Changing Tracks: From Drafting To Revision

So this week I finally finished the extremely ugly first draft of my latest WIP (tentatively called FROZEN STAR.) Which means that now suddenly I have to switch from drafting-brain to revision.

It sometimes make me secretly suspect, especially when I consider the kind of revision I’ve undertaken previously, that somehow or other I was smarter in my past than I am now, perhaps better at revision than I am now. It’s a strange thought: to consider that perhaps I had the answers…and lost them, which now leaves me having to search for them all over again.

Maybe all of this comes from the whole difficulty of switching from the freely creative “write whatever you feel” phase of drafting a book (especially first draft), to the much more analytical and editorial task of revision, where I need to assess the mess I’ve spewed out and try to find the story therein.

Indeed, in an ideal world, I suspect this is why it’s “best” (so says the advice) to leave the WIP for as long as possible before turning around and trying to revise: that time not only helps provide distance from those words you barely got done, but also allows you time to switch gears in your mind, to go from creative to analytical.

Which led me today to go back through my blog archives to look up my own Rewrites in 4 Ease Phases (click the link too if you’d like to check it out – it’s from back in 2013.) How bizarre is it that I found myself wondering about the process all over again? Oh well. I’m very encouraging to myself, so hopefully this will help the revisions. ๐Ÿ˜‰

That said, I’m onto the first stage: assessment. Eek. Just how ugly will this first draft look?

Now it’s your turn: how do you switch from drafting / creative brain to revision brain? Have you ever found yourself surprised by something you wrote / considered in the past that now seems somehow foreign? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading, and hope you all have a great week out there.

Thematic Centering

As I’ve probably whined about mentioned, I’ve been working on a thorough revision of the beastly book I swore I’d never rewrite again (I call this draft 8 because actually knowing how many drafts it’s been might make my brain explode.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, in this current rewrite I’ve been centering all revision based on a clearer and more definite theme / stated purpose.

Nope, I haven’t invested in a soapbox to preach about all the things you can shout at people about. Instead, for this theme, as I considered my revision, I asked myself a series of questions. The last of these, which found the answer I searched for, was:

“What do you want this book to be? What kind of feeling do you want to leave with your reader?”

And I started off all right with the wanting to leave the happy ending, a good feeling, hopeful, etc. THEN I hit what I was really looking for. It was only in reviewing what I wrote that I found the phrase, and highlighted it. I wrote:

“…find just that one person who understands you, who loves you for exactly who you are despite all your flaws, makes the world complete and creates light in the darkness.”

No, it isn’t as neat or pretty as one might wish a theme to be, like “acceptance” (which was what I thought the theme was originally). But instead, this is the phrase that defines what I want out of the entire relationship between my two protagonists, and which defines their romantic journey. For this book more than others, this is what helps center the story.

And, as it turns out: Me.

As I’ve been revising, with much teeth-gnashing and general whines (internal and external), whenever I’ve gotten lost in the tangle of plot-lines, or lost my way in what it was I wanted to change, and what it was I have to change, and where the two intersect, I look at this phrase. And I remember what it means, and how each scene has to reflect this. Accordingly, I also know what I have to write next.

Which made me curious, and I pose the question to you out there: do you write to a theme / guiding principle of the story? Can you draft to that theme, or do you only highlight things once you get to revision? Come on, share. Inquiring minds want to know. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading, and happy writing out there!

How Many Revisions Is “Enough?”

Yet again, I must apologize for my tardiness in posting. Last week was the long weekend, so no entry for the Monday, and with Monday’s now becoming loco-manic-days, I may switch to Tuesdays. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, as I’ve gotten back a great beta read on a WIP that I’ve revised more times than I care to consider, it has me thinking: how many revisions is enough? When do you call it quits or just move on?

Inย  my case, I was pretty sure I’d reached that number. That if this book still wasn’t ready to move and wasn’t at a point it needed to be, that was that and I’d bury it in a computer file, forget about it for some time. (Okay, one of the options I considered was also printing it off just so I could burn it, but I despite how wasteful that’d be.)

