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Edit Hacks

Since I just completed a round of developmental edits on two different stories, I thought I’d talk about a few things I’ve learned over the years.

Some edits are pretty easy.  Tweak this, make this scene a little deeper or more emotional.  Not too bad, right?

Other edits are HARD.  Change (or clarify because you didn’t get it clear enough) a character’s emotional ARC through the whole story. Add a completely different component to a sex scene.  What makes these kind of edits hard (for me) is that the story vision is already complete in my head. I told exactly the story I wanted to tell. However, I probably didn’t get everything that was in my head onto the page, and sometimes my editor sees something I missed.  Or even better, she has ideas to make it deeper, more emotional, and worse for the character.  Then I’m slapping myself and saying why didn’t I think of that??

But changing the VISION is hard, even if you agree 100% with the editor’s suggestions. (I’ve been super lucky so far that I’ve never completely balked at something an editor has asked me to do.)

Remember the chaos effect: A butterfly flaps its wings in chapter one, and by the end, you have an entirely different story.  You have to stay true to YOUR vision while making it better, which really can be hard.

So here’s my edit process in case it will help anyone.

  1. Read the editor’s revision letter.  DO NOT MAKE ANY CHANGES YET.
  2. Think about the main points and come up with alternatives in your mind. Nothing has to be concrete yet.  For this stage, I find doing something rather mindless, like crochet or playing a BigFish Game, can free up my subconscious to work on it in the background. This usually takes me a couple of days to mull over in my mind.
  3. Jot notes about what you think you can do to address each point.  If possible, refer to page or chapter or scene.
  4. Start breaking those tasks down onto a calendar or loose timeline so you have a rough idea how long it’ll take.  Keep in mind that many edits at this point have a trickle down effect – one change might affect several chapters. That helps you prioritize the tasks and lay out all the various places you have to work.
  5. Build in at least one full day to do a final read through before the work is due.

As I begin breaking the edit points down into specific tasks, I realize that most of the work is early in the story.  For whatever reason, my first chapter or two is always heavier work, even in copy/line edits. Your major work may be elsewhere and it might take a few times for you to figure out where your weaknesses or strengths are.

For me, inertia is a problem because I initially feel overwhelmed. For Charlie, I had 5 pages front and back of MY notes I made while talking with Alissa, and then I printed out her revision letter too which was several pages long.  Where to start? OMG this is going to be soooo hard. There’s no way…

HACK #1:  SKIP YOUR WEAKNESS FIRST.  I know the beginning chapter edits are going to be hard (usually this is how a character is introduced and reacts for the first few scenes, so lots of work is involved).  So I skip the beginning edits entirely.  You don’t have to work on edits in a linear fashion. Pick one that’s easy, that you already clearly know how to address.  That way you start out solid.  Sometimes it’s just STARTING that makes all the difference, then you can chisel on each item bit by bit.

HACK #2: WORK IN LAYERS.  You don’t have to get the edit point fixed entirely in the first go-round. This is especially true if you’re working on character arc changes.  It’s going to take time to layer in all those changes across several chapters, so take it in pieces. Make one change in one scene, save the work, and I literally take a break. Either I read what I’ve done so far, or I jot notes on something else.  Then I come back and take a look at what I did and move forward from there. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed.

HACK #3: BUILD IN TIME FOR A READ-THRU.  At least one!  Just because you make topical changes to meet the editor’s suggestions, that doesn’t mean your job is done.  It’s your vision. You have to make sure that all of the little subtleties are there, that you’ve carried every little new thread through in a logical way. I save a copy and call it “approved” with all comments deleted, all changes approved, and track changes turned off.  Then I read thru form start to finish, and fine tune the real copy as needed.

Refer back to #2 at this point.  For Charlie’s story, I had to read thru several times, especially the opening chapter because so many things changed.  Little things, but I had to make sure they flowed, made sense, and didn’t mess up what I’d started.  Just make sure you SAVE the real doc before saving an approved copy with all the changes accepted, and then you make the corrections in the main copy.  I got messed up once and  saved my changes in the wrong version.  I don’t send that approved copy to my editor, so if I hadn’t caught it, that change would have been lost.

Do you have any tips or hacks for surviving an edit pass?

