Tag Archive: growth


A New Home

I’m finally doing something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, both in this blog, on my Facebook page and maybe even in  my real life (soon, not right now on that score).  I’ve known for a while now that I had no intention of keeping my married name, Tkachyk, once the divorce was finalized.  The thing is, as we all know, I have so little patience that it’s almost not funny.  Add to that my feeling that I need to switch over for writing reasons and I’ve decided to launch my post-marriage name, the one I’ve intended for a while now to publish under. J. Elizabeth Hill.

With that in mind, this blog is moving to a new address: http://jelizabethhill.wordpress.com/

Everything from here has been exported over to that address, all the posts, comments, pages, etc.  WordPress is very handy that way, I must say.  They make it easy.  Those of you who wish to continue following this blog will, of course, need to add/switch to the new one, as I will not be updating this one further after this post.

I’ve simply decided that it’s time to take this final step away from that old life, the old self.  Besides, can you imagine people trying to find my books by this last name? 🙂

Going To Need A Second Brain

I’ve been working for the last few days on The Nine, just working out what the major events are, the threads I need to juggled and keep track of, which has resulted in the title of this post.  I’ve got a lot going on here 😮

This is not a new thing for me, I should mention, writing down the major events.  I did this when I was figuring out how I needed to rewrite DM, and I did it to some extent with Possession, but I know I have a lot to deal with in wrapping the trilogy, and that’s making me do this part in a more serious fashion. I’ve actually pulled out index cards so I can make notes on each of the threads.  Every thread has it’s own card.  There are several (I’m not going to count, I’m not going to go count them, I’ll only scare myself). I’m slowly figuring out how to tie it all together, the places where the threads meet, knot with each other and then go back on their separate paths, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little uncertain about pulling this off.  It’s going to push me as a writer, but I see that as a good thing.  The only way to grow in skill and maturity is to push yourself further, to make yourself try to stretch for that greater achievement.  Damn, though, it’s scary.

I’m still letting myself have a bunch of downtime, of course, so I can recharge.  Notes and outline stages seem to be like that for me though.  I’ll make a few notes, go do something else, come back to it.  Outline a couple things, then do something else. It’s just writing draft that I pound myself (and keyboard) into the ground on, and even that’s only on first draft.  That’s mostly about that internal editor, the same one who makes me wonder if I can pull this off.  Mine’s semi-trained in a professional sense, since I once wanted to do that for a living, which seems to have sharpened her teeth and claws.  The only way I can get a book done, I’ve found, is to write at warp speed, which is what leads me to do all of this planning, of course.  I can only write that fast if I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about what needs to go where.  It’s when I haven’t done that that I end up slowing down and getting caught by a combination of exhaustion and inner-editor.  It’s really a one-two punch, which is part of what happened at the end of Possession.  I didn’t spend enough time thinking about how I would handle the ending. I knew what the ending was, the things it had to be, but not how I would approach it or pull it off.  With so much at stake in The Nine, I have no intention of doing that again, leaving the state in which I crossed the finish line last time totally aside.

I have no idea when I’ll start writing this one, and I’m not going to speculate, as I don’t want to feel I have to rush to it. It won’t be until I’m ready, until I know where I’m going and how.  I need to check something in both books that I’ve already written before I can get too far into outlining, but I can’t do that right now.  I’m not pulling Possession out of the drawer yet, as it’s not time, not even close, and I know I’ll get caught up in it if I open the file to check for that one thing.  At least I know my own weaknesses, I guess.

What I find most funny, to me anyway, is that in spite of how intimidating I’m finding The Nine at the moment, I’m seriously looking forward to writing it.  Or maybe it’s because of that intimidation.  I love beating down a challenge, standing on it and saying “Yeah, that’s right, I won.”

And now, before I get back to trying to weave threads without tangling them worse than kittens, tonight’s picture, for your enjoyment.

The Delight of Nothing

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is at the start for me to do nothing.  Especially after four straight months of always on, always working.  But I did it.  Other than a couple of notes on stray thoughts, I did NOTHING yesterday that was writing related.  It was fantastic once I got into it.  I feel surprisingly recharged, other than the irritation of having to stop doing nothing and go to work today.  That sucked.

The funny thing about all that nothing is that it seemed to have allowed me to de-stress enough and stop thinking about The Nine enough to let my brain make some progress in the background on it.  I’ve a basic idea of how I want to handle a bunch of things, including one of the knottier issues I was facing, and I don’t feel nearly as pressured about this being the close of the trilogy anymore. Hell, I was joking about it today, and for those of you who don’t know me all that well, that means I’m not worried about it.  It’s when I lose any ability to tell jokes about a subject that you know I’m suffering some serious angst about it.

