Weekly Musing: Ding, Ding, Round Two is Over

Well, I am done with the second revision of my novel. Hooray! This will be the last post about it. It’s a relief getting it before the end of the month. This gives me a few days off to rest my mind before I start prepping for NaNoWriMo.

As before, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned going through the process of learning how to revise a novel.

Realistic Expectations for My Process: I’ve already promised myself that for round 3 I am going to allow myself about 6 months to get revisions done. All my deadlines have been self-imposed because without them I fear I won’t ever actually learn what my process is. It’s also a kick in the ass to get over my anxiety and get it done.

But I think the 4 month deadline isn’t very healthy for me. That’s why for round 3 I am going to give myself more time since it will be the first time I will be revising the story from point A to point Z instead of by character. I’ll be truly reading it as a reader would be reading it.

Plugging Plot Holes: While I think I’ve managed to plug up some of the plot holes, especially as I switched from one main character to the other, there are still many more. This is another reason why I’m going to give myself 6 months to get through the round of revisions. I’m sure I will be drafting new chapters unless I can figure out a way to convert what I’ve already written. Sooner I can get those holes filled in, the better. It is my goal that once I am done with the third pass, each revision after will be more in line with simply polishing the manuscript and getting feedback.

Realistic Expectations for the Manuscript: This ties in a little bit with plugging the plot holes. Right now the novel is still quite a mess. That’s okay. I finally feel like the time line is coming together as well as my understanding of the characters.

I realize that my chapters as they stand are far too long. I have numerous chapters which are over 2,500 words which may not sound too bad but when an overwhelming majority of the chapters are that length, reader fatigue should be considered especially nowadays. That being said, historical fiction books tend to be pretty lengthy and long chapters aren’t unusual.

On the other hand, it’s about the flow of the story. Will having long chapter after long chapter really serve the story? Can I get away with paring down several of the long chapters and still get the story across? What chapters can be sacrificed? Already I cut several from the rough draft. I also added in several scenes.

Looking back at the breakdown of words per character, one of the two main characters has about 20,000 more words than the other does. At this point I don’t feel this is a bad thing. I’ve never been shooting for a perfect 50/50 for the story, but is that balance fair to the story and the characters?

Research: It’s a bitch at times. I’m sure it will continue to be going into round 3. However I hope to continue to utilize cheat sheets of info. I think it will be great to do this for important historical events so I can quickly refer to what would be key to my story.

It amazes me how often I looked back in my books and previous research for more than just a simple line about a battle, for example, and not finding much. Or being able to nail down people’s movements after a major event. I have a hard time believing people just disappeared for a few months. You would think the books I have would contain such valuable information. Apparently not. And these are history books written by well-respected historians on this particular subject.

Or realizing that there are some seemingly easy questions I’ve asked but had problems finding the answers. A lot of hours spent on different websites to find these answers or cross-referencing answers only to discover conflicting information. That’s when I whipped out my privilege as a writer to go with my gut keeping in mind it is fiction first. If someone wants historical fact then read history books.

Playlists Don’t Help: Oddly enough, listening to music somewhat of the time period or which match with a mood didn’t actually help me. If anything it was a bigger distraction. Didn’t matter if it was playlist I created or someone else’s. Eventually I gave up and went back to listening to classical music or non-annoying electronica music.

Briefly, just a couple of stats of my book as it stands. So far I have 51 chapters for a total of 127,759 words. That is a lot of words but again, one of the beauties of historical fiction is longer is fine. That doesn’t mean I want to pad the pages with fluff. This is also down from the initial rough draft which was about 155,000 words.

I’m getting there and do think the second draft is pretty much the story I’ve struggled to get just right. Overall I’m hopeful for each revision from here on out. I don’t know if I think things will get easier. I want them to as I had no clue just how much work this was going to be. At times it was frustrating but ultimately, it is incredibly satisfying. Not sure when I will start again; not until 2016 and probably no sooner than February.



Weekly Musing: Step Aside Sucktember

Ahhh, September has come and gone. With its passing, thank goodness, it means it’s time for another update on how revisions are going for my WIP. For some reason only the fickle writing gods know, there appears to be this pattern where every other month my progress on this novel has sucked.

I started September with so much hope. After all I was on a roll after a horrendous start back in July. I was certain I would be able to keep my momentum going. Since my brain was fatigued, I went ahead and took a few days off as it allowed me to sorta shake off one character before I dived into the other main character. It helped to take a small vacation spending a few days with friends at a lake house that we rented for the weekend. I rarely take vacations and while I did bring my laptop, I only touched my laptop once or twice and that was to check emails and whatnot.

While I came back from vacation incredibly tired, I passed that off to the feeling you sometimes get of needing a vacation from vacation. Physically I wasn’t quite there but at least mentally I was ready to go.

That’s when September turned into Sucktember. Apparently I came back with some kind of horrible cold/flu/plague that made me miserable for a week and a half. Oh, there were a couple of days I did write a chapter or two, but I’ll be shocked if during the next round of revisions those chapters are coherent. They seemed liked they might have made sense at the time I typed them up. Other than those two days, I spent the rest of the time curled up in a ball shivering and sweating through all the PJs I own while my cat, and the husband, watched over me.