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Balance for 2015

Balancing multiple projects at once has always been a problem for me.  I tend to become OCD with a project, especially once it’s over the hump and flowing in the Zone.  I don’t want to leave the Zone – I just want to finish.  Even if that means 5K, or even 8K, 10K days.  That means no sleep, stressed out, aching fingers and wrists, sore muscles in my back.  It’s stupid, really.

Though I have to admit I love careening down those deadly curves at breakneck speed.

I have multiple series and publishers to balance in 2015.  At least I do have contracts in hand to help me figure out which ones need to be worked on first, but overlap is inevitable.  Ideally, I’d like to have one in brainstorm mode while another’s in drafting mode, but that doesn’t always happen.

e.g. this month, I’m brainstorming and plotting two completely different books.  One has a higher priority and will be my drafting book by January, but if I get good ideas on the other book, I want to capture them at the same time.  I need the second book to be ready to go in the wings as soon as I finish the first.

Then add in promo, edits on other projects in various stages….

Yeah, it’s going to be fun!

I intend to use my timer more to help me focus.  Small bursts of time back and forth on projects as needed.  I’m also working on getting my bullet journal going again.  I slacked off right around the time we moved.

I’m also re-evaluating my three and five year goals.  I have a pie in the sky crazy dream I’d really like to make happen, but honestly, I don’t see how I can possibly make it.  Still, I’m going to put it on my dream big list and see what happens.

Do you have any tricks for switching back and forth between projects?

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Sold!

I’m thrilled to announce that Charlie (the novel I finished for NaNoWriMo) and his brother, Vincent, are both going to have a home at Carina Press!

It’s ironic, because I started Charlie’s story for one of their Christmas anthologies last year or maybe even the year before (time flies).  But he had other ideas.  (The story of my life.)  His book clocked in at 91,500, one of the longest books I’ve written since the very beginning.

The reason I’m not saying titles is because we’re looking at new ones, both for the book and the series.  The original inspiration for the book was an interview I did for RT in Chicago:

Burkhart responded that an interesting mix would be romance and horor. Perhaps, even, some kind of serial killer romance. If she wrote one, the author revealed the title would probably be “Killer Of My Heart.”

So “Killer of My Heart” will be changing, but I don’t know what it’ll be yet.  The Gregar is strong with this one.  Very strong.  Yes, he’s an assassin/serial killer.  So is his brother. Very dark, bloody, and violent.  And erotic.  Mustn’t forget that.  *winks*

I’ll update the Coming Soon page once I have dates!

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Official NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner

I made it official today by adding some backstory notes I’ve been working on for Charlie’s brother.  My Word file says 50,030 but NaNo counted only 50,009.  Either way, that’s above the word count goal for the month!

Plus, I’ve completed all the edits that were due this month on TWO other books.  Yes, it’s been a busy month.

So my plans for December are:

  • Brainstorm and take notes on Vincent’s story
  • Billionaire #3 proposal
  • Second round edits, FLEs on Billionaire #2
  • Promo plan for Mama C.
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Update

I’ve already completed the second (my read thru) and third (Beloved Sister’s feedback) drafts of Charlie’s story.  He’ll be ready to submit soon, though he’s not due until 1/31.

Then I worked on first-round edits for Billionaire #2 and finished them up yesterday.

Last night I worked on Mama C’s Never Let You Down and sent back final line edits.

As you can see, my 2015 schedule is going to be INSANE!!

I’m planning to write 3-4 more books next year.  I already have releases scheduled in Jan and April.  Planning on another in Nov (but I have to write the book yet) and another release that’s not scheduled yet.  It’s going to be a fast and furious year!

If you’re a reviewer and don’t want me to forget to contact you when I have ARCs available, I created an ARC contact list (privacy statement).

Today, my plan will be the initial brain storming on Charlie’s brother’s book (Vincent) while I begin Thanksgiving prep.  I plan to hash out some details with Molly on Thanksgiving Day.  But the next book I’ll actually be writing is going to be Billionaire #3.  If it’s going to make my targeted Nov 2015 release, then I need to have it submitted by March at the latest.  It’ll be a holiday-themed book, so it’s the perfect time to write it!

