Revision: God’s Work, or the Devil’s?

We had a lovely warm day on Saturday, and I got out the lounge chair to do a bit of sunbathing. Jackson elected to go with the package deal: sunbathing AND affection. He leads a pretty good life. Good thing I’m not concerned about my tan lines!

Otherwise I’m deep into revising THE FIERY CITADEL, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, the first two books in my Forgotten Empires trilogy. This is the series – totally new world and characters! – that I’m doing with St. Martin’s Press. I turned in the draft of book 2 in April and my editor, Jennie Conway, sent developmental edits back to me while I was at Nebula Conference. She’s a terrifically insightful editor and gave me great feedback on tweaking the story. That’s a primary reason to go with traditional publishing, if all goes right (and some of this depends on having a good agent and serendipity), then you get to work with a fantastic editor who really brings out the best in your work and helps you to grow and move the story into the next level.

But… you know what they say: growth is painful.

I’m one of those writers who loves drafting. I used to say I hated revising – and I did – but now my feelings aren’t so strong. I don’t love it as much as the freefall rush of drafting, but it feels like good, necessary work now. Some of that is working with a good editor.

I used to have a critique partner who was the opposite of me: she *loved* revising. She called it “God’s work.” For me, revising always felt like fixing the mistakes I shouldn’t have made the first time. I’d tell her she had the wrong deity.

What’s funny is, now that I’m writing full-time – and theoretically have more bandwidth, hours, and concentration for my stories – I’ve become less demanding of myself that way. I no longer regard revising as “fixing mistakes,” but as part of the process. If we compare sculpting to writing, then my first drafts now are the rough of the figure with the surrounding marble chiseled away. The figure is recognizable, perhaps even showable, depending on your standards. In the revision stage, however, is when I bring out the shadows and highlights, when I polish the features so they have the perfect expression. I layer in the surrounding details, giving the figure context and deeper meaning.

Huh. Kind of does sound like God’s work.

Certain Social Standards and Choosing the Happy

My two boys, enjoying the new recliners and the lovely sunlight of a winter afternoon. I feel sure if Jackson could make his recline, too, he would. 

 

The recliners were a Christmas gift for David. The family all pitched in and we replaced the couch with them. There’s the Before and After. We actually ended up keeping the couch and moving it to another room, which entailed moving stuff from THAT room to an entirely different room, which meant moving the dresser into the closet, and the Big Closet Reorganization, that you may have seen me posting about the last few days. (Mostly on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s a pic here, too.) 

It’s funny because, when I saw Megan Mulry Monday night (we saw The Favourite and had dinner after – if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie, you can listen here), I showed her the pics of the rearrangement. She’s house-sat for us before, so she was familiar with the previous set up. She agreed the recliners were a great idea – so much easier to swivel to watch movies, so comfy! – and then asked what I’d do about the fact that I have two other armchairs on the other side of the room. I started laughing and said, “Nothing! I’m leaving it as is, but my mother said the SAME THING.” So Megan starts laughing, too, saying “Omigod, me and your mom.” (Who she’s met and they enjoy each other.) And I said, “Yeah, my mom said, ‘but you can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair.'” Megan is still snorting into her beer, and says, “I know – like a meeting!”

I suppose I could put a conference table in the middle… 

The thing is – and this is part of why Megan was laughing, because our mothers are very much alike, with Certain Social Standards – the reason I “can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair” because “it looks like a meeting,” is a consideration for entertaining. That’s what Certain Social Standards are all about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m very glad that my mother taught me the social skills she did. I know a lot about entertaining and putting events together, skills that have come in very useful in my corporate work, my career as an author, and in my volunteer work for organizations like SFWA and RWA. Social skills are critical for careers of all kinds, even largely isolated ones like being a writer. My podcast on Friday has engendered a lot of conversation on the etiquette of thanking authors who provide blurbs. 

But in this case, I draw a line, because David and I very rarely entertain. I do not host the Junior League meetings in my house, nor the Bridge Club. We occasionally have parties, though less often than we used to, mostly because it’s so much effort, but even then we have them outside whenever possible. When we do have a dinner party, we move everything around anyway. So why would we arrange our home with an eye toward having OTHER people like it?

I work from home. David is home a great deal, as he has irregular hours. We have a very pretty house with incredible views that we worked hard and dreamed long to acquire. It’s a place of peace and delight to us – so we set up the furniture in a way that adds to our relaxation and pleasure. 

