Writing backwards

Book Two’s plotted. The synopses of each POV are written, organized, re-organized and placed where they need to be.

Thanks to my editor, I’ve adopted a typical structure for BK2: opening, inciting event, act one: problem, act two: choice,  act two: disaster, act three: plan, climax, wrap-up. In BK1, I stumbled into that structure. I’m glad to be doing it consciously now.

In Scrivener I’ve created the above structure as folders and then within those folders I created text files with the relevant portion of the POV plot synopsis. For example:

  • Opening / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • Inciting Event / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • etc.

Once I did all that, I realized — to my horror — that the first half of the book was horribly broken because the timing of plot events didn’t line up.

For example, Loki’s inciting event is the “act two: choice” for Odin & Frigg. And, the “midpoint: reversal” for all three POVs is the same — but then the “act two: disaster” is different for all three POVs.

So, I took a week and dived into reorganizing the first half of the book. The way it stands now is that the main plot points in the first half of the book are offset a bit. I hope it works.

I’ve been able to start writing which means that my subconscious is currently okay with the new structure. (For me, “writer’s block” means there’s something broken in the book and I can’t write until I find and fix the problem.)

Now that writing’s (re)commenced I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. BK2 is tightly focused on Odin, Frigg and Loki — those are the only POVs, so I’m hoping to really improve their voices and the theme driving each individual plot.

I also think I found the above errors because I was working backward through the book. I would’ve found them going the other direction, but probably not for another month and ~30K words later.

And given that I’m about a month behind where I wanted to be, these next few months are crunch time. November might actually be my first NaNoWriMo.

Book Two…progressing slowly

I’m still iterating on outlines, character goals, motivations, conflicts, etc. So far its looking like BK2 (actual title tbd) will focus on Frigg, Odin and Loki. Loki may end up being the one who ties the book together.

The above actually represents a change of plans. Originally, both Vafthrudnir and Vidar were going to be in BK2 as POVs. Now they won’t be, largely because their POVs aren’t integral to the core story in BK2.

I’d also been planning to use Hermod as my POV for the journey into Helheim, but now she’s out. One reason is that her character arc hit a wall at the “midpoint reversal.” I didn’t have a plan for what to do with her afterward. And everything I’d come up with felt forced, weak and trite…and not terribly relevant to BK2’s core story.

Another key reason for eliminating three POVs is that I need/want BK2 to be shorter. I don’t have time to write another 175K book, not if I want to get BK2 out by next fall.

My word count goal for BK2 is 100K max. I should be able to write that by year-end particularly given all the planning/outlining that I’ll start with and the bunch of scenes I already have to work with. Even so, meeting my Jan 2 deadline’s gonna be tight. I’m also horribly out of practice with respect to sitting down and actually writing.

I’ve also been thinking about spin-off / related novels. These would focus on characters and storylines that I’ve cut from the first couple books. They’d be about 50K words long at most and tell the story of one character — Hyrrokin, as one example.

She’s one of my favorite characters but, like Hermod, she just wasn’t integral to the books. But telling Hyrrokin’s story will shed a lot of light on why the Jotunn are doing what they’re doing. And, she’s cool.

I figure I can do the same with Vidar’s plot in BK2, Hermod’s and maybe Vaft’s. Maybe these end up being freebie short stories, too. I’m not sure yet. A lot of that depends on how much time I can dedicate to them…and how good their standalone stories end up being.

Regardless, my goal remains: BK2 by fall 2018; BK3 by fall 2019. I’ll have some breathing room by then.

 

 

And still proofing…

So my “early August” release is slipping to “mid August” release. Over the past couple (three?) weeks I’ve been proofing my book.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Uploaded the book to Createspace; generated & downloaded a PDF proof
  2. I’m reading the PDF on my ‘puter with the MS Word file open at the same time. If I find a mistake or something I really, really can’t live with, then I change it on the spot.
  3. Then I make a note of what I changed in a text file. On the next proof (yes, there will be one), I will specifically check the stuff that I changed.

That final proof will be in Vellum (the software I’m using to format the ebook & print version). There’s a “preview” feature in the software that lets you see what the book will look like on a Kindle, Nook, etc. I’ll proof it that way rather than in Word or PDF again.

Once everything is as clean and correct as I can possibly make it, then I’ll upload the final files, change the launch date on Amazon & let ‘er rip.

Middle of August, I swear.

 

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The photo above is another I took at Glacier Bay in Alaska. You can see one of the glaciers on the far left.

 

Making progress

This morning my proofreader sent back the corrected manuscript. It’s pretty clean so it won’t take that long to finalize (ideally). Early August is still looking good for the launch.

In the past month I’ve been outlining and re-outlining BK2. I want to avoid the cycle of “rip apart, re organize, re do” that I experienced in writing BK1. Most of that was just being a new author and trying to figure out how to write a book.

