Dry Boiled

Mar. 13th, 2010 11:09 pm
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I know it’s been a while since I posted something about my writing. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, editing, outlining, planning, submitting, etc. It’s that those activities are standard fair and so provoke little comment.


However, I am currently outlining a new story, and I’m watching it change as the story unfolds. I thought this might prove of interest to some of you.


Those who took my workshop Idea to Outline should find some of this familiar, but for the rest of you, my process goes in stages from idea, to initial synopsis, to breaking down that synopsis into scenes, to filling in the holes, at which point I’m ready to write.


Dry Boiled came to me as a voice, one I don’t normally do, but one perfect for the genre it seemed to be. (more…)

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I know it’s been a while since I did a writing post on my blog or LJ, but I’ve been having some difficulties there related to health issues that made me less inclined to keep up with things. However, that didn’t stop me from progressing, so here I am, finally updating NaNo.


I went back and read my posts (as sparse as they were on the topic) and realized that any reasonable person would assume the life block surged up and swallowed me again. That is far from the case. (more…)

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Gak! I have been attacked, sneak attacked at that.

I've been pushing on so many things that my life has come to resemble a tornado, touching down on one project just long enough to leave disaster in its wake before bouncing off to find another victim. To counter this, and give me space to do what I need to do...like teach a class starting August 3rd that'll run for 6 weeks...I declared once I finish Molly, that's it. I'm not starting another novel (meaning writing, not prep work) until NaNo. This is a blessing because it means I won't be scrambling to finish a novel before November 1st, especially since after the class, I'm teaching another at Muse Online (remember registration closes on August 1st) and going down to World Fantasy 2009 in San Jose (meaning I won't even be here for the start of NaNo).

And those are just the big external things. I'm currently critting a novel with another in the queue, I let my Selkie edit fall to the wayside when I got overwhelmed, and I'm supposed to be editing and submitting short stories which means getting and receiving crits...and acting on them.

Do I sound frantic enough? And that's not even considering my computer work, my kids, my hubby, and plans to go on vacation a lot in the remaining days of summer.

The last thing I needed was an article on self-publishing and the concept of having to explain your life's story on a first date to cross my plate.

What do these two things have in common? Well, absolutely nothing to any reasonable person. But when have I ever claimed to be reasonable.

Enter Let Me Tell You All About Myself.

The idea crossed my mind early this morning. I wanted to pass it to a friend because it was funny, but she wasn't around. I figured I'd have forgotten it by the time she got back, and went about my business. Bad move.

That gave the story a hook into my memory because I wanted to tell it to someone. And with that hook, it wiggled its way through the barriers to that swamp I call my idea generator and started shuffling through the mud, stirring up an unholy mess.

No, this isn't an urban fantasy, science fiction, or even a romance. I can't even claim this as a crossover mainstream like Coma Wedding. Let Me Tell is a psychological mainstream novel about expectation and delusion. About building up an image that becomes so real that you start to question whether reality can compete. (Okay, I forgot about the article talking about a man whose girlfriend is a body pillow stamped with an anime character, which might have had a slight hand in this mess too.)

The closest genre to something I've completed before is a romance, but it's certainly not conforming to the genre requirements since we only meet her through her self-published autobiography. However, because of that, I'll need to come up with entries that are sweet, funny, endearing, and positively wonderful (oh and I don't do funny well :p). But mainly it's the story of a guy who finds his perfect mate between the covers of a book, and the struggle between wanting to find the reality and fearing it won't measure up.

And to make matters oh so much better (not :p), because the idea burst in upon me with such weight, it already has an almost complete initial synopsis and a handful of scene suggestions. This makes it worthless as my "work alongside" idea for the August workshop, which is From Ideas to Outline. I still have to find an idea for that...but maybe I shouldn't look too hard until the 1st has come and gone :p.
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March Madness is drawing near (only one sleep away) and the novel for this challenge is Molly, the Asteroid Miner's Daughter.  This is one of my ideas generated during Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways class (http://howtothinksideways.com/members/?rid=190).  I'm tracking its progress in detail through the Thinking Sideways forums and my related blog, but I thought I'd drop a mention here as well.

It's difficult when you have established, successful processes to tackle learning a new one, but I've found that resting on any particular process is dangerous as you may run into a particular novel or circumstance that bucks your previous patterns and demands skill sets you have to discover if you haven't broadened your base.  That doesn't mean learning something new is easy, but it's definitely worth the trip if only to know what doesn't work for you.

Honestly, it's the other parts of Holly's class that appeal more, the insider tips for managing publishing contracts and making things happen in an organized fashion rather than a mad scramble.  I'm on the cusp of entering that lifestyle, and I need all the help I can get so I don't dissolve into the chaos that draws me :).