Then I got this beta read. Details, salient points I agreed with, but which really made concrete where and how it needed to be fixed where previously most suggestions had been too vague. And suddenly I could once more “see” the book I’d dreamed of, consider new possibilities. And even more? The characters are talking to me again, whispering their own suggestions for how this story can finally become what it was always meant to be.

So how many revisions does that make? As many as it takes. Just so long as you’re still willing.

It would be impossible for me to go back to this book without this new injection of enthusiasm – something I thought I’d never find for it again. And lo and behold, there it is. I still love this story. I still think there’s something I can fix, a way I can help my characters “live” their life and achieve their happily ever after. So know what I’m going to do? Tear it apart, and start writing again. Which is where I’m off to now.

What about you? How many revisions do you think it needs? What have your experiences been?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a great reading week. ๐Ÿ™‚

Choosing Perspective: First Person vs Third

The gobbledygook mess that is my current WIP is throwing more challenges my way. I had problems writing the heroine’s voice so I changed to first person and wrote the next 3/4 of

Still waiting to see if my primroses survived the winter.
Still waiting to see if my primroses survived the winter.

the novel that way … and now I think I’ve changed my mind. The question is why this is worth the extra work this will require (although why I keep changing my mind about everything is a good question too. However, no answer to that just now.)

The issue is first person vs third person perspective. And the limits and strengths of both.

An obvious strength of first person perspective is clearly allowing your reader to truly experience the story and experiences through your character. I also found it easier to get into their head when I was able to use the pronoun “I.” Even in works where I have written in third person, for some reason I sometimes find it easier to get into first person POV (point of view) to be able to literally get in my character’s head. This can allow for some very “in” jokes, and perhaps I was influenced to try out first person POV because I’ve been reading some great books (like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Grave series by Darynda Jones, and the dragon books by Katie MacAlister.)

That said, the reason I’ll be changing to deep third person is because I’m finding first person rather limiting. And, even in those great books, especially when it comes to romance, I’m frustrated that the non-POV character (usually the male lead) becomes a bit “shadowed.” Even when you try to show their experience and have them share their story with the heroine in her perspective, it remains the heroine’s story. Frankly, this is a problem for me because I believe a romance should be about both of the characters, showcase both of their stories (even if one has greater obstacles and a more significant character development arch), and allow the reader to see how both characters find love.

The other problem: despite the many issues I’m having with this current WIP (work in progress), somehow or other this is my favorite hero I’ve created so far. In truth, I probably like him more than the heroine, and I can’t bear for his story to be neglected.

To me, the choice of perspective (even choosing which character’s perspective a particular scene is written in), always comes down to who has the most at stake. And in this case, while my heroine perhaps has the most at stake, my hero still has something to lose (and gain) as well, and I think it’s only fair he gets to share the stage equally.

Of course, I’ve frequently been known to be wrong (and change my mind). ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, to you: Have you read a book written in first person perspective (written completely using the “I” pronoun like a confessional almost), where other characters came through extremely vividly? If so, would you mind sharing the titles?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re all having a fantastic week out there. It looks like spring has finally decided to arrive. ๐Ÿ™‚

Crap, Crap, Everywhere: How to Find Perspective When You Think the Pages Stink

Yep, I’m still in revisions. And this post is late today (sorry about that!).

I’m at the point where it feels like revisions will never, ever end and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It was turned off last Tuesday. Or maybe back in December …

Anyhoo, I’ve been going through my pages making notes for yet another round of revisions, and frankly, things are worse than I thought. And when that sort of thing happens – especially when you’ve been working on the same piece for too darned long – it can lead to a slippery “everything sucks” path. Yes, I’ve been there. Many of us have been.

