2022 IS HERE
Quicker than the blink of an eye--2022 has arrived and with it all the chaos that I predicted. Completing a DE, ending one job, beginning another, and through it all, house hunting. Also, that puppy I talked about earlier (Dunkin Donut: half Boston Terrier, half French Bulldog). He is the source of much joy and near constant cleaning. He loves socks (just to cuddle, not to chew?) and eating napkins/tissue paper and torturing our older Boston Terrier, Oreo Cookie. He is PURE CHAOS personified.
So, what's the possibility/reality that I got ANYTHING written on Rosita Ruins the Heist in the interim? Slim to none? Well, you're wrong again. When will you learn not to discount my Herculean efforts to do all the things? Perhaps today.
BUT, ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT?
Sadly, that remains to be seen. I don't have any clever week-long excursions to the beach where I can stash myself away in a room with a door that locks and shut out the world.
I had one long weekend, this past weekend, but that proved to be the transitional time between jobs and also involved a day of house hunting and then a day of cleaning and then a day where I sat in various poses in front of my laptop with the cursed cursor blinking and very few words happening. Oh let me tell you, the first part of that day was pure torturous agony.
I wrote. I WROTE SOME STUFF. It's... not great, that bit of writing. But it was finally SOMETHING after two solid weeks of nothing and it is FINALLY moving the plot along, and happily giving me insight into a character that had heretofore been shrouded in mystery. Intrigue! Motivation! Character development! Action Adventure!
WHERE YOU GONNA BE COME END OF JANUARY?
Honestly? Not at 90k words. I can tell you that, straight up. While last month I had the confidence of a known-quantity job and copious amounts of PTO, this month I have basically one week left and it will only be the second week of a new job.
No PTO in sight.
I'm going to hedge my bets and say that I can comfortably meet HALF the original goal for January, and net about 10k more words before the end of the month. And then I'll probably shoot for something like that for February, as well. Ideally, I would be cranking out the rough draft in three months but I'm realizing that's just not feasible in the middle of a global pandemic while acclimating to a new job AND house hunting.
I'll give myself four, possibly five months for Rosita. BUT I will get to the end and it will be glorious.
The constant shuttling down to Salem has inspired me to consider purchasing a travel writing device that would allow me to continue writing without internet, and not attempting to do so on a Google Doc on my phone because I'm trying to be a PROFESSIONAL. lol
I love my little baby laptops but they aren't great for actually getting work done in a moving vehicle (who knew?) and I want to get work done during the wasted hours in the ugly space between Portland and Salem (that particular stretch of I-5 is most aesthetically unpleasing).
I just need something that is basically a Kindle with a keyboard. My only wish is that this device were like $200 cheaper and then I would be able to reasonably afford it. $500 is A LOT and I don't think I'll be able to purchase it before it's rendered obsolete in my life, I think.
THEN AGAIN, the allure of distraction free writing... the temptation to shut out the world on the digital level... readers, I am INTERESTED.
As of right now: I've logged 65,327 words. Reaching 75k words by the end of January is the more reasonable, manageable goal here that won't make me feel like a total failure at my earlier efforts. Some things in life are unpredictable and so we adjust, adjust, adjust.
I mean, all the things I'm currently experiencing are 100% entirely predictable and chaos of my own making but I am going to ignore that for right now. What I need is MORE TIME IN THE DAY. That's all. That's what I keep telling myself and it always makes me feel better. How about you?
DID YOU WATCH ME?
Do you remember the chaos of the first part of December 2021? Did you know that the chaos of the last part of December has included multiple medical procedures, attending and hosting holiday events, preparing to bring home a puppy, house hunting, AND a trip to the coast in wintery weather?
And remember how I said haters and rational people would say that I couldn't possibly write 60k words this month, THIS PARTICULAR MONTH??
WELL, I DID
I did the damn thing that no one thought could be done (I mean, I figured I could work hard and make it happen). Insert Snoop Dogg "I want to thank me, for believing in me" quote here. I've learned a ton of new things about my characters and the direction of the book. Some new ideas surfaced. Some old ideas were abandoned. I am now eleven chapters deep into this exciting new world and at the point where I'm REALLY ENJOYING spending time with these troubled, lovable goofballs.
