Tag Archives: revision

The Journey of FOUL PLAY ON WORDS

I finished copyedits for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS 10 days before the deadline … yay, me!

funny mysteriesNormally I work on a mini-trampoline at a stand-up desk, but as you can see here, I needed to spread out for the task at hand.

My production editor mailed me a paper copy of my manuscript that she already triaged for the most egregious mistakes I made. (She also emailed me this as a PDF so I could see what she corrected. I should use this as a learning tool, but I prefer to live in a world of denial.)

She also emailed me a Word document with her comments highlighted. Most of these were questions and clarifications, places where I might have contradicted myself, instances where she was confused by something I said.

In the photo, you can see the page proofs in front of my computer. Each page is set up like how it will look in the actual book. On the screen is the Word Doc with her comments.

I noted where her first comment was, then read on my paper copy from page one up to that comment. If I had any changes I wanted to make (typos or changing a word or phrase), I wrote them in pencil on my paper copy. When I got to her comment, I dealt with it, again, writing any changes on my paper copy.

This time I was smart. I also wrote the online page number on my paper copy because it’s never the same, a problem I grappled with during copyedits for FICTION CAN BE MURDER. Often, she’ll have the same continuity issue in several places in the Word doc. If I make the change on page 47, but it also comes up on page 112 and 163, I will have to search and search for that change. This time, I was working on the paper copy so I could fix all three pages up front. This was a little flash of brilliance on my part. (It would really be something to brag about if I’d remembered to note in her comments on pages 112 and 163 that I’d already taken care of them so when I got there I wouldn’t be, you know, searching and searching. We live. We learn. Hopefully.)

So I did that all the way through; reading the paper copy, responding to the online notes and making other changes along the way.

This took me 14 hours and 40 minutes, over 5 days from December 17 – December 27, 2018.

Then I typed all the changes from my paper copy into the Word doc with her notes, again, making tweaks as I went. I’m sure I made new and exciting mistakes as well.

This took me 3 hours and 30 minutes, on December 27th and 28th.

Then I let it sit for a couple of days while I drank heavily.

On December 31, 2018 I started early and read the whole thing on my laptop while sitting in my living room. That’s really the only way to catch flow, pacing, continuity, and echo problems. Again, I made some minor changes as I read.

This took me 6 hours and 20 minutes. Because it’s careful reading that requires a lot of concentration, and because my butt goes numb, I got up and moved around every hour when my timer dinged.

I wrote the dedication and the acknowledgments, checked the bio they already had, and then sent it off.

In a couple of weeks my production editor will look at all the new brilliance and harm I’ve done to the manuscript, deal with everything she needs to, and then send me a new copy. I’ll have a chance to read it over one last time, but I’ll only have a few days to do so before it goes into production.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the timeline for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS ””

The first draft was written in 20 days between October 3 – November 4, 2016.

  • 163 pages
  • 43,907 words
  • 41.25 hours
  • 1,065 words per hour, average
  • 2 hours per day

The first edit was done in 6 days between November 7 – 29, 2016.

  • 12 hours
  • 2 hours per day

I typed in all the changes over 4 days (7 hours total) between November 29 – December 2, 2016.

I let it rest, then re-read it and made more changes over 3 days (6 hours total) between December 7 – December 9, 2016.

Then I really let it rest while I recovered from spinal surgery and got FICTION CAN BE MURDER ready to launch (April 2018).

I picked it up again on January 8, 2018 and did another revision over 13.5 hours and called it done on January 12, 2018.

“Done,” of course, being an ambiguous term in the writing world. It’s also why I always laugh when people ask, “How long did it take to write your book?”

But it’s up for pre-order now and will be published on April 8, 2019!

mystery with humor

 

 

First Drafts, Revisions, and Rainbow Flamingos

A couple weeks ago I finished the first draft of METAPHOR FOR MURDER, the third book in my Mystery Writer’s mysteries.

Here are the final, first draft stats:

Total words: 59,173

Total hours: 54

Total writing days: 24

Average words per hour: 1,096

Total pages: 210

I learn ”” or relearn ”” something with each manuscript I write. Two things got my attention this time.

One, I should have gone back to read pertinent parts of FICTION CAN BE MURDER to reacquaint myself with some characters I hadn’t seen in awhile. I took too much of my writing time trying to remember the nuance of some of my people. It bogged me down and zapped my momentum.

Two, my vision for the final showdown was weak. And this actually happens all too often. I think, because the story is so much in my head that I expect I know the blocking of the scene better than I really do. I need to take more time with the minutiae of important scenes like this. Again, it slowed me way down and annoyed me.

