Evolution of a Manuscript: Part 2 – Microsoft Word to PDF

In Evolution of a Manuscript part 1, we discussed scribbling your first draft on the go with gmail (or anything else handy), and then transferring it to your computer to beef it up in your designated writing space. Now, the next step is to take that piece and edit, edit, edit, and edit again.

In this article, I’m going to take you through my process of editing through Microsoft Word and Scrivener, and show you the final product in 6×9, 10 pt font pdf – the closest visually I’m going to get to printed book form. Which is psychologically very satisfying to see as an author–like a glimpse into the future (because my book (and yours) will be published).

Here it is in Word:

me_gadnor_pt2_1

Immediately we see squiggly lines indicating bad grammar or misspellings. After fixing these, I was still highly unsatisfied with this opening. It doesn’t put me there enough, it’s too wordy, and I don’t feel like I am Gadnor the way that I want, and visually there is too much white space, it looks unfinished and it reads the same. Also, there are some disjointed sentences about Lithaneva–the “reaction was rooted in something far more complex than surprised guests”–just doesn’t seem very relevant, too vague and wordy and honestly, it doesn’t add to the story much, it doesn’t tell me anything about her. So, I go back to Scrivener, tweak, and here is what I came up with:

me_gadnor_pt2_3

This is much better, less white space, there is more happening in the scene. Now, with the addition of audience actions I can get a sense of the room, whereas before I was only getting very wooden “she did, he said” type things and little substance. I still don’t like the first paragraph. “Perplexed” sounds complicated, too much to digest within the first two sentences, and I’m still not feeling as though I am Gadnor. There also seems to be a disjointed organization of people and paragraphs. So, back to Scrivener, and this is what I come up with:

me_gadnor_pt2_4

There, now I feel like I have conveyed the awkward feeling well, you know the one where everyone in the room is waiting on someone to say something and they just don’t. I feel like I have captured that now, and I feel like I really am Gadnor. I have also (hopefully) managed to give the reader the sense that Gadnor feels partial to the Princess in a way that is natural, without having to actually state that.

There are some things I still don’t like. There is too much happening in the second paragraph, too many actions by too many people, and the “reveling in it” and “gloried at the spectacle” are rehashes of the same vibe. So, I tweak that a bit and call it good, and now here it is, edited to the point where I’m comfortable with a peer review, in 6×9 10pt font.

me_gadnor_pt2_5

It’s very satisfying looking at how it might appear when published. Don’t you think? I encourage you to try this if you haven’t already. When you get your scene how you want it, format it like this and just see how it looks. Read it over, make a change if you feel it’s necessary, and then keep going with the next scene.

Use this visual as a reward for your hard work and a sneak peak at when it all pays off.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Feel free to post in the comments some of your own editing/motivational tricks.

Happy writing!

2020 – Week 8

I exceeded my goal this week, tweaking my dream sequence and not only drafted the first paragraph of the next scene, but completed the draft, adding another 1041 words to my running total. My manuscript is now over 32,000 words.

My goal for this week is to tweak the new scene, and run it through my editing process.

Happy writing!

2020 – Week 6 “To Cut or Not to Cut”

I’ve made some excellent progress this week and exceeded my goal to fill in the missing pieces of the scene. The pieces are in and I’ve started my editing process. I’m currently on step 5.

Every step reveals something that needs changing, something that doesn’t look or sound right, or something that’s still missing or would sound better restructured, cut, or moved somewhere else. I cannot stress the importance of self-editing enough.

The original v12 version had a dream sequence before this particular scene I’m writing happens, and I’m seriously debating putting it back in. It might be important for character development…not necessarily for the plot at this point though, which is why I wanted to cut it. It’s a bit of a dilemma, but I think I’m going to add it back in. It does reveal to the reader a little something about this character, and also throws a little mystery in there too.

So my goal for this week is to finish up editing this scene and get it sent off to a peer for review, and also get the first paragraph of the dream sequence written. I won’t have a chance to write much this weekend so hopefully I’ll be able to accomplish this!

Happy writing!

2020 – Week 2

It’s week 2 of 2020 and I’m pleased to say that I have completed the scene I was working on in my last post, added an additional 949 words.  It is now 1687 words, an excellent scene length. Of course, this is the first draft of it, so I’m going to let it sit for a day or two and then go through my editing process, which you can learn about here on my blog Editing Tricks That Don’t Cost a Dime.

