See the Light at the End of the Tunnel: My Method of Revision (part 2)

Hey there! So last week I shared the first 5 steps I used in this latest revision – which is going really well, considering the mess the manuscript was / is in. Here are the final 5 of my steps. Hope they’re helpful! šŸ™‚

  1. Identify the various plot threads. Are your chapters working hard enough for you? Do you touch on more than one plot point per chapter? If not, why not? If so, is it working? Are certain plots getting neglected for long periods of time? For example, I labeled mine as “A,B,C,D”, and then marked the chapter with what plots each chapter touched on; I discovered that I neglected one of the plots for nearly a quarter of the book! This was an easy way to see some pacing issues.
  2. Analyze your protagonist(s) and the degree of change they make from the beginning of the book to the resolution. Is the character arch significant? Is there real change, or have they been cheating?
  3. Generally scribble all over your chapter notes as you make your revision road-map. This is where thoughts, concerns, ideas can be inserted – and also is why I prefer a printed version. Consider circling scenes that are up for elimination, or which may duplicate other ones, making them redundant: reference your impressions notes from your read through of the manuscript.
  4. Get everything into the correct order, and read through chapter notes again. Ensure it’s tighter, stronger, that it’s better delivering your message. This may include the possibility of new scenes – missing scenes – and which need to be strengthened. Once you have everything in neat order, you can put down the pen, although don’t be afraid to pick it up again if something occurs to you.
  5. Clutch your chapter notes – now fully scribbled on – and your impressions from your read through, and get ready to work. Now you can start your revision, using these two new materials to help guide you. Obviously be open to new ideas, to the excitement of creativity, but at least if you lack that some days, you have these guides to help you through.

Well, this process seemed to help me. Maybe it will help you too. Oh, and when you’re done and think it’s ready to submit … here’s a page on that final polish which you might want to consider too (either that, or use it simultaneously with your rewrites.) The Spit Shine.

Do you have other revision methods? Willing to offer suggestions or share what works for you? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week! Good luck with those revisions.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: My Method of Revision (pt1)

I am not someone who usually like rewrites. To me, they always take SO much longer than writing the first draft did, and I’m left wondering if I even made it any better … which then leads to yet another new draft as I try to fix mistakes still left over from draft 1, and the ones from the new draft, and … well, you get the picture.

So it is rather an unusual experience for me to suddenly feel like rewrites are going well. Earlier this week, I looked up from the keyboard and suddenly realized I could see the whole WIP laid out before me how it was supposed to be, full knowledge of how I needed and would fix it, and how it would look in the end. It was beautiful and shocking as all heck, especially for this manuscript which has stubbornly did it’s own thing from the start. I thought I’d share what I did because a) maybe it will help you too, and b) maybe then I’ll remember the method when I come to my next rewrite and actually have things go well again (twice in a row … maybe not, but I’m a optimist today).

This week I’ll discuss the first 5 steps of my 10 step method (convenient it worked out that way, hmm?). Then, since it will take you most of the week to get those done, I’ll offer the final 5 next week.

So, my method:

  1. Leave the manuscript alone as long as you can after completing the first (or whatever number you’re on) draft. This will make it more possible to look at it with fresher eyes – instead of the intense / driven / slightly mad eyes you used to complete it.
  2. Read the manuscript through the first time and DO NOT make any changes or detailed notes. Instead, record impressions (ie: this chapter worked, something was weak here, confused here, bored, etc). Your impressions this time through will hopefully be closer to what your readers may find – and which shows you some of the weaknesses you can miss when you’re too immediately familiar with the work (ie: you finished writing it yesterday).
  3. Create a chapter by chapter (or scene by scene if that’s how you write) summary with the purpose, characters, and enough information for you to quickly identify what scene / chapter you’re referring to. Try to keep it brief and quick – if you can’t remember what happened in a chapter whatsoever, this may mean the chapter is, frankly, unmemorable.
  4. Analyze your breakdown as it stands. I personally like paper in my hand, and print off a copy to do this. If you can do it on-screen, power to you. Whatever the case, as you read your summaries, does it make sense? Even to you, does it feel like something is missing? Are there sections that lag? Are some chapters / scenes in the wrong place? Where do they belong? Make notes to situate them properly.
  5. Identify your major plot points and turning points. Do you hit these in appropriate places in the manuscript? Are they obvious? Are you missing any? Do previous scenes / chapters build towards these points? It may help to identify each major step in every plot and see that you move through all of them, that they intertwine neatly, and that it’s a logical progression. Likewise, consider: could you more tightly intertwine some of these plot points, especially if they align with major turning points?

