November 7, 2012

IWSG - on editing a house and medieval microwaves

i can now breathe a huge sigh of relief. we’re in the house and we’ve put some pictures on the walls. now we can concentrate on unpacking more of the non-essentials.

it makes me think of a conversation i had with my writing friend a few years ago, where we compared writing the next draft to moving into a house. you have all the stuff from the first draft, everything you had in the old house. now you start the second draft. you put it all in the moving van and get it to the next house. you get rid of some of what you have because you don’t really need it.
then you have to take what’s left and decide where to put it all. furniture has to be arranged in new rooms and augmented with new pieces. pictures have to be hung in new places. maybe you buy new pictures because you don’t have exactly what you need to create the mood you’re looking for.

you place the knick knacks and what-nots where you think they’ll work. you rearrange when something doesn’t look quite right. it takes time, and it’s a lot of work, but you finally get things just where you want them and it feels like your home now.

we’ve done some of that already. when we put up a few pictures (so the walls wouldn’t be completely bare for our house warming party), the first arrangement that went up was this one:

it’s my very favorite arrangement. my mom painted the picture for the cover of Eldala, and i bought some pieces from Joann’s that i thought were appropriate. they look like something my blacksmith hero would make.

part of me hopes that seeing Kieran will inspire me as we work on the sequel. seeing him every day now (and running out of new things to read) prompted me to read through Eldala. it’s better than i remember. in the past, knowing other people were reading certain parts made me cringe. what would they think of it? would they like it? how did they react when they read this?

reading it this time, some new things have made me cringe. the most obvious was a scene with a goofy time mistake. in it, my two main characters, Jessa and Kieran, are now at Kieran’s aunt’s house. Jessa is feeling useless, so she asks Kieran’s aunt if she needs help with dinner.

Melchiah laughed softly. “It’s going to be difficult for you to stop being a servant, isn’t it?” Melchiah handed her a knife and some potatoes. “If it will make you feel better, you can help me with these.”
Jessa gratefully took them and started the mind-numbing chore of peeling and cutting. When she finished with the potatoes, she started on a pile of carrots. Someone put a hand on her arm.

It was Stefan. (Jessa’s cousin) “Jessara, what are you doing?”
“Helping our hostess.”

Stefan took the knife. “This work is beneath you.”
“I’ve been a slave for ten years. How is this beneath me?”

He pulled her aside and his face was grave. “Jessara, you are the queen of all the Baraca. You should not be working in a kitchen.”
Melchiah’s brows flew up in a question.

“Excuse me, Melchiah,” Jessa said.
She pulled Stefan outside and into the barn. “Do you mean to tell me our clan hasn’t found another to replace me?”

(then she and Stefan have a heated discussion about why she doesn’t want to be a queen for their people.)
“Whatever you choose, Jessara, know this: We were betrothed before you were ever chosen. If you had not been stolen, I would be your Eldala and we would be married by now.”

Jessa’s anxiety was threatening to explode.
“I don’t belong there,” she said.

His face darkened. “Of course you belong there. And after I take you home, you will marry me.”
She stamped her foot and went back into the house. Of all the arrogant, pig-headed…

She burst into the room, expecting to help Melchiah. Instead, everyone sat around a large wooden table. When they heard her come in, all the men stood and Kieran pulled out the chair next to Sienna. Jessa frowned and sat, confused as to why he would do that for her. No one had ever waited on her before. In fact, she didn’t think she’d ever sat at a table as a guest.
now, how did i, and the other people who edited this for me, not catch this mistake? first she’s helping with dinner, and then it’s ready to eat a few minutes later? i asked my husband this, and he said, "she must have had a microwave." i just laughed. the first microwave, and in a medieval world. (ok, so it’s a medieval fantasy world.) the mistake still makes me cringe.

i also cringe at all the telling i used instead of showing, the points of view i could have eliminated, and some of the flowery descriptions. plus, i have Kieran "looking around" a lot. sigh. i suppose we’re the hardest critics of our stories. in the end, i have to get over the mistakes or they’ll drive me crazy.

