Category Archives: Editing

Repeat after me. THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO WRITE A BOOK.

This seems to bear repeating, now and then, so here we go.

There is no right way to write a book.

No right speed, or technique, or form. Now, I’m not referring really to the shape the book takes in the end, since there are arguably some guidelines when it comes to writing a *publishable* book, in terms of structure/readability/writing, etc (all can be broken). I’m referring to the DRAFTING PROCESS. And in regards to that, I cannot stress enough…

THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY.

I’m on my fifth book (THE NEAR WITCH, THE BOOK THAT CAME AFTER AND IS NOT PUBLISHED, THE ARCHIVED, VICIOUS, and now THE ARCHIVED #2).

Every single one has been its own adventure.

Every single one has come with its own flow and its own form and its own pace.

There is no right way to write a book.

Two were written out of order.

Three were written in rigid linear order.

One had a synopsis.

Two had full outlines.

Two I discovered as I went.

One was a previous project taken down to studs.

Three poured out.

Two were/are murder.

One took two months.

One took four months.

One took six months.

One took two years.

One isn’t finished yet.

There is no right way to write a book.

With the one that took two years, I wrote and then rearranged the pieces for SEVEN TIMES. But in revisions, those pieces stayed put.

For the one that took two months, by the time we were done, NOTHING REMAINED from the original draft.

I don’t write SFDs (sh*tty first drafts). I polish as I go. That’s probably the ONLY constant for me, from book to book, but that is MY constant, not A constant. There is no standard when it comes to creative processes.

Just because someone writes quickly, doesn’t mean you need to. And similarly, just because someone takes years, doesn’t mean that’s right for you either. An outline is not a proven way to write a solid book. It’s only a proven way for some people. And freewriting doesn’t lead to madness, or doom, but it can lead to more work later.

Every person is different. And every BOOK is different. But the most important thing to remember isn’t some trick, some key, some proven method. It’s this.

THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO WRITE A BOOK.

Victoria is like a ball of yarn…but made of stress and words instead of string.

Oh dear, lovelies. I failed a little at blogging.

It’s just, things got so exciting here, what with the new book deals being announced, and then the cover of THE ARCHIVED being revealed, and then BEA, and ALA (I wasn’t there, but some ARCs of TA were), and I had all these things I could share with you!

But then those things ended and I had to go back to, you know, the writing and editing of books. Which I LOVE, but it’s not always the easiest thing to blog about. For one thing, if I’m blogging about writing/editing, then I’m not DOING it, and with my current deadlines, that’s problematic. Even though January feels too far away (I just want to be able to share TA with you), there are simultaneous not enough hours in a day.

I’m so, so happy to HAVE WORK, but I also have to learn to admit that I, well, HAVE WORK.

And that work is consuming about 98% of my mental faculties right now. I’ve been in and out of edits on my first adult book, VICIOUS, and drafting the sequel to THE ARCHIVED, and I have So Many Feels about both books that working on them, while exhilarating, has also been really emotionally taxing. There are also two other stories in the back of my mind, feeding off the 2% that’s left of me.

I struggled early on with the Archived sequel, and had to stop for a couple weeks and make sure I REALLY understood all of my characters and what they wanted before moving forward. So often when we draft, we get caught up in the action and think we’ll just figure out those pesky motivations later, but let me tell you, as someone who has done that, and witnessed the ripple effect of desire–action–reaction…

IT IS WORTH FIGURING IT OUT BEFOREHAND.

It was the best decision I could have made because the answers to the questions I asked myself DID change the plot of the book in major and exciting ways, and now I can hopefully stitch it together in a better way and safe myself the pain of ripping out ALL the seams later. But as invaluable as that pause was, it was still a pause, and now I’ve got to spend a lot of time with my book, just the two of us, and get the story out of my head and onto paper.

On that note, I will say (and I know it’s opposite for many other writers) that the early stages of drafting are SERIOUSLY MY FREAKING KRYPTONITE.

