Friday, May 29, 2015

Vampy Black: Editing for Characters

"Is she an incompetent, clueless, or is she just overworked and careless?"

This was the subject of a heated discussion between Darthaniel and myself regarding an important secondary character in his Vampy Black project book that I am editing. I read the chapter and I initially came away with revulsion at this character's actions, and I frankly disliked her a great deal. Now, that is a good thing if we are supposed to hate this character, but there was a question in my mind if that is what Darthaniel wanted.

Sharing impressions is a very tough thing when you give feedback. I am normally pretty blunt and upfront about my feelings, and I understand that can cause friction. We did work through this, eventually, but it is always a tough thing to share your "coming away feelings" about something and separate that from the technical analysis. It's not that I want you to change anything, this is how I feel, and I need to know if that is what you expected readers to feel.

If not, then we have a problem with what was communicated with that chapter, and the impressions and "take away" is all wrong.

So I shared my feelings that this character could be so clueless and flippant about a seemingly important job for our putting-it-all-out-there main character. It made her seem petty, and also putting the main character at risk for her own vanity.

But that is how he wanted her. So yes, this character is putting our main character at risk, but the key point is - it is not being done purposefully. This character is troubled, stressed, inexperienced, and overworked, and that needed to come across without the reader leaving with a massively negative impression of her.

Mission accepted.

So that's how I started, I went back through and made sure the trouble spots were a bit more clear and shown to the reader. Enough was shown already, like her being flippant with a request the main character needed, but there wasn't enough other stuff to show that this character's personal life is truly a wreck and she can't deal with everything coming at her. It's one thing for someone not to pick up the phone at a critical moment, it's another if there are fifty things going on and she doesn't pick up the phone.

In the first case, the reader comes off with the impression that character is lazy and careless. There isn't much going on, so why didn't she pick up the phone? She must be a careless bitch, right?

In the second there is a ton of stuff happening, so we understand a little better why she didn't. We can relate to that, and we actually get a bit of sympathy for this character because her life is a lot like our busy ones nowadays. We are shown the hell this character puts herself or lives in, and we know how that is.

Like Johnny Depp, I need to immerse myself in the character to do meaningful work for them. I need to get inside that character's head, rather than just going by what I see. I need to become them for a while in order to edit the chapter, because I need to share that point-of-view. Even in third-person writing with a detached perspective, I need to be able to be inside the character for a while to get across that character's inner workings. This is the only way I can edit for a character and be true to who they are as a person, and then try to communicate that to the audience.

So I will grill the author, and in this case Darthaniel. I think we had a two-hour discussion on this character where I pulled out everything I need to know about this secondary character, and I began to understand what he had in mind for her. It was a bit difficult to get across my feelings that I did not like this character in the draft form, but we managed and we worked it out. Once I understood what he wanted, I was ready.

We did the read through last night and he loved the revised draft of this chapter. It captures his idea of the character perfectly, and it also addressed my concerns that readers may come away with a negative impression of her. It makes her a bit sympathetic, but it also raises the stakes for our main heroine because this supporting character is now on shaky ground and could make a serious mistake. The tension is raised, we don't come away with a negative impression, and we actually feel for this secondary character and understand her a little better.

Most importantly, nothing from the writer's original vision was changed.

I didn't want to change the character, only clear up a chance for a bad impression the writer may not have intended. I didn't want to change the story, only strengthen it. The author's intent is gold, and I helped pull that out and show the reader this character's troubles. This was a huge win for everybody, and we are both very happy with how this chapter came out.

This was an interesting experience, and one I though worth sharing with you all today. It involves the dynamics of working with people, differing visions and expectations of a chapter, and even different perceptions of the same words that we had to reconcile. What made this easy was identifying author intent, and sticking to that as a golden rule.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vampy Black: Supernatural Terror and Magic

It's fun writing supernatural terror.

Where the world starts to shift, senses shut down, and what was assumed safe is possibly now a deadly threat - if only in the character's mind.

I had a chance to edit a section in Darthaniel's Vampy Black book where our heroine meets the forces of darkness for the first time, and she has this strangely odd Lovecraftian moment where she needs to do something secret in plain sight of a large group of people, but a wicked force of dark magic starts to affect her senses.

