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Sort-of-Nanowrimo 2015: All Of The Editing

It’s that time of year again!

Around the world, many a brave, foolish soul is starting a brand new novel for National Novel Writing Month. Not so with me…

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Enjoying my sharp design skillz, heh?

 

I’m still kind of participating, because how could I not? But, for the first time in all my years of Nano-ing, I don’t have a wordcount goal. YIKES.

That’s because, right now, I’m editing The Paradise Swarm.

I have plenty of ideas for new stories but stopping my edits to write something new would just be giving in to the temptation of the Shiny New Idea (sooo tempting!) and leaving this novel hanging.

I know what I need to do now is FINISH THIS BOOK, if only to gain the experience of getting to the end of a novel.

I’ve completed five Nanowrimos, and taken a good chunk out of two more, it’s something I know I can do. I haven’t completed a novel yet, so I’ll work on that.

Here’s how it is going to work

My plan is to do 50 hours of edits in November: it’s a big chunk of the work, more than an hour a day, and obviously I like that it keeps the magic number 50 in the equation.

I’m not sure how to log it on the Nano website, or even if I should – some people have suggested I put down 1,000 words for each hour of editing, since that would give me a win once I reached 50, but I’m not sure about that idea.

I write quite slowly and I know I’d never reliably 1K an hour all November long, so it doesn’t feel quite write to equate 50 hours of work with a Nanowrimo win when I normally put in about double that amount of time.

My Book Progress

Luckily, this new progress bar widget I backed on Kickstarter just funded, so I can use this as well as (or instead of?) the wordcount feature on the Nano website.
MyBookProgress looks pretty nifty so far, although it doesn’t have an option to log hours at the moment – I’ve suggested that for a future update. So, for now, I’ve set my goal as 50 scenes edited in November, which is a bit more of an ambitious goal than 50 hours – but ambition is no bad thing, especially not in November!!

The Paradise Swarm
Phase:2nd Draft
Due:4 years ago
9.1%

I’ve only done an hour so far (coincidentally, I did a full scene then as well if a short one), but I should be able to do more this evening!

The Nanowrimo Tag

If you’d like to hear more about my Nanowrimo experiences in general, check out the Nanowrimo Tag:

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Convention-Fest 2014!

As I’m sure everyone knows by now, the past fortnight had been filled with conventions and various other geeky things. Everybody else probably had their con reports done ages ago, but I got ill with a pretty darn impressive bout of con-plague right after coming home from Loncon, so I haven’t had time yet. So now that my insides have forgiven me for my wicked convention ways (all the snacking, all the coffee, none of the healthy stuff…), here are a few highlights of my con experience!

photo 1I went to Nine Worlds right from work on the opening night (Thursday 7th) and stayed until Sunday night. I had an absolute blast there, particularly as a bunch of my close friends & writing group buddies were going, and I also knew a bunch of other people from the London fannish scene. I’d booked the week between Nine Worlds and Loncon off work, so I used it to chill out and work on structural edits to The Paradise Swarm. I’m so glad I did this, I don’t know how I would have been anything but zombie-Claire for all of  Loncon if I hadn’t.

photo 3Then on the morning of Thursday 14th, I trekked down to the Excel Centre with a massive suitcase to attend Loncon3, which was my first WorldCon. I was also on staff, meaning I volunteered ahead of the con and had extra responsibilities for specific things (in my case, the Party Maven team! We walked around the Fan Village in the evenings being helpful and liaising with Ops. Shame I didn’t think to bring a pedometer!). I ended up doing way more than I’d expected which was really good fun although a bit taxing.

After I went home on Monday and searched my suitcase quite thoroughly at the front door, it became clear I’d lost my keys at the con! Luckily someone had brought them into the lost and found at the Excel and the staff there was extremely helpful, letting me send in a courier to get the keys back to my house.

On Tuesday, it was back to the office with me, with what I thought at the time was a little bit of a cold. That night, I went to the awesome George & Robin event at the Freemason Hall in Central London, which was super cool, because ROBIN HOBB!! GEORGE R. R. MARTIN!! The interview was really super interesting, especially when they started talking in more detail about the writing process and how they approach their work. I also got a gorgeous signed hardback of Robin Hobb’s latest novel, Fool’s Assassin, which is about Fitz! It is literally shiny.

photo (2)Of course, after that, my ‘little bit of a cold’ morphed into stomach flu and I had to take some time off sick. I’m feeling better now though, and I don’t think I’ll ever plan two back-to-back conventions like this. It was epically good fun, but I kind of feel like I’ve entirely lost the following week.