Regardless, I want to avoid that on BK2 so I planning the book down to the scene before I start writing. Granted I have about 30K words already written, but much of that is gonna get thrown out. This is what I want prevent moving forward.

This is probably too much detail, but here’s my current outlining process:

  • Open the manuscript for BK2 in Scrivener; Get out my trusty notebook & pencil.
  • Outline in the notebook by POV and day.
    • I have my manuscript organized by Day — 17 through 28 in this case. Each day is further divided into morning, afternoon and evening. Each scene is placed in one of those folders.
    • Each scene is a POV. I color code each POV so I can tell at a glance how well I’m alternating between POVs.
  • Go through each POV character (Odin, Frigg, etc.) and figure out what their scene is about.
    • While I’m doing that I note who else is present (particularly if it’s another POV), what they’re doing and what they will be doing.
    • Most of this is written in my notebook, but I’ll often move stuff around in Scrivener, add notes, etc.
    • I’ve caught quite a few “uh that’s not possible” errors just by nailing down where various characters are and will be.
  • Outlining with pencil & paper also makes it really apparent when certain plot lines are weak. For example, Odin, Loki and Frigg all have 3+ handwritten pages each. Vidar and Vafthrudnir have one each. Oops. Hermod starts strong but then vanishes from the book after the middle build.
    • This lack of character/plot development was the main reason for having to repeatedly take BK1 apart & reassemble it — because I just wrote scenes and then organized them.
    • Outlining & brainstorming in advance should help solve that problem.
  • When I get what I think is a really good idea I’ll switch to the keyboard. Not only is it faster, but I want to capitalize on the inspiration. And writing a bit here & there helps.

My goal is to get the outline for BK2 finished by the end of August. That’ll give me four months to draft the book and then polish it before sending to my editor in early January 2018.

Launching in August

I just sent my manuscript to my proofreader. I’ve no idea how extensive her changes will be, but I’m guessing it’ll take me at least a couple weeks to go through them.

Once I get my book back from the proofreader, I’m going to put the book up for pre-order on Amazon. The max pre-order duration is 90 days. Actually it’s more like 86 since you have to account for re-uploading the final manuscript.

Either way, ~90 days will give me plenty of time to revise, fiddle and dither. Once the pre-order’s been live for ~30 days, I’ll advance the launch and make the book available in early August.  I’ll be launching into KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited.

The advantage to preordering is that the “also-boughts” begin to populate before the book’s actually available (Assuming people are browsing to it & pre-ordering.) Beyond that, the book and my forthcoming author page may also garner interest.

As a first-time author, my expectations are low. (But I’m hopeful!) My approach to the launch is basically “fire and forget” — no marketing and advertising beyond this blog and word of mouth. (I may run a bare bones ad budget of Amazon ads as an experiment.)

If I had more books (minimum 3), then advertising would make more financial / ROI sense since I could do things like create a box set, make the first book perma-free, discount the 2nd, etc. If things go as planned, though, I won’t have three books until September 2019.

That third book should complete the first story arc. My fourth book will be in the same Norse-inspired universe but will introduce new characters while most of those POVs in books 1-3 will have cameos. This is all assuming that my traction on books 1-3 increases over time. I’ve no idea if that’ll happen. If it doesn’t, then I’ll re-evaluate. But, I’ll be writing books 4-6 as a standalone (if related) series; BK4 will be a new entry point.

In the immediate term, I’ve a few things to do in preparation for my August launch:

  • Revisit my blurbs & bio. I haven’t looked at those in months so I should be able to rip into ’em a bit more easily
  • Figure out how to integrate a mailing list sign-up to this blog. I suspect it’s as easy as paying more money and clicking on stuff. I’ll probably use Mailchimp since it appears to be the most commonly used and its “Forever Free” plan will be more than sufficient for my needs. The most annoying part of the mailing list will be paying the USPS for a PO Box.
  • Figure out how CreateSpace formatting works. I want physical books to be available for marketing purposes.
  • Figure out how ebook formatting works. I’ve compiled multiple ebooks using both Scrivener and Word as the basis, but I’m assuming that I’ve missed something goofy (weird glitches, errors, etc.).
  • Finalize my front matter
  • Create my back matter — the call to action (leave a review and/or subscribe to my mailing list).
  • Finalize the three chapters from BK2 that I’m including at the end of BK1. The sequence will go like this: BK1 ends > call to action > first three chapters of BK2 > 2nd call to action.

And then, of course, I need to keep moving forward on BK2 or I’ll never make my Jan 2018 deadline. Regardless, it’s good to have the end (of BK1) in sight.

Book progress…

I’ve just now sent my line editor about 2K words for a re-edit. On June 5th I will submit the “final” manuscript to my proofreader.

