Tag Archives: editing

Crash Course in “Make Write Good”

I’m at that stage of editing when you grasp desperately at everything to help you in the Herculean task of Make Book Better. I inhaled Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword specifically to kick the ‘write good sentences’ part of my brain into gear, and found myself startled at just how good a book it was to inspire me to work on The Creature Court – far above my own skills, but sharing many similar themes and elements, enough to spur me on. Now I’m reading the Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan, simply because it turned up – I have been waiting for this book since the second I read the last page of The Demon’s Lexicon – only to realise, hang on, this is a second book! I am reading an awesome first chapter of a second book, and doesn’t it just show exactly how such a thing ought to be achieved?

I want to drench myself in 1920’s novels with lots of dialogue, and clever, witty court fantasy, and maybe a bit of Austen or Galsworthy just to be on the safe side, and then there’s the music, only the right kind of music, and maybe I should be immersing myself in vintage art… but I only have nine days. There are limits – muses should be carefully applied, not stacked on like the toppings at a pancake buffet.

Is there such a thing as a pancake buffet? There so should be.

All this is just one big distraction from the fact that there isn’t enough time in the day. I was working flat out from lunchtime until it was time to pick up the baby from daycare, and still came close to being one chapter short for the day. Sure, I wrote a new chapter that deeply excites me but – why are the days so short? Why?

Still, I plug on, making my characters hurt more and fancy each other more and dress prettier and possibly talk in longer sentences.

One week to go.

Editing is Hard, Water is Wet

My big change to my writing/working routine that I made this year was actually taking weekends – which is to say, not heaping up lists of things I needed to get done on the weekend only to discover on Sunday night that I had failed to do so.

The current edits of Book Two are kicking my arse well and truly – I’m getting the work done, but it’s gone painfully slowly for the first nearly two weeks, and I only have 9 days now before they’re due. You know that thing where people keep asking me how on earth I write with a 5 year old and a baby and I wave my hand airily and say things like ‘oh, I just snatch moments where I can, somehow it all works out?’

Screw that! Obviously I have completely lost whatever knack I used to have for finding time. It doesn’t help that the baby has just moved into the developmental stage which means she needs a person interacting with her pretty much all the time she is awake. I could work in the evenings if I wasn’t already falling asleep by the time Masterchef ends (which coincidentally is about the time I find myself child-free for most of the rest of the evening, except when I don’t). Sometimes Jem will take up to 4 times being put down, screaming, got up again, etc. before she settles down for her night’s sleep, and by the end of it, I’m shattered.

The first week was mostly warming up, and getting to grips with what I had to do. The second was about pushing into a routine and writing new chapters. Now I’m stuck with having to edit 5 chapters a day minimum, no breaks, to get this done. And that means working weekends. No skipping days.

Sometimes it takes me 2 uninterrupted hours to get 5 chapters edited. Sometimes it’s closer to 4. Even that is a mythical number because in my life, there are no uninterrupted hours.

Add to that the general expectation by my children that weekends are times for fun, family, reading, playing, and Mummy not being cranky at them when they ask for things, and the weekend was very, very hard work. It also means I’ve had almost no time to myself – normally the hours snatched from my children on weekends are used to relax and regroup so I can face the week ahead without turning into a gorgon-like creature who tells her 10 month old to make her own damn toast.

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Postcard from the Desktop

One birthday party down, one to go. I managed some work this afternoon, cranking up some Lucksmiths and eventually graduating to my actual edit playlist as I transitioned from footling with my first chapter to flat out writing an all new chapter 2.

I’m at that stage with the structural edit when the comments from the editor finally sink into the backbrain and instead of ‘yeahhh spose she has a point’ I’m completely at ‘how could I have POSSIBLY thought this was good enough, yeeHAH let’s do some digging at this ditch’ only possibly with a less bad Yankee accent.

