“That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
After a certain amount of hyperventilating at the sheer length of the developmental edit notes, I took a deep breath and dipped my toe into the first chapter. It really wasn’t bad with a two-screen setup so I could go back and forth between comments and book. I made it halfway through the second chapter before my eyes started bleeding. Only 29 chapters to go.
Procrastination is not my friend
Honestly, I’m my own worst enemy with these edits. It goes back to my dissertation, where I sat on a major edit for six months, because I thought I couldn’t fix it. It was easy to think that, what with comments like “why should I care about this?” I finally approached the professor who made the remarks, and she said, “Oh, that’s simple. Just explain the importance of it.” I did not respond with “Why didn’t you tell me?! because I was a lowly grad student and she was a tenured professor.
In praise of dev edits
I have a long ways to go on fixing my work in progress, but I wouldn’t go without the dev edit. I have trouble looking critically at my work — I’m either too critical or not at all, and I sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer number of words. So I need help in the form of an educated set of eyes.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of my work blossom under edit.
Tag: developmental editor
Unusual Dreams of Christmas.
It would be a nice time to get obsessed with a story, while I’m waiting to hear back from potential developmental editors for Whose Hearts are Mountains, while I’m waiting for responses for things I’ve sent, while my last two weeks of school are easy and the festive season gives me ideas to play with.
I’m feeling adrift lately.
My developmental editor is taking a break from editing, so I have to find a new one or wait (I’m tempted to wait, because I like her).
My old mentor/surrogate family from my grad school years has died, and my brain circles around about who I was back then (bipolar but not medicated — think “getting obsessed about guys and crying a lot”). Yet, it was the richest part of my life, and I wonder how to find that again.
Days like this I feel detached from my writing. Should I continue to write? (Probably). Do I need to find a new dev editor? (Yes). What should I do about getting published? (Wait to see if I’m accepted by Pitch Wars before I take on another possibility).
I don’t sound so adrift, but my mind keeps wandering to reanalyze the past in terms of who I was and who I’ve become.
How I started writing novels
Well, I finally wrote/revised for three and a half hours yesterday, fueled by copious amounts of coffee. I didn’t accomplish that much word-wise — maybe 1500 words at most. But I think I’m getting closer with Gaia’s Hands. Lots of work to go, though.
Gaia’s Hands is my first novel. It’s always been a problem child of a story. When I wrote it, I had no intention of writing a novel. I had written a short story based on a dream I had about an encounter between myself and a younger man. (If you think the dream had to do with the fact I was approaching my 50th birthday, you’d be right. And the dream was far more bizarre than anything I wrote from it.)
I wanted to know more about the dream, so I started doing a Gestalt dream analysis method where one tells the story from the viewpoint of the different characters, and even the important inanimate objects of the story. (I didn’t go that far). During this set of writing exercises, a story developed. And then another.
After the third story that developed from the dream, my husband Richard looked at me and said, “You’ve got all these stories. Why don’t you write a novel?”
I had never written a novel before because I think in terms of short stories — small plots with big twists, big themes. Novels have big twisty plots, and I wasn’t sure I knew how to plot those. I wrote Gaia’s Hands anyhow. Its original name was Magic and Realism, and it was heavy in theme and extremely light in plot. It was basically a love story, and although I have nothing against love stories, the characters did little more than hang out together.
And then I wrote more novels, some of which collapsed into each other (For example, Magic and Realism became Gaia’s Hands, and then it subsumed another novel during the same time period called Gaia’s Eyes and that’s the novel I’m currently re-editing) and somehow I got better at writing big twisty plots.
It’s been a lot of hard work editing and re-editing, and then getting help editing from a developmental editor and re-editing, but I’ve learned my goal has shifted from getting published to getting good, then getting published. I don’t want to grow to regret anything I’ve published.
I guess now I can call myself not only a writer, but an author, because I have devoted myself to growth. And it literally, cliche notwithstanding, started with a dream.
In Praise of Dev Editing
I’m almost ready to send Apocalypse to dev edit again.
