Editing: On Research

Blogland!

It’s been a quiet week spent reading for Book Club. I just finished The Paper Magician last night, but won’t be posting the review until next Thursday, after our meeting. But, at least you have that to look forward to!

What I’ve really been focused on this week is research for The Steel Armada. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done full blown research for a book. I’ve done some quick Googling on the spot to get clarity on an issue or scene, but I’ve never sat down with a text and taken notes and built up details and the world from there.

I had my first study session on Monday. For the first time in a long time, I took the manuscript out into the wild (Governor’s Cup, a local coffee shop downtown) and put in my earbuds to bring the din of espresso machines and conversations down to the comforting bustle of business.

It was a nice hour spent pouring over Sailing Ships. As previously mentioned, that book is a gold mine of info, but it’s actually a little advanced for me. It’s giving me terminology and diagrams, but it doesn’t really explain what the various parts of the ships do. So, I know where the mizzen is a on a ship, but I don’t know what function it serves.

20170223_140140

Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not an artist!

So, my research is leading to more research. Which is awesome! I’m taking notes, learning new things, and letting those things further develop the world. And when the world develops so do the characters who live in it.

But, I want to talk a little about research in general, in terms of writing fiction.

Those of us who took any Creative Writing courses have heard the “tried and true” advice spoken with finality: Write What You Know.

…Yeah. About that…

Funny thing for Speculative Fiction authors is that this advice falls flat. I’m writing about a desiccated planet and the small fraction of humanity that survived on a flying armada of steel ships above it. I don’t exactly know what that’s like.

But, I know what it’s like to be a seventeen year old girl falling in love with her best friend. I know what it’s like to lose your father figure. And I know what it’s like to demand more from the people and the world around you.

And anything I don’t know, like the architecture of rigged ships, I can research.

Which is really the most important thing I’ve learned so far. Speculative Fiction authors can still write what they know, they just have to know a lot about a ton of different things. The key to great world building is developing the small details that lend your world credibility. Yes, there’s much in Fantasy and even Science Fiction that is made up of things we can never truly know before we set out to write them. But, I can learn as much as I can about the things that are real, or based on reality.

Do giant sailed ships made of steel fly through the air? No. But, those ships of my creation can follow the look and feel of wooden rigged ships from human history. And the more I know about that, the more realistic I can make the ships of my creation.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be an expert of fully rigged ships after this book is finished. And I doubt I’ll ever try my hand at sailing even the smallest of sailed craft. That actually sounds terrifying to me. But, I will be able to name the parts of a ship with clarity and confidence.

Watch out Jeopardy! I’ll wreck that ship category when the time comes!

(See what I did there? Wreck? Ship? Hah!)

 

aeroponics-vs-hydroponics

I have only the slightest idea of what any of this means…

Another big research topic I’ll be doing soon is Aeroponics versus Hydroponics. These people have food, both plant-based and livestock, which means they grow crops. How? What’s their nutrition like? Their livestock’s nutrition? These are questions that need answered.

Not because they’re vital to the plot. They aren’t. At no point does a potentially under-nourished cow play a critical role in freeing this society from its oppressors. But, if I can lay the foundation of my own understanding, I can address any questions that might come up.

For instance, now that I think about it, goats are a far more believable protein source than cows. They’re way more versatile eaters and take up less space, while providing milk, cheese, meat, and hide.

Goats.jpg

Who doesn’t love goats? Look at ’em!

But, if you haven’t noticed by now, the research spiral can be a dangerous thing. I think it’s why I’ve avoided it so far. Because questions only lead to more questions, and I have a tendency to want them all answered.

Let me tell you now, that is not necessary. You don’t have to answer every single question. Because ultimately you just need enough truth to wrinkle out any doubt from your manuscript.

Of course, it’s not a bad thing to do too much research. You just have to recognize when to rein it in and bring your focus back to what really matters: the manuscript.

So, I’m spending a lot of time doing research this round of edits. But, I still feel hopeful about an August finish. I think this round of edits will go by faster because there’s a lot of content creation happening. That’s way more interesting than going through line for line and reworking things.

But, all this content creation means I’ll probably have to do a fourth draft, to clean up the lines I’ve added in order to flesh everything out. Bummer. I still want to have all of that done by August.

I’m going to need an endless supply of coffee and snacks.

 

BZ

 

Advertisements

Goals Summary wk. 6

Well, Blogland, can you believe it? We’re six weeks into the year already! I hope everyone is working hard and achieving all the things they wanted to this year!

I’m waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It smells great, and I can tell it’s just about time I grabbed a cup. I’m hoping sitting today and taking it easy will help a persistent ache in my lower back, but we’ll see.

So, goals. What did I want to do last week?

