Editor’s Block

I got past my reader’s block in July and quickly moved into the next phase: editor’s block.  In this phase I stared at my 99,000 word manuscript and tried to figure out how to eat the editing elephant.  I would scribble word changes and deletions because I didn’t know what else to do.  I paid good money to learn how to write a query letter and sent my first 10 pages to an agent.  (This was through Writer’s Digest and I thought it provided great insight into the publishing process.  If you are almost done with editing and want to try conventional publishing this is a great resource.)  My assigned agent, Mary C. Moore, gave me some good tactical advice:  vary my sentence structure; keep prose active; don’t over explain smaller actions of characters; be aware of slow pace; and, most importantly, “Keep going with this, you are on the right track!”

 

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Armed with things to do, I made a goal to finish editing by Christmas.  I only needed to edit 3 pages a day.  Time passed and I didn’t edit so the goal became 5 pages per day.  Time passed and I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  It was like I had a plan to swim the
English Channel.  All I needed to do was swim an additional 100 meters every day but I didn’t know any strokes, didn’t have a swimsuit, and couldn’t identify water.  Despondent about my book progress and a host of other things I turned to my family therapist.  She told me to do two things: come out of my writing closet and find a writing group.  I’ve talked with other bloggers about writing groups, and while not enthused about the idea, I felt like I needed to find some experienced writing peeps to help me.  Minutes into my Google search I found Lighthouse Writers, a local “community for writers and readers.”  I joined, and then on a whim physically visited their space.  This wonderful woman stopped what she was doing, and joyfully took me on a tour of the amazing historic mansion that houses their program.  Lucky me, a four week session was just starting, and in it was a class called The Big Edit which promised to “turn the amorphous process of cleaning up your draft into a manageable practice.”  Gasp!  Of course it was full, so I got on the wait list.

Providence does not put all these magical pieces in place just to snatch them away, so four days before the start of class a space opened. Eleanor Brown, the author of the New  York Times bestseller The Weird Sisters is the teacher and in the first fifteen minutes she laid out a process that made total sense.  She explained how we would edit in at least four passes.  We’d start with the Big Picture, move to Characters, then to Pacing and end with Copy and Line Editing.  (This means that I don’t have to worry about commas until the very last editing pass.  Hip hip hooray!)  This process isn’t quick, but I am okay with that.  I’ve spent years on this book.  I can invest another year so long as I’m moving forward.

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Not only has she given me a process to follow that makes total sense, but she’s also promised to help us discover our strengths and weaknesses as writers.  Through the class we’ll understand if we are good at theme, story, character, or pacing.   She’ll give us tips for adding editing passes for things like dialogue, humor, flashbacks or description that will help address weaknesses.  We will make a plan which allows us to stay focused and organized while developing a feeling of progress the same way we felt progress when writing.   We even have homework!  (I’m excited by this even though anyone who experienced my school days knows I hate homework!)  Here’s a picture of my first completed assignment: developing a theme card that I can hang above my writing space to remind me what my book is about.

In 2015 I came up with a list of nine things I needed to do to get my book published.  I’m still on step 2, having vastly underestimated the scope of the editing step.  But I have a plan now and cannot tell you how amazing that feels.  I have book hope for the first time in ages.  There is work to do, and I know what that work is.  I finally agree with Ms. Moore’s statement, “Keep going with this, you are on the right track!”  Time to get to it.  I’ve still got more homework.

Afthead reading in a hammock

Weekend Writing Update #2

This week was not productive in the “getting my book published” journey.  This week my other life took over with a vengeance (you know the work, mom, wife, child, pet owner, friend life).  That’s okay though.  I’m halfway through the six week moratorium on my book and it’s becoming fainter and fainter to me, which is what I want to happen.  I’m also looking toward the timing of week six, and realizing that weekend I’m volunteering at a cross country meet, coaching two soccer games, attending a birthday party, and throwing a movie watching party.  Not the ideal weekend to cram in a marathon read-my-manuscript-in-one-sitting session as recommended by my mentor, Mr. King.  However, there is a weekend just past that, one where Mr. Afthead will be out of town.  If I can get my parents to watch the little Afthead for a night I’d have the perfect quiet time to read my book.  So that’s the plan.  (Mom, if you are reading this, I’ll call you about babysitting.  No pressure.  Just my hopes and dreams on the line here.  Thanks!)

I did get some things accomplished this week. I filled out my approval paperwork for my director to sign.  (I don’t have it back yet, so no big identity reveal yet.)  I shared my book and blogging efforts with some friends.  I finished listening to Stephen King’s On Writing again and started reading my friend’s ex-wife’s book.  (It’s good, but not intimidating good, so it is giving me hope.)  That’s about it.  I didn’t fish out my short story to clean up for submission, I didn’t do anything with all those publishing books and magazines except move them off the table so we could eat dinner.  I haven’t reached out to my friends with publishing connections.  I did learn how to be a foster cat parent, have dinner with a friend, get back-to-school clothes shopping done, attend the mandatory soccer coach meeting, take the summer homework “place I like to read” picture for my daughter, finalize a work proposal, throw a work celebratory picnic, and go to the back-to-school watermelon social.  All priority items for this week, thank you very much.

