Round 1 vs Round 2

December 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm (Writing) (, , , )

I mentioned a few times that my NaNo project was a rewrite, so I thought it might be interesting to do some first draft comparisons now that the numbers are all in.

I wrote the First Version in early 2008. It was my first time writing YA, and for a while it refused to settle into a voice. Somewhere in a folder I still have the paperclipped stash where the first two chapters were written in first person, then rewritten in third. Then I ignored both of them and started over in first. I don’t have the day by day breakdowns, partly because this was before I started doing that. Writing by hand meant that I didn’t really have a good grasp of word count, either per day or per chapter, and even though I typed up each chapter as I finished instead of waiting for the end, I didn’t really understand at that point how word count was supposed to translate.

(As proof, I offer you the word count of the novel I wrote for my college honors thesis: 215K+. I so wish I was joking)

But, I do have the chapter counts.

Prologue: 286 (yes, it had a prologue, and worse, it was one of those that drops you present tense into the middle of a high-octane moment, then takes you back however long for the beginning of the story)
Chapter 1: 7895 (waaaaay too long for a chapter, as I didn’t understand at that point)
Chapter 2: 7805
Chapter 3: 7758
Chapter 4: 7875
Chapter 5: 10665 (and no, I didn’t accidentally include an extra number in there, that’s really how long it was)
Chapter 6: 8161
Chapter 7: 5107
Chapter 8: 7173
Chapter 9: 6478
Chapter 10: 8161 (am I a nerd that it seriously amuses me how two chapters had the exact same word count?)
Chapter 11: 8076
Chapter 12: 5211
Chapter 13: 6840
Chapter 14: 4241
Epilogue: 296
Total word count: 102028

On its own, it’s not an egregious word count. A little overlong, but not terrible. I was in love with it, not so surprising, and given that I’ve never had much of a hand at self-editing, I started researching agents pretty much as soon as I went through looking for typos and inconsistencies. Still, I got a few bites off of it before I reluctantly retired it to query a stronger a project.

When I retired it, though, I had no intention of leavig it to die. I still believed, very passionately, in the story and the characters, and (strangely enough) in the setting. It just needed more of some things and less of others. It needed a tighter line, higher stakes, needed some sharper edges. I just wasn’t sure at that point how to achieve those things. So I set it aside, waiting for the pieces to come together.

It took a little over three years, but in mid-October or so, as I was neck deep in another project, suddenly something clicked. Or rather, about a dozen somethings. I couldn’t play with it until I was done with the other project, so that’s when I made the decision to do NaNo, even though I prefer to give three or four weeks between projects so my brain doesn’t fry.

Here are the counts for the Second Version (chapters are listed under the day they were finished, with total chapter word count)

1 November: 8429 words
Chapter 1: 5221
2 November: 2502
Chapter 2: 4527
3 November: 990
4 November: 7402
Chapter 3: 5465
Chapter 4: 5229
5 November: 2530
7 November: 3879
Chapter 5: 5486
8 November: 7610
Chapter 6: 5114
9 November: 1768
Chapter 7: 5189
10 November: 5066
Chapter 8: 5066 (yes, that was all I did that day)
11 November: 3292
15 November: 1839

Chapter 9: 4821
16 November: 2464
18 November: 6911

Chapter 10: 4321
Chapter 11: 5037
20 November: 9482
Chapter 12: 4707
Chapter 13: 5102
22 November: 7425
Chapter 14: 4751
29 November: 7498
Chapter 15: 5037
Chapter 16: 5154
6 December: 15279
Chapter 17: 5154
Chapter 18: 5180
Chapter 19: 4945
Total word count: 95571

No prologue, no epilogue, five more chapters, seven thousand fewer words.
Average chapter length Round 1: 7246 and spare letters, not counting prologue and epilogue
Average chapter length Round 2: 5030 and spare letters

Rewriting something is very, very different from writing something new. I had to decide what to keep, what to keep but change, and what to discard completely, and had to decide what that did to the story and to the characters. There are scenes that I miss SO BADLY because I loved them, some of them because they were sweet, some of them because they still have the ability to crack me up, but I had to evaluate everything on a simple question: does this do what I need it to do? For a lot of those scenes I loved, while they did wonderful things purely for character, the overall answer was no. They didn’t do enough for the story, so they had to go.