Next week I’ll explain my next five steps. Or better yet, why not share some of yours? Comment below.

Best of luck and hope those revisions go well.Ā  Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!

Affirmations for Writers

Last week I was talking about how to climb out of the whirling toilet-bowl of despair, and I suggested making yourself some affirmations. Personally, I found this kind of hard, since it felt a bit corny to me. But, I did come up with – and find – some. To get you started – and share some positive energy – here are some affirmations that maybe will help you, too. Enjoy.

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll just be one year older when you do.” – Warren Miller

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Depree

“The greatest rewards in life go to the risk takers.” – James McCormick

“Separate yourself from the road you’re on. The pitfalls are part of the road – NOT you.” – unknown

Today is the day you succeed. No one can tell your stories better than you.

Everyday, and with every word, you become a stronger, better writer.

If it was easy, everyone would be a writer.

I am a talented writer.

I guide my own destiny, and Iā€™m accountable for the results of my decisions and actions. I reinforce my successes and correct for errors. – from Shad Helmstetter*

I donā€™t wait for inspiration. Work inspires inspiration. If I succeed, I keep working. If I fail, I keep working. Whether I feel interested or bored, energized or tired, encouraged or discouraged, I keep working. – from Shad Helstetter*

I do not preĀ­sume that my audiĀ­ence will underĀ­stand me, so I make sure to write as clearly as possible. – from Deb Gallardo’s website**

Some great links for writer affirmations:

Margie Lawson.com – Favorite Quotes

*Author page for Olivia Salter – Writer’s Affirmations

**From Deb Gallardo’s page, The Writing Life: Writers’ Affirmations

The Affirmation Spot: 60 Affirmations for Authors, Writers, and Poets

 

Any that you’d like to share? Some that work for you? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed, and have a great week!

Self-Doubt and Toilet Bowls: 10 Tips to Climb out of Despair

I recently found myself whirling around the toilet bowl of self-doubt. I know it means I’m on the downward swing of the usual emotional rollar-coaster stuff, but trust me, it still felt pretty awful. This was after, as I tried starting rewrites, it felt like I had bashed my head into a brick wall enough times that said wall had bloodied my forehead and torn away the tips of my fingers. This led to the whole floundering around in toilet water.

There are some writers who claim to never experience this downward swing – or in fact, any emotional rollar-coaster of confidence (or lack thereof) and emotion throughout their career. If you are one of them, congrats to you, but this post is not for you.

For the rest of us, pop your head out of the toilet-bowl long enough to read this. I’m hoping it will help.

The quote, by the way, of spiraling down the toilet of self-doubt is not mine – but unfortunately I don’t know exactly who said it first to attribute it to them. Suffice it to say they did a great job of accurately assessing the feeling. Here’s the thing: writing – especially if your goal is publication via traditional means – can get frustrating and disheartening. And most of us aren’t perfect (none of us, actually, but if you think your different … again, probably not the post for you). Anyway, my point is that as we go through stages in building our career and fine-tuning our craft, it can be easy to fall into pits of despair, and in the worst case scenario, even give up writing or do something likewise drastic – and unnecessary!

Here are 10 tips to help you escape any self-imposed despair (I’ve been trying them myself, and my clothes are almost dry after all that floundering and splashing around).

