Apr 22 2013

Revising, a Tale of Two Drafts

Right now, I just want to crawl into bed and take a nap, but I can’t because I have to revise Book Two.  As soon as I open up the Scrivener document, Ill embark on a long journey of editing, rewriting, deleting and polishing, one that starts with this first emailed critique from my (marvelous) CP, and then will continue on with my agent and with my editor and with my copyeditor, until at some point several months from now, Book Two will be a book shaped thing with a title and a satisfying plot and I won’t ever have to think about it again.

Whenever I draft, I would rather edit, and whenever I edit, I’d rather draft.  I don’t know why my head is broken this way, so that whatever work I’m doing is so agonizing, and then I don’t know why when things aren’t agonizing, I feel guilty, as if something being a miserable experience makes it a thing of quality.


Here’s how it’s going to go down:

Suffering Bethany’s Suffering Spiral of Suffering

1. Read CPs’ insights.  They are all geniuses and right about everything, and have solutions for me THANK GOD.

2. Open document.

3. Decide to jump right into revisions.

—Delay looking at book by looking at Community GIFs on Tumblr.

—Read Prologue.  Vomit and die.

—Open email to reread CP’s email again.  Find an email from mortgage lender instead.  Spend thirty minutes looking up refinancing options on Internet.

4.  Okay, jumping into revisions was a bad idea.  I should make A Plan of Attack.  Yes.


—Okay, Scrivener makes this easy.  Start inputting notes into relevant chapters.  Do this for fifteen minutes.  I AM A PRODUCTIVITY GOD.

—More Facebook, more Tumblr, a text to husband about how hard life is.

5.  Give up on Plan of Attack—I should just start making changes now.  I pick one thread that needs working on and follow it all the way through the novel.

—Except, wait, that thread connects to this other one in this scene, so I’ll just go ahead and change it while I’m here, and that actually leads me right into this other problem that needs fixed…

—End up revising slowly and chronologically, just like I always do.

6.  Repeat Step 5 every day for four week to eight weeks.

7.  Send to Agent Lady.

8.  New edit letter–repeat Steps 1 through 6.

7.  Send to Agent Lady again.  (If thumbs up, proceed to Step 8.  If thumbs down, repeat Steps 1 through 6.)

8.  New edit letter from Editor Lady.  (Repeat Steps 1 through 6 once for major revisions, once for smaller scale revisions, and once for line edits.)

9.  Copyedits.

10.  First Pass Pages.

11.  ARC review.

Listen, I’m not complaining in the traditional sense (well, maybe I am.)  I love that I get to make my books better.  I love that my books are going to be actual books on actual shelves and that one day, actual people will read them.  But it’s hard.  It’s all hard, but this is the part where you are continually confronted with all of the problems, all of the glitches and plot holes and typos that remind you that you are not a master of your craft, but only a hapless beginner.  And you know?  That’s probably a good thing.  I don’t like it when my karate instructor, perpetual coffee cup in hand, watches me do katas, but his corrections make my katas better.  Hell, even just the scrutiny makes me better; I lower my stances, strike harder, and focus on my hand forms when someone is watching.  As with karate, so with life and art and all that.  The corrections strengthen me.  The scrutiny pushes me further than I would have ever pushed myself.

But I’d be lying if I said that part was easy.  It’s not.  It’s so hard.

So how to get started?

I remind myself that this is a first draft.  (A first draft that took me five months to write.)

I remind myself that my ego does not need to be stroked.  My ego needs to shut up and chill out.

I remind myself that this is just a stage in the process.  Because the process includes its rewards too: moments of pure inspiration, books of the heart, meeting fellow artists, and seeing your book in public.  That stuff is tight.  That stuff is cool.

I had to legitimize my Tumblr addiction somehow.






Jan 5 2012

Landry Park Music

I saw a post about writing music on Veronica Roth’s blog and felt inspired to share some of my Landry Park writing tunes.  I’m a little eccentric about my writing music — number one, I have to have it to work, and number two, I vacillate between being ultra picky about my playlist and being completely cavalier (some days, I turn on the Beck or the Tori Amos station on Pandora and just get to work.)

But for the most part, I am not that casual about it.  I tailor playlists for certain moods, for certain scenes, for certain emotions that are currently playing out in my characters.   Like Veronica’s list, this music isn’t all from 2011, especially since I’ve been working on this novel in its many incarnations since 2008.  Some of it is old.  Some of it is very old (said in Legolas voice.)

My favorite songs for atmosphere and mood:

Even though Landry Park is set 200 years in the future and the crux of the plot centers around nuclear technology, the feel of the novel is somewhere between Gone with the Wind and Mansfield Park.  So for dinner scenes or ballroom scenes or for wandering in the garden fog scenes, I’ve got violins and pianos from Pride and Prejudice:

A Postcard to Henry Purcell — Jean Ives Thibaudet.

Meryton Townhall — Jean Ives Thibaudet

Some other brilliant atmosphere songs:

Evey Reborn — Dario Marianelli.  This one has been with me since the very, very beginning, when Landry Park was a very, very different novel.

Intro — The xx.

