Drowning in Red, Green, and Purple Ink

I have received Book 2 back from Copyediting! Wooo!

This means it’s time for me to re-read my work and see just how much I did wrong.

It is a humbling experience. Even when everyone likes the book (which they tell me they do), there are still a hundred or more errors sprinkled throughout. Getting the manuscript back from Copyediting is always a nervous experience (I say having had the experience all of two times). I have a relationship with Excellent Editor. We work together on ideas, I get suggestions and comments and critical thoughts from someone who is (or at least does a great job making think they are) invested in my book.

But Copyediting is something altogether different. It is a faceless, anonymous arm of The Man. A layer of evil every book must venture through before being reborn on the other side a creation of purity and goodness. Copyediting has RULES and GUIDELINES and stuff. There is no thought of massaging a writer’s ego, no care taken to remain gentle and nurturing. It is the harsh world, and their job is to toughen our skins.

Upon receiving the file from Copyediting, I downloaded and opened it and stared at the mass of red ink. And blue ink. And purple ink. And green ink. Everything is done through the Track Changes function, and everyone’s comments and edits are included. In an attempt to be helpful. everyone’s comments are different colors. And then there are all the colors slapped on that aren’t notes, but highlights for formatting. One color for italics, another color for bold, etc. It’s actually quite pretty if I ignore the fact that much of it is based on tearing apart my baby.

The truly soul-sucking notes are the ones I get over and over on a given manuscript. For Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (coming out August 9, 2016! Pre-order your copy today!) this note manifested with the word “toward.” I had written it as “towards” throughout the entire book. So they made a note to change it each and every time. If I had 200 edits in the entire book, easily 30 of them were that single error.

This time is the word “OK.” I have used that work as written for forty years. I’m pretty sure I used it in Dr. Fell. However, at this time Copyediting does not like OK. It wants me to spell it out. Okay. So every time a character says OK, there’s a note to change it. Every. Single. Time.

It is a learning process. I must slowly but surely learn proper grammar. Eventually it will be ingrained within me and come naturally, but until then, it will be corrected. Over and over and over and over.

It is a slow process, but in the end my brain will be washed and all will be well.

And Now I Do a Little Dance

Huzzah!!!

I have finished the first draft of Book 3! Which, if you’re keeping score at home, is actually Book 4 since my debut novel Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom–you’ve all pre-ordered it, right– was actually the second book I wrote. The third book I wrote, which is officially Book 2 (name to be revealed shortly) is the second book in the 2-book deal, so this one, Official Book 3 is as yet unsold. As is Official Book Zero.

If you think it’s confusing now, wait til I start writing sequels. All four books are stand-alone novels. Yet two of them (Books 3 and Zero) are written specifically to be series and the other two could easily have sequels if there is a need. Then I’ll have Book 2 of Book 3 Series and Book 4 of Book Zero series and the second Book 2 and…

…and then my head falls off.

But today I am rejoicing finishing a book! It is such a great feeling to get to the end. As always, the closer I got to the end, the more I wanted to ignore everybody and everything and lock myself away to write. Family? Food? Going to the bathroom? Bah! Don’t bother me, I’m ALMOST DONE!

When all was said and done, I sat back and smiled. And grinned. And giggled. There’s a little euphoria that settles in when I finish, suddenly everything is alright in the world. The birds sing sweetly. Flowers bloom. People smile. Life is good.

Then came time to edit and life is bad again.

Confession time–I actually finished the rough draft last week. I then spent the week reading through it and editing it. Cutting wherever I could. Cringing when I found typos. Reintroducing myself to the first few chapters (“Whoops! That character only has one eye. I’ll have to either give him his second eye here or go in and fix it everywhere else.”) is always fun. You can rediscover characters you’d forgotten about! Props! Entire themes!

“Oh, yeah! This is all an allegory depicting the evils of global climate change. I totally forgot about that!”

So I edited. I cut. I added. I cut some more. I altered. I argued with myself. I lost the argument and cut some more. And now I have a first draft! A little bundle of Middle Grade, horror/comedy joy ready to be loosed upon the world, or at least on an Army of Early Readers.