It's the moment in the book where everything turns, and you realize Kansas ain't this place anymore.

What was once a normal scene of collecting information and fighting with a friend becomes a moment of sheer terror and strange feelings of death and fear. It's almost alien in a way and I love the effect it has on her. In all likelihood this is magic, evil magic, and this isn't that first-level Magic Missile spell anymore out of fantasy games. It's alien, strange, like some sort of unknown radiation affecting her, and it's terrifying.

I like my magic to be strange and unexplainable. We live in a world that robs us of the unexplained, the moments of confusion, and the mysterious. Everything is explained in some tech site somewhere, the specs are laid out for us to see, and every mystery is explained using CSI science and theory. Even today's pop-culture MMO and movie 'magic' is mundane, some sort of consequence-less superpower that instantly flicks a mana bolt at a level 60 ogre again and again with no mystery, no consequence, and no strange effect on reality.

Magic should inflict a sensed of fear and wonderment. It should not be explainable. It should challenge your assumptions about reality. It should underlie danger.

It should not be of this world.

Instead, pop-culture magic is like our iPhone, easily accessible, predictable, easy to use, powerful, and dare I say it, boring as hell. It's the flashy CG of seen-it-all movies. It's a light switch to flick and never think about. It's not magic anymore because it's not magical.

But...real magic. It is that moment you realize something is out there and likely more powerful than you, and you realize you have no hope of explaining what just happened. There is a fine line here with pulling wool over a reader's eyes, so you have to write it carefully and with some semblance of order. But that hopeless moment of terror where nothing you know can help you anymore - thrills us. It kicks off the roller coaster, and we as readers we love these moments. Things start to get flipped on their heads, and our expectations and minds race at the possibilities.

I wrote magic this way in my On Black Wings novel. Most of the things in that book aren't explained, and our heroine goes through so many jumps to try and explain something that is inherently unexplainable. It's all terrifying, uncontrolled, and also a metaphor for how out of control the world seems right now. Even her powers are a mystery, and how they work are never really understood down to a science. They remain strange and a force to fear, along with what happens to her on a moment's notice because of rules and laws our minds cannot comprehend.

It's a respect of the force "greater than us," and it puts magic back in its proper, mysterious place again. Magic becomes something greater than us, and that makes that strange and unknown force becomes...magical again.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Vampy Black: Mysteries, Pay Offs, and Build Up

I am almost done editing the 5,000 word long central chapter of Darthaniel's Vampy Black project, and this one is a key investigation scene that is key to the book. It was a heck of a chapter to edit, and we both love how it came out. We chose to emphasize our heroine's investigative abilities and put the focus on her as a participant and instigator, instead of someone who took in clues and internalized them, and the chapter is gripping and very entertaining.

In the end, the chapter broke up into a 1,200 word leading introduction to the scene that builds tension, and a 4,500 word chapter where the mysteries are laid out. That is still long, but I didn't want to break that up since the entire scene is the focus of the book and important to setting up the book's conflicts. I am still on the last thousand words and wrapping the chapter up, so there is still a bit of work to do later.

I haven't written mysteries in a while, and this rekindled my love of the genre. While we search for clues, there are a couple layers going on here with other characters, so this is not a one-dimensional "find Waldo" type of chapter. It works on a couple levels, and the character interplay is fascinating and intermixed with the investigation - and it also influences a big part of what happens. We have a struggle between two characters that is fascinating to watch, and I love how the two of these people play off each other with their conflicts and shared concerns.

Layers are fun to write. Letting readers see a character's incredible skills putting pieces together is also one of my loves. The readers of course should have every opportunity to put things together themselves, so there is a lot of setup required to do this correctly. You need to lay our pieces and mix them with the scene. You need to present information before it is needed. You need to write it all as naturally as possible without tipping people off, or hitting them with blindsided clues they knew nothing about.

You can't rob readers of the satisfaction of letting them figure it out before the character does, that is a big part of the fun of the mystery genre. If you blindside them with a clue nobody knew anything about, it takes the game away from the reader.

