So, since I heard about it when Matt and Debbie kindly emailed me on September 12th I did this crazy thing where I entered Rain into the Storylines Tessa Duder Awards. This is a competition for people with a Young Adult novel who haven’t had a novel published before and you win a publishing contract. I am quite keen on that, so after briefly considering it being too crazy I plunged in and edited Rain as fast as I could – with a deadline of posting printed copies off on October 29th.
This turned out to be even more stressful than it sounds, but I managed it. I got up most days at the time when my alarm went off (roughly an hour and a half before I have to be at work) and did some editing. Some days were excellent and I’d get through 10 pages before work, some days I was too distracted or tired and I played on facebook and didn’t edit. Most of the time I got *something* done though. I dedicated time on the weekends to editing and I used days off work (leave and Labour Day) as opportunities to get heaps done.
During this time I worked though some fantastic detailed feedback on the first couple of chapters from Jen, which was invaluable. Lots of considering how sentences could work better and such. Jen also gave me feedback I hadn’t had from other readers: my lead character was mean and unlikeable to her.
I also got a substantial round of feedback from Steve, who gave me some ideas for plot twists, often building on little things I had in there already. He called them curve balls and I used…(counts off list of suggested curve balls) six of them. Which is 6 out of 10 that he pitched, so he should be happy. Although I didn’t use one that he really wanted me to use, but that’s because I like the emotional beat I already have too much. Also I was running out of time by the end.
Steve also pointed out some places where I could flesh out the dialogue and action and some ways to focus the book more on the theme of Revenge. I have given Revenge a capital letter here because it’s in all caps in my notes.
The most confusing thing (for me, personally, not how Steve asked) was his Deep Dive line of questioning. What does anger mean to me, as an author? How is anger being used in the book by various characters? I was disarmed by this line of questioning, which I think in a feedback session is a very good thing. We talked about anger and how difficult it is for us as people to express it and also how I felt I was using it in the book. Steve then suggested ways to draw out what I wanted to say in the manuscript. Brilliant.
When I looked back over the MS following Steve and Jen’s feedback I worked hard on toning down the way Rain’s bitchiness is expressed in the book. Rain is a Mean Girl, it’s one of the plot points and one of the things she doesn’t realise she’s doing, but in the text I was sometimes having her do awful stuff without explaining why. Instead of stating her action, I dug down into her reasons for acting that way and expressed the emotions behind it. It was one of those things where I felt myself grow as a writer. Like, this should be the obvious course of action, but I worked it out and now I can do it.
I ended up leaving in the one chapter from Jake’s point of view because it has a lot of good world building and character information in it. It also sets up tension between him and Rain later on which is all to the good.
I did a whole pass where I went through and changed some character names. Regan had pointed out that I had a Jake, a Jacky and a Jared all running around and it was sometimes confusing. I changed Jared to Brant and then realised I also had a Janey in there. She became Lou. Nice and different from the J names.
I did another pass using Find and Replace (except I didn’t use the replace function I just typed myself) to take out all the extraneous uses of the word ‘that’. It was freaking everywhere and there are a lot of sentences where it doesn’t need to be at all. I also checked my uses of ‘alright’ and changed them to ‘all right’ since according to my workmate’s style guide ‘alright’ isn’t a word. Finally I used Find to check when I was using ‘kind of’ and removed all instances where it wasn’t being said in dialogue. I’m chronic for tempering my words, making stuff kind of happen or just about happen or happen a little instead of happening. I think my MS was very much improved by these wee grammatical passes.
By the middle of October I was beginning to feel the pressure. I had two days off over my birthday, which lead into a weekend. I got a big chunk of the editing done then, and finished the whole read through on the Saturday of Labour Weekend. However I knew there was stuff I’d left half completed: a dinner scene near the start of the book, a conversation between Rain and her dead best friend where they really connected. So from Labour weekend Sunday up until I handed it in I went even deeper into the manuscript for a ‘polishing’ pass. I didn’t finish my polishing pass, but I got through to page 80ish, out of 135, skipping some parts which I felt were all right.
During the polish I became so intrinsically lost in my own text that I couldn’t think of the big picture. I’d been working so hard and so intensely on this manuscript that I was stuck staring at the trees and I knew that nothing could make me see the big picture again but time away from it. Time was the one thing I didn’t have so I just went hard and did the best I could.
I’ve always been quite confident about Rain as a book, and I feel like the recent editing definitely strengthened it. Whether it’s enough better to win a National competition I just don’t know, but I really hope it is. At any rate I’m not going to know the outcome for months, so now that I’ve written this mind dump of a blog entry, I’m just not going to think about it again.