Tag Archives: Revision

Writing Retreats

Dilemma. Need solutions. Isn’t that the key question to most everything? 🙂 Headhache

My writing muse is firmly stuck in dozing mode. Normally, this is frustrating enough. Yet a few other writing friends of mine are also stuck. In either initial first draft, edits, or the dreaded (but interesting problem) of second-book-curse-oritis.

Aha! Solution: writing retreat. The last one was a great cure to kicking the muse in gear. One can only assume another writing retreat will do the same. Yay! Problem solved.

Oh. Wait. Another dilemma. Finances are critically low. Writing retreats involve overnight stays, which means hotel rates, food, even travel costs depending on how far it is. And my family doesn’t have that luxury right now. Probably not for another 2 or 3 months.

Ok. So we’ll need to condense our ‘retreat’ into a full day. No overnight stays. But where can we go where we’ll be out of the way, free from distraction, and free to brainstorm with each other in peace?  Somewhere that doesn’t cost much, if anything.

I’d hate to take up an entire section of a coffee house for a whole day. I’m sure we’d be kicked out after 2 or 3 hours. Outdoors is too unpredictable – weather, visitors, etc. Hm.

Thoughts anyone?

Waiting for Rain

And not just because I live in Texas where there’s a permanent state of drought and lawns look like deserts for 10 months of the year. I’m waiting for the much more precious form of rain: inspiration. The touch of literary angels, letting the storms and floods come to my parched imagination.

I’m revising my second manuscript (half way through it), and these have been the most painful revisions of my life, to date. I can’t see the ending of a new thread I created, and it’s driving me crazy.

In addition, I have ideas for two more separate novels, and I’ve scratched them down with the little bits stuck in my mind like thorns. But once again, inspiration has run dry in my household. Maybe because I’m letting the revisions of this other manuscript drag me down. Very plausible.

Last October and November, the story of my third manuscript literally spilled out of my fingers, like the Hoover Dam overflow. I’m grateful it’s now out to several Beta Readers whom I trust, and know there will be more to revise when it comes back.

But this other story plagues my house (thanks, Shakespeare) like an abandoned yacht in a dried lakebed.

As a Texan, we’re used to droughts. But I pull from the inner part of my soul, born in the tropics, that craves the rain.

How Do Women Write Men?

Interesting topic came to mind during a recent chapter revision.

It’s probably for the same reason you don’t see many male romance authors out there, simply because most men have no clue how to write a woman character and make it believable. Every little detail: gestures, word choice, slang, as well as what a woman would notice first looking at a man, or even another woman.

A lot of earlier romances had the stereotypical male hero: rough, tough, very little emotion, and all action. Either no words at all, or any words were based on the Tarzan psyche (Me want Jane. Me hungry.) I wonder if those male depictions in earlier writing were because most women authors didn’t know how to portray a realistic male character.

I ran into that issue the other week. My male character said certain things and behaved certain ways that didn’t sound believable. So I sent the chapter to a male critique buddy of mine, who helped me ‘man him up.’ (Another reason why I highly suggest joining a writer’s group!)

Such simple things like phrasing:

Original version: “People are mean.”

Manned up version: “People are cruel.”

Or how they refer to their own bodies:

Original version: ‘Thin Man clunked his beer bottle on the bar and jerked up his worn jeans over his hips.’

Manned up version: ‘Thin Man clunked his beer bottle on the bar and jerked up in worn jeans over his exposed whity-tighties.’

(I was told men never refer to their ‘hips.’)

There were several other areas that my critique pal noted were too ‘feminine’ for a male character (or at least the male character I was trying to portray). It’s amazing how different men and women will describe even a setting or what someone is wearing.

These kinds of suggestions are invaluable to me. It helps me learn how to write male characters better (and since my husband doesn’t read my work, I rely more heavily on my writer’s group.)

Women writers: how do you write your men? What tricks do you use to keep them realistic?

Researching Villains

Disney Villain Swap

Part of my revisions for my manuscript involve doing more research on villains. Yes, apparently the villain in my novel isn’t developed enough, according to my critique partners, and they’re right.

So I’ve dug around on the internet to find info on the inner minds and psyche’s of our nation’s more recent sicko’s, including reading their personal blogs and websites. (I will leave the specific names of my research subjects out so I don’t get myself into too much trouble on here, but they’ve been plastered all over the national news).

Let me tell ya, if you ever need to do some research to find out how these villains’ minds work, just read their blogs or bio pages. Extremely warped!

Most of them try to excuse their ‘not that bad’ behavior on child hood nightmares, such as bad parents, abusive siblings, traumatic toddler stories, and even violent spouses, and on, and on, and on. There’s always an excuse, never accepting responsibility for their actions and blaming the entire scenario on someone else. And on every single page, they always show how great they are and how much people love them (and so should you, why don’t you love them? You must be crazy, because everyone else does). And the entire situation isn’t as bad as you think.

Really enlightening and scary at the same time!

