Hi, all!  As many of you know, my goal for MayNoWriMo is to finish editing one of my SciFi novels, and I have to admit that in my experience, editing (even simple copy-editing and proofreading) is a longer and harder slog than writing 80,000-200,000 words.  This is, in large part, an issue of motivation.  The actual story grabs me by the neck and drags me head-first through a roller coaster of multi-layered plots and subplots, intrigue, character development, world-building, and snark laid on with a trowel (in any case, that last bit happens to me 7 times out of 10.  Please don’t go looking for mortar-thick snark in the Kinlea Keeper world system O_o;).  When I’m writing, I’m often so addicted to the story and the people in it that I can’t wait to get back to my notebook or keyboard.  It’s a lot like my novel reading habit but  with more emotional investment.  The problem lies in the fact that once I finish writing a story, I feel like I’ve finished reading the novel and don’t always feel any intense need to read it again… ten or twenty times… with a fine-toothed-comb and a red pen.  So, today I would like to offer up to the MayNoWriMo reading public the process I have developed to force myself to actually (and occasionally effectively) edit the insane number of novels that I’ve written over the years and subsequently left in notebooks and hard drives to collect dust.

1) Find beta-readers you trust to tell you the grim truth.

I have learned that brutally honest beta readers are the best friends a novel writer can have, and indeed most of my best friends are on my beta-reading team.  So is my mother.  Good beta-readers not only spot problems at an alarming rate, but they remind you how much better the story can be if you work on it.  They also remind you how much fun and worthwhile your stories are, and they keep the story fresh long after it would grow stale if you kept the editing process to yourself.

2) Find an audience and read the entire book out loud.

I know this seems extreme, but I have discovered more spelling/grammar errors and awkward passages while reading my books out loud to groups of friends than I have through any other method.

3) When in doubt, wait a year.

Going back to a novel a year or more after you write it can give you an amazingly fresh and uncluttered prospective.  I notice that I am less apt to cling to awkward and cluttered wording (and trust me, my diction in early drafts can be horrifyingly thick) with a little bit of time-distance.  I finished writing the novel I’m editing for MayNoWriMo back in 2007.  I am in a much better position to hack and slash now.

4) Use other projects as edit-goal rewards.

This doesn’t always work for me, actually.  Sometimes the unfinished third book in a series starts doing that neck-dragging thing (mentioned in the above intro) while I’m editing the first book… as in, I have the first book open in the window in front of me and my mind (erm… figurative neck?) is racing so fast through third-book plots and pitfalls that I don’t even see the words in front of me.  BUT, sometimes it does work.  Sometimes I can tell myself that I’m not allowed to write the rest of Horror Novel A before I finish editing Fantasy Novel B, and that can be a good motivator.  When it works.  Which it often doesn’t.

5) Actually USE the spelling and grammar check options in your word processing program.

Seems obvious, I know, but a lot of us are reluctant to wade through our mushy-slushy-mud-oceans of fantasy words, myth names, and foreign language references.  The bajillion clicks on “add to dictionary” are worthwhile, though, for even a hand-full of good fixes.

6) Set an edit goal for MayNoWriMo.

When all else fails, pledging an edit goal to a nice mass-project like MayNoWriMo can boost one’s motivation.  Deadlines that the world can see are better than deadlines you set for yourself and frequently break… by years… sometimes decades… heheh.  Yeah.

So, there you have it!  The Elisa Grace Diehl method for editing novels.  It’s not a foolproof method, but through its application I have managed to publish a couple of decently good novels.  That’s approximately a 10% success rate so far, and that’s better than the 0% rate I was running until the summer of 2008.  With that, I wish you all the best of luck with your goals for the month, and I feel as though I really ought to get back to editing An Exercise in Bad to Worse.  Only one week left!  Wish me luck! -EGD

Well, I do!  And it’s May 1! (See links and mini-rant in the post below).  It is time for me to declare my goals:

By the end of this month, I pledge to TOTALLY EDIT the first book in my Exercise in Bad to Worse sci-fi series and submit it to AT LEAST 5 publishers/literary agencies.  (no small task, I can promise you)

There you have it!  I’m going to go for it!  And *still* try to pass my finals and finish writing all those research papers.  So ha.  Good luck to all you others participating- EGD

I just saw this shiny, shiny thing on my publisher’s website:

Isn’t that cool?  It’s like Nano, only it’s in May!  It looks like at least ten different kinds of fun/useful, and if I can manage to get all those graduate school papers done by then, I’m totally going to participate ^_^.  Also, it’s attached to a virtual writer’s conference that’s running all of May.  I’m sure I’ll be there at least some of the time.  Anyhoo, I think you should all check it out, because it is likely to be awesome.  Wheeeee- EGD

