One more lap down

The reason I tend to blog about my editing every other week is because I usually only get two or three days a week where I get time to edit.
That said, this weekend I was finally able to get through the last 20-30 pages of my story. This part of the story tends to move faster than the rest of it, which is to be expected, because it's what everything else is building up to. This weekend my focus was weaving in two elements that I thought of after I wrote the first draft: the family that stepped forward to claim Mason as their missing son, and the psychological turmoil Mason deals with as he's faced with people telling him that everything he believes is made up.
For the most part, I think I've got the family's involvement woven in pretty well. The psychological turmoil probably needs another scene. I think I rushed my timeline a little bit and didn't have time for it, but I need to add it in. I've also got some research to do now, mostly on HIPPA laws, like whether police could access medical records as part of an ongoing investigation, and whether it's believable that a person who experienced trauma at a young age would invent an alternate reality in their mind to deal with the trauma. Luckily, the research part goes pretty quickly.
I'm excited to read through my story now though, to see how far it has come. I know the plot is stronger and the details of it are much more intriguing. I know it's already a better story than when I first imagined it, much less wrote it.
As I read through it again, I'm sure I will uncover more problems and things that need ironing out, but it's exciting to have finished one solid round of hard-core editing, and encouraging to know that it's easier than I thought.
Now on to another round.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

While Neil DeGrasse Tyson may have written this book for people in a hurry, it’s not meant to be read in a hurry. In fact, I read it twice in a row, because I thought I read it too fast the first time to get a good grasp.

That said, this book doesn’t disappoint as a quick introduction into the field of astrophysics. You won’t be able to go out and get a job as an astrophysicist after reading it, but you will know some of the history and the science behind it.

Tyson writes in a fun and easy to understand way, making science seem much less intimidating that it’s otherwise presented. And, authors always earn brownie points from me when they throw in appropriate but snarky comments, so the book is extra good because of those.

Tyson presents basically a consice history of the field of astrophysics, using the framework to explain how science has reached its conclusions for various things, such as the Big Bang, dark matter and dark energy. He also explains how these things interact with gravity to influence stars, planets, galaxies, and possibly even our universe itself. In this book you’ll also find plenty of particles, elements, various kinds of light waves and some references to aliens (but nothing outlandish, this isn’t science fiction).

I’ll admit, a few times as I was reading, I came across passages that I felt could have used some better transitions And information that, though interesting, didn’t quite seem to belong where it was, but sometimes that is personal preference.

On the whole, Tyson’s book, I believe, does what he wanted it to, per his introduction: give you a basic understanding of the field, and leave you hungry for more.

So whether you’re in school, out of school, busy or bored, if you’ve ever looked up at the sky and wondered, this book is for you.

The Book Thief

I’ll just come right out and say it, The Book Thief is a classic of our era. I don’t know how often I get kids coming in for it as part of their required reading for school.

Having now read it, I understand why. Not only is it an excellent story for exploring Workd War II history, but the writing style gives plenty of content for literary study.

The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, is the story of a young girl, Liesel Memminger, and her new life with her foster parents on Himmel Street. Though Germans, Liesel and her family don’t fit the standard mold. With her loyal friend by her side, Liesel finds herself addicted to a thievery, especially of books. Her story is narrated by Death, a mixture of observations from Death and knowledge gathered from Liesel’s own autobiography, which Death managed to obtain.

Liesel’s story revolves around books– the ones she’s given and the ones she takes. Each book is related to a scene or time of her life: her family harboring a Jew in the basement, war-time hardships making themselves known in Liesel’s house, Liesel growing up and forming her own opinions about the Fuhrer’s ideals.

Mixed in with the defining moments are the everyday habits of Liesel’s life, her adventures with Rudy, school, and growing up in general. Together, these form a powerful and heartbreaking narrative.

Zusak uses a unique style to tell Liesel’s story. Death, as could reasonably be expected, idea not always use the English language as humans are accustomed to. This allows for some interesting descriptions that provide a new way at looking at things, from the sunset to a feeling. But for this story, it works, creating a unique and memorable style that would be hard to match.

All in all, the book is worth the read, even if it makes you cry.

Keeping motivated

I’ll confess, the hardest part for me, when it comes to editing, is keeping motivated. I’ve probably said that before.

It’s also hard to write blog posts, because I feel like I’ve written it all before. But here goes.

I pushed myself this week and I got a big chunk done in the first half of my story. My young rebels have a much better scheme for their civil disobedience, and I like it a whole lot better.

I’ve now started working through the second half, which will be more challenging. This is the part where I have to work in the people who claim to be his parents, and Mason’s struggle to grasp what is true. I think this part will require more than just a couple scene edits and additions, but that’s ok. I’m excited to be working on it.

What made a big difference in the last week or two was just editing when I found a note or spot that needed work, instead of trying to add a note or details on what to change. When I make notes, I end up using that as an excuse to “work” but not really accomplish anything, so I’m glad to be getting past that.

So this week it’s moving into the psychological part of the book. I’ll need to dig out my notebook and see what I had planned for it, then, as Nike advocates, “just do it.”

The Return

When I saw that Buzz Aldrin had written (or co-written, at least John Barnes authored the book also) a sci-fi book, I couldn’t pass it up.

The Return was written and set in the 2000s. It follows the lives of four people who are inextricably linked. Kids together, Scott, Nick, Thalia and Eddie called themselves the Mars Four and dreamed of going there after growing up in the ’60s. In their adult lives, each one has been individually working toward commercial space travel.

