Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The One-Book Mind, Part 2: Book Harder

I'm so completely shot for blog ideas this week that I'm writing a sequel to a previous entry, and this entry is itself about writing a sequel.  It's like I already work in Hollywood.

So, yes, this is a continuation of last week's entry.  Because despite my best efforts, I'm still unable to pull my head out of this one book and work on other things.  Some of that is because I'm getting feedback from a beta reader, which has been awesome and helpful and will lead to a slightly updated version of the book going out to another two beta readers this weekend.  (Seriously, I'm so happy to have this many people reading the book.  And two of them have never read anything of mine before.)  That's the good part.  The part that felt good at first but now doesn't seem that way is that I've been working on the sequel to The Book of Lost Runes.

Is there a word for something that feels good and productive but at the same time could also be a colossal waste of time and effort?  Because that's kind of what working on a sequel to this book feels like.

As good as I feel about BoLR, I know that it has a very high chance of ending up like every single other book I've written: stuffed into a folder deep on my hard drive, with nothing more coming of it than a learning experience and another number to add when I tell people how many books I've written*.  I'm usually an optimist, but I need to be realistic about this or else the whole publishing attempt process will end with me sitting here alone and crying, and I've already done that once this year.  So taking down notes for a sequel feels like the worst kind of wheel-spinning - like I'm wasting time working on something that has even less chance of turning into a book than most of my plots.

I think that's what gets me the most.  Here I am, trying to get all these ideas in my head to form themselves into workable plots and characters and settings and everything else, and the only stuff I can make work is for places and people and things I've already established.  It's like my brain is tired and only wants easy work.  I do not like having a lazy brain.  >_<

Now, I know that, if a miracle occurs and BoLR gets published, I'll be glad I took the time to scribble down every idea I've had for the sequel.  From what I've heard and read and picked up along the way, if the publisher wants a sequel, I'll be on deadline for that right away, and it will only help if I already have the plot done so I can get started as soon as possible.  But I've been at this too long to count on that happening.

I've been at this too long to count on anything happening, but that's mostly just me being tired and bitter.  :P

Bottom line: as usual, I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  I have a book that I love, one that's only getting better with the feedback I get.  I have a story I really want to tell, one that's growing in the telling and showing me things I never would have guessed when I first started writing down ideas.  But writing a sequel to a book when I have no idea if that book will ever get published feels like an enormous waste of time.  And I'm having a hell of a time getting myself to work on anything else.

Is this why writers drink?

*To those people who hear that I've written over a dozen books and yet I'm not a famous author, and proceed to ask me stupid questions about it: I hate you so much.  Maybe not forever, but in that moment?  Yeah, serious loathing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The One-Book Mind

Yes, I'm still editing.  Ask me again next week and - actually, by this time next week, I hope to have finished editing, fixed all the little things that I didn't catch on the line edit, and sent the book out to my awesome beta readers and be working on another project.

Which, incidentally, is what this entry is about.

For obvious reasons, I still have my head deep in The Book of Lost Runes.  I haven't had much luck or made much progress with any other project ever since I started editing it.  While I've taken a few notes on other plots-in-progress, mostly bits and pieces of character and setting stuff for books that refuse to tell me what the hell their story is actually supposed to be, that's about it.  And it's frustrating, because I was hoping I'd be able to both edit this book and plot some other stuff.

I do have about two pages of notes for the sequel to BOLR, though, and some of that takes things closer to the "Indiana Jones meets Ocean's Eleven" concept that I had for the first book but sort of moved away from.  I already have one moment of genuine awesome planned.  It's entirely possible I'll plot the whole book around getting to that moment.  But I digress.

As I've talked about here before, I have notes and plans for a ton of different projects.  And like everybody else, I have a limited number of hours in the day.  I want to spend more of that time working on all these different things, but when I sit down to do that, it's like there's nothing there.  I'll be able to figure out a few things from these stories I'm trying to tell, but nothing more, because I still have this one big project I'm working on.

It's like writer's block in reverse - I'm blocked because of what I've already written.  I know life's not fair, but this is ridiculous.

And even after I send BOLR out to pre-readers, that won't be the end of working with it.  There will be further edits, I know that; I'm nowhere near good enough to have written a book that only gets positive criticism and nowhere near egotistical enough to think I did.  I'll have to work on a query letter, which I'm already dreading, and a synopsis, which I'm already loathing.  There's also the agent search, but that's less "creative work" and more "please love me".