Sooo, Drollerie Press finally released Curse.  It happened without my noticing it (in part because I actually wasn’t informed 0_o) and there are a couple of odd formatting errors in the final copy, but hey, it’s a seriously long book, so a couple extra spaces between lines in places won’t kill the experience.  Curse is one of my favorite books I’ve ever written, incidentally, and probably the most syntactically sound.  I highly recommend you wander over and read the excerpt, but then, I’m biased ^_^.  Hugs to all- EGD

White Snake is over!  Wow.  What a roller-coaster of a process.  It was a darn good show, it was well received, and in the end I don’t think the teachers from China were dissatisfied with my work.  Anyhow, I was interviewed by a journalist who’d flown all the way from China to see the show, and he assures me that I’ll “be famous in China” though he may have been joking about that.  Also, one of my teachers insists I need to go study in Nanjing, though I can’t really wrap my head around that idea at this point.  Right now what’s actually going through my head is that I’m now halfway through my MFA and really, really need to get my butt in gear with the paperwork for my first committee review.  Erm… I should probably go do that now.  hugs to all- EGD

Um.  Yeah.  The third semester of my graduate-student career has struck.  Rehearsals.  Classes, too, but oh the rehearsals!  So, y’all are going to come to see this show I’m more or less killing myself for, right?  Right…?

Sooooo, did y’all know that Drollerie is giving away spiffy free short stories for 12 days starting with Christmas (meaning they’re on day 9)?  You can even download all the previous days’ stuff, so long as you’re logged into the site.  I contributed two very short pieces that were posted on the first and seventh days.  The super-awesomely-spiffy part of this is that with every free download you are entered to win a free e-book-reader!  Tell me, people, what is not to love about this promotion?!??  I know *I* am having a blast reading everyone’s stuff, and I’m sure you will, too, if you pop ’round and download the titles you think might interest you.  To one and all, HAPPY NEW YEAR and happy 12 days of Christmas- EGD

A guest post for the drollerie blog tour!  Enjoy- EGD

Dangerous Words

What is the most dangerous thing I’ve written? That’s always a moving target. I often write stories that deal with politics and religion. Some people say you shouldn’t, but that strikes me as absurd. Politics and religion are a part of life, so leaving them out seems insincere. Shakespeare wrote about politics, as did Mark Twain. C.S. Lewis hardly wrote anything that didn’t deal with religion. I try not to let my own views get in the way of an honest character portrayal.

But the most dangerous stories I write are about sex.

In college I wrote a short-short story called “WELCOME (a fairy tale)” that begins, “You know the story where a frog turns into a prince? Well, once upon a time I kissed a girl and she turned into a doormat.”

A week after it came out in the student literary magazine, a columnist for the campus newspaper excoriated the magazine for publishing a story that “condones rape.” And for 2 weeks I was the hot topic on campus. Much was made of the sentence “Sometimes I’d knock first, sometimes I wouldn’t.” And much should have been. I agonized about whether to keep that sentence in but ultimately made the call (rightly, I think) to skim the surface of the darkness it hinted at.

The only beef I have with the article is its use of the word “condone.” Perhaps I should not have expected college students to grasp an unreliable narrator. Or to read 3 layers deep instead of just 2.

Now I’m at it again.

Like religion and politics, sex is a part of life (essential to the continuation of the species and all), and often associated with conflict and emotional distress. But, of course, distress and conflict make a good story, whereas contentment rarely does. So I do tend to pay more attention to detail when the details are relevant to the character or the story. So healthy, fulfilling sex is portrayed off scene, or through the eyes of the jealous, slighted lover. But when consent is not quite clear, or when a struggle for power depends on the nuance of every touch–that is when the details are important to the story and must be told. The consequence ends up being that the more disturbing the sex is, the more graphically I describe it.

In Shadow of the Antlered Bird, I wrote a birth-of-monster scene about which one reviewer  wrote “if you’re contemplating becoming a mother, skip that page. Trust me on this.”