Now we’re chilled out, watching yesterday’s Masterchef and waiting for Raeli to get into her pyjamas for bedtime stories. I am going to have to try and work in the evenings now instead of just chatting, watching tv and blogging – but that means convincing a different part of my brain to wake up after 9pm! Brains can be trained. If you have enough carrots (cough, Magnums) and sticks (deadline deadline deadline).

Since I want to kick the part of my brain that can write pretty sentences, I’m feeding it with the best books I can find. No Gossip Girl for me this week – well, no more Gossip Girl. Instead, I’m dipping into Dorothy Parker and immersing myself in Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a really long time. It’s gorgeous. And yes, it makes me want to lift my game. Damn it. Don’t you hate that?

EDIT: Forgot this – I was chided by Tehani on Twitter for not telling the world that the Guild comic #2 is out as an iApp. I didn’t know until she told me! But now I do and I read it and it is awesome. I am loving the Cyd backstory, and the how-she-met-the-gang encounters, plus actually seeing the visuals of how the game works, the aspect of the Guild that is (understandably) worked around/invisible in the actual episodes. I am sooooo hanging out for the new season to find out what happens between Cyd and you-know-who-and-if-you-don’t-what-are-you-waiting-for-watch-it-already-YES-I-SAID-SHOULD.

And that is all.

List of Awesome

Kelly Link has been blogging all around the internet, popping up in all kinds of places and discussing a variety of topics, ostensibly to promote the paperback release of Pretty Monsters (which has made it all the way to Kingston, Tasmania – I spotted it in a bookshop today!). Over at i09 she talks about using your obsessions as fuel for short story writing, a technique I used to be quite evangelical back in my years of teaching creative writing. I called it ‘the list of awesome’ and suggested students construct a list of their most obscure and passionate interests in order to write stories that were uniquely theirs.

At some point this year I’m going to be writing a bunch of stories about or inspired by: the Shelley-Byron circle, the deified Livia and Drusilla, Brideshead Revisited, Robotech, iPod playlists and Julius Caesar. I’m really looking forward to them, as my treat for finishing Book 3. Assuming that thing happens.

Ahhh, short stories, how I miss you.

Jemima is growing and developing and doing all those amazing things that make my heart hurt, because every new stage is the end of an old stage, which is never coming back. In the last couple of weeks she has developed an amazing sense of balance (she still needs to hold on to furniture to stay upright but only just), has developed babble into something very close to a recognisable code (aka language) and refuses to be spoon fed because she wants to do it all herself, thank you very much.

We’ve leaped from mushed vegetables to whole bananas, noodles and toast, seemingly overnight. It’s a shock to the system. Just as I was congratulating myself on no longer having to spend quite so much time spooning food patiently into my baby, I discovered that actually she’s not happy puddling around on the floor with toys any more, she wants stimulation and interaction. During my writing time.

Which means I basically have to rethink everything I’ve been assuming about my own working habits.

The weekend is another festival of birthdays – two parties for Raeli to attend, at least on different days, but both at 10am. I had to break it to my honey tonight that there would be no weekend sleep ins, for any of us. He gets to stay home on baby duty while I venture into the wide world of pinatas, cake and musical chairs. Why do children have better social lives than us? I am exerting my vengeance by making her sit sweat-shop-style to produce handmade birthday cards.

My first editing week of three is half done already. The clock is ticking. Or maybe that’s just the caffeine-induced heart palpitations.

Life and Times of a Part-time Author

Lovely evening tonight, hosting for Donna and her work friend Alex, who were both a big hit with our girls. And not just because they got roped into reading bedtime stories…

My honey made his famous fish pie (local salmon and scallops in vintage cheese sauce) and I made salad and a lemon sour cream cake (great simple recipe, thank you internet! I left out the lemon rind though cos my honey has a thing about it) which we served with Valhalla vanilla icecream. Yummmm. The Tasmanian experience, on a plate!

The edits are continuing. I’m almost at the point where I know what it is I have to do with them. At this stage I’m concentrating mostly on the first ten chapters, because they seem to be the part that needs most work. I haven’t got my momentum up yet – I tried my kick ass playlist and it just sounded like noise! I have to work up to it. Right now I am finding The Guild League nice and calming as background music while I do my intensive thinking and planning.

