Category Archives: Editing

Being Productive whilst on Holidays; Flights of Fancy

steampunk-book-as-vehicle

I went away to spend some time with my parents.I was away from my computer … but took plenty of pens and paper with me. I often do my ‘chunking’ exercises with pen and paper. ‘Chunking’ is when you write out your idea, as it comes to you in chunks and pieces; this is what my first year lecturer called the process. You might call it something else. It doesn’t matter what it is called, it is just the very first step – after thinking – towards writing a story.

I thought I was in holiday mode. My muse disagreed.

I came up with three solid ideas for short stories, including the ‘Dissected Graces’ story based on the artistic anatomical models. I finally have got a handle on the (hopefully final) structural edit to my Steampunk novel; I will have to kill quite a few of my darlings in the process. I also wrote five individual timelines for characters within the novel, which support the structure and at the same time give them all logical stories of their own that don’t conflict with their characterisations or motivations.

I even came up with a strategy for the structural edit that doesn’t make me too fearful of messing up. I am going to write up the new timeline I came up with, and copy and paste into it. In this way, I keep the original draft ‘pristine’ in case I do stuff things up. I’ve been trying to make better sense of my story and plot for a couple of months, so I am very pleased to be moving forward again.

Writers don’t really get proper holidays, because you can never predict when a great idea is going to strike. The muse can’t be ignored. So, I might not have done much in the way of writing on my computer, but I was certainly doing a lot of writing by hand. I was gone for five days, and I have over 13 pages of notes and observations, timelines and research plans. Some of this stuff is pure gold.

Sometimes, getting out of your familiar work routines kick-starts a new train of thought. That is what happened to me. So I am adding this to my writer’s toolkit.

 

 

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk Themes, Steampunk Work-in-Progress, the Muse, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Career

The Editing Blues

This post was inspired by a discussion with author, Kara Jorgensen.

https://www.facebook.com/thevampirelock

kara

I’ve discovered the biggest difference (for me) between writing and editing. The more I write, the easier it becomes to write. However, it never works that way with editing. *sigh* I get to a point where the manuscript I’m editing no longer makes any sense. Sometimes I have to step away to ‘freshen my brain’. I think of it as the Editing Blues or Editing Burnout. (This is why I use beta readers. Sometimes, I just get blind to the problems.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate editing. It just makes me want to add more, polish more, and fiddle with structure. It tends to become a never-ending process. The more I edit, the more I can see where I can add more details to help refine the plot, or highlight the importance of the setting, or to intensify characterisation. I want to make my Steampunk manuscript absolutely perfect.

In the past, I’ve been able to sit down and write a novel from start to end, and some of these novels haven’t needed that much polishing. I suspect this is because I am not so emotionally invested in these stories as I am in others. Some projects seem to require more attention than others. I suspect my expectations are higher. It is like expecting a pass mark for Phys. Ed. and a top mark in English; I am just better at some things and it is easier to put in the extra effort for a good mark. Maybe that isn’t the best analogy.

A mother shouldn’t like some of her children better than the others … but I do. My Steampunk novel has to be utterly perfect before I send it off. I want the plot to be convoluted by still logical and easy to follow; I want the characters to be fully realised and unforgettable; and I want the settings to act as framing devices par excellence, full of metaphor, resonance, and meaning. I want the prose to sing! To make my readers remember part for weeks after they have read the book, and smile to themselves. I wasn’t to see online discussions of who would play which character if a movie or television show was made based on the book. This book should bring as much joy to my readers as other books have thrilled and enchanted me.

quote-anne-lamott-perfectionism-is-the-voice-of-the-oppressor-23241

That kind of perfection takes work. Sometimes, it seems like too much work and I am overwhelmed by my own vision.

This is when the skills of learnt as a writer kicks in. Take it one page at a time. It kind of reminds me of that old adage: looks after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Get one page right, and then the next page, and so on … and one day the editing will be finished. It takes time and dedication to climb a mountain.

In other news, I’ve received another rejection; my story wasn’t long enough and they felt I overestimated age of the suitable audience. This is great feedback, because now I know to re-target my submission list for this manuscript. I am well on track to get 100 rejections in this financial year!

power

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Writer, The Writing Life

The Editing Philosophy of “Removing One Thing”

One of the best pieces of fashion  advice I was ever given was ‘Remove one item before leaving the house’. This was excellent advice when preparing for a night out, particularity in the Eighties when excess was encouraged. It might have been a bangle, or a hair ornament, or even a waistcoat, but whatever I took off wasn’t essential to the outfit. Sometimes I had to carefully consider what to take off, which often made me reconsider my outfit. To this day, I still tend to try to limit my outfits to just the essentials (unless I’m cosplaying).

