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Posts Tagged ‘editing’

I made it to 1:11 PM today without any caffeine. This is a feat of epic proportions. And, all by itself, it might be worthy of a blog post. But since you were probably anticipating something with a bit more substance, I shall try to add words to this post. The caffeine hasn’t sunk in yet. Bear with me.

I’m officially caught up at my desk at the law firm. I’ve dabbled around editing the first three chapters of Rise of the Dark Sprite. And ideas for future books are nibbling at the corners of my consciousness, taunting me with their sweetness while giving no hint as to their substance. All in all, I feel–just a hint–more like myself. Although, that could have something to do with the love recently given by my niece.

Baby Evelyn held onto her mother’s hands today and walked with great determination and sweetness towards me. Sister Kate and I both watched in amazement at her new prowess. And it made this aunt feel very loved.

As for this moment… a little introvert time. Josh Garrels, Starbucks’ coffee (yay!), and writing. Yes. I’m in for a good couple of hours.

Blog Bonus Feature: My health hasn’t weathered all the travel of the last few weeks very well, but I’ve decided to embrace whatever this summer season brings. The adventure will be worth the exhaustion. My advice to you: Stop and smell the roses. Even if they make you sneeze.

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I’m done! At 112,405 words, my first draft is a completed success. (Please note, I was aiming for 85,000-90,000 words.) I stayed at Starbucks for over five hours, indulging in the caffeine buzz from two grande iced coffees. The Gold Card with its unlimited refills combined with the quiet late-night atmosphere to make Starbucks the perfect place to write away the hours. But, eventually, my sense of overstaying one’s welcome drove me to Tim Hortons where I drank hot coco to keep warm and enjoyed the idea of an all-night cafe were I could keep working until the project was finished.

There are three narratives in my story. Marcus and Cressa’s were intertwined so they were easy to finish up at the same time. Otis’, however, proved a touch more difficult. There was a fierce temptation, as the night waned on, to call it quits when the major story arc–Marcus and Cressa’s–was completed. Especially when Otis and his fellow characters seemed to stubbornly resist giving me any clue as to their climax. But, in the end, victory was that much sweeter for keeping on.

It was a little after 10 PM when I finished, but it was after 1 AM when I finally fell into bed. The energy of the writing has my mind buzzing. I see a truck and find its fictional back-story rolling through my mind. I find myself looking for my next scene in the kitchen. And my creativity is already plummeting deep into the fairy tale I have had on the back burner since late February.

What’s next for me? Editing will come, but I think I will first roll around in the freedom to write whatever I want. For a little while at least.

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Deep breath in. Smell the coffee. Relax those tense muscles. Transform from the businesswoman you’ve been all day to an author. Preferably in the next fifteen seconds. Right. (Sarcasm intended.)

Perhaps the greatest struggle of authoring is that simple switch: from the ordinary and not so ordinary of real life to the fabulous fiction of your other self. And it isn’t always so easy to open up the laptop, turn on the music, and hit the writing-ground running. This blog very often serves as the transition, this corner at Starbucks as the muse I never had, and the well-worn iTunes albums as the horn that pulled the Pevensies into Narnia.

Tomorrow marks the start of Camp NaNoWriMo. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t long to jump into their luscious descriptions of mountains and lakes. I like the camps in April and July far more than their better-known father: National Novel Writing Month. At camp, there is grace and friendship and inspiration aplenty. 50,000 words, phsaw. 10,000 becomes the very doable minimum. And writers are thrown into cabins to bond across the country. Not to mention the writing prompts already filling up my Facebook wall. The very idea of the camp sends my writing self scrambling to pack a virtual bag and head for the hallowed hills of authordom. The camp’s tagline:

“An idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.”

Oh, me and my crazy life long to join the retreat! But free-writing just isn’t in the time frame. Editing The Lure of Lemons consumes me. Day and night, my mind is pulled deeper and deeper into the world and the stories. For now, that is exactly where my focus needs to be.

Yet real life still tugs at me–making me feel like I’m stumbling around my day on sleeping pills. The morning was spent getting some kind of test (there have been so many lately, I’ve quite honestly lost track of what one I had today) at the hospital, followed by breakfast with my mom, accounting and meetings, and more business. But now I’m here. At my beloved Starbucks, warmed by sales in the state of Washington, by bright and encouraging family, and a cherished letter from an even more cherished friend reflecting on the awesomeness of our friendship. Life may be trying to use me like the rope in tug-of-war, but I’m loving the journey.

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I’m working on the final stages of my novel. So–to make sure everything ties together with a little bow–I find myself doing nearly constant research with my previous books. And today I had a good laugh, because I discovered a document entitled Bloopers. All I can figure is that during the backbreaking work of editing Xsardis, my mother/editor and I went a little bit crazy. We created a Blooper Reel of editing mishaps, misunderstandings, mis-writing, and snarky (albeit well-meaning and well-received) comments.

Take, for example, this comment from my editor and chief: “Doesn’t this person have a name? Call him a small elephant if you want, but give him a name!”

Or this one: “Why did coloring help her use a slingshot?”

