Moving on to Professional Help

Girl Friday Productions will be responsible for both a developmental edit of Somnolence and a line edit after that. The contracts are signed, and I’ll be handing the manuscript over to them at the beginning of May. In the meantime, I’m just doing everything I can to get it in the best shape I can manage.

I’m super ready to be done with this project and move on to others. I never want to spend five years working on the same book again. It’s not that I don’t love it, I still do, but it sucks to be so tired of something I’ve created and am still creating. Part of that is just how the writing process goes, but I have a feeling that if I had been able to work faster I wouldn’t be feeling quite this sick of reading it.

A common piece of advice for dealing with this is to just put the manuscript down and let it breathe for a while before coming back to it, but that’s not always practical. Sometimes you’ve just gotta plow forward and swallow the screaming. This project has suffered from far too many breaks, really.

Besides, the next two projects on my stack are cool, and I want to go play in those worlds.

“Revision & Self-Editing”

Revision & Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell was my book on writing for February, and honestly, I’ve had trouble getting through this one. I’ve been pretty focused on editing, this month, which you might think would increase my interest in this book, but it hasn’t. I honestly had a much better time reading the punctuation book and got a lot more benefit from it.

I feel like Revision & Self-Editing could be much more concise, given the relative simplicity of many of these concepts. Some of the information is certainly helpful, but much of it is the same stuff I can find by googling for plot structure and character development. I’m not gleaning a ton of new ideas from this read, or different perspectives on the familiar ones, and it isn’t very engaging. It would probably have been more helpful for me a couple of years ago, or even just early last year, but I’ve kinda clawed my way past this stage already.

So, my review is that this is probably a decent book if you’re just starting out, but if you’ve already done a lot of research on your own or you’ve taken some classes on creative writing, you might want something more advanced. If you are just starting out, I’d probably recommend some other books on editing first, but I wouldn’t say don’t pick this one up at all. It’s just not the most engaging read out there. 

A Quick (Late) Update

Still editing. I found that I was having a lot of trouble distancing myself enough to see the larger issues in my work, so I tried something kind of weird that turned out to be super helpful. I converted the manuscript into ebook form and then popped it into my google books app. I even gave it a cute cover, shown below, because if you’re gonna do something silly you might as well be thorough.

I do a lot of reading on my phone these days, and I found it much easier to see problem areas when I could sort of pretend that it wasn’t mine. I had also been having trouble with getting bogged down in revising single sentences over and over because they weren’t quite right, which meant very slow progress. With this method, I write down changes and problem areas on a notepad with some pretty colors and highlighters for different categories, and I’m able to keep up a much better pace. Once I’m finished reading through, I’ll take the notepad and my computer and go through all the problems that I recorded, one by one.

After that, and probably a lot of nitpicking, I’ll be handing it over for a proper developmental edit sometime in mid April. I’ll put up more details when the papers are all signed, but I’m pretty excited about this.

This will absolutely not be the final cover for this book. An actual professional artist will be involved, I promise.

Somnolence Word Count and Update

The manuscript hit 75,000 words last week, which was a personal milestone. I’ve filled in a lot of the gaps in the backstory, and I’m working on finer details. I expect the word count to keep going up for a while, but I’ll start weeding out the unnecessary bits, too.

I’m reading Revision & Self-editing, by James Scott Bell this month, which is quite handy. I look forward to discovering all the exciting ways I’ve screwed up as I begin this next round of revisions.

“Becoming a Writer”

My absolute favorite book on writing is Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brand. It isn’t about the technical aspects of writing. Instead, it tackles the stuff that blocks people from writing in the first place. It’s a really nice read, too. I picked up the audiobook version, and I find it very soothing and pleasant to listen to, in addition to being super helpful. Her style is just really charming.

Brand wrote her book on writing quite a while ago; she actually talks about picking the perfect typewriter, but everything else in there is still pretty relevant to the average writer. This is the book a lot of writers are really searching for when they go through all sorts of other sources looking for inspiration. She isn’t there to help you polish your sentences, or figure out how to define chapters, but she breaks down what really stops people from just getting in front of a blank page and making progress, and offers practical solutions and encouragement.

I first heard about her on Chris Brecheen’s blog, Writing About Writing. Which is also a great source for encouragement, and a well placed kick in the butt, when you’re stuck. I’d suggest this book as a good first, second, or last resort for someone who wants to write but is feeling discouraged and frustrated.

“The Best Punctuation Book, Period.”

I always enjoy good books on writing, but I’m trying to be more intentional about honing the parts of the craft that I struggle with. I’ve decided to make sure I get through one book a month, to see where that takes me. This month my book on writing is literally titled, The best punctuation book, June Casagrande. I’m pretty sure that the title is meant to be annoyingly difficult to punctuate.

So far, it’s pretty awesome. I’ve got some weird punctuation habits, and I was taught some rules that are preferred in the UK but aren’t standard in the US. I stubbornly clung to them because I think they’re more aesthetically pleasing, but I’m gonna have to get over myself to publish in the US.

This book settles a lot of confusing issues. Googling often turns up conflicting advice, and it can be hard to tell which source you should follow for your style of writing. Casagrande breaks the rules down by the dominant styles: news, science, book, and academic; and makes it easy to figure out which to use. When there’s a gray area of punctuation, she consults a group of experts who vote on the best solution.

I’m sure that I’ll need to refer back to this book often, but it’s surprisingly engaging just to read through. It’s no thriller, but it can be an interesting subject. I’m about halfway through, and I’m hoping that in the latter half she’ll expand on the history and context behind English punctuation guidelines. It might make it easier for me to remember where to stick all those extra commas I like to sprinkle into sentences.