Back of the Book

boy/girl

squire/mage

comedy/tragedy

hero/villain

beginning/end

murderer/guardian

madman/sage

friend/slave

true/false

hunter/prey

jonas/rime

spell/sword

witch/is which?

[Just playing around with some text – potentially for the back cover of Spell/Sword. As a young nerdling I used to spend quite a lot of time in bookstores and libraries.  I’d spend hours reading the inner jacket, and the back of every book — deciding if it was what I wanted to read next. In bookstores most of all, five bucks for a new paperback was a serious investment. Of course, I immediately became a critic. I was flabbergasted at how many ‘back cover summaries’ were totally misleading, and were clearly written without the author’s knowledge. I was still a little too young to understand about marketing, publishing, etc.

But I vowed, that when I wrote MY book, then I would make sure I didn’t have a crappy summary on the back cover. And since I’m self-publishing, I can have whatever wacky text I want.]

 

Blowing the dust off…

Let me just knock some of the cobwebs off  here.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he is most displeased at my lackadaisical posting schedule of late.

But I was editing, black and white photo soldier guy, who I hope is not some sort of war criminal! I can see that ceremonial dagger on your belt, and I’m sure you’d like to dispense some pre-Internet justice, but hear me out.

In between normal life errata and work neccesity, my creative-time has been in short supply. Lodestar has taken a turn for the awesome as we rocket towards the conclusion – and I’m determined to deliver on the storytelling and gameplay promise of the campaign and not leave my players disappointed when it wraps up in September. On top of that I’m running a short side-game for some neophyte nerds in the neighborhood, plus planning for my Top Secret Next Campaign. Compounded with time rolling in the floor with the new puppy, and other general puttering about – I’ve been swamped.

I finished the rough draft of Spell/Sword back in April, then put it away for as long as possible before diving into editing. I made it a full four weeks, which was torturous indeed.

True editing began in May, here was my process:

1. Print out the draft, and read through it. Making only absolutely necessary notes in the margins.

2. Cry.

3. Read through it again, making nit-picky grammar notes.

4. Take all of the comments/edits from the paper version and add them to my Google Doc. “No argument” edits were implemented immediately. [Grammar fixes, word choice, spelling mistakes, erotic centaurs scene] More complicated edits requiring more thought or massive chapter-spanning revision entered as Comments onto the G-Doc.

5. Man, there’s a lot of these Comments. [63 total, only 17 of which were related to petticoat description. ALWAYS NEED MORE DESCRIPTION OF THE COURTLY LADY DRESSES]

6. Worked in fits and starts on the larger edits. The easy ones first, picking at the edges — then finally dived into the more serious ones in June.

7. Anxiety Quicksand. Edits seem to be making book worse. Every thing I read seems to be terrible, even if not explicitly marked for revision. I hate the book, and spend a lot of time polishing a terrible, shiny thought. Writing this draft was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — a goal in my life that I never imagined I would accomplish. To have made it this far is nothing short of miraculous — but the book still might not be any good.  Effort does not equal excellence in writing, or any art.  I might have a completely unusable draft, rotten to the core.  I might have written a book and still not have a book.

8. Kept editing.

9. Started to lose the feeling of forward momentum, so I engaged the Saving Grace of Art. A deadline. Contacted my Alpha Readers, and let them know that I would be printing the draft the first of July to send them copies for review. I embrace that deadline, and editing redoubles in ferocity.

10. I like the book a little better. Well, let’s be serious — I love the book, but understand that I have lost any objectivity. I’ve read it too many times, I’m way too close.  I finish up major edits, with the salve that I’m going to go through this whole process again once my Alphas have a crack at it. Only they can tell me whether or not my child is a Goofus or a Gallant.

Highlights reference! These always bothered me. Maybe Goofus’ friends needed a little “tough love”, and who’s to say Gallant even liked oranges? Look at that smug S.O.B. — he probably poisoned that fruit. Yes, I was a child concerned with logical fallacies, move along.

11. I have one last brainstorm for my editing before releasing it to the Alphas. I read the entire draft out loud in one sitting. I catch innumerable grammar, tense, spelling, and logic errors in the process. Best thing I’ve done, next time around I’m planning on doing this much, much earlier. I also record me reading it [TECHNOLOGY!] for further review.

12. I like the book.

13. I send the draft to be printed for Alpha Readers. I feel a sense of pride that my closest friends and advisors will soon know how fucking clever I am.

