TEARS OF BLOOD

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TEARS OF BLOOD:

Or How I Learned to Take It Like a Man

 

 

Whelp, I finally got my first draft edits back for book two of my Sleeping Legion Series and it wasn’t pretty.  My novel came out at just under 90,000 words and was accompanied by 27 pages of edits and critiques.  Yes, and Tim C. Taylor even wrote the edits in red ink.  It looked like my manuscript was bleeding profusely from wounds sustained defending the old fortress.  I guess my characters, the ones I’ve joyously tortured along the way, have finally gotten their revenge, or I’ve gotten my comeuppance.  It made me a might bit sad, even though I knew it was coming after we made a last minute decision to cut the plot in half and turn what was a footnote skirmish into the battle it deserved.

The decision to split book two in half, in large part due to the grand scope of my outline, caused change that rippled throughout the novel.  Because we knew this would be an issue, we decided to simply finish it and fix it with the first round of editing.  I mention that to illustrate that I KNEW my editor and mentor Tim C. Taylor was going to punch me in the nose (metaphorically speaking) and even then it still hurt.  I died a little inside, but then I remembered that Uncle Sam removed my last feeling at Fort Benning’s School for Wayward Boys.  The Army might call it the Infantry School, but those of us in the know, well……

Now, to understand how the book went off the rails… let me tell you the story.  Once upon a midnight dreary… wait, wrong story.  Okay, so I was deep into the plot for book two and proudly sent BossMan a copy of my outline so he could see where the series was going. When he looked at the outline, he caught that what I did the book would be too big, Tolkien-esq in proportion.  I have that problem; I tend to write to much and it has to be cut into multiple books. My first book ended up getting split into a prequel novella and a novel.  With that in mind, it was determined to split it in half and focus book 2 purely on one aspect of the plot and end it there. The other parts of the book, as outlined, would become book 3.  This meant that I would need to make some radical changes to the plot arc and bulk out parts that had been relatively minor.  Add in other bits to keep them alive and see the book with tidbits that would be key later.  Foreshadowing my plans going forward, even if some of it wasn’t important to the reader now.  We made the decision to fix all of that in the first round of edits, rather than get bogged down which meant that the end result was me crying tears of blood when I saw all the red on my first draft.

 

One of the biggest effects of my military training on my writing is my use of sand tables.  With the eight years I spent in the Army, especially the time I spent in the infantry as a sergeant and team leader, I plan my battles as if they were real.  This means I have an outside source prep the map of the terrain (The Mom) and I react to it in as tactical of a fashion as I think is appropriate.  Keep in mind, I was an infantry sergeant and this does NOT make me an expert tactician and general.  If you think it does, reference the errors of 2nd Lieutenant Napoleon and later Corporal Hitler, who rose above their skillset and it ultimately cost them.  (I know some will quibble about my comments on these two, but for the sake of brevity lets acknowledge that there is SOME truth to it and move forward with my main point).  I don’t want to repeat those mistakes, so I DO consult veterans and friends who were sergeant majors and senior NCOs at the upper echelons of the Army chain of command.  The end result of this method is that sometimes my battle scenes seem more like a report to my boss then literary entertainment this makes them sometimes dry and boring, and I have to go back into the human interest piece I might not always list how John felt when Joey died, but I can always tell you what you did for where in the particulars of their military endeavors. I hope to improve this method of describing battles, so more of it is done in the first draft. Basically, if the reader never cares that Johnny died and I felt as a writer.

 

 

Another related aspect to my style of describing battles, is that I tend to have too many characters. I like to tell about it from both sides so I often jump back and forth between points of view strategically taking them from all areas of the battlefield so you get the whole scope of the larger battle. Ultimately, my editor believes this is too hard for reader to follow and it makes it hard for them to know who care about. I don’t know how to fix this in the first draft, what I end up doing is combining viewpoints in the rewrite. I will still have more characters than many writers, but when you write military sci-fi on a grand scale how else would it, could it be?  Ultimately since my first novel is with the final beta readers, it will come down to what the audience likes and can handle. Unlike some, I never want to assume my reader is too stupid to follow. Often, I will assume that if they don’t understand the failing is mine and adjust accordingly rather than dumb down the idea. Again ultimately I need to make the reader care and if I don’t I failed as a writer.

