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Highway to Yesterday

Eight Things I Edited For. So far.

Over the last few weeks, I have been going back and forth over my manuscript, tightening up the language. Here are the things that I can recall looking for in particular:

  • Adverbs. This is always the first step, accomplished by looking for “ly “, “ly.” and “ly,” It has the added benefit of letting you see other word use problems, of which I seemed to have an abundance for this book.
  • “Going to”. Man, did I ever overuse this phrase. I noticed it when I did my adverb hunt.
  • “Well” to start a sentence. It took three nights to sweep the manuscript for this word. This was a problem in Magic Mirror, as well.
  • “As well.” Yeah, I overuse this one, too. See above sentence. I saw it so often that I paused my “well” search to look for this in particular.
  • Contractions in speech. I don’t tend to use contractions as frequently as I should when writing dialog. Everyone sounds terribly proper as they enunciate their words perfectly. So I have to go back and add a few. I also added contractions in stream-of-consciousness episodes, when you’re basically reading my character’s thoughts.
  • Colloquialisms. I also don’t use these enough. I believe this comes from avoiding colloquialisms with every other book I have written, which have all taken place in a medieval setting, where colloquialisms are inappropriate. They are appropriate in this story, where the main characters are from the present day, and are in their 20s. So I salted in some gonnas, gottas, ain’ts and similar words.
  • “Basically”, “Actually”, “Quite”, “Rather”. Depending on the decade or century of my characters’ origins, they tended to overuse these words. I purged them.
  • Grammar and Style Check. As Microsoft Word has matured, the grammar and style tool has improved. Even though I still often disagree with the problem or the suggested fix, it usually succeeds in highlighting sentences that need some kind of attention.

When I finished with all these sweeps, I found that I purged 1000 words from the manuscript. I now stand at 114,533 words.

My overall impression is that I have gotten sloppy. The grammar and style check uncovered more passive voice than I can recall ever having let slip through before. Once, I had the habit of questioning every use of a “to-be” verb, not just passive voice. It made my voice so much richer. I need to get back into that habit.

Recent Research – 80s Jewelry and Old Highways

Silver Hoop EarringsAt left are a pair of earrings from the 80s. I remember these, but I never wore any, myself. I tried pierced ears when I was thirteen, but I always had ear-aches and I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the constant pain. So I let them close up and never re-pierced them.

I’ve known some women who wore earrings like these, and they no longer had holes in their earlobes–they had vertical dashes. {wince}

I had to research this just now because my character in 1915 needed an item from the future.

“What are you looking for?” Adele asked.

“A suitable anachronism to take you to the future,” Abe replied. He pulled out a pair of silver earrings. They were giant hoops—Adele thought she could wear them as bracelets. “I take it your ears are pierced?”

She lifted her brows at them. “Yeah, but I don’t think they can take that kind of weight.”

“Nonsense. Women from the ‘80s wore them all the time. And these will take you all the way there, if you ever need to go.”

Adele took out her tiny studs, and fastened in the earrings. She could almost feel her earlobes getting longer.

Sometimes, I research things only to figure out that I don’t really need to go into all that detail in my story. Here are some things I decided to leave out:

  • Inheritance laws regarding children in the foster system in South Carolina, in the 80s and 90s. Eventually, I decided that the story would not be enhanced by adding this detail.
  • Classifications of gemstones. Too much info, not enough relevance.
  • The interior configuration of a certain make and model of obscure older car. yes, a few collectors might still have one of these cars. But are they likely to be in my target readership? And if they are, are they likely to care about the nit-picky plot point that I was worried about?

US-1 in the 50s One thing I did research was which decade US-1 was widened from 2 lanes to 4. Yes, this information really was out there, and I was even able to confirm it from more than one source. This enabled me to write a nice, atmospheric little sub-scene.

Back when I first started writing this book, I researched the entire original route of US-1. Various parts of the road have been rerouted from that time, so US-1 now travels through towns that it did not travel through back then. I’m going to need to refind that bit of research; hopefully I kept it bookmarked, somewhere. Next book, I’m going to include a bibliography in my gazetteer.

Revising East of Yesterday – Plus Stuff

People's DrugstoreHere is a cool drugstore pic from the 1920s. Whenever I blog about East of Yesterday, I’m going to try to find a cool old picture to go with it, to get you in the mood. Click to enbiggen. Shorpy has another picture of the same store, restored and in high-res.

I took my three-week writing break and am now neck-deep in revisions.

