The Last Line

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As I finished reading the last page of my edited manuscript, I was ecstatic to find my story was completely intact, (including my beloved last line). With this being my first foray into YA Fantasy, I’m taking this as a huge victory. This was not an easy story to devise or lay out given the large amount of detail in shaping an elaborate lie.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished. This novel started out as a fun little project and turned into something I can only describe as an outright passion. Everything about the story and characters reached deep inside of me and challenged my imagination to ask “what if?” From start to finish, this novel always felt like magic to me.

Thankfully, my editor saw the magic as well! Every scene I was willing to fight for remained in place with little or no adjustment. This was particularly true in the last two chapters, where I had the most fear of a major chop job. Like I’ve said before, this is the part of the novel where I told the biggest and most complicated lies. One major hole or misplaced scene could’ve ruined the whole story!

However, that’s not to say everything remained exactly the same word for word. After all, editors are supposed to go in there and fix the problems. My editor did some artful clean up on the text and eliminated unnecessary descriptions. I fully admit that I have a penance for adjectives and sometimes overly descriptive sections. My sentimentality for adjectives definitely needed to be tempered with my editor’s red pen!

Aside from deletion, she sometimes moved a sentence or a paragraph to a different location. The shift was usually subtle, but I was amazed at how much it changed the flow of a section. It just goes to show how important placement can be, even if just for a sentence. It’s something I couldn’t see for myself and has made me further appreciate the sharp eye of an editor.

Throughout this entire process, I had two key questions floating around in my mind:

1) Where are those 7,000 words I noticed were missing from my word count?

2) What is the fate of the epilogue?

The answer to the first question was very clear when I finished with the last page. No major scenes or sections were cut, which means this is a cumulative total of little deletions from the entire manuscript. After reviewing the first five chapters of the fully commented version of the manuscript, this conclusion is even more clear to me. A deleted word or phrase here and there adds up really fast! While 7,000 is a huge number, I find myself more than willing to let all those words go as my editor has left me with a clean and simplified manuscript that retains all the elements of my writing style.

As for the epilogue, it remains in place. Yet, I find myself in a fierce debate on whether it should exist at all. I love how it creates a cliff hanger that leads to the sequel, but there are a few holes in it (which my editor did point out). While those holes are easily fixable, I remain firmly entrenched in the Epilogue Dilemma: To epilogue or not to epilogue?

As I continue working on notes for the sequel, I’m realizing the current epilogue has cornered me in terms of plot development. There are elements in the epilogue that restrict where I can go with the continuing story and I’m not sure I like the direction it’s taking. My muse needs to start talking and I need to start mapping out some possible solutions.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the edited draft of my manuscript. While I admire writers that can self-edit, I’ve learned I am not one of those writers. I need that fresh set of eyes and the scalpel of a red pen to make my work the best it can be.

In the coming weeks, I hope to post an interview with my editor, Kristen Fairgrieve of Got My Red Pen Out. If you’re in the market for a freelance editor, I highly recommend her services! Stay tuned for insights on her process and editing style.

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c.b.w. 2014

Almost At The End

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It’s funny how the end can be just as nerve wracking as the beginning. I’m down to the last 35 pages of my edited manuscript and I’m starting to feel those knots in my stomach, again. I can’t believe I’m actually nervous about reading the end.

All I can think of is the three months it took me to write those last chapters. I’m talking hair-ripping out, gut wrenching, way too much coffee drinking evenings of trying to construct the perfect ending to my novel. This is the part of the story where I told the biggest “lies.” Already rewritten mythology delves even deeper into new canon and two major plot twists are supposed smack the reader right between the eyes. So many moving parts had to come together to make it all work. All I can wonder is whether I actually pulled it off with any sort of finesse.

Then, there’s the inevitable self-doubt questions. What if it isn’t good enough? What if there are too many holes in the story? What if it’s unfixable? Writers seemingly torture themselves with these questions endlessly, no matter how much they’ve accomplished!

Aside from typical writer neuroses, being this close to the end has me returning to the biggest question of all – Where are those missing 7,000 words and 23 pages? As I get so close to the end, I’m starting wonder if that’s where some major edits took place.  Those 7,000 words are either the result of a cumulative total of small changes throughout the story or they have disappeared because the ending got a major overhaul.

I keep hoping for the cumulative total option, but I’m also highly aware that the ending might have had a particularly bloody meeting with a red pen. Either way, procrastination and bowing down to nerves won’t bring me any closer to finding out the answer to my burning question.

Even though the knots are yanking at my stomach, my brain is busy reminding me that change has done my novel a world of good. If there are missing scenes at the end or a major chop job, I have to stay open to the idea that it might all be for the best.

As I gear up to read those last few chapters, the nervousness is balanced out quite nicely by excitement. Finishing this phase of the process brings me one step closer to my dream of seeing this story in print.

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p.s. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know I cheated and skipped ahead to the last page (before the epilogue) to see if my last line was still there. I figured I better own it here as well! And for the record, I’m beyond giddy that my last line remains in place. :-)

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c.b.w. 2014

Finding The Balance

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Every writer I know has one. That thing that gets in the way and sucks up a huge portion of the day – a day job. Very few writers make enough money to survive solely from writing, so finding the balance between following the muse and paying the bills is a real challenge.

As much as I love what I do for a living, it does dig into my writing time. This is especially true after a long summer of being able to write all day long at a leisurely pace. If I wanted to spend five hours working on one poem or reading through one chapter of my edited manuscript, I could and I did.

