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So, yesterday saw the sight of a rare event...I finished a novel edit :). Seeing Is Believing has now been edited start to finish (though I have not done the spell check yet).

The final stats are: 72 scenes in 40 Chapters for a word count of 92,146.

I added a paltry 964 words.

The changes per scene were mostly nickel and dime, 5 words added here, 3 taken away there. Only two chapters managed a difference of over 100 words, both in the positive.

Am I happy with the novel? Yes.

Do I think it's perfect? No.

I have great doubts about this one, about whether I've succeeded in the point I was making, whether the point is too heavy handed, whether the story even makes sense.

I'm too close to it...and too far away at the same time. This is not a tale in the story-telling tradition. It doesn't fall into a category even as specific as space opera. There are no rules to follow besides ones so broad they offer no assistance at all, and unlike my other SF novels, this one is not about a culture so much as about a person.

Eeek! I've written an idea novel.

In my short stories, I can tell (though I believe no one else can) which started from a story or a character, and which from an idea. Character and story manuscripts burst out of me fully fleshed with twists and tangles naturally dripping from my fingers, the hope being I can hold the idea long enough to capture them. That's why I outline, actually, because otherwise I can't capture those tangles as well and they become faint copies of what they could have been, forever irretrievable.

With Seeing, I knew the point of the story but not the shape of it. I didn't know how to take characters from point a to point b. I had an outline (though I started writing with it only half complete), but the outline for me is only hooks into hidden corners of my mind where the story pieces lurk. For Seeing, the outline was an attempt to draw out a story that didn't exist in the same section, a story that twisted around the side of my brain usually left for coding.

I suppose if you dig down to the deep most levels, it is, at its heart, a story about culture clash and time of change like most of my SF, but it didn't feel that way, it didn't write that way.

So, now maybe my distant and close makes a little more sense, or no sense at all. I know points of the novel are incredibly strong. I think Paul got the best end of the deal on great dialogue, not that the others are weak, but that he got to say cool things :). I hope people will feel for Brian in his push pull of which step to take, which beliefs to make his own, but I fear they'll find him wishy-washy, rather than understand that his whole world-view is called into question. And most of all, I hope none of the characters will be dismissed as a mere convenience. They each have a role, a purpose, without which the whole is weaker.

Well, at least now you'll see that I have a lot bound up in this story. It's not a matter of it being my baby. If it doesn't work, out with the bathwater it'll go, but at the same time I have hopes. I have dreams tied up with Brian and his aspirations. I grew with him through his confusion and I want to find others who can share that feeling. And so, without any more blathering on, Seeing will take its next step into the world.
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Okay, so I've been doing a lousy job keeping updates coming. This novel came to be too quickly and I didn't have much background to give for it. However, this has been a monumental NaNo for me. Every other time, I leapt in with focus and confidence, blew through the majority of the word count in the first couple weeks if not the first week, and then danced my way to the finish line before Thanksgiving.

This year wasn't like that.

November posed some unusual challenges for me this year. First off, I was still struggling with an off balance summer that had put me behind on practically everything, then set me up for the desperate need to write so I started a novel in September which had to be finished in time to prep something for NaNo. So, I had already decided to go for a NaNo proper and 50k rather than a completed, full-length novel.

I'd also determined that I'd have to keep working on the Seeing Is Believing edit throughout November because I needed to finish it and the Con Shirt edit on top of everything else.

Then Holly Lisle, who I do programming work for, needed a major back end release for her shop to coincide with her new offerings (fun stuff that you should go check out:

Oh, and I managed to catch my second flu of the year (after the shot :p), because I was so drained from all the running around that exhaustion made me vulnerable. However, I do have to add that this is pretty standard. I seem to get a flu or serious exhaustion-based illness pretty much every year with NaNo. The difference this year was that I'd already had a very serious flu back in October :p.

The upshot of it was that there were five days on which I did nothing, a handful more on which I did less than 1k, and I ended up in a bit of a scramble at the end rather than coasting my way to easy victory.