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 18

I set a new personal record today.  I don’t think I’ve ever written so many words in a single day.  8300+ bringing my NaNoWriMo cound to 40,119.

Even better….  I’m in the climax of the book.  A few more scenes, and this baby is done.

*muppet flails*

I don’t know what happened.  Everything just clicked and it was time to go.  I struggled with the set up for the final scene and I thought about it off and on throughout the day.  When it was finally time to work on it tonight, I was ready.  I knew what needed to happen.

So now I’ve got Ranay fighting for her life.  She’s more active than I originally planned in my synopsis, which is a very good thing.  She was too passive.  This is working much better.  I can’t WAIT to grind through these last few scenes!

Middle has an away basketball game tomorrow night 1.5 hour one way, so maybe I can get more serious wordage in the car.  I could feasibly finish the book tomorrow.

We’ll see.

No snippet right now – my laptop is down to 6% battery.  I’ll try to post a little tomorrow!

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 17

As usual with weekends, I don’t have a ton of wordage to show, but I did keep up with at least 1K a day and I’m still slightly ahead.  Even better, I got over the typical hump between end of Act 2 and beginning of Act 3.  The story is overall nearly at 75K, one of the longest books I’ve written in quite some time.

Even better:  I only have 10-20K left to write and this book is DONE.  GRINS HAPPY DANCE YAY!

NaNoWriMo total as of last night: 31,818

He fisted his hand in my hair and forced my gaze away, up to his face.  “This isn’t about what you want, Ranay.  This is about what I want.  I want you to stop me.  I want you to have a limit that you don’t allow me to cross.  I need to be able to trust you in this or we can’t be together.  I’m too dangerous otherwise.  I need you to be able to stop me.”

 

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 12

No D&E this morning as expected.  Middle had a late basketball game last night so I didn’t even try for early today.  I did manage a couple of hundred words in the car after dimming my laptop screen so it didn’t affect That Man’s driving too much.

Story wise I’m on the very edge of the first shocking reveal.  Ranay is going to hear some very disturbing things.  Is it really Charlie’s work?  Or someone else?  But why would the FBI think it’s him…?  She’s on her own and heading into the darkest point of the story.

Yesterday’s final NaNo count: 24,634

Snippet:

His pants hung open enough to reveal the dark cotton of his briefs and the bulge hidden beneath.  He tugged the black T-shirt over his head, bare skin drawing my gaze up.  He was as lean as I suspected, chiseled muscle that made my mouth water.  More chest hair than I’d seen on a man before but not so much that I thought of a burly backwoodsman.  Both his left shoulder and pec bore ink.  From the eagle, flag, and skulls, I guessed some kind of hardcore military background, but I couldn’t concentrate on the design.

A silver ring was planted in his left nipple.

I could almost feel that metal between my teeth.

He stood silent and unassuming, not threatening or large.  His arms were loose at his sides, his shoulders down and relaxed.  Nothing screamed domination and control in his stance.

Until I dragged my gaze back up his body to his eyes.

I trembled.  I couldn’t help it.  The fire blazing in his dark eyes seared my brain to ash.  It took all my concentration to force out one word.  “Master.”

His eyes.  Always his eyes.  It was why I’d worked so hard at never really seeing him, or at least never meeting his gaze fully.  Once he saw what I really was, I knew I’d never be able to escape.  He needed no cuffs or chains or collars to bind me to him.  All he needed was that dark all-consuming need that swallowed me whole and left me crying for more.

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 11

Made it two out of five days this week Dark & Early so far.  This morning, I got the most words I’ve ever gotten that early:  over 1400.  It was all dialogue and went quickly.  In fact, I’ve been writing to that scene … for quite some time now.

The bottom fell out.  Of everything.

Maybe it’s because this story started as a 35K novella, but I’ve always thought of it as three separate parts, each with its own three-act structure.  Part 1:  Owned.  It even “ended” with a high point for the romance.  Part 2:  Betrayed.  Yeah, that doesn’t sound good, does it?  This is the opposite.  Everything is falling apart.  Charlie is actually gone, completely off page.  I know what he’s doing, but Ranay (and the reader, since it’s first person) doesn’t.  I just brought the story to the end of that section.