I underwent those medical procedures which involved a ton of fasting. I survived the holidays (got a sweet-ass record player and Beatles albums). We are at the tail end of our beach trip, tomorrow we're driving to Springfield, OR to pick up our new doggo, and I'll be hosting at least one more event this weekend.
Yes, the madness forever continues. Would that I could hole up in a cabin in the woods and spend all my days writing like some forest hermit. Tis not possible, I'm afraid.
WHAT HAPPENS IN 2022?
The next phase in my evil plan is to reach the 90k threshold with Rosita Ruins the Heist by the end of January. This might be a little bit trickier as I have two editing side hustle projects to complete, the housing search continues (seemingly in vain), and I may or may not be taking a work trip depending on what my work status is (that is still TBD).
I'm also unsure if reaching 90k words will actually complete this novel. The goal is to hit 90k, but I'm starting to wonder if this draft might surpass that final word count. I'm definitely aware of where I need to trim the fat. But sometimes you just need to write the words. I find myself, most times, feeling like I'm writing things at a snail's pace within the manuscript itself. Does anyone else feel like this? I don't know why all the scenes seem bloated. There's so much bloat!
Every time I finish a chapter, I can't wait to cut it down. Create and destroy. No, that's not quite it. Create and recreate.
As of right now: I've logged 60,799 words. Reaching 90k words by the end of January is feeling a little bit shaky as I move into 2022. Stay tuned, dear readers. Things are somehow about to get EVEN MORE interesting?
A PROMISE WAS MADE
Late in November 2021, feeling good about smashing my revised Nanowrimo goal of 30k words, I decided that the only way to ensure I achieved a properly completed first draft was to continue the goal of writing 1k words a day on the manuscript through the end of January. A lofty goal, but one that seemed attainable. I'd even logged a few words over the 30k mark and had some extra padding in case I missed a few days or the holidays went sideways.
What a fool I was back then.
WELL THEN, WHAT HAPPENED?
It started to go horribly wrong fairly early--the last day of Nanowrimo even--when I knocked out a job interview. The wheels were set in motion for this opportunity to possibly coalesce into a straight up job offer (still pending).
I'd also submitted an adoption application at the Multnomah County Animal Shelter for a bull terrier named Scarf. So, the first weekend of December, I had another interview for the role of adopted dog mom and got the job. My spouse was gone for about five hours playing DnD and arrived home to quickly prep the house for the arrival of a 50 lb. dog who was deemed not appropriate for interaction with our rabbit. We had to install gates, build a crate, and purchase a few other dog related items. *phew*
Scarf met our boston, Oreo Cookie, at a neutral location and they seemed to get along fairly well outdoors. That changed a bit at the house, so we were monitoring their interactions. He was a big dumb idiot and bowled over our daughter a few times, so we were monitoring those interactions as well.
It was all going swimmingly until Scarf developed some serious sleep and territorial aggression that was a complete 180 from his previous personality. It all ended in my husband being attacked (with multiple bites) and Scarf being removed from our home by animal services because post-attack he was still highly aggressive. It was just no longer safe or reasonable to have him in a home with our seven year old. It was an extremely heartbreaking situation (we were all so excited to have him join our family) and I spent the next two days crying intermittently.
AND THEN WHAT ELSE?
At the very same time, I was getting closer to a job offer at a location south of where I live--Salem, Oregon--and my therapist declared that she wouldn't work with me on an ADHD diagnosis until I moved out of my current location (for a variety of reasons).
So, we drove down to Salem this past weekend to scout around the neighborhoods and get a "boots on the ground" lay of the land. The housing market is much more affordable than Portland, Oregon--but not THAT affordable. We are still considering our options and putting any serious efforts at moving on hold until after the holidays.
A trip to the emergency room last month kick-started a bunch of appointments with my GP and some specialists to determine what the heck is going on with my GI system. I now have an endoscopy and an imaging appointment set up for next week--both of which include TOO MUCH fasting. I've also undergone serious dietary changes which means there are more foods I cannot eat than foods that I can eat. It's hard--I love to eat. This all very much sucks.