I took a different approach with this revision, because I have already revised East of Yesterday quite heavily. I am reading the story aloud to my husband. In the process, it has grown from 111000 words to 115000. I have found some I can cut, and probably will do so tonight, but it won’t amount to more than about 2000 words, if that. All the scenes really do advance the story. I guess it is officially an epic. But historical fiction is often lengthy, so I think it should be okay.

In between read-aloud sessions–I can only go for about 2 hours at a time before my voice gives out–I am doing some revisions further along in the book that I know I need to make, such as rewriting a few scenes in another point-of-view.

~*~

Other than that, I read a fantasy that was very good, but the reviews on the 2nd book are not promising and it is a bit expensive, so I have not purchased it yet. This is the second such novel that I have read. (With the other book, I actually did purchase the second novel, but the plot crashed and burned half-way through) Both started out as self-published Amazon sensations. Hmm.

Does anyone know of a good Google Reader-like website, for reading blog feeds? I prefer RSS feeds to getting a bunch of emails from individual blogs, but have not found a replacement for Google Reader. Therefore, I don’t read blogs as much as I used to, and I’d like to get back into it. Neither Facebook nor Twitter a very good substitute, IMO.

East of Yesterday Complete!

Exciting news! I have finally finish drafting East of Yesterday!

Here’s some quick stats:

  • Genre – Time Travel Historical with light science fiction elements
  • Length – 111,000 words
  • Point-of-View – Third Person
  • Number of Points-of-View Characters 4 major, 5 minor
  • Number of Chapters – 46
  • Oldest file time/date stamp: 6/7/2009 for “brainstorming.doc”

This book is in a better state of polish than I have ever achieved with an initial draft, but that’s mostly because it isn’t really an initial draft. I have stopped resisting the impulse to edit as I draft, and I do think it worked out better for me this way. True, I sketched out the initial scenes back in 2009, but during that time, I rewrote and published The Sevenfold Spell, drafted and published The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf, wrote three Petroleum Sunset stories, self-published two of them, and wrote a significant amount for two other fairy tales (which I may get back to one day). Plus, I wrote a quarter of a Christian suspense that I have indefinitely shelved, and revised Magic by Starlight.

Obviously, I was getting nowhere. Last year, I stopped such a scattershot approach and picked the WIP that I thought had the greatest chance to succeed. Since then, I have been working on this novel exclusively.

The manuscript I have now is in much better shape than any other first draft I have ever managed. When I start a writing session, I go back to reread and edit what I wrote during the previous session.  This helps me continue on with the same tone/ voice (which I alter per POV). Another thing I do, is when I have a revision that affects another part of the manuscript, I drop a bookmark (the word “here” formatted with a special style), go make the revision, and then go back and reread to ensure everything is in sync.

Next steps:

  • Ship off to beta reader
  • Take a two or three-week break–until she sends feedback
  • Sweep the novel according to my manuscript clean-up process
  • Read it aloud/final polish
  • Write synopsis and pitch

I am hoping to be ready to look for an agent by March.

Edit: here is a link to my East of Yesterday page.

I’m Back! And Fun with Names

Wow. My last post was on Thanksgiving. I didn’t mean to take a hiatus, but I guess I did. Tomorrow I go back to work, so I guess life will turn back to normal. Which should mean fairly regular posts (at least weekly) once more.

~*~

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I realized I had written past the point where my book should end, and I decided to end my book at 100,000 words and use everything after that for book 2. Well, I have been hard at work carrying out that plan. I’ll be cutting about 5000 to 7000 words once I reach The End, but I wrote about 15,000 words over the last month, which is extremely prolific for me.

So I’ll likely end up with a novel of about 105,000 words, plus another book’s worth of material. I am thinking this will probably be only a two-book series, with Tinkering With Yesterday as the current working title for the second book.

Along with writing, I’ve been doing quite a bit of revising, so I thought it would be fun to blog about one of my writing tics.

What is it With Me and Names?

I almost always start my protagonists’ names with an A or an E. In East of Yesterday, I have an Adelaide and an Emmeline. I also had an Elizabeth. And for men, I have an Abraham and an Edmund. That’s five out of my eight major characters.

It got worse. Inadvertent alliteration is another problem. Elizabeth’s nickname was Betsy, and another major character’s name is Bethany. And whenever there was a scene with Betsy, she was always with Bethany. Even I was confusing them. Clearly, something had to be done. So Elizabeth became Josephine, with the nicknames of Josie and Sophie. And guess what? I already have a Sophie–a minor character, but she is there. So she will be renamed. And to add to this preponderance of Bs? I also have a Bradley and a Barthelemew, and my main characters’ last name is Blaine.

