Posts Tagged ‘revision’

Spring Revision

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

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There is something uplifting about the early spring: crisp air and hot sun or the neon green of new grass against the grey of cooler rainy days. When I was a kid, our neighbors forsythia would burst into canary yellow blooms and in it’s shade was a small patch of vinca, a spring flowering ground cover. I loved those little purple flowers so much. I would pick a few and put them in a glass of water, then present them to my father with a sandwich for his lunch.

I knew when we moved into this house that vinca grew all over our property because there was still a flower lingering here and there, but it’s another thing all together to see our home blanketed in it. It feels right and special. I miss the gardens we’d begun at our old home – lightly neglected herbs and perennial flowers that bloomed throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Some fragrant, some colorful. But the vinca and forsythia and azaleas are enough for now. I traipsed around the yard with my oldest child this weekend, searching out these early blooming flowers, discovering the plantings around our new home. We started up the grill and I even broke out my iced tea press so you know I’m committed to this fresh, fine weather.

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Spring should be the season to review feedback — see where the revisions you’ve made have born fruit, as it were — but here I am still revising: planting the bulbs late, moving things around, hoping nothing sprouts stunted. This winter/early spring has been mostly snow and sick days. I should just give in to the fact that nothing of significance ever gets written in February in my home. But the sunshine and above freezing temperatures, the pastels and yellows and greens of April are warming me up. So! Writerly updates!

  1. I wrote a short story! And I submitted it to an anthology! And it got rejected! But that’s okay! It was about a boy and first contact with an alien shaped like a tiny pink pony and it was really fun to write and totally one hundred percent different from my novel which was a much-needed change of pace.
    1. I thought writing short stories after writing a novel would be a piece of cake. I was wrong.
    2. I really want the next big project I work on to be funny.
  2. I taught another event building workshop in March. In fact, I’m making a bit of a side business of helping authors plan and market book events. Because apparently I need more to do.
    1. When I couldn’t think of how to fix my novel, I made a website for my event coaching business. I  am now taking select clients.
    2. I have another workshop scheduled in June. You should come!
  3. I’m now doing a monthly marketing blog post for the Writer’s Loft blog, Loftings.
  4. I’ve been plugging away at revisions but it’s slow. I hit a big snag with The Month of February and then working through a really thorny chapter that had me stumped. Plus planning for my workshop. But! It goes!
  5. I read some books in January and February (highlights included Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and the first few Company books by Kage Baker) but nothing much since. I’m currently enjoying the compilation of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto because I love J.C. and because I can read it in little pieces before bed.

I am almost through revising Part 2 of 3 so that is a good feeling. I need to go back and continue to comb through the rough, messy parts. I was so hoping this draft would be wrapped up in another month or so but it may need longer. And then reading. And probably one more draft (not sure how deep of one, hard to say).

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I have days when I swear I am not smart enough for this, that I have nothing original to say. I have days when things slot together like an elaborate line of tumblers, unlocking something deep inside the story so I can see a bit of light shining through from the end, from the place this story could be.

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Deep Revision

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

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The year continues to challenge me, emotionally and physically and ideologically. I’ve learned a lot about open-mindedness, humility, empathy, strength, and endurance. And this is a writing blog and so I will talk about writing. Or the not writing.

I received feedback on Draft #2! And one of the few constants in the past couple months is the time I’ve spent compiling that feedback into a series of documents.

1) A scribbly hard copy: A compilation of everyone’s notes/typo corrections/stylistic changes onto a single paper manuscript.

2) The Hit List: A running list of Big Edits and changes that need to be made.

3) The Chapter-by-Chapter Revision Spreadsheet of Doom: An excel spreadsheet with chapter summaries and the Big Edits/nitty gritty edits that need to be made to each chapter, along with the new characters and ideas introduced.

I think I’ve spent enough time collating and collaborating and cogitating and I need to actually crack open the Scrivener project file and start implementing. Eep. *bites into another chocolate bar*

Most of the feedback has been both enthusiastic and helpful. Some of it is big questions that can be answered simply – the addition or deletion of a sentence that clarifies something, for example. Some of it is big questions that need big thinking. One of the problems I’ve struggled with from the beginning is my protagonist’s motivation in the opening chapters. One reader narrowed it down to the question: “Why today?” Why does she choose to follow a stranger on a wild adventure? What does that stranger offer that fills some lack in the protagonist’s life?  So I’ve been doing some deep thinking. I’m not sure I’m totally there yet on some of this. In a strange infinite-feebback-loop kind of way, I find I do my best writing while… I’m… writing? Meaning once I am hip deep in the story, I can think more clearly about how to implement the changes that I know need to be made and untangle it on the page rather than just in my head. Because the writing is never as glittery-sparkle-diamond as it is in a writer’s mind.

(Trust me, every writer has written a perfect book. It’s shelved upstairs.)

But life has been throwing up obstacles, as usual, both positive and negative. I haven’t written in months. I’ve thought, I’ve collated, I’ve packed books, I’ve unpacked books, and I’ve read an enormous amount (midnight nursing sessions + smartphone + downloaded library ebooks = more reading time than I’ve had in a year). Soon, now, I’ll need to put fingers to keyboard and write again. REVISE. Bring out the scalpel and the needle and cut and stitch this draft into something new.

But it feels close. Closer. Soon.

 

Ps. I’m teaching another event building workshop in March! Stay tuned for details.

Pps. What books have I been reading you ask?

