Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog’

Over the course of the month, we’ve covered revising tips, revising how-to’s, and even shared personal experiences with revising.

Awesome!

Regardless, I often find myself avoiding the entire process.

Why?

I have stage fright. Performance anxiety.

I psych myself out.

When I picture a manuscript, I see a intricately woven tapestry built over weeks and months of looming (uh, is that a word?) and weaving threads.

Sure, there are mistakes, knots, wonky stitches, but how can you cut out a section of a tapestry without redoing the whole thing? How can you tear apart something you so lovingly created?

Well, in reality, a manuscript isn’t a tapestry at all. It’s a word document. Words can be changed. Scenes can be deleted–without upsetting the flow of the rest of the piece!

But it’s still a lot of work.

I have some thoughts on how to make things easier. (Yes, I’ve tried these and it works!)

How to get to gettin’ when revising:

  • Schedule time to revise. (Saying “I’ll do this tomorrow or later” isn’t good enough. Just like starting a diet tomorrow, tomorrow never comes because a specific moment is never really determined. I mean, really, you can put off tomorrow for years. Right?)
  • Make your environment comfy. (Who wants to sit in an austere, cold, drafty, dark, boring place? Get your sweater, cosy socks, water bottle, coffee mug, favorite snack, and cushiest pillow.)
  • Get rid of distractions. (Turn off the TV. Lock the kids out. Turn off Facebook, Twitter, email, G+, YouTube, NPR, etc. I know it’s hard, but we survived without them before, right? So we can do it again.)
  • Open. The. Document. (Just because you’ve turned the computer on doesn’t mean you’ve got your manuscript open.)
  • Turn on the tunes. (I know several writers who develop soundtracks for each manuscript. I don’t, but I DO love to listen to music while I work.)
  • Be in the moment. (Don’t look at the entire document. Look at the first sentence. Then the second. Then the third. And so on.)
  • Copy and paste. (Hit a really tough spot? Copy the section into another document and have at it. If you don’t like it, don’t bother switching it out. But I BET you’ll make it better.)
  • When revising QUALITY is better than QUANTITY. (Rough drafts are for quantity. Revising is where you make every word count. It’s a laborious process, but take your time anyway. The slower you go, the more you’ll catch.)
  • Exercise Patience. (If you need a break or need to redo a section you’ve already revised, don’t beat yourself up. Listen to your instincts.)

What helps you revise?

Be sure to check out Deb’s response to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog topic of expectations!

Read Full Post »

Last week, I outlined a revising strategy, describing how it happens in layers.

This week, I want to address HOW to actually revise. I mean, strategies and theories are great, but when you sit down to DO something, how does it get done?

Well, thankfully, there’s no one way, which is why I want y’all to share your strategy in the comments. The more ideas we discuss, the more help people get, right?

Lemme share my technique…which can vary depending on my mood, LOL!

Sometimes, I revise using my computer. I open the document, enlarge the screen so I can see the words without squinting (I’m nearsighted, what can I say?), and read each scene paying attention to flow and plot advancement. (I change typos during this stage too, because, darn it, they’re there no matter how many times I read the damn manuscript!) Like I said last week, if a scene doesn’t advance the plot, I delete it.

I try to read as quickly as I can…not like speed reading, but more like reading in a condensed amount of time so I don’t lose the story thread and confuse details. (Time between readings makes my memory fuzzy, you know?)

Sometimes, I’ll use my iPad. It changes the “look” of the document, making it look more like a book. Somehow, it makes the words, sentences, and paragraphs seem new. I can often pick out redundancies, echoes, wonky dialogue, etc. easier that way.

Sometimes (after I’ve already revised a couple of times) I print out the document. I may still encounter lots of cutting at this stage (by then I have lots of beta feedback, several weeks or even months have passed, and I have a whole new perspective on the project), and it’s quite fun to slash a line through an entire page. I also mark up the hell out of each page, crossing out crappy bits and rewriting better bits in the margins. Then I transcribe the changes on the computer and re-read it one to two more times, tweaking as I go.

After revising the printed manuscript, I can end up with something like this:

(Note: This is not my actual revision…aftermath. But it can sure feel like it!)

How about you? What does your revising strategy entail?

Check out Sarah’s response to her question about writing expectations for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog chain!

Read Full Post »

Overhauling a 80,000 word manuscript is a daunting process. You can’t catch everything at once. That’s why revising is a process that involves layering.

