Knee Deep In The Edits

6 02 2012

One thing about editing is that it always takes a bit to talk yourself into starting, but when you get going it turns into a challenge that you give yourself on how much tighter you can make your prose.

I’ve had a good few months away from the intensive writing on the first draft of this and I’m doing an editing pass before doing a second draft. The space away from it has given me a little emotional distance and that makes it easier to find the words that don’t need to be there and the parts that don’t add to the overall story arc. Very few parts are escaping being touched, as you can see from the screenshot below.

I know the font is a little odd, but I find that American Typewriter seems to be easier on my eyes than Helvetica or Times New Roman for long periods of time. The rounded curves and close together letters of them seem to bleed together a lot more the longer I’m staring at the screen.
I also find that I can’t edit if I’ve got music going with words or even a lot of tempo changes. It distracts me from what I’m doing. I’ve found the perfect editing accompaniment for me is….the sound of a spaceship idling. Really. Someone out there on the internet put up a file on you tube of the ambient engine noise off of Star Trek TNG, or as I called it to my friend Shae, a white noise machine for geeks.
I also took part in my first Google+ hangout, with a few other writers, about editing for ourselves and others. It was interesting to see and hear how others do it and I learned a few tips that will help me on my way. If you haven’t already checked out Google+, give it a try. There are a lot of authors, writers and those aspiring to be on there and you can cultivate some great circles on there of people who post great content and take part in some great discussions.

Friday Fun!

30 09 2011

For you lucky people that work a Monday to Friday job, something to start off your weekend on a light note. For those of us that have to work on the weekend, something to make us smile through it.

Don’t think grammer and punctuation can be interesting? I happen to have proof that Grammar is a little bit of a slut and Punctuation practices cannibalism!

*picture from *

The hussy!

And now, how Punctuation kills.

*picture from *

Practice safe commas! The life you save may be your own!

picture from * *

Hmmm, looks like the comma gets around too. Oh dear!

Have a great weekend!

About Time I Dusted Off My Blogging Boots

27 09 2011

Wow, it’s hard to believe that I haven’t posted on here since the
middle of May.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have. I’ve finished a
60,000 word manuscript in that time and a few smaller pieces as well. The
manuscript is still in its rough form right now, needing rewrite and editing,
but I’m very happy with how the first draft came out. I used the opportunity of
a Big Bang to get the idea out of my head and onto the screen and it was a
great way of exploring what parts of the plot were going to work and what were
not and now when I’m working on my second draft of this, I’ll have a better
idea what things will need to be revised and refined.

In August I accepted a new job and it’s been an interesting month
and a bit learning the ropes and remembering a lot of the technical knowledge
of a computer that I’d not used for a while. It’s been a struggle and at times
overwhelming to say the least, but I’ve finally turned the corner on it and no
longer want to stab things. Now that the major stress of settling into a new
job is ebbing, I’m slowly starting to hear mumblings from different characters
I’d sent running for the hills in all the chaos.

With September rolling around, I’ve also started taking some
classes online to get certification as a Technical Writer. I’ve been doing
various forms of it in my previous jobs for years, but I’m finally making the
time to get myself the paper that documents the skills I already have. It’s
been busy trying to fit that in with working full time in a city an hour and a
half away from my house. I stay with my mother when I’m working and on my days off
I’ve been going back into my house and packing it up. Once it’s emptied, I’ll
go through and do all the fixing that’s needed to sell and hopefully will have
more free time.

It’s been so long since I’ve had some that I practically forget
what it looks like.

Luckily my first course finishes at the end of October, so I’ll be
able to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. It was a great exercise in perseverance
and discipline last year and I’m hoping to use the month to finish up a lot of
projects that I have out there that need finishing, so I can work on new things
from here on out.

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo before, you can check it out at they have great
resources and are a great cheerleading team to help you reach your goal during
the month.

*picture from nanowrimo website*

First Rejection Out of the Way

12 04 2011

Yesterday I heard back from the publisher I’d sent out my novella to and they took a pass on it. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. If you’re going to try writing to publish, you’re going to get rejection. And I knew going in that this story may not work on its own as a novella, it’s probably going to work better as part of an anthology, so that’s going to be the next step in its evolution. I had to try to see if it could be published on its own first, just to see if maybe it would work.

Bait is a little creepy and I knew it may not work as a mainstream work, so now I’m looking over Halloween anthology calls for submissions, to see what would be the best fit. We’ll see.

I remember reading in Stephen King’s On Writing, which is one of my favorite books on writing and he describes about impaling his rejection letters on a spike on his wall and when it became full, using another one. So really, one is not a big deal, especially when I figured it was coming.

