Clearing The First Hurdle

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When I sent my manuscript to my editor, I made a mental list of things I’d be willing to fight for if they disappeared or were changed beyond recognition. The list is actually very short, seeing as I walked into the process determined to stay open-minded to change.

In reading chapters five through ten, I knew one of my list items was on the horizon. And it wasn’t just any list item, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire story. As soon as I saw the heading for Chapter 10, I took a deep breath and hoped my original vision was largely intact.

Chapter 10 is a turning point in the story as this is where Ian’s secret is forced out of him. He can’t hide anymore and Amanda learns the truth behind his presence in her life. This moment between them is both emotional and magical.

What makes this particular part of the story so important to me is somewhat sentimental. It’s the first conversation I ever “heard” between my main characters, Amanda and Ian. There voices chimed into my imagination with such shocking clarity, I felt more like a transcriptionist than a writer.

The question, however, was whether my editor would see it the way I do. Her changes through chapters five through nine were relatively subtle (and extremely well done) and that gave me a little boost of confidence as I jumped into Chapter 10. That being said, I still made sure I wore my thick skin before reading even a single line. Thick skin is an important wardrobe accessory for any writer reading through edits!

After the first big breath at the start of the chapter, I don’t think I exhaled until the page before Chapter 11. Then, it took every bit of control I had not to jump up out of my chair and do a happy dance. The dialogue was relatively untouched and my original vision remained totally intact. The changes she made were quiet, yet powerful in that she made what I wrote flow with a little more elegance.

Now, I can relax a bit as one huge item on my list made it through my editor’s radar. Another big list item is coming in Chapter 12 and I’m still wondering what happened to my missing 23 pages and 7,000 words! But, for now, I’ll just bask in the fact that one hurdle has been cleared.

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c.b.w. 2014

Digging Into Change

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It’s been a week since my editor returned my manuscript. In that time I’ve downloaded the fully edited version to my Kindle Fire and read the first five chapters. So far the process has been pretty painless, but I’m sure that’s because I let it sit unopened for two days while I prepped myself to let go of things and approach change with an open mind.

Before opening the file, I remember thinking, I hope she didn’t change the first line.  Silly, silly me. When the first page loaded, the first line was not only different, but gone!  I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak that was sure to rip through my chest, but it never happened. For a moment, I sat there in total shock. Why? I loved the new first line. A lot.

This was a huge surprise to me because I always loved the original first line, which meant I never touched it through four drafts of revisions. That sentimental attachment was a problem, but I never saw it until someone else pointed it out! I had to say goodbye to my line, but I know my novel is better without it.

Over the next few chapters, the changes are more subtle, but still just as powerful. Small changes in word choice and grammar are helping to smooth out the way my words flow. Deletions here and there are creating a tighter sentences and paragraphs.  In some cases, I’m reading and I know things are missing, but it I don’t seem to miss them. That tells me they didn’t need to be there in the first place.

While the first chunk of this process has been easy to tackle, I know there are some big changes to come. The modified draft is 23 pages and about 7,000 words shorter than my original manuscript, which means something drastic has happened somewhere!

It’s easy to panic with those kind of numbers floating around, but all I have to remember is how much I love my new first line. It’s something I never thought I would accept, but here I am smiling. Will this happen with every major change? Probably not. There are things I’m willing to fight for if they are missing, but I’m also open to the possibility of trying a different path.

The next five chapters are on the agenda for the coming week. Hopefully, the read will be just as enlightening as the first five.

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c.b.w. 2014

Back From The Editor … Now What?

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While I was on vacation, my editor finished up with my manuscript. Being the superstar she is, she sent me two versions of the work she completed. The first version includes comments about the changes she made and grammar corrections (I have a feeling I’m going to get a major crash course in grammar rules after reading through all of them!). The second version hides all the comments and presents the manuscript as it would appear with her recommended changes.

The chaos of returning home from vacation has left me with just enough time to read the only the first page of both versions, but I’m already thrilled with the recommended changes. It’s funny how a fresh pair of eyes and a little rearranging can make such a huge difference!

