Productivity Progress Report Week 2: I Need A Time Turner!

Last week began excellently, but I threw it away in the 4th quarter. Chalk it up to Deadpool, Valentine’s Day, and my general fatigue over the weekend (Deadpool, by the way, was quite good. I don’t normally enjoy R-Rated humor, but it was funny and edgy while still being….tasteful? You’ll have to wait until December for my Movie Report Card to hear more of my verdict, but I massively undercut my prediction on this one.)

Anyway, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly for my second week on this schedule.

THE GOOD

  • Indie MoCap Newsletter: I actually finished this for the entire month, meaning my next two Thursdays will have an hour freed up. Whoo.
  • AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel: Once again, we filmed two Let’s Plays on Saturday afternoon.
  • Cover Design For Kindle:  Already had my cover designed for the current WIP.
  • Dead Air Webseries: Still on track to finish an episode by the end of the month.
  • Editing Paradisa: I exceeded my plans! I had two medium level edits, one new scene, and one easy edit to make. I think I did all of those and an additional 2-3 edits on my list. I might actually have this finished before March 31…
  • Camera and Equipment Research: I let this slide on the first week, but did plenty of catch-up. I am torn between a Canon DSLR and a Sony HD cam, leaning more towards the Sony now. In a perfect world, I could get both. Alas.
  • Animation: Learned how to set up a reference photo box in 3Ds Max and began a tutorial on character box modeling. I got a bit stuck on the tutorial I was working on, but I figured out my issue after mulling a bit. I also downloaded Source Filmmaker and picked up the PC version of Fallout 4 during Steam’s Lunar sale, mostly to play with its resource files.

THE OKAY

  • Indie MoCap Website: I set up my BlueHost account and installed WordPress, along with transferring my domain. It will take a week for the transfer to go through, so I couldn’t actually edit the website yet.
  • Writing Submissions: I managed to edit one of my stories and submit it to Okey Panky. Now that it’s fixed, I need to send it off to some others.
  • Aether Motion Website: Set up my Squarespace account.
  • LLC Research: I still haven’t filled out my paperwork, but I have a list of all the steps I need to do and a pdf of the Articles of Organization. It’s just a matter of doing it.
  • Reading: My reading improved this week. I am almost finished with Secret of The Sands.
  • Indie MoCap Articles: Once again, I finished two and started on a third.  I’m starting to think that Thursday nights might be for my long form articles and all my other articles will be written on the spot before posting. The idea of writing five in one night is daunting.
  • The Shadow of Saturn First Draft: I wrote some, but am currently 4000 words behind. I was too busy with Indie MoCap stuff on Thursday, and I didn’t even want to look at my computer over the weekend. Luckily, I’m still pulling words from my original draft, so I’m certain I can catch up this week.

THE BAD

  • The Con Runner’s Handbook Outline: Didn’t work on this at all. Not a big deal to skip a week, but I still want an outline complete by the end of February.
  • Freelance Video and Writing: I did not progress much. I agreed to devote some of my freelance time to editing the AusmAtari videos, but I didn’t even manage that.
  • Side Hustles: Didn’t do much for these at all.
  • Writing For Kindle: Probably my biggest disappointment of the week. I had full intentions on Sunday morning to tackle the 3500-4000 words I had left to write for this….and then I spent five hours finishing Austin’s V-Day present and it exhausted me. Alas, I know there wasn’t much of a choice here. I needed to finish that present! But by 1:00, after setting up dinner and finishing that, I was pooped for the rest of the day. Which is why I was like “screw it, let’s just go see Deadpool.”

Unfortunately, this week will not get off to the easiest start, as my Monday night will be monopolized by seeing former President George W. Bush at the local arena (one of my bucket list items is to see a President in person, and my mom surprised me with a ticket. May as well, right? Especially on President’s Day!) Despite my bucket list having one more check, I will be another 1000k in the Shadow of Saturn hole and still trailing on animation.

I am also entering this week with a lot more fatigue in general. This work is not coming as easy as it did the first two weeks. I don’t feel burnt out or overworked from an inspiration standpoint, and mentally I’m in a good place, but my body is bedraggled and my neck/skull area has been in a bit of pain. Heh, might need more caffeine and vitamins this week. And maybe some cheering on from my lovely readers ^_^

 

So It Begins….Beta Round 2

Last night, I sent the Paradisa Beta Round 2 draft to most of my betas. The others will be later today, when I snag their email addresses. I spent most of yesterday doing my final typo fixes, although there are probably plenty of typos I missed. I was at the point where I needed to get it out the door.