So, we'll see how it goes.  I have created (and finally sorted) a 41 scene outline for which most scenes have been verified using Holly's techniques.  I'd hoped for all of them, but a huge project for the boys' school sucked up all my time.  I'll have to verify as I go, but I have some 19+ verified so I've got a bit of room.

Oh, my goal for this March Madness (a mad dash for words from 7k to 40k and a finished book in a week through Forward Motion) is to achieve at least 14k.  I had enough problems with last year that I managed a mere 9k, and I plan to do better, darn it.

And stats:
New Words: 0 words
41 scenes
0 complete - 0% of the novel
41 Scenes remain
61500 Estimated length - with an average of 1500 words per scene.
0 Current Total
 

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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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Not too surprising considering my last post, today I put those lovely words on the page: The End.

Coma Wedding is the first novel I have completed since my NaNo almost two years ago on November 30th of 2007. If you've been following for a bit, you'll possibly remember that a medical mystery knocked me silly all of last year and so this is a major win :).

That said, this story is not what I'd consider my normal fare, though elements of it do cross over with other stories. I thought From the Sea was hard to classify (originally Selkie), but Coma Wedding takes it a step further.

This is a romance with no on-screen sex--heck, no sex at all, though a honeymoon has certain implications :). It is a time travel story with no explanation of the event beyond the fates, and the characters don't believe in time travel despite having to admit it happened in this one unique case. Yes, there's a ghost. No, he doesn't haunt, he doesn't scare little children, and he isn't trapped there until some great wrong is undone. He hangs around because something is unfinished, true, but he's so unghostlike that both he and the others often forget his lack of corporeal form until his chill reminds them.

And most importantly, it ends just after the honeymoon...when the Laura gets an offer to return to the industry she loves--in other words, a job.

I haven't reread it yet. It could be the most horrible, mixed-up story ever, but I really don't think so. The characters caught me and wouldn't let go. They dragged me through the chaos of their tale, refusing to settle into any known pattern and refusing to compromise even on something as simple as length. I thought 80k-90k was reasonable...they thought differently.

Whether this story will find a home, I cannot say. Of all my outlier novels, I think this is the furthest out. On the other hand, because it has a (mostly) contemporary setting, because it's about "normal people" despite the strange things that happen to them, it may have an easier time finding a place. After all, the mainstream market tends to be rather egalitarian, even if science fiction and fantasy aren't as welcome. Good thing then, I guess, that the time travel isn't explained :).


And stats:
New Words: 0 words
80 scenes
80 complete - 100% of the novel
0 Scenes remain
0 Remaining word count
107039 Estimated length - with an average of 1338 words per scene.
107039 Current Total
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And the countdown continues. Only two scenes remain in the Coma Wedding outline.

 

So...I reworked one of the scene blurbs today for a reason that I think merit's mentioning.

 

When I returned to the United States as a kid, I lived in Virginia and Massachusetts before moving out to California where I stayed until about 3 years ago. I'm still getting used to having seasons again when almost half my life was spent without significant ones.

 

Coma Wedding is a (largely) contemporary novel. It's set in the southern East Coast, and it begins in March and carries through to early November.

 

I make a point of mentioning seasons, the turning of the leaves, the snow on the ground, the light turning dimmer, but I haven't quite absorbed them into my psyche. On one side of my outline is a little counter. I say how many days have passed in the book, and it comes up with a date based on adding to the "base date" back in March. This helps me keep track of the big holidays that would have to have some, no matter how minor, impact on the story. Things like Fourth of July doesn't slip by without someone mentioning it, without seeing a flag, or hearing a homegrown fireworks go off. Therefore, I need the calendar to make sure my characters notice costumed folks showing up on October 31st for example.

 

However, this also tells me what time of year the action is happening. As you might have guessed, two scenes from the end, I'm smack dab in the middle of November...in Virginia.

 

So two scenes ago, my heroine goes running outside with just an old gardening sweater as a coat. Some people can do that (like my kids) but to everyone else, she would be freezing. And so she is. I got the weather angle perfect there and even made it into a plot point :D.

 

But when I started into the next scene this morning and read over the blurb, I realized my outline failed to account for such a simple thing like season. I have them going out onto the porch in early evening for privacy...in NOVEMBER. It's not like they're going to bundle up first.

 

Since I didn't want to end the book two scenes prematurely by my heroine either dying of pneumonia or slipping on the icy steps and breaking her neck, I fixed it in the actual draft, but the problem in my outline has served as a timely reminder of the importance of tracking the time line closely, and of the myriad of ways weather has an impact on the story.

 

So what are the ways you handle weather in your stories, whether driven by reality in a contemporary setting or by the climate forces you've put into place?

