Category Archives: Divine Lotus

And waiting…a brief Princess of Fire update

This is perhaps the very hardest part of editing a book– waiting for the beta-readers to return their feedback. I’ve gotten a response from one reader on Princess of Fire, and I’m waiting for input from two others. Patience is a virtue, or so I am told….

In the interim I’ve gone ahead and started a fourth reading of my own of a new CreateSpace PDF proof I’ve created. This one is mainly to make sure that my pagination, spacing and page breaks are all in the right places. I assume (hope) that my remaining beta readers will not find anything major at this point, and that there are no important changes left to be made. Still, I’m holding off calling the text finalized, just to make sure.

You may notice that I did not say completed— that’s not a word I use a lot about my books. Over time I’ve come to accept the truth of the saying, which I have seen most recently attributed to Harry Crews, that novels are never finished, only abandoned. There comes a point at which you simply need to stop diddling with the damn thing and either publish it or send it to an agent or editor. That moment is fast approaching for Princess of Fire— in itself, a cause for rejoicing, considering that at times I damn near despaired of ever completing this novel.

In the wake of publishing Princess of Fire I will not immediately start in on writing Princess of Stars. At the moment I know how the book begins, and very precisely how it ends (right down to the last line), but the middle is a largely undiscovered country. After the pantsing disaster of Princess of Fire, I intend to take some time and try to get a better feel for the guts of Princess of Stars— if not a full outline, then probably a pretty detailed synopsis. I anticipate this book will be big and cover a lot of ground, so I want to have a firm foundation before I actually start.

In the interim, I will probably be spending some time expanding the partial draft I have for Horse Tamer, which may need a new title. It’s a story close to my heart, but I don’t anticipate completing it any time soon– when I try to think about a possible word count for it, the number “500,000” keeps coming to mind (don’t scream– there are bigger novels out there).

Beyond that, I plan on expanding my blogging efforts, which have been lagging lately. I have more movies to review and more unsubstantiated opinions to bloviate about. Of course, and hardly least, there is still the nagging need for me to secure a day-job, another project that has been in the doldrums lately.

But I am close, so close, to publishing Princess of Fire. The sense of liberation is going to tremendous. You might want to stand back….

Later.

As I sit here, waiting….

…for my beta-readers to digest Princess of Fire (and I stand by with antacid), I’m going forward with further changes that I know need to be done. These are the kind of fiddling corrections I thought the third draft would deal with– the small inconsistencies and errors that creep into any lengthy work of fiction. Want some samples? I thought you’d never ask–

1. Where’s Kathy’s glasses? Believe it or not, whether or not Kathy’s got her glasses on her nose is important (this was particularly true in Princess of Shadows, where they were a major plot element).

2. At the moment I have Kathy telling two different people to do the same thing in three different places in the narrative. If you don’t straighten that sort of thing out, at the very least your protagonist looks, well, challenged.

3. At different locations in the book I call a certain physical space a situation room, an operations room and an operations center. I think Emerson said something negative about consistency, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what he was thinking of.

4. Throughout the book I have three sets of running numbers that anchor much of the action. I have to do a find on the critical word for each and make sure they increment correctly and come to the right total at the end. Normally, I’m not this anal, but I have a terror of some reader coming back and saying “On page 321 you said fifteen thousand and sixty-three, and on page 425 you said fifteen thousand fifty-three, can’t you count…?” C’mon, authors are only human. No, I mean it, we really are.

So, this is how I’m keeping myself occupied while I sweat out waiting for my beta-readers. This is always a nerve-wracking time for me– my baby is being looked at by strangers for the first time. Well, not actually strangers, but eyes other than mine. It makes my hands shake, especially since I’m not too sure the little tyke is actually that appealing….

Later.

Boy, am I glad that’s over…The third draft of Princess of Fire

I have finally, by the grace of Almighty God, finished the third draft/punch-list edit of Princess of Fire, and copies are going out to my beta readers. As with every other aspect of this novel, this phase of editing turned out to be a lot more arduous than I anticipated. So much so, in fact, that I am questioning my usual editing process.

My normal way of editing a story or novel, which I have discussed before, is to draft the novel and then perform successive read-throughs and make changes and corrections until I have a coherent story and a clean narrative. Over time I have added a punch-list edit and beta readers, but it’s the same basic process– re-reading the manuscript and winnowing out the problems. The theory is that, by the time I get to the third and fourth drafts, I should be dealing with mostly minor issues.

This time around, however, reading through the novel for the third time, I found myself stumbling over all sorts of serious problems– bad grammar, passive language, convoluted sentences, inconsistent place and proper names, dialogue that did not serve the purpose I intended, repetitious information and, most critically, issues with the action in the middle of the book, in which important events did not link together properly. If I didn’t know better, I might have sworn that I hadn’t even touched the manuscript.