So yeah, slowly building out the story for The Nine while I let Possession sit in the magical drawer (folder on my computer). I expect to be ready for outlining at least, if not already started that stage, by the time I pull Possession back out and reread it.  I may read back through DM again beforehand, just to regain the perspective of “here’s where people will be when they come into the story.”  We’ll see.

I really do feel better about a lot of things that had begun to irritate me in general, work, writing, self, all of it.  I’m starting to think that maybe working 7 days a week is bad for you or something 😮 I know, you’re all as shocked by that as I am.  Or maybe just shocked by my admitting it.  Okay, yes, I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard, and had a wee bit of trouble taking the foot off the gas when I needed to, desperately needed to in fact.  I’m starting to think that, when it comes time to write The Nine, I’m going to need to build a 6-day a week schedule, rather than say that I will write every day for hours.  I won’t necessarily take that day off (hey, I’m being honest here, don’t throw things at me), but I will at least feel like I’m allowed to when I have a day that I can’t seem to dial into the story, or I’m tired, or whatever.  I think giving myself permission to do that might be important to finding that balance I keep going on about.

I’ve also given a fair bit of thought on why I’ve been pushing myself so hard.  I’m not going to blame Tavis (he’s not nearly as pushy as, oh say, Devan), and I’m not even going to let myself off by saying the story was flowing and I just went with it.  That was the case for most of Possession, no doubt about that, but the ending was like pulling teeth and I’m not happy with it, yet I pretty literally forced myself to it anyway, rather than doing the sensible thing and letting myself have that day off that I had definitely earned.  So why did I do that to myself (stupidly) and risk burn out? I think the easiest way to explain it is to admit that I feel guilty some days.  Maybe that seems silly to some, especially in light of what I’ve managed to accomplish in the last four months, but it’s true.

Remember how I said that I discovered writing when I was 16? I’m almost 34 now.  Almost 18 years have passed since I realized that writing is very much part of who I am and what I want to be doing with my life, and what have I been doing? Mostly not writing, that’s what.  I feel like I have severely wasted my time because I was scared, miserable, tired, the list goes on, but they were all excuses, really.  I think I’ve proven that’s all they were.  I could have been writing for the last 18 years, but I didn’t, and I sometimes wonder where I would be, skill-wise, if I had been writing.  Maybe I needed that time to gain a greater perspective on life, people, feelings, the world, all the kinds of things that get woven into stories, even when you write Fantasy like I do (or maybe it’s especially when you write Fantasy and have some seriously bizarre elements in the world). But mostly I feel like I let myself down and now I have to make it up to myself, and make the most of every minute I have for writing.  Man, that sounds stupid to me as I type it, but it’s still my feelings on the matter.  I feel like I have to make up for all that time I wasted when I should have been writing, so I drive myself mercilessly.  I have to get a handle on this, though, or I’ll do myself some serious damage.

I’ve decided that I’m going to dial back the 30-day goal when it comes time to start that process with The Nine.  Yes, I know, I beat pace every day when writing both of the novels I’ve completed, but I’m on to me there too. I’m going to tell myself that pace is okay (rather than a starting point), that 3k is amazing, and to quit for the day while I still have brain cells that function and am somewhat awake. I’m going to keep reminding myself of that as many times as I have to until I have it pounded through my seriously thick skull.  There is no point in making myself brain dead for my writing. I’m not good enough for it to be worth that price, and even if I were that awesome, it still wouldn’t be worth it.

It’s amazing the perspective a day of not immersing yourself in your chosen obsession can give you.  And for anyone who might be wondering why I’m saying all of this here, it’s for the same reason I announce my writing goals here.  I’m trying to keep myself honest, and not let myself sidle away from it.  I’m good at it, trust me, but knowing that I have told people, that I have staked out specifically what I’m going to do keeps me from twisting my own words, or telling myself I didn’t really mean it, or that halfway is enough.  It gives me something to live up to, and I’m noticing time and again that it’s working for me.

In other news, I think Sketh and Devan are going to end up having a duel or something for my time when I finish the trilogy.  Now they BOTH won’t leave me alone.  I’d be irritated, but we all know I am entirely happy to have a million ideas rolling around in my head.  If they’d only stop waking me up in the middle of the night, I’d delightedly tell them to get comfy.  Inconsiderate bastards, these necromancers and mercenaries, keeping a lady up at night. 🙂

Yes, I know, I still haven’t done my Tag post or the two awards I’ve received, but I’ll be honest, writing and photography and thoughts about those things are always going to come first on this blog.  It’s just who I am.  I’ll get to those, though, really, I will.

