A Tough Choice

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So I did some good things during my mini “vacation” in relation to my book. The most important of which was printing it out. I was amazed how big it was. 318 pages (92,000 words) seems like less on screen but when it was printed and put into a binder it looked like this:

I figured since I was in Arkansas, I would have lots of time to read and review my manuscript. I was wrong. In several days, I only managed to review about 30 pages or so. I almost finished the first 100 pages by the time I landed in Newark. When I got home, I had a discussion with BHE. We talked about a lot of things, but mainly we started talking about the future. We want to move on to the next chapter of adulthood, and in order to do that I need to work. When I had more part-time work coming in, it felt like it was starting to snowball, but around a month ago it has completely dried up. This meant all I was doing was job hunting and editing my book. I hated both, so neither were being done effectively.

I decided then and there that this was completely unfair to BHE. I either needed to pour every last ounce of energy I had into editing that book, and have it ready for sale in two weeks, or I needed to stop being so soft when applying for jobs. I figured it was best to really hard core pursue jobs, any job, that would be decent enough for me to earn a solid pay check. I had to stop telling myself that I shouldn’t apply for something, because the job wasn’t for an attorney. While I went to law school and passed the bar exam, that doesn’t mean I have to be an attorney. I mean I mainly went to law school, because I was tired of not being qualified to progress in the legal field beyond paralegal status. Especially since the only way I could become a manager of the departments I worked in, was if someone either died or was promoted.

So on Monday I applied for ANYTHING I saw that I was remotely qualified for, and could stomach doing. By the end of the day, I had an interview for Tuesday. Today, I applied for another job, and got an interview for tomorrow. That’s 2 interviews in 4 days. That is so much more than I have ever received before. Hopefully that is a good sign.

Unfortunately this means that my book is probably going to be retired. Hopefully I will still have the energy & patience to tinker with it during the weekends, but as of right now, I am making “getting a job” my job Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Once I get a job, maybe then I can work on “The Role” some more.

It pains me to put my novel away. It’s very dear to me, and it’s also a pretty great story. I suspect that I won’t be able to keep away from it very long. Mainly because I really think it is the key to my future. That’s how much love and faith I have in it. Time away is always helpful. It helps you gain distance. But now that I’ve got it all printed out, I am hoping that it will make editing a little easier. Weekends generally mean very little to the unemployed, maybe this will give those days meaning.

What the eye arranges

“Pretty isn’t beautiful, Mother, /

Pretty is what changes /

What the eye arranges /

Is what is beautiful.”

Above are some of the the lyrics to the song “Beautiful”  from Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George.” These lyrics always make a deep impression on my whenever I hear them, because it is something it took me years to believe. I thought only certain bodies, ones that society often think of as “pretty” or “handsome” were the only bodies that were “beautiful.” Over the years, and through meeting my husband, I understand what Sondheim is saying here more and more. However, it isn’t until recently that I saw the connection between the song and editing.

I’ve been saying for a while now that I need to print my manuscript out. I’ve attempted to avoid this as long as possible, because my novel is long. To print it out at a Kinko’s I would have to pay $40.00. When I told some of my friends I felt like I “HAD” to do this, many were confused. After all, I have an iPad! Why would I need to print it out? It took me a while to figure it out, but finally I did. When I am editing my work on an iPad or a laptop, I find it very difficult to write a note that tells me to come back. After all, I have the ability to fix it now, why not just do that? The issue is, I need to be able to read my book as a reader. I’ve never managed to read more than a few pages without breaking down and spending an hour fixing things. That is why I need to print it out and make my notes with a pen.

Armed with a pen and paper, I feel less pressure to perfect a sentence. Often because if I tinkered with it on the page I probably could run out of space before I fix my issue. Since I won’t be stopping I will have the rare chance to read my novel straight through. This is something I desperately want to do for a few reasons. The most important one is that I need to remember what it feels like to write in the voice and point of view of my character. The tiny edits I’ve been doing over the past 2 months have not required me to write anything new. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to write through the eyes of my narrator. I need to rediscover this to put the finishing touches on my book.

