One of the first steps in my editing process is to upload my entire manuscript to AutoCrit, an automated online editing tool which is light-years beyond all the others I’ve investigated. Not only does it analyze my writing, it’s configurable to help me with my specific bugaboos. Over time it’s helped me reduce those.
Except that’s wrong. D’oh.
As Anne “The Writer’s Process” Janzer posted recently, work from the outside in. Read that at her blog (scroll down to The Cycles of Self-Revision for this specific point.) First, read the book as a book and see if it works, if at a high level, all the parts come together. Then tidy up the specifics.
I’m parking the book for a week and then I’ll read it like a book. Yeah, it should be a month, to let myself forget all the brilliant turns of phrase and unbelievable bits, but this book is nearly a thousand days old and I’m being impatient. It’s also pretty good just as it is, so I’m pushing.
Knowing how closely our emotional and physical health are tied it is no surprise to me that I came down with a vicious cold the week I pushed to finish Rafe Keyn, nor that it continues as I keep working.
My diminished mental capacity makes creativity difficult, but I can still read the printed manuscript and find obvious typos and make other notes as they occur to me.
Eating well, getting my rest and plenty of fluids. I wish those fluids included rye whiskey and a local craft brew, but our water is good and still my favorite drink.
I suspect I’ve spent 800 of those days doing nothing but suffering over the struggle.
Though the battle with Resistance is never won, I have been writing steadily for weeks. There are 16 chapters left to write. That’s not much. Yesterday I realized I’d left a major character hanging in limbo; they walk offstage and simply disappear. It took four short chapters to resolve their story in a way that organically served the larger story, and I wrote it all in a single sitting.
Come November 3, 2018, the 3rd anniversary of the burst of creativity, this book will already be published and selling well.
Years ago I wrote a book titled (at that point) Anodyne. It was going to be the first in a series of connected stories each with a different protagonist, each telling their story under the pseudonym Jake Calcutta.
Long before the book was finished an author friend pointed out that the artsy intellectual guy in the book was nothing like the name would suggest. Jake Calcutta, he said, is a modern day Indiana Jones.
He was right.
I changed the protagonist’s name to Jesse Donovan and the book’s title to That She Is Made of Truth. It may become a series, but not in the way originally intended.
I’ve stayed up past midnight 3 nights in a row to finish Stephen King’s 11.22.63. Yes, it’s that good (and that long; nearly 900 pages.)
Not a fan of horror, but this one is fantasy/scifi rather than his usual genre. It has time travel. It’s a historical novel. It has romance. In the end notes it has a nod to Time and Again which I agree with King is the best time travel book written.
One small but vital character interested me because of a parallel to Rafe Keyn and the Temporal Lisle. It seems guardians of time travel are a common idea. I’m giving a little away here, but you can’t read the first few chapters of King’s book and not realize that the yellow card man is going to be more than a bit player, no matter how few lines he speaks.
So there you have it: Stephen King is starting to write like me because we like the same time travel book.
I printed out James’ notes on Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle.
Three pages of small font.
Much of it is rumination in the moment, notes taken as he read it. He had some concerns about this, that, and the other thing, and our usual difference of taste in certain areas.
Today’s task is to go through those notes and determine what needs attention, what could use a little nudge, and what I can leave as it is.
Assuming, after a quick scan, there are no gaping plot holes, the next step will be to write out the story I’ve already summarized for his review. I know, that sounds like oversimplification, but at this point, putting the words down is easy part. If I can maintain my old pace of 3,000 words a day I’ll have Jake’s story wrapped up in a month.
Let’s call it “by end of summer” just to be safe. And sane.
I know, the phrase is cuttingtothe chase. But that’s not what’s happening.
Poor Jake Calcutta has been in and out of my top drawer a hundred times the past 6 months. I’ve printed bits and read them, highlighting and underlining. I’ve binder-clipped and folded and organized and shuffled. I’ve enlisted pre-alpha readers.
I’ve ignored it mercilessly for weeks at a time.
A third of the way through, Jake left me. Hid out somewhere in the wilderness of Whatcomesnext and no matter how I coaxed, he wouldn’t talk to me.
I have my list of scenes for the first Jake Calcutta scifi action/adventure mystery.
I had a list of scenes I knew I needed, but on the computer, I couldn’t get my head around the process to put them in order. Sure, some scenes are obviously early in the story, others later; some are clearly before this one and after that one.
I finally printed out the list, cut it into 3/4″ X 3″ strips color-coded for beginning, middle, and end, and it all fell into place. That’s them in front of my closet door. Almost as tall as my daughter.
How Do I Know Which Scenes I Need?
Good question. Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid provides one answer.
After three variations I found myself stumped. The third feels right, but is it?
It’s easy to fly through storytelling, getting my readers to The End with the least fuss.
It’s better to make the critical scenes more than simply the conveyance of information. The deeper I dig into the core scenes, those that turn the story’s direction, the more memorable and emotionally fulfilling they are.
I’ve never done that, pushing myself to rewrite a scene multiple ways, looking for the best version. In the past, I’ve been satisfied to note the scene’s purpose, write a direct sequence of actions fulfilling that purpose, and let my editor tidy it up.
If he tidies brass, you get highly polished brass.
The Village Id — a witty cozy mystery set in a small English village filled with quirky characters; very P. G. Wodehouse. Check out the 1st chapter.
Coming of age story — a young teen’s life is disrupted when his family has to move in with relatives; he turns to music for comfort
Anacrusis (a mystery with a female lead) — A woman dumps her unfaithful fiancee and moves to a small town where two men amorously pursue her, while one of them awaits the life insurance payoff from the first wife he murdered.
Sweat staining his leather jerkin and breeches, the old warrior moved quietly through between the potbellied drum trees. Not silently; silence took longer. It was the eternal balance of the predator: silence is slow and speed is not silent.
He knew the balance he needed for any quest. How much speed. How much silence.
It was, after all, how he had become an old warrior rather then finishing his course on earth as many young warriors did: prey rather than predator.
Any creature which noted his passing would be confused, smelling the rottenness of death, the sweetness of overripe fruit, and the encyclopedic scents revealed in the droppings of the largest of the prey animals.
No, I’m not publishing the whole thing here. Not this time. But y’all may as well read a sample chapter and tell me whether you’re awaiting it with bated breath so I can hurry and finish it up.
I’m a Fixer, a keeper of the Temporal Lisle, the thread that, literally, holds time together.
It was how Rafe Keyn could have introduced himself to anyone he met. He never would, of course. The Fixers, or more properly Deputies of the Agency for Prevention of Historically Anomalous Events, or APHAE, were the Agency’s most guarded secret.
The only secret guarded more closely was the existence of the Temporal Lisle itself, but that couldn’t rightly be said to be their secret; it was simply the way the universe was bound together.