So here, have a few. These were taken a few weeks ago at Lake Chabot. I’m rusty, I know, but I like the serenity of these moments (plus, that coot looks like a happy bird). Click any image for the gallery.
Over at the NaNoWriMo forums there’s a thread on when to start editing your work. Responses vary, and as with so many other elements of writing, I don’t think there’s any one right answer. The process we go through varies from writer to writer, and even that can vary from day to day. In general I like to edit as I go along, although that’s not a very good use of time when you’re racing through NaNo to meet word count. Most of the advice I’ve seen says to put the book aside for a while, and only you will know what the right amount of time “a while” represents.
As usual, I have other thoughts on this. The general consensus is that immediately after finishing a first draft, we writers are too enamored with or involved in our story and its characters to look at things objectively. This is absolutely true, but it doesn’t mean that right away isn’t a good time to give my story a first (mildly) critical pass. Why? Because the characters and the emotions are all fresh in my mind and while I know I tend to gloss over mistakes and leave things in that really ought to be chopped out of there, looking at the book again right away is a good way to make sure I conveyed what I wanted to convey. It’s also a really nice feeling to read something unexpectedly decent and say to myself, “hey, I wrote that? I don’t even remember doing it, but there it is.”
I’m not talking a complete developmental edit here. I’m talking going back and rereading, making sure my own words makes sense (for instance, if you write with your eyes closed like I sometimes do, or if you write to the point of exhaustion, you might come up with some sentences that are… well, grounds for hysterical laughter, and that might not be what you intended). This is not the time to tell myself I’m going to look at it from a critical reader’s perspective. It’s more like looking at it from the point of view of a gardener who’s nurtured this thing into growing and loves every pointy leaf and thorn and wants to make sure they all look healthy. Typos stand out like… well, like aphids on a rose bush, and catching them the first time around makes me feel productive. Later on is the time for deep pruning but now is a great time for giving what I’ve grown some due appreciation. I might find a lot of things in there that I’m really proud of, that I really love. That means I can take a moment to congratulate myself and stand in awe of this accomplishment.
Eventually I come to the point where I can’t stand to look at the story any more. Then it’s time to put the book down, go read or write something else, and get back to it later. At that later time I will read with a much more critical eye because I’m removed from the intensity of the process of creating these people and their world.
It’s the weirdest thing, but I’m having an absolute blast editing this novel. Because looking over my work on multiple platforms helps me find different things that need attention, I’ve read on my laptop, my phone, and now I have this one on my Kindle as well (thank you, Scrivener and Amazon).
Next stop: paper. I guess once editing is in the blood, it’s there to stay. I did technical and copy editing professionally for a number of years, and it’s actually something that runs in my family (my dad was an editor for a long time). Although he never edited fiction the process runs along the same lines, so I’ve learned a lot from him. Last night we had a conversation about critique groups and beta readers. He wanted to know what types of people were reading this novel of mine, so I told him that my first readers were an eclectic group with varied backgrounds. Some are writers, some are not, but every reader is going to come to a book with a different background. I quite enjoy hearing all the differing opinions and getting as much feedback as I can… so I can edit again. He was big on the value of first-timers looking it over. Fortunately, I have a few of those!
In the middle of editing this novel, I went back and did a little editing on a different novel. I had what I thought was a long and unwieldy prologue. I ended up chopping the thing up by scenes and depositing those scenes in appropriate places around the novel. I also chopped two sections from it that didn’t really buy anything for anybody (look, I’m letting my ruthless inner editor out to play with a scythe in her hand) and sent it off to a reader.
Next up will be writing synopses and queries. Wish me luck!
There’s always a kind of a letdown when a story’s done. It’s easy to get into a kind of writing paralysis where my brain goes what next? Where do I go? What world do I invent? Which characters will populate it? Or do I read, like I have been, four books in the past week or two? I know only too well that the story isn’t even close to finished after the first draft. There are first readers to hear from, and feedback to incorporate, and there will probably be a lot to change. Second drafts, edit passes, third drafts… While I’m waiting for feedback, it’s easy to get into a state of inertia. I don’t want to lose the momentum from the story that’s been told, but I’m hesitant to dive into the next project right away because I don’t want to lose the connection I have with the story I just wrote.
Yeah, that’s what I call a conundrum. I wish I was organized enough to have a whole series of projects sitting on the back burner just waiting their turn. I have a few, including one I started writing for a submission prompt and realized I’d completely overshot the word count maximum by an order of magnitude. Maybe I’ll challenge myself to rework that this month. See if I can get it finished by the end of the year.
What do you writers do when you’re finished? Do you take a well-deserved break, take time to regroup, or do you forge bravely ahead?
A month ago, I was prepping for NaNoWriMo. I’d never participated in it before and really wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or from myself. The exercise was a good one. I was way more disciplined than I usually am, and reached the 50k milestone on November 13. I ended up with a finished first draft on the 25th, at 67,600 words.
So what did I learn? A few things. Continue Reading →
I love this book pretty fiercely.
I’m writing this review after reading it for a second time, a year after my first read. As so often happens, I saw the film first and that was so beautiful I got the book the next day. When movies inspire me to read the book and the book lives up to the film, I’m always pleased. I love that the book is written in first person. I love that we see everything through Matt’s eyes. He’s not the world’s most admirable character, but he’s real. He’s flawed, but so is everyone else in the story, and that’s what makes me care about all of them.
This book reminds me of the movie Lost in Translation. There’s a lot about it that’s understated. As a narrator, Matt is sort of remote, but the readers can tell he’s trying awfully hard to learn how not to be so distant – as a father, a husband, a cousin, a curator of the land legacy his family holds. Hawaii is a beautiful backdrop to the story, but it becomes incidental setting. That’s not easy for a writer to do when there’s so much that’s so beautiful all around. The highlight of the book, though, is the pain and cost of human existence and the way different people deal with that reality. That demands the reader’s focus, as it should.
I have a feeling I could read this over and over and it would still get me right in the gut every time. Read the book and see the movie, they’re both well worth your time.