That’s not saying it’s flawless, just that I will get to the point that I can’t find any flaws myself. That’s why I need editors — because they’re new eyes on my work. Because they can see things I don’t. Because they’ve read enough that they know what the shape of a novel looks like. Because I want to be read.
I am about at the place where I need to send Prodigies out for queries again, but my dev editor wants to work with me first to find a new angle.
So I prep and I wait till June, when she’s ready to work with me on my books again.
I’ve learned so much about myself and my writing since I found a developmental editor. Here’s to improvement!
Room for improvement
I’ve got my development edit back from my developmental editor, Chelsea Harper (who deserves a shoutout) and there’s plenty of work that needs to be done. I think it’s a good thing that she caught all these places, because I as an author can’t see all of them.
I should explain what a developmental editor is — a developmental editor examines the story for plot development, character development, and writing structure — in other words, she looks at the story with an eye for making it stronger and more readable. This can be the difference between a rejection and an acceptance, because agents have so many manuscripts to choose from that they’re going to skim your work initially to see if it “grabs” you. A mild introduction, an ambiguous character, an information dump (telling rather than showing), will all turn off an agent. Even if the story idea is brilliant and daring, they won’t see it through the distractions.
I think that’s an important thing to emphasize — I as an author can’t see all the places my work needs improvement. I’m too familiar with the characters to see where I’ve shortchanged them. I’m too in love with the story to see where I’ve made it hard for readers to be in love with it.
I used to think I didn’t need an editor, because I was an articulate person and I could catch grammatical and other errors. I was arrogant, and I was wrong. I now see developmental edits as part of the process if I want to get published.
If you’re a writer who wants to get published, I suggest finding the money for a developmental editor. If you can’t afford that, find someone who reads a lot to go through it — it’s probably not as good as a good professional, but it’s something.
Your work deserves critique.
In praise of competency
I’ve always had a good imagination. This gave my parents and school psychologist a turn when I told them “the monsters are my friends!” (I was ahead of my time. Nowadays monsters are all the rage among little kids).
When I write, I get to make my imagination real, after a fashion. Not flesh-and-blood real, but living an existence in my pages. My monsters are now preternatural beings and people with special powers, but others can now see them.
I’ve always had a great vocabulary as well. In fifth grade, I used the word “flabbergasted” to describe my reaction to a classmate. When my sister protested my use of fancy words, my mother pointed out the value of the right word: “I was surprised when my classmate gave me a present. I was flabbergasted when he dropped his drawers in front of me.” Obviously, I got my love of vocabulary from my mother.
What I didn’t have, as a beginning writer, was competence. Things I thought were stylistic quirks were taking people out of the story, and I didn’t recognize that. I could have found out if I’d sent my manuscripts to a developmental editor, but I didn’t know I needed to. I thought a utilitarian query letter would work. I didn’t utilize beta-readers, because I didn’t think I needed those either.
I had ideas, I had imagination. I had the drive to be published. What I didn’t have is competence in the skills needed to make the story understandable and engaging.
I’m working on those with the help of developmental editors and beta readers and diversity editors and publishing coaches. I’m learning from them and incorporating it into my work. This gives me competence — enough, I hope, that I will get published.
Getting back into writing
I haven’t written much in the last few weeks, what with working with my dev editor, traveling for New York Hope and training in advanced moulage, prepping for work, and finishing my first semester of grad school. Now it’s two days before the beginning of the semester, I’ve got no prep to do, and no excuses to do nothing. (I don’t watch tv well, and there’s only so much looking at cats on Instagram I can do.)
So I’m taking the advice I’d give someone else — write something every day. This means in my case to get reacquinted with Whose Hearts are Mountains. I don’t know how I feel about that book at the moment. It’s in the Archetype universe, and I’ve had such trouble understanding how to improve the first book(s) in that universe, Mythos and Apocalypse (which I am thinking of putting together). I don’t know if it’s sellable, and I don’t know if I care.
It might be that I keep working on Whose Hearts are Mountains, send Mythos to my dev editor (Hi, Chelsea!) and figure out things from there.
But I need to write. Every day,