For me, doing this rewrite was a lot harder than putting down something wholly new. I knew the characters so well from three previous books that sometimes I forgot that my audience wouldn’t know them the way I did (something that will doubtless prove to be a trial when I go back to edit it in a few weeks). I wanted to stay true to the characters I’d fallen in love with, but more importantly, I wanted the characters to be true. Which actually made me fall in love with some of them even more.

And made me realize that I am merciless when it comes to putting my favorite characters through horrible things.

What doing this also taught me is that I have a process. It’s a weird process, based on writing only a couple of days a week but writing ALL DAY, but it’s mine. That process works for me, lets me get a LOT done, and going outside of that process, while a valuable experiment, is something I need to not do in the future if I want to spare myself fruitless frustration.

After I saved the completed file, I closed it out and haven’t looked at it. Starting this evening (maybe), I’ll be starting on edits for my October project, the file for which I haven’t opened since I finished it. I need time away from a draft before I can go back to it constructively, need the time to back away, to gain some distance so I can see more clearly what needs to be repaired, replaced, or removed. After I do the edits on that one, and take some time to mentally recover, then I’ll come back to my NaNo project with a wiser eye.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 4

November 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , , )

This is where I admit that I’ve learned two very, very important things this month.

First thing- trying to push myself to write every day around a full time job is basically equivalent to stomping all over my productivity. I am not a writer who paces myself. I’m a writer who binges on words and scenes and whole chapters at a time.

Second thing- I need to never, ever, EVER draft back to back. Going from a draft to an edit, all good. Going from an edit to a draft, still good. Draft to draft? NEVER AGAIN. I need time to recharge after a draft, and editing uses a very different part of my brain than drafting. Trying to draft two projects in a row, especially projects SO radically different, damaged something in my brain, I think.

That’s not to say my NaNo was a failure- it definitely wasn’t. I made my word count and then some.

More importantly, it’s taught me more about how I write.

There are a lot of books and websites and people out there purporting to tell people how to write. I kind of hate them. Not in a personal sort of way, but in a “it’s the principle of the thing” kind of way, because everyone writes in a different way. The important thing isn’t to learn “how to write”, it’s to learn “how YOU write”. Learning what does and does not work for you, for your productivity and efficiency, for your style and voice, for your characters, that’s essential to your growth as a writer.

And doing NaNo has taught me that doing NaNo is not necessarily what’s best for me.

I only wrote one day this past week- I spent Thanksgiving morning and early afternoon sinking into the words, got seven thousand or so of them down, and I’m happy with them. And then I didn’t touch it. I started the Christmas movies. I played with my new phone- or more specifically, played with the ringtones, which kind of makes me wish I received more calls. I pulled all my many MANY boxes and bags and containers of beads and started organizing them all. I repaired some old jewelry. I read some old manuscripts.

And I desperately needed that break.

Because I have a day off tomorrow, and I fully intend to go to my writing cave and lose myself in the story again. I’m super excited for what happens next, and I’m actually really near the end of the story, which always adds a certain thirst to keep going. In trying to force myself to write outside of my habits, outside of ways I knew worked for me, I made writing into a chore, rather than letting it be the joy it is and should be.

So I’m going to write tomorrow, but after that not for a few days, and we’ll see how it goes after that.

How is your NaNo doing?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 3

November 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , )

By now I’ve admitted to myself that the next time I do NaNo, I need to not worry about churning out daily word counts. I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed it, but somehow the attempt to write every single day actually made me less productive. My results this week show that to a very large degree, mainly because once I hit the NaNo goal, I went back to doing it my way.

(which is to take my days off and camp out in a public writing cave, where I don’t have nearly as many distractions, and whenever else in the week inspiration strikes)

14 November: Didn’t write at all. Instead, I took another reading day and lost myself in Reached by Ally Condie. It’s hard for me to read new stuff while I’m writing, so I tend to either reread old favorites, or save the new stuff for days where I know I’m not going to be writing at all. It keeps what I’m reading from sneaking into what I’m writing. Plus, after work, it was pizza and bad movie night with my brother. We’re continuing my education in the Bond movies, but I’m having trouble forcing myself through the list. The early ones hurt my brain SO BADLY.
Word count for the day: zero.