One funny thing I’ve started noticing is the press, the announcements, the joy around “first time novelists” all around: in book reviews, on jacket covers, on the back of a book.  I have realized that this is my one chance to be a first time novelist, and I want to enjoy the journey.  After this one, I’ll have expectations for myself and baggage about how it went last time: why it worked and why it didn’t.  Right now though, it’s all new.  I get to make mistakes, I get to learn, and I get to chalk all that up to, “Well, it’s my first time writing a novel.”  I haven’t been able to be a newbie at anything since my daughter was born, and for that one there was little joy in the “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing” because there was this tiny life on the line.  This one is fun.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but I am excited for the ride.

Thanks to everyone for coming along on my journey with me.  If in case you are like my friend over at Kwoted by K E Garland and are wondering if you can learn from my process, I give you a resounding, “Please, please do!”  I hope that by sharing this I can make things easy for the next person behind me.  In case you are like my friend over at Around ZuZu’s Barn and are wondering if I have a working title for my manuscript I keep awkwardly referring to I can say, “Yes, yes I do.  The working title is Hallelujah.”  This is a great title, except, like bureaucracy, it’s a word I can never spell correctly.  Maybe I’ll title it Hallejulah and know that I’ll never have to worry about copyright issues.

Have a great weekend and enjoy whatever adventures come your way.

Pile of books and magazines on a table

Weekend Writing Update #1

It’s time for my first Weekend Writing update, where I let all you excited blog readers learn what steps I’ve been taking to inch my way toward blog publication.  Last week I came up with a list of nine items to get me started.  Shall we see how things are going?

I start all new projects at the bookstore.  I know I should start at the library, but I love owning books, especially when they are books I am going to need for some time.  Also, just the mere permanent presence of books in my home makes me better at things.  The whole shelf of parenting books with uncracked spines lead me to be a caring, disciplinarian, listening, happiness inducing ninja of a mom.  It’s a form of osmosis I think.  But, I digress.  These writing periodicals and books have already been opened and perused.  (Okay, the top three in the pile have been opened and perused.   The others are feeling jealous.)  Here is what I have learned from my study this week.

  1. If I don’t have a blog, I should start one right now.  How awesome is that.  I HAVE a blog.  Check off that item that wasn’t even on my list.  One article said I should make lists in my blog.  Yep, I’m making a list.  I’m awesome.
  2. My blog’s URL should be firstnamelastname.com to make it easy for agents and publishers to find my blog.  Uh oh.  Well I’m keeping Afthead and purchased my name URL to redirect to Afthead.  If anyone is interested in the land of domain registration and how you redirect multiple domains to you blog let me know.
  3. There are short story competitions out there, and you can only publish stories that have not been published before, except on a personal blog.  What!?!?  This means I can dust off The Fisherman and submit it.  That’s my plan for the next couple of weeks.
  4. The Guide to Literary Agents freaked me out at the beginning.  All the examples of “new authors” seemed to be “Joe Smith has worked as a freelance writer since he was born, and has been editing 18 periodicals since he was weaned. He was approached by his best friend, who happened to be an agent, who asked to represent him when his novel was a mere 1000 words long.”  Translation: the only “new” authors that get published are people who have been working with words their whole life.  Downer.  However, I skipped to the back of the book and started looking at the listing of agents and lots of them take new writers.  That made me feel better.
  5. I read a fascinating article in the Novel Writing magazine about the genre of magical realism.  I’m thinking my book could be in that genre.  (Previously I was thinking science fiction or fantasy.)  The downside is that the magical realism genre is “controversial” so I should be aware of that.  I am always amazed at the specific areas of controversy sprinkled throughout all aspects of humanity.  The other plus of this article is that I realized I LOVE magical realism books and now have a whole new list of books to read.
  6. My meeting with my boss was put off for a week, but I’ve filled out our “Conflict of Interest” and “Approval for Outside Activity” forms.  Once those are signed I can actually set up my name URL and formally tie myself to Afthead and stop living this crazy double life…OR I could get a cape and a mask and start introducing myself in my best Batman voice, “I’m Afthead”.
  7. Once I’m out of the writing closet at work, I am going to see if a colleague will introduce me to his ex-wife, because she just published her first novel.   They are still friends, so this is not a completely weird request.  Before I ask him, I want to read her book.  That seems polite, right?  I’ve got it next to my bed to start tonight.
  8. My mom found an online class at our local community college on getting published.  I just missed the start date for the August class, but may sign up for the next session in September.  It’s 6 weeks and covers some things, like copyright, that I haven’t even considered.  September is an easy month at the Afthead house with school starting, coaching soccer, playing soccer, and normal work stuff., so I’ll have lots of time to take two online classes a week.  Tee hee.

Things are moving along on this adventure.  My book is still hiding in my desk, calling out to me when I’m in my study.  I am ignoring her though.  I reread On Writing again, and am convinced this is a good path forward for me.  I’ve still got some work to do on my pitch and CV, but that will wait for a couple more weeks.  For now I’m enjoying my little dips into this new world of publishing.  Hopefully by next week I’ll have identified a contest or two to submit to, have my paperwork done and my new domains set up.

Have a great weekend and enjoy whatever adventures come your way.