Getting Into the Write Frame of Mind

Because last week wasn’t a set of four 10-hour days capped with a Writing Workday, it didn’t really occur to me until now that a progress report is due. I will say that anyone who’s wanting to follow 2015 progress can simply use the Progress Report tag to get the most recent report, or if you just want to hear whatever my rambling thoughts are on writing, especially if I change THE OFFICIAL PLAN, you can use the Writing tag to get the most up-to-date posts on that subject too.

So, for those of you keep track of my progress based on the Official Plan page, I completed items #1 and #2 on time. I’m now in #3:

Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

In looking at my goals from this point on, it’s occurred to me that I’ve gotten a little vague. How long am I taking to decide what this book needs? How long am I allowing for writing/rewrite? I can’t determine the latter until I determine the former, and the latter will then determine when I can start item #4.

So the question is this: how am I going to accomplish item #3?

If you’re reading this via email digest or on the main page, I’m putting a cut here, because I have a lot to talk about. If you’re interested, onward!

Some of you may recall last week’s update, where my brain was a proper mess and I couldn’t make a coherent decision to save my life. As a result, I enlisted the help of my friends: first, I sent the manuscript out to two beta readers who’ve never read the manuscript at all. The first person graduated SHU my first term there: Rhonda Mason is a SFR writer whose debut novel, The Empress Game, is coming out in June. She’s a friend, a colleague, a published writer, and is in my target audience, so hearing what she has to say, especially since she went through the agent-shopping process somewhat recently, will be very useful.

The second-person is a very good friend of mine who reached out and volunteered after my woes from the week prior. She’s a voracious reader who’s been an encourager and cheerleader since we met in college (fun fact! She’s read the pages of the epic fantasy novel that Codename: Telepathic Soulmates evolved from!), and I’ve learned that getting straight-up reader feedback is super-valuable. And she knows me well enough to say something sucks, so that’s good too.

Between them and another friend of mine, a daily reader who wanted to re-read the prequel novel and Codename: Telepathic Soulmates in order to provide more feedback, I think I’ll have what I need to move forward. I’m hoping to get all comments back by March 5th.

But what good is feedback if I don’t already have a stronger sense of what I want to do? To that end, another good friend of mine, a daily reader and my roomie from Odyssey and SHU, made a great suggestion: read How to Draft a Novel in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner early. You’ll notice it’s item #5 on my official plan, to be read after I send out Codename: Telepathic Soulmates to agents as a kind of palette cleanser for my next project, but the suggestion was this: my friend has been in my shoes, and sitting down, reading Wiesner’s book, and filling out all the character charts may focus my spastic brain, and god knows it needs focus.

So that’s next. Not now, because I’m doing myself a favor by revisiting my roots: when I first started Codename: Telepathic Soulmates in earnest back in 2006, I was on a mission to read as much science fiction written by women as possible. It’s one of the things that ended up being a major influence on my now-retired book blog, Calico Reaction. To that end, I’ve finished reading Karen Lord’s The Galaxy Game, which is the sequel to her wonderful The Best of All Possible Worlds. Then I moved on to a book that has been calling to me ever since I read Liz Bourke’s review of it on Tor.com: Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford.

Why is this book speaking to me? Lots of reasons: 1) debut SF novel written by a woman. 2) Bourke’s review:

When I consider how to describe it, the first word that comes to mind is “old-fashioned”: there is little to say this space opera novel could not have been published two decades ago, or even three, and it suffers by comparison to the flourishing inventiveness of Ann Leckie and Elizabeth Bear, James S.A. Corey and Alastair Reynolds.

Though it may be unfair to judge it by those standards.

Which stood out simply because when I think about Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, I can’t help but wonder if that same review wouldn’t apply to my own work.

Then there’s 3) Bedford’s discussion of writing, revising, and publishing the novel. It was her post on Chuck Wendig’s blog that made me visit her website and her own blog. In her post Listen to Good Advice, but Trust Yourself (which in and of itself is great advice and something I need to take to heart), she talks about word count. And yes, that’s a fascinating and relevant topic to me. Here’s what she says:

I once cut a 190,000 word novel by almost half at the request of my first agent. I understand why she made that request because a 190,000 word manuscript is a very hard sell for a first time novelist, however I knew, deep down, that I’d thrown out the baby with the bathwater. Even though I had a finished novel at 115,000 words, I’d lost a lot of characterisation and world building. When I parted company from that agent (not over that specific issue, I hasten to add), I added back a few thousand words and ended up with a compromise at 123,000 words, which was the manuscript that eventually sold to DAW. However my very insightful editor at DAW, not frightened by large word-count novels, encouraged me to add more and more depth. I’ve ended up with a novel of 171,000 words and much of what I excised in that original surgical strike has gone back in, albeit in an altered form.

Codename: Telepathic Soulmates is currently at 131,827 words. It’s long, especially for a debut novel, and it’s the reason I ended up passing on a publishing contract I was offered back in 2012. So one of the goals before sending this puppy out to agents has always been to try and trim around 10,000 to 15,000 words from the manuscript. I still think it can and might very well NEED to be done. But reading about Bedford’s experience? Gives me a little bit of hope. It also gave me a mad desire this last weekend to start reading her debut novel, almost as a point of comparison. I’m reading for enjoyment, but I’m reading critically too.

But once I’m done with that, it’s Wiesner’s writing book next, and I suspect, if I take the “surgical polish” route to revising, I may outline the current draft with a specific purpose: where do the characters start at the chapter, and where do they end up? What’s changed? If nothing, what needs to?

I’ve been writing down any and all CRAZY ideas that have occurred to me, because who knows? I was telling one of my daily readers during a Skype session that I’d very much like to try my hand at some short fiction in this world, and some of these CRAZY ideas might be the best way to do it. Because there’s a lot to this world: it’s rich, with a lot of promise. It’s fun to write in and fun to explore.

And that’s it for my long, rambling update. Next week won’t be as long, mostly because I’ll be rocking out at Con Nooga, which I hope will be a welcome distraction from all the crap in my brain. But I will update. And if I don’t, just give me a nudge.

3 thoughts on “Getting Into the Write Frame of Mind

  1. Congrats on make progress. I wish you luck with the editing process and figuring out the right word count for the project. 🙂

    You’ve also got a lot of great links to other posts here, and I’ll have to come back when I have more time to read through them.

    Like

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