Finally, before my fingers drop off or Tavis gets impatient, tonight’s picture:

Down The Rabbit Hole

Okay, I know, I should be posting more often. But most of you will probably realize what my lack of posting indicates. Things are going well.  Very well.  Insanely well. As in I’m having trouble crawling out of the book for anything other than work.  I think I dream Possession, even.  It’s getting out of hand, really.

I think my writing muscles (the parts of the brain I use for it at least) are getting stronger as I go.  I remember when I’d feel fried after writing 2.5k in a night, and 3k+ resulted in Facebook status updates like “Click, click. Ow brain. Click clack. Ow brain.” (Yes, I really did that one day).  I now seem to write about 4k a night with little or no pain.  Part of it is that I’m grooving in on Possession, part of it is that it’s a good story, but I think a lot of it is practice and my process working out well for me, and that’s a nice feeling.  I remember a time when I thought I’d never find a process that worked and was destined to be stuck with ideas I couldn’t turn into stories despite a burning need to do so.  I feel fairly hopeful that the rest of the equation of me becoming a published author might actually fall into place.  Who knows, something crazy might happen, like people actually wanting to buy my books and read them!

So, specifics, as I’m sure you’re all dying to know them. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 are now complete. After my last post, I sat down and wrote 4,052 words, which was good. Last night, it got even better with 4,664 words (I’d been looking forward to writing one of those scenes ever since I stuck it in the outline) and tonight I’ve put up 4,549 words.  This leads to a grand total of 33,242 words.  Wow, already? Trust me, even though I’ve been watching both my daily totals and the overall climb, I’m still a little shocked to see how fast this is going up. That said, there’s still a ways to go.  I’ve got a couple of really challenging, important sections coming up. At least I’m writing them on the weekend, when I have all day to work with them, and no, that wasn’t planned.

And I want to say that, despite the speed, it’s in good shape.  I’m sure I’ll need to do some tweaking, but I don’t anticipate needing to rewrite this in a significant way (unlike the first draft of DM). I know one scene that I will want to focus and tighten, but otherwise, I’ve been quite pleased with the bits and pieces I’ve read while searching for a specific detail here and there (or just indulging myself and rereading because I liked it). I spend some time hanging around the NaNoWriMo forums, and I often read people talking about how they have this problem or that problem with their novel and directly relating their specific problem(s) to only taking a month to write it, but I think that with preparation, a month is plenty of time for a first draft that is reasonably tight for that stage of writing. But you have to go in having spent some serious time thinking about what you want to do with it and how it needs to go.  I’m not saying you have to outline (though I now have plenty of proof that I don’t function well as a writer without one), but you need to know your characters and have a general idea at least before you start that month-long writing-fest.  That preparation really can be as simple as time spent thinking about it, maybe making notes. You don’t have to read this blog for very long to figure out that I am a big believer in the idea that every writer is different, that we all need to find the process, stories, techniques and voice that works for us specifically. But if you don’t spend any time thinking about what’s going to go on in your novel and who it’ll go on with, why would you be surprised that your characters lack depth, or that your scenes feel flat?  I’ve said before that lack of sufficient planning and preparation was a big part of why the first draft of Dark Mirror didn’t get edited at all, simply went into archive while I started over again with a fresh outline.  I had some of those same problems. The key is to learn what causes your problems (and this point goes well beyond writing, into the arena of general rules for life) and figure out how to avoid making the same mistakes in future works.

Okay, I’m done preaching about how to write, really.  I generally hate doing it, but sometimes I see people say the same things over and over again and it irks me when they don’t learn from it.  Irkage usually causes me to say something. I once started a thread on my favourite writing forum that got bumped for months afterward just because someone did something I’d seen several times before, but they did it big enough to irk me a lot.  It was quite amusing to me, actually.  Come to think of it, it still is. I should go find that thread sometime.

In other news, Sketh showed up today and explained something to me.  Great, another character/story idea screaming for my attention. Because Devan isn’t trying hard enough to distract me from Possession and The Nine, I guess. So I’m still making notes on those and generally letting them stew in the back of my mind while I spend several hours a day with Fay and Tavis.  Why is all of this work not tiring me out at all? I don’t understand it, but I will say that I’m loving it.  The daily feeling of accomplishment I get from all of these things is wonderful, and seems to fuel continuing to do all of these things.  Maybe it’s some version of perpetual motion for this writer?  I don’t know, but I am going to savour every moment of it I get.