  1. Separate yourself from the road or path that you’re on. The pitfalls are part of the road – not you. Think about this for a minute. Especially now, traditional publishing is still reeling, and it’s never been easy in any case to get your book in print-form. That’s not your fault. Trends change. The path can be easier for some … and now harder for you. You can’t know how long your path will be – only that it’s yours alone, and that you will never reach the end if you don’t keep going.
  2. Create self-affirmations about you and your writing to keep you going (or get you going again). For me, a reminder to separate myself from the road is a help. Reminding myself that today – or tomorrow – is the day I succeed. Inspiring quotes by other writers. Whatever works for you. Make a jar of them to draw when needed. Sticky-note them in your workspace. Or post them on a wall you see from your work station as I did. Whatever works to help you see those positive thoughts when you have trouble thinking them.
  3. Take an attitude break. Step outside of the current situation and your negativity – maybe by doing something fun, trying to get a bit more objectivity on the situation.
  4. Don’t borrow trouble – or disaster – unnecessarily. Remember that we have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. A small problem becomes a disaster. Step back, assess, or discuss with someone else for greater objectivity.
  5. Ensure that your self-talk and inner voice only says the kind of the things you’d say to you best friend if they were in your shoes. Seriously, the things we’ll say to ourselves are things we’d never say aloud to another living being; do yourself a favor and try and curb this.
  6. Give yourself a tea (or coffee) break. Literally, walk away from whatever is frustrating you for a little while. Lay on the sofa. Go for a walk. When you come back, it might not be as bad as you think.
  7. Read and do things that make you feel good. Check out positive books about success against the odds, watch a favorite funny movie, go spend some time with friends – do things that will make you feel better, and allow yourself to feel better.
  8. Don’t do things that will hurt you. Did you just read a terrible review? Why? Who says you have to? Do you search for disasters in the news posts? Don’t do things that make you more upset or confirm your gloominess; it’s useless.
  9. Share love and kindness. Make eye contact and smile at a stranger. Give a loved-one a hug. Tell them how important they are to you. Love and kindness has a way of coming back around – and tends to make us happier (go figure).
  10. Remember that YOU are the only one who can write your story. Your writing may not be perfect. The manuscript and plot may be a mess, and others have told you they’ve heard a werewolf / mystery / [insert your story idea here] before – but your take on it will be completely different than someone else’s because it comes from you. And unless you hold true to your vision, keep to your path, it will never get shared with the world.

Thanks for reading. Climb on out of that toilet, and have a great week.

Crisis and Catharsis: Or, Just Keep Writing, You’re On Your Way

It’s been a heck of a wonky-week. I’ve been reading new craft books, and testing out a new potential CP. CP looks terrific, but both the books and the CP delievered the news (unintentionally, both of them) that what I was taking for subtly is just lack of clarity. Oh, and the plotting isn’t working either because apparently I’ve been doing it all wrong (that I figured out myself after the craft book).

In the end, what this means is that I’ll be able to improve my writing on both a micro and macro level. What it means right now is that I feel pretty down on myself. I mean, really, how didn’t I see this before? What was I thinking? How could I have been so stupid? I must be the worst writer, ever.

Those questions, though, are useless. As they are whenever the evil-voice inside our heads starts beating us up. Because this is just a test, just another step on our journey. And the kind of things we say to ourselves – we would never say such terrible things to another loving being, so why the heck do we put up with saying them to ourselves?

Since it was the crisis portion of plotting I finally realized I was mishandling, it also occurred to me that it was what I was facing in my writing-life, too. But the crisis isn’t the end of everything; just the end of one thing. A mini-apocalypse, if you will, out of which you emerge stronger and changed, headed towards the climax. Because my life (and yours) is not a novel, it means there will be more than one crisis that we’ll face throughout our lives. It will hit us, whack us down like a two-by-four to the face, and it’s our job to shake it off, stand up, and keep on going. Because there’s something better ahead. Because the crisis is just one signpost on a much longer road. The view is blurry ahead, but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we’ll get there.

And don’t worry – the bruises will heal.

Take care, happy writing, and hopefully you duck before the two-by-four gets you. Thanks for reading.