OK, JUST GIVE ME THE TLDR
We adopted a dog that attacked my spouse and he had to be returned and I cried for two days straight. I might get a new job and move. I'm undergoing multiple medical procedures next week. Also, it's the holidays? I mean, all the other life stuff applies like hosting multiple birthday and holiday events, raising a child, decorating/wrapping gifts. Keeping our LFL stocked (AND FESTIVE). Also day-job has been WILD the last few days. Like, cut me some slack Universe?
BUT DID YOU WRITE?
I did. And I didn't. Mostly, I didn't. But the act of not-writing didn't stop me from playing around with cute graphics for Rosita. It didn't stop me from logging over a page of notes during the mental/physical health walks I tried desperately to take every day with no regard to weather conditions (bring it, PNW).
I managed to pull myself away from Reels long enough to tap out an additional 3k words last night so I'm not anywhere close to 60k right now but I'm closer than I was this time yesterday. I will write more. I am actually enjoying the dorky little chapters I'm scribbling away at right now. I am giving myself permission to just fucking enjoy it because everything else is chaos.
I also had a great writerly meetup with my buddy Giacomo who gave me the ultra GOOD suggestion on how to break my block for the ending of Astrid. The idea is one I've been batting around, but it was nice to have someone outside myself confirm and support it. I'm going to write TWO endings--a "good" ending and a "bad" ending because my head and heart have been battling.
It's lowkey a metaphor for our current times and I've been feeling low about our optimistic outlook and couldn't bring myself to write something that cast such a glowing light on humanity. Giving myself permission, and having someone else support/reinforce the idea, has given me a lot more motivation to knock it out when I'm FINALLY done with Rosita Ruins the Heist. Which means finishing Rosita. Which is, A LOT.
Honestly? It's all been a lot and in my life, it will probably ALWAYS be a lot. That's just my particular journey. BUT--I'm still here, doing the damn thing. 60k words by the end of the month. Haters will say it can't be done. Rational people will probably also say it can't be done. But I'm neither. ;)
As of right now: I've logged 37,661 words. I should be at 45k right now, so I'm operating at a serious deficit at the moment. BUT I'm gonna hit 60k by the end of the month (taking the week between Christmas and the New Year off for a trip to the coast). JUST WATCH ME.
As predicted, the holiday weekend threw my writing game for a loop. I somehow managed to hammer out a few thousand words before descending into the madness of Thanksgiving weekend and the Oregon coast--at least enough to tide (get it) me over until I could sneak away for a few hours and hammer out some quality literature.
And then we hosted Thanksgiving on Thursday, did a little holiday shopping on Friday, packed up our car, and drove to our timeshare with my immediate family and "the Grandmas." Which means our one bedroom condo was brimming with five people and not exactly the alchemic conditions for writing magic to occur.
LATE AFTERNOON FLOW
And still, and yet--I managed to sink into the writing flow on Saturday right after our brisk, brief, and VERY WET walk on Rockaway beach, while everyone was recovering near the heater and playing cards or doodling on paper towels. I wedged myself into a spot on the couch and hauled out my laptop.
THE TRUTH IS: I didn't exactly write so much as copy and paste a scene that I'd previously written into the exact place it needed to be. I then wrote around that scene to a somewhat satisfying conclusion--except I sort of hate what happened and what it has turned into and I'm just not really feeling the heavy-handed romantical intrigue that had been buzzing around in my brain for these two characters. It's not quite ripe yet, so the likelihood of me slashing and burning most of their interactions and completely rewriting them in the next draft is pretty damn high.
TO CHAPTER SIX, AND BEYOND
Six chapters in, and not gonna lie--this last chapter felt the best. I think I've figured out where I want to place the emphasis and it's not really on the romance, as I thought it might be in early chapters and in daydreaming about the characters and the plot in the last year. Romance adds some fun zest to a plot, but it's not a plot in and of itself.
