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There are times when I love editing*, and times when I hate it. At the moment, I'm hating it.

I finished draft 0.5 of Morgan over the weekend and sent it off to some beta readers with the instructions "tell me what I need more of, what I need less of, and what you love/hate." Already I've gotten some feedback, and bless Crysi, because she's got a much more logical mind than I do and asks all the "yeah, but if this, don't you end up with that?" questions that need to be asked, and for a while I go D: because I don't want that. Then I'll scramble things up and hopefully stop those questions about the unfortunate implications or gaps in logic, and then finally have draft 1 of Morgan.

So while I wait for that, I'm working on Pirates. I started with 125,000 words and ripped out huge chunks of it (like... the entire climax and ending because of horrible), leaving me with about 102,000 at the outset. I've had to do a lot of rewriting, so on an average day I'll write about 1,000 words, and yet I'm still whittling it down so far that it's sitting at 83,000 at the moment. Which is good, since I want it to hit about 100,000 and I need that cushion for the ending. The publisher's sweet spot for a first novel is 90 - 100k, 100k is still long but I feel like anything less is cheating the readers, 'cause I know I hate paying money for short, quick reads that don't scratch any itches because they couldn't spare another five pages on the subject. This might just be about my tastes as a reader, but I care less about plot and more about characters, and the characters are the first to suffer when authors need to cut down to move the plot forward. Alas, in genre it can be very hard to sell character over plot.

When I finish this, it still won't be draft 2, since it feels like most of what I'm doing is plain old rewriting. When I go over it again, a lot of the text will be fresh and unedited, and I feel like that's the "first edit." Or maybe first edits do take a lot of rewriting, I don't know, but Pirates is a lot messier than Morgan in terms of plotting and requires far more hacking up. I don't get the feeling that the average writer has this much mucking around to do: Morgan feels more like the usual for other writers. A lot of what I have written can stay, it just needs polish, and only a few scenes need to be yanked or massively altered. Man, novels are hard. And moving things around is even harder. You do something you think is good, then realize that you moved it too close to a big event and you need a buffer between them. I'd love to have a more visual method of sorting things out, like a timeline graph capability-- I've seen that in some program, but I don't think it's in Scrivener. I like the index card corkboard, but it's not easy to spread it all out to see if you have a lot of cards up, particularly on a 13 inch screen.

I also need more world-building research, so I'm spending my evenings reading. I read everything available to me in Bryn Mawr, but it occurred to me that I'm in Miami-- we're swimming in Caribbean history and studies! So much so there is a reference librarian who specializes in it. I haven't spoken to her yet, but I picked up any book that 1) wasn't in Spanish, 2) didn't discuss pirates specifically, and 3) actually looked like it went back to 1800.

1800 is a dead zone in what's written on Caribbean history, I've found-- post pirates and Spanish supremacy, but before the major American interest (there might be more on this period in Spanish). I don't know why this is the case, since a bunch of revolutions are happening around this time, but I can't find much written on it aside from a few important events that you'd be criminally stupid to leave out (and interesting as it is, I don't really need Haitian revolution information for any purposes beyond personal curiosity). There is nothing on what it was like to actually live there during this period, which you expect with history books, but you at least hope they can give you an idea or the bibliography can point you in the right direction. Here I'm getting even more military history than usual, I feel; if everything you know about the Caribbean comes from history books you'd imagine they were nothing more than islands where France, Spain, Britain, Denmark, and a few others are standing on rocks with buckets and spend their time throwing paint around to cover up the paint of another country on another rock. There isn't actually anyone living there except for the slaves who revolt against, like, the one white person who lives there (for the purpose of throwing paint at the neighboring islands and oppressing the slaves). Most history books are surveys. This is okay, they're a good starting point. But most of them cover, like, 1500-1900 (or later), so they lack any appreciable detail. That is a huge survey, particularly for such a large geographic area. Any book more specific (to, say, within a century) is either Spain's heyday, pirates, or the events post 1950, which is just not useful to me. The one I read last night would introduce unexpected subjects since it was moving chronologically; right after the chapter on slave revolts they had the Quakers and the abolitionist movement-- logical, but I was struck by "and suddenly: Quakers!" I don't know why their presence in the Caribbean surprises me, but it does. When did they get there? Are they present in big numbers? Can I use this?

These books had a lot on conditions around 1530 when the Spanish colonists wanted to hit up the Spanish Main but Spain was all "stay in the colonies and protect our ports!", but... less so on stuff in the 1800. I'm debating sliding the time period back to 1750 or so, at least I can pick up on pirate stuff. The clothes are better, too. But I had this concern before and I settled on about 1800-1810 as my time period (so very early regency, which makes clothes easier to look up that way). 1750 is nice because it's a time of social upheaval... but honestly, most times are times of social upheaval in the Caribbean.

I've also found that I am incapable of describing clothes. I know what they look like and what they're made of, I know the basic cuts, but how do you describe what it looks like to the reader? I can't find any sources for that. I've looked at a lot of pictures but very little that's labeled, and any costumer's books tend to be severely lacking in pictures and use words I don't understand, even after googling.

*Most people hate editing, but I love it. There's something fun and wonderful about tearing through your work and ripping out all the parts that make you cringe and putting in things that make you cringe less. Scrivener helps with the editing process a lot, when you can keep back-ups and collect snippets you want to use elsewhere lying around. There are still some things that annoy me about it-- like I can't figure out a way to add notes to scenes. My current method involves putting index cards in each scene, and Scrivener thinks these are supposed to be new text groups and turns the scene into a folder. So if I don't unclick all those notes, Scrivener tries to compile my note cards into the final document. All I want is to have a bunch of cards so I know what has to happen in each scene and to make sure I hit all my points!


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September 2015

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