Revising Leah

February 5, 2009

The End

This blog has been an act of redemption.

In the months and years following the publication of the first edition of Leah back in 1996, I found myself increasingly unhappy with the book and the quality of the story I had written. My unhappiness loomed over all of my other writing, eventually paralyzing to me to the point where I stopped writing creatively altogether for a few years. It became a goal of mine to revisit and rewrite the novel someday. I needed to redeem myself as a writer, because I knew I am a better writer than the fool who published that poorly written book in 1996.

And, perhaps more importantly, I wanted to redeem Leah Nells, one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever created. She deserved so much better than to languish in the flawed fictional universe where I abandoned her over a decade ago. This project has been for her as much as it’s been for me.

The project is complete now. The novel has been revised and republished, my sense of myself as a writer has been redeemed, and Leah Nells is at last in the story that I imagined for her so many years ago. With nothing left to do and nothing left to revise, I’m bringing this blog to a close. This will be my last post.

I want to thank everyone who visited this blog, everyone who left comments, and everyone who linked to me from their own blogs. It’s been fun meeting so many different people.

I’ll be starting a new writing project — and a new blog — soon. The new book and the new blog will both be titled Juvenilia (there’s a link in the sidebar). Both the book and the blog will be an ambitious project in which I’ll be collaborating with the two main characters in the creation of the novel. It should be a lot of fun, and I hope everyone who followed this blog will join me for my next one. It will probably launch sometime around the first of March. Until then, I’m going to take a little time off, try to drum up some publicity for the new edition of Leah, and continue to proselytize over at Publishing Renaissance.

Endings are often awkward, but at least this is a happy ending.

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February 2, 2009

Revised!

My finished novel arrived today. It looks good, so I’ve approved the book for sale through Lulu and elsewhere. Paperback copies may be purchased here.

I’m also making the ebook version of the novel available for free. The PDF download at Lulu will be free, of course, but I’ll also be offering downloads through my website.  Right now, I only have PDF and ePub versions of Leah available, but I’ll be adding PRC and PDB formatted versions, too, soon.

I hope everyone who stops by this page will check the book out. I’m very happy with it.

January 31, 2009

Asymmetrical

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 10:40 pm
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This week, I’ve been waiting for the new proof copy of my novel to arrive. I know the book has shipped, and I hoped it would arrive by Saturday (today) . . . but no. Hopefully it will arrive Monday.

It’s too bad it didn’t arrive today because I began this process of publishing the book through Lulu on the first day of January, and it would have been beautifully symmetrical for me to have finished the process on the last day of January.

And the arrival of the new copy should be the end of the process. Last night, I had a dream that the new copy did arrive and the cover image was all messed up (but then, in one of those fun moments of lucid dreaming, I realized that since I was only dreaming, I could use the power of my imagination to fix the cover and make it perfect — which I did). But the real copy should look just fine, and the text of the novel has reached a point where I can call it “finished.”

So I continue to wait.

January 22, 2009

Quick Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 3:58 pm
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As I said I would, late last night I logged into Lulu, uploaded the corrected manuscript and the new book cover design, and ordered a copy for myself.

That is to say: the book is done.

Now I wait a few days for the new copy to be manufactured and for the postman to deliver it to me. If everything looks good, then I’ll make the novel available to the public and begin (or perhaps I should say, “continue”) the always exciting “marketing stage” of the publishing process.

January 21, 2009

How Can You Finish a Piece of Writing That Can Never Be Finished?

An update: Last week, I received the proof copy of Leah and I read through it, proofreading and making last minute corrections. I thought that I’d be able to submit the corrected manuscript back to Lulu on Sunday, thus beginning the final phase of this publishing process. However, Sunday evening, I was reading passages of my book at random (a couple pages here, a couple pages there), and stumbled upon a sentence in chapter eight in which I had accidentally italicized half of a sentence that should not have been italicized at all.

The discovery freaked me out because it was an error so glaringly obvious that I should have spotted it last week when I was reading through the novel. I started to wonder, then, Well if I missed that, what other errors have I missed?!

So I decided to delay submitting the supposedly “corrected” manuscript for a couple of days. Since Sunday, I’ve continued to just browse through the book randomly. I have spotted a few more errors, but they’ve all been very minor typos.

But Sunday’s freak-out has rekindled has my obsession with perfection and the idea that whatever I write and publish must be perfect, even though I fully realize that no piece of writing can ever be perfect — something can always be done to improve a written work. I have the urge to hold on to my book and not submit it until I have made every single change that I can. But I could work on my manuscript for another hundred years and it will still not be perfect.

I’ll keep browsing through the text this afternoon and this evening, but unless I find another startling error like I found on Sunday, I think I’ll submit the corrected draft of my manuscript to Lulu before I go to bed tonight. Hopefully, I’ll be able to sleep.

January 18, 2009

Using “Find” to Proofread

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 3:07 pm
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Proofreading, though crucial to good writing, can sometimes be a tedious process. Fortunately, word processors have a function that can help a writer perform very precise proofreading searches. The “Find” (or “Find & Replace” in OpenOffice) function allows you to search for a specific word or phrase in a document. I spent a couple hours yesterday doing searches for some common typos that I, and many other writers, tend to make: its/it’s, lose/loose, affect/effect, etc. I would type, for example, “effect” into the Find box and the program would take me to each and every instance of that word in the text. Then, it was up to me to read the sentence and make sure I’m using the word correctly. I’m happy to report that most of these searches turned up very few errors.