But I’m not done yet. Edmund’s nickname is Ned, a nickname that I am quite fond of. But I also have a Nathaniel. I am trying to decide if it would be acceptable to keep these names, as I am attached to both, and because poor Ned has already been renamed from Henry and Benjamin. It was hard enough to stop thinking of him as Ben, and sometimes I still do. I don’t think I could adapt to another name for Nate–that’s been his name since the beginning.

And the minor characters? I have a Marissa with an aunt by the name of Amanda, who has a sister named Agatha.  I did manage to get out of the box with the names of Felix and Lysander, but by the time I named those characters, I had recognized this little problem I had.

I know many of you are writers–do you have any writing tics to share?

Could I Be Finished and Just Didn’t Know It?

I was thinking about how to do this final confrontation at the end of my book when I thought of a plot twist that I loved. But I realized that if I used this plot twist, I would have to spend another 50,000 words resolving it. Almost enough for another book. Or a door-stopper for this one.

And then I realized that I had been wondering how I would continue the series, anyway. Other than some over-arching scenes, I had nothing. But if I proceed with this … well, it gives my characters almost impossible odds to overcome. I have no idea how I would pull it off.

What more can a storyteller want?

So I’m feeling this idea out. I’ll need to move one scene back within the 95,000 or so words that I’d be keeping, but fortunately, the scene is somewhat portable. I’d have to put my confrontation in a different place, but I’m cool with that. It would also leave a well-established villain alive for future conflict, which is always good.

I’m not seeing any negatives. And I’m excited!

Devising a Mathematical Formula for Time Travel

So my husband forwarded me a funny:

Math Geek Funny

It took me a moment to get it, but when I did, I just knew that I had to work out a time-travel formula for East of Yesterday. I broke out my calculator, and got to work.

I mostly did this for fun. I didn’t expect it to be useful for the story.

I am not usually much of a math geek. I got as far as College Algebra, when I ambitiously took an accelerated class. I barely kept up. Matrices almost blew out my brain cells. College Algebra was my only C in college. After that, I barely clung to the Honor Roll. If I had taken the regular class, I might have moved on from there, but as it was, I was done. So I have never learned calculus. It’s right behind Latin on the list of things I want to learn before I die.

Anyway, I started with a real-life formula related to the one spoofed above:

Time = Distance / Speed

And I played with the numbers until I found a formula that worked for the travel times in my story. Here’s the formula for going back in time.

ThB = (ds)2

Time-hours Back equals distance times speed squared.

I suppose an example would be instructive.

distance = 100 miles
speed = 50mph

100 x 50 = 5000
5000 squared = 25,000,000 timehours

25,000,000 timehours divided by 8760 hours per year equals 2853.881 timedays
Divided by 356 days = 7.82 years traveled back.

I ignored leap years. This is fiction, after all. Here’s the formula to move forward.

ThF = π((ds)2)

Time-hours Forward equals pi times (distance times speed squared)

Why pi? Because what fun is a make-believe formula without it? Besides, I wanted travel to the future to be roughly three times “faster” than travel to the past, so I thought, why not pi? The only argument against it was because time is linear, not circular. But a character in my story had another opinion:

“So.” He clapped his hands together, obviously at a loss for what to say, “how was your trip?”

“Faster than I expected,” Adele said. “At least, the time-traveling part was. The rest of it was pretty awful.”

“Oh, yes—that.” He seemed relieved to be on a familiar subject. “It’s the added velocity of time that you experienced.”

“Added velocity?”

“Well, time moves forward, after all. So when you move forward in time, you have all that velocity behind you. When you go back, you have to work against that velocity. The multiplier is pi, to be precise, although I don’t know why that makes sense, since there is nothing circular about time.” He paused and then snapped his fingers. “Unless you’re traveling in time. Of course! Now it makes perfect sense.” He pulled a notebook out of his pocket and began to write.

(Please excuse the crudity of these paragraphs. I have not had a chance to edit or revise.)

Someone who has taken calc could perhaps critique my formulas. All I know is the numbers work for my story, and they let me know when the characters have moved too quickly (or slowly). And it made for some interesting revisions.

So the effort turned out to be more useful than I thought.

Pressing on to The End

My last post was very valuable to me. I have sorted out all the issues with the manuscript, and am now pressing on to the end. I had to cut about 3000 words of redundant and irrelevant scenes, but once I did that, I had nothing in front of me except blank pages and plot markers. Therefore, I was able to write almost 4000 words since my last post.They all came in a rush–just like they have done for most of this book. Too bad I got mired in so many plot changes…

This experience has shown me that I need to post weekly–it keeps my inspiration flowing.