I love coming up with an idea, but holy cats do I hate realizing the first 50-100 pages, and I think the reason I hate it so is because too much of the story is living in my head, and not enough of it is living on paper. And as long as there is more in my head than on paper, I feel like I have to keep the story aloft at the front of my thoughts, and I’m so scared of dropping pieces, or taking my eye off it for even a moment and it all just STRESSES ME OUT.

It doesn’t matter how many notes I make, how many thoughts I jot down, how well I know what happens, the stress doesn’t start to ebb until I’m at least halfway through the draft. Then the balance tips and I’m like WHEEEEEEEEE. And then it’s time for the second draft, and that one is my favorite because the pieces are there, and I can build on them as needed, and make it look all lovely. And of course I’m in that evil zone right now, so not feeling terribly happy or sane and just want the world to stop until I can get more of this book out of my head and onto paper.

I’ve also been stressed because I very, very much wanted to apply to graduate school this fall. I spent the first third of this year figuring out my course of study, doing tons of research into programs, and finally felt like I had a direction. But with my current schedule, it’s not going to happen. I had to make the decision to delay the applications for another year, and as ecstatic as I am to be this busy with publishing, it was still a very, very hard call. In the end, I didn’t want to impede/take away from this incredible journey, which I feel like is just beginning, and is full of so much mystery and adventure.

But it’s strange.

I feel like there is this other me on this other path that went to graduate school, and if I close my eyes I can see her, and I wonder if she closes her eyes and thinks of the part of her that wanted to be an author. Maybe that sounds crazy but I can see myself on both paths and it leads to this often-frustrating feeling of being on the wrong one, no matter which I choose. That other Victoria is like a ghost in my life, a shadow at the edges of my sight.

On another, equally existential note, my 25th birthday is this Saturday.

Birthdays are stressful. Really the best part about them is cake, and let’s be honest I eat cake at least once a week, so…I will say that SO much has happened since my last birthday, and it’s kind of exciting so long as I think about it like that and not like OMG I’M GETTING OLDER WTF WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

WARNING: On my birthday I’ll be posting a “Ways to help celebrate V’s 25th birthday” and it will include things like “Vote for THE ARCHIVED on a pretty covers list on Goodreads” and other heinously self-serving stuff but hey it’s a quarter-century birthday complete with a quarter-life-crisis so there you go :p

And then the week after my birthday I’M GOING TO BE AT SAN DIEGO COMIC CON, and I just can’t really process that right now so I won’t. But you should come see me!! And, you know, the cast of Vampire Diaries, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, etc. etc. BUT ALSO ME! I’m mostly hanging out (birthday present to self) but will be jumping in on an EPIC SIGNING. Details on the Appearances page.

Other things, in brief.

I watched Misfits and all I can say is WHY DIDN’T I FIND THIS SHOW BEFORE?! NATHAN AND SIMON.

I had a dream in which Neil Gaiman and I had tea in the woods and talked about villainy. So I told him about it on Twitter. And he tweeted back. And than I did what I always do when Neil Gaiman tweets back at me. I sat down on the floor.

Rachel Hawkins and I spent the better portion of a text chat trying to figure out the female equivalent of the word BROMANCE. Our favorite: WOMANCE.

I had a moment in an airport last week where I had a layover, and was so caught up in a bout of wanderlust while walking the terminal that I almost chose a city, changed my ticket, and went on an adventure. It took everything in me to resist. Is this what maturity looks like? God I hope not.

A reminder. There is now a page for you to Request an ARC of The Archived. It’s on this blog. Scavenger hunt!

I went home for a week, and while I was there, I fed carrots to an alpaca. As you do.

All right, lovelies, I’m off to write a book, or at least a small portion of one. I’ll be back on Saturday, but in the meantime, bear with me. I’m trying!

A small quantity of shiny, pretty things.

I like that quote. I’m thinking of starting my posts with quotes. There are just so many wonderful ones out there. You can’t really have enough quotes in your life, can you?

Anywho!

I’ve been away on a retreat in the North Carolina mountains…

…resting and thinking and hiking and editing (mostly editing).