What have I learned beyond the obvious of not over scheduling myself (something I'm sure to ignore ;))? Though many tout writing every day as the only way, the right way, the way to tell a writer from a wannabe, I'm not an every day writer. It is more draining for me to push a little out consistently than it is to do leaps and bounds. If I can devote a whole focused day and blow out 5k-10k, I end up with more energy than if I do 1k-2k every day for five days. March Madness (40k in seven days) is easier on me than NaNo and I have the rest of the month to prep for it and get other things done.

Which is not to say that I can't write every day, or even consistently. It's more that I can't handle being obligated to, and more to the point, obligated to write more than what I can in my morning hour. That one hour can be anything from 200 to 2000 words, though more often in the 1000-1200 range. Doing that as the first thing after breakfast doesn't seem to have any negative impact at all. It's slower than I'm used to producing, but it blends nicely with my other critting, editing, programming, etc. responsibilities.

So does this mean I'll never do NaNo again? Are you kidding? I'm practically an addict ;). But I think I'll plan to bull rush the beginning from now on so that when I start coasting, I'll have my words well in hand :).

Oh, and yes, the release went off beautifully. And no, Seeing is not done. Sigh. But Sorcery is :D.

And my NaNo novel stats:
New Words: 1322 words (Today to tidy off the ending)
51 scenes
51 complete - 100% of the novel
53169 Final Total - with an average of 1043 words per scene.

Oh, and do note that all my stress (which I think I put in a post) about it being too short was irrelevant. It did not end up at the 54k initially predicted, but came pretty darn close :).

...On further review, it looks like I didn't post about it coming in short. Be grateful :). The last thing you needed was to hear me whining about how this novel would be coming in at 36k, leaving me scrambling for something to fill the 14k hole for NaNo.
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I'm nearing the middle of my first pass edit of Seeing Is Believing and the edit seems to be progressing nicely. I wondered a lot as I was writing whether this would hold together, and I'm still not quite sure. The story is a story, not a random jumble of scenes, but I still worry that it won't come together, that I'm pushing the "main points" too hard, or that no one will get it at all. Maybe all this proves is that I'm a worrier?

Anyway, since I don't have anything fascinating to report besides progress, I thought I'd toss this post in out of order (which is ironic as you'll soon discover). I was going through my files and discovered this post that never made it to the blog. So enjoy a glimpse into the past, when I thought Seeing would never come to an end :).

Seeing Is Believing is now underway again. I had a bit of a hard time starting up after a one month leave of absence besides working on the outline, but not for any of the usual reasons. I got to where I had stopped the previous time and was reading back a bit to get into it when I found a place that made no sense. Even worse, I remembered writing more at that point and those words appeared to have vanished. I spent some panicky moments searching old backups and high and low, but there was just no sign of them at all. Finally, I decided it was a matter of thinking I'd written them because of my detailed outline and that I hadn't actually done so.

Happily, this tale has a better resolution than the depressing one above, and a reminder of why I do not write out of order :p. I had a very concrete image for a scene I was not anywhere near. Instead of ignoring it as I usually do, I went ahead and wrote it, then marked the break with *** so I could easily find my place.

Well, what had happened was simple. One of my writing sessions, not the most recent but the one before that, I had forgotten how I should search for the *** and start writing above it. Following my normal pattern, I had continued the scene at the very end of the file. Then the next time, I remembered and wrote from the ***, stranding that partial scene off at the end of the book. Honestly, I don't know how people manage to write out of order. It's so difficult to keep track of. However, in this case, I accidentally went to the end of the doc and a phrase caught my eye, a phrase that happens in the story well before the extra scene I have floating out there waiting for me to catch up. There were my missing words, and luckily, I found them before I'd rewritten the whole thing.

So, though I don't have the spreadsheet open to get the stats, I have now passed the 50k mark on the story and hope to go back to progressing at a somewhat steady 7k a week or so.
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Down to the wire with my next book already panting in the wings, Seeing Is Believing is done!

This has been a rough, long road, a good bit because real life kept demanding its fair...or more than fair...share of my time and energy.

Will the story hold together when I reread the draft? Well, I'm not expecting perfection, but the threads are there, it definitely has a beginning, middle, and end, and I like the characters. I'd have to say, though I expect a good bit of editing, I think it will hold, will stand, and will become something grand when I'm done kicking the tires.