When a routine mission goes fatally wrong, it’s just the beginning of a chain of events that make it seem like someone wants to keep the everyday folks out of space. A bomb set off in the upper atmosphere, putting the crew of the International Space Station in deadly danger, and now only the Mars Four and their individual expertise can save the crew.

The Return is all adventure and action, with a dash of nostalgia. And as it’s written by someone who’s been there, it actually does not read like sci-fi, but more like a fiction book. This isn’t Star Trek or Star Wars, this book reads like something that could happen today, with no magic high-tech gadgets required.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and not just because I love just about anything associated with space. It was fun, the characters felt real and relatable. It had action and intrigue. It was about everything you’d want in a book. Plus, when they did talk about science, it was explained clearly, no fancy jargon and complicated terms, just plain English.

The Return is, however, one of those books that just might turn you into a believer again. Surely the technology is out there, both for commercial space travel and, eventually, for Mars. Some people already firmly believe in that future and are working toward it. After reading this book, you might find a bit of that passion has rubbed off on you too. And even if you’re not signing up for a Mars mission, you might find that you hope we have enough people around who will.

The Lake House

After finally reading The Girl on the Train and enjoying it’s narrative twists and unreliable narrative, as one reviewer called it, I decided I’d keep with the thriller theme and read Kate Morton’s The Lake House.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a lot about the book going in, my mother-in-law had given me her copy after she read it, and while I’m familiar with Kate Morton, I wasn’t really familiar with her work going in (I work at a bookstore, I’m familiar with a /lot/ of authors without knowing anything about them or their books).

It was everything I could have possibly dreamed of, having read the synopsis. Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow is on a leave of absence from her job after getting too emotionally involved in a case of a mother abandoning her child. She takes her “holiday” in Cornwall, visiting the grandfather who raised her. While there, Sadie stumbles onto an old, abandoned house and quickly gets knee deep in the mystery surrounding it.

In 1933 the Edevane family was hosting their annual midsummer party when their young son goes missing, without a trace. Police search the area, but find nothing, and no note is ever discovered. Both surviving sisters carry the wright of guilt, convinced they are the reason their brother was taken. And while they both have moved on and accepted that there are no answers to be had, when Sadie comes along, Alice Edevane, a famous mystery writer, doesn’t take much convincing to unofficially reopen the investigation, and the trail leads them toward conclusions no one expected.

A theme in both The Girl on the Train and in The Lake House is how easily conclusions can be drawn based on partial information, and how easy they are to believe. This technique, the unreliable narrative, is really effective in keeping readers guessing, because as you see things from the view of different characters, you realize each theory makes some sense, and you forget to compare them and look for holes. After all, you’re just reading to enjoy it (although, I like trying to figure out the ending before it’s made completely obvious). In this story, I didn’t guess the ending. I allowed myself to just ride along with the how, though I did notice some inconsistencies in character’s ideas that made me certain their theories were wrong. I’ll proudly admit though, I did guess the ultimate who, so the ending wasn’t completely surprising to me.

Morton also uses various characters to give the background of the story, and to show the events. Sometimes, in stories like these, using various viewpoints can be confusing and, frankly, boring. But Morton doesn’t give the same scene multiple times, instead using different characters to show different moments relevant to them.

Overall, it was a well written book with several storylines woven together to make a complete picture and giving characters depth. It was a fun, fast read, and one I’d recommend to fans of thrillers. While it’s a little more upbeat than is usually my cup of tea, it’s a nice change from everyone dying in the end, or morally ambiguous endings.

Kate Morton is definitely going on the list of authors I’d like to read more of.

Planning to edit versus editing proper

I lost some steam the last week or two, and I didn’t even touch my computer for editing. But this week (OK, so like three days), I’ve pushed myself to get back to it. This story isn’t going to edit itself.

My story, when I left it, was filled with notes on what to do in certain spots and things to fix, and how to fix them, and just all sorts of would-be scribbles, if I were doing this by hand on paper. What I’ve noticed as I’ve started reading through the story yet again, is how many of those notes took as much effort to write as it would have required to just make the change and move on. I have to confess, I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in planning the edits and, consequently, allowed myself to neglect the actual editing process.

But the actual process can be hard. When you write something, or at least when I do, I get attached to it. And when it’s something that I’m revising, or an idea I’m moving somewhere else, I’m not convinced I won’t need that first attempt anymore. It’s hard to erase, to delete words that you spent time on. There’s the sneaking suspicion that once you delete them, you’re suddenly going to need them again, but you won’t be able to remember them. So then the challenge becomes allowing myself the freedom to recreate things. If I erase something that is bad, then can’t remember the idea I was going to use, did the idea belong there in the first place?

This whole process right now is for me to learn how to edit my own work. I have no deadlines, no demands for when it needs to be done. I have the luxury of taking all the time in the world to work my way through. And if I have to stop a time or two to think hard about where my story should go, that’s OK. Better now than when I’ve published or self-published it and there’s no going back, right?

So I’ve got some big pieces to edit, the ones I mentioned in my last post, the new plot ideas to weave in. The goal I’m setting for myself is to hurry up and wrap up the little things, and choose one big piece to work on. Because then I’ll have something good to write about next week, instead of something boring like how I changed a passive sentence into an active one. It’s important, but most of you don’t really care.

So as I’m wrapping up this week, I’m prepping my editing for next week. As I go through, I’m making notes of places where I need to work in something about the student’s civil disobediences, or key places to start implanting the people who claim to be his family, and the questions surrounding his mental health. That way, when I get to strapping in for the big editing, I’ve made it a little easier for myself. Maybe then I’ll make a dent in the proper editing.