Today is wedding day! My older son is marrying his Japanese girlfriend, so we are truly global now. Obviously, I’ve not written much this week, but I’ve spent a few spare minutes trying to draw Manga with a book to instruct me. (Saluting Japan in more ways than one this week.)
Lots of writers say they began writing when they were children. I began drawing when I was a child. (I wrote a little, but it was drawing I really enjoyed.) That’s how I got into writing. Art education was the only degree my college offered. I took all the art courses I could, but got my major in elementary ed with a certificate in early childhood. I began writing professionally, thinking I could illustrate my own books. Never happened.
Once in awhile I dabble in drawing again, wonder about the “road not taken.” For the moment, Manga is interesting. I have every hope and expectation that our new family ties to Japan will be successful and delightful. I’m not so hopeful about Manga. But we’ll see. It’s fun to try. I may post some of my efforts if they’re not too embarrassing!
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Worldbuilding. That’s the word fantasy and sci-fi writers use to refer to the settings they create. Setting is not only geography and climate but people groups, politics, religions, social mores, languages and everything that creates an imaginary world so detailed it seems real to readers. Some writers plan extensively either in their heads or on paper before they begin writing. (Which I hear can be an excellent way to procrastinate and never write the story.)
I didn’t do a lot of worldbuilding before beginning my story, mainly because I was so new to novel-writing that I didn’t know what I was doing. I entered my fantasy world blind and exploring. At same time, I was researching the real-life ancient world: Rome, Greece, Egypt, Palestine. As my fantasy world began to take shape, it reflected that research and now resembles ancient Mediterranean cultures. The operative word is resembles. The world of Breath of Angel is entirely fictional geographically, politically, and socially, filled with angels, sylvans, windwings, draks, shape-shifting, alchemy, and more.
But I’ll never forget the euphoria I felt the day I completed the rough draft. It was amazing. I had created a world, places that had not existed before, characters who were not “alive” before. But now they are. A new world. New creatures. I felt a tremendous, exuberant “high” and knew that when Creator looked at creation and said, “It is good,” not only was it good – it felt good. Awesomely good. I suspect the Author danced with ecstatic joy as the story began.
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In an early drafts of Breath of Angel, I messed with the moon. I put two moons in my fantasy world. I like two moons, and it gave me a lot of interesting side issues to deal with. But that was the problem. You can’t just plop two moons in the sky and be done with it. You have to think about orbits and tides and all sorts of contingencies that make the fantasy world interesting. But two moons didn’t have much to do with the storyline. Of course, it did give me a great way to avoid writing the story – I had to research two moons.
That was then. Now is now. I’m glad I went back to one moon. You may know that nonfiction manuscripts get vetted for the correctness of their stats and studies and references. (“Vet” is related to “veterinarian” – it evolved from an expert examining an animal to an expert examining a manuscript for correction and approval). Fiction manuscripts, too, get vetted in different ways. Scientific facts, historical facts, consistency. It all has to be as right as possible.
Back to the moon. I had to send my editor a timeline of my novel, showing specifically the amount of time that passes between scenes and chapters. My fantasy world works much like our real world as far as the passage of time. The moon waxes and wanes in a 29 1/2 day cycle. When my villain declares he will return “within one cycle of the moon,” the reader assumes (unless I’ve explained otherwise – and I haven’t) that this corresponds roughly to a month of time. Giving this time detail ups the tension, because my main character now has to work against a ticking clock (or a waning moon in this case).
As I wrote my story, I didn’t write out a time line, but it was in my head. So this week I went through the manuscript scene by scene, making sure I calculated the time correctly. For you writers, heads up. If you don’t have a timeline for your manuscript, you may find it helpful to create one. Not only will it help you skull through your story, but you may need it when the time comes for your editor to be your veterinarian.
P.S. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you leave the moon alone. Why mess with the moon unless there’s a good reason?
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Maybe I’m the only one intimidated by the hierarchy in publishing, but I don’t think so. I think many writers feel placed at the bottom of the ladder. We look up to the gatekeepers: agents, editors, publishers (reviewers, too). We assume they know their business, what’s in, what’s out, what’s up, what’s down. So we ‘re intimidated by what they proclaim over our work. (Okay, I’m a firstborn, so I want to please. Maybe just firstborns are intimidated.)
Since I can’t speak for all writers, I’ll just speak for myself. I was close to being done with revisions and line edits, having been told my last submission might be my last pass before sending the manuscript on to production. But one more editor needed to weigh in on it. I got that letter at the end of last week. It started with “you’ve-done-a-lot-of-good-work” and ended with “you’ve-done-an-excellent-job.” You recognize this, I’m sure. The sandwich approach. In between the home-baked bread is the stuff that’s hard to digest. In this case, a major question about the main character’s motivation.
Back to the intimidation factor. I read the new comments under the assumption that the new editor was right and I was wrong. I came out feeling stupid. How had I written an entire novel, gotten it agented and accepted for publication, revised and re-edited, and missed this motivation issue? I went into a tailspin, trying to find the right lever to pull to save the manuscript from crashing. What to do? I slept on it. (Always a good idea.) By the time I woke up, my muse had stopped throwing a fit and had quieted enough for my mind to tap me with a gentle reminder that I had dealt with motivation. I had skulled it over and written it into almost every scene.
