Writing in confinement

I haven’t written in my Blog in while, as always. I wanted to focus any writing effort to working on my manuscript. I finally finished doing my second round of editing review, and now I don’t feel guilty to swift my attention to other type of writing.

From all the bad things that this confinement has brought to our lives, there is one that has been positive for me. I have been able to find the time and discipline to finish editing my manuscript. I already had a plan before the confinement. I was trying to work at least one hour per day on editing. However, I must confess there were many days when I wouldn’t work since I would be absorbed by time, work, and other activities. The quarantine in my country has pushed me to be more responsible with my editing, but more than anything, I have to be honest I felt afraid.

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This pandemic has brought fear in general to our lives and nobody knows how our future will be. I wanted to have at least this goal finished in my life. It has been one week since I’ve finished editing. There is still a lot to do with the manuscript. I have one dear friend helping me with her expert editing eye. I’ll be also finding other people to beta read it and then start seeing options of how can I get this out there. But more than anything, finishing that goal has brought me a good sense of peace in my mind. I already have some other stories luring in my head and some good ideas for new manuscripts. I might explore them later. But for now, I’m giving myself some weeks to rest. Writing, editing and working has been a bit tough on my schedule and I urgently need that rest.

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This blog post didn’t have any specific topic in mind. I just wanted to get this update out there for anyone that might be reading my blog and register this point in my lifetime. If there is something good we can get from these hard times, it is the time to finish some personal goals.

My country is in a very strict control and quarantine. Only people that are between 18 and 65 years old can go out and on a specific schedule depending on the last number of your ID. For example, I can only go out to the street on Mondays, from 7am to 12pm. Everybody must remain at home on afternoons and evenings, and weekends. If you are out of your home after 12 pm or if your ID doesn’t match the “ID of the day”, you get arrested, taken to jail, and you have to pay a fine. In other words, you can’t even go around the park or to take a walk around your neighborhood. Driving is, of course, completely banned, unless you have a special permit. Markets, supermarkets, and pharmacies are opened. Other business are not, including restaurants. There are no delivery services of any kind, only pharmacies. If you need to move to another location in the city on the day you are allowed to go out, you have to walk. There are no means of public transportation. It is quite tough, but needed. I’m crossing fingers, the situation will get better. It is a good time for writing but bad time for a writer’s spirit.

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And you, how is your writing dealing with these times?

Writing in a bad year

2019 has definitely been a year to remember. Two dear aunts, sisters from my Mom, passed away. My beautiful dog, Dana, who was with me for more than 14 years, also passed away. There was a fire, caused by short circuit on the TV plug, that devoured my Mom’s room and almost killed her. My closest aunt had an accident with a huge wardrobe falling and splitting her head badly. My country went into political turmoil for almost 3 weeks, with almost a civil war in the making. Mobs of delinquents attacked people on the street, beating them to death, setting on fire everything they found, including houses. Three weeks I deeply wish nobody goes through anywhere in the world, days we lived in panic, enclosed in our homes or trying to battle attackers when there was still no police to defend us.

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The year is almost coming to an end and although there have been good times in this year, good trips in the middle of everything and other experiences, I cherish this year as the personal growth has been insurmountable.

I’m heading at this moment to WordCamp Guayaquil where I will be speaking about “Wanting to be a blogger and finding time,” in other words about time organization. I would have never imagined a couple of years ago talking about time manage skills. Me, the person who used to procrastinate as nobody else and could never find time for anything. I wondered a couple of times if I’m the best person to talk about this, but I feel I’ve grown so much in the last years, specially in this year that I thought I would share my experience.

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Writing and working full time has been a challenge. I must be honest I only commit an hour and perhaps an hour and a half, the most, to working on my current manuscript. I haven’t been the best at keeping this schedule every day. There are days when I don’t write, and even weeks. But I haven’t give up. It doesn’t matter how slowly I move forward. I’ve committed myself to keep doing it.

At this point, my goal of finishing the review of my manuscript by the end of the year doesn’t look promising. Probably, I’ll end it by the end of January or even February of 2020. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still doing it, little by little, step by step. Besides, I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract that says I have to finish by a specific date. It is true I wish I could have it by the end of this year but nothing will happen if I don’t.

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In a bad year, I could have just plainly written little. My attitude could have been different. Perhaps that would have been the case when I was younger. But my determination has gotten bigger this year. Without it, I would probably have never finished reviewing the first round. I would have never gotten great beta readers and the inspiration the keep writing. Somehow a bad year has make my desire to keep on writing stronger. It has kept me afloat amidst all issues, knowing that there is a greater goal out there for me and that I’m still moving towards it.

Life is about going through problems and obstacles, otherwise it would be pretty boring and we would never grow. Writing on a bad year has actually been a positive experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Writing on a bad year has proved to be good.

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Editing methods

After a general revision of my manuscript – where I wanted to make sure that the story, plot and characters made sense – I’ve started a new round of more in depth revision/editing of my writing. To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking to this stage. I still have memories of endless rounds of editing in a previous manuscript that didn’t end that well (that project is now on standby for the moment). I remember spending a lot of time on individual paragraphs, re-writing the sentences, changing words, sentence order, etc. and making the editing process so long that I began to hate it.

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With this new project, my approach has been very different from the beginning. I had learned lots of lessons from my previous project and I didn’t want to make the same errors on this one. Writing the first manuscript was fun. It took me a lot of time but the process was enjoyable. The story and characters acquired a life of their own which helped me sustain the story until the very end (and unexpectedly with a chance for a second part if some day I decide to do it). I focused first on making sure that the characters were strong and that the story made sense. Later I would worry about the writing. And now the time has come.

