Is there life after finishing a first draft?

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My title poses an interesting question. Is there life after a first draft? You may well wonder since I’ve gone dark on social media since I announced I had finished mine. Truth be told, I needed a break from talking about my work.

I have not been idle. For an indie author, the work never stops. While that first draft was simmering, I reread the other three books in the series. This was useful as I go into rewrites on the fourth book. I now have the entire story line in my head. As a matter of course, I picked up typos and a few continuity errors. So, I upgraded all the files. I’ve been meaning to do such an update for a while because I’ve learned how to do the table of contents feature in a way that is more compatible for Kindle readers.

A great upside to indie publishing and doing my own ebook formatting is that I can revise and repost my interior book files whenever necessary. The need to do such revising comes up more often that I realized it would. When the fourth book is published, I will have redo the interior file for the third with a sneak peek at chapter one of the fourth.

I’ve now moved through my first rewrite on No Compass to Right. I’ve trimmed down the word count, cleaned up problematic scenes, checked over time frames and rewritten a key event that, according to one of my consultants, was more complicated than necessary. I’ve done multiple searches for incidents of unclear, weak writing.

Line-by-line editing has begun on the early chapters and rewrites will continue apace of editing. This process may seem clunky but it works for me. I’m keeping ahead of my editor (what a laugh!) by reading the entire work aloud and making changes as I go. Much is discovered while reading a piece of one’s writing aloud!

When I can’t face any of the above tasks, I switch gears to work on acknowledgments, dedication and the dreaded book blurb for the latest novel. Nothing tests an author’s mettle like writing a book blurb. There is that moment, looking at a blank page, knowing I must come up with 250 words that will excite, entice and lure the reader into my story, when I realize that my book must be about nothing since my mind is a total blank.

I’m also working on ideas, conceptual sketches and assembling photos for the cover of this new work.

On the marketing front, I’ve landed another BookBub slot for Disappearing in Plain Sight in May. It was March 2016 that I was featured with the first book of the Crater Lake Series. I am eager to share how a second time on the same book works out.

So, that’s where I’m at. Where in the writing process do you find yourself?

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Imaginary Cycle Trips, Summer Visitors & Garden Bounty

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A recent knee problem has prompted me to follow my doctor’s advice on the need for a non-loadbearing exercise regime to strengthen quad muscles and make this type of injury less likely in the future. She recommended a recumbent, stationary exercise bike.

We had always planned to extend the covering over our back deck and since I absolutely refuse to ride a stationary bike inside the house, the timing was perfect. Deck cover is now done, bike is in place and I have embarked on an imaginary, stationary bike ride across Canada to visit my son in Ottawa. Things are off to a slow but steady start. It took me some time to cover the gravel road out of here but now I am onto the highway (metaphorically speaking) and rolling along.

Resistance is set low, speed consistent at about 17 miles per hour and as I recover, I’m keeping the riding time to thirty minutes per day. It’s like cruising on a very smooth track. There will be time enough to build in higher resistance, greater speed and lengthier rides. The longest journey starts with a single step. Or should I say, a spin of the bike wheel?

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Granddaughter, Emma, at Save-On Foods in Campbell River – having fun posing with my book.

We’ve just come through an amazing two weeks of friends, grandkids, kids and nieces visiting us at the lake with all the fun, laughs and good times that go along with such times. Please watch for future posts covering the highlights. I’ve had a wonderful break from social media and am coming back refreshed and happy.

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My niece, Chelsea, enjoying a reading break. Her choice – Chasing Down the Night, of course!

Final edits on Maelstrom are keeping me at my computer for thirty minute blocks several times per day. I now set a timer and get up when it goes off. Good knee health and all of that. I find it amazing just how fast thirty minutes can fly by.

The garden has moved into high production mode and we are reaping the harvest. Yesterday I was busy making blackberry jam and tonight’s dinner features fresh green beans, zucchini and tomatoes.

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Reason clears and plants the wilderness of the imagination to harvest the wheat of art. (Austin O’Malley)

A Weary Writer’s Lament

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https://disappearinginplainsight.com/2013/02/01/a-weary-writers-lament/

If you are getting this post twice, I apologize. When I posted this yesterday, it didn’t seem to come up in the Reader for any of my followers. No idea why. I thought I would give it another go today. If I’m doing this correctly, you should be able to click on the link above and go to the post.

A Weary Writer’s Lament

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I’m not quite as doubled over as Amarante out walking his pig in the movie, The Milagro Beanfield War. We had an opportunity to visit the little town of Truchas, New Mexico where Robert Redford directed this beautiful movie. We took the above photo in the State Capital Building in Santa Fe. It’s informally called the roundhouse and is the only round State Capital building in the US. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Santa Fe. And please see this movie if you ever have a chance.