 

 

Yet another critique from this review, was more general. Seems I have what are known as writer’s tics.  These are habits that I repeat over and over again, such as overusing the word and or having characters nodding to each other during dialog.  An further example of this involve my repetitive use of the same sentence structure. While I will try to improve on this, to become a better writer overall, I am not sure that I would be able to. As I’ve mentioned before, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during my time in Iraq. One too many IED’s, and then my luck ran out.  Realistically, my brain injury gets in the way of a lot. I rely heavily on my two first-line editors before my book even makes it to BossMan. First, my wife makes sure I use the word I meant to use and explain things more clearly when I am confusing. Then my mother edits the horrible grammar, partly a product of a public school system that cannot teach it, and tries to catch anything my wife missed. We then send things to BossMan for his final edit, and hope that he understands my issues.  I’m hesitant to say ‘disability’ because I have my pride, but there it is.  In summary, at least for this topic, all I can say is “God Bless Editors!”

 

 

As a consequence of splitting the book the way I did, was that I had several plot holes.  Consistency issues, character mismatches and the like.  Because of my memory issues, related to my TBI, I depend on my outlines.  I keep it outlined in my story Bible, where I update each character with what they are doing — basically list their life story. When I forget, I can refer to this to help me out. Maybe someday these detailed notes will be published for everyone else to enjoy as well. I am sure this get better, given that I will go back to more detailed outlines in the future. I’ll even start including character arcs as part of that outline, instead of strictly a timeline of events.

 

One slightly more confusing critique of book 2, was that the author felt I had too many ‘logic bombs’ in my text. If you googled this term, you will find definitions of it in relation to coding in computers. However, my editor was using it to say that the plot holes in inconsistency issues will ultimately blow up in my face at the end of the book. The faulty logic blowing up, hence the bomb analogy.

 

 

The last critique of my text, one most writers fall prey to, is the ‘Curse of Knowledge.’  Sometimes you write things as inevitable because you know how they will end. This makes for a very dull story, sadly.  I tend to do this a lot, and then fix it during edits. Rewriting can be a pain in my gluteus maximus but it helps save me from myself.  I also use the infamous critique partners to help me with this issue. This is hard for me to use right now, since I am writing in someone else’s universe with nondisclosure agreements and the like, but I plan on taking full advantage of this when I start my own series. In the meantime, I keep everything in-house.

 

I hope you enjoyed me showing you how the sausage was made and think no less of me for it. Please give me your thoughts on this process. Image result for writing How you do you avoid pitfalls. To be honest, I almost didn’t write this. I am no expert on writing as a craft, I just do what comes naturally. It is why my blog doesn’t focus on just writing tips like so many other authors, because I’m not qualified to give that advice. I can help people develop military cultures, talk tactics and generally nerd out with them but don’t ask me about commas and colons and the like.

 

Until Next Time,

Team Handley

 

 

PS:  I wrote this post with my Dragon Pro software, so I’m making slow progress on that goal!!

 

–> All images came from Google’s list of imagery which is labeled for reuse.

35 thoughts on “TEARS OF BLOOD

  1. I just read this! Great post. Full of great information many people are likely curious about. I will write more later, I’m hitting the hay right now. Just wanted to say, for now, keep your chin up and keep trucking. You need any “technical” advice I’m an email away.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a fellow writer–even though my genre is historical fiction–I found your post very interesting and familiar. I, too, have tics, like my characters get nauseous when upset. One character ‘rose to his full height’ so many times, you’d think he was normally crouched.

    I’ve gotten my feelings hurt when critique partners gave me resounding ‘No!’s, but the re-writes often turned into my favorite scenes. They say it’s all part of the process & I think that’s true. Keep plugging!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Painful, but hopefully useful.

    Editors: best friend, worst enemy. But it sounds like everything he’s saying will make the books stronger. Sometimes it takes that outside perspective to see it.