I think this speaks to a larger point of why we make the choices we do. How many of our choices are made to please other people, or to meet their expectations? How often do we make a conscious choice to go against Certain Social Standards and instead do the thing that people might laugh at, but that makes us happy?

Something to ponder. 

 

 

Increasing Word Count and Training for #NaNoWriMo

I had a bit of a SNAFU with the podcast this morning, but since I talked about #NaNoWriMo – and this post from 2014 – I thought I’d reprise it here. I’ll podcast tomorrow with the same thoughts!

***

This seemed like an appropriate photo for the topic of the new week – Managing Your Time: If You’ve a Deadline, You’ve a Schedule. How Do You Get Back On Track When Your Schedule Goes To Crap?

I’m in this place right now, getting back on track on a number of levels. My schedule didn’t really go to crap. But I did take a huge step back in September and now, it’s turned out, a good portion of October. It’s been deliberate in some ways and very likely much needed. Also weird.

See, in August I wrote 68,050. The most I’ve ever done in one month. It was a lot for me. More, that followed a straight run since the previous August when I wrote at least 41,000 words every month. In 2013 I wrote just over 497,000 words and so far for 2014, I’ve written 455,000. To do the math for you, that means I’ll likely have somewhere around 550,000 by December 31.

Once I get back on track, that is.

Because, in September, I only wrote 22,402. So far, for October I have 16,831. These are my two lowest word count months since May of 2013. I haven’t been doing nothing, precisely. I edited the novel that comes out in January, Under His Touch – developmental edits up through proofreading – and developmental edits on The Talon of the Hawk, which took a lot of focus, though a minimal additional word count. I worked up a proposal for three more Twelve Kingdoms books and started the first in the concept for another contemporary romance series. There’s been a lot of promo with the release of Rogue’s Paradise in September and preparing for The Tears of the Rosein November.

But I haven’t been doing much drafting. Which takes a whole other muscle.

Speaking of muscles, I was also sick in September. Some kind of low-level respiratory crud that nevertheless laid me low for several weeks. I got behind in exercising, too. Though managed to use the treadmill desk some every day, if only to keep my lymph flowing, I couldn’t run or lift weights. The treadmill served as a cat bed more than it moved. All of this was by way of necessary recovery. I truly believe that. I don’t have another book deadline until March 1. I haven’t gotten sick in a long time. It worked out okay for this to be my down time.

However, it’s now time to ramp up again and the question, the focus of our topic this week, is how do I do that?

I take my own advice. The sort I had the opportunity to hand out a couple of weeks ago when Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, visited our local chapter meeting, something I mentioned in last week’s post, too. One gal asked if Chris had advice on how to get going on writing those 1,667 words/day to make the 50K words/month that’s the NaNoWriMo goal. He said he didn’t so I offered mine. I told her that the temptation is to do the math exactly that way – to divide 50K by the 30 days of November and focus on achieving 1,667 words for each of those days. The problem with that approach is that writing that many words on the first day is akin to learning to run a marathon by going out and running ten miles right off the bat.

Yeah, you can probably do it, but you’ll feel the pain later.

In fact, you might be able to do it for a couple/three/four days – and then the crash occurs. Like my recovery time recently, it’s a natural sequel to going flat out.

Better, I told her, to treat it like that marathon training. Build up a little more every day. Stop before you’re tired, because that energy will translate to the next day. Consider setting up a schedule for NaNoWriMo like this:

1 100
2 200
3 300
4 400
5 500
6 750
7 1000
8 1250
9 1500
10 1750
11 2000
12 2000
13 2000
14 2000
15 2000
16 2100
17 2100
18 2100
19 2100
20 2100
21 2100
22 2200
23 2200
24 2200
25 2200
26 2200
27 2200
28 2200
29 2200
30 2200

By the end of November 30, you’d have 50,150 words. Best of all, by the time you’ve got yourself doing 2,200 words a day, it will feel very easy and natural. Because you’d be in shape for it.

This is what I need to do, to get myself back in shape. I’ve gotten back into running and weight-lifting, working my way back up to my previous levels. I’m tracking my treadmill desk miles, making sure I do a little more each week. I need to get back into drafting, but not to 2,200 words/day. Not right off, tempting as that is. I’m going to ramp up like this. Get the words flowing.

Back on track.