Old favorites:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (Morwen4Eva)

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Enjoyable new finds:
Delicious!
 by Ruth Reichl
Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Highly recommend:
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books

 

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Whodunnit or Why I’m Stuck on Ch. 14

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016


somehow writing always feels like this

I am just over halfway through my revision [*yay!*]. Today I spent nearly the entire day working on the logistics and choreography of a scene the isn’t even going to be in the book [*boooooo!*]. Let me explain.

I am going to assume that you have seen the movie Clue because if you haven’t then what are you doing sitting here reading my blog for goodness sake it is on YouTube go watch that first. It’s no problem, I’ll wait.

Ok.

In the movie Clue, as in the board game, there is a Murder(s) or Apparent Murder(s), a bunch of suspects with different motivations and weaponry, a few red herrings, and a ticking clock. These are all part and parcel of your typical Mystery Plotline. When The Murder happens, the lights go out, we hear noises, a gun shot, and then voila, lights, camera, dead guy on the floor. As the movie progresses, we slowly learn what may have happened under the cover of darkness – but everyone has a different interpretation.

The scene I’ve been working on today is similar, though the lights don’t go out. It’s a scene that is central to the Mystery Plotline that my first-person protagonist is trying to unravel. It’s an event that occurred before the start of the book. But she wasn’t there. She needs to eventually know what happened to understand the Full Implications and Who the Bad Guys Really Are but all she has to go on is the word of several witnesses/participants who showed up at different times. One or two of them have motives to lie or direct blame on someone else. Clues and Important Information get exchanged, but not everyone knows what they mean at the time.

So obviously I, as the writer, need to know what actually happened. This is harder than it sounds. There are certain details I want to be true: Person B shows up after Person  A and misinterprets her actions; Person C tells Person A to take the Clues to another location; several Persons need to wind up dead. But working out the the order in which people die and, hence, the logistics of how information is exchanged, is crazy hard. Especially since some of my characters can talk to dead people. And the dead can often fight as brutally as the living so some of my victims need to be injured or knocked out instead. There’s a coat that is important but I can’t figure out how to get it off of one character and on to another while at least one of them is alive and keep everyone in the scene together.

This is all coming to a head in Chapter 14 because I want my protagonist to return to The Scene of the Crime where More Information is Revealed. I just have to know what that information is, both in it’s entirety and what she learns at this juncture versus later.

In Clue, Tim Curry helpfully runs everyone through various scenarios of Whodunnit. I wish he would come to my house and help me with this. All I’ve got is a notebook with lots of brainstorming ideas and some fledgling scene starts.

(Oh, and a lasagna. That’s not a metaphor; I made an actual lasagna. Sometimes it helps to switch gears when the story juju isn’t working. Didn’t help much but at least now I have dinner made. Was worth a shot.)

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Draft #2 or Revising the Ghost, Take 1

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
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That’s iced tea not beer. Though if I drank beer, I totally could have used one.

It has been moons, fair readers. Like, a ridiculously long time. But I am sure you are all dying to know how The Ghost Story novel is coming along. Good news: IT’S COMING ALONG.

In November I took a class on revision at The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, hosted by the delightful and talented Erin Dionne. I had grand plans to dive right into the revision process but that didn’t really work out. In all honesty, I barely did any real writing at all at the end of 2015… I read through my draft, made notes, did research, twiddled with outlines, notecards, and all the various tools Erin walked us through. I was scared, intimidated, and frankly, tired. A lot. And so, I didn’t get cracking on actual revision until January 2016.

The first week was wonderful and terrible. It felt good to be writing but I kept having existential moments of GAH WHAT IS THIS and HOW DO I FIX and OH THE FUTILITY. It took me two weeks to get through most of Chapter 1 and I thought: This will take forever. I have at least twenty-two chapters to go through. And this is just draft two. But I realized I just had to sharpen my scalpel. I have to be unforgiving and relentless with the writing, but forgiving and patient with myself. And that revising can contain just as much writing as it does cutting.

Authors have consistently said at events I’ve run/attended: “Oh yes, I had to cut the first 100 pages of my first draft” and it always made me blanch. How? Really? Impossible! Well…

For the numbers people, as of 2/18/16:
Number of writing days since revision began: 20
Chapters Revised: 6.5 (mostly)
Word Count (New Material): ~16,000 words (50 pg)
Word Count (Revised + new material): ~25,700 words (85 pg)
Word Count (Cut from 1st Draft): ~24,500 words (80 pg)
Current goal for 2nd Draft Completion: April 30, 2016 (then a month of “polishing” before off to beta readers)
Cups of tea consumed: Countless

Want to know what has needed the most revising? (more…)

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Photo evidence

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

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What you see there is 327 pages worth of words, my friend. 327 PAGES. My kiddo helped me pick the attractive lime-green binder. I bought new colorful pens, index cards, and post-it flags. This is all supposed to make me feel confident about editing and revising.

Right.

Truthfully, I feel daunted. What if I have to re-write all 327 pages? What if I get halfway through and realize the book is hopelessly, irrevocably unsalvageable? What if my first-person protagonist is boring? What if I’m boring? What if I just don’t know enough to write this book yet.

{I know the answer: write the next one.}

I’m not afraid of work. I’m afraid of time. I’m afraid of gnawing at this project for years and years and not moving forward, of not knowing when to push harder and when to back away slowly.

Books don’t get written and shared by authors who were too afraid to do them justice. I know this. It’s just… it’s a really big binder. And there’s a lot that needs work in there. Right now it’s a foreboding mass of pages and words and way, WAY too many characters (anytime I hit a plot snag, I added a character…oops). I won’t know what (else) needs fixing, really, until I read it from the beginning to The End.

Wish me luck!

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