My goal for week 3 of 2020 is to figure out what the final scene in this chapter will be–from whose perspective–solidify what exactly is taking place in the scene, and at least get my opening paragraph drafted.

Here’s to keeping up the progress!

Happy writing!

 

Writing Resolutions – 2020

It’s the new year, and not only that, but the start of a new decade.  It’s sinking in that I’ve had my book floating around in my mind now for nearly 20 years, it’s current iteration for the last 2 years, and it’s predecessor for 8.  Wow!  Time really does fly by, especially for procrastinating writers such as myself.

The previous draft of my book I set a deadline for of May 2012, and I made that deadline, I completed the draft.  It was not a polished version by ANY means, but it was a finished draft, and I met my goal.

How?

I took it seriously.  May 2012 I joined the Air Force, and leading up to this I was sure that once I embarked on my new career I wouldn’t have any time to finish it, so I buckled up, strapped in, and put in the hard hours to finish it by deadline, and I DID!

Now I’m staring down the barrel of a new decade.  I’m done having kids (not raising them though but I can write around that 🙂 ), I’ve completed my education, relocated for the last time, and I have a great career.  I have no more additional excuses than anyone else who writes, so it’s time to buckle up, strap in, and put in the hard hours again to finish the final iteration of book 1 in my series THIS YEAR!

I’ve done it before, I can do it again.  I’m 28,000 words in and my goal is at least 100,000.  Hopefully around this number I will be where I want to end, but I have a feeling it might go a little over this, and that’s okay.  One hundred thousand is my ball park, my “I have to have at least this many for an agent to take me seriously” number.  The previous draft which I finished in 2012 was 110,000, and this go through I’ve cut out so much exposition and boring scenes, but also added in, reworked, and expanded many also so I’m about even.

Why has it taken me almost 20 years?  Initially, my book was going to be one huge saga, but I realized that with every new life event, writing took a backseat, and when I found the time to begin again, my whole outlook and writing style had changed so much that I had to start over.  After the 3rd time of this, I decided I was trying to do too much at once, and decided to break it down into a trilogy.  May 2012 I finished the draft of book 1.

So with this being 2020, a new year, a new decade, new motivation has taken hold.  No more excuses, it’s time to take my writing aspirations seriously and finish book 1, polish it up, shuffle it off to a few beta readers, make some last minute touches, and start querying agents.

Once again, my writing style has changed so much that to be honest, I can’t even bring myself to reread the 2012 version, or v12 as I’ll call it from now on.  I know what happens in all the scenes though by heart, and in July 2018 I undertook the new and improved version that I am confident enough in to submit for publishing, from this point forward I will call it v18.

I’m currently reworking chapter 6 and so much has changed for the better.  Some scenes have been cut, my exorbitant character list is now manageable for the reader, I’ve expanded several scenes which I’d rushed through before, taken time to develop the key characters, and have shifted some scenes to a later place in the book.

All in all, I’m thrilled with v18, and I’m confident that this will be the last iteration, but I have to stick with it.  I started this writing project in 2002, and I’ll be damned if I’m not done with the first of three installments by the 20th year and at least have obtained an agent.

Each week I will be blogging on my progress, sort of like Nanowrimo, but for the whole year, until I’ve completed the whole book.  Word count, any inspirations or hang ups I’ve had, and decisions to cut, add, or move scenes will be explored–all will be revealed week by week.  Please feel free to share your own progress with me on your book in the comments.

So far…

Since 1 January 2020, I have started reworking scene 2 in chapter 6, allowed the muses to add in a dog with a pretty important role, and written 738 words so far.  This scene is still not complete, not edited or polished, and it’s been moved up from its place in v12, where it was previously in chapter 9.  I made the decision to move it up because quite frankly, there are a lot of exposition scenes in v12 that I’ve completely cut out.  The information revealed in those scenes will be told in a more interesting way later on.

That’s it!  Until next week!  Happy writing and good luck with your 2020 resolutions!

Meaningful Writing – How to Not Quit

I’ve been struggling to make progress with my book for some months now. It’s not that I don’t know what happens next, but everytime I sit down to write I find myself easily distracted.

I began to think back to my unstoppable days, where churning out two or three thousand words daily was a default occurrence. How was I able to do it?