I am feeling a bit weary with writing. I thought it would be wise to assess my progress. The output on The Light Never Lies has been good – averaging about 2000 words per day. The first draft of the first section of the book is almost complete and that is weighing in at about 60,000 words. In my outline for the novel, I had blocked out the first section to set everything up, place all the characters on stage and get most of the back story that needs to be told out there. The second section will probably be about the same length. All the major action of the story will unwind, leading inevitably to the climax. Section three will be much shorter. I’ll get through the climax and then wrap everything up.

A little aside here – what does first draft mean? For every writer, this term probably amounts to something different – from point form ideas, to a wild writing marathon of spewing thoughts onto the paper as fast as one can type, to a piece of writing created according to a strict outline, it could even mean that preliminary editing has happened.

My idea of first draft is that the bones of the story are there. There may be far too many bones and I will definitely have to flesh some of them out more. I’ll probably have to rearrange some of the bones and of course there will need to be a lot of bone cleaning. But after that first draft, someone reading the novel will know what the story is about. They will know the characters, understand the main conflicts and the story arcs. They should have a clear sense of whether the book is any good.

I’ve done much more work with my post-it note outline for this novel that I did for the first draft of Disappearing in Plain Sight. I’m hoping this will mean less need to rearrange blocks of material as the novel progresses. We’ll see.

At the same time as knocking out the words for The Light Never Lies, I’ve been taking care of the final edits on the e-proofs for Disappearing in Plain Sight. It seems like I’ve been saying that over and over. How many times can one do the final edits? Good question.

Friesen Press offered me two rounds of revisions with the package I purchased. When I saw the e-proofs on the first round, I had requested several formatting changes and about 150 small text edits. When the e-proofs came back, I had to go through and ensure that all of those requests and edits had been done. Naturally some were missed. This is to be expected. On that second round, I had five formatting requests and about 60 small edits. Yesterday, I received the e-proofs that should have had all those changes. I still couldn’t move to final approval because a very small number of things I had asked for hadn’t yet been done or having been done, they created other problems. For example, asking for a word change at the end of a piece of dialogue was done, but in so doing, the quotation mark was lost.

Apparently, we are nearing the finish line. All the formatting issues have been taken care of, I really like the way the cover has turned out. I’m feeling good about my author bio and pic. I should be able to approve those final few little-bitty changes by next week and then sign off.

My reflection on this e-proof editing is that is an extremely difficult and time-consuming stage of the publishing process. Every requested change has to be checked and rechecked. And working with the pdf tools to make changes wasn’t exactly user-friendly.

The other challenge I’m experiencing has to do with moving back and forth between first draft writing and intense proofreading, between a sequel and a first book. Pouring out a story for the first time then switching over to proofreading involves a major shift of gears. And it’s hard to keep skipping back in time with the characters and the storylines.

No wonder I’m feeling a bit weary. I’m glad to say that writing for the blog is one of the bright spots in my day. I love the way a blog post cleans the palate. Short enough to give satisfaction, but long enough to really say something.

Today I’ve decided I won’t write anything but this post. I’m going to go for a walk and do some housework and relax. Where are you at in your writing process? How do you switch gears between tasks? What do you do to rest and refresh your weary, writer’s mind?

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Writers are a Cruel and Sometimes Heartless Breed

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Writing can make us cruel, almost heartless at times, in the service of the story. We go about wrecking ruin on the characters we have created, bringing them to the limit of their endurance. We have the noblest intent. We seek their enlightenment. We mean for them to end the story as so much more than they began – they fight the good fight and find the treasure we have hidden for them. To treat that which you have brought into being with such intent is not for the faint of heart.

The other day I took a character I really like and brought him to the very brink – I put him in a situation that had the potential to ruin everything he had worked for. And I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. As Gustave Flaubert says, “One does not choose one’s subject matter; one submits to it.” I repeat, this is not for the faint of heart.

At other times, a writer’s work is more surprising than cruel. I have one character that went from having short, straight, black hair in her character sketch to being written with curly, blonde hair. Suffice to say, with blonde hair she will have to morph out of the ethnic background I had originally given her. Out of nowhere, a minor character got a name change. Pete didn’t sound like the name of a guy who would do what I was suggesting this guy would do. One character, whom I thought would make a big stink about something, decided to be completely supportive, while shifting the role of the heavy to another character entirely. To say nothing of the fact that I have left a young person in the hospital suffering for days now and can’t seem to return to that part of the story and write the poor kid out the other side. Oh, the trials and tribulations of a story in progress.

