April 12, 2013 by bck1402
I might have covered some of this before in an earlier post, so either consider what follows as repetition or elaboration.
About halfway through writing the second year, I started compiling the first year. I basically grouped together the blog entries by month, which essentially gave me twelve chapters ranging from January to December. This was essentially the first editing round, as I read through the entries looking for the obvious mistakes in spelling and grammar. I didn’t worry too much about the structure or flow of the narrative itself. The nature of the blog format served to that purpose, at least, in my eyes. I only had to worry about how the narrative was presented.
Part of the issue was simply that the first few months were essentially part reports and part letters from Jeannie to her mom. It was acknowledged that what was written wasn’t private, and also that certain guidelines had been laid out. To that end, there was some obfuscation going on. It might had been too early in the game for such things, but it did lend to the whole ‘world building’ idea; the language that needed to be used, or certain turn of phrase applied. To present a world where there were psychics, telepaths, telekinetic, aliens and such, all existing within the world that’s supposed to be reality and yet… not being able to openly share.
Even as I was writing it out and posting it online semi-daily (at a now defunct GeoCities site), I was sourcing for opinions, particularly from friends and contemporaries… and I got the weirdest respond from most of them. “I can’t read these things online off the computer screen. Do you have a printed version?” One of them who reads plenty of comics said he doesn’t read fiction in novel form. Another, who was writing for a living and teaching English in China, barely gave it a shot saying that she had read similar things before and didn’t have an interest. She also didn’t want to say anything much believing that I would get defensive about it. Maybe it was just my tone in speaking when asking questions…
It was much later (after about 3 more rounds of editing and review) that I finally got just about the best English teacher at my disposal (my mom) to try to give it a read-through… and she struggled. She wasn’t used to science-fiction and fantasy stuff. I asked to just read it to look for errors, and she wanted to mark it like some essay, asking for a printed version. At the time, the page count for Year One ran just shy of 520 formatted (14pt Georgia font with 1.5 line spacing on A4 layout) pages in total. It sounded massive to her. She did try though, struggling through the .pdf file on her spanking new iPad, complaining that she didn’t understand the narrative because the delivery format didn’t make sense to her. She did get the idea of what I was trying to do with the way the narrative was flowing. She did understand that it was about a young girl, studying in some strange place, but the other characters were too ‘outlandish’ for her. She’d also never be using her iPad for reading books again.
Science Fiction was my main genre, but I read other stuff. My dad read a lot too, but he liked Westerns and Naval adventures (he was a Navy man). So I’ve got my dad’s collection of Louis L’Amour and Clive Cussler books, some of which I tried to read but could not get into. I got into comics through my uncle (mostly Daredevil, Spider-Man and Batman), and those old comics were passed to me as well. My mom? I never really got what she enjoyed reading although she does love the Mitch Albom books I gave her over several Christmases. She said she read The Time-Keeper twice in the week between Christmas and New Year’s last year. Otherwise, she’d be reading other non-fiction religious books or something to do with Stock Markets.
Anyway, the editing and review process for me wasn’t that easy. The first couple of rounds were really meant to just look for basic mistakes, but I tended to get swept up in the narrative itself and had to back track often. By the time I had the third year completed, I had gone over the first year about three times already, and the second year twice. When I started putting the third year together, everything felt like a mess because I really wasn’t sure what the proper sequence was anymore. Half the time, I was wondering if I was repeating myself too much. That was about when I got my mom involved.
Take a step back. Do something else first and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Of course, when she said she had problems trying to understand it, that’s when the ‘preamble’ came in on the first book. Actual editing where lines were rewritten or removed also occurred at that time.
Before that, I was trying to work out the blurb as well. I was thinking, “How do I condense all that so it would make sense on the back cover of a paperback?” To make it interesting enough that some casual browser would perhaps pick up the book, look on the back and maybe feel, “Yes, that’s interesting. I’d like to read that.”
In any case, I never really got anyone to actually read the whole thing and provide much feedback. Early last month, I figured enough time had passed and it was time for one more round of editing and review.
Lo and behold, there still were mistakes.
And we’ll conclude all this reminiscence next time…