October 25, 2009

Revision 9 of Club 1692 MS Completed

Filed under: A Writing Journal — Brian Triber @ 11:41 am

As of this past Friday, October 23, the 9th revision of my manuscript has been completed. Asides from a few papercuts off the freshly printed pages (incurred while stacking the sheets for the 3-hole punch) I have emerged relatively unscathed.

Emotionally, I feel like I was lust hit by a car. That is, I am numb and trying to get my bearings. With no more work to do on the actual  manuscript (well, not really, but I’ll explain that later) I am now planning out the next project – NaNoWriMo 2009.

Now, I hear you ask, Revision 9? In actuality, with the subrevisions of the MS thrown in, it’s actually more like 12. But you’re probably wondering how all this is tracked. When I began this project a couple of years ago, I started with Rev 1. This was my first draft, and my baseline. From there, whenever a major change to the MS was made, such as shifting entire chapters, cutting or adding scenes, or incorporating redlines from a full reading, the Revision was incremented — numbers are, after all, cheap.

The main exception was Rev 3. This is the revision I first sent out to my writers group and a select group of readers. For purposes of feedback, I saved this into an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file with each line numbered individually. (This was entirely for ease of common terminology, as we liked to call it back in the Quality Assurance trenches.) After that, every revision, up until Rev 8.1 were full revisions.

8.1? Okay, here’s where it seems like things get tricky, but it really isn’t . At about Rev 8, the MS was fairly stable. It was at this point that a few changes had to be incorporated on several occasions, but not enough change to warrant a full revision. So, by numbering the revisions 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, I was able to incorporate various redlines without getting confused over which Rev 8 I was working on.

What was left? A full out-loud read-through of the manuscript. To speed things up here, I took Rev 8.4 and ran the Macintosh’s Speech feature on the the file while I read along in hard copy with a red pen. The trick here was that almost all (note, I say “almost”) problems were minor things like repeating the same word three or four times in a paragraph, or missing or wrong punctuation – that kind of thing. Since the computer kept reading at its own pace, I had no choice but to shut off my right brian and let my left brain do its work and circle all the errors.

Now, an explanation as to what this means regarding writer’s block. Usually, writer’s block can be caused by the left brain (logical) being too critical and not allowing the right brain (creative) do its work without overly-worrying about spelling, punctuation, whether the writing is as good as Tolstoy’s, etc. By the end of the project, I had managed to completely shut out my left brain when writing, which meant I had some difficulty turning it back on. The technique I ended up using was to force myself to think only in terms of identifying problems, not offering the solution to them.

From this point on, as I identify errors in the MS (which there will be), thy will be rolled into Rev 9.1. What does this mean exactly? This means that when I finally send out a copy of the manuscript to an agent, it will be Rev -. Rev -? This is a baseline revision. Once I hit this point,only an act of Congress will cause any changes. In other words, if there is a request from the publisher, or the agent, etc. to fix something, ,from this point forward the manuscript get letter revisions, such as Rev A. This makes it easy to figure out what stage of development the manuscript is in, and also lets me track its distribution better.

So, where do I go from here? Hopefully I’ll be adding entries to the blog on a more regular basis. NaNoWriMo 2009 is coming up in just a few days, so I’ll be getting in gear for that. (I’ll be posting that battle toward Zero Draft on the Blog as well.)

Long term, beginning in November, I spend at least two hours a day, if not more, finishing off the query letter. That should take 2 weeks max (probably  bit optimistic, but this is still part of the learning curve.) This will be followed by getting the querry letter out to all the agets I’ve already selected and researched. The goal is to have those letters and emails sent by end of November.

Following this, I will sit down to write a few sample chapters and scenes for the project after next. I have found that my own writing process requires a lengthy gestation period to determine wether a story idea has sea legs. After writing these sample chapters, I’ll shelve the project and work on the next project, whose working title is “SCREW”. (Not a very good working title, but it’s sufficient for now.) This was a manuscript I had written several sample chapters for a few years ago. The next step here is to analyze what I’ve got, do character sketches, then re-plot the story using notes I’ve collected over the years. This process should take a few months at least. From there? We’ll see when we get there. Probably a new first draft.

As I mentioned earlier, I will try to keep this blog going a little more frequently. The last part of the writing process was all-consuming, and I even dropped out of sight from family and friends. Now that I’ve been through the wringer once, I know what to expect next time, and I’ll be able to schedule everything that needs to get done in a more sane manner.

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October 20, 2009

Review of And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer

Filed under: Book Discussion — Brian Triber @ 3:00 pm

I picked up a copy of And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer in the hopes that the old Douglas Adams magic would strike again. I am happy to report that it does… and it doesn’t.

The book, the sixth in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is a fine read. Colfer does a terrific job of bottling that Adams absurdist voice. The adventure is fun, and he has the reader guessing throughout. Ford and Arthur are back again, as well as Zaphod, Triillian, and Random (Arthur  and Trillian’s goth daughter). The Vogons are also back to try to destroy Arthur yet again, but Colfer finds a very nice explanation as to why Arthur seems to attract planetary destruction wherever he goes.

Rounding out the cast of characters are Bowerick Wowbagger (a formerly minor character — an immortal who spent his time going around the galaxy insulting people in alphabetical order), Hillman Hunter (an Earth-destruction escapee from the current parallel universe who has purchased a planet for the diaspora), and Thor (yes, the Norse Thunder God.) I won’t go into details about how these all tie together, but needless to say, they make a fun jaunt of a book, with the obligatory philosophical questions of existence thrown in as the red herrings they are.

Colfer’s voice is unique, even though he does manage to capture the Adams magic. One especially notable difference is that there are some expletives-not-deleted in the text. Adams had a habit of using “zarking” and other in-context nonsense words to stand in for the characters’ cursing. With And Another Thing… some of the “zarking” is back, but some very Third Millennium English euphemisms are peppered in the dialogue. This is curious to me since Colfer’s previous work (the Artemis Fowl series) are books essentially for young adults.

Another area where Colfer drifts from the Adams format is the manner of his guide entries. They are written a bit more tongue-in cheek, and pepper the book more thoroughly than in the past. Even the format of the entries is different. This is alright in the context of this book, however, as the HHGG in And Another Thing… is actually the Second Edition, something expounded on very early. In fact, the very nature of the Second Edition plays a large part in explaining why the events in the novel transpire as they do. I won’t say any more on this, since I don’t want to spoil it for everyone.

Even though we have lost Adams, and there will be no more books attributed to him, this sixth book delivers the fun, escapism, and absurdity of the previous five. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should we. Although Colfer’s not Adams, And Another Thing… is a good read, and will resurrect some favorite characters, and impart a few chuckles along the way.

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