Revision & Editing… Part 3

Now that I have all my synopsis copied into timelines… and I made each a different color by POV because, well, because I could.

5. Conquer the world.  Going back to Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel,” at least what I remember of it, I started to add back in my fourth character: The World.  I put arrows from the scene to a world event that the action in the scene caused, then connected with arrows the world event to the other scenes that would have been affected by the world event.  Heavy paraphrasing here.  If you want to know more I would recommend “The Secrets” podcast and the “21 Days to a Novel.”  Better yet, go see him at a con.  Then I just worked on making all of the arrows flow in the right direction.  There, at least one set of dependencies taken care of.

6. Who did what to whom?  For all of the other dependencies that don’t involve some world event, I went through and put in more connecting arrows from causes to effects.  For the more geeky crowd: use layers to turn on and off the arrows to keep down the confusion.  If layers are beyond your capabilities, not surprising because it took me forever to figure them out, just use different colors or styles. The exercise here is much the same, make all of the arrows go the right way.

Being the visually oriented type, all these pretty pictures make me feel like I have brought order to chaos.  But have I?  Yep, more to come….

Revision & Editing… My Approach (Part 2)

Picking up where I left off in the prior post on my approach for content editing (or is it revision…somebody give me a shout so I don’t continue to insult the real professionals that know what they are doing!).

3.  Update my scene synopsis.  I went through all of the scenes in Scrivener and updated the synopsis.  If you haven’t figured out by now that I am a bit of a Scrivener fanboy!  Sorry.  As I was saying, the early chapters were dead on, the later… well, they needed more help.  The goal was to be able to find a way to print them out, or transfer them to something, where I can fiddle around with their order.  Syncing with Index Card on the iPad via AirDrop was a possibility, but I thought that may not give me the tools I need.  Focusing on the synopsis though, I found some of them really needed work – they were either too vague to be useful or too long and detailed to be of any use regardless of what I chose to do.

4a.  Re-build my timelines.  I started the story with timelines I developed at the recommendation of Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel.”  I am certain I took it farther than was ever suggested, but that is just the way I clack.  My original timelines, as I mentioned earlier, were completely out of whack the closer I got to the end of the story.  That, and I switched over to a Mac to use the official released version of Scrivener resulting in the obsolescence of the Visio diagrams on my PC.  It was easy enough to rebuild in OpenOffice Draw and I now have a template for next time.  I have three POV characters and each chapter I wrote had three scenes mimicking a short story format – I thought of each chapter as a short story.  The time line became three boxes for the first character followed by three more boxes offset and below for the second, and finally three boxes offset and below for the third POV character.  I added a few more boxes at the top for my “world” character and cut loose with copy/paste to generate all 26 chapters of three scenes in rotating character POV (whew!)

4b. Put all of the Synopsis in the timeline.  Scrivener has a compile function for notecards (only took me an hour to find it…).  It was a snap to generate an OpenOffice document containing only synopsis and associated chapter/scene headings.  More copy/paste later and I had my updated timeline.  Did I mention that I was a bit of a Scrivener fan boy?

So by now you probably have gotten the sense that I am a bit of an over analytical nerd…now what?  (more to come)

Revision & Editing – My Approach

After noodling it around a bit I think I at least have a plan of attack, an approach, a Strategy if you will, for going about this whole revision and editing thing.  I fell into a process for writing that seemed to work quite well.  That was pre-blog so you will just have to trust me on it.  Hopefully, the same will happen for the revision and editing.  I am putting it out there for comment, criticism, and for fear that if I don’t write it down, I will not remember it the next time.

The problems I need to address, or that I am hoping this approach will solve, are from the first draft taking over almost a full year to complete.  And from not entirely knowing what I was doing.  The things that could have been avoided by being a *little* more diligent in keeping a “bible” we not avoided… character descriptions morphing, locations being renamed, multiple feints at backstory, etc.  FWIW: I blame NaNoWriMo for that!  The plot also went off in its own direction as well, the whole second half was quite a ways away from what I originally envisioned.  I blame my writing instructor for that – she suggested I write the ending before writing the last half of the book.  It was an excellent suggestion that I *strongly* recommend to others!  Had I not done that, I would probably still be writing the first draft.  There were also things that happened out of order so that they would fit into the self imposed chapter and scene structure.  There is also way too much backstory at the beginning that I would like to move to flashbacks.  All-in-all mostly content issues.   Add to that three POV characters with intertwined storylines and over 120k words which I have no one to else to blame but myself.

Here’s what I am doing:

1. Do nothing.  Yeah, I have heard this quite a bit.  Don’t start editing until you are done writing (check) (though it escapes me why this is not self evident).  More importantly, lock the first draft away for a month or two to distance yourself from it.  Considering it took me a year to write, there are some parts that are more distant than others!  For someone who barely remembers what he had for lunch yesterday I think two months might have been a bit excessive.  My plan of getting caught up on reading during this time fizzled and I found myself writing and editing a short story.