I thought I would be very nervous hitting “send” and shipping it off to some web friends, acquaintances, and outright strangers. In the first Beta Round, I was about ready to puke sending it to my parents and my best friends! But honestly, I was not nervous this time. Excited, maybe a little hesitant, but ultimately I realize that this process is a beneficial one. And even when I got negative feedback last time, I was never hurt or offended by it. I almost always agreed with it, because I did recognize the problems in my book. I perhaps needed these problems confirmed by other people, or I welcomed their suggestions on how to make them better.

Funny enough, I find the story elements somewhat solid in this draft, except for some gripes about exposition/world-building and the antagonist arc. I think there are a lot of things I still need to clarify. But the thing I’m most nervous about is exposing people to my writing style. I go some days thinking “hey, I’m not that bad.” And other days thinking “this is the most clunky, dismal, unpublishable thing I’ve ever written.” I guess that’s subjective anyway.

On my own, I don’t mind the way I write. But it’s hard to stay confident when I see everyone side-eye my style, declaring it “wrong”, from the present tense to the over-the-shoulder POV (rather than the deep stream of consciousness soap opera style that is apparently en vogue. You know, where everything sounds like a hypothetical question at the end of an Adam West Batman episode, or a line from an overacted telenova. You can’t just say “she gasped as the terror rose.” You have to say “her heart exploded in her chest! Who were these men? What did they want? Why did they torture her this waaaaaaay!”)

I’m not trying to trick the readers into thinking they aren’t reading a book. I want readers who like to nestle in with a book and enjoy having a story told to them.  Who want to make new friends out of the characters instead of experiencing a cheap self-insert fantasy. I want to establish trust between the reader and I so much that they don’t even doubt the novel. Like, “Hey you. Yeah, you. I got this. Everything has a reason. It’s all gonna come together. You just be patient, now.”

Who knows if I’ll achieve that? I have 11 betas and a broken clock is right twice a day. Odds are, someone will really like it. And odds are, someone will really hate it. Most will probably fall on a bell curve of 2-4 star ratings. That’s just life. The important thing is figuring out what this group comes to a consensus on, because those are the areas where my story probably needs work. Or maybe they’ll come to a consensus on something good, and that will be an element I’ll know to leave alone. As stressful as the beta process is, I could not be a successful writer without it.

The 777 Writer’s Challenge

I’ve been nominated by Wallace Cass to participate in The 777 Writer’s Challenge. The rules? Go to the 7th page of my WIP, find the 7th sentence on that page, and then paste the following 7 sentences into my blog post. And then select 7 other writers for the challenge. It sounded like quick fun, so I was game!

The 7 lines would have crossed a scene break, so I cheated a little. I went down and started this excerpt at the beginning of the second scene.

Connor sits alone in an examination room at the Clinique Hannibal hospital, his feet dangling off the edge of the metal bed. He’s been waiting so long that his toes have fallen asleep, but he doesn’t mind. If they’re not treating his minor injuries, maybe the staff is focused on Malik somewhere upstairs. Or Clara, who is about two doors down. As of now, all he’s waiting for are his x-rays, and then he’ll be free to check on the rest of his family.

He unfolds his palm and peels back the dressing on his burn. The mark left by that creature’s necklace looks old and crusted over, but still smarts like a fresh blister.

And the seven people I challenge? (If you choose to accept the challenge, you don’t have to make a new blog post if you don’t want to. You could just post your excerpt in the comments).

  1. H.K. Rowe
  2. Millie Ho
  3. Dena Rogers
  4. William Lloyd Jr.
  5. Thomas Reich
  6. L.S. Engler
  7. Brian K. Lowe

Speaking of Paradisa, I have found some amazing betas so far. Right now there are 9, with 1 pending, so I’m about full. But they include several military vets, several non-heteronormative people, a female engineer, a religious studies expert, and the ages range from 9 to 50 (my 9-year-old beta is “unofficial,” as one of my betas likes reading books aloud to his son and plans on doing the same with Paradisa). I actually find this group quite intimidating in their expertise, to be honest, and hope that I can have the book in top shape within the next three weeks. I find myself second guessing every other paragraph on my read-through now!

Alas, it’s good for me. If you’ve agreed to beta for me, thank you so much for taking an interest in me and my book. I hope this is the beginning of a really great collaboration. Cheers!