Here Comes a Chopper (to Chop Your Head Off) — Strangeletter.  Can you get any cuter than that lead singer?  Yowza.

 Half a Man — Methodic Doubt.

Hayling –FC Kahuna.  Love.

Primavera — Ludovico Einaudi.  I found this on Veronica Roth’s blog, and have been OBSESSED ever since.  It might be the most beautiful instrumental song ever.


Character songs:

What Goes Around…Comes Around — Justin Timberlake.  This is one of my favorite videos ever.  Opulence and carelessness and revenge…and beautiful people being angsty.  I could probably watch Justin Timberlake and Scarlett Johannsen make pancakes and still be invested in it.

Love Hurts — Incubus.

Heavy in Your Arms — Florence and the Machine.  Actually, any song by Florence.  FATM is pretty much the soundtrack for my protagonist.  (By the way, have you heard her cover of Drake’s Take Care?)

Born to Die — Lana Del Rey.  Another singer I listen to constantly while writing. (Video Games is crazy good too.)

The Royal We — Silversun Pickups

Panic Switch — Silversun Pickups

The Words That Maketh Murder — PJ Harvey

I Am Stretched Out on Your Grave — Kate Rusby

Power — Kanye West

In Vain — loveliesbleeding.  Probably my favorite song of all time.  All time.

Leicester — loveliesbleeding.  This one’s cheating a bit, because I wrote the lyrics, but loveliesbleeding turns words into something else.


So there’s your music fix for the week.  There’s a lot of other songs I listen to while writing, but these are the ones I specifically seek out for re-inspiration.  And for anyone who’s interested in a revision update, I think I’m probably a few good days away from sending it to my critique partners. (!)


Nov 1 2011

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, sort of ish. Maybe. Kinda.

Now that I have a clearer sense of where I’m going with my revision of Landry Park, I’m ready to get cracking.  I’m not sure how much of the novel will ultimately be rewritten, but I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between some of the novel and most of the novel, and it’s probably going to take a lot of hard work and time.

So why not toil shoulder to shoulder with the NaNo folk?  Draw inspiration from the community?  Remind myself that once I finish Landry Park (ha!), I can start on a new shiny project like the real NaNo-ers do?

My WrAHM Society friend, Melissa Hurst suggests NaNoFinMo for those of us who are in the middle of novels (or revising them,) and I think it’s a fantastic idea.

It will be difficult to carve out time to write every day, but I’ll make it happen.  After all, I’m hoping to get and agent and get published, and write many more books — perhaps one day, every month will be like NaNoWriMo.  Not necessarily in it’s difficulty or intensity, but in that I have the resources to focus on my writing every day of the week, consistently and for long spaces of time.

There are no crushed Cheerios in the carpet in this fantasy either.

Oct 18 2011

Perseverance is what separates us from them, right? RIGHT?!

So I got to talk to a Real Literary Agent last week.  She was awesome and helpful and kind, and offered me her time that day and in the future to talk about revisions for my book.  Before Thursday, I thought R&R stood for Rest and Relaxation, but now I know better.

It means Revise and Resubmit.

As I watch my agented/published friends in The WrAHM Society, and as I mull over the Agent’s suggestions, I am beginning to appreciate the difficult nature of the publishing business.  Good news comes bundled with disappointing news.  Praise comes bundled with criticism.  Almost-but-not-quites, and you’re-not-done-yets are as common as coughs in a proctologist’s office.  I’d like to think this is true of similar professions: visual artists, musicians, and even small business owners.  It’s the price of not being a drone at some Evil Corporate Office or Faceless County Entity, although, truth be told, I miss Faceless County Entity (the Library Version) quite a bit.  It was safe, and comforting, and I could do things like drink water out of a Ziploc bag in front of my boss and not get fired.

Getting an MLS and glaring at patrons from behind a desk is my career back-up plan, but Faceless County Entities have nothing on writing.  I like wandering around like a space case, trying to imagine the perfect level of drizzle for the background of a tea-drinking scene.  I like watching hundreds and thousands of words trickle out from my fingertips in libraries, cafes and on my couch.  And I like the freedom of knowing that once I am finished with a book — whether it be trunked or published — I’m free to seek out fresh stories and new voices and different types of drizzle.  At the library, the only fresh things are the potatoes accidently dropped into the book drop.  (Yes, that happened.)

Back to my R&R.  The Agent’s perceptions were incredibly insightful and diagnostic, and while she was giving her editorial notes, I could start seeing the new book, a better book, taking shape out there in the ether.  This revision would be substantial and more like a rewrite, but in the end, I think it will be a much better novel.  My main characters will stay, the setting will stay, the angry and restless Rootless will stay, but the things they are doing will be different.  There will be more exploration of the world.  There may be some more character-level intrigue a la Downton Abbey, and less twists and turns a la Ringer (which I love, btw.)  It will take a while.  Months.  Many months, even.  But I feel like Landry Park is worth it.  And hopefully so does the Agent, otherwise she wouldn’t have called and offered to be a resource for working through ideas.

Here’s to hoping that the tortoise wins the race, and that my local coffee shop is well-stocked with brew.

ps. Link soup