I’m assuming it’ll take her about a month to make her edits.

I’ve no idea how long it will take me to go through all of her changes. Probably anywhere from two weeks to a month.

Realistically, I’m guessing the book will launch in August.

All righty…back to writing BK2!

 

BK2

Last week I tentatively reserved January 2018 for the first developmental edit of BK2. I’m using the same editor as I did for my line edit. I like her, I trust her and we have a good working relationship.

Currently, I’m planning two rounds of “content” editing — first one focuses on story, plot, character, etc. Then I get it back and spend ~6 weeks revising. Then I send back to her. She evaluates how well I executed on the suggestions, etc., in the first round.

Then, I spend another ~6 weeks revising. Once I’ve done that, I send it back for the line edit.

Tired yet? I am and I haven’t even done any of it yet.

After the line edit, which focuses more on language use, I again go through and make changes.

Then I go down to the pub and have a few drinks. Or maybe I do that before making the edits.

Once I’ve finished with the line edits, the book is ready for the proofreader. She’ll have it for a month. Then I revise…and THEN I publish.

Rough math, I should be ready to publish BK2 by September/October 2018. Crazy.

And probably somewhere around next year this time (call it May 2018) I’ll ask for the January 2019 editing slot…and begin writing BK3.

I’m not used to these long planning horizons — or writing books, lol — but just thinking about it is helping rekindle my excitement for the series (these months upon months of revision have been really draining).

That revitalization became clear to me this morning after I’d written a scene between Frigg and one of her sons.

It was one of those where you have an idea/sense of what needs to happen, but it’s not entirely in focus. And then you slip into that zone, time fades, and the words just flow. It’s not perfect by any means, but it delivers some solid emotion and achieves what I needed.

I have eight months to get BK2 into a state where it’s ready for an editor. That’s entirely doable particularly since I have the whole thing plotted and planned. And, much of it’s written. Of course much also needs to be rewritten and added, but that’ll happen.

Just gotta get crackin.

Finally, almost done.

After about six weeks of revision, I sent my book to my second editor this past Monday.

Finally.

Six weeks sounds impressive, but it was probably about 70 hours of work. Ish. I’m not really sure. Lot of other stuff going on.

And, of course, I grew so thoroughly sick of looking at the book that revising it became difficult. Multiple times I had to stop myself hating on it by saying: “she edited this already, she didn’t throw up on it, move along.”

There remains a great deal in the book that I’m not happy with. But, I’ve always felt like this about stuff I’ve written & rewritten (ad nauseum); I imagine most writers feel similarly.

I also decided that absent Fenrir-sized errors, it’s time to put this sucker out in the world. If peeps hate on it, well, so be it. Learning experience.

I also realized this past week that it’s been about 6 months since I’ve written anything genuinely new. Depressing.

So, it’s time to move on. There’s more story I want to tell.

 

Line edit’s back…

The graphic above gives a sense of what it looks like. Every single page of the manuscript looks like that. It’s glorious.

The past few weeks I’ve been:

  1. Working on the marketing blurb & author bio … getting close
  2. Finding & finalizing names for stuff
  3. Worldbuilding my fictional culture’s afterlife.
  4. Outlining and re-outlining Book 2, along with some scene writing when the spirit moved me.

It’s been tough really throwing myself into BK2 knowing that I’d have to interrupt that effort by diving back into BK1’s revision.

With this revision I need to work on a few things (as noted by my editor)

  1. Scene opening & closing hooks: I start too many scenes by “describing the stage” — showing what’s there, who’s standing where, etc. She recommended starting with action–which I did in some scenes, but not in all. Nailing these help propel a reader thru the book.
  2. Without even realizing it I’d written more than 300 “half-” constructions (half-dozen, half-slid, half a company…half-assed ;)). I never would have caught those on my own. So, I’m eliminating half of them. 😉
  3. Eliminate “stage business”: These are phrases like turning and looking. Her advice to fix this was to “Use interiority to show what the viewpoint character is thinking or feeling at that moment, or get the characters interacting with the world you’ve built around them.”
  4. Reduce “over-writing” / “purple prose”: I didn’t do too much of this, but where she noted those instances I actually LOL’d when I read them again. I doubt I would’ve noticed  these without her. Note that some writers’ styles involve “flowery” prose. Nothing wrong with that–but it’s not my style, so when I slid into “purple-osity” it was especially jarring.

Fortunately, there was only ONE plot point that I didn’t resolve sufficiently. Wewt! That said, I do have a bunch of continuity issues to iron out (which I expected). I also have to replace all the placeholders — mostly names for people & things. Not a big deal, thanks to search & replace.

On Feb 28 I send my corrected manuscript to my proofreader. She advised me to take at least a month to work thru the line edits (I’d only planned on two weeks).

I am SO glad I followed her advice.