I wrote back to the editor and stood up for the way I had originally written (and rewritten) the novel, going into detail about motivation. In the editor’s response, I discovered that this editor had read the novel in pieces over several weeks while working on other projects. I was told to ignore the comments, I was on the right track, and I should go with my gut on this last pass.
The frightening thing was that I almost tore the novel apart and revised it again – in a wrong direction – simply because I assumed that if a gatekeeper had a criticism, it was I who was wrong. “I’m wrong” was my default position. (Oh ye of little guts.)
I was reminded of a fortune cookie proverb that I keep on my refrigerator: “It is easier to be critical than to be correct.” My take-home (or take-out as the case may be): Listen to criticism, but don’t assume it’s correct.
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Thanks for joining me on my journey to publication. Three happenings of note this week:
1. My genius line editor sent the latest revised manuscript of Breath of Angel to the acquiring editor. They will meet today to discuss the work. I expect to hear soon about whether I pass inspection. So we are figuratively and literally working “behind the scenes.”
2. I received a rough marketing/publicity plan, which looks good so far. I’ve been down this road before in the Christian market, but the general market will be a new direction. Im grateful to have friends who have been down the general market path before and have shared their experiences with me. Social networking is a necessity in all markets for authors these days. Which means I’ll probably be tweeting soon.
3. Saved the best for last: My new website is coming together. I hope it will be a fun dive into the world of the Angelaeon Circle, complete with a map of my fantasy world and scrolls that divulge information about angels, world trees, and harps in mythology – for starters. Other fun stuff planned. I’ll let you know when it’s up!
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I like to dig into word origins. Because I’m waiting to hear back from my line editor about my second round of revisions, I looked up “patience.” It comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer.” Sounds a little extreme for what I’m doing. I’ve always told kids patience is “waiting without complaining.” That better fits the situation: I was told to expect feedback at the end of last week. I’m still waiting. No complaint. Just fact.
The ancient satirist Hipponax pointed out how the armies of Greece conquered the city of Troy with a mass of arms, brilliant leadership, the courage and magnitude of their army – “all that, and ten years of perseverance.” As Thomas Edison said, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” So I’d better sign off now . . . gotta’ go hustle.
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“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning,” said writer Louis L’Amour.
I’m rapidly coming to the end of the revision and line editing process on Breath of Angel, but it’s actually the end of the beginning as we move toward publication. Here’s what’s supposed to happen next:
- line editor is taking one more look at my edits, to “make sure everything is shined and polished and ready to go.”
- polished manuscript will be sent to the acquiring editor, who is in charge of this phase of the process.
- acquiring editor will hand it off to the production editor, who will work with me on copy editing and proofreading (as the manuscript gets put in print).
- acquiring editor will also pass the manuscript around to the sales and marketing departments so they can read it and get excited.
BTW, I asked about who the “raised eyebrows” might belong to (see my blog on “grrr” changes). These mysterious eyebrows belong to the sales team. They “know what various retail accounts do or do not approve of.” They don’t want to give retailers any reason to refuse to sell the book. So if they read the manuscript and see anything questionable in it, they will not be afraid to say so. (I can look at this as a problem or an opportunity. I prefer opportunity. Go with the flow. After all, it’s just the beginning, and I don’t want the beginning to be the end.)
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I’ve always been awed by the deep expanse of the sky. A major premise of my novel Breath of Angel deals with the worlds upon worlds out there. Enough words. Take a look at these Hubble pictures. There are angels in my novel called “stargazers.” They’d love these.
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Posted in Writing, tagged editing, line edits, revisions on September 2, 2010 |
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I received line edits this week. For you who’ve never done this sort of thing, I’ll tell you what it means – at least in my case, which is probably pretty normal. My editor, Jessica, and I have been sending my manuscript back and forth as attachments to our e-mails. Her first editorial suggestions, made in June, included major revision-type questions and comments in balloons along the right side of the manuscript. I had six weeks, during which I added several scenes to fill out the story and make it almost ready for prime time. Then I e-mailed it back to Jessica.
Enter the line edits. Jessica inspected the manuscript with her typo trapping, grammar guru, cliche catching eyes. Marginal balloons explain her changes. ”Was + verb + ing” became “verb + ed” (“was going” became “went”). Passive sentences became active. She ditched almost every “that” that I used. (Oops. . . every “that” I used.)
I tend to write short and punchy. Jessica pointed out places where short-and-punchy became choppy-and-tiring. I often start sentences with But or And. But that won’t fly. (If I ever become a great novelist, people can say that’s part of my style. But for now, conjunctions must rarely start sentences.)
Jessica pegs inconsistencies: ”east window” in one scene was “south window” in another. Good catch. Sometimes she questions scenes I thought I’d explained with perfect sense. Rereading, I discover the action I saw in my mind’s eye didn’t reach the page clearly. Why didn’t I find these things with my own magnifying glass? I’ve read various incarnations of this story so many times I fail to see what a fresh reader sees.
Jessica also tries to save my neck, warning me about words or phrases that may raise eyebrows and have to be cut in the end. (She simply suggests changes, I okay them or offer alternatives.) I call this a “grrr” change. While I hate catering to raised eyebrows, this is my first novel. I growled, but I took the hint.
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