15 November: Day off, but also kind of an off day, at least writing wise. Went over to the mother’s house to do laundry while the brother baked pumpkin bread (which smelled and tasted DELICIOUS), and we watched Starship Troopers and John Leguizamo’s Freaks while those things were happening (oh, and Troopers? He’ll deny this vociferously, but that was my first official bad movie night). Then we went and saw Wreck-it Ralph, which, if you’ve grown up playing any sort of video or arcade games, you HAVE to go see. The story was cute, led exactly where it was supposed to, still had a nice little surprise, but the characters were superb and the gamer jokes AWESOME. Eventually got some writing done, but wasn’t really stressing about it. By this point I’d landed pretty solidly in the ‘meh’, not in the story but in the process.
Word count for the day: 1839

16 November: Full day of work, but felt pretty good afterwards, and I was starting to get into a really challenging, difficult, exciting part. I often find that the pieces that are the most difficult to write in any given story are the ones I most look forward to. We’re reaching a point of political and personal trauma, rapid changes, lines being drawn, and someone having to choose which of those lines to step up to or cross. All about decisions and choices, and most importantly of all, consequences.
Word count for the day: 2464

17 November: Full day of work, a good one but a busy one, and I came home completely brain dead. I was going to write- even opened up the computer and put one of the old standbys in the player- and then ended up reading some amazing Harry Potter fanfic while letting the Whitney Houston Cinderella play four times in a row because I was too lazy to get up and change the disc. Probably should have felt guilty. Didn’t.
Word count for the day: zero.

18 November: Schedule wise this was a weird day, but an ultimately productive one. Went to the mother’s and watched the brother play Lego LOTR, which was funny enough on its own, but then you combine the ACTUAL MOVIE VOICES and the ridiculous Lego in-jokes, and I was dying. Lunch instead of dinner with the family, because the mothers were on their way out of town for the week, and then I found a writing cave for a few hours. This early-dark stuff has my brain all turned around; it makes writing near windows very strange. BUT- lots of words and good scenes done, enough that I wasn’t that grumpy about having to go to the holiday meeting for work that night.
Word count for the day: 6911

19 November: Full day of work, then came home, put the South Park movie on repeat, and read more Harry Potter fanfiction. No shame.
Word count for the day: zero.

20 November: Day off, spent MUCH time in the writing cave, and came away with my most productive day of the month, applicable to word count, chapter tally, and just what I accomplished in the scenes I got down. Got less productive once I got home and had some chores to do, and then tried to write while watching Firefly, which gets a little un-shiny, but I was still REALLY happy with how everything turned out.
Word count for the day: 9482

Total word count so far for NaNo: 65310

So I’ve met the NaNo goal, but stopping now just seems silly. I’ll keep going until I finish the draft. Then I’m spending at least two weeks binge-reading all the shiny new things I’ve been stockpiling over the past two months.

If you’re doing NaNo, how are you doing? Check in below! And remember to back up your stuff, even if you just email it to yourself. After so much work, it would greatly suck for it to vanish.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 2

November 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , , , )

I have been…not as good this week.

In fact, I’d feel downright ashamed of myself if it weren’t for the gradual realization that maybe NaNo- as in the daily practice of NaNo- isn’t such a great thing for me. It’s not the overall word count I’m struggling with- it’s the effort of writing every single day whether I feel like it or not. That’s not really how my brain works, especially not when there’s a question of work. But, here’s the breakdown on this week’s walk of shame.