However--pages and pages of interactions between these characters have given me loads more insight into who they are, and I'm feeling more confident about where they're headed.
So much so, that I'm planning to continue my "1k words a day" goal through the end of January 2022. I have my day job, the winter holidays, and editing side gigs to keep me busy, but I think there's been some validity in trying to carve out time to write every day, even when I really don't want to. And/or realizing that some days it's just not going to happen, and being okay with that. It's about embracing the days where the muse really takes me and I truly have enough time to "flow." And then some days just putting my fingers on the keys and barfing something out as a placeholder for something better.
I plan to keep on writing Rosita Ruins the Heist until the entire first draft is finished, and my guess is it will log in around 90k words or so. Between 18-20 chapters feels about right.
As of right now: I've logged 30,280 words--ACHIEVING MY REVISED GOAL. WOO HOO!! I've also got concrete plans to continue on this path through the next few months until the manuscript is complete.
THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING
The previous week it was the "atmospheric river" and this past week it was health complications that arrived to distract me from achieving my goal. Wheeee! Those health complications actually carried over from the beginning of the month when I had a medication disruption and I thought everything had righted itself. Little did I know... this last Sunday my health issues would erupt into a trip to the emergency room. Not the most ideal writing conditions.
THE GOOD NEWS?
I've somehow managed to magically stay on track with my writing goals on Rosita Ruins the Heist. Am I always writing every single day? Absolutely not. But when I am writing, I'll have bursts of logging 2-3k words, and that will make up for the days where I know that it would otherwise be difficult to sneak away and tap ANYTHING out on my keyboard.
Or when I arrive at the appointed writing time and my brain is just a pile of mush that barely manages to make any kind of electrical pulses whatsoever. Happily, I am, for the most part--getting out on a daily walk and having that solo time for my brain to ruminate on the story is crucial and essential.
As of today, I'm sitting pretty in the midst of Chapter Five during a pivotal scene between my two main characters and sort of luxuriating in the interaction and the mysteries that are unfolding as they work together towards a common (but foisted upon them) goal. Having most of the plot points together means I can really delve into my FAVORITE aspects of writing which is the personal drama and characterizations. You know, the juicy fun stuff!
THE HOLIDAYS, THOUGH
Not gonna lie, I'm a little concerned about the impending holiday weekend. I will be hosting about a dozen folks at my house on Thursday, then doing some holiday shopping on Friday, taking down the Thanksgiving decorations, and then packing my bags for a last-minute trip to the Oregon coast.
This is a super exciting development on a personal level, of course, because who doesn't love a fall excursion to the grey, surly waters of the Pacific Ocean? I'm certain it will rile up SOME kind of inspiration. I will be with my immediate family, so that decreases the chance to escape and cloister myself up to write. But we do have a separate room with a door that closes, and the pool at our timeshare is FINALLY open (in this "post-COVID" world), so there's a small chance that I could convince my spouse to take our daughter to the pool while I log a few hours on my laptop. *fingers crossed*
Mostly I'm looking forward to feasting on turkey and fresh seafood, relaxing in a hot tub overlooking Rockaway Beach, and hopefully hitting some semblance of my word goal.
As of right now: I've logged 22,584 words--with concrete plans to write more this evening. We'll see what happens from there.
DAYS OF NOTHING, DAYS OF SOMETHING
Another fairly rough week, but for seemingly entirely different reasons than the last week *sigh*. I blame the daylight savings time switch and the "atmospheric river" which foiled all my "healthy living" plans. I was faced with a busy weekend November 5-7 and ended up opting not to write the short horror story. I also ended up not getting much writing done at all. Monday at my day-job was busy but I managed to channel a thousand or so words into the book.
And then it all fell apart from there. For a time.
I also hit a chapter that I didn't love--the second chapter--because it features the main character (MC) struggling with a relative suffering from a disease that I have virtually NO experience with. It's a somewhat pivotal scene and will involve more research than I could muster together while NANOWRIMO-ing, so I started digressing into other character backstory and exposition and then ended the entire chapter with an unsatisfying flourish just to be done with the damn thing.
