Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: novels

Revise That Novel

Last year I wrote a post with a big list of things to do with your newly minted NaNoWriMo manuscript, including doing manuscript exchanges, finding beta readers, and hiring awesome editors. (See red-hot editorial deal below.)

post_it_note_wallThis year, I wanted to give a few really specific thoughts on getting from that 50K wordpile into a respectable second draft:

  1. Write down summaries of what your scenes are, like a storyboard or an outline. You can do this on the computer, on Scrivener, or on note cards. You can make a wall of post-it notes, which is fairly satisfying. Write down what is actually happening in each scene, even if that’s “Character A and Character B talk about feelings for 3,000 words and I don’t think it actually matters oh gosh.” Yes, this process is a pain. Yes, it is important.
  2. Was there pointless stuff that you put in to pad your word count? Identify it. Cut it out unless you know it’s flax you can spin into gold.
  3. Check in with your characters’ motivations: does what they are doing make sense? If you were to explain your plot to another person, what would be the first “why did Character A do that?” question they would ask? Would you have a decent answer?
  4. Check for plot holes. Imagine a compassionate, yet confused reader is asking you to explain how your story goes. Where would they have a hard time?
  5. I am all for making up personas for my internal editors. As much as we were ignoring our editors during November, we’re gonna need to pay attention to them now. But pay attention to which editorial voices are helpful and which ones are not. I have an editorial persona, “Anton,” who is exactly helpful; he’s the voice of the literary community that eschews genre fiction, that scoffs when I haven’t read the entire literary canon, that tells me writing a comic script without an artist is foolish and superheroes aren’t literature. So why do I even have conversations with Anton? Because he’s a persona who I can shove all those negative thoughts onto. I sit down for an editorial session, and instead of despairing about the fact that I wrote six issues of superhero comics, I can think of Anton, set him aside, and then do the work. In terms of POSITIVE editorial voices, I think of my real-life writing mentors: Susan Kim, Rachel Pollack, and Corinne Manning, among others. I think of friends who are good beta readers, even before I actually give my manuscript to them to beta-read.

And finally, I want to go ahead and repeat my deal from last year:

Yes, I would love to talk to you about your NaNo! Yes, I would love to talk anything from “how does plot go” to “where can I sell this” to “how do you sentence.” Yes, you.

Yes, I will charge you money. I am a freelance wordsmith, and stuff like this is how I buy groceries. My NaNo Winner Special is $16.67 for a half-hour manuscript consultation, $33.33 for a one-hour manuscript consultation, and $166.70 if you want me to read your entire manuscript first (and then chat for an hour). That is stupidly cheap; even the editors at a print-on-demand service charge $200 or more to read through and give you basic editorial feedback. I’m happy to meet with you via chat or Skype (or in person if I know you and you’re local), whichever feels more comfy. I also offer proofreading services and line-editing. Even if money is an issue, contact me; let’s talk.

Every damn day.

A dear friend of mine once had Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman sign inside a blank book for me. I don’t know if she asked them to do writing advice, but that’s what they did, and it’s become a nice little mantra for me:

every damn day

“To Anne- 30 minutes every day. Every damn day! -Terry Pratchett”

Of course, with NaNoWriMo it’s more like 90 minutes every day, every damn day, but still. Once you’ve done NaNo and know what a mostly-daily practice feels like, it becomes a lot…easier is the wrong word. You become more likely to sit down for 30 minutes every damn day, because it’s less than 90 minutes. And you can get a lot done with just 30 minutes a day. Really. I was at a NaNo write-in, and a man near me commented something about “someday I’ll be a real writer and spend hours every day writing.” Aah, the Mythic Real Writer, who is always inspired and spends all their time composing thing after thing at a large, romantic mahogany desk, and totally somehow also has health insurance. Some real writers do spend hours a day writing, sure. But some real writers do half an hour in the morning before anyone else is up. Or squeeze in two hand-written pages per day in between taking care of five kids (Carol Shields). Or write in the afternoon before their night shift (William Faulkner). Or write poems on their prescription pads at work (William Carlos Williams). Author Joanna Penn (who has four published books and a day job and a podcast and…) talks about the “first draft binge writing phase” followed by small daily doses of writing until stuff gets finished. She also talks about the pre-writing idea-gathering phase, which she calls the “composting” phase. I think that’s delightful. I also think sometimes stuff composts for years before it gets written, but if you have a small steady stream of word outflow, it shall indeed get written eventually.

