I doubt that the little cuts will add up to the minimum 10,700 that I'd prefer to cut. Even an 125k, Shadows of the Sun will be running heavy for the industry.

That said, though I'm looking for cuts, at this point I'm not ready to manufacture them without an agent/editor's guidance. This is a complex, layered book, and that's not just me talking but also those who have graciously agreed to read it. I've been aware of this word count issue for some time and have already stripped out some of the additional information in the book that served to make the reader aware of the bigger world but wasn't absolutely crucial to the novel. Any more pieces I find like that will be toast. But I'm not going to trim the elements that strengthen this novel, that make it the anthropological fiction I've always wanted to write, without someone with a heck of a lot more experience than me saying if I cut X bit, I'll get a sale, or an equivalent statement.

The trick here is balance. There are a billion rules that authors try to follow, and as many ways that following those rules can kill the heart of the novel. Shadows has had its fair share of critiques, but in each case, I looked at what the critiquer was saying and worked toward an answer that resonated with the story. When Shadows first went over acceptable word count, I gave a close look to what wasn't necessary, and culled where I could. And as I said above, I'm going through again with that sole purpose.

However, no one is going to buy Shadows because it meets the guidelines perfectly. No one is going to say that this story is the one because of word count, margins, font, or what have you. What will (and yeah, I believe will is the right term) sell Shadows is the depth of the story, the complexity of the conflicts, the characters themselves, and the world and multiple cultures found within. Weakening those strengths to court a word count is working against the story, and against its chances in the big wide world. Let the power of this story capture an agent's heart first, and then the agent and I can dicker over what to cut :). But I'm not going to break what's going for Shadows because I'm afraid of some numbers that I have to put at the top of the page. After all, who's to say I wouldn't end up cutting the one part that would have snagged the agent I'd prefer above all others.
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I've been slowly working my way through the second crit for Shadows and completed that step by the end of last week.  What remained was to do the significant changes run.  I've identified 2 brand new scenes I have to add, 1 scene I have to split into two, 9 scenes that require major changes, and 1 scene I just need to move from one place to another.

The new scenes are the result of having made a significant change that I didn't think through all the way.  I moved a character's introduction earlier to give readers a human to cling to.  That seems to have worked very well.  However, I gave Martha the first scene and made no other changes.  This meant it was 200 pages until she showed up again, leaving these newly introduced readers to wonder what the heck was going on with her :p.  Sigh.  So now, I'm splitting the first scene into two, which spreads her introduction a bit, and adding two more scenes to reveal a little of her issues and keep her in the reader's mind.

The changes are anything from adding more depth to grounding a creature that I mention but never show.

As usual, these changes will have the impact of adding more word count to a book already on the heavy side.  Once I finish this phase so that all the contents are there, I'm going through backwards in the hopes of identifying places I can cut words.  If I cut approximately 25 words per page, I'll get it down into the 120k range, but I doubt I'll be able manage that on a global basis.  Still I'd like to see how close I can get.

And finally, I'll do a proof edit to make sure I didn't break anything new.

After that it's just doing the submission package and sending Shadows out into the world.  The goal is to have the first batch out before the end of the year, but it's more important to be ready than to make an arbitrary deadline.  This year has been a case of life interfering big time, so I'm trying hard to be flexible.

 

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Well, I've gone through the first of two critiques, much to my delight and dismay.  As is usual, there were things I didn't agree with or can't apply, and things that just clicked right off.  For example, I made a change to the beginning that brought a character's POV to the front, but then failed to change the initial starting place.  This means you meet her in the first chapter, and then nothing for the first 40k.  Sigh.
 
So, my hopes of "yes, it's perfect," were dashed horribly and I haven't even read all the second crit yet :).
 
On the other hand, there were wondrous moments when the comments made it clear that I was successful in tormenting the reader along with my characters.  If there was ever an argument for "reader-focused" comments, this is it.  I have no doubt about what worked along with what didn't, and got the thrill of knowing it not just worked but worked well.
 