So good mysteries and clue collecting takes time. Clue collecting is also inherently boring to the reader unless you have some tension involved, and in this case we have a deep-seated tension running between our main characters. Things could go terribly wrong here with tragic consequences on both sides. There has to be something else going on, a ticking clock, a moral dilemma, or some sort of conflict.

The chapter of course looks nothing like what it was when we started, and I love it when a chapter gets turned on its head and the whole thing comes out better. I also love writers like Darthaniel who have the stomach and insight to help transform a chapter like this, and who also have great ideas to contribute when the reshuffling and rewriting is still going on. He is incredible with taking and giving feedback, and someone I love working with.

In away some of this is 'extreme editing' with the amount of reworking and improvement going on. This is one of those I will talk about long from now, a complete rebuild of a chapter into one I consider an incredible piece of work between an editoress and a engaged writer focused on improving the end product. I just love this sort of work, and I hope readers have that gut reaction to it that I love making happen.

More on this project soon, and work continues.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vampy Black: Cutting Down Monsters

I am still editing Darthaniel's Vampy Black project novel, and I am hitting a huge 5,000 word monster chapter today. I am cutting this one up into at least two or three chapters, as I dislike long-long chapters as both a reader and an editor.

I will blame MTV and shortened attention spans for this one, but there are some good points to this practice.

In a literary book, I don't mind long chapters if they are gripping and immersive, I will gladly lose myself in something deep. In an action or thriller book, I mind long chapters because you want to keep things fresh and paced snappily. There feels like too much information here, and I will either start cutting or dividing, and in this case, both.

Chapters provide a rest, a natural break where you invite the reader to put the book down and pick back up later. I want chapters in books with a quick, snappy pace to be shorter, and feel like they get to the point and deliver the next slice of action in a timely and concise manner.

Now in a book like a Stephen King novel, I don't mind longer chapters because you are wading through a sea of greatness. There's a trust there with established writers that allows them to write chapters however long they want, because we know it's going to be good, and we trust them to deliver on the long hauls.

With newer writers, and especially e-reader books, I feel the need to keep things punchy and short. We don't want to overload readers unless what we are writing is truly and unquestionably great, but the burden of chapter length runs against us as new writers. One of the big faults of writers is we tend to think everything we say, no matter how trivial and informative, is worth our reader's time.

This is the curse of hubris.

Of course everything we write is special! We are letting them look into our magical world, and every fact, no matter how trivial, should be treated as a treat and an honor that we shared it with dear reader! Even if the fact has nothing to do with the current situation, they should feel entertained and privileged that we chose to share out wit and majesty as a writer with them!

In reality, this is like laying out a wonderful dinner on the dining room table, and then covering every square inch around the food with chocolates and candy in case someone wants to have a sweet after dinner. Or during it. Or before it. What was once a beautiful spread of food and delicious presentation becomes a travesty of culinary disasters, and the entire spread looks garish and the candy and treats take away from the food's presence. It's too much food, unfocused, and now none of it goes together.

Clear the table, put the candy away for Halloween, and just put dinner out. That's all your guests want. This is what they will remember the night by. Just the food, not the flourish, and certainly not all the extra treats you laid out for them because you fear you would be a lousy hostess if you hadn't.

It's fear again, isn't it? The fear our readers will not like us. It's the same fear that drives our addictions to adverbs and alcohol. We need to put treats and random factoids out because we fear readers 'won't get it' or feel what's there is sparse. Guess what, if it was sparse before, it will be sparse with any amount of empty calories added to it.

Also, we feel the need to load up the table with the great stuff. Why not have a roast, and a turkey? Let's put a ham on there as well! Longer chapters are better, right? Let's make every side dish we can imagine, and put one on every square inch of empty tablecloth.

Same problem. We fear our gusts won't enjoy what we serve, so we give up and serve everything. Everything we make is special and we expect everyone to enjoy everything we create, right?

Instead of a focused meal where everything goes together, we give up and take our guests to a buffet. There's a time and a place for that, but not when we are trying to deliver a dinner we want people to remember. So again, it's fear.