It doesn’t mean you don’t start questioning yourself, your writing and whether you can actually write well. But, I’ve been writing long enough and been reading books on writing for too many years to let me talk myself out of continuing. Even if I never get published, I’ll still write. This rejection is just one of the milestones when you try to write for more than yourself.

And now, back to work. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned from all the things that have happened in my life, both good and bad, is that you have to keep going to get through it or get it done.

“Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.  They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties.”- Bonnie Friedman

Editing done! Now On to Geekier Things.

13 03 2011

The editing of Shae Connor’s first novel, or at least my part of it, is done! I had a goal to get it done this weekend and I finished in the wee hours of this morning. \o/ It’s a great read and I can’t wait for it to be accepted and released by a publisher.

Now it’s time for a little geek out. I’ve had people ask me what I use, tech-wise while writing, so I thought I’d put it here as a clearinghouse of geekery.

So, it’s no secret that I’m a tech geek. I outright say so in any bio anywhere online. I grew up with a father that was a Systems Analyst back in the days of punchcards and the Vic 20 computer. I remember how excited we were when we “upgraded” to the Commodore 64. In fact, I think I still have the Commodore 64 in my basement as we speak.

I’m almost sure I learned to type before I learned to write cursive. It would explain a whole heck of a lot about the state of my handwriting, come to think of it. I’m going to give you a rum down of the things that I use on an everyday basis when I’m writing and who knows, maybe you’ll find something that helps you out too.

Researching, Storyline Ideas and Storyline Brainstorming.

Evernote: (free and works on anything)

I call Evernote my external brain. It’s a cloud (online) based program that you can use for making notes, clipping web pages, leaving yourself video or audio messgages, and even email in notes to yourself.

I’ve been using it almost since it started and use it to clip pages from websites that I use for research for my story and it automatically keeps the website address there, so I can find it again. I use it to keep notes on story ideas, right from the one line of a thought, the expanding of the kernel to a storyline, to a chapter by chapter outline that I go by while writing the first draft.

You can organize everything into notebooks and also tag them with keywords, so when you’ve hit a wall in a story and you remembered a plot idea you had about an 8 foot ball of string, you put in keyword string and there is your note. My suggestion is start with the tags from your first note and keep consistent with them. It will save you so much time in the long run.

I’ve introduced it to writers. and non-writers alike, and everyone I’ve introduced it to uses it on an almost daily basis. I have a friend that uses it to take pictures of things she’s comparison shopping for, she can take a picture with her phone, puts the store, the price and  tags it for easy reference and uses it to shop. I use it for beyond writing as well, taking pics of the labels of my favorite wines with my iPhone and instead of trying to explain what I want to the person at the liquor store, I just pull up the picture of the label and say “Do you have this?”

You can add it to your computer, your smart phone and tablet as well, so no matter where you go, or what you have with you, you have access to your content. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you have a great idea for a storyline and you can make sure that every one of your devices has it , you’ll be loving it as much as I do.

The Writing Process

Beyond word processing programs, there are programs I use to help while I’m writing.

The first is MindNode (free, but Mac only)

I use this program to map out relationships in what I’m writing. I start with the central character and work the relationships out like branches from that trunk. If you’re writing a very involved storyline with lots of interactions and inter-relationships between characters, this will stop you from losing your mind, or having to go back in what you’re writing to find a name you can’t recall by finding the last scene you wrote for them. You can lose hours that way. You could also map storylines this way, keeping a chronological listing of events. I prefer more text based layouts for that, but it could definitely work for those that are more visual based.

iA Writer

When I’m writing, I’m horrible about getting distracted by other things. I have a mild case of ADD, the predominantly inattentive type, and sometimes it’s incredibly hard for me to sit down and concentrate on writing. This is a program that I love, because it’s been designed from the ground up to help you concentrate and focus just on your writing. Everything about it has been engineered with writers in mind. They have their own touch keyboard in the app that has all the most used keys right there for you, buttons that let you position your curser before or after a word, so you’re not stabbing at the screen trying to fix one letter in a word without erasing the whole thing.

It has two modes on it, the regular mode that gives the upper half of the iPad’s screen real estate to what you’ve written and the keyboard the bottom half, then you have focus mode, which blurs out everything you’ve written, except for the last three lines. It makes you focus on being in the moment and your eyes aren’t going upward looking for typos or distracting yourself with thoughts of maybe rewording that sentence two paragraphs ago that could be tightened up a little. It’s simple and ingenious, even the font that the program uses has been specially made for the program to give the crispest, easiest to read letters.