Now all of the plot that’s been so carefully hinted at and laid down from the beginning is suddenly tightening into the real weave of the story.  Part 3: Redeemed.  This next part is suspense, dark, and probably violent.  It’s also going to be gut wrenching because Ranay is alone.

She has to be alone to pull this off.

Part 2 is currently 28K, which is about where I was thinking.  I allowed 30K but I think I need to go back and add a scene, so that was a pretty good guess.

Part 3 will be fast and furious, maybe shorter.  We’ll see.  I think I still need at least 20K to make everything happen and wrap up all the threads.  Possibly as much as 30K but that’s pushing it.

I may not have enough story to hit 50K for NaNo, but that’s okay.  I just want to finish the book!!

NaNoWriMo count as of this morning:  20,117

Snippet:

“What are you hard limits?”

“I don’t have any.”  He arched a brow, so I rushed to clarify.  “At least not that I’ve ever found.”

I’d lived as a full-time slave for a year and had a breakdown when I had to leave.  How could I have any limit if I allowed myself to fall into such a black hole?  Staring up into his eyes, I felt like I was tottering on the edge of an endless chasm.  One step toward him and I would fall.  Hard.  People said they fell in love all the time, head over heels, like it was wonderful.  Sunshine and bunnies and floaty hearts weren’t in my repertoire.  When I fell, I crashed like a flaming meteor that wiped out an entire planet.

“Well, we’re going to start slowly.  You have limits, whether you think so or not.  And if you don’t…”  He narrowed his eyes slightly but the full force of his determination rocked me back on my heels as he set me back on my feet.  “Then I’ll help you develop and enforce them.  You need to learn to protect yourself, especially from men like me.”

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Day 9

Weekends are crazy around here.  I had to be up at 6:30 Sat. to get Middle around for basketball practice.  Then Littlest had two basketball games that morning (different location).  That Man took her to her first game, I picked up Middle from practice, and then we all went to watch Littlest’s last game.  Papa came down to watch, so then we went out to lunch and I did some tech support on his laptop when we got home.

After getting up so early, I was exhausted early, so each word was a struggle.

Then yesterday, I took Princess and Littlest to church and watched the remainder of the Chiefs game.  After that, Middle took my laptop to continue working on her presentation, so I got Dropbox installed on That Man’s (my old backup) laptop so I could still work.  But naturally she needed my help, so I got a couple of hundred words at the most.  We spent the rest of the evening doing homework.  She had to get this presentation done since she’s got a tournament this week (her first games!) and she’ll have other homework all week to struggle to keep up with.

Unfortunately, she remembered she had math and science homework too.  At 10 PM.  Which I had to help her with and then check all her math work too.  Ugh.  So it was after 11 PM last night before I got to bed and I had hardly anything to show for words all day.  That late, I thought it’d be difficult to get up D&E this morning, but I actually woke up at 4 AM and then had a hard time going back to sleep until the alarm went off.

Miracle of miracles, I made over 1K this morning too, bringing my total to 15,975.  I’m still behind, but that’s a doable amount to make up.

As I said above, Middle has a tournament this week and it’s a 30-45 min drive away.  Wed. night she doesn’t play until almost 9 PM, so it’ll be late, lots of traveling, and somehow we have to get her homework done too.  D&E will be crucial even if I’m exhausted or I’ll never be able to keep up this week.

PLUS, I have first round edits on Billionaire #2 in my inbox, and line/final edits on Mama C are just around the corner.  Busy, busy, busy.

Snippet:

“Hear me now, Ranay.”

His voice made me shiver, all raw and barely leashed violence.  I’d never imagined he hid that kind of aggression behind his sweet dimples and curly hair, but I loved it.  Oh how I loved it.  He was my bad boy and my Master and my gentle lover all wrapped up into one tidy package.

“I never break my promises.  Never.  If you give yourself to me, I will treasure you.  If you feel weak, I’ll help make you strong.  If you have a need, I’ll meet it, whatever it is.  And if at any time I’m not good for you, then I will free you to protect you.  I won’t leave you high and dry, alone and afraid, but I refuse to tear down anything you’ve built for yourself.  If you need to be free, I’ll do it,” he said, his left hand rising up toward his right eye, “even if I have to take a bullet to the skull.”