Behind the Glass | Writing | Editing

editing

I thought I was rather good at noticing mistakes in writing, and because of this, I was confident I would be able to proof read and edit my story myself.

I was right about being able to pick the mistakes in writing, I was just wrong about certain aspects of that assumption. Firstly, that I would be able to pick all the mistakes in a 100,000+ word story, and that I would be able to pick the mistakes from my own writing. I wrote the story. I read what was supposed to be there, instead of what should have been there. Much like I did when I played the piano. I played what I thought the song should sound like, not the notes the sheet of music in front of me told me to play.

If you read one of the earlier versions of Girl Behind Glass, I’m sure you picked out some of the mistakes. To be honest, I hate even thinking about it. But I vowed when I started writing this blog series that I would be honest about my writing journey and this is part of mine. There were mistakes. I corrected the mistakes, uploaded the book to Createspace to get the paperback copies, and when my proof copy arrived, I read it.

I found more mistakes.

I felt sick.

The book was already out there as an ebook. I knew that people would see these mistakes. Most of the errors were silly ones, typos. I knew better than to make these mistakes, but somehow they had escaped me. I should have known better.

I scolded myself and deliberated never writing again, but then I pulled up my big girl pants and set off to correct the errors.

I made GBG free not long after that, and got a nice number of downloads. Some of the feedback I received mentioned some typos in my book, and so I read it again, and once more fell flat on my face when I realised that there were still mistakes. I’m sure everyone at some stage or another in their lives have experienced that ball of dread, that nauseating feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you have made a mistake. I hate that feeling, but I had to overcome it, rather than succumb. I changed the mistakes I found and even sent Amazon an email stating that I had corrected some errors in my book and they offered an ‘update book’ option which I blogged about a little earlier this year.

Then I started the editing process for GBS. I knew a lot more than I did before, but still the errors escaped me. So I identified my weaknesses and started coming up with methods to correct them.

This is a very brief outline of some of the methods I used:

I read the manuscript on my computer and corrected the mistakes as I went along.

I read a printed out copy of the manuscript and highlighted the mistakes which I later corrected.

I gave printed copies of the manuscript to my beta readers and altered the errors based on their feedback.

I listened to a computerised voice read out my novel while I read along on the computer. I found this method very effective as it showed those little errors that my eyes glossed over.

While on a 12 hour road trip, I listened to my story, pulling aside to highlight any errors I heard on a printed copy on the passenger seat beside me.

I re-read the final printed version.

Now I’m sure there are still mistakes, and I’m sure I will make more in the future, but I do feel like I’ve learned a lot, and that with each book I write, I will improve. Editing also involved fleshing out scenes that were too light and cutting scenes which were unnecessary. I added over 3000 words to the final manuscript of GBS and cut over 4000. It is a hard but necessary part of the process. If a scene was boring to write, no doubt it would be boring to read. If I hesitated or felt unhappy with a scene, I cut it. There must have been a reason I felt that way even if I couldn’t pin point it. In the first draft of GBG, Bracken actually shoots Willow at the end. Things change. Plots change. I needed to allow for that.

And I still feel sick about the copies that exist out there with errors. But there is nothing to do other than own my mistakes, and endeavour to do better.

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM!

The next post will be published on 1st October.

Behind the Glass | Publishing | Formatting

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA

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Behind the Glass | Writing | Pen to Paper

pen to paperI’ve called this blog post pen to paper, although it should more correctly be called fingers to keys.

I’m not sure how long it took me to write the first draft of GBG. It began in 2010. I started and stopped. Changed things and rewrote. Doubted myself and wanted to throw it all away. Wrote for hours on end with nothing but coffee to fuel me. Sat at the edge of the swimming pool while my daughter took lessons, and diligently tapped away on my laptop. Then, I just left it discarded on my computer, convinced it was terrible. Finally, a couple of years later, I plucked up the courage to show it to a few people and they kind of liked it. It was enough encouragement for me to plunge myself back into the story again and make the changes I had dreamed up, as well as alterations based on the feedback I received. I wanted to be a writer, and I knew there was no other way to accomplish that other than to write.

coffeeWhile writing GBS, I was more organised. I started at the beginning and wrote until the end. I typed the first word on 21st October 2014, took a six week break during the Christmas holidays, and typed the last word of the first draft on 17th March 2015. Since I wrote on the days I didn’t work and my children were at school, which was two days a week, and I had 5 hours to write on each of those days, I’m guestimating that it took me 150 hours.

I drank at least four, sometimes more, cups of coffee on each of those days, resulting in GBS being fuelled by a minimum of 120 cups of coffee.