Too much going on to appreciate the lovely details.

This rule can also be applied to the editing process, particularly if you tend to overwrite rather than underwrite. I am an overwriter most of the time, though sometimes I underwrite and need to embroider. I am not as much of an overwriter as Stephen King. Most of the time, what I really need to do is remove one thing.  It might be too many descriptive words (my weakness), a paragraph that breaks the rhythm of the scene, or even a whole chapter that is now out-of-place as the story has changed and progressed. I can usually find something to discard that will make the story cleaner and more lyrical.

This process makes me think about what is absolutely essential to the telling of the story. What can’t I take out? Some things are just necessary for a story to exist: plot, setting, characterization. There are foundations to any narrative that can’t be removed without the whole structure tumbling down: foreshadowing, action, dialogue, and so forth.  What is vital? What can be discarded?

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Filed under Editing, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

Strip Tease – flensing the story back to the bones

Dinosaur Bones

Rawr! The perfect image for my frustration.

This is one of my personal techniques in my toolbox to fight both writer’s block or being overwhelmed with so much to do that I don’t know where to start. The Strip Tease – taking the story back to the basics and asking the fundamental questions: Is this story a quest? What is the epiphany for the protagonist? What is the conflict? Does the style suit the story? What is the skeleton of this story?

What is essential?!

Leaf Skeletons

Stripping away the details gives me focus; an opportunity to breathe and reflect; and a chance to reassess the narrative and what I wanted to achieve. After all, it is the story that is most important, and everything else is just ornamentation. Six hundred writers might write the same story, and each would tell it a different way. What is the best way for my voice?

Even bare bone can be beautiful, like a sculpture.

I am currently struggling with NaNoWriMo, because I have too many options and I’m like a child in a toy shop and asked to pick just one toy. I need to get back to the bones, and start again.

 

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Story, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, writing

Kintsukuroi of the Written Word

Kintsukutoi, also known as Kintsugi, is a Japanese art; it takes a broken pottery item and repairs it with gold, silver or platinum lacquers to create something more beautiful than the original. Japanese æsthetics value the marks of wear and tear caused by the use of an object and is equivalent to what we call the ‘patina’ of an antique in Western Culture. It reflects the philosophy of accepting change and accepting flaws, that perfection is an unobtainable shadow concept.

This isn’t a bad philosophy to bring to the editing process. You might be breaking apart your work, smashing it into shards. However, you are putting it back together to create something more beautiful. I believe that the term ‘killing your darlings’ is very negative way of referring to editing. Instead, we should look at editing as a form of kintsukuroi, in that a writer is making a story sing by repairing what is wrong with its narrative.

Editing is a positive process, and is just as important as writing the story. There are some lucky individuals whose first draft is also their last draft, but most writers need to edit. I actually have learnt to enjoy my editing process, because I see it as improving and polishing. Putting a positive spin on it might work for you as well.

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Filed under Art, Bling, Editing, Fashion, Kintsukuroi, Steampunk Aesthetic, Uncategorized, writing

Fiddle-faddle: an editing muddle

This is how Alice should look.:

This is how I imagine my protagonist, Alice, except she isn’t demure.

I have just discovered that I am editing two different copies of the same manuscript. “How did you manage that?”, you may ask. I’m talented. I wanted to keep a record of how the manuscript changed, and lost track of my copies. It is my own fault, and I hope I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m trying to do much all at once.

So, how do I get myself out of this mess?

By displaying patience – the lack of which got me into this pickle in the first place – and picking just one manuscript, swapping the alterations over from the other copy – and then clearing house. All the other copies can go. Seriously, why was I hanging on to those previous incarnations of my Steampunk manuscript? It’s not like I’m going to be studied in schools. When I cut mega-wordage from the narrative, I always transfer them to a file rather than just deleting them. I’m certain the practice is a hangover from when I wrote with pen and paper, and I haven’t done that for years (unless I’m deliberately working with a pen to shock the creative juices into action). Patience, determination, and a clear picture of where I am going is the only way past this kerfuffle.

This isn’t a trap I’ve fallen into previously, which may be why I made the mistake. It isn’t a problem I’ve heard about when other writers discuss their working process. But just in case one of you reading this might consider the multiple copy route, be warned. You might not be as organised as you think you are…

I now know I’m not. And I’m going to try not to muddle through in the future.

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk Work-in-Progress

Word Families

Writer's Tears

Frenetic, frantic, frenzy…

Glimmer, gleam, glitter, glisten, glow…

I am currently in the middle of editing my Steampunk narrative. I have become obsessed with using the right word.

"I'm a writer. Therefore, I'm not sane." - Edgar Allan Poe:

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Filed under Editing, Love of words, writing, Writing Style