Letting go will be hard, and my Army of Early Readers will undoubtedly be cruel, if for no other reason than they can. But let go I must. I need other eyes to view the work before I send it to Awesome Agent.

So I send. And I wait. And I wait. And I constantly bother my Army of Early Readers .

“Have you read it yet?”

“No.”

“How about now?”

“No.”

“Now?”

“Give me a break! You sent it to me twenty minutes ago!”

“And you haven’t read it yet?”

“No!!”

“OK, OK. No need to shout.”

[two minutes later]

“Have you read it yet?”

It’s a wonder I have any friends left at all.

**

HEY KIDS (and adults)!

Wanna join my Army of Early Readers? You can! Just send me an email and once I’ve checked your references against my database of Truly Despicable People, I can send you a pdf and you’re on your way! All I ask is that a) you read the book and b) you write me and tell me what you thought. What you liked. Didn’t like. Hated. Loved. Didn’t understand. That sort of thing.

Join the Army! Be cool!

They Loved It! I Got 95 Notes!

After much pacing around in circles and chewing my fingernails, last week I received word from Excellent Editor regarding Book 2 (still working on a title). The pacing and chewing is because I am incredibly impatient and had been hoping to hear from Excellent Editor since the day after I turned in the first draft. Because I am her only client and she would of course drop everything to read my book, right? Right?

What do you mean, no?

Anyway. The email was full of conditional praise. The book was a hit! The characters were good–except for where they need to be worked on. The plot was fun and smooth–except for a couple areas that were a bit confusing. The silliness was at just the right level–except for some places where it didn’t seem to fit and others where it didn’t really work. And so on, and so on.

So I quickly downloaded the attached draft with Excellent Editor’s notes and edits and comments. Then I went through the entire book simply “accepting” any typo correction or grammar fix or capitalization change. I mean she’s an Excellent Editor, so if she says I spelled the word wrong or put a comma in the wrong place, who am I to argue?

That left me with the comments. Places in the body of the text where she’d made a note such as “this isn’t working” or “I don’t understand how this could happen” or “I don’t think the character would really say this” or “this is too wordy for middle grade” or just “dear God this is awful!” You know, places where I’d have to actually think and work.

Before starting off on draft 2, I went and counted up the comments. You’ll never guess how many there were (unless you looked at the title of this post).

95.

95 things for me to fix on a document that–according to Mircosoft Word–is 210 pages. That’s, like, almost one every other page. As I scrolled through the document counting the notes, and my count rose higher and higher, my ego deflated more and more. She hated it. She hated everything about it. Every single thing. Well OK, not every single thing. But 95 of them.

I went and sulked, spent time with the cats so I’d feel loved, told myself I was still a good writer, told myself to shut up because no I wasn’t, and scolded myself for being such a goober. I had to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is, she likes Book 2 enough to care. Enough to pay attention to detail and nit pick every little flaw.

So I took a deep breath and dove in, starting with Note #1. I need to see the forest for the trees. If I worry about all the comments one at a time instead of all 95 at once, it makes it more manageable while also stretching out the agony.

A Win-Win!

The Last Little Edits

If you’re read any of my previous posts, you know that my debut Middle Grade horror-adventure-comedy, Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom, is coming out this coming August.

I’m kinda excited.

The timeline of the book’s creation and sale has been an educational experience.

August 2014 – I get the idea for the book and start dabbling.

September 2014 – After toying with it and a couple of other stories for a bit, and after an encouraging word from Awesome Agent, I get obsessed and dive into Dr. Fell wholeheartedly.

November 2014 – I finish the First Draft and send to friends and readers.

December 2014 – I finish Second Draft and send to Awesome Agent.

January 2015 – Awesome Agent likes it and starts sending it around.

April 2015 – Crown Books for Young Readers purchases Dr. Fell. I dance and sing and leap up and down like a little kid on an unending diet of sugar.

May 2015 – Excellent Editor sends it back with a ton of notes, including typos.

June 2015 – I finish Third Draft. Excellent Editor has more questions. I make more changes. We fix more typos. I eventually send in Fourth Draft.

September 2015 – The Copy Editing department goes over it and sends it back with a ton more notes and typos and questions.

September 2015 – I answer more questions, fix more typos, make more very slight changes. Call it Fifth Draft.