 

 

And stats:

New Words: 1371 words

80 scenes

78 complete - 98% of the novel

2 Scenes remain

2686 Remaining word count

107436 Estimated length - with an average of 1343 words per scene.

104750 Current Total

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Okay, I know it's been a while since I gave a real update for Coma Wedding. But a Pretty Bauble was the higher priority project and I'm lousy at updating. But here's the thing. Coma Wedding is rolling along merrily. At the end of last week, I took some time to update the outline so it's now in pretty much final form (open to change of course as it always is) and now have a reasonable belief that the final length will be around 110k. It's an interesting length, but within limits of the type of book (so crossover it ends up being mainstream ;)).

This has been an odd book from the start. First it comes and grabs me when I wasn't writing anything, then I started NaNo without finishing the outline (and it was in lousy shape for the part I needed then), and when I reached the end of NaNo, I was dead. So I stopped entirely and blamed the book. But it wasn't the book, it was me. So now here I am racing along at frequent 1500 or better writing mornings, something generally unheard of.

I like this book. I like the characters, I like the tangles, and I even like the fact that it's a paranormal, time travel, romance, coming of age novel about finding yourself.

So, the big news in my rambling is that the outline is complete, I'm on target for finishing by March 15th, and maybe even early. I have 7 scenes to go and am completing a scene a day pretty consistently.

And it even has a real title. The title is just as strange as the book, so who knows...it might stick: Once Upon a Coma.


And stats:
New Words: 1488 words
80 scenes
73 complete - 91% of the novel
7 Scenes remain
9457 Remaining word count
108084 Estimated length - with an average of 1351 words per scene.
98627 Current Total
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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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This is not something I ever thought I would say, but in this specific case, I think Shadows of the Sun should have been a fantasy :).

 

Let me tell you the story of a young protagonist whose only desire was to see the big, broad world and meet everyone in it.

 

She started as nothing more than an intrusive dream, a little monkey-like person poling a raft through a tangled jungle.

 

But that wasn't enough for her. She couldn't be satisfied by something as little as a presence in one tiny mind. No, she wanted it all.

 

Persistence won out and this young protagonist wiggled her way into a short story, sure this would be enough to soothe her heart. And for a good number of years, it was enough.

 

Only as time passed, the story grew too small to fit her ambition, too tiny to speak to the complexities she knew she had in her. She wanted...a novel!

 

And sure enough, she had the will to make a way, forcing herself back into that tiny mind, making a space, refusing to be forgotten until...a novel was born.

 

But that wasn't the end of her trials; no, it seemed more like a beginning. From there she had to wait half written as the author when wandering off to play with...of all things...the very same protagonist whom Kyrnie had originally convinced to share the stage way back when both accepted their limits in a short story world.

 

Her patience paid off though, and her story reached its full, necessary body.

 

But no one was reading it!

 

Again, she sat on her author's shoulder, poking and prodding until edits happened. Oh the agony. What she'd thought as a beautiful telling, rather than being praised, was ripped and torn and reformed. She went through numerous critique cycles, her beginning chapters thrown away time and time again. Then came a professional critique, and even the opportunity to star as an example in several writing classes.

 

With each iteration, once she recovered from the struggle, she grew stronger, more polished, and more refined. Until...

 

The day came when the author felt she had grown enough, improved enough, to take on the ultimate challenge, to scale the very last wall before being sent out all over the world.

 

And she was ready.

 

Yep, definitely a farm girl to dragon tamer story :).

 

And in case you missed the point that was hidden beneath the fantasy, Shadows of the Sun is, at this very moment, winging its way into the hands of the first ever agent to look upon its pages. If all that training and refining worked, she should be up to the challenge.

 

Thank you to all the secondary characters in her story who help the heroine learn, stretch, and grow into what she has now become :).

 


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As you might have noticed, I've gotten a little sidetracked what with this being November and with NaNo and everything, but that does not mean I plan to leave Shadows to gather dust. My goal this month is to write and polish the submission package to prepare for a December start.

So this week I had as my goal to write a synopsis. Imagine my delight to discover (unremembered) that I had already completed not one but several synopses for Shadows of the Sun earlier this year in both my Forward Motion synopsis class and the OWW synopsis focus.

Only trouble is that none of them sounded any good.

So yesterday, after a despairing look at what I had, I went and wrote a brand new one using my latest draft of the novel in which the overarching theme/plot is much clearer from the start. I still have to polish it, and compare to the other drafts to confirm this is, in fact, better, but it's progress.

I didn't like the query blurb either, so I guess that's next on the chopping block :p. If all goes well, though, I'll have a submission package ready to go out just when agents shut down for the holidays. That, however, is not a problem for me. I'd be happy to wait a bit on the responses because I have other things to get polished and out the door still this year.

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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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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

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