The end result is that I still have some work ahead of me, but it's nothing in comparison to previous edits and shouldn't change the integrity so much that I feel another crit pass is necessary.  Though I do have to wait until I finish reading the second crit to know for sure :).
 
And just to give you something more to chew on than just a status report, here's one of the quibbles from the crit that I agreed with but still dismissed.  There's no good answer that I can see :p.
 
The question was regarding the use of male and female to designate the characters when not repeating their name, similar to how we would use man and woman as an alternative if they were human.
 
Now, man and woman were out simply because my characters are alien.  Not only would it bug my sense of accuracy, but it could also make readers complacent about the alien cultures so that when things happened that are somewhat non-human, they'd stand out more and distract the reader.
 
The alternative of offering "native" words that filled the same purpose hit me on the accuracy once again.  If all words are translated except those that have no equivalent, as they must be because the book is not written in the Nismorani language, then it implies that their genders are somehow different than human ones, which in this book they are not.  Additionally, the structure would have to be introduced in the beginning, where readers are already hit with a number of foreign words and concepts to absorb.  This last bit opens a concern that readers would be drawn out of the story as they tried to remember if this word meant the plural, the male, the female, or singular of the people.  The male and female would be noticeable in context assuming a she/he followed soon after, but whether it's a people or a gender would be less clear as either could be there.
 
I asked my boys for suggestions, because I couldn't come up with anything better than the two above.  My oldest came up with a wonderful suggestion.  Since the first sapient group the reader is introduced to is monkey-like, why not use the gender terms for monkeys?  This would have two benefits: it would solve the problem above, and fix a monkey image in the reader's head.  So, I went out and researched the monkey terms.  Guess what they are?  Male and female :p.  Bah.
 
So anyway, while I agree that male and female sound odd at first and take some getting used to, I had to ignore the issue because the cure was worse than the disease.  Have any of you run into this trouble?  And if so what did you do about it?
 
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I certainly didn't mean to drop off the map like this after doing so much better about posting at least once a month. I wonder if anyone is even listening anymore ;). Life happened to me in a big way on the health front, and summers are not the best time for me in any case because my main job becomes chauffeur across state lines.

Now here's the good news :D.

My main project for the year, Shadows, was in others' hands as you might have remembered. So all that life happens stuff that I'm now recovering from did not affect my progress :). Sometimes the luck is with you even when it feels like it's as far away as humanly (or not so humanly) possible.

So, the update on Shadows is this:

Both crits are back into my hands. Both critters have indicated I should not throw up my hands in despair and set the manuscript alight so I can dance on its ashes.

Beyond that? I'm afraid I don't yet know, but I have hopes to crack open the files this week and start planning my next move :), one that will, I hope, involve more consistent updates here.
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This novel is my main project for the year, and a smidge behind in the schedule, but Shadows has now advanced to the next step.

So far this year, I've done a deep edit pass, a proof edit, and a spell check. The novel is, as of about a minute ago, in the hands of the two critters who volunteered for the job. One of the critters has read the novel before (and is still willing, and eager, to go again (go figure)) while the other is brand new to this story with little foreknowledge at all if any. Between the two, I'm hoping to get what I need to polish and send Shadows off to find a new home.

And for the curious, the final word count is 135,117. I tried hard to keep the word count down in this edit pass, and cut a significant amount, but there was that much and more to add. Still, I was thinking I'd be looking at 140k-150k, so I'm happy.

Just to prove how chaotic life has become, I wrote this on the 4th...and am posting it now. So far I've seen some positive comments about the book from one critter, very general, but still positive, so there's hope that I haven't broken it :).
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The most unbelievable and amazing thing happened tonight. The Shadows of the Sun edit pass is complete, and one day BEFORE the revised deadline. This has been a crazy year so far. Even with giving myself an additional 15 days, some days it seemed like I'd never reach the last page.

All that remains is to do a copyedit pass, one more light crit pass to make sure I haven't broken anything big, and then Shadows will start making the rounds...I hope before December of this year. Guess I better get cracking on that submission package, eh?