And now I’m back, and I come bearing a few baubles.

1. THE NEAR WITCH + SIBA EQUALS WOOO.

So I was in the car with Carrie Ryan, on our way to a signing, when a friend sent her an email letting her know that the conclusion to her epic trilogy (The Dark and Hollow Places) had made the SIBA long list (SIBA takes in nominations from southern independent booksellers and their customers, then selects the top ones for its long list, and from there selects finalists and a winner). And then Carrie turns around and says, “Hey V, you’re on here, too!” And I was like “?” And so she sent me the link and I was so thrilled to see that Caroline of the incredible Malaprops store in Asheville nominated THE NEAR WITCH!

2. NYCTAF = NEW YORK CITY TEEN AUTHOR FEST.

This thing is epic. And really, what I mean is EPIIIIIIIIC. Except with, like, 100 more I’s, because I think there are about 100 more authors involved. And this year I’m lucky enough to be involved, too!!! To see the FULL list of events (because its epicness is of the scale that would break my blog, go HERE. But below are the events I will be doing!

Thursday, March 29:
The NYC Big Read – Brooklyn (Brooklyn Public Library, central branch, Grand Army Plaza)
Kate Ellison
Gayle Forman
Melissa Kantor
Barry Lyga
Michael Northrop
Matthue Roth
Victoria Schwab
Melissa Walker

Friday March 30
Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, 2-6)

3:50-4:40: No Ordinary Love: How to Create a Satisfying Love Story and a Satisfying Supernatural World at the Same Time

Andrea Cremer
Melissa de la Cruz
Jeri Smith-Ready
Victoria Schwab
Margaret Stohl

moderator: Barry Lyga

Sunday April 1
Our No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder (Books of Wonder, 1-4)

3:15-4:00
Melissa De La Cruz (Lost in Time, Hyperion)
Alyssa Sheinmel (The Lucky Kind, RH)
Jennifer Smith (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Little Brown)
Jeri Smith-Ready (Shift, S&S)
Jon Skovron (Misfit, Abrams)
Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, Hyperion)
Mark Shulman (Are You Normal?, National Geographic)
Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Chaos, Little Brown)
Arlaina Tibensky (And Then Things Fell Apart, S&S)
Siobhan Vivian (The List, Scholastic)
Melissa Walker (Small Town Sinners, Bloomsbury)
K.M. Walton (Cracked, S&S)
John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back, S&S)
Alecia Whitaker (The Queen of Kentucky, Little Brown)
Maryrose Wood (The Unseen Guest, Harper)
Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo (Sirenz, Flux)

You guys, that little signing list above is like 1/5 of the number of authors that will be at BoW.

I’m going to have to go save all my money. And then make some more money, so I can buy ALL THE SHINY BOOKS. *digs under couch cushions for change*

3. THIS SONG.

It’s like a lullaby for my bones.

*

4. IT’S MARCH.

Like, THE THIRD MONTH IN 2012.

I just needed to get that off my chest.

But March is cool, yo. And on the 15th, I’ll be able to share my second NW paperback secret!!

I guess that’s all I have to share today.

I was going to finish up this post here, but I felt like it could use a little more cowbell. But when I looked up photos, all I got was Will Ferrell in a too-short shirt, so I thought I’d give you this instead…

A Vlog! On New Hair, the Dowager Countess, Line Edits, and Drug-Like Highs.

In this vlog:

-New hair
-Things I have in common with the Dowager Countess
-An epic book of symbols
-Deadlines
-The wonderful nature of library books
-Line edits and how close they are to THE WORDS IN THE BOOK.
-Ways in which publishing is like doing drugs
-Other nonsense

Sunday is for sharing songs!!

I have a few “real” posts I’m working on, but I’m finishing up edits over the next couple weeks, and am thus in my cave. But since Sunday posts are usually made of less articulate stuff anyway, let’s roll with this ;)

I’m normally the one asking for music, so I thought today I would share some instead.

This lovely winter Sunday morning, I am sharing my running mix.

