Tag Archives: rewrites

Writing: My Process

(Also, some vacation pics next week!)

So, as my news announcement a while back said, I finished the first draft of my book, Sun’s Guard: Ten. Now, every writer has a different process for their editing, for how they get the book read to go out to query, and even how they go about getting a query list started. Here is a look into mine as an example. Do you have to follow it? Hell no. But it can be a beginning guide if you are looking at your finished draft going, “Now what do I do?”

Step 1: Walk Away

I know, this sounds insane. But it really does help. Take some time away from your first draft, celebrate the fact you finished it! I somewhat deliberately lined mine up with some major holidays and a big vacation that has been planned for months. And honestly, I didn’t even write much (as my absence on this blog can testify), whether it’s blogging, fanfic, or even RP. Around the holidays, I managed to write some RP/Fanfic for presents (because I’m poor like that), but I firmly kept my mind off my book as much as possible.

I read books, I watched movies, I played video games, I sewed, I panicked when I couldn’t find fabric for my medfair costume… It’s a way of recharging your mental batteries for the work that’s coming up, and reconnecting with the life that you admittedly put on the shelf to finish that last bit of your draft.

Step 2: Rewrite/Additions

This is where you do a reread of your draft and go, “What doesn’t make sense? What scene doesn’t go anywhere or just reveals repetitive information? Where does the dialogue sound completely stilted?” Depending on how clunky things feel, you have to add sections or move them around. You might find huge plot holes and have to do some moving around or slashing huge sections and rewriting. Don’t fuss about grammar, typos, or paragraph structure too much at this point. You are looking at your story and making sure it is as tight as possible. Why? Well…

Step 3: Get a beta (or two)

Now you are about to let your work leave your own, dragon-like hoarding hands, and pass it off to someone else, or two someone else’s, depending on your paranoia level. This isn’t your mom or whoever, a person who will tell you it’s great no matter who it is. This is your best friend, this is the person who is going to call you to the carpet if you do something stupid or don’t have a good reason for something obvious not happening. Ideally, this is a person who reads a lot or watches a lot of movies, either works. These people know how to spot the flaws in story and world building, with or without a fancy degree. But this is also someone you trust not to steal your work, so don’t give it to some stranger off the street either unless they have a spotless reputation.

They aren’t as close to your characters, so they will call someone out as a jerk who isn’t likable, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on who the character is in the long run. They will ask questions, important questions, that you need to either answer or at least figure out for yourself. If they can’t remember your character’s physical appearance, you need to make sure they are more memorable. If they can’t tell you the character’s main goal, you’re plot has gotten muddled. This is your litmus test.

Why involve a second reader? Well, this is if you aren’t sure the story is suiting for whoever your target audience is. For example, I write young adult fantasy. Ginny is not a YA person. She can tell me if the story is good, if it works, if it sounds like a teenager. But she can’t tell me if it’s going to click with YA readers because she doesn’t know what they read for. So your options are giving it to someone who does read it, or someone in your target audience and confirming if it works like you are hoping it does.

Step 4: Be thinking on your next project.

I don’t mean the sequel to your current book (pro tip from my professors: never get too far ahead of your book counts in a series before you have an agent, they won’t pick you up). I mean take a break from this world/characters, and be thinking on what you want to do next. In my case, I am going to work on something very strange for me, an unrealistic realistic fiction type thing. I’m fleshing out characters in my head, getting a very rough idea of the story. But beyond making notes while waiting on Ginny, I haven’t started plotting yet or writing.

Why? Because getting to work on this story is my reward for finishing Sun’s Guard: Ten.¬†To earn that reward, I have to finish the rest of the steps, at least until the last one. It’s fuel to keep you going, since this is all the hard work part where you just want to be done already.

Step 5: Rewrite/Additions (Part 2)

Now that you have beta feedback, you need to apply it to your draft. This hopefully won’t include as much hacking and adding as the first time around, but it very well could depending on what your beta found. You could also be adjusting elements to make it suite your target audience better, if it was found that you were too mature or too young for what you were aiming for, or completely alienating. If you haven’t already, also look at your first page. That’s the first thing a reader sees after the summary, so make sure there is something there to catch their attention.

(In my case of beta found things, it’s trying to figure out how to apply character tags without offending anybody by comparing skin or eye color to a particular food, which is the first thing that crossed my mind when I think of this color, but I want to be respectful, and just…sigh… And then making sure there is enough emotional impact at the end.)

Step 6: The Nitty-Gritty

This is the part where I have to print out a copy of the draft. My eye skims over spelling errors online. Yep, that dreaded time. Line-editing.

Not only are you looking at your spelling and general grammar, you are also watching your stimulus/response reactions to make sure that everything is included there. There is also a specific order to how a character is supposed to react. These last two are the ones that fanfiction has ruined me for, and I have no inner sense of how things are supposed to go anymore. So I have to sit there and manually review the whole thing for these itty bitty details.

Step 7: QUERY!

This step is sort of its own huge process that I will do a sequel post about, but at this point, you’ve hit the end of what you can do on your own. You now need someone in the industry to tell you what parts of your story need fleshing out, if this plot line doesn’t work, and if something is inappropriate or plain clunky. This person is going to be your agent–publishers do not accept blind requests, and editors are becoming a thing of the past except for very basic line editing.

Most agents, however, are retired editors from the days where you actually had an editor to work on your story after you sold it. Finding an agent is like finding a spouse: time consuming, ridiculous in the processes needed, and things still might not work out. Many agents aren’t even accepting new works right now, making things especially difficult.

I am currently at Step 5, technically (I just got my stuff back). Ginny found most of my issues, now I need to poke at them this week before I start my line-editing¬†process. I got delayed several times due to personal drama and illness, but I haven’t given up yet. Soon I’ll be looking for an agent, and if that doesn’t work… Well, I’ll self publish this one too and you’ll having something to look forward to!


News Since…October?!

Yeesh, I sort of died over here, didn’t I? I deeply apologize, everybody, but hopefully my explanation will make up for it.

This last semester, I was taking a class similar to Independent Study, in the sense that it was me working on a story one-on-one with a professor. In this case, I chose to start revising the first book in the Shadow Day Quartet. There were problems with the plot that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and I definitely needed some advice. Right before I met with the professor, I did an exercise that made me realize that I had twice, if not three times, the amount of characters I needed, and then Prof. Chester pointed out I was lacking a direct antagonist for the main character, then helped me with setting Mari and Natile apart, which gave me a huge plot hole in the newly revised plot line…which is where I’m stuck at now. I need to fix the plot, but I’m roughly a third of the way through the rewrite, with only the first four chapters needing a severe overhaul due to me relearning the important parts of my craft. I brought either a revised plot (it took me a few times to get something solid) or a chapter every week to my meeting with Chester, leading to an average of about 2,250 to 2,750 words a week.

Another class I was taking was Commercial Non-Fiction. These are books like The Diary of Anne-Frank, Longitude, etc. They deal with real events/information, but tell the story like a novel. I had the option of working on my idea to do a study on the various different stories about Anastasia Romanov, but in the end realized I would not have the time to do the research I needed. So I defaulted and wrote about jousting, both in medieval times and in modern medieval fairs/shows. Most of the stuff currently written is everything I don’t need research for thanks to my AOA, aside from the one interview I did manage to get in and the necessary little bit of intell I got on different horse breeds beyond my own handfuls of knowledge… I got most of my part done with it, and the book really just needs me to finish doing interviews to add other people’s opinion/knowledge. That said, I wrote 25,000 words in a very condensed time frame and was quite ready to kill things by the end of it. Each week once the writing started was 4,000 words, required, and then the last one was 5,000.

The final class I was taking was the first half of my graduate project, the second book in the Shadow Day Quartet. It took us quite a while to get my plot beaten down into something that made sense, and the first two chapters are rough. Really rough. I’m used to getting a first draft to get the kinks out before a professor reads it, and it showed. But I finally got my stuff together, and managed to get the first four chapters written. Out of seventeen plus epilogue. The format to this class worked the exact same as the sort-of Independent Study, even with the same professor, only I didn’t necessarily have to turn anything in during a given week (something I found out at the end of the semester, and it saved my bacon). My chapters were also longer, usually from 2,750 to 3,250.

This is all on top of trying to keep my forum RPs alive and weekly prompts, which the prompts alone varied from around 1,200 words to 4,000 words. So lots and lots of writing happened, and something just had to give. Sadly, it was the blog. I had planned though to pick up the blog after my family vacation. Immediately after Dead Week (and my poor advertising students’ early final), I went off to Las Vegas, Nevada for the National Finals Rodeo with my family. Even better, I got to go see Tournament of Kings over at the Excaliber (and make fun of them a little. Great show, but their Arthur story needs help). It was fun, and I even got to leave with more money than I arrived with, thanks to a lot of luck.

Everything seemed to be going alright… And then somebody got on to the return flight from Vegas to Amarillo sick. Guess who got whatever congestion nightmare that was? At first, I thought it was from my ears popping like six times a day from riding the elevator (we were on the 22nd floor of the hotel), but by Sunday I couldn’t breath through my nose, and breathing through my mouth led to coughing. I was still really tired/coughy all the way up to Christmas, when I carpooled back to the Oklahoma Panhandle with my older brother. He asked me to drive up to Tulsa, and we left from there. Along the way, I lost my cruise control on my car (still need to get that looked at, actually…), but thankfully he was driving his up to the panhandle and I got to sleep most of the way thanks to my meds knocking me out like a light.

Now, my wrist has been doing this popping thing whenever I bent it back, and then popping again when I bent it forward, usually only after I’d had a really, REALLY long day of writing. My family informed me in Vegas that this was carpel tunnel, and I needed to start wearing a brace before it got worse. I heard, but since I was having trouble with even the concept of getting oxygen into my body, I hadn’t managed to buy a brace yet. Big. Mistake. Driving back from my brother’s place in Tulsa to my place in Norman without cruise control messed with my wrist sooooo bad… Yeah, writing has become a little bit of a hassle. Thankfully, it has slowly been getting better.

So what has gotten done around here? Well, for one, I’m going to come out and admit to being Eva-Emaria on deviantart.com, as well as in the comment section of webcomics, including Hurrocks Fardel. Now, how the heck is this relevant? For those of you who follow this comic (which should be everyone, its actually really clever and well-paced), there was a contest a few months ago to create characters to be featured in the comic. Since my character, a swan maiden/valkyrie named Eira, won, I’ve been working on her Guard, getting them drawn, bios written, and all posted on my deviantart page. It has taken me almost a year now, but it is finished at last. Very tentatively, I want to someday do a webcomic involving these characters, but I need a few things to happen in Hurrocks Fardel before I attempt to do that, since I need to know more about the world. I also got over the severe burnout that the crazy semester had given me, partially thanks to a new story idea that I’ve added to my list of projects. It’s planned just enough that I won’t go crazy thinking about it.

What are the goals for this semester? Well, one of my classes has me reading basically a book a week, and doing short reports over most of them, four presentations over the others, plus a decent sized final paper. My only other class is finishing my grad novel. In an ideal world, I’m done way early with my second book, like before Spring Break early, so I can be defended and done with it. I have Medieval Fair coming up on April 5, and I need to have my costume and armor (yeah, I’m making armor, be afraid) finished by February 15. And then, provided I’ve done what I need to do to get the grad project done and over with, I’d like to get the first book’s rewrite finished by May.

Outside of writing, I am on the permanent-job hunt for post-graduation, ideally starting June 2 and giving me time to take a two week vacation/work trip up to New Orleans before hand. I’d like to be in an associate professor job, but since I can’t leave Oklahoma for family reasons, I’d be willing to accept just about anything that lets me stay in the rough area where I am. Once I get the job lined up, I get to go house hunting. *rubs hands and cackles* Yep, I’m sick of apartments and am quite ready to be somewhere where there is at LEAST three feet between me and the next house. Plus, I need a fenced in back yard for my poor dog to be moved down here with me.

Now, to the point. What does all this mean for the blog? Basically, I’m ideally going to have the time to start posting on here more regularly, thanks to me finally going, “Rebecca, you DERP, write the post over the week and just schedule it to go up on Thursdays!” I’ll let you all know also when I finish the different books, as well as when my new job/house are lined up. I will definitely want some advice on places to see in New Orleans outside of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. And with that, I’ll see you all next Thursday!