Well, this will need some work…

I really got into Unexpected last night, and I’m now about a third of the way into the manuscript.  There are three things that have really struck me as I’ve been reading.

1. I like the story.

2. I love Kiwi, the swearing fairy, and I don’t know if I can censor her.

3. This manuscript is rough, and it’s going to need some major work.

The fact that I like the story is good, and it follows with my experience with my other novels.  The advice to “write the book you want to read” is clearly something that I’ve managed to do again.  It also means that I’ll be more invested in working on revisions, since I like the story.  If it wasn’t fun, I probably wouldn’t do much with it.

I’m still torn on censoring Kiwi, but the decision doesn’t have to be made today.  The reality is that part of what makes her such an entertaining character is her ridiculous, relentless attitude.  Without her frequent use of foul language, her caustic, disdainful persona would be weakened.  Shock value is part of her nature; substituting milder words waters it down, and creating “fairy curse words” blunts the reader’s initial response.  But offending readers on page one is not really my intention, either.  Good thing I can wait to make the choice.

As for the third observation, well, it is a NaNo novel.  It was written rapidly, with no revisions, and as I’m reading it I can tell.  There are silly word substitutions, like mission for missing, and while the grammar is acceptable, there are some odd sentence structures I’d like to address.  But the biggest thing is the skeletal form.  Right now there is a lot of dialog and action, but not a lot of description, which is very typical for my first drafts.  I’m noticing many places where scenes can be beefed up, interactions can be more detailed, and the story can just be layered a bit more.  These are all things that are easy enough to do once I settle down to revise.

I will continue to read Unexpected, simply for the sake of reading it.  I might cringe every now and then at the places that need work, but at least I have Kiwi to amuse and distract me. 🙂

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More Here

As I’m working on Mara’s story, I’m bouncing around a lot.  Normally I write semi-chronologically, but in this case it seems unnecessary.

After all, this is an overhaul of an existing book.  I’m filling in details, adding scenes, and revising, but a large part of the story is already written.  The need to work in order is moot; I already know where we’re going and how we get there.

Because of this jumping and skipping, I have a lot of the following notation in the document:

MORE HERE

It might be a section where I want to add more description, because I opted to finish writing the action instead of working on setting the scene.  In at least one spot, it’s because I got to the end of my inspiration before I got to the end of what was going on.

I also use it to remind myself that I want to add another scene between two existing ones, once I figure out what should happen there.

I like the “more here” marker; it’s both a freedom to continue working on what moves me and an obligation to return.

A Place to Start

I just finished paring the original Butterflies document down to just the things that pertain to Mara’s childhood.  Many of the scenes are probably going to be revised, at the least, if not totally rewritten, but at least it gives me a place to start. If you were wondering, the document is currently just shy of 7900 words.  Again, not great, but a good foundation to grow from.  I actually have scenes from when she was four and six, two at age eight, and a scene at age ten, meaning I have a good spread of her life.  I just need to really flesh it out and fill in the details.

The final scene that is currently in the document is the first of her at the training school, at about a year in.  It probably won’t stay.  My plan is to have each of the three girls’ stories end with their arrival at the school.  That’s when their stories start to overlap with each other and with the bigger stories that are happening in the world at large.  The reason that I left this scene for the moment is this: unlike the other two girls, I don’t currently have an arrival scene for Mara.  The scene that I do have also outlines several skills that she’s honed over her years prior to school, and that’s important reference material as I flesh out the story of how she got those skills.

Reviewing all of the scenes is a good way to get re-acquainted with this character, before I delve into her background in a much more involved way.

I can’t tell at this point if I’m excited about this project or not.  As I get into it, I’ll let you know.

NaNo Update, Day 29 (What’s Next?)

Everyone I know has congratulated me on completing my novel for NaNo.  A lot of them follow it up with this question: So what do you do with it now?

I’ll tell you one thing I won’t do with it right now.  I won’t be trying to send it anywhere.  It’s incredibly rough, hasn’t had any revisions, and as every piece of advice you’ll ever see will tell you, it is not a good idea to send a first draft to an agent or publisher.  Yikes!