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I began editing a couple of weeks ago and surprisingly it hasn’t been that bad. I’m not hating it and I still feel energized enough to continue this lengthy process. For this editing round, I’ve set up a list of what I really want to check in my writing:

  • Punctuation
  • Verbalization – that I’m using strong verbs and that I’m avoiding the “to be” verb whenever possible as I know it makes writing weak. Although, sometimes it makes more sense than any other verb.
  • Adverbs – Following the advice from many writing books, I’m trying to avoid them as much as possible.
  • “Excess” words – detecting those words that don’t add much to the writing, like “very”.
  • Passive voice – trying to get rid of this as much as possible as it also weakens the writing – although not always possible.
  • Order of sentences in a paragraph – Are they in the best order? Could I improve the order.
  • Connection with next paragraph – Does the paragraph ends well? Can I connect the paragraphs better, making it more interesting and prompting the reader to continue reading further?

There are many other “factors” to consider when editing your own writing and I know I haven’t considered all of them. But I wanted to only take into account the ones that I consider the most important ones. I didn’t want to re-write all the words thinking of all possible grammatical issues/improvements and fall into a never ending process again.

Aside from that, I’m using three tools to help me with the points above:

http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ to help you detect passive voice, adverbs, long sentences, etc

https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/ – this tool reads out loud your paragraphs. It’s very helpful as listening a voice read your text makes it easier to detect if the writing sounds good, if there are some weird structures, and if the sentences could be ordered better.

Grammarly – I’m using the free browser version that detects misspellings and basic punctuation and grammatical structure. It sort of double-checks the same as the Hemingway App. There is a paid version but too expensive for me right now.

Do you know of other free tools that might also help in this process?

What else do you consider that it’s important to check when revising your writing?

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One paragraph at a time in a never ending editing process

I finally finished my first manuscript of a fantasy novel I’ve been working for almost a year. I learned many lessons the last time I worked with a manuscript, one is that finishing the first manuscript is only a small step in achieving a readable book. Numerous rounds of editing and revision come after this, and they can become endless. They are not the nicest part of writing a book, at least not for me.

Last time I learned that before going into heavy editing, it is better to have a manuscript that you like, one where you feel satisfied with the story, the plot makes sense, you like the characters and they are likable. I learned that you have to be happy with what you wrote. You will need people who read your work, people who will criticize the plot, the characters and tell you how does the story feel. You will probably get lots of suggestions and you might need to rewrite chapters a couple of times more. Last time I understood there was no need to get into heavy editing if you were still working on the story development.

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But for the first round of people who will read your work, you have to have a manuscript that is readable. This is the reason I felt I needed one round of revision for plot consistency, character check, setting description, and at least decent writing – a writing that will still be workable and can , of course, be improved.

I’m not going for restructuring sentences, changing verbs, or more in depth editing, but it is still taking time. A lot of it. Somehow my first manuscript has managed to end with around 110 000 words or around 410 pages, and even though I’m doing a “quick revision” it still takes time. I still have a full time job and other activities, but I’m trying to find at least one hour a day to work on this. In an hour I usually deal with 5 or 8 pages, which means it is taking a lot of time. I told a friend I would be giving her the book for her critique around February, but it is already March and I haven’t reached the middle of the book with this “quick editing.”

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However, the writing process works this way, there is no easy path. Each day I’m a couple of pages done. A couple of pages more than yesterday, one paragraph more than before. I feel like doing tiny steps, but at least the steps are being given. And If I’m a couple of paragraphs done each day, then I guess it will come a time when I will finish the manuscript. One paragraph at a time. After all, writing is about the process itself.

And you how do you deal with rounds of editing?

My new approach towards NaNoWriMo

I participated in my first NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. It was an attempt to get my first manuscript out. At that point I didn’t have much experience in writing, I had a topic in mind but no plot or idea where my manuscript was going. I remember being delighted with the idea of writing two thousand words per day. I would be together with a whole community of writers, in the same position as me. I wouldn’t feel alone in the process. However, as I look back, I think that I was so worried about the daily goal, that I was giving more importance to its achievement than to the development of my manuscript story. I won NaNoWriMo that time (winning means writing 2000 words per day in all the month – an equivalent of 50 000 words of manuscript).  But as I look back, I would have liked  more time to develop this story.  I sort of rushed the plot into a story that I found myself not liking very much later. Right now, this manuscript is in standby, it has room for improvement. Perhaps it would have been finished by now if I had given more thought to its plot at that time.

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I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo the next years. I don’t regret the first time either. It pushed me more into writing. I’ve passed from having the dream of one day wanting to write a novel to having a draft of a manuscript in a short time, something I thought it would never happened in my life.

However, this year I’m participating. I have a new story in mind. But my approach this year is different. In this month, I want to give as much thought and work as possible to my new story but without the daily goal of 2000 words per day. My objective is to make of this month a key month for my new manuscript, and I also want to feel that I’m participating in something bigger, with a whole community in the process.

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I’m focusing on writing with inspiration – I like this state of mind. The characters and story so far are nice and are exciting me. I’m no longer worried about having the story finished as soon as possible. I’m loving the process of discovering the story as I write. The process of discovering my own characters as the story continues. There is no goal per day. I write in the mornings before I start my job. I found out that this works for me. When I was doing the opposite, writing at the end of day, I was so tired and didn’t want to seat on the computer any longer in the evening. Now doing this in the early morning gives me a sense of replenishment and fullness that lets me start the day accomplishing one of my main goals in my life.