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

 

2014 Goals: June Status Report

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Summer break brings loads of time for my muse and I to simply indulge in creativity. I’m enjoying the freedom, but I’ve also put the extra time to good use!

1) Pitch The Muse.

Big news on The Muse front. After a little soul-searching, I decided to hire an editor to comb through my manuscript, (See That Moment When You Realize You Need An Editor). I’m super excited to get a new perspective on a project I’ve been working on for so long. This is an exciting leg of the journey and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and fix what needs to be fixed.

While waiting for my manuscript to come back, I started working on a complete rewrite of my query letter. I ended up letting my main character write it through her perspective (minus first person) as if she were writing her story in a journal or telling a friend. So far, I like the changes, but more work needs to be done.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

I took over 10 pages of notes for Lineage. Everything from plot line ideas to mythology research and possible “re-imaginings” fill line after line in my novel notebook. The main story is clear, but I’m still trying to piece together the small pieces that bring everything together. The process is slow, but the haze is definitely starting to lift.

3) Submit writing.

I didn’t submit anything.  However, I did send my novel to an editor. Does that count? ;-)

4) Continue to build author platform.

This month I made a conscious effort to have some fun and Facebook and it has definitely paid off. I’ve started posting and sharing images of quotes that are both inspiring and funny. My followers seem to dig the change as traffic is way up. I’m loving all the interaction!

Facebook likes grew from 366 to 371

Twitter followers grew from 553 to 560

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.

A simple act of fate pushed me to find an editor and I’m so happy I took the hint and acted.

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c.b.w. 2014

That Moment You Realize You Need An Editor

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Not long ago, I wrote about how I took a little break from the grind of novel writing, (see The Not-So-Dry Spell). It’s funny how talking about a break instantly leads to a strong desire to jump right back into to fray. All it takes is one person to come around and ask, “What ever happened to you novel?”

Hmmm. That’s a good question. Part of my little break was rooted in needing to clear my head, but there was also an element of the “now what” syndrome. I’d sent out a round of query packages and got responses from all of them. Sure, they were all rejections, but as most writers know a response of any kind is a victory.

I was proud of my tiny accomplishment, but I also realized I had an issue that wasn’t easily solved. The fact that I got responses from agents told me I had a good concept for my novel, but the rejection element told me I had more work to do. The problem was I had gone as far I could on my own. I was too close to the work and I couldn’t see past what was going on inside my head. It’s in that moment that a writer has a major epiphany:

I need an editor.

After doing a little research online, I gathered a nice collection on editors who offered various services including proofreading and developmental edits. There are a lot of great editors out there, but it’s almost impossible to figure out who would be the right person for the job. Trying to find a YA fantasy editor is a little bit like trying to find one particular grain of salt in a salt mine.

Then, there’s the issue of price. Editors are not cheap and I totally understand why. Combing through a writer’s passion project is no easy task! Given my limited means, I couldn’t afford most of services I needed, so I decided to try something else.

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, you might have noticed a post where I made my plea:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 5.14.45 PM To my great surprise someone answered me! What’s more, I knew her! And she loves YA Fantasy! It turns out one of my first blog followers does editing on the side. I was familiar with her work as one of her jobs was sitting on my bookshelf. She had done some editing work for another blogging friend and novelist, Bonnie J. James, so I knew I could trust her. Plus, I’ve had a number of interactions with her over the last few years, all of which have been incredibly positive and friendly.

Within a day I had an editor at a very reasonable price. Who knew it could be that easy? Of course, the hard part is on the horizon. Ever since I sent off the manuscript, my emotions have been all over the place. I go into fits of excitement, fear, terror, doubt, and then excitement all over again.

Even after four drafts, the journey continues. A fresh pair of eyes will hopefully help usher The Muse to next level. I’m anticipating a “bleeding” manuscript, but I have plenty of enthusiasm to stitch it back together.

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p.s. Kristen, I hope it isn’t a horrific task to dig through my manuscript! Can’t wait to see your insights.

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c.b.w. 2014