For 2015, I’m hoping I can make it to my first EasterCon and go to Nine Worlds again, as they are both in Heathrow and neither is too long, meaning I can take a few days off AFTER each con to recuperate. I’m never going back to the office the day after a con again!

Con Highlights:

Panels!

I went to a lot of panels over the last couple weeks so I couldn’t name them all, but there were some outstanding ones. At Nine Worlds, I loved The Vampire vs Werewolves vs Dragons vs Warlocks debate, which had authors debating the merits of each (dragons won); Paul Cornell’s Only a Moment panel; and the Costume talks in the fandom track, which had @Hello_Tailor discussing the impact of film/TV costumes on the narrative, and @whatkatie_did talking about stealth cosplay! At Loncon, my favourite was hands down the Diversity in YA panel, which had great panelists and moderation. I also really enjoyed the various Kaffeeklatsches and Literary Beers I got to attend, with Emma Newman, Mur Lafferty, Seanan McGuire & Mary Robinette Kowal.

Cosplay!

dariajaneI cosplayed all three days at Nine Worlds! My costumes weren’t the most involved I’ve ever had, but they were generally well received. In the end I got enough of Nine World’s new ‘Awesome Cosplay’ tokens to win a little goody bag with candy, a toy dinosaur and an ‘Outstanding Cosplay’ badge!!

On Friday, @Jenepel and I went as Daria and Jane, which was tons of fun, except that I wore a wig and contacts and pretty much no one recognised me as me. I kept having to point as my name tag and be all “Hi, we’re friends!”. On Saturday, I wore my Sally Skellington dress but without the white sleeves or face-paint. I think that worked well as a compromise between cosplay and looking like myself! On Sunday, I was Tank Girl, which was THE BEST to make, but which I forgot to take a picture of! Must dress in it again soon for photo-op!

Books!

photo 5I got some free books in my Nine Worlds welcome pack, at the Gollancz party there and from the Helsinki in 2017 bid (because I’d just supported it). I also bought lots of books, so now I have a nice stack of them. I even got a few signed. :)

New people!

I got to meet so many new people, from fans to writers I’ve admired for ages, with everyone in between; I can’t possibly name-check everybody (without forgetting some people and being rude). I knew fewer people at Loncon, but volunteering and being chatty do really help! Because a bunch of my friends were at Nine Worlds, hanging out in the bar there was great fun (except for the price of everything!) and led to meeting even more people. I had nice chats with people after the New Voices panels too!

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Editing The Paradise Swarm

As you may have seen on twitter a few weeks back, I finished the first draft of The Paradise Swarm. It’s riddled with plot holes and doesn’t quite have an ending, but it’s done! Honestly, I was starting to doubt I would actually get even this far.

I’ve taken a couple of weeks off, and now it’s time to whip that novel into shape. I know editing makes some writers want to tear their own hair out, but I enjoy the process immensely. Being able to take the book apart and put it back together again better to make it look like I was really smart in the first place is just exhilarating.

Anyway, Phase One of Operation Editing is to read the novel critically and make notes. I’m putting the manuscript through Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course, which I tried once before and found really useful. It’s an in-depth course which is going to take a long time to work through, but I know it’ll make the book heaps better.

So far, I’ve made notes on the first six chapters and I’ve found some stuff there that’s not too shabby. Of course, there is a lot that needs fixing (specifically, a lot that is not at all subtle), but by and large, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I can’t lie, the amount of changes to be made is slightly terrifying.

Here are a few things I know for a fact I’ll have to do:
editingarkane

  • Re-write at least two chapters in a different PoV, most likely many more than that.
     
  • Write in the characters’ motivations and reasoning for deciding to work together. Currently the reasoning is very obviously “So that plot can happen” and that’s not going to fly.
     
  • Add all the things that my past self put in brackets for my future self to add in. Darn past self, I hate her.
     