Our guests wanted turkey and stuffing, with yams and potatoes. They expect corn and cranberry sauce. The hamburgers sitting on the table are great, but they don't belong, and they distract from the meal. So take them away. Let's just deliver what the people came to see. There's plenty of room within what we are cooking up to deliver our signature style, presentation, and express ourselves within what we do.

Don't let that fear that people won't like you control your writing. You are a great writer, with plenty to say. People will like anything you make. But don't overload their plates. Promise to deliver what you are going to deliver, and serve them just that.

Save the other ideas for another meal, and another book.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Vampy Black: Editing Continues

I am back at editing Darthaniel's urban fantasy vampire thriller book today, and I just finished a great chapter. It isn't action or fighting or anything else like that, just a 'going home' scene that turned out to be critical for character development in many more ways than I expected.

Normally, I would say 'cut out the nonessentials' and get rid of it for more vampy-sexy investigation, but we got to share some incredible character building time with two of the central characters here that I cannot leave on the editing room floor.

Like a good pastry dough, a story gets better the more you fold in layers and the more you work it. I went through this chapter and did my usual clean-up, but I found a lot of places I could hide secrets, show character through environment, and give some meaningful interaction between two characters that gives you a feeling of why you should care.

Secrets? Yes, I hide secrets in things the read has to pull out by being attentive and careful. Knowing what I know about the book and the series, there are things characters do that they don't immediately explain that should key you off to character motivations or even foreshadow major plot elements.

But more importantly, why should you care? This chapter gives you a slight breather and answers that question. It also kicks off a very hot romance that stays within the boundaries Darthaniel has set, but it managed to turn a flame on in me to 'ship' these two characters in a major way. So there is  another layer, another subtext, and the tension ratchets up a couple more notches.

I like romance, and for those who know me, they know I can push limits and characters right where I want them to go.

The fun thing is we did a read-through today and Darthaniel approved most every change so far. He is a great writer to work with and he understands the collaborative nature of how I work with writers. His dialog is wonderful, and it is a joy to work action and narrative around. He has this sharp, movie-like tone that I love working with, most all of the dialog is unchanged, and a lot of the work I do is in support and detail surrounding dialog.

My methodology is to keep the essential action, dialog, and flow to the story and keep those sacred. Where I work is in narration, detail, showing/telling, and the fundamentals of story and flow. I get to put some artsy flourishes that aren't too purpley every so often as well, so a bit of my style inevitably creeps in.

We are at about 40,000 words for this book, and I am moving on to chapter six. My editing passes typically add 10-20% to a book's length, so this could push 45-50,000 words soon and be a full-length novel. It is wonderful to have a writer that trusts you that much to make significant edits and approve them, and I am honored to work with him so much.

Look for this soon, I know Darthaniel is working on the cover, and it is great to be working with another writer as an editoress again. More news soon, stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Love vs. Hate


It's all too precious a resource, and at times it is easy to think the world is running out.

Like air, we need love to live.

Like air, we need to share it with everyone else.

It's so easy to hate. It's so easy to spread. It's so easy to fire off a backhanded insult and walk away, leaving a crater of emotional damage and silent regrets.

Love is hard. Hate is easy.

Love takes bravery.

Hate is for cowards.

Yet, I see people selling hate and fear everyday. And we keep buying it. Insecurity, fear, prejudice, and envy are all worth big money. Just look at commercials blasting messages that we are somehow sick and we need this pill or we will die. News networks that are 24-7 breaking news alerts, endlessly, day after day, making you panic at the bass drum roll and hallowed bell toll because...a celebrity said something stupid in Hollywood.

And then the adrenaline subsides, but it stay with us like the poison of too much sugar in our foods. Until the next commercial comes on that strips away our securities, or the next news alert that rings the death bell and sounds the gallows drum roll because a new taco came out at some fast food restaurant.

The lesson? You can take hate and fear to the bank. It works.

But that adrenaline rush from the hate or the fear they sell us lingers. Like too much sugar in our diet, it stays in our system for a long time. We become addicted to it. It raises our blood pressure point by point as it builds. It drains our energy. It's not natural. Fear and hate are poison to us, and the slow tick of each moment of anger or heartbeat of fear builds up in us as we feel less in control every day.

