Sarai’s Fortune – Drafting & Editing

sarai-editsWith each book I write I find that my method keeps getting more complicated (or detailed maybe is a better word) as I learn more techniques that are effective for my writing. I also find that the “mistakes” I’ve made consistently in the past I’m not making so much any more. So the good news is that, with lots of practice, good habits get more ingrained. (At least I hope so!)

I still consider myself to be a pantser. I have only a vague idea of my story and characters before I start writing. I get the first draft on paper as quickly as possible. In the case of Sarai’s Fortune I wrote the first draft in two weeks during Candace Havens’s Book in a Month Workshop. The second draft is where I really like to work. It’s like the pressure of getting the bulk of the words on paper is off allowing me to focus on craft.

I was going to do the 2nd draft and edit Sarai’s over the summer, but, life being what it is, I had to rearrange my schedule slightly and get Saving the Sheriff on paper first. I started working on the second draft for Sarai’s about three weeks ago. This is where I put on my plotter hat. I started by mapping out what I’d written so far to see where I needed to work on larger issues – pacing, overall plot, character development, etc. Then, plan in mind, I concentrated on only two chapters a day polishing and fixing. Sometimes one of the chapters I spent time on was new. Sometimes the edits flew by. And sometimes I did some major rewriting.

I find that some of my best ideas strike while I’m working on later drafts. So as I went along, if an idea would hit that impacted what I’d already gone over, I kept a list of what to go back and fix. Now I’m done with the second draft and going through that list. Most of the list is little things like search for “said” and “asked” tags and remove if not necessary or rewrite. Some of it is bigger like Sarai’s clothing starts out conservative and neutral and gets more casual and more colorful through the course of the book.

The plan is to have this phase done in the next week or two and then do one more fast read through – changing only little things in the prose – before I send to Wendy and my critique group for feedback. And when I’m done with that, it’s on to my editor Lill!!! So close on this one. And with each book I feel like I’m honing my craft as a writer, which is exciting just by itself.

How Writing Is Impacting My Reading

Although I’ve been writing most of my life, the last two years are what I consider my “serious” writing time. During this time, not only have I written seven books in that time, but I’ve taken countless workshops and put a lot of effort into improving my writing as I go.

One of the activities I think every writer should engage in is reading. Read a lot. Read different genres and styles. Read. Read. Read.

I have been a voracious reader since the moment I could understand the letters on the page. I enjoy getting lost in the people and their lives. I enjoy traveling to new places, or times, or worlds. In romance – my favorite genre – I love the journey the couple takes from meeting to that moment when they declare their love. I have been know to read 2-3 romances a week on top of whatever other books I’m reading.

However, I’m finding that the longer I work to hone my craft as a writer, the more it’s impacting my reading. I’m becoming a pickier consumer. My guess is that it’s because I spend so much time pouring over my own words with a fine-tooth comb. But I find that, more and more, different things are pulling me out of what I’m reading.

Not all of them are bad either. In the past if there was a really glaring typo I’d think “oops” but keep going. That was about it. Now things like poor character development, or sudden POV switches will pull me out of it. Or any mistakes that I know I make but am now focused on correcting. But also moments where I go, “Oh I really like how this author did that scene.” pull me out of it too.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love to read. But I now consciously have to take off the writing/editing hat when I do, rather than just sinking into the book. I’m curious if any other writers have encountered this issue. I bet that editors and agents also run into this issue. It makes it more obvious for me why they have to be so picky. But now I wonder, does it get worse the longer you’re in the business?