Now I’m well into the revision stage. This is where I fill in all the blanks I left. When I’m writing the first draft, instead of going backward to find and fix something I’ve already written, I leave notes to myself … He should have called her at some point during the day …… check the timeline, should it be dark yet?

I also write some fairly boring sentences, with a lot of bland or repetitive words, passive verbs, and incomplete description.

If I can’t immediately come up with the right words, I use placeholders like ””

I was dug in like a [     ]

She made [frustration noises]

[Describe the room, mentioning the worn spot in the carpet]

Then during Phase Two, when I make that first revision pass-through, I know I have to plug those holes or look up some minor research question right away. I have to stop and determine what Peter O’Drool’s squeaky toy is going to look like (rainbow-colored plush flamingo, for those of you playing along at home). I have to look up potentillas to remind myself what color their flowers are (yellow). I have to decide on all the questions those toddlers are going to ask before I move on (so … many … questions!).

Even though it slows me down in Phase Two.

But by the time I get all that done through the entire manuscript, I get to go back to page one, this time grounding the reader in the story using all the senses, adding layers of theme and emotion, making the funny bits funnier, the mystery bits more mysterious, the clues more hidden or maybe more visible, the writing more vibrant.

It sounds like work, but what do they say about doing a job you love? You’ll never work a day in your life.

Remind me of this when I’m in full-fledged tantrum mode, hating both my book and myself.

Do you keep statistics on your progress for anything? Do you find it as comforting and as fascinating as I find my stats? Do you think it keeps you on track or otherwise benefits you? I also track my weight first thing every morning and I know that keeps me a bit more honest with my food choices during the day.

Write 10,000 Words* A Day

(*not to be confused with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory) because I bet anyone can write 10,000 words in 10,000 days.)

Have you read Rachel Aaron’s blog about how she writes 10,000 words a day?

I was reminded of side one of her ‘triangle process’ the other day when I felt overwhelmed by the chapter I was revising. I knew where I eventually needed to end up with the chapter but I had SO MANY WAYS I could get there.

I was stumped. Stymied into inaction. Paralyzed.

But then I thought about what Rachel had tried to teach me. I got out a piece of school paper and started scribbling a truncated version of the scene. I crossed stuff out, added other stuff, drew a lot of arrows. But after about four minutes (yes, I checked), I had it figured out.

Side one of her triangle is Knowledge … knowing what you’re writing before you write it. Even though I knew what I was writing  ”” I mean, c’mon, it’s my fourth revision! ”” I still needed … something.

I don’t know if it is a matter of writing by hand, or free-writing, or simply dumping out the contents of your brain on a simple sheet of paper, but it absolutely worked for me.

The other two sides of her triangle are Time and Enthusiasm, fyi. But if you haven’t read the article, do it now. Anything that helps you write faster should be seriously considered, eh?

How many words can you average in a day? What’s your personal best?

Lawnmower in My Living Room

I read an interview with Khaled Hosseini in Time Magazine. He’s best known for the haunting ”˜The Kite Runner’ in 2003, but he was discussing his new novel ”˜And The Mountains Echoed.’

One of the things he said really hit home with me. “My first drafts are always rather flat and disappointing. It’s a little bit like when you move into a home. You haul all your stuff and shove it in the house; the things you need are there, but it looks horrible and doesn’t feel like a home at all. The subsequent draft is about saying, OK, this couch belongs here. Let’s get rid of this painting. Let’s put the armoire here.”

I love that analogy and it comes at a good time for me as I’ve just moved a new set of characters into their new home.

There are problems with the analogy, however. For one thing, with your household goods, you see them all at a glance, making it easy to survey your treasures and (re)arrange them. The couch gets too much sun there … try the other wall. Put the torchiere in the corner. Let’s try standing the coffee table on all four legs instead of propped against the wall. Ah, much better.

Second, and more importantly, you knew what belonged in the living room. You didn’t stick a bed in the corner, pile the flatware on a bookcase, and park the lawnmower under the picture window.

This is what my work-in-progress feels like to me right now. A lawnmower in the living room. I know it doesn’t belong there, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what to do with it.

Do I shine it up all sparkly and leave it there? Do I move it to the bedroom? Do I even need a lawnmower? Should I push it into the garage and set it on fire? Should I abandon it on the curb and pray some kind soul hauls it away for me?

Third, when you bought your new house, you knew what you needed. Four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, 2-car garage, fenced yard for the kids and dog. Easy peasy.

My characters’ house has eighteen rooms, no bathrooms, three kitchens and a bedazzled heliport. Plus a lawnmower in the living room.

Anyone want to help me move?