(and that’s completely personal shame- in no way am I pronouncing shame on you ‘if you didn’t do better’. I set an expectation for myself and failed to live up to it)

7 November Full day of work but came home and did some writing in the evening. This is kind of a strange book for me, the first one I’ve known so deeply, so entirely, that I’m forgetting to give things a foundation. There are two characters who are supposed to be particularly antagonistic to each other, and later on I remember to say that they’re appalled by the thought of agreeing buuuut…forgot to lay all the groundwork earlier for why. I foresee a great deal of editing in my future.
Word count for the day: 3879

8 November Day off! Some chores and errands to do, including a run across town (why do some companies make it so frickin hard to pay a bill?!) but overall, pretty happy with the day’s haul. Got out of the house for most of it, which seems to be the way I get more work done. Some fun chapters- fighting, pissing off a parental unit, and introducing a character I absolutely love and shamelessly dragging into the rewrite far earlier than he appeared in the original. Because you know? Some characters you just need more of.
Work count for the day: 7610

9 November Full day of work. Well, mostly full. I left a couple of hours early because there’s a galloping crud going around the staff. Tis the season, and in all honesty, I’d rather get it now and be done with it then get it any time between Black Friday and the end of January. Can we tell I work retail. Got some writing done but was just really feeling cruddy, so I mostly just curled up in the chair with the cat and some cocoa, a bunch of comfort foods, and watched the ultimate pretty that is Planet Earth
Word count for the day: 1763

10 November Worked a half day, still miserably sick. Hurt to swallow, which made staying hydrated rather difficult, brain not particularly wanting to work. More Planet Earth, more cuddling with the cat, but once the soup started taking effect, the brain started working a little more easily.
Word count for the day: 5066

11 November Day off, but still sick, so most of the day passed in the armchair with the rest of Planet Earth. Got a little bit done, came up against a dilemma with how to handle a specific scene, and I’ve learned I do not write well out of order. The writing I was planning to do later in the evening got derailed by the loan of all the Bond films, on the understanding that I have to watch all of them, in order, because I’m allowed to go see Skyfall. And may I just say, OH MY GOD these movies are hurting my brain. There’s so much in me that protests, and I’m not even through the Sean Connery set. Between the constant cringing and the massacre of unsuspecting brain cells, it’s incredibly difficult to write through these movies. But, you know, some writing got done in the afternoon.
Word count for the day: 3292

12 November Full day at work, feeling a little better but still cruddy. Tried to write, managed maybe five hundred words- so few I didn’t even bother to write down the number so I wouldn’t know just how ashamed I needed to be. So, feeling rather too self-indulgent, I curled up with a book. Doing projects back to back, I haven’t just sat down and read in a month and a half, so giving a whole evening over to just reading was GLORIOUS. Of course, it helped that the book was frickin AMAZING OH MY GOD PUNCH YOU RIGHT IN THE FEELS GORGEOUS (Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight, if anyone’s curious, review will be coming up next month when I’ve had some time to process, stop drooling, and maybe if I’m lucky speak about it coherently). Should feel guilty but oh, it was just that good.
Word count for the day: mreh

13 November This was the day I’d actually planned not to write. Having the one day break last week seemed to do wonders for me, and I’d thought about rescinding it, given Monday’s performance, and then looked at what I needed to do in the apartment before company came over, including dishes, cleaning the bathroom, putting things away, and just generally tidying up. And, feeling a bit more cruddy than the day before, I decided to go with it. And by ‘it’, I mean rewarding myself after each block of housework with an episode of Castle.
Word count for the day: zero.

So, overall, not a fantastic week. Total word count for NaNo: 44, 599, not counting the couple hundred from Monday’s travesty. Near the goal, yes, but just…not the performance I wanted to put in. Would love to say this coming week will be better, but I’m still sick. Tonight’s not looking promising- came home from work, took out the trash, and now my brother is here for Pizza and Bad Movie Night. (More Bond, if anyone’s curious- Thunderball)

Those of you doing NaNo, how are you doing? Check in below!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 1

November 7, 2012 at 10:07 am (NaNoWriMo, Writing) (, , , , , )

Just a quick update here, and then I’m off to write to make up for yesterday (see below).