But of course I did, and I’ve got the ink-stained pages to prove it. At a later date it might be productive for me to review the red-pen changes and compare them with the third draft changes, to see if I can discern what I did catch and what I didn’t, and why. Short-term, such a review will not help me much with getting Princess of Fire finished and launched out into the world.

Aside from the distinct possibility that I am just a terrible editor, I think a large part of why the manuscript was still so infected with problems may lie with the haphazard and disjointed way the first draft came together. There were parts of this story I attacked four or five times, from different angles, trying to get it pulled together, and I think that left its mark on the draft.

On the other hand, it may be that my initial read-throughs were ineffective because I knew that I would be reading the novel much more closely on the third pass and I didn’t push as hard as I should have. Either way, it may be that I need to seriously rethink my editing process. More on that in future posts.

The positive aspect of all of this is that I am confident I have now created a very clean, close-to-final draft. Assuming my beta readers find nothing major, I probably will need to double-check a few items, and possibly tweak one minor character, and then I will be ready to publish, probably at the end of this month or in early August. For a novel that has gone through so many ups-and-downs, that is a very happy thought.

Princess of Fire– red, red all over….

I have finally completed the hard-copy edit of Princess of Fire. A process that should have taken two to three weeks, tops, instead took nearly six. As has been the case with this novel, all estimates of how long any phase of its writing would take have been wildly wide of the mark. I can claim to have lost one week to the late-season bug that ravaged Seattle across the end of April and into May, against which the much-vaunted flu shot was useless (during the spring musical at my daughter’s high school kids were throwing up in the orchestra pit). Otherwise, it’s been the same combination of ennui and allowing myself to be distracted by other matters, particularly my job search (still lost in the wilderness at this point).

Not that the extra time wasn’t, in the end, productive– as is usually the case, the hard-copy edit brought out a myriad of lingering issues– inconsistencies in the story’s timeline, the disappearance and sudden reappearance of characters, lame action, lamer dialogue, horrifying repetition, and, far from the least, extensive passive language.

Here’s one of the more, um, amended pages–

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel

(As is usual with my red-pen edits, I do have some concern that I won’t remember what some of these squiggles mean when I go to add them to the working copy of the novel. But that’s normal).

Taking more time for the hard-copy edit has also had one side-benefit– it allowed me to noodle away a little longer on a particularly problematic piece of climactic action, and to come up with what I think is a much more satisfactory solution. About two thousand words will go out, and a different two thousand (or so) will go in. But this change will also necessitate my going back into the narrative at earlier points and laying a certain item on the mantel, so to speak. This, too, is normal.

For me, the latter stages of creating a novel is very much like fine-tuning an engine–it works, it’s running, but you need deal with the huge cloud of smoke it’s producing and, oh, yeah, the cylinders aren’t all firing in sync, and so on. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

Once I’ve inputted the red-pen changes (um, a week? Maybe?) I will make a PDF copy via Createspace, which will allow me to see how the pages break, and to create a punch-list of further corrections (mostly at the level of “oh my God, an extra hard-return!”), and then, finally, to send the book to my beta-readers. Publication will follow soon after.

At this point, I might be two months away from uploading this book. But I am making no promises…oh, no, no, no….

Later.

I’m gonna close my eyes and hold my nose…a Princess of Fire progress report

I’m at that point, it seems, with the first draft of Princess of Fire— the point at which I have begun to grasp what it will take to achieve a relatively coherent narrative– and it ain’t pretty. It’s also the point at which I have to just keep writing, no matter how much it nauseates me. That’s where the eyes and nose thingies come in.

Today I cleared 84,000 words on this novel. That probably sounds a lot more impressive than it is, because I have come to understand that this turkey has some serious problems.

When I originally conceived this story, I thought of it as basically a single-thread narrative revolving around Kathy as she faces a crisis. As I wrote the parts I already had in mind, however, it became clear that a single thread would not adequately support this story–

1. I needed to expand the narrative to include several viewpoint characters, particularly for events from which Kathy is far removed, but which powerfully affect her. This will involve tens of thousands of extra words, and the weaving together of multiple threads.

2. Many of the characters, both viewpoint and non-viewpoint, are not adequately fleshed out, and I need to revisit them and get to know them better.

3. There are major structural problems, particularly around a core timeline which needs to be the time-bomb ticking ever more loudly in the background. This timeline also involves some fairly technical material that might require some extensive (aagh!) exposition.

That’s a lot of issues with a novel that (estimating here) is about two-thirds drafted. To put it simply, I have a hell of a lot of work to do.

That’s the main reason I feel right now that I need to clap on a gas mask while writing Fire— I know full well I am putting down words that are going to have to be fixed later, and perhaps a little more than usual with a first draft. I do not want to stop and try and fix everything now, though– that is an invitation to picnic on quicksand.

It’s just the way it is– the easy stuff is over. Time to buckle down and slog.