And, of course, last but not least, tonight’s picture. This is one of my more recent ones, taken on a trail near a town called Deep Cove here in BC.  I love the way the shapes and shadows play together in this one.

No, I’m not dead yet.  I didn’t forget to eat one too many times, really.  I promise.  Heck, I’ve been trying to be good that way. I should have posted yesterday, and I meant to, but I was busy writing, and was doing so until very late the last two nights.  How late? The eyes were closed most of the last couple of pages.  What do you call that, sleep-writing?  I wonder if that’s good for you…

All of that said, of course it must be obvious that the first draft of Possession continues to go well, both in quantity and quality.  I feel about it so far as I did the second draft of Dark Mirror, in that I don’t feel so far that major changes will be required when I’m done, though of course there will be editing and it’s too early to really be sure of this.  In some ways, I think this one is better, somewhat more complex and the characters are more real in their relationships with others.  I’m also getting to explore a few things I couldn’t in DM because they weren’t there yet for the characters, though they were part of the world. Again, like doing the second draft of DM, I can feel some of the growth I’ve undergone as a writer working its way into the book.  I also feel like I have a better handle on this story and on my world now, and I don’t think it’s just because this is now the second book I’ve written in this world, or that it’s in some ways a continuation of the previous story.  Possession is definitely a story unto itself, though one that is easier to understand I suspect if you’ve read DM.  I think both things are more a result of spending most of a month thinking about and outlining it, in and around dealing with DM and the short story.  I’m also very happy to have Tavis back as a POV character.  I missed him. 🙂

So, exactly how well are things going, quantity-wise? Chapters 4 and 5 are in the bag now, Chapter 6 to be worked on tonight. Monday I wrote a personal best for this round of writing (early days, I know), 4,667 words, and another 3,899 were written last night.  Tonight? We shall see. This of course, brings me close enough to a fairly major milestone that I’m going to round 19,977 words up and say I’ve hit that mystical 20k mark.  In 5 days.  That’s awesome, and the brain doesn’t hurt (yet) which is even better. I’ve still got a long way to go, and some major, painful scenes to write though.  How long will this be in the end?  You’re guess is as good as mine (possibly better, given how wrong I was last time), so I’ve decided to only say that it will be as long as it takes to tell the story.  That’s still my favourite yardstick for how long the story is/should be.

And, of course, through all this, Devan still won’t leave me alone.  I’d be irritated with his attempts to distract me from Possession, but I’m too busy being startled and delighted by some of the places he takes me.  I’m deeply looking forward to writing that one in its time, and refusing to let myself even think about whether I’m good enough to write it well.  I think I might be, but I’m going to try to learn not to worry about that and just write anyway.  Besides, I still have The Nine to write before I can work on Necromantic.  Speaking of The Nine, I’m feeling a bit of flow in the ideas for that, which is good.  I know a lot of ideas for Possession got kicked loose as I was working on the second draft of DM, so this is probably a good sign that I’ll be in a good place to get down to work on The Nine once I’m done the draft of Possession.

What, me slow down? I might stall if I did that. Certainly I’d be utterly lost with all that time on my hands.

And, of course, before I go for the next couple of days and the night’s explosion of words, the picture of the day.  This one is one of my favourites of all my shots, which might explain why it’s one of those printed and framed on the wall.

So I had a good night tonight, very productive, which means I feel better than yesterday, where I would have gladly died.  Headaches should not be allowed to travel in either packs or series’.  I started yesterday with a migraine and when I got that under control, I found out that a massive pressure headache was waiting for me behind that.  So unfair.  So I spent yesterday alternately passed out and trying to die, in spite of comments made around WordPress.  I was trying to distract myself from how wretched I felt.  I must say, terrible way to spend a Sunday, feeling that god-awful.

But in better news, as I said, better night tonight.  I didn’t work on the outline at all (yet, the night is still relatively young here on the west coast), but I wrote a short story.  I cried while I was writing it, which is entirely abnormal for me.  I’m normally much more dispassionate when I’m writing, but I couldn’t help it.  Let me say that again, I made myself cry, with my own writing, even though I knew exactly how things would turn out.  Is it sick that I feel good about that?  It’s certainly a major step for me.  The short is 3400 words approximately, and involves a couple of the supporting cast from the Mirrors Trilogy.  You’ll all meet Keari one day, when DM is out, but I wish I could give him his own book, especially after writing that short story tonight.

