Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Climb Every Mountain

No, this isn't a Kevin J. Anderson-style hiking post.  This is a story...well, actually two stories.  These are two stories about my week so far.

As I mentioned before, I submitted my manuscript on Saturday.  On Monday, during a brief break, I got an e-mail saying "Oh, I needed to mention that this needs to be no longer than 100,000."  I promptly had a panic attack, had to take a walk around the office under the convenient pretense of filing (my boss needed me to do it anyway) and then came back.  100,000 requires me to cut at least 37,000 words from my manuscript.

So, here are the two stories.  The first one was from when I was a wee lass of seven.  I had the chicken pox quite badly and was out of school for a while.  During that time, I had lots of hours on my hands, so I finished this huge project to write all of the numbers from 1-1000 in order.  I was so proud of myself.  This was not only an important homework assignment, but members of the 1000 Club got their names in the school newspaper.  I turned it in to Mrs. Bartman, my teacher and she looked it over before announcing that I had skipped 367 and had to write 368-1000 all over again.

The second one is from when I was a little less wee.  My parents, who celebrated their 40th anniversary last Friday, decided to take whichever kids were available on a backpacking trip to Peru for their 25th anniversary.  I trained for months.  I lost weight.  I drank mate de coca like shots in the lobby of our hotel because that helps get lowlanders used to the Andes.  On Day 3 of our 5-day hike to Macchu Pichu, we got to Dead Woman's Pass.  Williams, our guide, warned us that it was the most difficult part of the hike and he was right.  This was a punishing part of the Inca Trail.  It punished me for being fat, for being a hiker, for being easily sunburned, for existing.  (This is also, it turns out, when I started developing what became a 103-degree fever.)  The trail narrowed from its usual 5-10 feet or more to about 2. at some points.  The stones were loose.  There was a drop so steep that all I could see were the tops of the trees hundreds of feet below.  I literally got on my hands and knees for part of this trail in order to make it to the top.  A couple of hours later, I reached the peak.  Williams greeted me, gave me a high five, and promised me that I was almost to the spot where we were stopping for lunch.  I grinned and told him to lead the way.  He pointed across a narrow valley and halfway up the next mountain and said, "THERE!  See that little yellow tent?  That's where we're setting up lunch."  I came THIS CLOSE to pushing him down Dead Woman's Pass right then and there.

I don't feel quite that strongly about these 37,000 words.  After all, they're only 68 words per page.  I can do that.  But I feel like I did looking at that distant yellow tent--exhausted and like I just want to sit down for a while and ignore how far I have to go.  I feel like I did at the age of 7 when I found out that for all my work, I had to back and work hard again.

It is for that reason that I will post at the end of this draft what I have on my t-shirt from that hike:  I SURVIVED DEAD WOMAN'S PASS!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lessons learned from this round of edits

So, at 11:22 a.m. MDT, I hit the send button on my e-mail back to that extremely kind editor that I mentioned recently.  I have been working on putting her ideas into their place for 39 days and now what's left is to wait to see what she thinks about how I implemented them.

So, while waiting, here are a few lessons learned:

1)  My friends are awesome.  They texted and called me, sometimes at 4 in the morning, to see how I was doing and if I needed anything.  They sent me pictures of badgers when I needed to be badgered.  They even sent me a stuffed badger and helped me name her Susurrus.  They kept track of when my deadline was and liked my Facebook posts a lot by way of encouragement.

2)  My friends can be counted on for brainstorms.  I'm not sure if I told this story here, but one of the things I had to explore in this round of edits was the limit of the curse and what would allow the curse to win.  I first figured out that it had to be something to do with adulthood, because that is a point that differs so widely that the age of majority is nothing but a number.  Then I refined it to a specific moment in life and worked out the why of that technicality.  Then I picked on my two most extreme feminists.  One is my amazingly strong lesbian friend who always keeps me informed on the LGBTQ community's rights and issues.  One is my fantastically intelligent mom of 2 friend who has something to say about EVERYTHING related to women.  I figured that if I could get both of them to not hate that idea, I would be fine.  I had six people of various sexualities and backgrounds give me feedback in the end and they all loved it for different reasons.

3)  My roommate is a never-ending fount of editing power.  I wouldn't let her actually read this final draft because she just finished meeting one of my deadlines and has already edited the book and put up with my "Hey, could you give me feedback on something"s.  That doesn't mean that she didn't sit down with me for an hour the first night and several occasions since to hash out the details.  I have promised her that unless this manuscript comes back with really unfavorable responses, the next time I want her to read my book is for a blog tour.

4)  That stupid quote about the best-laid plans of mice and men is true.  I thought giving myself 40 days was so freaking reasonable.  E, the mystery editor, told me it could take between 2 weeks and a couple of months.  And then I woke up 11 days into editing with bronchitis and it didn't leave for two weeks.  Granted, that's when I spent all of my time getting feedback from a wide spectrum of women, but I would have rather been well and able to write.

5)  Goals are my friend.  I would ask a random friend to give me a number each day and make that my wordcount goal.  I wrote 520 and 1266 and such things and then usually had energy left over to write more.

6)  I need a nap.  No, seriously, I think I'll be able to sleep properly for the first time in weeks tonight.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Importance of Self-Fanfic

So to go into a little more detail than I have in the past, I got a bite rather than a nibble from one publisher.  I got a very nice e-mail where one of their editors told me all of the things she liked about and that she had some "general edits" that she wanted me to address before she recommended it for publication.  This is the most serious interest that I've had in my writing EVER, which is why when I saw an e-mail entitled "Re: Wingspan Submission," I literally blacked out for an unknown period of time.  Then I read the letter and it wasn't a rejection and was better than I expected.

So, with these "general edits," I've had to go back and tweak a few minor things and one or two major things.  On the day that I got the e-mail, Kate let me pick her brain for an hour.  The following Sunday, I spent a little more time than that talking about the philosophies behind what I had to change.  Tonight, I spent time consulting a paralegal and a nursing student in order to be accurate with certain aspects of the plot.  Last weekend, I cane up with a much more intricateversion of the curse and because it expressed some very personal philosophies of mine, I ran it by my ultra-feminist conservative Mormon friend, my lesbian activist friend and several people across the spectrum in between.  When all of them surprisingly found good things to say about what I came up with, I called it a win and decided that I could integrate that idea into the book series as large.

Most of the time, the edits have not been sweeping story arcs and changes of characterization.  It's been adapting small things that will have eventual significance.  One minor subplot caused Kate to have a crossover idea between this book and The Deserter, which amused and delighted me.

As difficult as this is, I think it would be a lot harder if I hadn't been keeping an active part of my brain involved in this universe.  For a writing challenge a few months ago, I wrote a missing moment from the next book.  I recently cheered Kate up by writing her the prologue of the next book.  While the manuscript was done a while back, I haven't put it on a back burner.  I've been acting like a fangirl with my novel and that has been of great help.

On the other hand, I'm trying to work with a self-imposed deadline for these edits to be done.  40 days seemed reasonable on March 10.  On March 21, when I was starting to make progress, I developed bronchitis and didn't stay conscious for much of the next week and a half.  Now I've got 14 days before I'd like to be done with this and, while I have over 8,000 words added to the manuscript and have the rest of the procedure mapped out, I'm trying not to panic about how much time has passed already.