Your first draft no doubt contains many writing strengths. It also has a lot of rough edges. Don’t despair! Be proud of what you’ve accomplished!

And get ready to rip and tear.

Be brave with the delete key, keeping these tips in mind. ;)

Layers to consider:

The first pass through your rough draft should focus solely on what to keep and what to chuck. So, you’ve got a cute scene where your main character has a cutsy moment with her cat. If that’s the only scene with the cat, bye bye kitty. Your main character takes a shower, basking in lavender soap. FAB. But if she’s not joined by the hottie who she’s jonesing for or she’s not washing blood out of her hair to get rid of evidence connecting her to a crime, then you don’t need it.

Basically, EVERY SCENE NEEDS TO ADVANCE THE PLOT. If it doesn’t, chuck it! (I promise, it’ll be okay.)

Once you’ve determined what can stay and you’ve deleted the rest, then you can focus on the following layers:

  • Characterization–Have you described your characters so people can picture them? Have you made them interesting and quirky? Are they a cliche? (I hope not!) ;)
  • Consume Milk Chocolate
  • Character Arcs–How does your main characters viewpoint or perspective change as the story progresses?
  • Consume chocolate mousse
  • Description–Can the reader envision your setting or how your characters look? Make sure this is balanced! Too much of description can bog the pace…too little can leave the reader confused.
  • Consume chocolate cake
  • Emotion/Conflict–SHOW, don’t TELL! We want to feel what the characters are feeling, not be told, right? And if you want to keep a reader hooked, make sure the characters are at odds somehow.
  • Consume Death by Chocolate ice cream
  • Dialogue–Tighten, tighten, tighten! We don’t need the “Hi, how are ya?’s” cluttering up a page. Get to the point and be succinct.
  • Consume hot cocoa–whit or milk chocolate!
  • Action Scenes–Use strong words/verbs and make it clear.
  • Consume a dark chocolate truffle…or ten.
  • Tension–You need this on EVERY page!!!! (If there’s no tension, it may be a clue to nix something, right?)
  • Consume chocolate covered caramels until your fillings fall out.
  • Plots and sub-plots–This is something that outliners tackle ahead of time, but could still need a lot of revising depending on how the characters dictate their own story. The plot is the skeleton of your story, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Use sub-plots (maybe with secondary characters) to keep the interest alive.
  • Consume a mocha frappuccino.
  • Grammar and sentence structure–This is KEY of course. Vary your sentence length. Use the grammar to perfect your voice. Use as few words as possible. If you’ve got a lot of verbiage, you could be slowing down your pace!
  • Consume your body weight in M&M’s!

You don’t have to follow these layers in order, but I would recommend saving the grammar and sentence structure until later because why spend time perfecting a sentence if it’s gonna end up getting nixed because you don’t need that scene?

Lydia answers Sarah’s sisterhood question about expectations today. Check it out!

Read Full Post »

Sarah Fine (blogger of The Strangest Situation and writer repped by Kathleen Ortiz) asks:

Where do your expectations for your writing (career/skill/quality/achievements) come from? Is the source internal, external, or both? And how do you cope when you don’t meet them?

This question is SO pertinent to what I’ve been grappling with over the fall. Like, seriously.

When I first started writing, I did it for the sheer enjoyment. In the back of my mind, I mused about how cool it would be to see my work published, but I didn’t really think it was possible. As I continued to write, I noticed progression in my skill.

Then the craziest thought popped into my head:

I want to be published and I’m going to actually DO something about it!

Gosh, it would be grand to be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. I also know that’s a looooooong shot. So, to be more realistic, I’d like to see my novels make it to print and I’d like to see a fair amount of people read them.

I do expect to hold a bound novel with my name on the cover. Others have expressed the same vision.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

And that leads to a LOT of frustration for me. So much so, that I contemplated quitting and didn’t write for several months. There’s a natural fallow time for every writer, but this time seemed to be…the end.

It looked like my way to cope was to finally face the “truth” that it wasn’t going to happen and give up.

I thought about that.

And thought about it.

And thought about it.

(I’m a shrink and a bit obsessive, so I thought about it a lot, okay?)

And thought about it.

Finally, I realized that I’d given away control. I’d let the industry dictate how I did things. I let it beat me down.

I’ve never done that before.

Then I remembered that everyone’s path to publication is unique. No way is right or wrong, better or worse, than any other.