i hope that when you make mistakes that no one catches, and you read them later, when the story’s in print form, and people have read it, and there’s no going back, you’ll do your best to get over them too. and that you won’t let them keep you from writing. 

we all make mistakes. some of our mistakes make it into our books. in the end, they don’t really matter. we’ve written a novel. we’ve completed a project of epic proportions, one that most people only talk about doing, and then never do. we were courageous and poured our hearts out on paper. we persevered. that’s something to be incredibly proud of.

now, as an indulgent aside, i wanted to share this scene. when i come across stuff like this, the mistakes melt away. i love a good romance scene. in this one, Jessa is in the smithy, watching Kieran work.

People said that smiths had mystical powers because they could forge the unyielding iron into any form. Bairn had dismissed those stories. He explained that a smith’s best tool was his mind, and that it was intelligence, not enchantment, that gave a smith his power.

Kieran might not have been using enchantment to work the iron, but Jessa wondered if he had some kind of mystical power over her. Otherwise she knew she would have been able to stop her eyes from traveling up his forearms, over his biceps, across his shoulders…

No. She shouldn’t be looking at him at all. He was the king and she wasn’t going to marry him.

She turned around and forced herself to think of anything but him—how to decorate for the banquet, what her mother was like, what had happened to her father. It was pointless; no matter how hard she tried to ignore Kieran, her mind kept wandering back to him. And so did her eyes.

Contentment filled his face as he concentrated on the task in front of him. He was humming under his breath—the song she’d taught him when they were children. An unexpected warmth wrapped around her heart at the thought of Kieran remembering their song. Did that mean he cared for her?

She shook the thought away and let her eyes resume their journey over Kieran’s arms. The satisfying memory of having those arms around her slipped in and surprised her. He could have taken advantage of her in the dungeon. Instead he’d been tender and protective—and she’d never felt safer or more cherished than she had in his arms. What would it be like to have Kieran’s arms around her every night?

Kieran looked up. Jessa froze, embarrassed that he’d caught her staring at him. He smiled, as if he’d enjoyed it. If she were honest, she would have to admit that she’d enjoyed it, too.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Must've had a microwave - funny!
That is an excellent analogy, Michelle. And it can take a while to find a perfect fit for all that furniture.
Glad you posted that picture. When I first saw it, I thought it was awesome.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I love the picture. The whole arrangement looks nice especially against the warm color on the wall.

I still have my manuscript "in boxes" and need to get back to it so I can rearrange the furniture and see what fits with the *new place*.

I do like your point, "when the story’s in print form, and people have read it, and there’s no going back." True and having a good beta reader and final editor sure helps.

Kristie Cook said...

Love, love, LOVE the wall arrangement! Love the excerpts, too. As for the microwave scene - I've made similar mistakes. Conversations that should have taken a few minutes somehow take an hour or so. I wonder if it's because that's how long it took for us to write the scene, so we think the potatoes and carrots should be done by now? :)

Glad the house is coming together. Love all the pictures.

M.J. Fifield said...

Medieval microwave. That is funny. And possibly, just what my story's been missing...

And you make an excellent point about mistakes. Every time I make an editing pass through my manuscript, I find entirely too many and then I spend entirely too long being mad about it.

Love the sword on the wall.

Laurel Garver said...

I know what you mean. I have a scene that runs a smidge too long--long enough that the two characters off on their own would have been noticed and hunted down. I just have to hope the reader enjoys the dialogue so much they don't feel the proportion is off. :-)

February Grace said...

Love, love, LOVE the wall display. Absolutely gorgeous. Amazing.

I didn't catch the time error when I read (and reread) Eldala. I was so engaged in the story that I didn't even notice it.

I think that says something about how good the writing really is :~)

Thanks for this, it's a great post.


Annalisa Crawford said...

I love the Eldala arrangement on your wall. The sword is great - my Hubby has a couple around our house (and a lightsabre). I keep meaning to put up my own cover, somewhere really obvious :-)