Why, you ask, as opposed to say, a sanity mix, or a writing mix? Because running mixes aren’t just for running. They are for bolstering souls, they are the mixes that make me want to get up and move. The mixes that make me forget I’m in edits.

Enjoy!

Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That — Robert Randolph & The Family Band
No One Knows — Queens Of The Stone Age
Rolling In The Deep — Adele
Rehab — Amy Winehouse
You Ain’t Know — Birdman & Lil Wayne
Barton Hollow — The Civil Wars
Burn the Witch — Queens of the Stone Age
Here Comes the Sun (Live) — Dan Fogelberg
The Rake’s Song — The Decemberists
E.T. — DJ Cookiecutter
Like a G6 — Far East Movement
Kiss With a Fist — Florence + The Machine
Deliver Me — Robert Randolph & The Family Band
99 Problems — Hugo
Capsize — Karen O and the Kids
Counting — Korn
Love Is the Only Way — Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Holy Roller Novocaine — My Terrible Friend
Fresh Azimiz — Bow Wow
Top Back — T.I.
Lola — Superbus
Get Over It — Ok Go

That’s all the songs on this particular mix!

Hope you have a splendid Sunday :)

Researching visual narrative AKA watching ALL the TV, and how line edits let me hope and hope leaves me breathless.

Inching back toward the world of the living after being sick for WAY too long. Symptoms obviously included congestion, cough, and an inability to blog.

While sick, I decided to research narrative structure and character, and by that I mean I watched A LOT OF TELEVISION.

How much? Well, I finished Darker Than Black, devoured all of Downton Abbey, several episodes of Merlin, two whole seasons of Being Human (the UK version), half a season of BSG, the first few episodes of Archer, and one American Idol audition.

Yeahhhhhh.

I would have devoured lots of BOOKS except the whole being sick thing turned me into a zombie incapable of processing written words, and I’m in the middle of juggling Paradise Lost, the Bible, and Good Omens, so it’s probably best that I did NOT read.

My new sekrit play thing DOES involve a demon, but he looks more like this:

But I digress. The point is I AM returning to the world of the living, and while my brain’s not quite working well enough to blog about important or poignant things, or make elegant analogies (I tried to make one between life panic and bunnies, but it didn’t go well), I’m working on it.

I’ve started line edits for THE ARCHIVED!

Line edits are, by far, my favorite part of the entire editing process. A short explanation: Every editor/author is different, but in my case, I generally get three rounds of edits. The first two are, for lack of a better word, HELL. They are BIG rounds, the first usually focusing on world-building (by the end of it, I wish I wrote realism) and plot structure, and the second focusing on more world-building and character development. The third round, assuming I’m still alive after the first two, is line edits. This is where my editor and I go line by line through the entire manuscript and tighten all the threads, smooth the logic and polish the language.

You see, this is the first round where I let myself HOPE. The worst is behind me, the sleepless months of wracking my brain and shredding my story and then sitting amid its ruined corpse thinking it will never, ever, ever be right. The is the round where I realize that my story is, little by little, becoming BOOK-SHAPED.

You guys, I spend the entirety of this round holding my breath because hope is scary and wonderful, but mostly scary.

THE ARCHIVED was my pet project. It was this little beast that lived in my head and fed off my dreams. It had a previous incarnation, and that version was with me for two full years before I pulled it apart, and started again, and this time it was THE ARCHIVED. That was almost exactly a year ago. It’s come so far, and even though it still has a little ways to go, even though we’re still snipping and cinching, it’s getting there, and there’s all this hope, and it leaves me breathless.

This is about the time where I force myself to love something new, to spread all that want and hope so it doesn’t kill me. And I’ve got one project absorbing a good deal of those feelings, VAGABOND PUPPIES (not real title), but also two new play things, and I keep trying to siphon off love into them because this is scary.

Writing books is scary, and caring so much about them is terrifying.

I’m sorry, there appears to be a Victoria-shaped puddle on the floor. Mind your step.

I’m sorry, there appears to be a Victoria-shaped puddle of angst on the floor right now, but no sign of Victoria herself.