The funny part is that the idea for writing the short really only came this morning, as I arrived at work.  I jotted down a couple of notes, not nearly as much as I wanted to because I had to dive into work, and was promptly too busy to think about it all day.  I looked at my paltry notes when I sat down at home, nearly cried thinking it wouldn’t work, said what the hell, hauled out the netbook and opened my manuscript formatted template.  I didn’t stop.  I wrote the whole thing.  It was all there.  It was amazing, almost like when I wrote my first short story, when it felt like it had been waiting for me, but better, mostly because I think this is already better written on first draft than my first short was (I know more about writing now, and I’m more practiced).  It’s going in a drawer for a few more days before I read it again to see how it is, what it needs.  I’m of two minds about sending it to my test readers before they get DM, because it will spoil a bit of a reveal in that book, but again, not patient, and I love how this one feels. We’ll see how it holds up in a couple of days, and by then I should have reread DM itself.

On that subject, I’ve been thinking about DM (damn multi-tasking brain that can’t seem to leave well enough alone) and I think I know something that it will need work on before I send it to test readers.  It needs more description, but not on just everything.  I’ve been thinking about perception, how to use it as an author and where I need to accent the importance of certain things.  I think that is something I need to do more of, using the characters’ perceptions to show the important things, the details that either make the character who they are, or the things that make them stand out from run-of the-mill nobodies who, lets face it, are practically scenery in the real world.  I find that’s the way I tend to view the world, seeing the different, the important, though I do it with almost everyone I see, picking out something distinctive about them as I find and perceive them.  It’s an interesting tool to play with, as I’m thinking about it, and it’s making me ask myself some good questions.  That said, I don’t think it’ll take me that much work to do this, as I know I’ve done some of it naturally through the process of writing and editing the book already.  Mostly, I’m thinking about places where I need a little more, or some oomph to it.  That will likely be the task for next weekend, and part of me fears to think how much it will add to the book’s length, not that there isn’t room to add.  Besides, if the book needs it, then it needs it.

I’m feeling very happy and mellow right now.  I swear, the more time goes on, the more I think that writing is my version of Prozac.  Worse things could be said of me though, I’m fairly sure, probably have been in fact.

And, to top it all off, picture time.  This one came from the Musical Gardens in downtown Toronto, which I have visited a few times.  I’m already thinking about some summer trips I might take around downtown Vancouver, places I want to shoot, even if it will take some time away from writing.

I should be posting something else, but I know my friend will understand the delay and entirely forgive me, since we would both agree that this is more important.  Amazingly, it’s done.  The edit of the second draft of Dark Mirror is complete. In just a day over a month, I wrote an entire draft, then edited said draft.  Why don’t I feel more tired from this feat?  Oh, right, adrenaline and hot chocolate.  I rewrote the last two chapters almost completely, working in a fresh file and only copying over those bits that could be used with the new ideas, but even that is done.  It’s also a bit longer.  And by a bit, I mean about 8k longer, now weighing in at a not-mind-blowing 81,773 words. Trust me, that’s still pretty short by Fantasy standards.

Yes, I did end up incorporating those tugs and whispers I mentioned before.  It felt like pure laziness not to at least mentally explore the implications of doing so, and when I did, I found that it made the chapter far better, the story as a whole smoother and set up something I’m going to need later, when I go to write Possession and The Nine.  It didn’t take as much extra work as I had feared either, though it did forced the above mentioned rewrites, but even that turned out better, though I’m not entirely happy with the final chapter yet, I think.  I guess I just don’t have a lot of practice at endings.  We’ll see.  It goes in a virtual drawer now for however long I can leave it or a few days, whichever comes first (long time readers of this blog are probably sniggering at that, knowing which is more likely), after which I will read it again all the way through with no editing (though I might stop just long enough to fix actual typos if there are any left) and see what I think, and if I think the new title I’m contemplating for it fits.  I already know it fits better than DM, but that’s like saying a size 10 shoe fits better than a size 12 when your feet are an 8.  It’s an improvement but it still won’t stay on.  That said, I’m at the point where any title would make me happier than DM.

I’m amazed to have made it through again.  And I still like it.  Do I think I can do better?  Sure.  Do I think that there’s still room for me to grow as a writer, both in expression and how I grow my story and characters? Absolutely.  But I think back to the first draft of this, and then even further back to the last novel idea I tried to write,  and I can see the progression, the growth and improvement I’ve undergone and it makes me unbelievably happy to see it, because it means I’m on the right track.  I’m fairly confident that, after reading it through in (probably not) a few days, I’ll be ready to send it out for the opinions of others.  Those people will be warned that it’s on the way once their copies are in the mail though (when it’s too late for me to chicken out).  And then it will be time for another project to thoroughly distract myself and keep me busy while I try desperately not to pester them for word on their opinions.  I really try not to make a nuisance of myself to people who like me and are doing me a huge favour with the gift of their time, but remember what I’ve said before.  I’m not patient.  Never have been, and there’s no point in me trying to pretend.  The involved parties know better already anyhow.