Point is, you can do a lot with just a little each day. That being said, it’s still hard as heck and sometimes you end up petering out on whatever plot you thought you had going and then realizing that you’ve just been writing sort of pointless exposition parties in lieu of actual scenes where something happens for the past three days and you’d better sort something out quick or else get very, very bored. *cough* So what I did was, I wrote a quick summary of each scene and/or exposition party that I had, in the order that I had them. This helped. I knew there was this “midpoint” thing approaching, and I needed to have a really coherent test of my protagonist’s mettle. And what that test was became clear once I’d written an “outline” of what was actually there. (“Oh, yeah, my protagonist hasn’t properly met the main antagonist yet,” I realized, among other things.)

Now, at the end of the month, I’m going to need to buckle down on Neil Gaiman’s advice:

every damn day01

“To Anne- And finish things. Then start new things. Then finish them… -Neil Gaiman”

Yes, finishing things. With NaNo, sometimes the tragic thing is that you get maybe 75% or 80% of the way through your story in 50,000 words…but the month is over. You’re done, right? You don’t want to keep going at such a frantic pace. You need a break. Yes, those things are true. But you can still finish, and after you do take some time off you can come back for the joys of editing a novel. And by the “joys” I mean the “tedious and frustrating cage match” that is editing a novel. But you’ll see more of that from me in 2014.

For now, want to watch me struggle with word count? You totally can, here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/annebean

NaNo Eve

It is time, kids. Time for what, you may ask? That most wonderful time of year, and I don’t mean when the drug stores put out Christmas decorations, because that happened yesterday. I mean NaNoWriMo. It’s time for me to sit down and work in quantity, busting out a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I did it last year and it was fabulous, and gave me the seed of November Girls. This year, my mission is writing the sequel, November’s Child. The events of the story take place seven years after November Girls. I’m going to write it as a standalone novel as much as I can, at least for the initial draft.

Why embark on such madness? Especially when I am actively revising November Girls? I thought about that one a lot. And I decided that I could a) have some revisions done by Dec. 1, or b) have some revisions done AND have a draft for the sequel by Dec. 1. When I think about it that way, there’s really no contest.

Here’s my favorite explanation for why you should do NaNoWriMo (from the website, www.nanowrimo.org):

“If I’m just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

“There are three reasons.

“1) If you don’t do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a “one day” event. As in “One day, I’d like to write a novel.” Here’s the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It’s just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you’ll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

“2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you’ll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you’d never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

“3) Art for art’s sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and “must-dos” of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.”

My silly, secondary goal is to post daily to this blog, which may be anything from an excerpt to a word count update to me writing “I am not sleeping and I want to beat myself over the head with my laptop until I pass out.”

Wish me luck! Tomorrow, it begins!

She’s Not There…

I thought it was bad when my Dad turned into an abusive monster, my parents split, and my Mum dragged us back to America. I thought it was bad living in the most shite town ever, Colorado Springs. Hell, I thought it was bad when my sister Cassie disappeared off the face of the earth and everyone said she ran away with her art teacher. But it was worse almost when she came back, three years later. Without aging. Without memories. Without herself.

That’s Penny speaking, by the way. She’s one of the protagonists of my new novel. You’ll meet more of her in posts to come.

Novel No. 2* is an interesting novel for me to write, in that it’s nothing like the process I went through for Freedomland. I more or less figured out on my first draft what I wanted to do with Freedomland, including how I wanted it to end. With this one, it’s all up in the air. I have a lot of things a-brewin’. One thing that I’m working with is how to keep the more supernatural bits of the story ambiguous–treading the fine line between true crime and fantasy. (i.e. is Cassie stolen by a crazy man from the mountains, or the fairies?) Think of it like an episode of the X-Files: There’s a Mulder explanation of my story and a Scully explanation.

That being said, I love it when I find stuff that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. I recently read about Capgras Syndrome, a dissociative disorder in which a person of otherwise sound mental health is convinced that someone close to them (usually a relative) has been replaced by an exact copy, viz. a clone or changeling. It’s fun when I find a scientific explanation for exactly what my character is going through! …even if I have a fantastic one as well. No reason they can’t sit side-by-side for a while….

*a.k.a. Changeling, a.k.a. The November Queen, a.k.a. What the Hell am I Going to Call This Book

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