Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grant year, week 30: the unknown unknowns

Still working on the second draft. Focussing on two structural issues this run-through: merging two characters and also restructuring the opening of the book, which has flow-on effects. I'm also noting any loose ends that need tying up (there's a few of them).

Due to the restructuring, I've had to write some 'pick-up scenes'. I'm taking that term from film-making, where it refers to scenes that are shot after principal photography has finished.

One of them is a back story, and it got me thinking of that old Donald Rumseld quote:

[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.

Writing one of these scenes made me realise how little I knew about the subject matter. Luckily I had some great reference books at hand.

At this point my goal is to have a second draft done by early October. And then, depending on the quality of that draft, send to beta readers that same month.

Still confident that I can have something polished by the end of the year.

I've also been thinking more about the follow-up book, which is tentatively titled 'Dark Matter'.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grant year, week 29: starting the 2nd draft!

I met with... I'm tempted to say 'my editor' but I better not because I'm not paying her anything (yet)... I met with a friend who's doing WEP out at UQ. She had kindly offered to do a structural edit on Skin Deep and this week we met for the first time since I handed over the MS.

It was quite daunting, giving Skin Deep to someone to read, knowing how rough it was. We had a great discussion and between us have come up with some concrete ideas on how to make Skin Deep a better read. It was so good having someone who is intimate with Skin Deep, to bounce ideas off (and also to have an outside perspective on it). I don't know how keen Claudine will be after the 1000th email starting with 'What do you think of...'

Since then I've been beavering away on fixing some pacing problems in the opening chapters and also merging two characters. It's quite complex work. You shift a chapter and then of course there are multiple flow-on effects. It's challenging but also rewarding. I was saying to my wife that (and I don't know if this is all writers or just me) sometimes you know that something needs to be changed but the tendency is to try and avoid it, and tell yourself it's okay. I don't know if this is just laziness or what! But when you finally bite the bullet and start making the changes, it's really invigorating seeing it all come together.

I'm swapping chapters with a writer friend of mine, which will be great because we're both aiming to have our second draft finished by early October (in case we make the cut for the Hachette MS Development program). So that should help me stay on target to have something polished by the end of the year.

If I don't make the cut, my plan is to give the MS to two or three 'beta readers', with a view to having a polished MS ready for agents/publishers by the end of the year.

It feels so good to be back in the saddle.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Grant year, week 26: getting back on track

I went to State Library on Friday, to do some research on the back story. Nothing major. I just needed to have a look at some archive stuff from 2008 and see what was happening in the news then.

I spent a good ten minutes beforehand, out the front of State Library where the buses stop, crying my eyes out. I don't know if I mentioned it here, but Mum got to read the first draft of Skin Deep before she died. She liked it, but she found it hard to follow all the characters. Which was a really astute observation, because I'd also arrived at the same conclusion. There are too many characters who don't really do much. So Mum was my first beta reader. :)

To be fair, the dearth in activity hasn't been all down to Mum. I lost some writing days before she died because the kids were sick. So I've deferred those writing days. It's tricky, because obviously with a grant you don't get 'sick days' or 'personal leave' days. I have to make up those days from my annual leave. But because I've gone part-time, the annual leave doesn't accrue as quickly.

Right, I'll stop whinging now.

Yes, I've had a break. And now I'm fired up. Not just for Skin Deep but all the next projects. I can see three, possibly four, Harry Hendrick books. And there's also a sf story set in Reagan America.

Looking through the microfiche was really interesting. I haven't done that since working on 4157 a few years back. Yes, you can look up news stories via database search. But if you're looking for the general feel of the time, nothing beats microfiche.

The downside with microfiche is that, I don't know if this is everyone, or just me, but I get motion sickness from watching the pages scroll through! (I get the same thing when I was Prezi presentations).

But it was worthwhile. I'd forgotten some of the things that happened, even though it was only three years ago.

I've also got another project I'm working on. I've been sworn to secrecy. All I can say is, watch this space!

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