In the short story “Wood,” which will appear in the upcoming anthology Like a Sacred Desire from Circlet Press, I applied the same guidelines to my first, um, officially erotic story.  This is a hard one to discuss, because I feel like some readers need a justification for writing erotica, but others will feel I sell out if I give one. Personally, I believe erotica can have literary value, but I also know that erotic writing can get published without literary merit. But Circlet has higher standards than that, and of course my name would be on the finished work, so I decided from the outset that I would only do this if I could make it a good story, and one in which the sex was integral to the telling of the story and not just tacked on. The result was a tale in which an old witch uses illusion and sexual domination to exact revenge for something that needs avenging. You don’t find out what until almost the end, and whether she goes too far… well, you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

“Behind the Tower,” which recently appeared in the Drollerie e-book Straying from the Path, deals with a male-to-female transsexual’s first sexual act as a woman. Because of other circumstances it is an unhealthy, arguably abusive sexual encounter, but it serves a ritual function that helps her to become the person she was meant to be. A friend who read that story said it was hard to critique honestly, because the sex made her uncomfortable. I responded that it made me uncomfortable too.

Ultimately, if I ever write a story that opens old wounds for a reader, or leads to an angry mob coming after me with torches, then it won’t be because I questioned their leaders or their idea of God or gods, but because I wrote about incest, or a sexual power struggle, or an encounter involving ambiguous consent. But I also think these stories may be my best chance to write a story that helps someone heal, or to have an insight or understanding that they might not otherwise have had.

Phew!  Finally!  Kinlea Keeper was released at Drollerie Press last week.  Yes, I know I said it would be released in June, September, and October respectively, but this is an honest to goodness sure thing!  I’ve seen it!  It’s true, I tell you!  Now we can all wait with bated breath for Curse (the sequel), which by contract must be released before early March of 2010.  If you are at all interested in mixed-myth folklore fantasy, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the series, and I would be more than a little grateful if you give the excerpt a shot even if you aren’t.  It’s free, after all, and I promise it won’t take up too much of your time.  Much obliged! -EGD

Ok, so I have parts of three different pumpkin pies in my fridge at the moment, and all three were made by yours truly in the little-bit-less-than-a-week.  Crazy, I know.  The first one, I made on my self-declared “Pumpkin Pie Day” last Tuesday.  I wanted to buy pumpkin, so I got my butt down to Walmart and I bought pumpkin, gosh darn it!  While I was there, because they were cheap, I also grabbed a couple of graham cracker crusts and a box of vanilla pudding.  Inspiration struck when I got home and was fishing through my mind and the sides of packaging for a pie recipe while thinking of how dang hot it still is around here.  I didn’t want to turn on the oven or the stove, so I invented the recipe for two of those partial-pies hanging out in my fridge.  I call it (you’re going to love this): THE EXTREMELY LAZY CHEF PUMPKIN PIE!  Ok, so here’s what you do.  You get a cheap-o pre-made graham cracker crust.  Then, you start following the directions on the side of your box of Jello-brand instant vanilla pudding until the part where it tells you to let it set in the fridge.  Instead of letting it set in the fridge, whisk in a quarter cup of brown sugar and 1.5 tbsp of pumpkin pie seasoning.  Once those are whisked in, stir in the contents of one 15 oz can  of Libby’s Pumpkin.  Then dump it all into the pie crust, stick it in the fridge, and in 5 minutes you have pumpkin pie.  No kidding.  It really is incredibly good, and everyone who’s tried it thus far has loved it.  I brought the second LazyPie to the jingju cast Halloween party on Saturday, and even the teachers from China loved it, despite the fact the only utensils we had to eat it with were chopsticks.

Now, about the controversial pie I mentioned: As you all likely know, I spend my Sunday nights with the Hawaii Gagaku Society (see “Rum’s Favorite Cookie”, if you need a reference post).  Last week, I promised the gang that I would bake a pumpkin pie.  I used the recipe on the side of the can of Libby’s Pumpkin more or less, but I left out the eggs, added a tablespoon of butter and a half cup of flour.  I also added some ginger along with the pumpkin spice.  The resultant pie was quite nice, and I liked it, and it made the weirdest stir at the Gagaku society.  More or less simultaneously, Evelin across from me made a face and said there was too much spice, Chow to my left turned to me and said “next time, more spice,” and Yuka and Yoko to my right were holding a conversation in Japanese about how they’d never tasted a more perfect blend of spices in a pumpkin pie.  Polly agreed that the spices were perfect, and Yuka and Polly decided between them that their tastes matter more than Chow and Evelin’s because they’ve been in the society for longer.  Yuka claims it was the best pumpkin pie she has ever tasted.  Chow said the crust was too hard.  The rest of the society, I am sure, had an opinion, but they kept it to themselves.

I’m going to eat what’s left of that particular pie for breakfast in the morning.  There’s not much of it left.  The only person who left some on his or her plate was Evelin (who thought it was too heavy as well as over-spiced).  All in all, I’d say it went over well.  If I decide to bring pumpkin pie again, I think I’ll use exactly the same recipe.