Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cutting words

Cutting words from my first draft! Necessary, but sometimes difficult. (Not that I'm that attached to them, it's just hard to decide what's essential AND streamline it so it's not clunky.)

For longer passages that are boring, overexplanatory, etc, I'm just going to rewrite instead of trying to cut words and rearrange sentences. Perhaps rewriting takes longer, but cutting and rearranging a lot at once is too stressful and confusing to me. It's much simpler just to start from a new blank page.

This includes chapter one. Not only is it long, boring, and lacking in dialogue (since she's mostly alone), but it's also the beginning, so it's super important to do the chapter well. Oh, and it's the first part of the first draft that I wrote, so the prose is just a bit...well, those things I listed in the previous paragraph. Boring and overexplanatory. Some of it's just plain bad.

So I just finished rewriting chapter one, bringing it down from 5445 words to 3799. That's a difference of 1646 words (30%). It's still kind of boring and wordy, because there's only narration and almost no dialogue. So the wordiness could still be pared down, though it might make the chapter super short. But, it's still much better than it was!

I did add a (brief) missing scene in a later chapter (still need to add more). But even counting that, the total manuscript is down to 133,589 from 135,375 - a decrease of 1786 words. (A whopping 1.3%!) It's a start...

Update 8/25/15: After editing chapter two, I'm down to 130,840 words, a decrease of 4535, or 3.4%. I'm finding the editing slower than I expected, but I'm hoping that won't last - either I'll get faster as I go, or the first draft will be less awful (and less tedious to edit) the further I get. Hopefully both.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cutting the fat

Today I cut 19 instances of reaching, which was a total of 55 words cut. That doesn't sound like much, considering there were 105 reaches to begin with, and over 135,00 words, but it means that there were 19 times when I said someone reached and picked up something, or reached and touched something.

There are more reaches to remove, just because the whole sentence is sloppy writing. But right now I'm focusing on easy things to delete.

And of 447 looks, I killed 65. More need to disappear (people looking sad, or giving someone a look - those sentences are kind of weak) but I didn't take the time to tweak those sentences yet. The 65 looks I deleted were people looking around the room, or looking up at someone, or looking away from someone, or looking at the ground, easy things to delete without having to rework the sentence.

Now that I have an idea how many of my reaches and looks and other overused words are unnecessary, I feel better about moving forward. Seeing all 447 instances of look has helped me see, not only that I use the word a lot, but that I use it in certain ways a lot. And many of those ways are weak writing anyway.

But for now, since I've given myself a tiny boost in cutting the word count fat (411 words), I'm going to focus on big-picture things, like cutting or condensing unimportant scenes, and adding all the details/scenes that I skimmed over or forgot completely (sigh, that will add again to the word count...) When that's all done I can worry about smaller things like the words themselves. No sense tweaking and perfecting sentences now if I'm going to be rewriting/removing the whole scene later on.

Quilt update: The stain is mostly out. I looked up ink stain removing, and most of the methods either used things I don't have (cornstarch), or seemed to work only for still-wet stains (salt). Since my stain could have been forming for as long as 25 minutes, surely some of it was dried already. I tried two different methods, alternating between soaking it in cold water and rubbing toothpaste on it. I don't know which of those worked (maybe both?), but in the process the stain went from dark purple, to purple spreading out really far in the cold water and soaking through onto the quilt backing, to slightly less dark purple with slightly fading edges, to purplish blue just as dark despite the shrinking edges, to blue still shrinking, to lighter blue, to light blue still shrinking, to very light blue that is so close to being gone. Just be gone, stain!

Ignore the pinkish tinge. That's just what my phone did for some reason. The stain is the faint bluish blob in the middle.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

After the read-through

Well, I'd planned to do a quick read-through, just marking things that really jumped out, and overall impressions, all as if I were a reader new to the story.

However, I found myself noticing things (inconsistent with parts later on) or remembering things (things I forgot to include in the draft altogether) that a new reader wouldn't realize until much later, possibly not even until the end. But I wanted to mark them anyway, while I was noticing/remembering. Then I started circling things like -ly and certain constructions using as or -ing, and underlining words that kept popping up everywhere. Seriously, my characters were forever smiling, or laughing, or reaching, or walking toward someone. I mean, does a person really need to reach and pick up a bowl, when she can simply pick up the bowl?

So the read-through took longer than I thought. But it was still the easiest thing so far. It didn't require thinking or creativity, since I wasn't writing or rewriting anything. All it took was noticing.

Here are some counts from my searches for overused words (or words to describe overused emotions):

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Here goes...

Okay, so I waited two weeks. That's long enough, right? I printed my manuscript last night. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes, which is about an hour and ten minutes more than I anticipated. The printer got issues every time it ran out of paper, and it took way longer than I expected to hole punch 475 pieces of paper. I guess I forgot you can only do like 8 sheets at a time.

So here's the first draft of my book, which I have named, for the time being, Book. It's a lot of pages!

Also, James Scott Bell suggests making up a critic's blurb to add on a cover page. His example was plausible. Here's mine:

So here goes my first read-through. If you find me dead from boredom, or drowned in tears of laughter, you'll know why.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Novel: Next Step

I've been a good girl and already waited two weeks since finishing my novel's first draft on July 29. My goal was to wait until September 1, trying to forget all about it in the meantime. But I'm having a hard time not thinking about it, and I'm getting impatient.

I've been very good about not looking at the draft at all, but I can't not think about the story. This is my first novel, so I'm trying to read as much as I can about writing, and specifically the first read-through and revision of a first draft. And since I'm reading so much about that, naturally my story comes to mind. All the time.

But still, I'm being good about not peeking at the draft. I haven't peeked once. So it'll just be like rereading a book I'm familiar with, but haven't actually read in a while. Like The Goose Girl. I'm reading that for the third time. It's been a while, and of course I'm copying down bits of prose I love into a list, so while I always loved the story I'm noticing more about the writing this time. (Which is kind of funny, because Shannon Hale's prose is a large part of what made me want to be a writer.)

Anyway, about my revision. I'm reading a lot about revising, so maybe by the time I get to it I'll have absorbed a lot of helpful information. Still, I like lists, especially for things that are both daunting and exciting to me, and I like hoarding information (anyone else making a list of bits of prose that inspires them?), so I'm trying to make a checklist so I can make sure I don't miss anything while I revise.

I'm not an expert. But this is my game-plan-in-progress. I'll let you know in September (or earlier if I get too impatient) how well it worked for me.

  1. Print all bajillion pages of manuscript.
  2. Read through, ready with colored pens and a spiral notebook. On manuscript, mark glaring errors, inconsistencies, questions, comments, and anything confusing, using some predetermined system of symbols and colors. Number each note. In notebook, expand upon note if necessary. Continue on with reading.
  3. At the end, consider overall impression of book, as if I were a reader, new to the story. Consider:
    • Pacing: Too slow? Too fast? All over the place?
    • Characters: Strong? Weak? Obnoxious? Flat?
    • Plot: Predictable? Compelling? Confusing? Logical? Too complicated? Too simple?
    • Dialogue/prose: Too stiff? Too flowery? Too informal? Any cliches?
    • Overall: Any characters or subplots not developed enough? Any unnecessary? Any holes anywhere? Anything just seem off?
  4. Back in Scrivener, address the marked issues.

Then onto the more micro revisions and edits.