There are not a lot of bells and whistles on the program and they’ve specifically made it this way. You have word count, estimated reading time and if you’re inside your document, it will tell you what the estimated reading time your cursor is at. They consulted a lot of writers when they were making the program and it shows. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Can you tell I love Writer? I’ve also heard from their twitter feed that a Mac version is coming in the next few weeks. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

I used my iPad and this program for a week in NYC and managed to get a surprising amount of writing done, considering I had no laptop with me and at least 10 other people around at all times. It comes down to this. If you have an iPad and you write, this should be one of the first apps you get.

Backing Up Your Work

If you only take one thing from this blog post, let it be this section. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever have your work saved in just one place. You do not want to reconstruct all of your work on a novel from scratch. It’s not fun and will more than likely have you just giving up rather than starting over. I have four different places, besides my hard drive, that my work is backed up to.

The easiest way is to have an external hard drive. Make sure that you’re getting a brand name though. I made that mistake the first time and didn’t go with a known name and all of a sudden my external drive just stopped working. I lost files I’ll never get back, since it conked out in the midst of one laptop dying and getting another loaded up.  This started the multiple streams of saving my stuff.

Thumb drives are great. I have several of them and have them labelled for different purposes. One for back up of writing, another for work I’ve edited for other people, and more for picture back ups. They’re easy to throw in your bag when you’re travelling, so you have a mobile back up of any files you use while travelling that doesn’t need the internet or a subscription to a cloud service.

For those counting along at home, that’s 2 back ups that are not my hard drive.

The third and fourth ways are my iDisk through Mobile Me and Dropbox. and These are both online or ‘cloud’ based ways of saving things, this way if every other means of backing up fails, if you have access to the internet, you can get your files back. It also means that I can write a chapter on my laptop one night, edit on my iPad in a cafe during lunch, think of a new scene and write it on my phone while waiting in line at the grocery store  and all of it’s pulled from the cloud and automatically updated no matter which device I access it from. Even if everything else blows up, back up-wise, as long as the internet stands, I’m good. If the internet breaks, I think we have bigger problems than whether I can access my last chapter. =)

So, there you have it. Geek-out over. There is all my geekery and gadgetry that I use on almost a daily basis when I’m writing. Hopefully you learned of a new service or program, or if I’ve completely not mentioned something that you think I’d use, let me know.

Switching Hats.

9 03 2011

Now that my novella submission is off to the publisher, it’s time for me to switch hats to editing mode.

My friend, Shae Connor, has written her first novel length romance.  I’ve been a first reader for it, and now I’m doing one of the last edits. It’s a completely different mindset from writing. I’m finding I have to stop myself from changing word order a lot. There is nothing wrong with the way it’s ordered, it’s fine the way it is, it’s just not the way I’d word it.

That’s the unsung skill set of the editor isn’t it? Unless it’s going to clarify or add something to the narrative, you can’t impose your phrasing on it. It needs to sound like the author, not me. Now that I’ve acknowledged that, hopefully it will fade to the background in my mind.

It was  gray, drizzly and dark day today, though brightened considerably by a delivery. Books! Two of the books I ordered online from Indigo/Chapters online came today. Stein on Writing and Story Engineering While I do most of my reading in ebook form these days, I make an exception for books on writing, or reference books in general. There is a comfort in being able to note, flag and highlight the things that speak to me and that’s something that I don’t get from doing those things in digital form yet.

There is something to be said for being able to hold the physical book in your hand for reference. See Big Name Publishers? I buy actual books too. I’m also not murdering kittens because I consume ebooks.

It seems the publishers are slooooowly getting up to speed with that. I was watching the iPad 2 announcement last week and one of the first things they announced was the iBooks update and 100 Million books have been downloaded and Random House has finally been added to the iBook store.

Now if only the publishing industry as a whole would realize that the 100 million ebooks is  great thing.  People are reading and that can only do good things for the publishing industry. Love or hate the iPad, it makes purchasing the ebooks very easy and more of an impulse purchase than having to go to a physical bookstore. It’s something that Apple is very good at, making it an easy end-user experience to purchase content. They did it for music, they’re doing it for books and next up looks to be magazines.

I’m hoping with the recent release of the subscription model information that we’ll get more magazine content from the iPad from both mainstream and under appreciated zines that are out there and hard to find in the physical world.  You know, once the publishers have another freak out about how Apple is going to kill their industry. Again.

Speaking as and end user on this, just wake me up when the cat fight is over and I can subscribe to the magazines I want. Until then, all I’m going to hear is the trombone teachers voice from the Peanuts cartoons.

Reading on the iPad