Like a lot of my fears or worries or concerns that I write about here, I know this shouldn't get to me as much as it does.  From what I've gathered about reading others' writing processes and all that, working on several books at once isn't all that common.  (Brandon Sanderson being a notable exception, as his work in progress bar on his site has four different projects on it and I don't know how the hell he does it.)  But I want to do more.  I always want to do more.

So, dear readers, I must ask: am I alone in this?  If I'm not, how do you handle it?  Judging by the comments I got on one of last month's entries, I have more projects in various stages of development than most people who read this.  But I can't be the only one who has this sort of trouble.  (Ye gods, I hope not.)  I'd appreciate any advice.

Even if it's just to remind me that I'm thinking too much, as per usual.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For Love of Editing.

I think we've all heard of those authors who think they don't need to edit, or think they don't need anyone else editing their work.  I'm saying this right now: if I ever claim either of those things, I want you to link me back to this entry, so I can tell myself I'm an utter and complete idiot for ever thinking I don't need to edit.

Because I totally do, for one simple reason: editing makes everything better.

As I mentioned earlier, I finished the line edits on The Book of Lost Runes yesterday.  (Yes, saying it on Twitter counts as mentioning it earlier.  This is the internet.)  I did two chapters a day, so while it might have only taken me nine days, it felt like one enormous slog.  Mostly because going over everything by hand forces me to see how the story actually works on paper, to see the story how a reader would.  And making a whole bunch of changes with a pen takes a long time.

It also really drove home the fact that I'm a writer, because I was overly happy to find a pen that worked well for this task.  It's the simple things, really.  And I'm now stealing the pens from every hotel room I stay in, because damn.

It's amazing how many things I notice when I'm not staring at a screen.  Little things like how I fall back on using some of my favorite words, or when I describe something the exact same way in two sentences in a row, or when a character's eye color rapidly changes between chapters.  Yes, all of these things happened.  Some of them repeatedly.

For example, the story is done in third person limited perspective, so when writing it, I often used "Shiloh thought" in lines where the main character was considering something that happened and/or drawing conclusions.  It was supposed to be a simple way to designate that I was dealing with her internal monologue, not stating things as objective fact.  Over the course of editing, I realized that the whole book is effectively her internal monologue, third person or not.  So there's rarely reason to designate something as one of Shiloh's thoughts - it quite literally could not be anyone else's.  I crossed out a lot of "Shiloh thought" over the past few days, believe me.

But better to do that now than have a pre-reader hand the book back to me with every single instance of "Shiloh thought" marked in the text.  There would have been many.  Many.

I also nailed down some things I'd been questioning myself on while I wrote the book.  Do people speak runes or write them?  Runes are written, only spoken for constant magical effects like maintaining a shield or runeweaving or ███ ███████ ████.  Is Cordobrae all desert, or desert and wasteland?  The latter, though the wasteland can be much like the desert, just with more magical poisoning.  How many chains drape over the Lady of Chains's shoulders?  As many as she needs.

Some things don't need a concrete answer.  That's my decision and I'm sticking to it.  :P

So, yes.  The point of this overly wordy little ramble?  No matter what you've done, editing can only make it better.  I know this is something most if not all of my readers will know and understand.  But given the vast and often overwhelming uncertainty of this profession, and the equally vast and overwhelming anxiety that too often comes with it, sometimes a reminder can help.

It's all right if you think you've written something that no one - including you - should ever read.  Because there's always something you can do to make it better.

Not that this has me considering picking up the books I tossed aside last year and editing them.  Let's not get crazy, I have enough to do already....

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Joy of Nailing It.

No, not that sort of nailing it.  Slap your mind.  :P

So, as I talked about for the entirety of last week's entry, I started editing The Book of Lost Runes last week.  I was nervous, because I hadn't put my head down and edited a book since 2013.  Yes, it's been a long time; 2014 was not a good writing year for me, for various reasons that I won't get into here because they're not that interesting and kind of depressing and I've already covered them in previous entries.  But I pressed on despite the nerves, and discovered something surprising:

I absolutely nailed this story.

A lot of this entry is going to seem like bragging, and it's not.  This is joy.  This is the maniacal laughter that accompanies knowing I well and truly did something right.  This is what happens when I sit down knowing that I could come out the other end of editing absolutely hating this story and wishing I'd never thought of it, and the exact opposite happens.

It's an awesome experience and I hope you all get it someday, if you haven't already.  ^_^

Truth be told, though, this is as much a relief as it is a cause for celebration.  I can't fool myself into thinking I'm not writing with hopes of getting published (trust me, I've tried), and I hated the thought that I might have written yet another book that I didn't want to touch again once the first draft was done.