Here I am at the end (well, of this step at least) and I have to look back and laugh.

This book began as a "simple" short story idea for the Gotham Writers SF workshop taught through Barnes and Noble University. It was actually my second attempt at a short story for the class, as the first also grew to novel proportions when subject to the provided world building techniques. There's a reason I don't do prework on short stories ;).

Anyway, what is now a complicated tale about a young man finding out who he really is while putting a post-invasion Earth on the path to recovery began as something simple.

The core?


The original idea was in a society where everyone's vision is corrected from birth to be perfect 20/20, what would happen if a renegade offered visual distortion as a pastime? Something along the lines of an opium den but with the "drug" being funny mirrors, distorted lenses, and the like.

If you've never had the chance, go to your local science museum and ask if they have a set of beer goggles. If they don't, tell them to talk to the San Jose Tech Museum (in California) about them. These are a pair of glasses with distortion lenses so you see the way you would if completely drunk. The goal is to walk a straight line...take a basic sobriety test...with them on. Let me tell you it is not remotely easy :).

Anyway, needless to say, this moved well beyond that original concept, so far that very few of those elements remain. Still, it's fun to look back to that starting point and trace the story's roots, which is why I shared the story.

And my final first draft stats:
New Words: 448 words (These last chapters grew tiny ;))
71 scenes
71 complete - 100% of the novel (Oh that 100% looks good :).)
0 Scenes remain
0 Remaining word count
91182 Estimated length - with an average of 1284 words per scene.
91182 Current Total -- (Until I edit that is :).)
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I haven't given an update on Seeing Is Believing for a while and there's a very good reason...I haven't had much to update :p.

However, I am actually nearing the end of this novel, which has taken much longer than I am comfortable with. I like to complete a novel in a 3-4 month span. This one is heading into its 6th month and I'd had high hopes of finishing it before the end of August so I could participate in another writing challenge for a new work. Honestly, I don't think that's going to happen without a scary push that'll exhaust me. Besides, I started Seeing with March Madness oh so long ago and it's taken me this long to get toward the end. If I start another novel now, what are my chances to participate in NaNo with a clean slate?

With regards to the story, I think I started writing before I had the shape of the novel fixed in my head, or maybe it's because this novel has fought me much of the way. I don't think this will turn out to be one of my more coherent drafts, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Still, I like the characters and I can feel for the push pull struggle Brian finds himself in, unsure what to believe and what to do as he works his way through the puzzles. With any luck, this will turn out to be a good, strong piece once I'm done editing it.

And stats:
New Words: 1,414 words
69 scenes
59 complete - 86% of the novel
10 Scenes remain
13,646 Remaining word count
94,157 Estimated length - with an average of 13,65 words per scene.
80,511 Current Total
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An amazing, wonderful, perfect thing happened today! I am no longer limping along pretending I know what I'm doing... Okay, right now I'm not writing on Seeing Is Believing at all besides the outline, but I finally got it done :D.

The total outline is: 12,306
The outline with the world building is: 13,830 words.

What this should tell you is that I do 99% of my world building within my outline. The other elements are character names, relationships, descriptions, and anything critical, and the notes I made as I was trying to figure out what went into the outline and where. Other than that, it's either in the outline or irrelevant... Or in my head in some indefinable form that will be available when I need it and only then (I did start out entirely this way you know :)).

Still, having the outline complete is a real boon for me because now I can see how things intersect rather than just writing blindly and hoping they'll all come together somehow. I still think there might need to be more fleshing out of the ending, but those scenes should come to me as I write now that I have the proper framework.

And here are the stats since they now actually make some sort of sense:

67 scenes

36 complete - 54% of the novel

31 Scenes remain

42,180 Remaining word count

91,163 Estimated length - with an average of 1,361 words per scene.

48,983 Current Total
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I know I can be dense about some things, and visual description is certainly one of them. It's always a struggle for me to add such things because I don't learn about my character's hair or eye color until it comes up, until the moment their hair does something to bring it into my vision, or they look at something or someone with emotion reflecting the color. I have, at times, considered this a benefit because I let people image the characters as they see fit. However, this theory breaks down when the image is undermined as that information becomes relevant, long after the reader has made their own image.