Before I finished Chapter Two--I started on Chapter Three of Rosita Ruins the Heist. I was taking a rainy/windy walk about midweek and a particular song lyric struck me. In fact, it inspired a whole new playlist and gave me that little visual window into the entire third chapter. Tennessee whiskey, y'all.
THE NEW PACE
It became clear, pretty quickly that I wasn't going to succeed in my goal of hammering out 2k words a day. I should have all the time and brain space in the world, but I'm just not there yet. I commend those who are! But that's not me. I have to reset to a more realistic and achievable goal for myself, in order to keep my spirits up and be able to focus on the writing rather than just vomiting out words in a frantic daze which leads to pages of helpful (as backfiller for my brain) but not entirely useful exposition.
THAT FRIDAY FEELING
I got through some fairly lengthy work and personal life challenges (that SAD started hitting hard, but I decided to hit back this year with daily walks AND Vitamin D supplements) and by Friday, I was feeling able to focus. I decided to do a little extra writing hustle, and managed to move my needle to the point where I was at least back on track to hit my newly revised 30k word goal by the end of the month by logging 1K words a day.
I made even more progress on Saturday (hello Chapter Four), but all that was derailed on Sunday when I slept very little, decided to obsess about a current event by absorbing all the available content about it--completely wasting a VALUABLE chunk of writing time where my entire family was gone and I had the house to myself.
* yet another weary sigh*
It's Day 15 and I'm proud to say that I'm 15k words in. This has not been the year for charting consistent daily progress, but I'm embracing the chaos and my newly revised 30k word goal which feels substantially more achievable and actionable. Let's gooooo (again?)!
THIS WEEK WAS A WEEK
Fairly early on the week, I distinctly remember remarking to my supervisor at my day job that this has been a "week of Mondays." And boy was it ever. Just, A LOT going on professionally and it definitely hit home on Wednesday night when I crashed out unusually early for me (10pm).
Needless to say--I didn't get ALL the writing done on Rosita Ruins the Heist this week that I truly wanted to. I started out strong on Monday with 2k words, decided to rethink and revise some of the opening sequences on Tuesday (1k), logged another 1k words on Wednesday before crashing out early, and then took last night completely off after a raucous and thought-provoking writing group meeting.
When I had some errands to perform, but wanted to keep the book in my headspace and do a little draft revising--I had Google read the text aloud to me while my hands/body were otherwise busy/occupied. I've done this before and it's actually really helpful to hear the story aloud because you quickly realize what is working and what is definitely NOT working. I'm now fully aware of all the places I want to cut when it's time to second draft. And I'm only one chapter in.
I've also just generally had a more difficult time connecting, on an emotional level, to my writing. Specifically, in the last few years. Part of the stories I tell are usually a greater reflection of things that are happening around me, or my projections of the future.
As you can guess--the future has been quite uncertain lately, and many of the things I'm feeling aren't necessarily reflected in the worlds I'm attempting to escape into. Much of the emotional weight I'm carrying right now feels heavy and dark and that's somewhat a part of the world I'm writing, but also not really?
WRITE SOMETHING ELSE
It was suggested last night by a fellow writer that maybe I just needed to give myself permission to write something that would help expel all the negative emotions that are blocking me from truly accessing my imagination and empathy--in a short story horror format. I found the idea intriguing, but just wasn't feeling up to doing much last night except watching a YouTube video series I've recently become obsessed with, and then passing out.
I've been toying with the idea of a horror anthology for a while now, and tossing out a short story (which I could include in my word count) just might be the cure to my writerly ails. I'm going to try it today and see how it goes (along with attempting some more writing on the designated Nanowrimo WIP.
It's Day 5 and I'm only 4k words in. Let's see what kind of shenanigans I can get up to this weekend. *fingers crossed*
It's that time of year again. Nanowrimo time! The time when I take stock of my writing goals for the year and determine how I best want to use the next 30 days of time to piece together at least 50k words of a draft.