For example, I started at a community college, then transfered to a four-year school before applying for medical school. I was rejected the first year (a not uncommon thing). I tried the next year and got in. Medical school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I persevered. I got my MD. And I did it in an unconventional way. But it’s still an MD.

Publishing my work can be the same. I may not follow the path that most traditionally pubbed authors do. And that’s okay.

…I think I got off track a bit. Pretty normal, considering my general approach to life goals, LOL!

Bottom line, when in the writing game, I think it’s reasonable to expect the unexpected. Ha!

How about you? What are your expectations for writing and how do you handle it when it doesn’t work out the way you envision?

Stay tuned for Lydia’s response next week!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been seeing some Tweets lately of writers who have lost the mojo or motivation to write. Not that this is a new thing. It isn’t.

I mean, really, it’s impossible to churn out words and develop new ideas ALL THE TIME, right? Right.

So, is it okay to take time off?

Yes!

And if so, do you still consider yourself a writer?

Of course!

How do you fill your non-writerly time?

See below ;)

 

When a Shiny New Idea strikes, I often obsessively work out characters, settings, plot twists, etc. I jot down notes, daydream about scenes, and often have wicked insomnia as I toss around dialogue in my head.

Cool.

Now, when Shiny New Idea becomes First Draft Manuscript (which occurs the moment I type THE END), I breathe a sigh of relief…

…and stare around the room like I have absolutely no idea what to do with myself.

And I consider the following…

Non-writerly Writer Activities:

  • Read
  • READ SOME MORE
  • Catch up on blog reading
  • Beta read/Critique
  • Spend time with friends/family
  • Shop
  • Outline Next Shiny New Idea
  • Revise old manuscript
  • Write something completely different, like a short story or flash fiction piece or poetry

What do youse guys do when you’re not writing?

Check out Lydia’s response to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog topic of “writerly edumacation!”

Read Full Post »

Lydia asks the following question to the Traveling Blog Sisters:

“What formal writing experience do you have? (classes, degrees, major/minors). Did it shape your writing?Have you ever considered getting an MFA?”

My easy answer?

I’m not edumacated in the formal sense…well, I went to medical school, but that doesn’t really count because that’s where we doctors learn how to use abbreviations and develop our wretched handwriting skills. (Am I right, Lydia? Yeah. Admit it. I’m right. * snarf * )

And I took a basic English class in my freshman year of college. But other than that, no I’ve never taken creative writing classes or anything. Nor am I interested in getting an MFA. I’m done with homework. DONE. ;)

Not that I’m against classes and such. I think that classes can be very good, even crucial to a writer’s development.

Tell me, friends, what classes, seminars, etc have you taken to develop your writing skill? What was helpful about it and why?

Stay tuned for next week, when Lydia answers her own question. ;)

Read Full Post »

Hey, gang, November is officially more than half over, which means Nanoers are heading toward the sloggy middle of their manuscripts!

For those of you who outline, you may have developed a nice plot line that’ll help guide you through the potential muck and slush of the-middle-of-the-novel, but those of you who are pansters may be stuck.

What’s a panster to do???

Well, here are some tips!

How to get un-stuck:

  • Skip a scene or three and write something that’ll get ya stoked about the story again.
  • Throw in a plot twist. (Didn’t know your character is allergic to peanuts? Have her hotter than hot love interest make her a peanut butter cup in the shape of a heart.) (The antagonist is actually the protagonist’s half-sister? Yikes!! Now what’re the characters gonna do?)
  • Free write using the POV of your main character. Just let them do the talking and see where it takes you. Inspiration may strike and you’ll be back on track again.
  • Remember Write or Die? Challenge yourself to a timed session there and I’ll guarantee you’ll be typing faster than your mind can think.
  • Sprint with some pals.
  • For God’s sake, take a freaking break and let your mind rest! Read a few chapters of the book you’ve set aside for the past two weeks. Go see Breaking Dawn. Let your unconscious (AKA subconscious) mind work things out. It’ll let you know when the problem is solved…Trust me. (You know those EUREKA! moments? That’s your unconscious giving you an answer.)
  • Take a walk. Physical exercise not only makes us healthier, it provides stress relief, and the scenery may just trigger an idea.
  • Check out Sarah’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post on whether or not she Nanos. Then review Lydia’s and mine. ;)
  • DON’T GIVE UP.

Your turn to share you ideas of how to get through the sloggy middle!