  • Write the Interlude for From the Quorum
    • This was planned as a short, 1k word snippet. Turned out to be a full blown chapter, wrapping up at 3,508 words.
  • Read both William Ritter novels
    • Success, with each of their reviews posted. Here, and here.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yeah, blew this one out of the water. Published 4 posts this past week. Not normal, but damn nice.
  • Read, plan, and start The Steel Armada edits
    • YES! I’m still reading through, and am currently on chapter 9. But, there aren’t any big plots gaps like last time, it seems I’ve fixed those. I found some areas that are weaker and fixed those, or added some small notes. But right now, things are looking pretty good!

So, that means…. I am in the black this Monday! All goals were achieved. All that red marker was erased and replaced with black. That feels really good.

What also feels good is a multiple tweet long conversation with Mike Brooks, the author of the Keiko series, thanking me for my review (you can read it here) and then discussing books we’re looking forward to this year.

mike-brooks-tweet

How did he find me?!

Talk about a great morning! And now I’m on my second cup of coffee. The sun’s out, the dog did some sunbathing, and suddenly I am all smiles despite the back pain.

So, what’s the plan for this week?

  • Write chapter 13 of From the Quorum
  • Finish Arcanum Unbounded
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits

I’m not 100% sure that chapter 13 will get finished this week. It could. Thursday could be very productive. I don’t know. But, right now it feels like a tall order.

I only have a few more stories in Arcanum Unbounded until that’s done. I’ve read a majority of them already, so I’m skipping around and reading the content that’s new to me. That includes the notes from Brandon at the end of each story, and the notes from the character Khriss at the introduction of each world. There’s a bit of new content, and it’s been a joy getting some more illumination on the Cosmere.

I’ve been consistent with my post publishing, and I doubt this week will see a change in that.

As for edits, I’m feeling really good about my progress there still. I sent the manuscript to a couple more friends to get some more varied feedback, and I think I have an email from my best friend who did a very detailed read and review. So, I have some new and forthcoming feedback to help me along.

My plan for now is to finish my read through, and then go back and flesh things out chapter by chapter, and address any concerns brought up by Beta readers. For the first time this project seems doable, and not so terrifying.

We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ll see you later this week Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Editing: What I’ve Learned

Blogland,

Today marks the start of the second round of edits for my first novel, The Steel Armada. It was supposed to be yesterday, but I spent over four hours on the phone catching up with my grandma. Sorry, not sorry. I love that lady, and I relish our time spent gabbing.

So, today then. This is something I’ve been working toward for a long time, in fits and starts. I started editing the rough draft on March 8th, 2014. I know because I always write the date at the top of each chapter when I dive in. I was six months into school then, and a few days into my new job at the library. I was working 60 hour work weeks.

So, understandably, I didn’t complete the edits on the final chapter until December 8th, 2015. It took almost two years to finish editing the rough draft. I wasn’t very committed to getting the thing done. It was something I did when I felt overwhelmed by school and life, and needed a quick escape.

This time around, I’ll be much more diligent and disciplined. I have a timeline, and the time to stick to it.

So, what’s my plan of attack? I’m not one hundred percent sure just yet. What I need to consider is what I learned from editing the first draft.

  1.  Editing is so much more than grammar and punctuation. I mean, these things are important, and I spent a lot of my editing time cleaning up lines by honing in on weak sentences and strengthening them. But, all the cleaning up and tightening doesn’t do much to help gaps in the plot, or under-developed worlds and characters.

    20170207_112314.jpg

    Page 1, Rough Draft and Second Draft

  2.  Rewriting is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how much I love a scene, if it doesn’t work, it does not work. In that case, things get cut and possibly replaced. There were some scenes that I had to try from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes that worked; more often than not it gave me clarity to re-approach the scene from the original point of view in a way that was more effective.
  3.  New content comes along. When there are gaps in the story, or characters who need fleshing out, new material is the answer. The rough draft is not the end of writing. It’s writing your novel within the structure you’ve already created, which I found fun and challenging. It’s like your novel is offering you writing prompts!
  4.  Have a support group! No matter how much time I spend away from this book, I can’t seem to get quite enough distance to diagnose the draft one hundred percent. And I think that’s normal. This is something I made. 181 printed pages of my imagination. It is a part of me, no matter how long I try and ignore it. These characters are part of me, this world is part of me, and these happenings are mine. Having outside opinions helps me peer through all that unavoidable bias, and give me an ego boost when I’m swimming in writerly loathing.
  5.  There’s always more work to be done. This is the hardest one, for me. It’s hard to want to keep editing, to keep plowing on, when I keep finding things that aren’t perfect. When I called the rough draft complete, and officially started referring to it as “Draft #2”, it was bittersweet. I was proud of the work I’d accomplished, and the changes between drafts were pretty dramatic, but I knew that there were mountains yet left to climb. And deep down, I don’t know if I’ll ever cease discovering new peaks. I don’t know when to call it “done”. I’m hoping I’ll just magically know when the time comes.
20170207_112457

Final page, Rough Draft and Second Draft

There’s always more work to be done… That is the truth. So, what are my goals for Draft #2?