Now comes the tricky decision of deciding which version to read first. On the plane ride home, I had plenty of time to think about whether I wanted to comb through the comments to get a really good understanding of her rationale before diving into the modified version or if I wanted to simply read the modified version of my novel without any explanations.

Ultimately, I decided to read the “no explanation” version first. My reasoning behind this is simple: I want to read my book as I would any other YA novel and judge it as such. Seeing as my version of the manuscript has been changed, it will be entirely new to me as a reader.

In order to further this “reader” mindset, I’m going to send the modified version to my Kindle Fire. Documents on a Kindle Fire look just like a real ebook, so that should get me in the mood to read it as if were a published novel. I used the same technique when revising the fourth draft of my novel and it worked incredibly well. In addition to creating the illusion of an ebook, the Kindle Fire also allows me to highlight and make notes within a document. That should come in handy when I read through the “comment version.”

Once I’ve read through the modified version, I’ll go back and read through all of my editor’s comments. I’ll likely have a list of notes and questions by the time I get to this version, which I can then reconcile with her rationale. From there, I can decide whether to keep the changes she made or stick with the original version.

The decision to hire an editor wasn’t an easy one and I know the next couple of weeks are going to be a huge test for me as a writer. On one side of things, I have to protect my initial vision, but on the other I need to have thick skin and open mind. My editor only wants the best for my book and it’s important that I remember this as I read through her comments and consider her alterations.

As I get ready to jump into this next phase of novel writing, I keep reminding myself that everything I do from this point on should be focused on making my novel the best it can possibly be. That might mean learning to let go of things I thought were important or considering a new way to tell a story that matters so much to me. The key element in this entire process is staying open to change.

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c.b.w. 2014

 

Writing Process Blog Hop

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If you ask five writers about their writing process, you’ll get five different answers. That’s part of what makes reading writer blogs so interesting and inspiring. So, when I got tagged for a writing process blog hop, I was thrilled! Susan Rocan of mywithershins invited me to jump into the fray and I’m more than happy to do so. She is the author of two YA novels and an amazing crafter! I love her blog and highly recommend it for readers, writers, and crafters.

I’ll be answering four questions about my process and current projects. Then, I’ll be tagging three other bloggers to take part in the blog hop.

1) What am I working on?

Currently, I’m working on a number of things. Recently, I’ve started taking my poetry much more seriously. Over the last few months, I’ve tinkered with different forms and experimented with new concepts. As a result I’ve written more poetry over the last couple of months than I did all of last year.

I’m also starting to answer the call of my muse regarding the sequel to The Muse. After a long break of relative silence from my characters, they are starting to pop back into my head. My novel notebook goes everywhere with me and I’m busy scribbling notes, ideas, and concepts. It’s really very exciting to be immersed completely in the creative process.

Speaking of The Muse, I recently hired an editor to comb through my manuscript and help me make it as perfect as possible. I’m super excited to embark on yet another another phase of revision. With the help of my editor, I’m hoping to end up with an even better version of my passion project!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Muse stands apart from other YA fiction for two reasons:

1. It puts a twist on mythology and art.

I include references to actual Greek myths and works of art with a high degree of accuracy, but I’m also not afraid to alter the truth. Reality and imagination are mixed together to create fictionalized layers to famous works of art and literature.

When it comes to the mythological elements of The Muse, I combed through ancient texts until I hit something rather interesting regarding muses and their origins. Instead of playing with the obvious gods and a goddesses, I took a relatively small aspect of Greek mythology and essentially rewrote the canon. The general structure of the myth surrounding muses remains, but I expand on lesser known elements by creating a backstory with new characters and new “rules.” In my world, there’s a such thing as male muses!

2. The villains are not evil.

After reading a number of YA paranormal/fantasy novels, the one thing many shared in common was an outright evil antagonist. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it got me wondering, what if the villain wasn’t evil?  Thus, my imagination went wild in creating antagonists that are mesmerizing with beauty inside and out, yet still pose a grave threat to my protagonists.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The funny thing is I didn’t “get” YA fiction until I was well into my twenties. My students actually persuaded me to read a book they liked and it turned out to be fantastic! As I continued to delve into YA books, I realized the insight they offered helped me understand students on much deeper level.