I’m trying to get back into my routine with Raeli at school – including exercise and housework in my day as well as work and baby time. So far I’ve been great at the housework – a bit too good, its mindless repetition is so tempting in comparison to the trickiness of editing. But hey, the house is in great shape!

Onward and upward.

Back to Work

The school holidays are at an end, and that means I am officially back to work tomorrow. I’ve had two weeks of chasing my daughters around the house, reading library books and Wonder Woman comics with them, sewing, blogging and promoting my new release.

What I haven’t been doing, apart from a couple of lapses, is writing Book 3. I have been reading parts of the manuscript, and nutting away at titles, but I just know that when I go back to write Book 3, I want to build up crazy momentum and just blaze away until I get to the end.

Unfortunately that won’t be tomorrow, because my structural edit letter arrived in the mean time, and that means three weeks of frantic rewriting before the manuscript is sent to the copy editor. Editing is all about the frantic, for me.

Over at Ripping Ozzie Reads, I’ve blogged the playlist I constructed today which will hopefully help me build up the momentum I need and get the work done in the pieces of the day I can snatch for myself.

Now, with a couple of hours left of the “holiday” and my daughters asleep, I can put my feet up and watch Robin Van Persie v. Nicklas Bendtner on SBS. (possibly other people from Denmark and the Netherlands are playing, but who really cares about them?) Best case scenario, both boys get hat tricks and get carried around on their respective teams’ shoulders. Worst case scenario, RVP accidentally beheads Nicky B while breaking his own legs. Hey, they’re Arsenal, it’s not that unlikely.

Some weekend reading

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s excellent WisCon GOH speech about heroism. Her descriptions about the hardships of looking after a small baby, and balancing traditional women’s work with your own professional work, which can be struggle even with an enlightened feminist partner, hit home for me in particular. She also talks about educating people on the internet through 101 and RaceFail type discussions, and how hard and painful that can be to do.

An article about the parental leave payments in Sweden and how they are still working to enact social change. I wasn’t going to read this article when I first saw it widely linked because, let’s face it, do we need another article about how great parental support is in Sweden? I was glad I finally did, though, because it addresses some aspects I didn’t know about, and shows that yes, you can make social change that genuinely improves the life of both genders. Though as always, there is the question of choice, and I do wonder if the changes (potentially making up to 4 months of the 12 months parental leave payments compulsory for men to take) are going to reduce benefits for single women. There isn’t a mention of non-nuclear-families in the article at all. One thing that genuinely shocked me that I didn’t know about Sweden is that they also have a system for paid leave days for sick children – what a difference would that make to working parents around the world!

Finally, a great post at Tor.com about the importance of accepting criticism in order to improve your writing. This is of particular interest to me this week because, you guessed it, it’s editing time! My structural edit for Book 2 of the Creature Court (which will not now be called Cabaret of Monsters, though we don’t have an alternative yet) has arrived, I’ve discussed it with my editor, and as soon as the school holidays end, I’ll be digging into that for three weeks. The reward at the end of it will be a) a better book, obviously b) it next goes to my favourite freelance editor for the copy edit, she only being available in July and c) once it’s done I can go back to finishing Book 3! Hooray! My reward for work is more work!

In the mean time I have been utterly spoiled on Twitter by a whole bunch of my favourite people finding my book “in the wild” or indeed “in captivity” and sending me a series of pics of Power and Majesty on shelves across the country. Very exciting! Even nicer is to hear word of shops where it is already sold out. Still no word yet on anyone from outside the country managing a successful purchase. Where did you get YOUR copy?

Goals, and Gallifrey

I’ve been inhaling old episodes of Radio Free Skaro (Torchwood and children? That’ll never work. And why haven’t we seen the 456 on the promos? Have they not CGIed it yet?) in between current episodes of Radio Free Skaro, while drilling away on my manuscript formatting. Scrivener, it turns out, has all kinds of lovely features to allow you to compile a document for final submission, but it’s taken a while to iron all the bugs out, and even now that it exists in a single doc (120,000 words eeeee) I still have to go through the whole thing, page by page, to make my chapter headings and numbers and page breaks all – you know, be consistent and tidy and in some cases, bringing them into existence.