  • Fix the made up science! Luckily as the novel happens in the 1850s, it’s okay for the characters not to properly understand the made-up science.
     

EEP!! So much work to do! I’m going to see my family in a few days and flying out early in the morning. I’m hoping to get some work done as I’m travelling and while I’m on holidays.

Please let me know if you’ve got any advice from your own editing experience, or if you know any good resources I should check out! And wish me luck…

2013-Winner-Facebook-Profile

Is it December yet?

Woooot! I’ve won!! *happy dance*

I completed my fifth Nanowrimo out of six attempts at 23:15 on Saturday night. One day, I swear, I will put down my 50,000th word in the morning of the 30th.

And though it is never easy to write 50K in a month, I found this year particularly challenging and I really struggled with my writing.

I’ve been writing The Paradise Swarm for a long time and as Nano approached, I really didn’t feel like switching to a new story. I did start something new on November 1st, because I generally think it’s good fun, but I couldn’t get stuck in. I couldn’t start over again from scratch, slowly building characters and conflicts when I had just been getting to a really exciting bit of The Paradise Swarm just before Nano kicked off.

After approximately a week and 6,000 words, I switched from my funny university slice-of-life story about exchange students to ‘The Other Novel’, an adventure-filled Sci-Fi idea that sounded like the perfect distraction at the time. That lasted three days and about 4,000 painful words before I had to face the hard truth.

It was time to break the rules again, by going back to what I really wanted to be doing, which was writing The Paradise Swarm. I wrote about 40,000 words in the second half of the month, bringing me to just under 50K altogether. At the same time, the Prologue and ex-Chapter One and Two were relegated to the ‘Cut Scenes’ folder, as they didn’t really fit any more.

I started the year with 8,000 words, most of which have now been cut, and I’m ending the year with 48,000 words, mostly new and mostly from Nanowrimo. That is quite scary to me, but at the same time, I’m closer to my overall goal than I’ve ever been. I won’t finish the manuscript this year as I had hoped, but I am firmly decided to finish it before next November.

Famous last words…

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Multiple POVs

I absolutely love multiple point of view narratives. They aren’t essential to my love of a book, but it makes me so happy when I find beautifully handled multiple viewpoint stories.

Consequently, I noticed that I always planned for several viewpoint characters in my own writing, despite finding it really tricky to write. So, when I started work on The Paradise Swarm, I decided it would be a single viewpoint story.

I wanted to finish the story and I thought the simplicity and straightforwardness of one single point of view character would help. I thought too, that it would be easier to find his voice – and that has worked, somewhat.

I’ve now changed my mind. See, the single viewpoint character for The Paradise Swarm was, among other things, an upper-class white man. The other main character, who is just as important to me, and the story, is a woman of colour. While I never intended it in that way, I realised that her not being a viewpoint character made her appear less important to the story, and she really isn’t.

There are, of course, many things about both of them besides their gender and ethnicity, for instance:

Laurence is a botanist and the fourth son of an aristocratic family, thrown out by his father after he stopped believing in god. His sexual orientation doesn’t feature in the story, as he is more interested in science than anything else.

Mara was adopted by a countryside gentleman after her family died when she was a child. She is well-educated and is now working for herself, but she does encounter pretty horrid racism and sexism on a daily basis, because it’s London in the 1850s. She’s also heterosexual and Catholic.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to make her a viewpoint character – and I don’t mean just ethical sense, I really think it will make for a stronger narrative too. As Laurence is her lodger, they spend most of the book together. If they get separated or he gets hit on the head, it’ll be useful to have her point of view, and it will allow me to show how prejudiced and wrong each of them is towards the other early in the book.

In the scene I’m currently writing, two police officers come to investigate reports of screams coming from the house. They interrogate Mara, insulting and threatening her quite a bit as they go, until Laurence, who has been listening in, intervenes and plays his rank to get them off her case. I started writing this from Laurence’s point of view, and it very quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t work. It was clunky and awkward. From Mara’s point of view, it’s pretty much writing itself.

I’m definitely happy that I made the change, and though it is going to mean significant changes to the first few chapters, I’m convinced it’ll be worth it. I always end up cutting a lot from my beginnings, so I’m not surprised that this one won’t be any different.