1 November: First day, you want to start strong out of the gates, mostly to prove to yourself that you can, and because you’ve been psyching yourself up for days, weeks, or even months. The rest of the month is for pacing yourself. It took me a little while to find the voice for this project, mainly because it’s not a new new project (bizarrely enough, in the same way that he is is the new new Doctor). This is a rewrite of a book I wrote three and a half years ago, the first thing I queried with. I love the original book like cake but when I retired it from the queries I knew I had to think long and hard about how to salvage it. Finally, after three years of finding small pieces that needed to change, the big thing finally clicked. Sharpening a voice I already love and know so well is HARD.
Total word count for the day: 8429

2 November: Unlike the 1st, had to work this day, and I’m really not good at writing after work (or getting up uber early to write before work if it’s an opening shift). Getting a decent word count made me very grateful.
Total word count for the day: 2502

3 November: Another work day, a long one, and a pounding, throbbing headache due to a low pressure front coming in (yes, my skull likes to tell me the upcoming weather). Made some words but not the word count, and then got to the site ten minutes too late to update. Not a good day.
Total word count for the day: 990

4 November: A day off (yay!) which mean I could get a bit more done. Voice is coming more naturally, so now it’s more a question of what do I save from the original while still implementing these necessary (and kind of interesting!) changes? Kind of feel like I’m giving short shrift to some of the characters, then look back at original and realize I always kind of did in the beginning.
Total word count for the day: 7402

5 November: I did not expect this to be a good writing day, partly because I worked, partly because a new toy arrived, and whenever a fun piece of electronic wonder comes in, I like to play with it for hours and hours and hours. BUT- then Erin Bowman, Sarah Maas, and Susan Dennard threw out a Writing Sprint challenge on Twitter, and I’m kind of competitive. It turned a day that otherwise would have been a dismal 443 into:
Total word count for the day: 2530

6 November: Election Day. Didn’t even try to write today. Had some initial ideas about getting up uber early before work, but I’d stayed up later than I intended to the night before, and then my blankets and cat were just so comfortable, I said screw it, I’ll deal with the guilt. Didn’t try at all once I got home from work. I made dinner, found a couple of decent sites online, and settled in to watch the election results come in.
As a side note: Thank you, thank you, thank you, to every single person who voted yesterday, or in early voting, thank you to the people who stood in those insane lines, thank you to all the people gathered together either in person or through social media to watch the course of America. No matter who you voted for, you made a difference. Don’t believe me? They’re still counting votes in Florida, and take a look at some of the other states where both major candidates had 49% of the vote and the difference in calling it was only a few thousand. When you’re looking at millions and millions of votes, a few thousand is a HUGE deal. So thank you.

Total word count for NaNo so far: 22,532. I make tweaks as I go so sometimes the word count isn’t as easy as a straight addition from one day to the next. It’s a good start, but now I’m off to try to get some decent words in before work, so I can make up for yesterday.

How are you doing? Check in below if you’d like!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Reviews and NaNoWriMo

October 31, 2012 at 11:54 am (NaNoWriMo, Writing) (, , , )

Here’s where I could apologize for the paucity of book reviews recently- except I’m not going to. I’m going to explain it, instead, because it’s going to continue for a little bit.

During October, I wrote the first draft for a new project. I work full time, had other engagements that necessitated being away from my writing habitats or even out of town entirely, which should give some indication of the quasi-obsession needed to come through eighteen scattered days of writing with 95,000 words. It doesn’t give much time for reading new things- some days I come away from my writing computer so thoroughly fried in the brain that I can’t do anything other than stare mindlessly at the tv or re-read old favorites I can nearly recite.

I’d intended November to be a month of decompression, binge-reading and not even looking at anything I’ve written. I like to let first drafts sit for a few weeks before I go back to them, and with a couple of things coming up this month, it seemed like a brilliant idea. I’d get to read all the amazing books I’ve been stockpiling, catch up on reviews, and the only chances for my brain to be fried would be coming home from work as we key up into retail hell (also known as the holiday season).

Then I signed up for NaNoWriMo, or NaNo.

If you haven’t heard of it before, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, huge numbers of people come together in an online community- that sometimes stretches to local or regional write ins and physical check in support groups as well- with the goal of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. For the most part, 50K isn’t a novel, but it’s a good start, and you have a ton of people cheering you on and helping you stay accountable.

NaNo on the whole has its ups and downs.