THE PAST IS IN THE PAST
The last few years I have used this time for editing/finishing pre-existing drafts of the Metal Heart trilogy. This year I'm returning to form and committing to drafting a new book titled Rosita Ruins the Heist.
I wish I could say that I was giving this time over to Astrid vs. the Asteroid and completing the final two chapters of that book but I just...I can't do it. I've had a mental block for months and decided the best way to shake things up is to concentrate on my latest passion project: Rosita.
ROSITA RUINS THE HEIST
I've made Pinterest boards. I've made playlists. I've even done something entirely brand new for a pantser/plantser like myself and drafted a whole freaking OUTLINE. Not just any old outline either. I've got TWENTY freaking pages of character sheets and three-act structure plot breakdowns and chapter breakdowns, along with copious brainstorming notes I took when the story was sliding all over the place and going in numerous different directions.
The end result is that I have a main character who absolutely knows what she wants as well as side characters with interesting backstory. AND HEISTS. The entire book is devoted to heists. There are three main heists that drive the story. But also technology and romance and intrigue!
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS
My goal is 2,000 words a day, but I'm willing to settle on 1,600 (the bare freaking minimum). I have carved out space from 9-11pm every "school night," along with at least two full days devoted to writing on Nov. 14 and Nov. 28. The trickiest days will be Friday and Saturday, as both are usually reserved for socializing/family time.
But I'm not feeling too daunted yet, as I *might* have already started drafting one scene, which means I'll be starting out a little bit ahead of the curve. And some of the scenes are caught-in-4k clear in my brain, so it will be a simple means of transposing. I'm also tempted to write out of sequence since I already have a chapter outline/breakdown, in order to work through the inevitable road-blocks that will present themselves.
*fingers crossed* Here goes something!
Last year I did a reverse Nanowrimo and cut 30k words out of a manuscript. It was a bit of a grueling process, but actually felt really, really good and resulted in a version of Tin Road that I was confident enough to submit to a local library collection. And it was accepted! It's now available in paperback form for purchase.
I haven't officially announced it yet (I'm going to do a promotional/fundraising push to raise some book and food funds for my Little Free Library closer to Thanksgiving) but for anyone who actually reads my blog and wants a copy, you can purchase now on Amazon. If you show me the receipts, I'll even send you a signed bookplate! I know, Amazon is the devil. But it's allowed me to fulfill one of my meager life goals, which is getting my books in print.
This year, for Nanowrimo 2020, I am torn. I finished the draft of the third novel: Iron Curtain. I got feedback from beta readers. I am in the process of applying some changes and angling to submit to the 2021 Multnomah County Library Writers Project. If that doesn't happen, I still plan to publish it in Spring 2021.
So, I could spend all of November 2020 cleaning up this manuscript.
Or, I could write something new. I have a story that's been burbling in my brain for a while now and it really, really, really wants to get out. I even went so far as to make it a playlist, so you know that's when things are getting really serious. If this brain book and I were dating, making a playlist is the mental equivalent of going Facebook official. I don't really know if that metaphor worked...
Anywho. If I decide to tackle Iron Curtain, the main things I'm looking at are cleaning up the last 12 chapters (out of 32) and overall beefing up the language. Basically, a back-section DE and a line edit. That seems doable in a month. Then I could pass it off to my beta readers for one last review before it goes the MCLWP in early 2021.
BUT if I decide to tackle the new project, that is starting over entirely from scratch. I have a rough outline, a rough character sketch, I know what she wants (and what she REALLY wants, and what she needs). I don't have all the specifics mapped out, but I have a general idea of where it's going. I have to admit, the idea has appeal and some merit. I've been embroiled in the Metal Heart world for months now, and taking even a week long pause to ACTUALLY read a book (bless you Undead Girl Gang for being the one) really helped me approach the manuscript with new eyes. Why, just yesterday I unearthed a fun little plot swivel that will make the ending much more interesting and dynamic.
I'm quite prepared to enact either plan. OR BOTH. I think both will probably be disastrous, but hear me out. No, really.
What if I took half the month to vomit out 25k words of a story that's been taking up a lot of my brain space lately?