Am I going to wrap this up with a slogan or a simple answer that makes you feel good? I can't. It would be dishonest to end this by saying, "Love will make everything better!" and let you go back to your normal life with a warm feeling. Because this doesn't end here. Hate doesn't end here.

It ends with us.

It ends with you.

It ends with a struggle not unlike mankind's decision to go to the moon, or to beat cancer, or to end hunger. This is an everyday fight for every day for the rest of your life sort of thing. It's a conscious decision by every one of us to refuse to add another drop of hate into that toxic ocean that pervades our world, with every moment hate offers us to, with every heartbeat fear takes from us - we must stand strong and refuse to let one drop of hate go back into this world.

Never let that drop of hateful blood sail free into that great ocean of misery and tears.

It means holding back. I told you this was hard, but changing our ways for the better of everyone always is. You'll need to show us how brave and strong you are every day by refusing to participate in the shared madness of maniac culture.

Recycle your hate, compost it into love.

Turn away. Turn negative energy into positive energy. Ignore being drawn into a fight. Spread love and understanding. Let others be. Respect opinions. Be constructive.


Feel those drops of adrenaline subside. Feel how much better your life becomes by denying anger and fear. Notice how calm you become, no matter what happens in your life. You become slowly immune, and your outlook and health improve.


If anything, do this for yourself.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Note 10.1 Down, Time to Change

So my 3 year-old Galaxy Note 10.1 (white) bit the dust last weekend and I am in the market for a new tablet. It is not under warranty anymore, so I am debating the cost of repair versus the cost of a upgrade to something more modern.

I am not a fan of the strangely low-res 1280x800 screen, and the processor feels barely enough to keep up with the stylus. I like the stylus, but for drawing the line lags behind the pen enough that I would think twice about using this as a serious artistic tablet. The on-screen buttons are also something I don't like, I have had that on-screen home and back navigation bar totally disappear on me several times, plus it eats away at the already low vertical resolution of the device. Samsung's version of Android also takes a lot of space and I never use many of the functions it provides, so I question the utility of it and the space and speed it takes from my cramped 16GB user experience. Plus, updates for this device have been so slow.

Likes? I liked the micro SD-card storage. I liked the front-facing speakers. I liked the thin form factor and light weight. I liked the stylus. It traveled very well, and battery life was good.

I am not considering upgrading to a future Samsung because of the extra-on-top of bloat and lack of updates for this tablet. My user experience has been just average when I expect great. Mind you, there are some nice tablets in Samsung's line-up, the 2014 10.1 pro with that drop-dead gorgeous screen, and I had actually considered the Note Pro 12" tablet once as a productivity device. Given the slow updates and problems I had with Samsung tablets, I don't feel I am in the market for another.

As an aside, I like a Chromebook's multi-user mode, and not all Samsung tablets support this feature. I like keeping separate accounts for work and personal matters, so logging in as a 'work' user and 'personal' user appeal to me greatly. If I go Android, it is going to be with a pure Android 5.0 tablet with Micro-SD. I like my Samsung Chromebook 2, it is my road-warrior netbook, cheap, secure, multi-user, long-lasting, light, small, and quiet. The keyboard and trackpad are both excellent, and the thing just loves to write with me.

If I didn't care about Micro-SD, I'd just grab a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and forget about my worries for the next 5 years. Amazon has great customer service, and for $60 a year you have unlimited cloud storage so you don't really need Micro-SD except to save money. They now have multi-user mode too, so this is tempting. Being tied to Amazon has it's pluses and minuses, but for me, it is an overall plus. The speakers on this thing rock, and if all I did was watch movies and read books, this would be a no-brainer. I am happy with my previous generation Kindle Fire HD 7 and that one is still going strong. Kindle Fires are nice tablets, and I have low regrets about buying them, especially with that ecosystem to die for with a Prime membership.