I got halfway through the ms in a few solid hours, but was struck by the desperate need to move around and be active – this, coupled with the incursion of ANTS ANTS into the dining room which I usually work in, led to a mass tidying of over and under the dining room table, in order to clear space for Robie the Robot to do his vacuuming thing.

The good news is that my cleaning frenzy did throw up the copy of Power of the Daleks (I am so obsessed with old Doctor Who right now, I know my everyday state is ‘mildly obsessed’ but I’m in an active state right now, I suppose the obsessive bookbuying had to go somewhere) I had borrowed from the library and promptly lost. Still haven’t found our much-renewed library copy of Maisie Eats Lunch or whatever the hell it’s called, though.

I took advantage of the lack of sunshine to play soccer with Raeli! As part of my plan to incorporate more activity into my daily life, I promised her blithely that I would play soccer with her “every evening” which, I’m sorry to say, has led to far more “but you promised!” moments this week than is healthy for our relationship. Though you know, I *did* promise, and when she says that, I do haul myself outside to kick some goals with her. I love sporty Raeli! She’s so gung ho! She didn’t even blink when I accidentally kicked her in the face with the ball (I’m not good at this! I’m trying!) but then sadly came a cropper, tripping flat on her face. I had told her pink gumboots weren’t the most appropriate footwear, but she insisted. Possibly the fact that my own soccer kit is bright pink pyjamas and black leather boots compromised my believability.

Anyway. Only halfway through the manuscript. I was hoping to finish today! But on the bright side I do have a tidy dining room, a tired daughter and sore feet. Hooray!


It’s done! That is, it’s not completely done – there are various tasks to be done, such as the arranging of scenes into chapters, the collation of the non-Scrivener doc (clings to Scrivener) and a final read through, all of which will happen over the weekend. But the scene by scene edit of The Creature Court Book Two: Cabaret of Monsters, the part that requires the absolute full on part of my brain, is done, finally.

I’m happy with the book. I’ve addressed all the things that I thought were a problem from the first draft, and it’s basically as good as I can get it on my own, which is exactly where you want to be when it comes to submitting an ms to the publisher. Hopefully my editor (please let them give me Nicola again!) will find a whole bunch of new things, and I’ll have a nice break between then and now so as to be open to the needs of the structural edit.

Not yet, though. Not yet!

This is a big deal for me. Looking back over old posts, I wrote 90K of the book during the latter half of my pregnancy, and hit the 100K mark before Jem was two months old. I finished the draft somewhere between her being 10 and 12 weeks old. (seriously?? I wrote a comment on Lauren McLaughlin’s guest post the other day claiming that I hadn’t done much in the way of writing for the first 3 months of my baby’s life – how can I have forgotten this so soon??)

This is the first time I have written anything with a 0-6 month old baby to take care of, let alone a novel with a real publisher deadline! When Raeli was a baby, I retired my novel for most of the year, and only started back on my thesis when she was 6 (cough, 9) months old.

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Nine scenes to go

Nine scenes to go.

Nine scenes to edit, one document to collate, eleventy zillion chapter headings to create, one novel to proof, four days to go.

I can totally do this.

Also, so far, staving off stomach bug. Wobbly, but not beaten.

I’m up to the last few scenes, the ones I was most worried about, the ones that have been quite deliberately left until last. And I’m finding that leaving them until last was the best possible decision, as it is allowing me to seed earlier a pretty major revelation that only came upon me when I wrote the final scene of the first draft.

Themes, themes!

I’m starting to get enthusiastic about Book 3. There is obviously no hope for me at all!

While I am picking up my darling 6 month old from daycare, check out this great post by Lauren McLaughlin about the combination of babies and novel-writing, and how being a mother made her change her writing priorities.