Writing, and revising

Writing’s easy.

Decide what’s going to happen, who’s going to do the action or be affected by it, then decide if other characters are involved. Are there unexpected side effects?

Newton rules, sort of; for every action, there’s a reaction. Not necessarily equal, not necessarily opposite, but things don’t happen in a vacuum. In my books, those unanticipated effects add flavor to the plot. Murphy is a participant, even if not by name. Almost nothing works perfectly, at least not the first time.

So I begin. Type a chapter number, save the page. I’m working from a one or two sentence idea in the beginning; some of the things I know, so there’s no need to write them down. Events grow from previous events and involve the same characters. I often write a chapter that’s between 2000 and 3000 words long. This is my preferred length, but I violate this often enough that it’s not a ‘rule’. Usually the chapters run longer what that happens. Stop, put it aside. Let it jell.

Read it again later. I have no need to read it aloud, as some have suggested. Or revise, starting at the end of the chapter and working toward the front. Instead, I begin and see if the sentences make sense. If not, revise. Then look at the paragraph structure; keep it the same, or combine paragraphs, perhaps separate a long one?

Send it off; I’ve got an editor, a proofreader, and an adviser who’s reasonably expert in matters military and combat-rrelated. Does the story flow? Are there typos? Should words be changed, does the logic make sense? They’ll tell me. I’ll discover a lot of it myself.

But I”m my own primary editor. As I look at their suggestions, I’ll cut/splice/reword. Their suggestions are usually adopted, but by no means always. Meantime, I’ve gotten new ideas from reading their comments and I incorporate those.

Finally, it’s down to just the two of us, my editor and me. I’ll send him the revised chapter. He sends it back with more changes to the changes, sometimes with new stuff to consider.

More revision, more returning, more back and forth. As an example, Chapter 22 of Darwin’s World (one of our current projects) was revised 6 times, this time through. An earlier, simpler, revision was also done, probably 4 or 5 times. And the previous chapter got the same treatment, but it took 7 revisions before we moved on. In total, the chapter was probably changed more than 10 times.

Writing is fun. Revising is work. Formatting for all the different e-publishers is different work, and can be frustrating.

And then there’s assembling the chapters together. Finding a cover photo that doesn’t violate copyright. It should be reasonably reflective of what’s in the story. I’ve been unable to get exactly what I want, but perhaps I can at some point if book sales justify spending money on a cover photo. Meanwhile, I’ve got a good camera, a Nikon DSLR. I take portrait-oriented photos and crop them lightly, or I crop heavily from a landscape-oriented photo. New Mexico has varied terrain, suitable for the settings my writing uses.

Finally, send the manuscript in and wait. Perhaps revise as mistakes come to light. Indie writers typically do it all, or at least I do.

Still think you want to be a writer?


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