My fears of a 150k behemoth did not come to pass. I kept an eye out for opportunities to cut, and so even with the added scenes, I increased the count by only 3,000 words. At 135k, it's large for what people are looking for, I know, but I hope the story balances that out. And maybe, if not, it'll balance enough so an editor or agent is willing to help me find the 10k to cull. At this point, I've removed anything that I thought unnecessary and everything that I thought weakened the novel (amazing how many shortcuts I'd taken :p). That leaves only removing something that strengthens Shadows but might not be 100% crucial. Sigh. But that's a decision I don't plan to make unless I have to.

While I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a very real sense of relief, and confidence that the story is much stronger than it was before, part of me is sad to reach this step. There's still work to be done, but I'm expecting it to be the fiddling type rather than anything massive. Then a project that has been with me in one form or another since 1988 will be out of my hands and launched onto the world. I don't know if I'll ever revisit Kyrnie's world, but I do know that I'll never forget my sojourn here and just hope that others feel the same way assuming they get the chance to explore.

Stats:
Edited Today: 2,829 words
50 Chapters complete - 102% of the novel
-15 Chapters remain (yes, I SERIOUSLY rechaptered in this pass.)
-3,016 Remaining word count
135,209 Current Total
135,209 Predicted Total
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I know I've been horrible about updating, but life happened and kept me from editing as well as posting. However, in the short week that ended April, I pushed everything else away and dove in head first. Though I blew my initial goal of May 1st to get the edit done, I'm on target and looking good for the backup date of May 15th. The edit is going well, and getting easier as I go along. I'd forgotten the critter comment that the second half was much stronger, but I'm loving that fact now. There are still some big fixes that need to be done, and a whole new scene that must be written, but the number of "guess I have to rewrite this scene from scratch" instances have gone way down.

What's even more important is that I still love and believe in this story. Kyrnie's had a rocky road, but I think this time she'll actually be ready for the big time.

Oh, and the biggest change? When I first wrote Shadows, I got it into my head that books should be around 30 chapters. I think it happened by accident at first, but then grew into tradition over the course of 2-3 books. With Shadows clocking in at 135k, those 35 chapters were pretty hefty. One of the tasks I've undertaken this time is to trim the average chapter length down, to go for punchy rather than jamming scenes together to stay within the realm of 30 chapters (which I didn't succeed at anyway). Currently there are 39 chapters and I'm in the middle of what was once chapter 28. My largest chapter went from 5314 to 4123 and my average from 3805 to 2672. The smallest, however, went from 2220 to 1313. But I think it's working better that way :). No one sentence chapters for me as of yet.

And stats:
Edited Today: 10,138 words
39 Chapters complete - 81% of the novel
-4 Chapters remain
25,303 Remaining word count
106,890 Current Total
135,543 Predicted Total
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Well, this has been an interesting ride so far. It's hard to tell whether I was just distracted by everything going on around me or whether I was just having a hard time getting into this edit. Frankly, I don't care anymore because something clicked :). Shadows of the Sun is no longer fighting me. It may have just been a case of needing to think a little bit longer.

This has been a long road. When I wrote the first version, I wasn't good enough to tackle it. Oddly enough, I think I am now, after a number of edits that have each brought it closer.

That's a lot of pressure.

On the other hand, I did a marathon, pushing myself to edit 7,500 words a day for two days, and things started to click. I was sucked back into the story. All my fancy notes about "thought out" solutions? Many of them helped offer a direction to take, but few ended up being completely re-conceptualized.

I took scenes marked for minor changes and tossed them out the window; I took ones marked for major changes and reworked them in a completely different direction.

The key point?

The rewrites work. They're strong. They take the themes and characters, and make them better.

Guess this shows I just had to wait, and drag my heels, until it just clicked. Maybe there'll be a little less whining and a little more productivity from now on ;).