So, new project.  Part of me deeply feels that I should work on Possession, especially since I already have several fairly detailed entries in the outline for that one and I’m getting to have a pretty good idea of where I need to go with it, though the ending still isn’t entirely in focus.  The only problem is that I’m a bit concerned regarding doing that and then having something seriously change once I get comments back on DM and having to redo all that work.  I’d do it (after me throwing out the first draft of DM, you know I will), but if I can avoid it…  And then Helix and his girlfriend start shouting, and I have to tell you, a guy in a leather jacket with a street bike who can do magic is pretty hard to resist. It’s mostly between the two of them, because I’m not sure if I’m ready to face The Ailing Tree, as much as I really want to take a crack at Lorah and Arcalyus.  I really do want to write that one, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a slightly ambitious project for me (long story, not going into it here), and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.  Funny thing is, I have a way more ambitious project that I’m frankly scared of, which currently goes, as a whole, under the code name Generational.  Em and SJ might remember me talking VERY briefly about it and the 5 books it’ll take to write it.  Like I said, highly ambitious, but not really on my radar yet.  Need better skills first and a lot more thought.  Worse, another old idea is knocking on my head, my Tuatha project, but that one will probably take some actual research (agh).  Too many choices for this writer.   Generational entirely aside, any suggestions?

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten that I promised a pic with my next post (which didn’t happen because the next one was an award post). As I really should have gotten off my lazy ass and done one last time, no matter how tired I was, I shall make up to you all by posting two today. 🙂  And on that note, I bid you adieu and good night.  This writer needs to rest her brains (what she has left of them).

Writing is Like Ogres

While editing tonight, I realized something.  Well, some of the realization took place during work earlier, and some of it is a result of the stuff I was thinking about on the way home before I started editing for the night, but it crystallized while I was editing and it’s partly about the editing process.  I realized that, as the title says, writing is like ogres.  No, not big and ugly and stinky.  And only sometimes found in the company of talking donkeys. Okay, sometimes it’s mean and dirty and makes you cry, but that’s not the point.  No, like ogres, writing has layers.  In fact, I’m finding that editing is partly about adding those layers.

You see, while I’m doing actual structural editing and some story editing on Dark Mirror, I’ve also been thinking about stuff that’s later in the book, things I need to work on, like character journeys and the lead up to choices and that kind of thing.  And lets not even get started on sub-plots.  I’m finding that editing is the perfect time to not only think about these things, but also to layer them in as your going, which is exactly what I’m doing.  I added a few paragraphs to the end of a chapter today, one I had finished editing last night, in order to start layering in more about a choice Fay has to make later, so that the decision doesn’t seem so abrupt.  There’s other things I’m going to have to do as well, working with the parts that I’ve written and making them fit together better or lead the reader where I’d like they’re mind to wander, but that’s part of why editing can be so great.  It’s where you add the finesse really.

I’m also finding that those layers I’m adding aren’t just for the book I’m working on.  Some of it is intended to be the subtle set up for Possession (book 2 for anyone new to the blog), though only my test readers will be able to tell me if I’ve been subtle enough to leave the loose threads I need for that without leaving readers of DM feeling dissatisfied.  A hard balance to strike, and I’d prefer to actually strike it properly.  I hate it when I get to the end of a book and feel completely unfulfilled by the ending, like I’ve been left hanging with an incomplete book.  I had that happen recently and was so pissed off that I’ve sworn I’m never reading that author again, which is too bad because it was a very well done book until the end.  I’d really prefer I never do that to my own readers.  And no, I’m not naming names or giving titles for that book, before anyone asks, for a lot of reasons, mostly because it’s not the point.  Really, the point I’m trying to make here is that I intend to learn from the mistakes I’ve seen other writers make, from the things they’ve done to piss me off as a reader and try to avoid doing those same things.

In other news, tonight’s picture, taken just last year, near Deep Cove here in BC.  You’ll notice I tend to prefer working close up with my camera.

Doing The Double-Pass

I was sitting at work today, trying (and failing) to concentrate on work stuff.  The first day back from vacation is always like this for me.  I think the problem is that my brain is refusing to come back from vacationland.  I think it’ll show up tomorrow though.  All that said, I ended up thinking about writing for some of the day, like any other moment in my life that’s not filled by something that isn’t writing.  Particularly, I was thinking about Dark Mirror and editing.

As I said yesterday, I’m now editing Dark Mirror.  The book is 20 chapters long, I’m doing one chapter at a time for this.  Not like going nuts and insisting the chapter has to be perfect, nothing crazy like that, if I even believed that “perfect” has ever existed in reality.  No, I’m just trying to avoid racing through this, so that I can take the time to do this right, to really think about what I’m trying to say and how I say it.  Writing first draft is about speed for me, if for no other reason than to stay ahead of my inner editor (nya nya, you can’t catch me!).  Editing should be more leisurely and thoughtful, in my only somewhat humble opinion.

Normally I edit by printing out a copy of the manuscript, grabbing a red pen or two and turning into a mark-up fiend.  I then enter my changes from the now messy, crossed out, chewed up dead-tree version into the electronic version.  All this while, I’m praying that I can read my own handwriting (not ever guaranteed, I have one of the world’s worst scribbles, really).

This time, I’m doing something a little different.  Among other things, I don’t really want to print up 300 pages just so I can essentially crayon all over it and then either box it up or shred and recycle it.  I really don’t.  Also, I thought I’d try to be a little green.  Hug the planet, all that stuff.  So I made a pdf of my manuscript, tossed it on my iPad and grabbed a neat little pdf mark-up app called pdf-notes.  So far, it’s been going well.  I’ve gone through 4 chapters with it and, after a little bit of learning, I like it.  I like being able to undo my marks, change my mind, etc, things I can’t do on dead tree.  Once pen hits paper, you’re stuck with that mark.  It’s got a bunch of different tools for mark-up, but I’m sticking with the traditional red pen, with sticky notes for adding text/changing words.  When I’m done, I follow the rest of the usual path, entering changes in the electronic file.  I’ll probably keep the final marked-up pdf for archival purposes, since that’s easier than keeping 300 pages on hand.

Generally, as I enter my changes from the dead-tree/electronic mark-up, I end up changing a lot more.  It’s like I’ve had more time to think and digest by the time I get to the entering stage. It’s always seemed like my method turns it from a single edit to a double-pass.  Two edits for the price of one, such a deal.   By now, I’m used to this approach and I rather like it.  But it feels like I’d doing much more of the extra changes than usual this time.  I don’t think it’s that I’m marking up less with the pdf than I would with the dead-tree either.  I’m not even sure if this is anything more than a correlation, a coincidence of circumstance and timing.  The thing is that a lot of things have changed for me since the last time I edited any of my own fiction.  We can start with the fact that it’s been a while.  It’s been many months since I even tried, in fact.  Then we can move our tour of Julie’s Editing Mind (no sniggering at the back) to the fact that it’s the first time I’ve edited a finished novel.  Ever.  Remember, I had never finished a novel before DM, and I didn’t so much edit the first draft as completely toss it out and start fresh again (not without good reason, but that’s not the point).  I’m in somewhat uncharted waters here, and it’s making me think more about how I’m shaping this piece.  The next stop on this tour is the amount that I’ve learned about the craft and myself as a writer/storyteller in the many moons since I last did try to edit my own work.  I think a lot of that is going into the greater volume of edits, come to think of it.

Also, and I definitely don’t want to skip over this, but I think it deserves it’s own paragraph, I wrote this draft in fifteen days.  That’s it, start to finish.  There’s no polish at all when you work that quickly, none.  And now I get to do all that polishing I didn’t do while writing before I can even think about sending it to test readers, because polish can change a lot, including plot elements on occasion, and there’s no point in wasting your test readers’ time with something you’re already changing before they even finish reading it.  No, I’ll polish it now and then put it aside while the test readers have their say.

My plan is to work on something else (like maybe first draft of Possession) while I wait for DM to come back from the test readers, just so I won’t be tempted to go back and tweak some more while they have it.  Most writers I’ve ever known will tweak a piece forever, never quite happy with it, if nothing intervenes to force them out of that pattern.  I’m actually planning on not doing that.  There will almost certainly be edits, massages, work to be done when it comes back, but I refuse to be one of those writers who never submits or publishes because they’re waiting for it to be perfect.  You can try that forever and never reach it.  I think I’d rather publish something, even if it’s the more normal state of imperfect than nothing at all.  You have to publish, after all, to get it in front of the audience’s eyes.

And, on that note, I’m including another picture for you.  Perhaps I’ll make a habit of doing this, just to make me get some of that work out there too.  After all, new year, time to push myself out there a bit more, right?