But so far, most everything about BOLR has worked.  The story flows as it should - quickly, yes, but not overwhelmingly so.  I've only found one major plot hole, and it should be simple to close.  I didn't spot any minor ones; hopefully my beta readers will find any I missed and let me know.

The romance also worked out well, which I'm glad for, as I'm always worried about making sure I do that right.  It's easy to make a story's emotional content go overboard, and dealing with two people who haven't seen each other for ten years and decide to jump right into the relationship they've missed out on. . . .  It would have been very, very easy to screw that up, to make it seem juvenile or narm-tastic or any number of horrible things.  But it genuinely feels like two people who are kind of swept up in everything, including how they feel about each other, and everything comes about in a way that fits the characters and makes sense for the story.

I might have said "aww" at my own ending, I admit.  These things happen.

There is, of course, still work to do.  I started the by-hand edit yesterday, and as I noted, I have quite the slog ahead of me.  Going over the whole book with a pen in hand is very different from reading it on a screen, and takes a hell of a lot longer.  But reading it as a reader would, words on paper, really changes how the story comes across, and there are all kinds of things I notice in this process that I never would have seen otherwise.

In the end, this will all be worth it.  The changes I've already made make for a better story, and the rest of the editing process will only continue that.  I'm going to polish this thing until it shines so bright it's visible from my old apartment, and I'm damn sure going to try getting this one published.  All that remains is actually making it good enough to be published.

But ye gods, considering how the plot changes over the course of the story, I am not looking forward to writing a query for this thing.  >_<  Even writing a query letter for the bizarre dream book will be easier than this one.  Oi!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

IWSG: Back to the Editing Cave.

If there's a sign above the editing cave, it doesn't read "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."  It probably reads "You have no idea what you're getting into, do you."

And in case you're wondering: no, I don't.  >_<

Today, I start editing The Book of Lost Runes.  In theory, I'll start tonight, as I do most of my creative work after the sun goes down.  In practice, I'm really looking forward to working on this book again, so I'll probably start this afternoon.  Maybe before that.  I'm glad to be starting this, but I'm also kind of nervous.

This is the first time I've edited a book since 2013.  I wrote two books in 2014; the first one I hated once it was done, and the second one I decided wasn't the story I wanted to tell in that world shortly after finishing it.  So it's been a while since I opened up a first draft and started hacking away at it.

No, I'm not nervous because I've forgotten how to edit.  It hasn't been that long.  :P

I'm nervous because I really enjoyed writing this book, and I don't know if that's going to continue once I start working on it again.  After all, I tossed aside two books last year.  Who's to say that won't happen with this one as well?  I don't want it to happen, that's for sure; I spent a long time developing this book and I want something good to come of it, or at least, I want it to have a fair shot.

There's that really sarcastic part of me that's saying "Of course, every book should have a fair shot at getting rejected over and over again, as per usual," but I'm mentally kicking it in the face as I type this and will pay it no further attention.

I'm also nervous because, despite all the time and effort I put into plotting this thing, to say nothing of writing it, I don't know what I'll find once I get started.  Part of why I do so much plotting beforehand is to make sure everything about the story works before I even write it.  I've rewritten massive amounts of a book before, and if I can avoid that with better plotting, I'd like to.  But that first book I wrote last year, I plotted it out well in advance too, and I discovered a massive plot hole in the antagonist's actions as I was writing the last few pages.  So there's precedent for thinking I could have missed something significant along the way.

It's not that I won't do rewrites if I have to.  It's that I'm filled with my usual doubts and then some about this book, especially because I really want it to work.  I want to get it into readable condition so I can finally show it to people, and rewrites will only delay that.  The only reason I'm concerned about time is that two of my beta readers will have significant time constraints after August.  I know that's the kind of thing I shouldn't be thinking about, but these people have volunteered to read my book, and I think I should at least try to be accommodating.

None of this is going to keep me from editing, of course, or keep me from doing what I need to do with the book.  Whatever that needs to be.  I just wanted to get all this out beforehand, so hopefully it won't bother me once I start.  I'm just hoping it goes well.

And now that the dream book's done, I'm really looking forward to editing that one, as I finally figured out how to make the working title work for it.  It's going to take a ton of work to make it what I want it to be, so that will be a ridiculous project.  ...which it's always been, so at least that's nothing new.

Next week: editing progress, unless I find something more interesting to write about between now and then.