Don’t Break the Chain (from the Editing Frontline)

Last DraftSo I’m ploughing through what promises to be the final ever edit I do (before it goes to an editor–that’s right, an actual editor that I have to pay in cash and not in promises of love and devotion) of The Genesis, and it’s painful. See, last October, when I had this oh-so-amazing idea to start the entire first book over again in order to better suit it to the rest of the series’ progression, I wasn’t thinking it through. Yes, in the long run, it will be better, but hell if it’s not painful to work on now.

Some plot points that made perfect sense now don’t; some characters are doing things that isn’t right “because the plot says so”; there’s still a fair number of plot points that are glossed over completely. It’s horrible, and I’ve really painted myself into a corner, in that I love the new stuff and I know it will be better this way, but some of the old stuff just…worked better, and it’s tempting to just revert back.

Worse still, Muse is getting impatient. I can hear it in her voice when we talk, mostly because she’s yelling “Just f*cking finish it!” at the time.

Anyway, main reason for posting is that all six or so of you who are actually waiting on something to happen with this series can know that I am still working on it. I’m working on it every day.

I want, I need, this book to be finished. I need to be able to draw the line under it and move on. I have stories yet to tell, and you never know when that bus is going to hit you (though, to be fair, you do have to leave the house in order to be hit by a bus).

The other reason for posting is to share some new techniques (or not new, but rather I’ve just never tried them before) I’m finding quite helpful this edit.

#1 Don’t Break the Chain

I was inspired by this video by Charlie McDonnell, who picked the technique up from an interview with Jerry Seinfeld. Basically, you get a calendar, and on that calendar you set a goal of a minimum requirement that you must complete each day (for Charlie, it’s 30 minutes working on a video; I’ve set my goal as 2 hours spent editing, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

Here’s my calendar so far:

The Genesis ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ Calendar

I am yet to break the chain. I feel so empowered.

I should point out that two hours is not what I usually do. It is the minimum I am allowed to do before I can consider my chain unbroken for the day. I often do much more. Most days I finish work at 5pm, immediately open my MacBook (I’m not some kind of space-bending wizard: I work from home), and I will still be working on it at 11pm (give or take an hour or two chatting on Skype, but shh, don’t tell anyone). Being childless and having zero responsibilities (housework, what’s that?) is great.

 (Small point: Charlie’s video was posted on the 19th April; I started on the 21st. I don’t know what I did on those two days between watching the video and starting the process–I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume I was drunk.)

Sidenote! Write Chain!

Write Chain AppI have had an app that does just this very thing specifically for writers for some time, and–as you might expect–I’ve never used it. Bad monkey.

Basically, all set a daily target, and you have to update every day with your progress, else you break the chain.

Sensing a theme here? Good.

In any case, I’m sure that would’ve been really handy when I was writing the earlier draft, but never mind. I’m sure it’s a wonderful app, I just never got around to using it, and now it’s not really relevant, because I’m not basing my productivity on word count.

You can get the Write Chain app for iPhone from How Not to Write.

#2 The Pomodoro Technique

A little while ago, Muse was telling me about this article she’d read about using a timer to boost productivity. I went and looked up this article, and this was my introduction to the Pomodoro Technique.

She’s since forgotten this conversation, since when I reminded her that she was the one to first tell me about it, she was all, “I’ve never heard of it.” We’re getting old before our time, Muse and I.

Anyway, while it sounded interesting, I didn’t actually look this up again until I’d started my “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar, and was looking for the absolute best way of going about this whole editing business.

While it can be a full lifestyle changer, in its essence, the technique is a time management system, which works like this:

  1. You set a timer for 25 minutes where you will work, distraction free (the book outlines how to do this important part, too) on your goal.
  2. After the 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break that doesn’t involve your work at all.
  3. Rinse and repeat for all the time you have.
Look, Ma! I laid a time management system!

I’m not doing it justice. Just go read it instead. You can get a PDF of the book, the quick start “cheat sheet”, the to-do list and the activity log FOR FREE (and everybody likes free stuff) from the Pomodoro web site.

That’s all I have for now.

Wish me luck on the rest of this minefield of an edit, and be sure to let me know if you end up using/are already using either of these techniques!

Side Story!

Here’s a not-so-funny side story. You remember a while back I told you about my beta readers? Well, one of them accidentally read the old 2009 version of the book instead of the new one (like a MELON). Neither of us realised this until a few weeks ago, when I asked him what he thought on a particular character, only for him to respond with, “Who’s that?” (I’d changed the character’s name between drafts). On the upside of this, I did get to hear the opinion from someone who had recently read both versions, feedback for which–for the most part–were positive. Score.