14. I listen to the recording, and immediately catch a dozen glaring syntax and logic problems.

This sand is filled with irony!

15. Cry a little bit. But you know, in a badass way, like Chow Yun Fat in The Killer.

 

I  know I’m not unique in my process, or in my reactions — I know my colleagues and associates are sick of my talking about these things like I invented Author Malaise. But, you’re my blog and this is my first time up this thorny path — so get prepared for some serious whining and navel-gazing.

Also, some ruminations on various literary and genre concepts. I’ve been struggling to put my novel in context with others in the genre, and I’ve had some thoughts. SOME THOUGHTS, I SAY.

I’m also thinking about pulling my old weekend STORY ON DEMAND out of mothballs, now that I have a little more brainspace to spare.

What do you think, Corporal Steely Breadcrumbs?

I’m just here for the ladies. And the oppression of the Proletariat.

Editing – Final Sequence Omega

Gort views passive voice with disdain.

I’m on schedule for finishing my Alpha Edit of Spell/Sword before July 1st — my personal printer [aka my mom] is waiting to print copies for my crack team of Alpha Readers.

Editing is like painting with sand — everything you do changes the landscape, and draws into question things that you once considered granite-bedrock of your fiction.

I’ve spent a lot of time just sparring with anxiety. Am I editing too fast, too slow? Are the changes I’m making good — are they bad? Why aren’t there more minotaurs?

I’m terrified of getting overzealous and damaging the heart of the work — I’m terrified of not doing enough and leaving cancers to grow and fester in the lines and pages of the book.

I do think it’s time to crack the door open and let some other eyes prowl over the pages. I’m restricting my Alpha Readers to 10, half male, half female — and a pretty even spread of reader-types, and writers that I respect. After they get done, and give me some feedback, and I can stop crying — I’ll get back to work on a Beta Draft for the final round of 5 readers — my toughest critics: my girlfriend, a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar, a playwright, and the cruelest douchebag I can find.

Levels and Blech

Stringer Bell finds my prose to be lackluster.

I’m temporarily finished with my short story, Star Prophet. I’m really ambivalent about it — part of it I like, parts of it I don’t — but I’m trying something really outside of my comfort zone/style.  I have lost all perspective on how well it’s working.

Looking for some feedback, follow the link for the full text, so you don’t need to read it piecemeal on the blog. Comments here, or on the page itself would be much appreciated!

Star Prophet III

Maybe I’m dreaming.

Star Prophet and I stand on a beach at sunset. The sun is too big, half the sky is red fire. Solar flares curl and destabilize the ionosphere and the sand is too large, like grains of rice between my toes. I slip my fingers into the band of my shorts, it’s cold. There is no sound, the waves do not crash.

The blue star-hood turns and I see that his right eye is bleeding.

“Who did that to you?”

“You did.” he said.

I touch his face, then I touch my face. My fingers feel strange in the empty cavity where my left eye used to be. There is no pain, just an odd sticky feeling of pressure.

“Want to go for a walk?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I get up and go to the bathroom, and brush my teeth. Ultra-Brite is red already, so my toothbrush doesn’t look strange.  The pads of my fingers are yellow-white as I press them against the mirror. Hand bone, and wrist bone, and arm bone all connected. Broken-glass joints. The rice-sand titters away from my feet.

“It pushes, it pushes, it pushes us..us! It pushes us, child, child, sweet child of mine.” Star Prophet said. “Humans are so blessed, so special in the cosmos. The line of our bones running all the way back to the Tigris, throwing ourselves out there — up there! More to see, and more to know and more to go. Heh-heh.”

“Heh.”

“To stand on a street corner, and feel the heat of the pavement through your shoes and the wind of a car and feel it all stretching out, backwards and forwards — the wolves howling at the tent flap and the burst of nebulae off the port bow.”

The  carpet, the thick carpet — the steep walls of the hall, my uncle snoring. I slammed the flat of my fist against the wall, but he didn’t wake up. I was still holding my toothbrush.

[Still not happy, but getting there. Maybe once I ‘finish’ this can be a good practice revision piece before diving into That Thing.]

Give me back your feed.

I’d love any sort of constructive criticism on The Cost – I’m writing one small chunk of it a day, and posting it to the site with very little editing or rumination.

You know, like I do.

This is a continuation of Another Story – and this character is very near and dear to my heart. I know a lot about him before and long after this moment, but I’m curious how effective this piece is without much context for the main character.

Let me have it!

Politely, of course.