Back to Work!

Right, the first NAC of the USFA fencing season is coming up next month and it’s time to get back to work.

USFA work? Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t want to get started on the new season—it’s just that the work I do with USFA never really stopped, what with the tournament summit meeting in Colorado Springs in August (we’ve still to see what will come of that), figuring out BC staffing for the new season, creating a committee to create a formal structure for BC recruiting and development, proofreading the latest version of the Athlete Handbook, and other fencing and TC odds and ends.

What I’m getting back to work on now is my poor neglected Emmy and the mystery novel she’s the protagonist of. I wrote the first draft almost two years ago, but when I started as chair of the TC, I deliberately put off further work on the book for about a year, while I figured out what the TC was all about.

Now I’m getting back to work. Since I wrote the original draft in late 2009, I’ve read through it several times, making corrections and tweaking a few scenes here and there, but haven’t really looked at how the overall story works. Over the Labor Day weekend, I put the current draft into the newest version of Scrivener, the writing software I (and apparently many, many other writers) use, and split it down into scenes.

Two things happened once the manuscript was there in all its constituent parts in Scrivener. First, I was once again utterly entranced with Scrivener: it’s so good at what I need it to do that I just do what I want to do with the story, without worrying about finding the right macro or the command buried four or five menu levels down from where it ought to be (something I always seemed to be doing when I used Word).

Second, I discovered what a huge load of work I have yet to do before anybody else gets to read it. After I broke the book up into its scenes, I went through the whole story, writing up synopses for each scene, and discovered that doing so makes the weaknesses completely obvious. When I couldn’t describe what happens or what a scene is for (character development or a transition, say), I saw immediately that something needed fixing.

Scrivener lets you make all sorts of notes and comments, which is wonderful for keeping track of what needs doing at any specific point, and it lets you take multiple snapshots of the whole or pieces, so you can change things radically and still be able to revert to any previous version if the changes don’t work.  It also lets you look at scene synopses as index cards which you can rearrange. And when you rearrange the cards, you’ve also rearranged your manuscript to match, without cutting and pasting or juggling multiple windows.

So I’ll be spending most of this month and next happily reworking this story. Then after I spew out a first draft of the next book (same protagonist—there’s so much potential for homicide in the fencing world) in November for NaNoWriMo, I’ll reread the reworked version of this one to see if it’s ready for a few outside readers.

And through it all, I’ll probably drive my husband nuts babbling about how cool Scrivener is and how much easier it makes my writing process. (I can see it already—multiple dinner conversations about whether I love using Scrivener more than he loves using Rhino, the 3D design software he uses and frequently enthuses about.)

An almost-Olympian

Emma Michelle Morrison was about to become an Olympian when a disastrous injury in her last domestic tournament before the Games knocked her off the American women’s saber team. Devastated, and burned out after years of competition, she retreated completely from the fencing world into grad school.

You don’t remember Emmy Morrison?

There’s a good reason for that—she’s a figment of my imagination, the protagonist of a murder mystery set at a US Fencing Summer Nationals. At the moment, she’s only half-formed, a cartoon wandering through the second-and-a-half draft of the manuscript, but she’s becoming an interesting character in this version.

For this draft, I’m changing the point of view from limited third-person (“she wondered whether the coffee stand was open yet as she stomped through the hotel lobby”). In the first draft, I didn’t yet know enough about either the plot or Emmy herself to do more than sketch out the basic story. This version, though, lets Emmy tell the story in her own words as the narrator.

I’m not sure the finished story will end up being told in Emmy’s voice, but I’ll learn a lot more about her and how she thinks and acts in the process of writing this draft, which can only make the story better.