Month: February 2017

Making A Revision Plan

I’m still working on the Song revision pass, and part of that is making a plan to guide and track those revisions.

Last year I had a good plan for revising Livia, but I didn’t take any notes on how I compiled it. This blog post, therefore, is in part here to act as a reminder for me of how to make a plan to follow.

  1. collect all the notes you have. These could come from several places:
    • inline manuscript comments – when I am writing, I often embed remarks about the text I’m writing in square brackets.
    • typo review comments – the initial review pass reveals many other things I need to address, scribbled in red pen on the page.
    • reader comments – if the book has been out to readers, they may have feedback to draw on
    • additional review comments – I will often do another review pass after the typo corrections because I find it easier to think about the structure and other elements of the story if the text errors aren’t getting in the way any more.*

    For Livia I had all of these sources to draw from, although for Song right now I only have the inline and typo review comments.

  2. sort the comments into buckets. This allows similar things to be worked on at the same time, but also helps flag any larger problems: if you see lots of notes about people knowing things at the wrong time, then you may have a timeline problem you need to fix.

    There are lots of ways to organise these: by character, by location, by artifact. My initial buckets are by level of detail:

    • structural – things about the way the story is told overall
    • detail – specifics about one scene or character
    • copy – issues with the precise text

    For Song, there are some serious timeline issues to deal with, so I am going to figure that stuff out before doing another structural review.

  3. group and combine similar items
  4. work through all of them – tick them off as you go, track how many you’ve fixed and how many are left
  5. don’t be afraid to add more – you’ll find more issues as you are fixing other things so keep adding items in the proper place. Similarly, I mentioned various ways to sort the items earlier and it can be a good idea to rearrange them in different ways.

That’s what I do, anyway. How do you organise your revision?

[*] I really struggle to see past typos in my own writing, which is why I am always unconvinced whenever I see the advice to leave fixing grammar and typos until the underlying structure of the book is solid. I really have to fix the typos so the content is visible to me.

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I’ve been ostriching it pretty hard lately.

I am aware of my privilege in not having to deal with the fallout and continuing malice spewing forth from Trump’s administration, but I have been through this before and need to maintain some level of detachment in order to continue my work.

The problem, as I see it, is that I have no voice.

That may seem weird coming from a white, cis-het male but I also live in Portland, OR, one of the most left-leaning cities in one of the most left-leaning regions in the nation. The problem is not that I am being persecuted or targetted but that anything I say will simply be ignored by those with any kind of actual power.

I grew up in 70s and 80s Britain. The mid- to late-80s were when Thatcher was at the height of her powers and her union- and socialist-busting agenda was in full swing. I did my degree in Liverpool, a city with leaders only just this side of Communism (the cuddly Trotskyist variety rather than Leninist or Stalinist), but this was also when Thatcher was drawing many of the powers that had been devolved to local government over the decades back in to Westminster.

Liverpool had no voice or power, in other words, and all the protests and complaints and, yes, occasional riots fell on deaf ears. Because the key point was that the Conservative government didn’t care about what millions of people thought because it wasn’t in line with what they wanted to do.

And that is what I see in Trump and his cavalcade of malicious clowns: a leadership that leads by order – by diktat – rather than by example, a group of malign goblins who want the levers of power to enrich themselves and who simply do not care about the voices of those who lose from their decisions.

So this is why I have not been engaging much anywhere, why I have been sticking my head in the sand, because I know that my anger will not make a difference now, and if I give Mr Trump my anger then I lose the ability to continue my work.

I have reason for hope, though. Seeing Michael Flynn resign just last night tells me that these moral midgets are not entirely immune from facts and evidence (no matter how much they might wish it otherwise), and Trump himself is vain enough that if he can be made to confront his historic levels of unpopularity then he might be affected. However I don’t think the Republicans are going to be any kind of brake on Trump’s hideous plans, and the Democrats are doing what they can, but are ultimately ineffectual.

I am saving my energy for a fight I can win.

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February Things, 2017

I’m a little late with my February check-in, but mid-week month ends are always going to be a bit weird. That’s not to say I will always write these posts on weekends, but they may frequently get pushed back if I have a weekly goal I need to pour my time into.

However, this January has also been a bit special in that I have barely blogged at all, and for that you can blame the emotional turmoil over the Trump presidency. I have found that in order to retain some glimmer of mental stability I need to focus on my internal work. Addressing this solipsism is something I will be putting in as a February thing.

Three-ish Things for January

Here are the four things I had planned for January. I”m going to talk about them in the order I posted them, although it’s not the order I worked on them.

There’s a story about a lecturer who demonstrates to his students how to think about their time using a large jar and stones of differing sizes: big rocks are the things you have to get done, gravelpieces are the regular smaller tasks that always take time, and sand represents the trivial minutiae that fill all available space if you give them the chance. In the jokey version of this story a student adds beer to the jar to demonstrate that there is always room for beer, and it is valid to say that you always need down time, but the real point is that you will need to allot less time for sand and beer if you prioritise your time to work on the big rocks first.

The problem with my January is that I had a rock I had sized to be gravel in my goals list, but it just entirely filled the space to make most of this month’s other tasks become sand.

  1. review Song – I was going to make a plan this month and then start working on that next, but I’m not there yet at all. I am about two thirds of the way through the typo review. I will repeating this as a goal for February,
  2. short story work: complete and submit Coppersmith – no work on this at all. Still want to get it finished, but I haven’t touched it since before Christmas.
  3. A New Dawn: next steps – no work on this. This is another rock that got turned into sand, but there may also be other issues which prevented my approaching this task at all: I need a certain level of emotional stability to think about this which I have been struggling to achieve, and I also spent November dipping into the same well. I still need to figure out what to do with this story but that may not happen for a few more weeks.
  4. write Friday lunch presentation – this is the big rock that ground everything else to powder. I gave this talk on Friday, 3rd February and it went pretty well. People laughed at the jokes rather than at me, and I didn’t eat all the time so my co-presenter got to speak this time. Call this a success, albeit at the expense of everything else this month.

Three Things for 2017

So that was January. How did I do at advancing my 2017 things?

  1. finish Shapes of Chance – no work on Shapes, but I made some progress on Song so that’s something.
  2. talk to some agents, aiming to obtain representation – no work, and there won’t be until I have a manuscript
  3. investigate publishing A New Dawn – no workThank goodness there are still another eleven months to go!

Three Things for February

  1. review Song – carrying this forward from January.
    1. figure out the holes
    2. make a plan
  2. figure out what to do with Coppersmith – still a short story I like, still want to send it out to some markets. I will spend time on it this month.
  3. write some blog posts – January was not a busy month here at Identity Function, so need to get some blogging done. Time to look outwards again.

And that’s what February looks like for me. What are your goals? What are you doing to fight the darkness?

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