I am fortunate that I plan to do this while I am vising my parents. The few friends of mine that still live in the area will have to work during the day, so I will have that time to chat with my parents, but also to read my book. They also have an actual PC desktop, which means I won’t have to worry about my finger accidentally hitting the mouse and deleting parts of my book (it happens more than I care to admit). I’m hoping the 7 days I have in my hometown will help me push through to the end. I don’t know if that is really enough time to actually completely finish revising my novel, but I am determined to try.

Decanting a novel

So I’ve been a bit snarky about my manuscript this week. The novel is really good, but the beginning never feels right to me. I couldn’t figure out why that was, and finally some readers comments seemed to wake me up. My book starts off a little heavy, but after a few chapters it becomes lighter and hard to put down.  Because I’m a fan of analogies I thought this is similar to wine. Sometimes a wine is great straight from the bottle, but other times, wine needs to be decanted. By doing so, the liquid comes into contact with oxygen when can often cause wines to lose some of the abrasive qualities that they might have.

My novel truly sings once it has been decanted. At first sip, it tastes decent, but the true potential of it is marred by all this excess language. It’s trying too hard to impress. However, if you keep reading, the book opens up, and by chapter 4 it is not just palatable but delicious (at least according to the readers I have.)

So now my goal is find a way to bring the qualities of the decanted portion of the novel, to the front, to save the reader the hassle of the whole decanting process. To do this, I’ve decided to do another full reading. However, unlike all the other times, I won’t be reading with a pen in hand to make edits. Instead I will read it as a reader, and see what makes the book so light and easy after chapter 4. Certainly the first few chapters are encumbered by having to introduce several characters as well as the general premise of the novel, but I can tell there is something more to it than that.

I’ll report back with more specific findings as they occur to me.

To my fellow authors, I ask you, does your novel need to be decanted?

Consult a book!

So I told myself in the last post, there was no easy answer. As it turns out…I was wrong.

Fed up with trying to convert the scene, I decided to just start reading books in present tense. The ones that I know the best are “The Hunger Games” so I quickly sped through “Catching Fire” for what must be the 12th time. Within twenty minutes I found my answer, put it into play, and I am happy to say that my problem has been fixed.

It makes me laugh that the answer was so simple, because this is the advice I often give people. If you are having issues with how to do something, but you know it can be done, read how someone else did it. I don’t know why I didn’t use this tool in this case until now, but I figure it is a good lesson for all writers who might stumble over this blog. It also gave me an excuse to post another cute boy reading a book!

Arranging

I will admit this post might be too niche for most readers. I bring it up solely because I haven’t blogged in a while, and this is the main reason why.

Deep into my book I decided to do something kind of silly. My book is present tense, so I’ve been very careful not to start any chapter in a flashback. However, for some reason, the way I wanted to talk about one particular section went like this:

1st: Start off in present and establish that everyone is miserable, based on something that had just happened.

2nd: Tell the story in past tense of what just happened.

3rd: Continue the story.

My readers consistently pointed to this chapter as something that struck them as strange. I could see why, it would make much more sense to merely start at the event, and continue. Thereby avoiding this strange flashback to something that happened minutes ago. To resolve this, I began working on converting the flashback into present tense, and it has been kicking my butt! With each sentence I attempt to fix, it becomes clearer and clearer to my why I chose to do it this way. I wanted to hit the highlights of what happened, instead of walking the reader through the entire experience. Of course, there is a way to do that in present tense, but it is much more difficult.

Still, I’m committed to resolving this, because it was a consistent note from my betas as a “problem area.” Unfortunately, there is no magic trick to doing this quickly. It is a painful process, and one that I wish I didn’t need to go through. I think it was the right decision to initially write it that way, because it helped me get on with the story.Now that I’m in the “fine-tuning” stage, this is perhaps the most difficult thing I will have to fix. My only other BIG changes will be revising the first few chapters a few more times, and adding a few scenes that will help support some parts of my novel that are not quite solid.

I think what annoys me most, is that it is taking me days to work these few pages over. I had hoped that those days were over, and I hope that once this is done, I am right. This novel needs to be ready to send to agents soon!