Hey Blogland. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my progress on The Steel Armada, almost a month actually. There’s been a lot of development, and I’m really excited to tell you all about it!
First and foremost: I finished the rough draft!
That’s a huge relief right there. I sent the final chapter to Madhu on August 1st, and could have sent the entire manuscript, but we both agreed that since she wasn’t ready send me hers, I should take the time to revise and edit the rough draft first.
Which was a good idea, because the ending was terrible. No, seriously. It was bad. It focused too much on a side character and didn’t wrap up the main character’s arc really at all. I knew it when I wrote it, but I was so relieved to be able to call it done that I just sent it off to her without fixing it first.
But, I’ve since spent a huge amount of time going through the manuscript and making the changes the story really needed. Namely, the ending, but there were some small lines that needed added or cut to make sure character motivations made sense to the reader.
So, that was $8.10 worth of printing at the library and 16+ hours of editing. I spent about 2 hours on each chapter, doing a minimum of three read throughs of each one. I’ll get into what that entailed in a minute.
I also came up with a new title for the project! Now, I haven’t really referred to it as The Steel Armada for months now, at least, not in my head. That title never fit the story I was telling, and it especially did not fit the story I have on paper now. So, I give to you, Exodus: Descent, my new novella.
After my laborious editing efforts last Thursday and Friday I promptly “shelved” the manuscript and did my best to put it out of my mind. I closed the Scrivener document, I didn’t look at the pages, I read for fun and played video games. Anything to keep my mind off of the project. I needed to manufacture distance without having much time to do so organically.
Normally, after completing a draft, I’ll put it aside for weeks or even months. But, I don’t have that luxury this time; I have a self-imposed deadline. I want to send the novella to Tim the Agent™ by August fifteenth. So, I had to distract myself.
I have to admit, it’s been very interesting to work with a deadline in mind. Having a firm date in mind has really increased my focus and drive for the completion of this project.
Then, today, I sat down and slowly worked my way through the manuscript again (this time on the computer) and made tedious changes to word choice, sentence structure, with an eye out for repetition or any vague lines. It was slow work that took up my entire evening, but I got the entire manuscript done. I’m calling it Draft 2.5. And that’s what I sent to Madhu tonight.
That’s the general update, but I also want to share a little about what this process has looked like over the last week. I’ve talked about my time rewriting the novella so far, including my internal struggle with the idea that the story is a novella in the first place. But what the heck did I do for 16 hours?
Well, I started by printing out the manuscript, including the cover page. Then, on the cover I wrote a legend for the meanings of the various ink colors I would use and a spot where I could count up the total tally of -ly, as, and was instances in the manuscript.
This is something I learned to do in college. Adverbs detract from your writing. Remember that Stephen King quote: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. As and was are both indicators of potentially weak or passive writing. Find them and you can hone in on where your writing is lacking and address the issue.
So, I read through the manuscript the first time just to read through it. If something is really jarring I’ll underline it so that I know to do something with it on a later read, but I don’t change anything otherwise.
On the second read through I go through and circle each and every instance of -ly, as, and was that I can. Obviously, out of 23k words, I miss some of them. And, I don’t fix all of them. That’s how you get boring, repetitive writing. But, it draws my attention to spots that I might want to change and helps me decide which sentences are a priority and which aren’t.
That’s the second read through. On the third is when I finally whip out the red pen and put it to good use. And the green pen, for when I see something I really like or am proud of. Positive reenforcement is important, people! This is the stage that takes the longest time. I’m going through the entire manuscript, line by line, and making it the best I can this round. I’m cutting, rewriting, adding new material, anything it takes to iron out the wrinkles and get to the next stage of the manuscript.
And after that, I go back through and make those changes in the computer. Usually even more, smaller, tweaks happen in this stage simply because I’m seeing the words in a different setting. That’s why I do the bulk of my editing on printed pages in the first place, because getting a physical version of the manuscript changes how my brain perceives it and lets me see it in a more objective way.
And then I put it aside and do anything but think about the project. In this case, I read for fun and played Dragon Age: Inquisition for the bazillionth time. I let my mind wander away from the novella and relax.
Then, I came back to it today to make more small changes, this time on only in the computer. This is the honing phase, where I really implement elements of craft (what is this, college?) and make much more conscious decisions in my writing than I do in the initial writing process.
Once I got to the end I made sure both my Scrivener document and my .docx version were identical, and then sent it to Madhu for her feedback. Once I get it back, depending on how extensive the revisions need to be, I’ll probably print out another hard copy and start the whole process over again.
But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I’m hoping that there won’t be much new critique and that I can spend the last week just sharpening the writing before I query Tim the Agent™.
So, that’s the state of things right now. Once I consider it “done” I’ll post a Project Wrap Up and talk about the entire project from start (back in 2013) to finish. And then it’ll be goodbye to Val, at least for the time being, while I work on something new.
Talk at you all soon,