October 2015 – I receive Advanced Reader Copies. Totally freak out. These copies are based on Fourth Draft.

December 10, 2015 – I receive email asking me to OK typo fixes on 6 separate pages.

How did any typos remain undiscovered through all of that to December 2015? When you think about all the times I’ve gone through it, all the times Excellent Editor has gone through it, all the times the Copy Editing department went through it… it ought to be impossible. Yet there they are, plain as day. Six pages, each with an obvious typo or issue on them that needs to be addressed.

This is why I am no longer surprised when I find typos in published material. My book is only @215 pages or so. 45,000 words. The latest Rick Riordan is three times that length. Even going over it with a microscope, toothbrush, and metal detector, typos are going to slip through. They are literature’s little gremlins, and cannot be stopped, only contained.

Worse, I can almost guarantee (thanks to the inevitable law of human cluelessness) that there will be a hidden typo somewhere in the final, printed and published and on the shelves version of the book.

And my children will point it out within ten minutes of opening the book up to a random page.

Be strong.

 

 

 

 

If it Weren’t For the Last Minute…

I have four days to deliver my next book to the publisher.

Four days to perfect the final draft of the first draft. Four days before I release my next creation into the harsh wilds of my Excellent Editor and Awesome Agent. Four days to make sure I don’t turn something in that will be a major let down.

No pressure.

Now, I’ve had this deadline (December 1) for about 6 months or so. So it’s not as if this has snuck up on me or anything. Bit now that it is almost here, I find myself gasping for air and trying not to claw my eyes out of my skull in terror.

I have sent this book to my readers and heard back from many (though not all) of them. I have gone through their notes and seen what issues are mentioned repeatedly (a couple), what issues come up once but need to be addressed (a few), what issues come up once but can be ignored (a couple), and what issues come up that are then contradicted by other readers (a couple).

From all of this I have made a list and have begun going through the book, page by page, word by word, chapter by chapter. To make it better. More awesome. Totally sweet.

I’m about 1/3 of the way through, but that was the easy part. Not a lot of notes on the first third because a) none of the really complicated stuff has happened yet and b) I’ve probably written and rewritten that section twice as much as any other section, so it’s pretty tight. But now I’m in the second section, and things start to get complicated and difficult and I need to take my time and make sure everything fits and that it still works and that it doesn’t suck.

There’s a lot to do (so much that I wonder why I’m taking the time to write this blog entry), and it will get done and it will be better and it will kick ass and so on. But the next four days are gonna be one massive tension sandwich.

Yummy!

Should anyone find me wandering alone by the side of the road muttering softly to myself, please be kind and toss me a strip of bacon or perhaps a handful of pudding. You will be doing humanity a favor.

Writing is Re-writing

With the rough draft of Untitled Second Middle-Grade Novel complete, I now turn my attention to the monumental task of editing.

The thing with this particular book is that it has been a far more difficult project than the first book. Because it far more complicated. Because I’m a glutton for punishment. And besides, I’m already losing my hair, so my tearing it out in frustration won’t do much more than speed me along the path I’m already on.

Somebody smart somewhere once said writing is re-writing. And if they didn’t, then I’m saying it and want full credit. My completed rough draft began life at just over 70,000 words, with multiple narrators and shifting motives and things I’d added at the end that I hadn’t thought to set up in the beginning and character arcs that switched gears somewhere in the midst of Act 2.

So there’s some work to be done.

On top of all that is the need to go and make it ‘more goofy’ since this is for Middle Grade (generally ages 8-12) and some of what goes on in the story is a little dark. But when things are goofy, you can be a dark as you like!

I also need to add that ‘David Neilsen’ flair that I’m told I’m going to have to have if I want to build a brand.

So there’s a lot to add. And then I have to also cut around 15,000 words. So… add stuff, but cut words.

I’ll be bald in no time.

***

The war against the walleye continues, and I’m sorry to say that casualties are growing in both number and ferocity. Just last week, Igor Schmidington was lost to us when a pack of aquatic evil devoured him until there was nothing left but his artificial leg. You will be missed, Igor.

NEVER SURRENDER!

(the scourge of the seas)