That being said, I discovered a genre that tells some pretty great stories.  YA authors deserve far more credit than they receive for being incredible storytellers and world builders. This is especially true when it comes to YA fantasy and paranormal genres.

I discovered a deep passion for urban fantasy and magical realism. Once I started experimenting with the style, I loved the freedom of having absolutely no limits on where a story could go. The concept of taking elements of the real world and giving them a sprinkle of fairy dust is just irresistible. So is having a platform to explore real emotions and issues experienced by young adults.

So often, young adults are portrayed as being oblivious to life and the world around them, but my experiences with them have given me a different perspective. They are smart, observant, and often wiser than people give them credit. At the same time, they can be insecure and impressionable as they are people still trying to find themselves.

In many ways, I want my fiction to change the way people perceive young adults, while also capturing the internal experience of growing up.

4) How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on the project. When it comes to poetry, I am very inspired by images. Photographs in particular seem to get my muse rolling. Because of that, I consciously take a lot of photographs of different objects, textures, and locations. Whether I’m at home or abroad, I know my camera is going to unlock poetic verse, so I better pay attention to what’s around me!

For novel writing, I keep a novel notebook. I’m a big believer in brainstorming, so I scribble every single idea that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a bulleted list of plot points  and at others it’s an erratic semantic web of random thoughts. I’ll sketch out locations and make scrapbook pages of character wardrobes. Some pages are reserved for playlist songs or research notes.

In the midst of all the chaos, pages are numbered and details are color coded and/or symbol coded to help me keep spread out ideas connected. I swear none of it makes sense to anyone, but me!

Above all else, I make time to write every single day. Even if its just gibberish, I still write. Sometimes that gibberish leads to an unexpected and wonderful journey!

Psssst … gibberish lead to The Muse!

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Tag, you’re it:

The Everyday Epic – A fantasy writer who documents her journey into fiction both as a writer and reader. Visit her blog for all things Tolkien and inspiration.

Rita Ackerman – a writer that delves into non-fiction, fiction, and the writing process. Her blog offers very informative and inspiring posts on the writing process.

The third blogger I contacted has yet to answer me, but if she does, I’ll add her to the list!

Visit these blogs to see how they respond to the above writing process questions as well who they tag to keep the blog hop going!

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c.b.w. 2014

The Not-So-Dry Spell

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I haven’t worked on a novel in almost a year. This was a pretty shocking revelation to me as a writer, but one I’m glad I realized. Novel writers are an interesting breed in that they believe every waking moment should be devoted to doing something on one work in progress or another. I lived this belief for five years as I cranked out not one, but two novels.

When the last line is written and the last page has been revised for the fourth time. The novel is done, leaving nothing else but the “what now,” moment. Suddenly, the novel writer has minimally eight extra hours a day that is not filled with word count goals or a blinking cursor. Some writers immediately start on a new project to keep the mojo going, but others revel in the down time. I’d always been the former, a literal Energizer Bunny that never, ever stopped. That is until, I had a little epiphany.

After completing my first novel, I jumped right into brainstorming ideas for the next one. I was on a roll and I didn’t want to break the cycle. However, after completing my second novel, I found I was a little reluctant to start the process of writing a third novel. At first, I was a little worried that my muse had finally run out of juice, but then I realized I was desperately in need of a break. I loved my characters and the worlds I created for them, but I found I was missing the real people in my life and the real world. It was time to look away from the screen and jump back into the world that had inspired me in the first place.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss working on my novels. I do. A copy of The Muse is on my Kindle and on my computer desktop.  A partial outline for The Muse: Lineage sits on my writing desk, while a stack of CDs is waiting for me to peruse them for songs to go on a playlist for Lineage. Despite a long hiatus from butt on chair, fingers on keyboard work, my novels are never far from my mind. Still, I think my characters understand that I needed a little space to gather my thoughts and consider my next steps.

Some would call this a dry spell, but I call it a writer’s reboot. My time away from novel writing hasn’t been wasted by any means. Between agent hunting, experimenting with poetic forms, free writes and rediscovering my love of writing short stories, it’s been a productive chunk of time. The initial feeling of guilt for not constantly working on a novel has all but disappeared and I am enjoying the freedom of being able to truly follow my muse.

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c.b.w. 2014