We believe she reached the point in revising where she began to question, doubt, and/or hate everything.

We suspect this viscous pool is some kind of defense mechanism.

We poked it with a stick, but it only muttered curses.

While we devise a way to reconstitute this blog’s author, have another video.

Random Sh*t while V is editing – Day 8 – Cello Star Wars, a narwhal named Victoria, and drinkable hope.

Oh hai book keep eating my soul then kthxbai.

In the meantime, have some random sh*t.

1. Thanks go to Jeffrey (@jeffreywest) for showing me this. EPIC.

2. Thanks go to Jodi (@TheDrunch) for bringing THIS to my attention.

The description from the SITE:
Victoria Sling Bag – Victoria the narwhal is made of 100% cotton fabric, felt and a vintage button. She is hand sewn on a 14 oz., 100% cotton canvas bag. Enzyme-washed with a soft, natural shape. Large single strap. Open compartment with roomy capacity, an interior pocket and a gusseted bottom. The bag is 14”W x 16”H x 11”D. Hand wash cold and line dry. Bags are made-to-order by hand and may take 2 weeks for delivery.

Waaaaaaaaaaant.

An aside of sorts: I programmed this post in advance. I’m not even online today because apparently I’m totally incapable of DOING MY FREAKING EDITS. I will find anything to do except edits. So, I had to kick myself offline for the day.

I am now making this face…

It’s the best I can manage today.

BUT…

Edits, Doubt, Surgery, and Ever-Present Fear. Oh, and David Tennant.

Unless you want a blog that’s nothing but me sitting in a corner eating Ben & Jerry’s, I might be a bit sparse the next few weeks. You see, I got edits. Round 2 on THE ARCHIVED, to be exact.

My first reaction, as usual, was to climb into my pillow nest with my ice cream and my sense of fail, and rock back and forth, musing on my own level of suck.

Thankfully, that feeling passes…mostly because edits come with deadlines.

It’s an odd thing, editing. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of it. Daunted, maybe, but not AFRAID. Not of the edits themselves.

I’m afraid of the self-doubt that comes with them, afraid it will calcify inside of me, spread until it paralyzes me from doing what I need to do.

I’m afraid of the ripple effect that comes with editing, the tipping of one, seemingly inconsequential domino that somehow knocks the whole book over.

I’m afraid of cutting it open, of taking scalpel to it. You know, doctors aren’t allowed to operate on loved ones. Why should authors be more fit? The answer is, of course, because we have to, because while editors can show us the tools and the places to cut, we have to go through with it, and probably because we can try things and mess up and our books won’t bleed to death on the table (though it feels like they will). But we can put things back, and unlike surgery, that part’s not clear before we start. Editors often show us the way in, but we have to find the way through and out.

I’m afraid that I’m not capable of making the book what it could be, what it needs to be, what I want it to be. Afraid that I’ll make it worse, or worse, that I will make it meh, that it will fall short.

I’m afraid I’m not good enough.

It’s like the art part of my brain wars with the math, the poet versus the problem-solver, one weeping while the other relishes the task, but neither happy at the same time. And the fact is, both have to be there, suffering and succeeding and fearing and trying. You can’t cast off the creator and become solely the surgeon. You would lose something inside the book, that something that is unquantifiable, that something in between. But you can’t ignore the surgeon for the sake of the creator, either. And you don’t want either side to simply be CONTENT.

The hardest thing is the DURING. Before the edits, you can make a plan, and after the edits, assuming you survive, you can collapse into a heap of relief and cookies, but DURING the edits, you need the pressure and the fear, the mercenery and the artist, both sides pushing and pulling and trying to keep the story stretched tight so it doesn’t all collapse. So it doesn’t bleed out while you’re poking and prodding and sawing off limbs and removing vital organs. It is…daunting.

I’m not afraid of the edits themselves, of the notes on the page.

I’m afraid of everything else.

So…if I seem sparse, that’s why. Feel free to send cookies, or videos like this one.

Beth Revis sent me this. It’s kind of the best thing ever, so I’m giving it to you.

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