Why am I going on about this, you ask? It's very simple. I'm 46k into Seeing Is Believing, either about a half or a third depending on how long it ends up, and I just discovered the MC's love interest's hair color. They were out in the playground and her hair blew about in the wind, reaching out to tickle his face. And so I saw it, the hair, for the first time. Oops. Now what? Well, in the scene, the color was irrelevant, so I left it out. However, I went to the characters page of my spreadsheet and put under her physical notes that her hair is black...oh, and that she's about half a head shorter than he is. The only other note I had there was that she had brown eyes.

And when I did that little note taking, a light bulb went off above my head. It's simple really. So I take these notes while I'm writing, but when I do the first edit pass, all I have to do is go back to the first couple of mentions of the character and tuck in those little details. I won't have to know them when I first start writing the story, and the reader need never know that I didn't figure it out until 46k into the novel. Seems perfectly simple to me now, and I even may have done that with previous edits, but this time I made a conscious decision/plan to do it. My process is catching up to my workarounds and they're making sense :).

Here are the current stats, but they don't quite reflect the truth so I've added explanations:
New Words: 3385 words (On a marathon and was behind in the week anyway :). This does not include the 112 words to add a new scene to the outline.)
42 scenes (This number is incorrect because a large number (not sure how large) of the scenes don't exist in the outline yet.)
33 complete - 79% of the novel (Same issue as above.)
9 Scenes remain (I have at least 11 scenes in the notes that are not in the outline, and probably need at least that many more still.)
12584 Remaining word count (Based on current (truncated) outline)
58724 Estimated length - with an average of 1398 words per scene. (Length based on current outline)
46140 Current Total

At some point I really need to finish this outline ;).
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Seeing Is Believing started as an attempt for a short story (my second attempt in the class) in the Gotham Writers' short story class through Barnes and Noble a couple years ago. Umm, I really need to remember that I can't do prework for short stories. They don't stay that way. The one before this became not one but two novels (When She Calls has been written) and so far two short stories (one of which critters tell me is a novel :)).

This particular story is science fiction set on the Earth about 300 years from now. We have devoted all of humanity's resources to surviving a passive alien invasion and have become so focused on surviving that the idea of prevention has long slipped our minds. Or at least the minds of the majority.

Yeah, I have the strangest ideas sometimes :). Oh, and to make it all was inspired because of Lasik and a childhood of Highlights (c) Hidden Pictures.

The book started out with a simple message. "Don't become so focus on the day to day that you forget to plan for the future " sums up the concept pretty well.

Then I started writing. It's a coming of age novel where a young man has to discover not only that what his mother has told him since his father's death isn't quite the full picture, but that he has a choice as to what he'll do with that knowledge. Themes include the cost of denial, the aggrandizement of one group of people over the rest until the value of humanity's diversity is lost (and I don't mean racially; it's all skills based), the need to take a stand rather than sit back and accept what is the norm not because it's true but because it's comfortable, and half a dozen other things.

That might make it sound disconnected, but so far it isn't writing up that way. All the themes blend together and make Brian miserable :). Ah the life of a master of worlds.

This is not my normal type of anthropological SF, though it has elements of the same, and it's set on Earth, something I usually don't do, and it's complicated (okay, that part's right up my alley ;)).

And to make matters worse, I started writing with only a partial outline in order to participate in a writing challenge I do each year, Forward Motion's March Madness. At some point I need to drop back and fix the outline, but for the moment the ride's been interesting. I know the big picture movements, just not the step by step I usually prefer. I write 6k or longer outlines and craft the novel as I outline. This crafting while writing is new...and me. Personally, I prefer doing this part in the outline, but I'm not going to stop the story until I have to.

Oh, and even more? I've written a partial scene and an almost complete scene out of sequence, something else that is not normal for me. The partial has already been swept into the novel which is now about 38k, but the complete scene comes much later in the story.


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Margaret McGaffey Fisk

April 2017

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