But...Windows tablets? Like the new Surface 3 (non-pro, Atom version)? 128GB, full Windows, Micro-SD, pen-support, 1920x1280, 1.3 lbs, 0.3" thick? A bit more expensive, but running full Scrivener would be a major plus for me. Tempting as a one-tablet-to-rule-them-all offering I suppose. I've heard good and bad about this one, if I could get a good one I suppose that would be worth it, but the cost is high considering there is a lot of other pieces to buy to get the thing laptop-functional.

But then again, my Chromebook is my laptop of choice on the road since if it gets damaged or lost I'm not going to shed a tear or care about the loss or care about the security of personal files. For a home-tablet, yes, probably a good idea. For traveling? I suppose the utility would be a huge plus, but I dislike being tied to anything expensive on the road because I value peace-of-mind.

iPads? I did an iPad one back in the day, and I am not in that market much these days. They are the to-be-beat tablet, but again, expensive, and they are more consumption devices than productivity devices for me. They are nice, but you either are in the market or you were in the market. If I still had an iPhone, I would probably be in the market for one due to cross-compatibility of apps.

So my top choices right now are the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Surface 3. If I want a pure entertainment device, it's the Amazon tablet. If I want a work machine and local storage, it's Microsoft's. Given my love of Chromebooks, I already have a work machine for on the road, so I am leaning towards Amazon's offering.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Break...

I've been taking a break from editing, a bunch of other projects have appeared on my radar and I need to work through them. Plus, I wanted this time to reflect on where the book I am working on is going, and I want a little perspective on the process.

I also have been kicking around a couple book ideas in my head. There's nothing concrete yet, but I have a couple of fun books in mind.

I will be back to working on this soon, with some more insights and articles related to it along the way. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Infinite Love

When you think about it, love is a lot easier than hate. With hate you need to think about what you are angry about, work yourself up, react to provocations, come up with reasons to hate, raise your blood pressure, and come up with ingenious ways to attack others without providing an opening for a counterattack that will invalidate your argument.

With love, all you need to do is say, "I love you, or I love what you do."

You can have your reasons why you love something, you can acknowledge weaknesses and flaws, but you just love something and leave it there with a warm feeling and be fine.

Can you suggest improvements? Sure! Because you love it already, even if it is only just a tiny part, and you love what that person is doing so much to offer your opinion.

Respect is another way to go. You can say, I may not love what you do, but I respect the hard work you put into it. This is a great way to disagree, but still love the person underneath, and love the passion they put into something that may not be for you.

But love is always the easy route.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Right Mindset for Winning

Tell yourself this, "I'm going to be patient enough to win."

You do not know how long it will take for you to 'make it', so you need to be prepared to finish a race that is 8 hours long or 80 years long.

But you need to be there at that finish line when you do.

Others may finish ahead of you, but your day is coming. For most of us, it will take years to see movement. We will run by writer after writer who are now sitting on the side of the road, who only admitted defeat early. There is also room enough for everybody to finish, so don't feel bad about those who pass you and are on their way.

You may want to offer a hand to those who have given up by the side of the road, because it's nice to have someone to talk with as you both close in on your goal. The more the merrier! Run with a pack and share advice, help others when they get down, and encourage them to keep pushing on.


Because one day, you may need someone else's help or encouragement.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Editing: Pull It All Apart

When you are editing a particularly difficult section, try this workflow:

Break your chapters down into scenes or scene segments of about 400-500 words. If you are a long-time Scrivener user, you will be way ahead of me.

Now, put every sentence on its own line.

Now edit.

I find it much easier when I pull everything apart. Like a bundle of tangled yarn, doing this allows me to see problems clearly, spot repeats, identify plain crazy-talk, and see problems very clearly. I can spot narrative that should be dialog, info-dumps, long boring sections of uninterested writing, and places that rush through without savoring the words.

Line by line, put things back together as you fix things. Start reassembling and untangling that yarn, rebuilding your scene a piece at a time. Read back through your untangled scene, and see how much more tight things are, how clean your dialog becomes, and how much less confused everything is now.