The day is brilliant with winter sunshine and the lake looks like a glittering mass of silver diamonds. I have been trying to pump out my 3000 words on The Light Never Lies but the last couple of days have been a real struggle. I produced about 1200 words yesterday and when I read them over this morning, I found only one line that seemed worth keeping. The rest read like crap. Things aren’t going much better today.

On another front, my work on the second round revisions for Disappearing in Plain Sight is done and the e-proofs are back in the hands of Friesen Press. I am glad that I only paid for two rounds of revision. I think I could probably tinker with the manuscript forever – changing a word here, re-thinking the use of a comma there. Enough, already, I am ready for this novel to be launched out into the world – warts and all.

As it has been at every stage of the process, I have no idea what will come after I approve the second round of revisions. But we must be coming close to publication. (If I’m being completely naïve here, please don’t tell me. Thanks in advance.)

Maybe my hard slogging over the keyboard the last two days has to do with reading Disappearing in Plain Sight for the 500th time. The writing is as smooth as my current state of ability could make it. When I go back and look at my first draft of The Light Never Lies, it’s bound to suffer by comparison. Or maybe it is just crap. Time will tell.

(The above photo was taken back in 2008 on the campus of the University of Toronto)

The Novel is Gone

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Two days ago, I pressed upload on my author’s account page and the manuscript was gone – off to Friesen Press  for the next stage in my self-publishing experience. I know, I know – I wrote these same words in a post about six weeks ago. Well, it did go then, but it got a review that suggested a bit of final polishing would help – which, by the way, was as necessary as the review said it would be. After innumerable edits there were still incidents of missing words, clunky repetitions and even duplication in a chapter break section. I could hardly believe my eyes. Oh well – that is why we edit and edit and edit.

I confess to having had very mixed feelings when I sat back in my chair in front of the laptop and realized that the novel was truly gone – that I was finished writing Disappearing in Plain Sight. It was most definitely elation mixed with high anxiety. My anxiety is partially about my baby going out into the world, but I also feel anxious because I keep asking myself – what now? What am I going to do now – all day, every day?

Yesterday I had to approve my three book industry subject and category codes – my author account manager sent along a spreadsheet with what looked like a million codes to choose from, but it’s actually simpler than it looks – once you get into the Fiction category the field is narrowed considerably. I have decided to go with Fiction – Romance/Contemporary; Fiction – Literary; and Fiction – General.

Then I had to come up with 7 keywords for book buyers who will look for my book online – flags for online databases. I chose love, relationships, grief, bullying, trauma, counselling, and British Columbia. Choosing these seven words was difficult – it seemed like an important part of the process. I’m now working on a section of acknowledgments and a dedication to be included with the novel.

I want to let this process of self-publishing unfold and by that I mean – not ask what is coming next or how long the next stage will take – just go with it. Take a wait and see approach, be patient, be open to the whole process. Sometimes this feels right to me and sometimes I feel like I’m an idiot – why not ask about time frames and next steps? The truth is, I am simply overwhelmed by all that I don’t know – even asking a question is challenging.

I was approached by Friesen Press via email the other day with a special offer to upgrade my cover package – an extra $299.00 would buy me a far better cover. No doubt it would, but as I’ve made clear before – I’m not spending any more money than I already have. My supporters have mixed feelings – one comment went like this – reading this email makes me think that if you don’t take this upgrade you’ll end up with a shitty cover. My response was – if you decide not to take the extra-large fries with your burger, in doesn’t automatically follow that they make you a crappy burger. Another comment took a more pragmatic approach – don’t sweat it – that’s their job – all you have to do is say no. Yup – true enough.

Today, I will continue to work on character sketches for the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight – The Light Never Lies. I have quite a cast of new characters and plan to expand on some of the original settings – get into more detail on the mechanics of a small sawmill operation and an organic bakery that makes use of an outdoor, wood-fired oven. I’m reminded of Stephen King writing (On Writing, 2000) that his books and stories are often situational driven. In contrast, I can see that my writing is very much character and setting driven. For me, the first step is always getting to know the characters and the setting. Once that work is done, I can toss them all together and things will start happening. The characters will tell me what they want to do and where the story is supposed to go.

I guess there are things to get busy with after pressing the upload button!

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I’m including this picture because it strikes me as the perfect mixture of elation and anxiety – depending on whether you are the lion or the horse. Entitled Lion Attacking A Horse, it is currently on display at the Getty Villa , located on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, until February 2013. On loan from the Capitoline Museums, this is the first time this statue has been on view outside of Rome in over two millennia. It’s breathtaking and gripping and to see it is almost worth a trip to California in and of itself.