Honest answer? I didn’t have much of a life. I wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, didn’t have a job or a house to clean. Instead, I was a loner with no friends. By creating a new world through writing it was an escape from the mundane. The characters I wrote were my friends, I aided their struggles, shared their grief and success. Writing back then was so easy because it was more meaningful!

So what is writing now? Does it hold a similar meaning?

Well, no. I have a great job, a wonderful husband, and three beautiful kids that I love spending time with. There’s no going back to the way it was, and I don’t want to!

But I’ve been hanging onto this same story for 17 years, wanting to finish it and not being able to. Now I realize why–it’s no longer an escape, but I still love my characters dearly, and I’ve invested too many years to just give up on them.

So it’s sentiment. Sentiment has helped my writing survive, but it hasn’t propelled it forward. It’s a feeble reason to keep writing. Which is why I haven’t been very successful doing it.

That’s why other things distract me, that’s why I can’t write more than 300 words in a sit down even when I do carve out the time. I need to find real meaning for my writing again.

Obviously, my previous purpose is no longer feasible, I’m no longer a miserable teenager, I’m a content adult. I don’t want to escape reality anymore. So what substantial meaning can I attribute to writing now?

My answer: Drawing support from others who share the same struggles is a time proven method for success in almost every aspect of life from religion, to disease, to exercise, to entertainment, etc. So I’ve decided to begin meeting with other local writers at least once per month just to write together and support each other in the writing process.

I met with my group last weekend to test it out, wrote 400 words, and worked out several kinks in my storyline–a definite win!

If writing is a struggle for you and it wasn’t before, even though you’ve carved out the time and gathered your notes, then maybe the reason for your writers block goes deeper.

I suggest doing some soul searching to determine what remedy will work for you to get back on track. It may be trial and error for a bit, but once you figure it out I bet you find that writing comes to you much easier.

Perhaps joining a writing community is the answer for you too. If there isn’t a local group where you are, try searching for an online group, and don’t be shy about shopping around for the right fit.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

Writers Block :(

Writer’s block happens to the best of us, it’s inevitable.  We go strong for a bit, churning out page after page and then suddenly we get to a place where the creativity takes a vacation.  I’ve been stuck on one scene for about four months.  Four months!  That’s a long time to be stuck in one place.  How many pages could I have written if not for this problem?

We experience writers block for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes we just get too busy with life.  We start a new job, have to go out of town, a new semester of school begins, grass and hedges grow, or grandma bought us a new guitar for our birthday and wants us to learn how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb.  The reasons why we halt writing are endless.

Sometimes though we are genuinely stuck.  Life settles down and we have time put aside for our craft, but we spend it all staring at the screen until we feel like our eyes are melting in their sockets.  Our story refuses to come out.

This scene that I happened to be stuck on was a very important one.  It’s my main character’s first real scene, and it’s a pretty pivotal moment in the book.  A lot is riding on getting this right.  I’ve established several characters already with unique personalities and intricately woven story arcs that have ushered readers from page 1 to this very point in time.  Now it’s my main character’s turn to take the torch and shine.  So amid all the weeds to pull, babies to feed and read to, work to be on time for, groceries to buy and put away, somewhere in there I have the responsibility to my readers, myself, and to my character to write a first impression that is both engaging and intriguing–to create a new reader favorite.

And so, I’ve been stuck.

In addition to life things that get in our way, as writers it’s easy for us to get so caught up in wanting a scene to be perfect that we allow it to be a stumbling block to our success.  So many pages did not get written because I was hung up on how perfect this scene needs to be.

The old saying “A house isn’t built in a day” is a perfect analysis.  That beautiful mansion was once just a patch of grass.  So too are each of our scenes.  Keep this in mind when you get stuck, especially if it is because you really want to the scene to be perfect.

I finally completed the scene by writing a little bit at a time, and boy was it ugly at first, and at second, and at third.  A couple paragraphs here and there, some rework here, some scrapping there, and some tweaking all over took it from a patch of grass to a house with four walls.  It still needs paint, but the foundation is there now for what I had envisioned as the perfect scene.  And the most important part is that it’s done, it’s written, and I can finally move past this point in my book.

Writers block will happen, just accept it now.  And when it does, don’t ignore it, or it could set you back four months or even longer.  Some writers have given up on stories because of writers block, because the scene isn’t perfect, because the mansion is just a concrete foundation and studs.