Or this encouraging word: “It’s probably written right. You just can’t read.”

Or how about these completely random and I-can’t-quite-see-how-they-are-relevant comments: “Pant girl!” and “I think you need a chicken in this story” and “Put a skirt on a continent.”

Hmm… What does it all mean? I can see how I could mis-write “asked us to flee” as “accessed a flea.” I can even see how my poor description of someone’s downcast eyes as “his eyes fell down” could leave my mother with the impression that the eyeballs “rolled out and dropped onto her shoes.” But the rest? Well… Let’s just say that what happens in the editing room should probably stay there.

In the pursuit of a refined novel we’ve pinned each other to the wall to discover how to break free; we’ve chucked paper at each other to get out angst; we’ve drank too much coffee; arm-wrestled for who is going to read; and had some minor mental breakdowns when I need to get a sentence just right and she wants to discover if a character lives or dies (really, why is she so impatient?). But, all in all, as evidence by the Blooper Reel, my editor and I have had a glowing good time doing it. So I’m looking forward to round 5 with the Lure of Lemons… That editing process will come sooner than I think.

Ps. If you can’t tell that I absolutely ADORE my mother and that we have a fabulous working relationship, you really need to read this blog more often and get to know me better… She’s awesome.

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IMG_3207There is an odd mix of minds for me today. There is the vacation-relaxed (aka easily-distracted) mind. There is the mind that is semi-cognizant that I should be editing because I have a print deadline in a week. And finally there is the mind that spends time comparing figures as I deliberate between printers. What I am left with is a jumble of numbers and characters and Disney theme songs that my consciousness slides between rapidly. Yes, this is the result of vacation. I amble my way back into work-mode far too slowly…Dino

Since I cannot possibly hope to sum up two weeks of sunshine in a single blog post, I shall slip in a few pictures and a few sentences about my trip today and leave the rest for another time. First of all, let me say that when you are standing underneath an animatronic T-Rex to take a photo, you should make sure he is not about to start roaring and bending his teeth towards your head. We started our vacation here, at the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney.

My father had the wonderful idea to leave for vacation well before the sun had even thought about rising. I groaned and complained on the way out of bed, but truly enjoyed having an extra half day of vacation thanks to his good planning. I could tell you all about our wonderful resort but that would take much more space than I have today so I leave it at this: it was epic. After running ourselves ragged in blistering heat in mad dash to thrill coasters and kiddie rides that were often even more daunting to my creative mind, it was a true pleasure to be able to come back to the Art of Animation Resort and curl up on our colorful couch and my pull-down table-bed.

IMG_3182

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Sometimes editing is about major plot-line overhauls and timelines shifts. But most times, editing is about swapping out repetitive words and removing ‘the’s and ‘but’s and flipping sentences so that everything reads more smoothly. It can be boring work and your eyes can start to drift. “Is using ‘said’ five times in seven paragraphs really so bad?” you will ask. And before you know it, you won’t even wonder. You will just skip right over ‘said’ number six.

What to do? What to do? If you are blessed enough to have the time, I suggest breaking up the editing. Setting aside four hours straight for editing is not likely to be all that successful for me. Writing for four hours? No problem! Editing for two hours? “Oh, my eyes are bleeding!” I cry. Instead, do a little in the morning before work, a little on the lunch break, a little before dinner, and a little right before bed. If this method fails for you, all I can recommend is that you switch on some good background music, read aloud, or schedule five minute Facebook breaks for every successful half hour worked. Best of luck, rising editors!

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Lately, words have been a struggle. To blog, to speak, to hang with friends, to write, to edit (especially), to chat on the phone, to email, to Facebook, even to text. Words have not come as easily as I have been used to. It is as if only my five-year-old nephew and I have been occupying the same space in the Universe. Not to say I have not had some really great and wonderful conversations with the other people in my life–they just have not been easy.

I wish I could say that my slowed blogging pace would start to self-correct or that I would begin returning emails and phone calls more quickly or that my dialogue with humans would make sense once more. But I am not expecting a return to verbal-competency anytime soon.

What does a writer do when she forgets how to use words? Well, so far she takes three times as long editing, stops free writing altogether, and finds solace in every cup of coffee. But she also pushes herself to get better by continuing to talk to people, by sorting through thoughts, by offering fervent prayers to God, and by consistently writing. Oh, and by trying to sleep–which, so far, I have epicly failed at.

In the meantime I am grateful that my job consists of just as much business as it does writing. The business side of my brain seems to be functioning just fine. Ever so grateful that I earned this diploma!

Diploma

(Fun–or not so fun?-story about the diploma. It was supposed to be mailed a couple of months ago, but it never was sent. My sister just told me that it was in the Nyack campus building that had the explosion. I find it very strange that the diploma I can now hold in my hands was nearly blown up.)

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For those of you writers following my blog… The back-story.

Today I sit by my laptop trying to decide how to place the back-story in my latest novel. I have found that the back-story is used in different measure with different significance in different tales. So what is its value? What is its danger? And when and how should it be placed in a story? The answers are as plentiful as the stars. Yet there are some basic principles that you might benefit from.

Consider first the danger: Too much back-story can leave the readers feeling like nothing is happening in the novel. Things–perhaps even interesting things–have happened, but little may be accomplished in the novel itself. Then there is the opposite problem: too little back-story may leave readers feeling like the characters have no past, that they are one-dimensional. So, whatever you do, do with thought.

Methods: The back-story can be introduced simply by having the character’s themselves dialogue about their past. The characters may also relive their past or think about their past.

Reliving is by far the most persuasive method and it draws much sympathy for the characters. It follows the ‘show-don’t-tell’ rule we have all heard so often. Yet if you get stuck in back-story-telling mode, your readers are going to get bored quickly. Things need to progress. Another problem may be that if you hold too much information back from readers, they will grow irritated. Above all, make sure that if you are reliving the past you are reliving an adventurous part of the past.

Dialoging is another great method for utilizing a back-story. It breeds a connection between two or more characters who open up about themselves. It has the added benefit of not frustrating readers, because they feel they are on even ground with the characters themselves. They learn what the characters learn as the characters learn it. Yet the caution here is that, in telling instead of showing, readers will tire of immense amounts of dialogue.

Thinking about the past is rarely used on its own. It can combined with either or both of the other methods. It leaves the readers feeling like they really know the characters, but it also can bog down a story. Use in conjunction with other methods minimizes risk.

Value: We have already mentioned how the back-story can breed connection between characters, as well as between characters and readers. This is vitally important. Your readers need to have a feeling about the characters: affection, concern, dislike. You want your readers to be in the stands cheering for your noble characters and routing against the criminals. Miss the opportunity to connect a reader to the story and you miss the opportunity to make your book stand the test of time. Even readers who love Tolkien’s Middle Earth for the sake of Middle Earth itself found a connection to Tom Bombadil or Frodo or some other favorite. The human connection is why we tell stories.

The value of a well-told back-story transcends character development, however. It also makes you as the writer appear more competent at crafting a tale. Most importantly, the back-story can be a place to leave clues and introduce concepts there is no easy way to incorporate.

In summation: whatever your method, whatever your decision, whatever your purpose, do not overlook the editing and significance of the back-story.

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After waking up at my sister’s place yesterday morning I thought it would be a good idea to come back to my desk in the attic so that I could focus and get some work done. It started off as a great plan. My own shower; my own coffee; my own cereal. I was ready to get to work. What I had not anticipated was that a horde of ladybugs would have moved in. I spent the whole day interrupting mid-sentence editing to swat at the latest, bravest ladybug. After a while of them falling on my lap and landing on my desk and buzzing in my window, I decided it was war. I am a ladybug killer.

That said, I did get some good work done on my novel before the end of business day. Then I got to attend at Good Friday service at my sister’s church. It helped me get focused on the significance of this weekend.

At church I was talking with a friend who was home from college. We both marveled at how ‘big’ (we searched for a better word to convey our meaning, but there is really no term than can do God justice) our God is. How He takes care of issues we could not have hoped would resolve; how He gives us what we need when we hardly dare to ask. I found more refreshment in those five minutes with my friend than I did in days on my walk-about. Overall, a very good Friday–despite the ladybugs.

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Fellow Writers, I implore you, pay attention to your last few chapters.

Writers, we tend to see the finish line before us. We know we have fifteen or twenty more pages to write and then we can add a new name to our list of completed books or finally say we have written a book. We rush and hurry and overlook countless points we always meant to put in. And then, sometimes intentionally, we try to drive home a point that we care about but perhaps does not leave the readers with the right memories of our novels.

I recently read a series that was great… until the very end. That end left we me no hope, no joy, and no happy memories to carry with me. Instead of storing the characters in my mind and holding onto the author as my favorite, I now have to try to forget all that I read.

Endings are the taste people will carry with them from your book. Ever drank something that tasted great on the way down, but had a sour after-taste? No matter how much you like the initial flavor, the after-taste can ruin the whole drink, or the whole book. So pay careful attention to your endings. If you must rush the drafting, then give it extra time in the editing.

Ask yourself, what do I want people to remember about this book? What have I been working towards all this time? What challenge do I want people to take up as they leave the imaginative realm and return to the real world?

In ‘Inception’ one of the characters says that positive emotions are always stronger than negative ones. Now, we might remember negative emotions longer, but which is more powerful: love or hate? Revenge or justice? Some people say the negative, but I believe in the positive. No power of hate could overcome the love and sacrifice Christ showed on the cross. So as you end your book, do you want to leave people hopeless or hopeful? Bold and daring or scared and weak?

After my mother and I have finished editing a manuscript, I always take a long time asking her general impression questions. What did she think of this character or this action or this description? I do this to get a feel for what is standing out to her about the book. If I have not implied what I need to,  I go back and address it. If I have implied the wrong things, I go back and address that too. This system seems to leave people hungry for more.

You have the opportunity as an author to affect your readers, so ask yourself these questions. Take the time to finish your novel right. You will be glad you did.

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