The first week back to work is always a huge reality check in that my time becomes much more restricted and my attention span much more exhausted. I don’t have five hours to write, nor do I have the energy to head to my favorite coffee shop every evening. There is only so much time in a day and along with working I have to fit in everything from husband time to eating and sleeping. That doesn’t leave a lot time for writing, so I have to make the most of any moment that isn’t being sucked up by something else!

At the beginning of every school year, I have to sit down and create a new writing schedule to help me find the balance between the real world and my fantasy world of words. Otherwise, my stories and poems start collecting dust as my free time evaporates.

So, this the writing schedule I’ve come up with so far …

Monday:
– Write blog post for Wednesday
– Read

Tuesday:
– Attend writer’s group
– Write blog post for Sunday
– Read

Wednesday:
– Write blog post for Friday
– Write poem for Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompt
– Read

Thursday:
– Edit Sunday and Friday blog posts
– Read

Friday:
– Break from writing (unless the muse is chatty)
– Read

Saturday:
– Write Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work   on query package)
– Read

Sunday:
– Edit Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work on query package)
– Read

It may seem odd that I’ve included reading in a writing schedule, but I’m a firm believer that reading is an integral part of the writing process. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I consider the work of others as a crucial part of learning how to craft a novel. Plus, I pledged to read 30 books in 2014 on goodreads. I really want to achieve that goal, so I have to keep turning those pages. Good thing I love to read!

Hopefully, with this schedule in place I’ll stay on top of my writing goals. The Muse is a huge priority and the last thing I want is for it to sit on the shelf. Staying connected with my readers is immensely important as well, which means I can’t slack off on blog posts, either. While it’s all a lot to handle, I relish the challenge.

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c.b.w. 2014

Oh, The Inconsistencies!

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We’ve all read a book where the details don’t quite jive. A character’s car was blue in Chapter 1, but in Chapter 15 it somehow becomes red. Or a conversation is taking place in the kitchen on one page, but then jumps to the living room on the next with no reference to movement. As a reader, you wonder why the writer couldn’t remember to keep that car blue or stick with a scene setting, but keeping track of all that stuff is incredibly difficult.

Just recently I was talking to another writer who equated fiction writing to basically telling one big lie. When we lie, we have to remember every detail or the lie loses credibility. Fiction works the same way – to make it believable everything has to be perfectly aligned. When writing an 80,000 word novel, this is tricky business as writers are essentially telling a big lie over an extended period of time. It’s easy to forget a minute detail that was created and written three months ago.

The revision process helps in aligning details, but it’s inevitable that a few details will fall through the cracks. This is where an editor comes in handy! Especially, a sharp-eyed editor with an ultra sensitive radar. Lucky for me, nothing gets by my editor.

Even though I’ve read my novel draft a hundred times, a few inconsistencies still slipped into the fourth draft. How on earth does that happen? Easy. As a writer, I get so caught up in creating a scene, I’ll forget what I did in a previous section. Sometimes, I just can’t let go of that scenic tunnel vision!

After reading two thirds of my edited manuscript, my editor has pointed out the following issues I need to resolve:

  • a random dog that shows up in the beginning of the novel, but is never seen again
  • inconsistent use of noise canceling headphones, i.e. my character owns them in one scene, but not in another
  • emotional gap from one chapter to another, i.e. a character feels one way about another character in one chapter, but the emotion doesn’t carry through to the next chapter.

The last third of my novel includes the most “rewritten” mythology, which means the propensity for inconsistency is going increase tenfold. Instead of simply telling one big lie, I am telling two. Somewhere along the way, I’m sure there is a hole in the fabric I have woven. Thankfully, I have faith my editor will find it before a reader does.

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: July Status Report

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July is always a strange month. I’m still basking in summer vacation, yet at the same time my “day job” starts to creep up on me. As the new school year approaches, (August 12), I can’t stop myself from getting a jump on lesson plans and classroom preparation. What can I say, I like to be way ahead of the game before the first day of school!

That being said, I still managed to reserve part of every day for writing. Whether it be poetry or paging through edits on my novel, my muse and I were very mindful about staying on track for this year’s goals.

1) Pitch The Muse.

I am more than halfway through reading the edited version of The Muse.  The process has been very exciting and enlightening. So far, I am on board with all the changes my editor has made as they are very subtle.

Even though most of the comments are absent from the edited version, there are a few that offer suggestions for change or point out discontinuity. In some cases she fixes it and in others, she leaves it alone offers possible ways to fix the problem. As I read, I’m keeping a log of notes with her comments, my thoughts, and the page number. Once I get done reading the draft, I can start working my through my notes.

On the query letter front, I spent some time editing the new format. The word count is a little high, but I think a few more revisions will fix that problem. Meanwhile, I found two more literary agents to add to my “possible agents” folder.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

This month, I focused a lot of my attention on adding to my playlist for this project. I found some great music to help me construct the next phase of my characters’ journey. In particular, Imagine Dragons and Coldplay are helping me feel what my characters are feeling.

3) Submit writing.

I’m so busy playing with my edited novel, I haven’t had much time to think about anything else!

4) Continue to build author platform.

I’m still having a blast on Facebook and traffic is up even though my Likes haven’t grown by much. The interaction is a lot of fun and I hope to keep the momentum going. However, Twitter continues to be a struggle. I don’t hang out on that platform very much and as a result my followers have dropped. Perhaps, it’s time to get back in the Twitter groove!

Facebook likes grew from 371 to 373

Twitter followers dropped from 560 to 551

Thanks so much to everyone for clicking those follow and like buttons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

5) Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence.

The invisible goal:

6) Be flexible.

Even though I’d like to land a literary agent, I’m also looking into self-publishing. I’ve researched several companies and platforms that fit my budget. Plan A is still the ultimate goal, but I like having a Plan B in my back pocket!

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c.b.w. 2014