Rants


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

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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…?

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

Rocks.  Totally rocks.  Oh… my… gosh.  So, I went to the Ben Vereen and Honolulu Symphony concert at the end of last month, and woah.  Seriously.  I almost can’t describe.  The symphony opened (they played the first half hour sans Ben Vereen), and they were pretty good.  It was excellent as symphony pops concerts go, actually.  They called that half hour the “first half,” though, and this strikes me as silly because Ben Vereen performed for two hours straight.  And get this: he only got better as the night flew by.  He performed excerpts from a musical about his career (he’d been working on it with the Honolulu Symphony’s conductor, you see), he performed tributes to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., he sang songs about Hawaii, shared anecdotes about times he spent hanging out with Don Ho (same for Bob Fosse), and did a ton of the the signature Ben Vereen stuff like “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and “Jesus Christ Super Star,” and “Defying Gravity.”  He danced, he sang songs that featured various instrumentalists, and he generally charmed the daylights out of the audience.  Let’s just say, if you get a chance to see this man in performance, by all means, find a way to go.  I doubt anybody in his or her right mind (erm… who likes song and dance) would regret it.

And seriously, TWO HOURS!  ONE MAN GOING FOR TWO HOURS STRAIGHT!  That’s a real showman for you.  40 years from now, I hope I’m still going that strong.  Wow.  -EGD

(P.S. if you don’t know who Ben Vereen is, SHAME ON YOU!  Go get your hands on the first season of the Muppet Show or on the movie version of Pippin and get back to me later)

Ok, so you’ll all get a review of the awesomeness of the awesome Ben Vereen concert later, but in the meantime, I have devised a contest to keep you occupied:

These days, the Drollerie Press forums practically echo with emptiness.  The only people who wander through are two DP authors, and we really only haunt one thread (Word Associations).  This is very sad, because the forums have enormous potential for community fun!  Thus, I have hatched a devious plan to kick-start new forum activity, and it involves (GASP~!) a free book.  So, here’s the contest scoop, and hopefully both the contest and the prize will be fun for all:

Anyone who, between now and November 30, A) Posts in the DP forum (you may need to register to do so, if you are not already a member.  When you register, please also send an e-mail to drollerie_interact@yahoo.com with the words “forum name” in the header and the name you registered in the body of the text) and B) Guesses one of my top two favorite forum posts as DokodemoElisa will be entered in a drawing to win one of two copies of Kinlea Keeper OR (if you can’t wait until the end of November to read Kinlea Keeper) a copy of the Curse, the second book in the series, which will be coming out by February.

HINT: NEITHER of my favorite posts are posted in the Word Association thread.

You can post your guesses along with your forum name as a reply to this post or e-mail it to me at dokodemoelisa@yahoo.com.  Happy forum-going!  -E.G.D.

Ok, so it isn’t just jingju.  The vog, an evil, evil volcanic pollution-fog that comes here to Honolulu all the way from Kona, has been making it extremely difficult for me to focus.  My eyes are streaming, my sinuses are full of burning goo, my ears are all plugged up, I’ve been pushing migraine in the headache department for days, and on top of all that I’m in an insanely intense training program that requires me to memorize large swaths of a script in extremely stylized Chinese, which is NOT one of the three languages I speak and understand.  It’s like memorizing very specific and important (not to mention long) monologues in gibberish… with tones.  Also, the movement style is so counter-intuitive for one of my roles that it’s painful and mind-bending.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more completely out of my depth and incompetent in my life.  And one of my long-suffering professional actor teachers from China appears to be growing disappointed in me, which makes it all worse.  Blargh.  The vog and the jingju, they are eating my brains slowly (and apparently with a dull plastic spork), and if nothing more important, my ego may not survive the ordeal.

In my defense, the play isn’t until February, and if I have even an eighth of my brain left by then, I WILL KNOCK EVERYONE’S SOCKS OFF SO HELP ME THE GOD OF LONG LOST BUT FONDLY REMEMBERED FREE TIME SO HA!

If anybody needs me, I’ll be hiding in the closet rocking back and forth and reexamining my outwitted zombie plan.  -EGD

Note: Don’t try this at home, kids!  At least not until you’re over 21…

Hawaii Gagaku Society is a weekly social-life-saver.  Yeah, the sitting around practicing ancient music on plastic versions of ancient instruments is pretty dang awesome in itself, but more to the social point, I get to hang out with a bunch of seriously dorky, music-loving adults who bring the most amazing potluck entrees and enjoy talking like pirates, dweebishly punning, and mocking Japanese commercials.  It’s my only big non-theatre-people-and-gamers social outlet.  I bring this up as a sort of prelude to my explanation of how we discovered “rum’s favorite cookie.”  See, I don’t always have time to cook my potluck contribution, and this often means that after I flail at the contents of my refrigerator I resort to hitting the grocery store for a bag of chips or cookies.  A couple weeks back, I saw bizarre specialty Oreo cookies on sale, and I wound up buying a great big bag of the reverse kind that have Vienna finger-style white cookies and chocolate filling.  They’re sort of inside out as compared to conventional Oreos.  Anyhow, at our usual Sunday gagaku rehearsal/potluck yesterday, there was still half a bag left in the storage closet, so they wound up on the table with everything else.  At the same time, someone had brought black-strap “Cruzin” rum (and yes, this meant much pirate-talking).  At some point, nearly everyone at the table started dunking the cookies, and lo and behold, everybody thought the combination was the most awesome thing since normal Oreos met milk!  “It’s rum’s favorite cookie!” someone who remembered the “milk’s favorite cookie” ad campaign declared, and you know, our version is so dang much more awesome than the Nabisco version that I felt like I had to share it with the world ^_^.  And now you know.  Heeeeee.  -EGD

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