What Happens After This Draft? – My Revision Process

As I approach the end of my next Paradisa draft, I’m already thinking about the steps that will follow. “Spell check it and send it off to beta readers!” says the village fool. Actually, completing a draft is just the first step – a few other “semi-drafts” will follow, plus a heck of a lot of re-reading.

There are a few types of drafts that I operate in at separate times. That seems like it takes too long, but trying to accomplish all of these tasks at once is just too much to me – I would get stuck on the same page for weeks, picking it apart, when I should be writing the rest of the book. So, splitting it into multiple steps is a much more refined process.

1. The Rewrite. A rewrite is a draft that is formed from a new outline. This is absolutely the roughest draft to slug through, because it basically requires me to write a new book (or a third of one, at least.) Unlike many authors, I do not start with a completely new document, riffing from a completely new outline, utterly ignoring all words used in the previous draft. I do pull massive amounts of content – all I can pull, really – from my last attempt. But when you want Plot Point A to occur three chapters before it did in the last draft, and when you want to separate your characters into two all-new locations for the big mid-book fight scene, and when you want to totally restructure your ending…there’s a lot of new content to be whipped up. This is honestly why Draft Five has taken me 4+ months. I am not only rearranging and cannibalizing so much of the existing text, but I’m adding over 30,000 words of new scenes.

2. The Big Picture Revision. Once a rewrite is done (assuming it was needed in the first place – hopefully 5 will be the last real ‘rewrite’ I do, and that all future edits will be minor), I reread my draft on my tablet. Reading as an ebook gets me into the mental state of a reader. Contrarily, reading it as an editable computer document makes me too much of an editor. I do keep a notebook beside me though, documenting all character, plot, pacing, continuity, setting, and structural issues with the novel. Does each scene have a purpose? Does each scene end on a cliffhanger? Does each scene begin in a way that sets the reader into the scene? Does the novel have a good hook?

Now that I’m past my first beta round, I will also revisit my previous critiques during this stage. I will make sure that all valid concerns from my betas have been addressed in the rewrite. When I’m happy with my re-read, I will annotate my Word doc with comments pertaining to all these concerns.

3. The Seasoning. This is where I trudge through and address all the comments. Sometimes it means changing some dialogue in a scene. Sometimes it means deleting or swapping a scene. The most “writing” I’ll do at this stage is to add paragraphs clarifying intent and setting, or to build pacing.

After this, another reread. Steps 2 and 3 may need to be repeated, depending on how much I like the new version of the book.

4. The Style Revision. I have yet to do a style revision for any previous draft. Now, I feel that the book is ready for a line-by-line analysis, in which I make sure every word is used to its full potential and all lines are my own. Ditch the clichés, ditch the redundancy, ditch the awkward phrasing. My style is very functional and inelegant right now – I have yet to regain the naturally beautiful way I wrote as a teenager (which I swear is due to my lack of reading in recent years, but hey, I’m working on that part!) Until I can turn on good style at a whim, this is the gritty alternative.

5. The Copyedit. Just for grammatical and typographical errors. This is my final read through before other humans see the book.

So basically, five ‘drafts’ in one! I will probably start considering this Draft Six around step 3 though.

And while some may warn me of over editing, fear not – as I said, this is my very first time editing style at all, and that is where over editing rears its ugly potential. I don’t think one can go wrong by making the story a more enjoyable one. I’m kicking myself a bit for taking five drafts to get where the plot needs to be, but part of me knows those previous four trials were all necessary. It’s like a scavenger hunt – you can’t jump to the end until you’ve found all the clues.

I do hope to start Beta Round Two in the spring, but you can see I have a lot of work ahead ;) I feel like it’ll all be downhill once I finish the rewrite though. Ugh. Rewrites really are the hardest part.

What is your editing process like? Do you revise your novel in multiple ways at once or break it down into steps?

Style Errors That Make Me Say AAARGH!

Some grammar rules, like discouragement about starting sentences with “And”, are so last century. Others, like dangling participles, are invisible to the average person. Even writers aren’t too bothered if they’re used outside of fiction or journalism. I’ve never scoffed at someone’s  Facebook post because they used a dangling participle.

And others, like misuse of homophones, cause such universal revulsion that we jump to assumptions about the error-maker. “What an ignorant buffoon! Who could confuse your and you’re!?”

I’ll admit that homophone butchering, when repeatedly committed by the same person (we all make a few late-night mobile typos), bothers me. But there are some grammar and style conventions that, when ignored, really make my skin crawl. Honestly, if I see them in a published novel, I will wonder if the editor was on a mental vacation.

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