Month: April 2017

Directed Reading, part 3: Comment Collation

I finished collecting comments from the directed read of Song earlier today. Now I need to convert those comments into actions I can work on.

As noted last time, the manuscript comments fell into three categories:

  1. things to fix immediately – these have all been fixed in manuscript.
  2. things that require noting for future, broader action – recorded.
  3. things that need to be recorded for gazetteer purposes – for Song, these are just about synaesthetic intrusions. The trigger and the nature of the intrusion have been recorded.

It’s worth noting that I processed these comments slightly differently than I have in the past. My comments are annotations on an e-book, and previously I have deleted them as I have addressed each comment. This time I changed the colour, since it’s possible there may be context in the comment that I do not accurately render elsewhere and I don’t want to lose that.

The next thing is to collate all of these comments into actions for the revision plan:

  1. the action comments need to be sorted as I did for the first read comments, separating into buckets for timing, structural, detail, and copy fixes. The timing bucket is mostly empty after the epic timeline construction phase, but there are some specifics I need to check back against the timeline itself. The other buckets are where the real meat sits.
  2. the gazetteer items need to be collected and categorised. Then I will sort by different criteria and see if there are mismatches in the intrusions from similar sense inputs, and make actions to fix those.

I expect to have the revision plan completed early next week, which is a little behind where I wanted to be at this time but the read took longer than I had hoped. I am looking forward to working with more abstract actions at a higher level, because staring at tense transitions is making my eyes tired.

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Directed Reading, part 2: Collecting Comments

I’ve just finished the directed reading for Song, and I wanted to record some more process notes about the transition from the reading output into making the revision plan. That entails capturing the comments.

I have been making comments on the text using a Kindle app. My process in the past has been to delete those comments as they are recorded. This time I am going to try changing the colour of the highlight instead.

The comments to be collected fall into these broad categories:

  1. things to fix immediately – typoes, mainly.
  2. things that require noting for future, broader action – these will go into the revision plan
  3. things that need to be recorded for gazetteer purposes – this usually covers world bookery and the like. For Song specifically, this mostly covers consistency in sensory intrusions.

So, I am expecting to come out with a better manuscript from immediate fixes, as well as a set of concrete action items added to the revision plan. The gazetteer items will probably have an effect on the revision plan because I will have an action item to ensure consistency across the manuscript.


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Hard Things

I have a limited capacity for doing hard things. Basically, I can manage two or three hard things at once. Any more than that and only two or three of them get done.

What do I mean by hard things? I mean activities and processes that require attention and willpower. I’m not so much talking about things that require effort or energy if I already understand how to achieve them. The hard things are things that I am figuring out how to do as I go, or which require constant vigilance to achieve, or that need consistent imaginative input.

Writing a book is a hard thing, although how hard depends on the phase of the work. Controlling my diet is a hard thing. Some parts of my day job can be hard things (akin to parts of writing a book, really, which is no surprise to me).

My hypothesis is that this limited capacity is related to the phenomenon of decision fatigue: there are only so many decisions you can make in a day or an hour before your brain is tired and can’t do any more deciding. This is why so many successful people have simple wardrobes: wearing the same thing every day means not having to waste decision capacity on choosing your clothes. The same thing goes for willpower – exercising your willpower increases your potential willpower in the longer term, but each use of your willpower reduces the strength of will you have left for the rest of the day.

All of this is to give myself some credit for trying hard things rather than punishing myself for not doing more. There’s only so much a brain can manage.

But I need to be more vigilant (which itself is a hard thing) about taking more hard things than I can accomplish. Ambition is good, but only when focussed.

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Directed Reading

I’m still collecting information for my revision plan for Song. After fixing the gross timeline issues, I am working on a directed reading.

The Process

A directed reading is a review of the manuscript looking for specific properties or issues. The way I approach this is to have a list of topics or questions, and to go over the text multiple times bearing each of those questions in mind in turn.

What works for me is to read a scene or chapter multiple times, but you could also read the entire manuscript with each question in mind. Trying to maintain multiple points of view while reading a particular piece of text is hard: harder than I can manage consistently, certainly.


The inputs for this are the text, and the questions. Here are some examples:

  • do things the characters put down in one place stay in that place?
  • ensure that the characters know about the main plot point at the right time. Eg, if Character B acts in a particular way because they are unaware that Character A has deliberately hidden the McGuffin, make sure that they only find out about that after it’s too late for them to rewind their actions.
  • verify that the language used is consistent. Eg, don’t use idioms like clockwise if there are no clocks.
  • look for ways to enhance the sense of place

… and so on. I may add more during the read, but I start with 5-10 questions I want to interrogate the text about.

My preferred mode of working here is to have the text on a tablet and the questions on my phone. I use the Kindle app (adding annotations is easy) for the text, and Google Keep to hold my question list.


The output is more things to work on in the revision plan. Categorise the comments just as before, or invent new categories for those things that seem like a solidly themed block of work.

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