Some of the ups: similar to the Butt-in-Chair philosophy, it’s a way to just WRITE. To train your brain and your muscles, to develop habits that could stick with you, to find how you can be productive. Or how not. The accountability is fantastic, the community is amazing, and a lot of fantastic books are born as NaNo projects. It’s also a great push for those who’ve been trying to make themselves write.

Some of the downs: a NaNo project is not truly a novel. It’s a sprint, a sloppy mess that takes a lot of time, attention, diligence, and personal responsibility to shape afterwards into a novel, and even more into a good novel. Too many people hit that 50K and with little more than spellcheck start sending it off to agents or editors as soon as it hits December 1st. And NaNo doesn’t work for everyone- many can’t create that kind of word-vomit, or else are quintessentially opposed to creating a crap first draft in the name of later revisions if simply taking the time in the first place will create a quality draft.

NaNo requires a pretty serious time committment. If your goal is 50K and you write every single day, that’s a little over 1600 words a day. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, and maybe for some people it isn’t, but that’s EVERY DAY. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick, if you’re tired, if you have eight million things you have to do, if you’re out of town, at a wedding, a funeral, having a baby, whatever, you have to average 1600 words a day. Of course you have the choice to skip some days and binge on others, which is fine as long as you keep that average in mind.

I like NaNo on the whole, but I had no intention of signing up for it. I was going to take the month for decompression, remember?

But then…

I kept seeing people on twitter who were SO EXCITED about NaNo and the community. I saw comments from people who are going to try writing for the first time. I saw posts from authors I love talking about NaNo projects, and the realization that whatever’s conceived in this month could be my next favorite thing from them was kind of enthralling. I was getting excited about NaNo, but I didn’t sign up because I didn’t have an idea that was ready. Then something I’ve been mulling over for two and a half years shifted and settled into something right, and I realized that if I was willing to be more than a little insane, I could finally rewrite this thing. This will be my first NaNo, though probably not my last.

Here’s the thing, though: NaNo is pretty much how I write everything.

Writing is perhaps one of the most idiosyncratic and individual processes out there. Everyone approaches it and does it differently. That being said, I’m a queer duck. By the time I actually start writing a project, I’ve been thinking about it for weeks or even months. I know the characters, the bulk of the story, the settings, the major story and characters arcs, half the time I’ve even got speech patterns set by talking -literally talking, out loud- with my characters. When I finally sit down to write a new project, most of it is already comfortable and familiar in my skull. Opening up that wordfile is like opening the floodgates.

I don’t write every day. Usually it’s on my days off, a little on the easiest work days if I can come home with most of my brain function intact, and on the mornings of days when I close. First drafts usually take me between four and six weeks of stretched out time- usually 15-25 writing days. For me, doing NaNo isn’t much of a stretch.

FOR ME.

What this does mean, though, is that I won’t be doing nearly as much reading through November as I’d like to be, which means there won’t be as many book reviews. I’ll still be posting on Sundays, and likely I’ll post some NaNo updates on Wednesdays. If you’re doing NaNo, feel free to add me as a writing buddy, I’m signed up at Dot_Hutchison . Feel free to check in here when I do my updates- accountability (a more positive spin on peer pressure) is one of the great components of NaNo.

If you’re a writer and you’re not doing NaNo- no worries. Life sometimes causes obstacles, and the simple truth is that NaNo doesn’t work for everyone. Some people come out of it feeling energized and triumphant, some come of it feeling depressed and miserable.

One last thing I’ll say about NaNo in this- if you ARE doing NaNo, and if you ARE interested in getting published- DON’T SEND OUT YOUR NANO NOVEL IN DECEMBER. Seriously. Take the time to make sure your novel is the absolute best it can be. You’ll need to flesh out, to tighten, to check for consistencies. You’ll need to polish the language. You’ll need to actually research agents or editors, whichever’s your thing, to make sure that you’re querying intelligently. If you come out of NaNo with those 50K words, you’ve done something amazing. Don’t waste/ruin that by sending it out before it’s ready.

NaNo is largely about discipline, about the ability to train yourself to a task. Maintain that discipline in other areas as well. It’s something you’ll have to learn anyway if you do acquire an agent/editor/self-publisher, and you’ll be pleased by how much better your book can be.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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