  • World building. This world has all the potential to be something great. But, The Steel Armada was my first attempt at Fantasy, and it shows. Since writing this book, I’ve written another Fantasy manuscript, am half way through another, and wrote four Fantasy short stories for publication. Not to mention the mountains of reading I’ve done. My ability to build worlds is growing every day, and it’s time to flex that muscle in Val’s world.
  • Character development. These characters aren’t bad. A couple of them are even well-drawn and fleshed out. But there are quite a few that fall flat for me. There’s more to them, and I need to give them the time they deserve. It will only help.
  • Tone. I know what this story is about. I know where the plot leads and that there’s a pretty political overtone. But that’s not consistent through the novel. That needs fixed.
  • Completion. I want to get this novel to a place where I am content to let it rest. I want to feel good about this book. Confident. Proud that I can call it my first book. Willing to query an agent with it. That’s the real goal of this round of edits.

That’s where I am, heading back into editing. These are the things I’ve learned, and the things I want to accomplish. I’m nervous, and excited. Getting The Steel Armada into a “final draft” means I’ll be free to start editing Cards, and I am dying to do that. But, I’ve been stalwart this entire time. I refuse to start editing the next manuscript until this one’s done. I won’t break now.

No. Now the real work begins. Again.

 

BZ

In Which the Thing is Sent

Humans and Blogbots, gather ’round, for I have a tale to tell.

Tonight, I took a daring plunge into writerdom by sending my first ever query letter!

The joyous jitters coupled with a simultaneous wave of nervous nausea at clicking the “send” button was a very intriguing sensation. I’m freezing, mainly because the apartment is really cold right now, partly because I’ve been up for the better part of 17 hours, and because of the uncontrolled nervousness rolling through me.

But, I’m exhilarated. I just did this crazy thing, something I kept thinking of as far away. Something for someday. And then, through some research and encouragement from my friends and family, I figured, why shouldn’t someday start today?

Well, I figured that a month ago, when I set out to write the query letter, but I had to perfect the letter and really hammer out those edits before I’d feel all right with querying anybody.

But, someday is here and it’s now!

And in the spirit of seizing the day, I’ve sent the manuscript out to my wonderful Beta readers! I’m not sure they realize what they’re in for, but I appreciate their willingness nonetheless.

Anyway, I just wanted to swoop in and write to you all  while the adrenaline was pumping. I look forward to sharing all the nerves, joys, and absolute despair of querying and editing with you  in the weeks to come.

Talk to you soon,

 

BZ

Coping with Non-Writing

Hello, Blogland!

I found some spare time and thought I’d come talk at ya!

It’s an iconically cloudy day here in Salem, and it’s frigid. I’m sitting inside Starbucks with my coat on, because my thin desert blood can’t even.

I’ve been nose deep in homework the last two days, and the days before that were two magical ones spent in Portland with my husband, watching two mind-blowing performances. We saw Hozier (of “Take Me to Church” fame) and MS MR (best known for their single “Hurricane”).

But, Trevor and I were more than happy to be home these last two days. Portland is exhausting. It’s frantic and stressed. My poor introverted sensibilities were frayed by the time we came home Wednesday night.

Let’s see, I finished Moving Mars finally. I’m sad that it took me so long, especially since it was so enjoyable. I’m on to rereading the Wayne and Wax books, which is always a welcome diversion. Also, look out for an Alloy book review this time, since I haven’t read it since I’ve started reviewing!

Registration for spring is on Tuesday, and I’ve got my classes all lined up. One of them is a “Writing Science Fiction” course, and I am absolutely giddy about it. I haven’t had a creative writing course since 2012, and I miss it. A lot.

I’m in the final push for meeting my reading goal this year. My original goal was 30, which I passed about 8 books ago. I upped the goal to 45, and should hit 47 or 48 by the New Year. But, if I slack off at all, I could miss it, so I must keep vigilant. Mad-Eye Moody style.

I’ve got Cards on the brain, which is bad. It’s not time yet. Vessels is so close to being in the second draft that I can’t give up now. I still want to have the second draft ready to print by the New Year, but I acknowledge that I might fall a bit behind schedule there. I will not start Cards edits until Vessels is in the third draft. Which means it could be another year before I look at Cards again…

School really got in the way of my writing plans. But, it’s worth it. I know that, and I have to repeat it like the mantra it is. Because it is oh, so tempting to put classwork aside and start editing and writing again.

Which is why this writing class is going to be so perfect. Because all this literary analysis is making me crazy. I can feel the writing itch, like a fuzzy scraping on the edges of my brain. And my nerves are worn. I’m not as close to burnout as I was a few months ago, and this week especially was rather healing, but I’m still not right. Without writing, a part of me feels like I’m on hold. Forever doomed to listen to elevator music in my mind.
nonwriting

But, the end is in sight. This time next year I will be back into the writing swing. I’ll have free time to pursue all my writing and editing dreams, with a shiny new degree hanging on my wall.

Because, remember, it’s worth it.

Anyway, I’ve got to grab a small lunch and head to work. I should see you in a couple of days with a new book review! Until then, have a great weekend Blogland!

BZ