2. Keywords (aka Tagging).  I am using Scrivener that as a really nice tagging capability.  Essentially you can create any keyword (or keyword hierarchy for the overly detail oriented types) and assign those keywords to scenes.  Clicking on the keyword in the “keyword browser” brings up all of the scenes that have been tagged with the keyword.  Really cool.  I created keywords for all of the locations, POV characters, minor characters, extras, means of transportation, etc.  A few more I might add would include character description, character backstory, gadget, etc.  The idea being that I can update a particular detail and have the tool to keep it consistent across all of the occurrences.  So the next time you find your character’s appearance changing and it is not related to the plot – try out the keywords.

… and because I can never say anything in a few words where many will suffice… more to come…

Ready to Edit… now what…

I finished writing and editing a short story.  It was good exercise for editing, particularly since I was working on getting the total word count down below a fixed amount.

I did content editing first, making  sure that the story hung together and made sense.  I rewrote the ending to make it more exciting, deleted sections that really didn’t move the story forward, etc.

Then moved on to line editing.  Deleting all those pesky “had” or “has been” words that didn’t do anything useful other than increase my word count.  I do need to keep an eye on the language because of the steampunk style which should be a bit more flowery prose.

So all that was good practice.  But now looking at a whole novel to edit and I feel more than just a little intimidated.  I stalled it a little by updating synopsis and tagging the scenes, but I have run out of excuses and need to wade in.  I have no idea what to do that…

“The West Wind” Status Update…

With a sudden surge of participation of Facebook pages, Blogs, and Forums I realized I had not posted to my own blog.  Nuts.

So special shout outs to all my new friends at S.W.A.G. and the BlackSails and Steampunk Authors FB pages!

So… Progress update lest I lead you fair reader astray.  In short, no progress.  And I am doing a regrettably poor job of taking time off to get caught up on my steampunk reading.  I have literally stacks of books begging to be read and blogged about.

What am I doing instead?  I started a horror short story set in the world of “The West Wind.”  It involves Rachel and her half brother Clarence but is told from the perspective of the sheriff of a small town into which they wander following a truly loathsome crime committed upon their persons nearby.  This is a scene from “The West Wind” with all the same characters, action, and conflict– just told from a different perspective.  The fun in it has been having to stick to the core of the storyline but given the opportunity to embellish and take the story in truly a different direction.  It is over 10k words right now but I do plan on chopping it down in length to fit submission guidelines of a couple of markets where it may fit.

So, you may ask, what are your plans dear writer for “The West Wind?”  Well… I want to get a first revision done before November so I can get copies out to a few close friends who have graciously agreed to be alpha readers.  Why November?  Another good question, but I would propose that the more perceptive among you know that November is National Novel Writing Month and, of course, I am already kicking around ideas for a sequel.  I know there is a lot of territory out there to be covered and I am burning daylight.

“The West Wind” – A Steampunk Adventure set in the Old West

Un-sticking this post…

Status as of 10/23/11  11/26/11 1/29/12 11/23/12: Putting the rewrite “on hold”

It is the summer of 1912 and the western frontier of the British American Colonies is a pressure cooker of intrigues fueled by greed, resentment, and the need for revenge in this steampunk adventure dominated by plots and power struggles between rich and powerful industrialists. It is a world of massive floating mansions, horses, stagecoaches, airships, private railroad cars, dusty western towns, flying machines, and a traveling mechanical freak show.

Dramatis personæ:

Roland Pritchard – a true success story of Her Majesty’s American Colonies having built an extensive railroad empire that is the backbone of industrial development in the western frontier.

Eli Hardy – the only child of Jakob Hardy, recently returned from studying abroad (something more controversial) and is confronted by the real truth behind his father’s success.

Rachel West – an apprentice clock maker (something less banal) has emigrated fled to the American Colonies in search of a place where she and with her half brother Clarence will be accepted for who they are and not what society dictates. to escape a deadly conspiracy only to find herself embroiled in even more dangerous intrigues.

Boardgame Design and Novel Writing

I ran into a number of my gaming colleagues at Gen Con (designers, publishers, industry pundits, etc.) with whom I had become acquainted when SDRGames put out Bootleggers– see Other Publish Credits page.  I also attended another Stackpole seminar where he stressed the importance of character development – a common thread through his 21 Days to a Novel and Secrets Podcast.

It got me thinking that game design and writing share a common thread.