I’m telling you as one writer to another, that it’s okay to write a scene that’s ugly, rushed, devoid of detail and emotion.  It’s okay if you have to scrap a couple paragraphs or even the whole thing.  These are not wasted efforts, it’s part of the process of beating writers block.  Embrace it, push through it, and keep adding to your house until it becomes a mansion.

The only way to finish your novel is to keep writing until it’s done, even when it’s ugly, even when you feel that the scene you’re working on deserves so much better than what you can currently do.

You will polish it to perfection.

But first, just keep writing.

No Zero Days – The Key to Finishing Your Novel

I was speaking with an associate recently about motivation, finding time, and just making progress on a goal, and he shared a technique with me that is helping him achieve what he wants.

For myself, this goal would be finishing my novel, Isle of Elandia.  Chapter 3 is complete, and now that the new school semester has started I have not been able to find much time to even open my Scrivener to begin chapter 4.  It’s not that I don’t know what happens in chapter 4, I just can’t seem to put aside enough time during the day that I think will be beneficial enough to make a dent in it.  After speaking with my colleague though, I’ve realized that I may have the wrong mindset about what it takes to make progress.

What I’ve realized is there will always be something more important than my novel, such as: working, my child, dishes, yard work, laundry, a shower, walking the dog.  The list of things that take priority over novel writing is endless, and that list will never shorten because they’re ongoing tasks.  Until I retire, my child goes off to college, global warming destroys all vegetation, I join a nudist colony, my dog goes to the eternal rabbit fields, and I buy into the idea that the bacteria on my skin cleanses me, I will never have free time to write my novel.  And isn’t this the truth for all of us who haven’t written a word in ages but always plan to?

So back to my associate.  He told me about this concept of “No Zero Days”.  It’s premise is simple, don’t go a day where you make zero progress towards your goal.  You don’t have to devote an hour or two hours to it, and you don’t necessarily have to not do something else critical in order to accomplish it because the concept of No Zero doesn’t have a time limit, it’s just do something.  It can be a thought, a sentence, a detail of a landscape setting, a unique marking on a character, or something as simple as deciding how many chapters to have in your book.  Too often we set lofty goals for progress, (this week I’ll finish a scene!  …yea right) and become overwhelmed by how much effort or time it will take to complete it, so we put it off “until I have time.”

In contrast, there is no overwhelming goal with No Zero Days.  And even the busiest of us must admit that there are periods throughout the day where we are inevitably forced to do nothing, and which could be transformed into No Zero Day time.  One great example is going to the restroom.  We all have to do that every single day, and there is literally nothing else to occupy your time doing it besides thinking, so put those moments to use.  Think about your novel, iron out a plot detail, and make it a No Zero Day.

To help keep track and make this a visual goal, print out a calendar sheet and tack it up somewhere that you will see it throughout the day to help remind you to take a moment and think about your novel.  Maybe, just maybe, you might surprise yourself and find a few minutes while waiting in line for your coffee to jot down a scene, or a dialogue, or resolve a key plot hole or piece of character backstory.

There are tons of calendars out there on Google images for free.  Or if you don’t have a printer at home, set a daily reminder on your phone’s google calendar.  Not close to paper or pen or your laptop?  I bet your cellphone is handy though! Use the memo feature to record your progress.

The main point I’m making is this:  Progress doesn’t have to be big, it can be small, but it needs to be progress or else that novel won’t get written.

There are many great writers who have employed a similar technique and were successful at completing many novels.  One writer that comes to mind right away is J.R.R Tolkien.  I don’t know if he called it No Zero Days, but he was no stranger to making small amounts of progress at a time.  His The Hobbit  began while he was grading a student paper.  He took one moment to collect his thoughts and came up with the sentence “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” that blossomed into the tale we know and love today.  That didn’t take an hour or two hours, and he didn’t even set aside a special time for writing, he just took a moment and made it a No Zero Day.

So, if you’re serious about completing your novel, then you have to start, and you have to do.  Forget about carving out time because most likely it’s not going to happen.  So don’t worry about making time, make progress, even if it’s just a one liner that you think about in between grading papers, answering phones, typing emails, walking the dog, or taking a dump.  Just make today a No Zero Day.

 

%d bloggers like this: