Friday, 12 September 2008

Five things that... always take longer than you think

First an update on Whispers. It's gone. I had a burst of energy and sent it off on Wednesday, so I'm very pleased about that :)

But for today, since I've been bloging about blurbs (still haven't managed to improve the ones I posted on Monday by much) and wondering about planning, I've been thinking a bit about all those little writing tasks that should only take five minutes, but never actually get done in five minutes.

Here are my top five things that... always take longer than you think.

1. Synopsis. They shouldn't be that difficult or that time consuming. The story's written and edited - you know what happens in it. But somehow cutting a story that's 20,000 words down to a couple of pages can take as long as it took the write the whole story.

I think the trick is to try and tell whoever's reading the synopsis everything that happens in the story without actually telling them the whole story. It's all about picking out the most important bits. But, and I think this is part of the problem for me, if I didn't think it was important I wouldn't have put it in the full length story in the first place.

I've never written a synopsis I'm happy with - reading through them, I always think they make the story sound boring. I usually set aside a day's worth of editing time to write each synopsis and blurb, which leads me neatly onto number two...

2. Blurbs. If you read Monday's post, you'll know I'm not the best blurb writer in the world. After trying to write a few of them, I have a new found respect for the people who write adverts for a living. That's what a blurb is after all. It's a advert to try and convince people to buy the book.

So, really, you have more chance selling a book that has a good blurb than of selling a good book that has a bad blurb. No pressure... I suppose you can see why it's a wise investment of time to go through a dozen or so drafts of the blurb.

3. Cover Art forms. What colour hair does her hero have? How tall is he? What exactly was he wearing in scene X? Does he have any distinguishing features (Keep it clean - I means ones that could be put on the front cover of a book...)?

I'm sure I should know all these things after writing the story, but I have to confess I don't always. If you ask me about X's personality I could write pages, but unless it's particularly important for the plot, I often forget what colour eyes my characters have. And do bare in mind I may well have written the first draft several months ago and I'll have written a dozen different characters in the mean time while each one can have a distinct personality, there are only so many realistic eye and hair colours to go around.

So, if and when a story is accepted, and I start filling in a form to tell the cover artist what the characters look like, I end up pretty much re-reading the story to find the right details, which naturally takes a little while.

Technically, once you get your hands on a copy of the form, you could fill in these things as you write and edit. I don't. Seems to be tempting fate to do that. Either way, about one editing day goes on cover art forms.

4. Re-writes. You'd think that having a draft of the story in front of you would speed things up. It doesn't. Because you have to delete some of the things you've written - which is always hard. Especially when it's not because the section is particularly bad. Sometimes it just has to go because the word count is too high, or it takes away from another scene later in the book. Or because it slows down the pace too far, or a thousand other things.

Cue sitting and staring at the screen for a long time, trying to work things like this out. It would be quicker to just write it again from scratch. But I don't like to give up on stories once I've started them. So, I don't have much choice. Re-writes have to happen.

I try to be realistic and no expect my word count for the month to sky rocket when I'm working on re-writes. I also try to find time that I usually set aside for editing to work on the re-writes rather than restricting them to scheduled writing time.

5. Naming things. Naming characters, locations, paranormal thing-a-ma-bobs, it all takes time. I find either the appropriate name jumps into your head at the word go, or it's going to take anything up to a few hours to find a name that suits the character or whatever it is that needs a name.

It is time well spent though, if the name doesn't fit the character, he or she won't come to life inside your head. A good name speeds up your writing - I'm convinced of that. I try to set aside the equivilant of a editing day for each series and work out all the names of the main characters then, so I've got them ready when I start writing.

I'm starting to name the characters in my Hot + Wet series next week, so more about naming things and people then.

But that's it for the five for today.

I'm not saying these aren't important things. The jobs do deserve the time a writer spends on them, I suppose my real point is, if you want to keep your sanity, you have to keep room in your writing schedule for things other than actually writing books :)

Other news...

I don't have an editing job to keep you up to date on at the moment. (I'm going to start editing For the Duration next Monday to sub it at the end of the month.)

So this weekend I'm going to really attack Time Out. If I add my editing time and my writing time together, I shouls make some sense out of the illogical bits that are determind to linger in the middle. It would be nice to have most of it sorted by Monday.

I suppose I should go and get on with it then...

See you Monday :)

1 comment:

Just_Me said...

Gee, describing characters for cover art sounds like a problem I'd be happy to have!

I stuck out in the doldrums of rewrite land and would love to move on with life.