Here’s what I will likely do with Unexpected, now that’s it complete.  I’ve already sent it to a trusted friend who is going to act as a First Reader and give me feedback on plot, characters, grammar and spelling.  (Sorry, Mom, I know that’s normally your job.  I figured we’d both enjoy that experience better if I find a way to tame my swearing fairy a bit first.)

I’m also planning to ride the Unexpected train into December, at least as far as blog posts are concerned.  This weekend I’ll get some Kiwi’s Crazy Comments up for you; some will be from the running series on my Facebook page, some will be new. I’m also planning to find a tame(r) section and post an excerpt.

After that, well, I’ll let it sit for a while.  I like to wait a couple of months between finishing a novel and reading it for revisions.  That way I can go at it with fresh(er) eyes and be a touch more critical.

If it turns out to be not too bad, I might put together a query for it (after a few revisions and a bit more effort on Dragon, of course).

Looming Butterflies

When I finished Unexpected on Monday night and finally went to bed, I had a strange experience.

Butterflies reappeared in my head.

You would think after spending a month writing obsessively, my brain would be ready to take a break.  Apparently not.  I immediately started thinking about  the ways I want to disassemble and re-approach my first novel.  (That’s The Queen’s Butterflies, which is the butterflies in Butterflies and Dragons.)

My best friend is coming to visit me this weekend, and I know that my creativity needs a break.  The massive project won’t be started in the next few days.  I don’t want my surprise motivation to disappear, though, so I’m going to keep the idea of the Butterflies overhaul alive.  Perhaps it will be my major project for 2013!

Tightening Up Transitions

On Sunday I got a good distance ahead in my word count for NaNo, and I’ve tried to maintain my numbers since.  It hasn’t been exactly perfect; knowing that you’re starting the day with more words than you need to be on track somewhat impacts the motivation.  Still, I’ve done a reasonably good job and on Monday and Tuesday I decided to take advantage of this and re-read what I’d written.

Now, for those of you who are not Wrimos (the nickname for participants) I will let you in on a little secret: editing is not generally encouraged during NaNo.  The point is to get words on the page, be they good, bad, or downright ugly.  But with a bit of a lead and my subplot lead-ins still a bit undefined, I thought it might be a good idea.

Not only did it turn out to be a good idea, it gave me an additional 350 words.  That’s right, just rearranging my sections, doing a bit of tweaking, and tightening up transitions added to my word count!  Plus, it let me play with the chronology and the interweaving of the subplots, and I think that I am back on track to work the story in the proper progression once again.

I’m not recommending that you take the time to edit/re-read/tweak your novel, unless you’re a bit ahead and have the time.  But if you’re stuck or fighting with your creativity, it might not be a bad idea.

Happy writing!

Another Word for Something

I spent yesterday getting through some of the revisions of Dragon.  One of my pet peeves is repeated words, and I found a couple of spots in the manuscript where I had done exactly that.  Usually, all it takes is a quick thesaurus visit or a little bit of rearranging to make the problem disappear.  One turned out to be a little tricky.

Here’s the sentence as it stood in the second draft: “As Ar’Rastet chased her, close on her tail, something inside her shifted.  There was something about their flight that woke something primal within her.”

That’s right, the word “something” is repeated three times in those two sentences.  Yuck.  I’m not sure how that slipped in there, but it had to be fixed.

The first appearance of the word seemed like the best one to keep, so the second and third needed to be addressed.  The second was easy to replace – that something meant flavor, character, etc. so I decided to go with “undertone” and readjust the words around it accordingly.  The third was the tricky part, and I struggled to find a good word to use.  I didn’t want to be too specific, because the main character doesn’t really recognize her reaction at first.  There just aren’t that many good, vague terms to put in its place, so in the end I had to add a little bit of definition to it.

Here’s how it stands now: “As Ar’Rastet chased her, close on her tail, something inside her shifted.  There was an undertone to their flight that woke a primal urge within her.”

Better, don’t you think?  At least there’s only one “something” in the second version!

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