Naturally being sick and having gone on vacation put me way behind my own self-imposed schedule. It also killed any momentum I had from August. This made me quite grumpy and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get caught up. A sense of panic set in counting up how long it will take me to finish crept inside my addled brain. After all, my male character started off with about 21 chapters that needed to be revised. This has since gone up to 25 chapters I need to complete in order quasi-adequately tell his part of the novel.

My goal has been to average about a chapter a day. Obviously some ideas that were originally crammed into one chapter have been spread out which means I have to draft new material. Also, I have more than one mega chapter which need to be chopped into smaller, more easily to digest chapters.

In addition to forcing me to stick to a schedule, a-chapter-a-day gives me wiggle room since real life happens. For whatever reason, people want me to be around them so this allows me the freedom to spend time with friends and family. Also with it being football season (Go Wolfpack and Niners), my weekends wind up being taken up with chunks of time yelling at the TV.

This approached worked fairly well when I was working with my female lead. My male lead, though, requires a lot more research since he goes around with swords and represents more of the political and historical component of the story. It doesn’t help that research is often conflicting so decisions have to be made for the sake of the story and characters as to what to go with. So aiming for a chapter-a-day pace probably wasn’t realistic and I knew this going into September. It’s why I set the goal for me to be done by November 1st as I want to participate in NaNoWriMo and it took me about four months to do the rough draft.

Yet while I was just wishing for Sucktember to end, when it did, I realized I had made more progress than originally thought. I got 11 chapters done. Better than the 4 in July and there were no excuses for that pathetic output. Had I not done a thumbnail sketch of my male lead’s story, as well as briefly jotting down key things like what kind of weapons and armor he and his brother need, I think I wouldn’t have been able to get even those 11 chapters done.

I say a grateful goodbye to September and am optimistic about October. It’s the home stretch for the novel. Already a tentative structure of how to interweave each character’s chapters to make one complete story is bouncing around in my mind. October is also going to be better because I get to revise the multiple battle scenes I’ve written. I honestly enjoyed writing those scenes the most and can’t wait to improve upon them. Death to September! Long live October!


Weekly Musing: I Know Why Writers Drink

No, I’m not going to talk about alcoholism and authors. If you want that kind of info just do a search.

Without intending to, here’s an update of my progress on revising my novel. August was an incredibly productive month for me. I managed to finish the initial round of revision done for one of the two main characters. This was amazing considering it took me all of July to get through four chapters yet last month I got through nineteen chapters.

There were a few things which helped me get into a groove. The biggest was constructing a thumbnail outline of the character’s story. I have down numerous outlines to help me figure out a general idea. For some reason, doing a simple two or three sentence description for each chapter and assigning chapter number helped me “get” the bigger picture.

Doing this helped me figure out what scenes to cut as well as see holes. This meant I had to draft new chapters and adjust other chapters which is fine. The thumbnail outline also makes it easier for me to move chapters around to see how the story is affected. Obviously this is the point of revision.

Another added benefit came as I was looking ahead to tackling the other main character. Once I was done working on the story for the first character, I did a quick outline for the other one. Since their storylines eventually combine, I had a better visual of the structure and flow of the story.  

Finally nailing down the time scope for the story was another big moment. This is something I have literally struggled with for years. I know the story was going to span more than a year yet I knew I did not want it cover the entire historical conflict that serves as the catalyst and background. But what years to pick?

Once again I employed keeping it simple. I combed over my research and scribbled down the years with the most activity. Then I compared that timeline with the characters’ stories. With a few adjustments I now had my time scope. I wrote out a quick, one-page summary of historical events with a sentence about where each character would be in relation to it. Finally getting a chance to “see” this helped me notice some of the decisions the characters make would be supported by what was going on historically.

It seems the theme of keeping it simple was big in August. Another useful aid was creating a cheat sheet of info for each character. What this means was I already knew the name of parents and siblings of each character, but instead of flipping back and forth from Scrivener to my manuscript printout, I just retyped it. I left plenty of room on the page to handwrite minor characters who pop up that are associated with each character.

Something I added to the cheat sheet of info was a literal road map. This was another area I’d been struggling for years. Again, turning to history and Google Maps, I was able to approximate where people should be. The road map had to be backed up by history so that meant the story would have to be adjusted accordingly.

I was also able to estimate how long it would take characters to travel from one place to another. Of course the times are based in a perfect world. Since I identified my occupation on a recent medical form as Creator of Worlds and Puppet Master, this means I was now allowed to further mess up their journeys. *insert evil laugh here*

As it stands now, I have 23 revised chapters and am at a total of 57,591 words. This is for one character. I know there are chapters which are bloated while others are deficient. This is okay because I am nowhere near the final product.

Due to all these epiphanies in August, I am vastly more hopeful I will be able to get a complete first round revision done by November. Just in time for NaNo where I plan to write a different kind of novel, one that may or may not be revised. With all I’ve learned during August I believe I can carry the momentum into September and October. For now, though, if you’ll excuse me, there is a lake house friends and I are renting for the weekend with moonshine and other kinds of alcohol, games, and football calling my name. A well needed break to clear my frazzled mind.