Read Full Post »

I have a bit of a confession.

I’ve been struggling with writing since summer. Perhaps it’s frustration at the system, perhaps it’s stress from an uber-busy work schedule, or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Okay, so I generally have ups and downs with writing (who doesn’t?) but this slump has been the longest of record since I started seriously writing three years ago.

I’ve considered quitting. I’ve considered small presses. I’ve considered self-pubbing. I’ve considered scraping yet another manuscript to focus on the next WIP to polish and query to agents.

While these ideas were all appealing in their own way, I still wasn’t sure what to do.

One thing happened, though, that I wasn’t expecting.

Due to some seriously awesome writerly friends, I had a chance to talk my thoughts out and get some opinions of people who’ve gone through the whole “agent–small press–self-pub” cycle. They’ve generously shared their wisdom and knowledge with me so I feel more empowered and prepared to combat the industry.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m still querying my dystopian, but I’m also going to pull out my middle grade (which has been dormant since spring) and will start revisions on that sucker so I can get it query ready.

I feel like I’m heading back to basic training for another tour of Operation Get Published.

Anybody willing to join me?

Hey, check out Lydia’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog response on if she Nanos.

Read Full Post »

This month, I ask:

If you do NaNoWriMo, why do you do it? If not, why not?

Listen, I had fully intended on doing NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. I signed up. I had my plot 2/3 done. My mind was cooking with great plot twists, conflict, and cliffhangers. I could picture the characters, the setting, even some paranormal tricks.

Then I got sick.

Work got complicated.

“Open” weeknights and weekends got filled.

I got overwhelmed.

It was a tough decision to make, but I have decided NOT to do NaNo this year. Sure, I could use a kick in the pants to get writing again (haven’t worked on a new project since summer). I could even use the challenge to shut off my internal editor.

But I’m not going to.

Why?

Well, I’ve done NaNo before (in 2009) and was successful, so I know I can plop down 50,000 words in a couple weeks. Those were my panster days. Super fun, but they left me with uber-long character sketches with little plot to speak of. Scenes turned into rambling concoctions of “this, then that.” “Filler” chapters slogged the middle. It took 100 pages for the story to “get going.” I ended up cutting more than I kept.

Two years later, I’m not so much into plopping as I’m into careful consideration and mindful building of a solid structure.

Okay, so this slows me down a LOT, but I end up with a much better quality draft. And I’m more content.

Your turn to dish. Do you NaNo? If yes, then why and if no, then why not?

Check out Lydia’s response next week!

 

Read Full Post »

Participating in NaNo forces us to channel Speeedy Gonzales, the Tazmanian Devil, and the Road Runner at the same time so we can burn up the keyboard with word counts.

But dear LORD, how do we do it?!?!?!

Here are some tips on how to put your nose to the ACME anvil and grind out the pages:

  • Practice with Write or Die. This website sets up a timed session. If you don’t reach a certain word count in a certain amount of time, your words will be DELETED! (I’ve never been brave enough to try this myself, but lots of writers LOVE it!)
  • Make your Word document window 1-2 lines long and use a large font. You’ll only be able to see a couple of sentences so you can’t go back and re-read and re-read and re-read and…well, you get the point. (My dear friend, Mary Lindsey, came up with that one. Her book SHATTERED SOULS comes out SOON!!!!!! I can’t WAIT to read it.)
  • Connect with some writer buds and do a write-off. Pick a chat room, keep tabs via Twitter, use direct messaging, anything that’ll keep you in real time communication with others so you can all sit down together and challenge one another to pound out some words. (Lynn Rush, Rachel Firasek, Ciara Knight, and Kendall Grey like this route.)
  • Join a group on the NaNo website. (You’ll see a lot of familiar faces–er, avatars–there. Capitalize on it!)
  • Don’t think of all 50,000 words in one chunk. It’s like staring Mt. Everest in the face and thinking you’ll reach the summit in one step. Yeah, not gonna happen. Instead, remember that you only need 1667 words a day. That’s a doable number. A few pages. Half a chapter. A couple of scenes.
  • Now is NOT the time to edit. Don’t worry about nailing description, smoothing dialogue, or capturing an action scene in cinematic detail. Get the essence down and MOVE ON.

What tips do you have to keep the words flowing?

Check out Sarah’s response to whether or not a pet/person/plant inspires her writing. ;)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,370 other followers