2011 is dead, long live 2012

As I prepare to put 2011 into the book of Years I’m Done With, I really do want to pause to reflect. This one goes in as the year when I started doing things, instead of just dreaming and talking about doing them. It hasn’t been an easy year. On the contrary, it’s been a year of big, scary changes, but I am ending it in a much happier place. Not everything is quite where I want it, but many of the things I do want are in motion. I feel like a better version of myself than I started the year with, and that would be the most important part. The progress upward in life is really all you can ask, I think.

I’ll start on the downside of things, just because I find it’s better to get these things over with so I can end on a good note. The only really bad thing is, well, getting divorced. After trying to make the relationship work for 6 years and the marriage work for 4 of those years, my now-ex and I have called it quits. I am happy to note that we are doing it before we start hating each other and, after some initial pain, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may be the best thing for me. I will fully admit at this point that I married the wrong person. So did he. Now we can both go off and find the Right Person with each other’s blessings. It won’t be official until later in 2012, but it’s close enough for me.

Now, that said, the divorce and attendant reconsidering of everything in my life has led to pretty much every good thing I want to talk about, so I’m not too sad about even that bad thing. Yes, this means that the latter half of 2011 was better than the first half, but I can live with that. Go out with a bang, right?

For one thing, the biggest thing, this is going down as the year I committed to myself as a writer, to the writing itself really.  A lot of my accomplishments this year are, in fact, writing related.  I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time and won (winning is writing at least 50,000 words within the 30 days).  Winning NaNoWriMo comes with no prizes, really, except self-esteem, lessons learned and a major jump in my writing output.  Wait, those are all very real prizes, and ones I needed.  It also seems to have set me on a path where writing is not something I wait for.  I don’t wait for inspiration, or the right words, or the feeling that I can do this.  I go out and do it regardless, I sit down and write, I work on something writing related every day.  I no longer let my brain off with the excuse that it doesn’t feel like writing.  I sit in front of my netbook and start.  And keep going, usually carrying myself unintentionally well beyond any point I had hoped to get to.

I’ve learned so much this year as a writer that it would be hard to encapsulate them all in this post without it becoming excessively long.  Suffice it to say that I feel like I grew a lot and am on my way to at least becoming a publishable author.  Published is a question for another day.

I have, this year, completed now two drafts, beginning to end, for Dark Mirror.  This is a phenomenal achievement for me, as I had never managed to get beyond about 30,000 words on a novel draft before this year without losing the story or my drive or something else vital to getting through it all.  I will be editing the recent version in early January (maybe sooner) then printing it up and sending it out to my two test readers (you know who you are) for comments and then turning my brain over to one of the many other projects that have been trying to distract me from finishing Dark Mirror.  This will serve two purposes.  A) to keep me writing and B) so that I don’t pester my test readers.  They have lives of their own, I’m fully aware of that, but I’m not long on patience when I have enthusiasm instead, they know it and I know it.

There are also signs that this is the year I finally found the process that works for me as a writer (see last paragraph if you really need me to spell out what those signs are), and that is even better than the finished drafts, if you can believe it.  That’s something I have struggled with for years, so it’s welcome.  I’m sure that, in the next few years there will be tweaks, largely for changing technology, but having a functioning core in place is an awesome feeling.

Finally, this is the year that I have let go of my need to be perfect on first draft, to reread and edit as I write the story.  This is the year I gave myself permission to be a human being and understand that writing is very much an iterative process, but that I have to get to the end of a story in order to fix it.  Letting go of the need to be perfect and the fear of not being good enough that went hand in hand with it has done something amazing, it made the ideas and words flow in brain in a way I never expected.  I really do have more ideas simmering right now than I could possibly have time to write, and more show up every day.

I also found out this year that I did actually miss some elements of being single, and am adjusting to my new life better, faster than I expected.  That might be because my head is always stuck in a book lately, either one of mine or something by someone else.  I love living a life of words.

2012 will be the year of more writing.  It will be the year of querying, one way or another.  It may be the year of self-publishing, in electronic form at least, depending on how I feel when I come down off the high of finishing the new draft.  I will be doing NaNoWriMo again, and, if I have something ready at the time, I will probably also do one of the two summer WriMo camps.  I doubt I’ll have stuff ready enough to do both, but I won’t rule it out entirely.

I will, of course, continue posting here about how it goes through the year.  I find amazing the supportive community that exists here on WordPress.  Every comment, every like, every follower is a delight for me.  Thank you all for caring, sharing and for the laughs.  I will see you here in the new year.

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