And stats:
Edited Today: 5,836 words
16 Chapters complete - 37% of the novel
18 Chapters remain
83,738 Remaining word count
48,451 Current Total
135,154 Predicted Total
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I know...I'm behind in blogging. It's been crazy on both the writing and the personal front. However, I am slowly but surely making progress on Shadows of the Sun. I set myself a deadline of 3/31 to get the new outline done, and I was up until 11:30 that last night, but I finished. The outline I had used previously was some versions out of date, and in going through each scene again to write the blurb, I could mentally churn through my solutions and decide if they were actually what the book needed.

Ultimately, some fix plans grew stronger, some stayed the same, some changed entirely, and some were round filed as trying too hard :). I think I'm relatively well grounded in what I need to do, but this edit is going to be just as difficult as I imagined.

I have started working on the initial chapter, which has been rewritten more times than I can remember. This time, I've split it in half, added a new 1st scene and made serious changes to every single scene afterward :p. Four scenes complete so far. The first is new, the second changes the introduction of not one but two characters, in both cases to make positions and personalities clear. It's rather sad when you know exactly what the characters are like but your readers tell you one is whiny and worthless and the other should be shot. I mean, I'm fine with shooting characters who deserve it, but these guys are the good guys!

So I hope I've done a better job on their introduction, and in doing that, made the reason another crucial plot moment occurred obvious rather than sloppy. I think I have, but I know these characters too well to say for sure, because I thought I had before too ;).

The bad part is that the book is already long. In fixing these bits, I've only made it longer. At this point I'm looking at shaving off 7k-8k in order to get to the overly long 125k. Sadly, I think this is going to be on the heavy side, but better a strong book than one that fits nicely in a word count slot. That's not to say I don't plan on one last pass for the sole purpose of shaving word count. If I can take a 5000+ short story down to 3500 for a contest, I can fix this. Now I ended up breaking the story rather significantly when I did that...something that luckily only required a four word fix...but at least I know I can do it.

In the new outline, there are only 2 brand new scenes to be added, though with all the other changes (most of them adding not cutting) I've got my work...umm...cut out for me :).

So, time to sleep so I can get some work done tomorrow.

And stats:
Edited Today: 2.282 words
2 Chapters complete - 5% of the novel
32 Chapters remain
126,236 Remaining word count
5,958 Current Total
132,838 Predicted Total
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And the re-outlining has finally begun. I've gone through all the notes, including the Q&A with my critiquer, and collected the global changes.

Now I'm reading each scene and creating a new outline from scratch. I wrote this book just as I was working out the way outlines would help me. Therefore, its original outline is not very helpful at all :P.

I don't know whether I've gotten that much better at editing, or if distance is what I needed, but I can understand some of the comments I got before on certain characters now so much better. Stuff I could have sworn was laid out on the page, as I read the scene, is mentioned subtly, as though reminding the reader of something that they should already know, except that the first, detailed mention doesn't exist. Yep, I'm talking about Welhame here. I no longer question why his important--and positive--role did not come across. It's hard for readers to pick up on these things when they ARE NOT THERE :p.

If all goes well, though, I now have the distance, the ability, and the plan to make this novel rock as it should have from the beginning.

Oh, and I now know my weakness. When I get lazy, I duplicate themes and threads. I thought it was mere accident that I'd done so in the book until I worked on my synopsis and skimmed the outline instead of rereading the whole thing. Because of that, my first and second synopsis draft have two errors, one minor and one major. The minor can be excused. It won't affect anything. The major makes two different themes look pretty much identical and is proved false in the first paragraph. How's that for a wonderful presentation. Between the sample chapters and the current synopsis, no editor or agent would know which to trust :p.

BTW, I'm currently both taking a focus on synopses through OWW (closed but they might run another if there's enough interest) and teaching a specific synopsis technique on Forward Motion as this month's workshop. (Membership is free and there's still time to join that one if you're interested.) That's why I'm working on the synopsis for Shadows of the Sun, something I do before I start writing and after I've finished the final proof normally. And no, the timing wasn't planned. The one I didn't control was set after the one I do :).

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