I even find the process to be less intimidating before I even begin. I'm not staring at a 'wall of text' either familiar or unfamiliar, I am now looking at a line-by-line worksheet of ideas to be considered for inclusion into this scene. When the next one comes up, think about the following:
  • Has the narrator already said this? Has a character in dialog?
  • Is this telling? How can this be made to show?
  • Does this even need to be said?
  • Is there a way for the reader to figure this out instead of me saying it directly?
  • Am I disarming tension, or increasing it? (this is critical)
  • Can I word this another way so the reader has to turn the page to find out the answer?
Now, admittedly, there are some scenes where you don't need to pull everything apart, but in our confused minds we sometimes write like we are tangling our own balls of yarn. It's all jumbled in our mind at the time, so it comes out all jumbled in words.

It happens. Relax.

It's our job in editing to fix this lack of clarity with later clarity and a sane, rested mind later. When we write, we are typically aren't in an editing mind, nor should we be. We are riding that wave of creativity, and we need to let our passions flow. After the ride, we need to enjoy the rush, let the adrenaline subside, and then take a moment to rest and recover.

We will look back at the GoPro footage of our surfboard ride later, when we take it into AfterEffects later to edit it and take the best parts and string them together in an exciting movie of what we did. Remember, 90% of your 'footage' or your 'book' will be those boring parts of sitting on the surfboard waiting for the magic to happen. Similarly, a lot of what you write in a book will be that 'waiting for things to happen' text that needs to be trimmed, cut, or made to be something special.

So adopt a process of editing that accounts for your 'in the moment' confusion, and pull things apart later during editing to see what you are really saying.

You'll find yourself making better edits, and understanding each part of the creative process for maximum effectiveness in each.

When you're riding the wave, let loose and ride.

When you are editing the recording, pull things apart analytically and deliver the best experience for your audience.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On Editing: They Are All Just Ideas

One ideal that has helped me a great deal while editing is to treat the entire bulk of the source material as just ideas.

That first draft? Written in wet and sloppy clay, not stone.

Everything is subject to change. You have to. It is far too easy to treat your first draft as 'dammit done' and leave it there. You can't. You need to say 'this is the idea in the roughest form' and take it from there.

I have found ideas out of place, great things scattered throughout the trash, dialog that repeats ideas later or vice versa, narrative that should have been dialog, and just a mess of other things that when sorted through and polished up, tell a great story.

We protect our first words much too fiercely. Those are often the most wrong. So we end up being defensive about our mistakes and stick with them.

I will pull every sentence in a section apart and place it on its own, and consider it in the entire scene. What does this say? Does it add to or subtract from the scene? Do we even need to know? It is telling instead of showing? Does it build up a scene or carelessly let off steam? Is this line strong, or weak?

There is a clear difference when I get done a scene's edits. Before, it is almost a random collection of ideas. After, it is focused and tight. It clicks. It sings. There is a clear build to the narrative and dialog. The descriptions flow. The scene setups feel atmospheric. You get a feel for being there. The dialog builds character and tension. Things are good.

Treating all text as ideas also helps my workflow speed. I can speed through edits if I don't have to fight over every word or idea. I can rearrange much easier. I can restate things clearly and make them focus on the action, and with the mood I want. I am not sitting there with blinders on with my focus on one sentences, as I am looking at them all (within a 400-500 word scene).

This is one of those 'humbling experiences' about working with an editor, and now that I am editing I can see how difficult this can be for the writer.

But if we can't see other points of view or admit we aren't perfect, we will stay where we are. We will never get better. We will never learn. We will forever ship first drafts, and we will continue to write them.

We need to open ourselves up. We need to read others. We need to study. We need to improve. We need to learn and revise.

We need to edit our errant perceptions and realize the weakness of first words.

We Boil Soup Down Too

A book that is 4,000 words long edited down to 2,000 words is twice as good.

A book written to 2,000 words and stopped there is half as good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Secret for Getting Things Done

I put things off because I want to be perfect.

If I can accept a little less, I can get everything I want done.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Best of Us Make Mistakes

I remember the day I saw an obvious punctuation typo in my early print run edition of the later Harry Potter books. How could this happen?

Then I told myself, it happens to the best of us.

Friday, May 1, 2015

When Someone Else Makes It

When I see someone that has made it, I congratulate that person for a job well done. Why?

Because that how I would like to be treated when I make it there.