    Pour yourself a drink (my drink of choice is Sprechers Cherry Cola – don’t judge), dig into the edits, and make your stories soar.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing all the edits and issues your editor found with the manuscript. Honestly, reading this made me feel better about the writing process. Don’t feel discouraged or upset. After you make the edits, your story will be much stronger.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed the article. It is always interesting (in my opinion) to see behind the scenes on the creation of a story. It is part of why I love DVD (prob Blu-Ray for most people) extras so much and why I value commentary tracks when as an extra. I’ve always loved seeing how things are created as well as the thoughts of the authors writing said creations, or directors putting together a film (if speaking movies).

    Thank you for sharing. I believe all writers, regardless of whether they are just starting, or are established masters of their craft, are always learning and so I believe no one is necessarily a full fledged expert.

    Keep up the amazing work and I hope you have great success with the rewrites, editing, and of course sales of your book.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nicholeqw1023

    Editing is almost harder than writing isn’t it? In the long run it will be worth it though. I’m waiting to get one of my stories back from my friend and I’m not looking forward to seeing all the changes she has for it. At the same time I know it needs work so it’ll be nice to have someone else’s input. Hope your editing process goes well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!! I was surprised, this seems to be my most popular post to date. Maybe because the blog is finally actively maintained by me? OR more people wanna know how the sausage is made? Hmm, what did you like the best about it?

      Like

      • I LOVED the behind the scenes of the book your writing. Much like “The Making of….” they do for movies. It was real and honest!
        I also LOVED the part of how your Military training became a part of the book. So very interesting!
        When you talked about how commanders/leaders of past wars and how they made decisions above their skill set and it cost them. So interesting! Love that part.
        My father is a finatic about the history of wars. He can resite any date and it’s history and what happened. Like a walking book.
        I did not inherit such a memory or interest in history, but I do gravitate towards true war stories, depicted in movies. Love war movies!
        When you talked about how certain commanders made mistakes of doing what was beyond their skill set, and how you stuided that. It reminded me of the story of Lieutenant General Hal Moore in the Vietnam war, his story told in the movie,
        “We Were Soldiers”, starring Mel Gibson!

        I loved the leadership practices of this man, and how he studied each leader in a war, and the mistakes they made. Then applied what he learned from their mistakes and improved his leadership to his men. Astounding display of leadership!
        It was as fascinating as how you created what you learned, to bring it to life in your book.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is awesome, when I was in college General Hal Moore spoke to members of the History Honor Society and the ROTC departments. He was truly a great man, flawed and human, but that only made him even better. He always cautioned us, in his speech, not to rise above our abilities and to rely on experts, regardless of their ranks. That moment sort of stuck with me, so when I started writing my own stuff I basically wrote what I know. Some of the cliché and trope-ish lines in my novels, well I heard them from MY sergeants.

          “You privates, all you wanna do is eat, sleep, shite and use up all my gosh darned toilet paper” has to be my favorite!! My senior drill sergeant always said this to the supply runner picking up our companies allotment of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Obviously I edited out the vulgarity, but you get the idea. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • That is awesome, when I was in college General Hal Moore spoke to members of the History Honor Society and the ROTC departments. He was truly a great man, flawed and human, but that only made him even better. He always cautioned us, in his speech, not to rise above our abilities and to rely on experts, regardless of their ranks. That moment sort of stuck with me, so when I started writing my own stuff I basically wrote what I know. Some of the cliché and trope-ish lines in my novels, well I heard them from MY sergeants.

        “You privates, all you wanna do is eat, sleep, shite and use up all my gosh darned toilet paper” has to be my favorite!! My senior drill sergeant always said this to the supply runner picking up our companies allotment of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Obviously I edited out the vulgarity, but you get the idea. 🙂

        Like

  7. Ah! This scares me! I’m in the process of re-editing my novel (in some serious ways) and while I don’t have an editor or anything, I’m always nervous. You can never tell what’s the best decision for your writing/characters/novel and you just have to go with it and pray other people like it. Or… you learn to accept when they don’t and see how to fix it even if it crushes your soul. *sigh* But you got this! I know you do! ^.^

    Liked by 1 person

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