See? Totally killing my darlings. Even such nice paragraphs as:
By the same token, Mr. Marsh considered modern forms of book publication a real horror. He did not buy serial installments, and he held Mr. Dickens responsible for having dragged that beautiful institution of English literature down into the muddy waters of serialisation.
(For THE BRIDE PRIZE I might have to put a section with deleted scenes into the enhanced edition….)
Moreover, if the reader wonders why the heck the heroine’s aunt is so excited about a tournament, perhaps the heroine, too, should wonder why her aunt is so excited about a tournament.
I have to admit that I dreaded grappling with the revisions of this story. Normally, when I do revisions, I go through a manuscript page by page and insert stuff as I go along. I tried this with THE BRIDE PRIZE this morning, then gave up and did some other work because it was all so very depressing.
By early afternoon, I knew I had to do a mind map in order to get a grip of the story, but abandoned that shortly after posting the entry before this one (because it was all so very depressing *sob*).
About an hour ago, I finally put on my big-girl-pants and sat down and just did it: mind-mapping the story as it is. Afterwards, I put off the inevitable (i.e., reading my editor’s suggestions very, very carefully) (this bit is always such a torment – at least for me – because you have to face up to the fact that parts of your story are less than splendid and you have to be brutally honest to yourself in order to get rid of these parts) and added the first layer of colour: some blue and red bubbles to indicate hero/heroine’s POV. And finally, I tackled the problem areas (I used a pretty purple pen* to make this bit slightly less painful) (* a promo pen from Valerie Bowman): I worked with my editor’s suggestions and noted down on the mind map where improvements are needed. Luckily, Bev gave me some really brilliant suggestions, so it really wasn’t as painful as I had feared.
One of the main problems with this story is that it lacks conflict. I knew that while I was still writing it and I worried that it bit be just a bit bland because the romance runs so very smoothly, but I just couldn’t figure out a way out to change that. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have a content editor whom you trust and who understands your stories: you need that second pair of eyes. You need somebody whom you trust to be honest about the strength and weaknesses of your story; somebody who understands your way of telling a story enough to make suggestions that will really improve your story, while still being true to yourself and your storytelling.
In this respect, I have been very, very lucky indeed: I had this with Chris Keeslar, my editor at Dorchester, and I have it now with Bev Katz Rosenbaum, my editor of my indie books. She was actually the first content editor I picked, and I feel so very blessed to have found her!
What do you do when you’re stuck? You make a plan – or, in my case, a mind map in order to figure out what is supposed to go where and how to heighten the conflict in this story. I love mind maps because they enable you to see the whole story on one page, which makes it easier to spot common themes and motifs (or to strengthen those).
I used a mind map to plot DEVIL’S RETURN, and I only needed to make some minimal changes to the story. I didn’t use a mind map to plot THE BRIDE PRIZE, and look where it has got me! When will I ever learn? *sigh*
This is THE BRIDE PRIZE, the first novella in the series and the next ms that’s up for revisions. In contrast to DEVIL’S RETURN, this one will require some serious work because hero and heroine meet way too late in the story. In addition, there’s also too much background info. *sigh*
To be fair, I knew that even before I sent the novellas to my editor, but, you know, I’d hoped it wouldn’t be too bad…. But as far as the excess of background info is concerned, it’s exactly as bad as I had feared.
So this weekend, it’s “Kill your darlings” time!
I’m hardly able to focus on the grading today — and I blame it all on my lovely editor! When I switched on my computer this morning, I found her critique of my three novellas in my mailbox. It took me a good 30 minutes to open her mail. What if she didn’t like those stories? What if she was going to tell me they were really, really, really bad and how did I even dare to send her such crap? (By now you should know how my mind works, so this mini meltdown will hardly come as a surprise to you. *g*)
Anyways, I finally DID open her e-mail, and — oh my gosh!!! — Bev really, really, REALLY liked the three stories. “Did I ever love working on these novellas, Sandra!” her e-mail starts. “Please forgive me for not listing everything I love about them in my critique–it would have been a hundred pages!”
*melts into a happy puddle*
So I’ve been singing and humming and grinning stupidly and dancing around my flat for most of the day. 🙂
One of the truly nice things about indie publishing is that you have complete control over your covers. You can pick a design, make sure that the people on the cover match the characters’ descriptions in your story, and you can brand a series whichever way you like.
One of the major elements of branding for the covers of the new series will be a blue background. Originally, I thought I’d just use the same sky picture for all covers, but not only would this look boring, but that one picture also doesn’t suit all the people I’ve chosen to go onto the covers.
Sooo, today during my lunch break I went hunting for blue backgrounds. I’ve already found some nice matches for some covers, but there is one picture of a woman that, as it turns out, is rather difficult to match with a blue background. Hmmmm. Clearly, further experiments are called for!
The day after sending your manuscript to your editor is always the worst because not only does even your tea cup (well, mug) look slightly battered, but you also come up with 1.000 reasons why your book project sucks, why your editor will hate it, why she will probably drop dead while reading it, why it totally would have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (if dinosaurs had been able to read, that is).
The best thing you can do then is to stagger into the kitchen and deal with the piles of dirty dishes (including the tea mug).
Under Little Miss Chicken’s watchful eye I made the last few edits in the manuscript and then I finally sent the whole thing to my editor. Wooohooo!
(Please keep your fingers crossed that she’ll survive the experience of reading the manuscript! 🙂 )
This morning, the final battle was wrought (and from the pictures on the covers of those books you can tell how fierce the battle was), and eventually, Sandy emerged victorious:
By now I even think the story doesn’t suck (which I find slightly worrying). All that remains to be done now is to insert the changes into the other two stories, throw everything together, and then send it to my editor. (At this point feel free to imagine me clapping my hands together like a maniac Duracell bunny.)
In the morning, all was still fine.
By 4 p.m. things were getting desperate.
By 6 p.m. things were getting really desperate and a little Kindle Magic was called for.
By now, the book is still not finished, and I’m ready to just roll up and cry. Gargh! I hate deadlines!
Also, do you know that thing you do when you’re attracted to somebody whom you’ve only just met and you look at them and then you look away and then you look at them again and then away and… Well, you know what I mean. Describing something like that? Pure hell! There are, after all, only so many ways you can say: “She looked at him.” *sigh*