Recent Research

This week, I researched STDs and confirmed an earlier decision that one of my characters is going to get syphilis. Naturally, he totally deserves it. But he’s kind of an ally to my protagonists–a shades-of-gray type of character–so they’ll have to get him fixed up in a future book. He just has to get north of 1950 or so.

Why syphilis? Mostly because it is curable. I want to use the guy in future books. And I need him healthy.

I noticed something … well, disturbing when I was doing the research. Here is a bust of a man with advanced syphilis. Note the skull protrusions:

Tertiary syphilis head

And now, a beloved character from children’s animated film:

90s-Hunchback-of-Notre-DameI am fairly weirded out.

Research Road Trip?

Google Maps has been greatly helpful with imagery from the various towns and cities that my characters pass on the road-trip portion of my novel, but I keep thinking that I’d like to make the drive for real. It would involve driving up to South Carolina, and driving back down south on my non-interstate route. It will probably be a three day trip–one day there, and allow for two days back. So this may be something I’ll do early next year. All my vacation for this year is spoken for. If I do this, I will definitely be posting on it. My family loves long car trips–even my daughter–so I expect it to be a good time for all.

Multibook Commitment

Another thing I decided on in the last few weeks was that this will definitely be a multibook commitment. I toyed with the idea of trying to tie everything up in one book, but it would end up being about 150,000 words and would definitely have pacing problems, because the last 25,000 or so words have been sloping toward an ending. Plus, I know how I am going to segue into that book.

So that’s it for now. Thanks for the support and encouraging words.

Writing Engines are Humming

What a week. Using the road map I made for myself last week, I finally gritted my way through a very difficult rewrite, pushing East of Yesterday up to over 100,000 words. Then I started cutting scenes that had become either redundant or irrelevant after the rewrite, and chopped it down to 97,000 words. And now I’m back up to 99,000 with nothing but blank pages before me.

And right now, that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t have blank page syndrome–I had full page syndrome. I had page after page of irrelevancy and redundancy, with tiny dollops here and there of stuff I needed to keep. I was daunted at the thought of straightening it all out. But I pressed on and pressed through, and now I can see the end in sight.

One thing I keep running into is what I call temporal inconsistencies. I don’t do a lot of twisting time in knots–because it’s really difficult to follow–but what little I do has to be consistent from either end of time. It’s hard to explain. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Well, I caught myself writing in an inconsistency when I was going to have someone warn someone else about something he has already done, but has yet to do. And then I realized the warning made no sense. And then I realized that it could make sense, if I just tweaked it a little bit.

Here’s a snip, from Mike’s point-of-view. He’s talking to his friend, Brad. It starts with Mike.

“Wait. Did you say you were going to ride home with him?”

“Yup. All the way to 1975. Remember that weird problem I had back then? When you said I’d been in a fight, but I really wasn’t?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, you described a guy that looked a lot like this Lysander cat. I don’t know what I did, but I guess I’ll find out, right? And we do know I pop him a good one and he’s down for the count?”

“Well … yeah.”

“So you head back to the 20s and hang tight. I’ll misdirect him back to the 70s, use my Good Knight on him, and I’ll be back before you get home.”

“But how—“

“Look, I can’t stay—they think I’m out to take a piss. Just get out of here, for the love of God. They’re still looking for Adele.”

And he ran off into the night.

The Good Knight is what he calls is famous (or infamous) right jab.

It’s fun to write. And I’m hoping it’s fun to read as well. 🙂

End-of-Book Slog

So I guess I’m on hiatus. Kind of.

I’ve written over 100,000 words of East of Yesterday, and I’m trying to wrestle this story into a satisfying ending. My productivity has been steady but not great. I am slowly working through it. And it seems that the word count does keep creeping up, so that’s progress.

But unfortunately, I’ve totally outlined this story, and every time I’ve done that, it has killed my writing pace. I wish I knew why. The best I can figure is that when I write it down, even as a bubble in a Visio flowchart (as I did this time), it takes away some of the freshness of the plot, dampening my enthusiasm somewhat. For the next book, I will revert to using scene titles in my Navigation Pane of Word. That approach tends to guide me through the plot, as if I were being led on a leash.

Hmm. Good idea. I think I’ll do that with the rest of the plot milestones in the story. It may just help.

Hey–thanks for your help! I gotta run now and try this out. I’ll try to pop in with an update soon.