Rewrites: Changing a Scene

When I was going through the first rounds of Andromeda’s Fall and received the first critiques back from Wendy, I realized that I needed to a change a big scene in the story.
At a guess, I’d bet most (if not all) authors have had to go through something like this at one point. You get feedback and decide that you want to change something small that turns into changing something big. But this requires multiple steps–figuring out what to change and then dealing with the trickle down effect to the rest of the book.
Here’s what happened with Andromeda’s Fall:
In an earlier scene a secret is revealed and my heroine (Andromeda “Andie” Reynolds) needs a little space to process. In my original draft, when the hero (Jaxon Keller) finds her, she’s pretty mad and throws a bit of a fit (literally). Here’s the original scene:
If she’d have been in her cougar form, she would’ve hissed and spit and growled at him, ears back, teeth bared. Instead, she looked down at the bag in her hands and just lost it. Reaching in, she grabbed one of her shoes and hurled it right at Jaxon’s head. She missed.
His hands went up in defense. “Whoa… Andie… hold on now—”
The second shoe managed to connect with his shoulder.
“Calm down?”
Andie looked around and discovered a book shelf nearby. It was completely juvenile, but the pent up rage and frustration and humiliation she’d been lugging around with her for the last days on her miserable cross country journey had finally blown a gasket. Books started flying off the shelf. Each one punctuated by a word.
“Don’t. You. Tell. Me. To. Calm. Down.”
A satisfied feeling welled up inside her with every single ‘oof’’ that indicated she’d hit her target. She was so busy launching her missiles, she didn’t notice until it was too late that Jaxon had made his way closer. Suddenly his arms were around her, pinning her like steel bands.

My feedback, both from Wendy as well as my critique group was that this came off as juvenile but also made her look a little dim that she didn’t figure out his secret (what she’s angry about) much sooner. Now, personally I’d never throw anything at someone, but in books if the scene is done right, I often enjoy those moments. Maybe because it’s an opportunity to live vicariously. However, I did completely agree that her anger did make her look stupid for not having seen the signs earlier. So…time to rewrite.
The trouble is, it wasn’t just this scene that needed re-writing. Often when a scene needs to be redone, it means that any big points leading up to that moment need redoing, as well as the reaction bits that come afterward. Sigh.
In this case, I had to go back and make Andie figure it out faster. I also changed the way Jaxon finally confesses to her. I even changed her motivation slightly – making her more righteous. So LOTS of rewriting. Here’s how the scene above ended up:
Slowly she stood upright. “Jeez, Keller. You know better than to sneak up on a cougar shifter like that. I could’ve attacked you!”
“Sorry,” he muttered, sounding anything but. “I’ve been waiting for you for a while. What took you so long?”
“Excuse me? But there is this little snowstorm that got in my way.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “Besides, I can’t believe you’re asking me anything right now. I’m still pissed about being snuck up on, and don’t get me started on being followed.”
Jaxon held up his hands. “Why don’t we go upstairs where it’s warmer to talk about this?”
She gave him a stony look, her lips flattened and eyes narrowed, before marching toward the stairs. “You just want to get me away from that wall of guns,” she muttered as she passed him.
“The thought hadn’t really crossed my mind,” he said to her backside.
There’s more, but it would give too much away. :) Originally, this scene was fairly small in the scheme of things. But you can sort of see how my decisions to change it ended up cascading to some major changes within the book (motivation is usually a huge thing to change for your MC).
Lessons learned for me?
First, critiques are well worth the time and effort. You may not always agree, but feedback can play a large part in how your book ends up. In this case, I was very grateful for the feedback because I believe (very strongly) that I ended with a much better book. And I eventually ended up with a contract with The Wild Rose Press!!!
Second, as a pantser, most of my heavier lifting is done after the first draft is on paper. That’s when I tend to solidify things like motivation, premise, etc. I usually have those loosely in my head when I do a first draft and really solidify when I do the second/third drafts. However, after this experience, I’ve started working some of those out more BEFORE I start writing. I still pants the first draft, but with a few details more concrete in my mind. Based on feedback from Wendy and my critique group on books since then, this small change in my process has been worth it.
To my author friends out there… how have major rewrites in a book impacted either your story or how you write now?
(Andromeda’s Fall will be released with The Wild Rose Press at a date TBD.)

Cover Wars!

The awesome folks at Masquerade Crew hold a monthly contest called Cover Wars. I always have fun looking at the various covers submitted for different genre, as well as if one of my favorites wins.

For the month of September both the Blue Violet cover and the Svatura Box Set cover are both in the running!

Help me out by hoping on to vote. You can vote every day if you want to. :) And check out the other books in the competition.

Vote for the Blue Violet Cover
Vote for the Svatura Box Set Cover