So, how to avoid that slippery-nastiness and stay high and dry on your quest for an awesome rewrite? Here are my five tips to find perspective:

  1. Have someone else look at it.ย  Sometimes, we’ve read our own words so often that they literally blur before our eyes. That’s where critique partners and groups come in. Polish the pages as well as you can fairly quickly, then send them out.ย  This gives you distance and time away while they’re in someone else’s hands, and when you get back, you may find out things aren’t as bad as you thought.
  2. Step away from the pages … Yes, I mean you. Leave them the heck alone! Other times, leave the darned thing alone for a little while. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, beating your head against the same wall day after day will give you a headache. Instead, leave it be and let your sub-conscious stew on things for a day or two, maybe longer. Who knows what it will come up with (though I’m hoping for something awesome.)
  3. Work on something else. Like the first two sections, this is to give you some distance away from the stories, away from the same words you’ve looked at too many times, poked and prodded to no avail. Instead, work on something else – another novel, plotting, flash fiction, maybe non-writing – anything to get your mind flowing out of the stuck-in-peanut-butter section, and towards something more positive and productive.
  4. Remember to highlight the positive as well as negative. If you critique for others, I certainly hope you don’t just point out everything you don’t like about a piece, since that’s a big downer. So remember to point out the bits that you do like, too, and give yourself the same kind of critique you give others.ย  Remind yourself what is working… and hopefully those sections can survive the revision and get even stronger.
  5. Be nice to you. Yes, let out the annoying inner-editor, but don’t get flayed alive. There will be parts that will suck. A lot. But it can get better, too. You will become a better writer. The scenes will get stronger. So while you’re making note of problems, suggest possible solutions to yourself – just as you would to a critique partner – and try to make your rewrites easier and less painful.

So, was that helpful? How do you make it through revisions, especially a tough revision? Have I missed anything important?

And hey, liked this post? Why not sign up for the blog.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. As for me, back to work!

Revision and Plotting: Do as I say, not as I’ve done (pt 2)

As promised, here are the last 5 tips, or my advice on writing that sometimes, I’ve had a hard time remembering, and other times, has been learned the hard way. (for part 1 of this post, see: Revision and Plotting: Do as I say, not as I’ve done (pt1). Hope it helps!

  1. It’s your story. Protect it. Only you can tell your unique story, and while others will try to help you – and you need to accept some changes – beware of them trying to change the direction of where it’s meant to go. Certainly you can change your mind, but protect the essence, the little nugget and vision you had of it, which is what makes it yours and unique.
  2. Be open to critique. Understand it’s part of the process, and it will make your writing better. Remember point 6 and 7 when considering what critique to accept or reject, but critique is the only way to really gauge the reaction of your reader and what your writer is successfully conveying.
  3. Make yourself a revision road-map, and clear goals. I can’t tell you how much difference this has made to the revision process. It means you’ll hopefully have to go through fewer drafts, it makes clear the weaknesses and strengths, AND it will keep you going when things start to get hard. (For more on this, check out my post on revisions: Light at the end of the Tunnel: Revision Pt. 1 & 2)
  4. Breaks are not evil. You need to rest, or you’ll burn-out and crash. I’m terrible at this one, but I’m getting better. Remember, your brain needs breaks sometimes too, allowing it to refuel. Taking time to nurture yourself will only make you stronger – and doesn’t have to mean lack of productivity. Because …
  5. Just get writing, already! Above all else, worrying about writing, fretting you can’t find the time, it’s not good enough, taking too many courses, allowing in too much input, etc, etc, what you HAVE to do is get writing. Because that’s the point of all this, right? Sometimes all you need to clear your head is to stop worrying about everything else, and just allow the words to flow from you. You can worry about everything else later – and I’ll bet you’ll be less stressed about it after a productive writing session. I know I go kind of batty if I haven’t been doing enough writing. For most of us, it’s a part of who we are, and to deny it is foolish.

So, have I missed any tips / mistakes you make? Want to share so everyone else can avoid them? Come on, giving advice is SO much easier than taking it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Revision and Plotting: Do as I say, not as I’ve done, Pt 1

Do you ever have a moment when you pray to whatever you believe in that maybe, just maybe, you’ll start getting smarter? That maybe you’ll stop making the same ridiculous mistakes again and again, ever after making your life more difficult?

I do. Especially when it comes to my writing. As with many things, it’s so much easier to give advice than take it. So, I’m going to suggest ten things I know about writing that you SHOULD do … and which sometimes I’m not smart enough to remember.