I also used Find to check my use of the word “seemed”. I already knew that I use that word quite a lot in my novel. It appears often because although the narrative is third person, it is a third person narration which privileges Leah’s perspective. Since she isn’t very experienced socially, she often has to guess at the motives and reasons behind other people’s behavior. For example, I need to use “seemed” in a sentence like this one:

David stayed on the other side of the class and seemed to have forgotten about his group.

Leah can’t enter David’s mind. She doesn’t know why the boy does a lot of the things that he does. So much remains a mystery to her, so I need to use that word “seemed.”

But I discovered that about 20% of the appearances of the word “seemed” were not necessary. For example, I might have written something like,

She looked out the window, and it seemed dark outside.

Well, it’s either dark or it isn’t. “Seemed” would be completely inappropriate in this instance. Find allowed me to inspect each and every appearance of that word in the novel without having to read the entire novel straight through.

January 16, 2009

Almost

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:36 pm
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Well, I finished reading through the proof copy of my novel today. I had thought that I would today be ready to submit the revised manuscript and book cover back to Lulu, but I’ve decided to sit on the book for the weekend and think about it some more. In the second half of the novel, I noticed a couple of potential continuity errors, so I want to make sure those are taken care of. Plus, I feel like I read through the novel so quickly (40-50 pages a day) that I just want to pause and catch my breath. Hopefully, on Monday, everything will be ready to go, and I’ll submit the revised documents then.

January 14, 2009

A Dream Deferred (and Deleted)

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:03 pm
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At the beginning of chapter fourteen, I had a paragraph-length description of a dream that Leah experiences a couple days after her school’s Homecoming Dance. The dream has long been a source of indecision for me because I always thought that the dream I described here was more than a little cheesy. In previous revision cycles, I considered cutting it from the story, but I chose instead to compromise: I left it in but tried to sweep the cheesiness out of the scene. I think I did a pretty good job.

But yesterday, when I was reading the passage again, it occurred to me that it might conflict with the scene at the end of chapter thirteen. At the end of chapter thirteen, in one of my favorite moments in the novel, Leah unhappily accepts the fact that she isn’t going to the Homecoming Dance with David or anyone else.

Apparently, in previous revision cycles I must have always taken a break from reading once I finished chapter thirteen, because this time, when I read the dream sequence at the start of chapter fourteen just seconds after reading the end of chapter fourteen, it suddenly occurred to me that the dream sequence completely contradicts and undermines the emotional impact of that final scene in chapter thirteen. I have never noticed this until now, and it alarmed me when I realized what I had done.

It’s too late for me to cut the plan for a dream sequence out of chapter fourteen since it is woven tightly into the start of chapter fourteen. I’d have to completely rewrite the first couple of pages of the chapter.

So what I’ve decided to do here is replace the Leah’s dream with another dream. It was the setting of the dream (a formal dance that was like something out of Cinderella) that caused the trouble. I changed the setting of the dream but not what made the dream so appealing to Leah: it was about she and David spending time together, alone — and talking to each other.

I think that has solved the problem, and it’s a lucky thing I caught it. The transitions between chapters has been something that I’ve been worried about. Because I can’t read the whole novel in one sitting, I have to stop some time. A new chapter is always a logical place to take a break, but taking a break disrupts the flow of reading, and when I stop I risk missing a transition problem like this one.

January 13, 2009

The Final Edits

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 5:23 pm
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As I read through the proof copy of the novel, making the final set of changes and edits, I find myself reading through the book rapidly — I’ve been reading at least fifty pages a day. That’s good, because it means I’m finding few mistakes. Each sentence and each idea is flowing smoothly into the next. When I feel tripped up, when I have to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph, that’s usually an occasion to fix something, but I haven’t experienced very many of those moments.

The biggest change that I’ve made to the text so far is to delete an entire paragraph from chapter two. The paragraph just seemed superfluous, and when I read the passage without the paragraph, it sounds better.

But most of the edits that I’ve made have been little changes. As I thought I might, I have found some lines of dialogue that aren’t punctuated just right. Many of the edits, though, have been the usual word choice errors that always plague me. For example, in chapter six, I wrote this sentence:

Instead, her eyes darted to each of the boys’ laughing faces, and then they took a quick glance out the window at her table on the patio.

The problem here is the pronoun “they”. It isn’t clear what its antecedent is. It is supposed to refer to “her eyes,” but given this sentence construction, it appears to refer to “the boys”. I fixed this problem simply by changing “they” to “she”.

I’ve also found a couple of continuity errors. In chapter ten, I write,

David handed the piece of paper to Heather and said, as he sat down . . .

but then a few lines later, I write,

“And they lived in Egypt,” David laughed as he sat down.

So here I have a character performing the incredible act of sitting down twice in the same desk. That’s gotta break some law of physics or another! In this case, I decided that the first time David sat down was sufficient, and deleted his second occasion of sitting.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever be able to change every single thing that I might want to fix, but I know that every correction I make brings the novel just a little bit closer to a state of perfection. Overall, though, I’ve been quite happy with the book.

January 11, 2009

Proof Copy: First Look

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 10:01 am
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In my last post, I discussed how worried I’ve been that the back side of my book cover wasn’t going to turn out well. I even started designing an alternative back cover just in case my fears were realized.

Well, my fears were indeed realized. Late yesterday, my proof copy arrived, and I found that not only does the back side of the cover look obviously pixelated (even more pixelated, in fact, than it did in the PDF file from which the cover was generated), but my attempt to soften the pixelation by slightly blurring the image has failed spectacularly: the image looks both pixelated and blurry.

Only three visitors to this blog voted on the two back cover options in my previous post (and those votes resulted in a three-way tie), but it looks like my decision has been made for me. There’s no way I can use Option One. Option Two is in.

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