The first draft was 106,320 words, which meant I wrote at approximately 709 words per hour, which is approximately 12 words per minute. (Sorry, my mathematical tendencies are coming out a little.) Sounds rather slow, doesn’t it? But it’s not just typing. It’s thinking of what to write. Sometimes the words poured out of me, and other times I sat and stared at the screen, wondering where my motivation had gone. I forced myself to write on those days. It is easier to edit something you have already written, than to start from scratch. Or, even if you write something terrible, it can still lead to inspiration of how the scene should have gone.

The plot was kept loose. I wasn’t afraid to change it as I went along. If the alterations meant minor changes to the part of the story I had already written, I would go back and alter it. If it meant a bigger re-write, I would note it in the file I had to record all the ‘to add/to change’ things, and simply keep going.
Next came the editing. And I had a lot to learn. I still have a lot to learn.

The next post will be published on 24th September.

Behind the Glass | Writing | Editing

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA

Behind the Glass | Writing | Organisation

oragnisation

Once I had pondered all the ideas and written them in some form or another, it was time to get organised. I collected the snippets of information and arranged them into different documents, detailing the back stories, physical descriptions, motivations, and plot lines of the various characters, including the Establishment, the Mudders, and the Rebels, because, although they are not characters in themselves, they are still entities which require their own development.

After this had been collated, I started to write the outline or summary. I had tried many times to write a story without an outline or summary, and would often start off with a hiss and a roar, only to fall into despair each time I found myself lost. With firm plot lines in place this could not happen. Even if the so-called writing muse left me, I could still blunder along with the story line, knowing that I could come back and adjust things when I got the writing bug back.

Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked in order to use it efficiently. At the start of this process, it would take me over an hour to get into my ‘creative mood’. Each time I sat down at the computer, I would re-read something I had written, read something someone else had written, or look at random stuff on the internet, and wait for my muse to strike. Since I only had limited time to write, this process soon drained away all my productivity. But the more I wrote, the less time I needed to delve into the creative mood. Now, I can simply sit down at a computer and start typing. I need very little time to flick that creative switch, and it is purely due to perseverance and determination. I just needed to strengthen my writing muscles.

My outlines were written on a scene by scene basis. Sometimes, I had lots of information on which to set the scene. Other times, I had one line.

Often I would start to plot a scene by writing down exactly what information I wanted to express, which characters I wanted to introduce, background information that needed to be included or implied, and the world building that needed to be explained. Sometimes I wrote more about a scene in the summary than I did it the actual scene. Here are some examples taken directly from my scene summaries.

It could be a feeling or mood I wanted to express: Hungry. Hot. Cold. Tired.

It could be a dialogue line I wanted to use: “. . . the world already has the name Jake Pierce on their lips.”

It could be as simple as this description after she falls from the train in Girl Behind Glass: Waits for people to come and find her. Doesn’t really like her uncle. Gruff and annoying.

Or a line such as this one, which I used in reference to Willow and Bracken in both Girl Behind Glass and Girl Beneath Stars: Shoulder to shoulder but not touching.

It could be more detailed like this explanation of living on the outside in Girl Beneath Stars, which has general ideas, as well as lines which ended up word for word in the finished novel: Hunting rabbits for food. Rabbits are the only source of meat that flourishes on the desolate land. Maybe Devon and Willow out hunting? Show the difference in her. More adapted to outside life. Less squeamish. Flashback to first seeing the rabbit get killed by the kids. Stop just before she is about to skin it and explain how Willow is a little despondent about things. She can see how putting your passion into saving the earth like Jake does while in the protected area is understandable as you develop fondness for your surroundings and they in turn capture your senses with the scent of nostalgia. But not out here. Here it is a dirty world and cruel. There are no fond memories here. There is nothing that breeds the seeds of nostalgia in this landscape. Describe landscape. Makes her wonder if Nuovo was not so bad after all. Out of sight out of mind. If we did not witness nature and its suffering at our hands how could we protest it. It’s easier this way. It is the difference between this rabbit appearing on my plate as delicate drumsticks and the feeling of the grip of the skin as you rip the fur from its back and the relative ease with which you can twist its head from its body. I never knew life outside the dome. Everything was new to me. Living in Nuovo was simpler. Things were done with ease, I guess that’s because things were done for me. Each part of my life was planned or mapped, predetermined based on my past choices.

Once everything was recorded in an orderly fashion in one place, I started to write.

The next post will be published on 17th September.

Behind the Glass | Writing | Pen to Paper

*If you haven’t read Girl Behind Glass yet, it is currently free in the Kindle store – http://goo.gl/KUGZrA