Gaming has two acknowledged major schools of design – European and American.  I don’t want to start a debate or go into a dissertation on the details of both, but suffice it to say that the major differences are in their views of conflict and luck.  European eschews direct conflict and mechanics involving a lot of luck.  Their focus is primarily on strategy and indirect conflict.  The American school of design, by contrast, prefers direct conflict and has greater amounts of luck.  A hybrid, which is what we intended to create with Bootleggers, has elements of both.  To drive the point home, think of Risk: I am attacking your country and rolling dice to win.  I “attack” another country in a Euro game by outbidding them for cheaper resources thus making it more expense for them to improve their armies– that’s indirect and no luck.

Its that indirect conflict that I find similar to the Stackpole character development process.  In Euro game design, there is usually some objective that is required to win, e.g. the most victory points, the most money, longest road, etc.  Each player develops a strategy and plays that strategy to achieve the objective.  It is in the process of playing that strategy that the player’s actions will disrupt other players’ attempts to achieve the objective.  The disruption, or “player interaction” in a game is really important in the design – the preference being greater interaction.  No interaction between players and the game earns the negative “multi-player solitaire” reputation.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Consider each character a unique player in the game and, unlike a vast majority of the games, each has a very unique goal they wish to achieve.  It is in the attempt to achieve these goals they will be faced with obstacles that they must overcome.  Just like game design, it is best if these obstacles are put in place by the other players.  The more one character’s actions to reach their goal disrupt the other character’s ability to achieve their goal, the more engaging the story should be.  The conflict arises between the characters going about achieving their goals.  Sometime this conflict is direct – Sally is going to stab Drake because he has been cheating on her in an attempt to find happiness, or more of the indirect kind – Sally has locked the house and gone looking for her cheating husband Drake.  Drake returns to find the house locked and is forced to spend the night in a cheap flea infested hotel where he is forced to confront his definition of happiness.

Some random musings there for the folks that have an interest in board game design and writing.  Probably a bigger group than the intersection of NASCAR fans who are also opera season ticket holders… but that is another story.

Rachel and Clarence West – Unintended Consequences

Rachel West and her half-brother Clarence are by far the favorite characters of my early readers, classmates, and writing group. My first alpha reader, my thirteen year old daughter’s best friend, liked them so well that she did sketches for me. I posted them below – she is amazingly talented. Before you start rolling your eyes… yes their story starts in a clock shop, a steampunk trope or, as I would prefer to think of it: a “genre touchstone.” Regardless, I am going to hang a lantern on it… a gas lantern of course. Here is more about Rachel and Clarence:

Rachel was adopted off the streets of London by Hamilton West and made an apprentice in his clock shop because he knew his own son, Clarence, would never be capable of succeeding him the business.

Clarence is a kind and sensitive young man, but lacks the physical and mental capacity to perform complex tasks such as constructing or repairing clockwork.

Unfortunately, Hamilton dies prior to sponsoring Rachel’s application as a journeyman clockmaker putting her in the precarious position of owning a clock shop in the East End that lacks a journeyman or master horologist.

Rachel struggles with her obligation to Clarence, the memory of Hamilton, and her growing realization that she will never make the clock shop successful because of her continued status as an apprentice and her gender.

With the naïvety born from reading too many penny dreadfuls, Rachel sets out for the American Territories in search of a new life for her and Clarence where she believes she will be recognized for her gifts with clockwork and treated as an equal.

Of course… nothing could be farther from the truth.

Rachel West

Rachel West

Clarence West

Clarence West

Rachel and Clarence West – Unintended Consequences

Rachel West and her half-brother Clarence are by far the favorite characters of my early readers, classmates, and writing group. My first alpha reader, my thirteen year old daughter’s best friend, liked them so well that she did sketches for me. I posted them below – she is amazingly talented. Before you start rolling your eyes… yes their story starts in a clock shop, a steampunk trope or, as I would prefer to think of it: a “genre touchstone.” Regardless, I am going to hang a lantern on it… a gas lantern of course. Here is more about Rachel and Clarence:

Rachel was adopted off the streets of London by Hamilton West and made an apprentice in his clock shop because he knew his own son, Clarence, would never be capable of succeeding him the business.

Clarence is a kind and sensitive young man, but lacks the physical and mental capacity to perform complex tasks such as constructing or repairing clockwork.

Unfortunately, Hamilton dies prior to sponsoring Rachel’s application as a journeyman clockmaker putting her in the precarious position of owning a clock shop in the East End that lacks a journeyman or master horologist.

Rachel struggles with her obligation to Clarence, the memory of Hamilton, and her growing realization that she will never make the clock shop successful because of her continued status as an apprentice and her gender.

With the naïvety born from reading too many penny dreadfuls, Rachel sets out for the American Territories in search of a new life for her and Clarence where she believes she will be recognized for her gifts with clockwork and treated as an equal.

Of course… nothing could be farther from the truth.

Rachel West

Rachel West

Clarence West

Clarence West