And then what if I took the other half of the month to finish cleaning up Iron Curtain so it can FINALLY see print and the fates of my favorite idiots will FINALLY be secured properly?
These are the very questions that have kept me up the last few nights.
And I'm still not clear in what order those things would best fall together. Part of me says: Iron Curtain first. Then take a breather. LET IT BREATHE. Work on this new book and get it out your system. And then come back to Iron Curtain with EVEN FRESHER eyes.
I know. It's too much. Yagirl is always in danger of doing TOO MUCH.
The pragmatic, realist side of me says: You'd better just get this damn book FINISHED. Like, all the way finished. No more distractions. No other WIPs and fun side stories. Iron Curtain is the end of a writing era and it deserves my full attention until it is the best possible version it can be.
I think you can tell which side I am landing on. But when it comes down to November 1... I still have no idea what I'll ACTUALLY do. Here goes something...
Approaching the 2019 Nanowrimo while juggling two part-time jobs and full-time grad school (plus motherhood but who's counting) meant that I had to make some realistic choices. Could I expect to write anything new in 30 days, especially 50k words worth of something new?
No. Not really. BUT I could put to practice some of the sweet developmental and copyediting skills I've gained over the last year in the Book Publishing MA program at Portland State University.
So my goal became simple: cut 50k words from a bloated 150k manuscript instead. The bloated manuscript in question is Tin Road.
The first step in downsizing or upsizing is to know what you're working with. Since I typically don't write from highly structured outlines (I use a very rough outline and take notes in the same document as I write), I had to reverse engineer an outline based on the current material. I crafted a table, listed out the chapters, gave them breezy subtitles, and loosely described each chapters content.
Then I color-coded. So much color coding. I love a good color based organizational system. I used yellow and red because they're bold and bossy. Yellow was like "this chapter could be trimmed" and red was like "probably could cut this entirely." There weren't nearly as many red rows as I'd hoped, which meant the harder job of making line by line cuts. But also, at the same time, cleaning up the content. I did get to hack away at cringe-worthy scenes or moments that just weren't feeling good.
ONE PIECE OF ADVICE. If the writing doesn't feel good, if it makes you cringe, then it's not good and you should cut it without mercy. Your gut instincts are always on target. I did some gut cuts , as well as trimming dialogue.
DIALOGUE CAN ALWAYS BE TRIMMED. No reader needs a "yeah" or "well" to kick off a sentence and no reader needs nearly as much blocking or descriptions in the dialogue as you think they do. I even found myself dispensing of dialogue tags altogether in favor of trusting a reader would know who was speaking based on voice and placement in the scene. Kinda tricky and scary, but worth it to step out of the way and let the characters talk to one another without leaning back on blocking. Plus, it dropped my word count considerably.
BYE BYE EXPOSITION. Part of the book is following the journey of two fugitives. It's a road book, and that meant a lot of logistics plotting and descriptions of new environments. Which is where a lot of the bloat was located. Who needs three pages of describing a location that is only gonna be used to stage about two minutes of action? Cut cut cut.
SCENE IT BEFORE. And sometimes there is a scene that's almost exactly like another scene except the characters are maybe saying different things. Is it needed? Could the dialogue be moved elsewhere? Good riddance then.
THE END RESULT. Not as successful as I hoped, but for a couple of reasons. I fell about 20k words short of my lofty goal, which was a bummer. HOWEVER, I did emerge with an entirely edited and fairly clean copy of a manuscript that was reduced by 20% (maybe, I don't math well). AND keeping the 120k words made sense in light of the fact that I had two narrators telling different stories (interwoven, but still). That was roughly 60k words per narrator and story which is lean. If I cut anything else, it might end up causing both tales to be anemic.
AND NOW. I'm giving it a final once-over and then formatting it to be entered into the Smashwords catalog and then the 2019 Multnomah County Library Writer's Project contest by the 12/15 deadline. Wish me luck.
Regardless of its acceptance into the contest/catalog, I plan to make Metal Heart and Tin Road available for ebook and print this upcoming year.
Melinda Jasmine Crouchley, YA science fiction author and professional editor.