  1. ย Plot the damned book. No, I don’t mean you have to use a spreadsheet and know every detail of every scene, or remember each day of your fictional character’s life (although if that’s for you, go for it). What I am saying is have some kind of a plan. Maybe it’s just an idea of a direction that you jot notes about. Maybe you opt for the “25 things that have to happen” list, or just the major turning points, but if you give yourself a bit of a road map, you make your life SO much easier, especially when it comes time for revisions. Yes, I have started with no idea where I’ve been going, and I’ve written detailed plot cards; the first is too little for me, the second too much (I get bored). Which leads to my next point …
  2. Plot and write in YOUR way, not the method that works best for Mr. Bestseller or Ms. NewYorkTimes. Certainly, as you grow and learn your craft, your methods will likewise change and evolve. That’s great. They should. And who knows, maybe you will write and plot like other writers … and maybe you won’t. Don’t worry about it so much, and just get on with the writing and discovering your own method. Which means …
  3. Never stop learning. Take courses, read books, talk to other writers. I think it’s dangerous to suddenly reach a point where you feel you have nothing left to learn. Why, are you perfect? How did that happen? And if you are, where are you supposed to go from there? Your books might still be good, but they’ll never get any better, which personally, sounds boring. So, keep learning, keep trying to expand yourself however you can. Sometimes you’ll learn / realize something that will knock you back on your butt, but that’s okay, it’s just a growing pain.
  4. Avoid information overload. Respect your own intuition, too. Okay, so once you’ve read all those books, it can be really easy to think, gee, I’m not doing ANY of those things, and I must be terrible, I have to change how I’m doing this, I better try that … Stop. Consider. Are there areas in your writing (craft, methods, etc), that you know need improvement? Than maybe some change is needed. However, don’t change everything just for the sake of change. Some of what you were doing was probably working for you, and if it’s getting the results you want, don’t toss it needlessly.
  5. Know what input to accept, and what to reject.This is something that takes confidence and belief in yourself, and which changes over time. It applies to critiques, workshops, classes, knowledge in books. Before accepting – or rejecting – anything just because, let it sink in for a bit. Some will stick, and feel right. Others … won’t, so let them float away and disappear. Which leads to …

A break for the week, since this post is growing too long! Next week I’ll have the final 5 things you can do and hopefully avoid my mistakes.

Meanwhile, what mistakes / tips would you share? Come on, it will be cathartic.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

  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.ย  Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Happy writing!

It’s a Mad World – In the Real and Fictional World

Last week I finished the rough draft of my latest WIP; it’s a total mess. Today was a doctor’s appointment for the kidlet, meaning I had to drive into town, braving the idiots on the road who clearly place a higher value on their own time – and lives – above all else. Then I check out Yahoo news and there are articles about a school selling an art text book for $180 that has no pictures, and the now-defunct company, Zellers, looking for a new home for their mascot, Zeddy. Oh, and don’t forget the woman who was arrested in Texas for letting her kids play outside.

Lego store in the Disney Marketplace in Orlando, Florida – taken by me, August 2010 – art imitates life?

Looking at this, just how bad can my fictional world be? Or, how confused and bizarre does it have to be if art imitates life?

Oh, sure, in my initial revision notes I have questions like: “define her species here,” and “assume by this point that hero is completely unlike what he was supposed to be at the outset.” But at least I can change and revise – and make that world have an order and logic.

The real world doesn’t seem to want to play by those rules. Or maybe we just take too great an interest in the surreal and the bizarre – which means this is what we make note of, what makes it into top news, why people report on it in the first place.

Which leads back to fiction: do we have a need to find order in fiction? If we’re writers, to create that order? Are we searching for it in our reading? Should art reflect life, or does it have to be something else, possibly something better?

I wonder if perhaps this depends on where you are in your life and what you read. I love happy endings and romance because I’m not entirely convinced that happens in real life. I don’t want to read about horrible things continuing to happen to people until they finally succumb because I can turn on the news or read a newspaper to hear about that – and unfortunately, those people can’t be saved in revision.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week.