These aren’t your serial killers, rapists, or sociopaths that you see depicted on old Law & Order episodes. These were supposedly normal, everyday people who ‘snapped.’ Some of them were parents, some of them were spouses, most of them were well-educated. Yet they were able to perform the most heinous acts, and still (to this very day) think there was nothing wrong with how they reacted. If their scenarios were played out again, they wouldn’t have changed their actions. The entire thing is freakin’ scary!

Be careful with your research, because you may not want to leave the house afterwards!

 

Thick Skin For Hire

Every writer, particularly published authors, know that the publishing industry requires a thick skin for anyone who dares enter their dominion.

I thought I had a fairly thick skin before I even started querying my first manuscript.

*insert cackle laughter here*

Now, I know I don’t have nearly as thick of skin as I should, but I definitely have grown a few dragon scales to protect my vulnerable side over the last two years.

I think joining a kick-as* critique group has definitely helped. Also following editors and agents blogs/twitter/facebook and reading their responses to people’s queries also has helped.

I received my first round of major revision suggestions from my critique partners this past weekend and have let their thoughts percolate in my brain. I’m so glad I’ve grown thicker skin. Because now, I actually want that kind of advice. I need to know where they got lost in the story, what didn’t work for them, and realize its not that I suck and should give up writing. They are not flaws in my personality and I’ve dared exposed the weak points in my inner psyche. It’s areas of the story and characters in which I need to fix.

Or perhaps we’re thinking of it backwards. It’s not that people need to grow thicker skin, or regenerate thicker bone. It’s that we need to shed the vulnerable self-conscious layer of invisible shields we humans use as a self-defense mechanisms.

Get rid of your insecurities. Get rid of ridiculous thoughts that whatever suggestions others say is a ding in your personality, or interpretation of ‘they don’t like me.’

Shed everything down the most base level, where we can actually improve on the inconsistencies in our writing. That’s when we’ll notice the biggest difference on our writing style/skills.

So throw your skin out the window and let the air rejuvenate your writing. Completely open yourself up to improvement.

All right, manuscript. Get ready for rejuvenation. Dive in!

Beta Reading Challenge

My writers group just started a new program called Beta Readers Round Table

Five of our members submitted their completed manuscripts to be reviewed by Beta Readers (myself included). Each Beta Reader critiques 2 manuscripts based on content (not line editing). Searching for plot holes, characterization errors, point of view switching, change of tenses, the bigger stuff (not grammar, punctuation, etc). And it’s a challenge.

This is what critique groups are for, in my opinion. Our meeting sessions normally focus on 10 pages at a time. The online critique sessions can be anywhere from a chapter to 5-6 chapters long. This is the first time we’re doing entire manuscripts in one swoop. And two manuscripts at that. This seems like a great opportunity to capture big plot holes and voice, flow, all the big stuff all writers want to know about their unfinished babies. A great opportunity, and a big responsibility.

When all of the beta readers are finished critiquing their ‘assignments,’ we’ll get together in a round table forum and go over everyone’s work. I’m sure this session will take well more than an hour, but it should be with gold-level content. Writers are supposed to walk away from the session feeling good about themselves and their stories. And feel like they’ve carried away a massive ruby or emerald in their pocket of exceptional critiques.

How many opportunities do these manuscripts get before a writer submits them to an agent or editor?

I’ve just finished the first of two, and I’m really impressed with the stories our members create. Truly original and completely new perspectives. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to be too critical. I’m not published, yet. I don’t have an agent, and no experience in what editors look for in submissions. But I’m an avid reader. I know what I like to see. I know the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ and I’m much more entertained by ‘showing.’ I love the emotion in stories. So those are the kinds of things I look for in manuscripts. When I give critiques, I try to give ideas on how to make something better (not just, ‘I don’t like this scene. Not realistic.”) I give a suggestion on how to make it more realistic, or better for the reader.

Don’t close a door for someone without giving a them a window they can open.

I hope the other Beta Readers do the same for my manuscript.

It’s challenging. Seeing a potentially brilliant story with vibrant and genuine characters in its most raw form- I want to help the writer make it better. I don’t want to ruin it with my suggestions that may not be the best ideas. Its challenging trying to help someone. But if it’s the right idea, I’m proud to say I helped make their story better.

Can’t Wait to Plot

So, I’ve only gone through the first round of revisions on my manuscript and have sent it out to my critique group. And I’m not stopping there.

I’ve already started plotting and creating the character sketches for the next book that’s twirling around in my head.

Some could call me a glutton for punishment, since I have at least 2 more rounds of revisions on this thing. But I’d rather get these ideas on paper than let them continue to torment me in my head. I’ve had this story idea for a little over a year, but didn’t have enough of a concrete plan to bash it out on paper.

But this time around, I’m paying more attention to the character development than before. Because in this particular story, their personalities are going to be a lot more center-stage. So for the first time in my life, I’m focusing on the characters first, and not the plot.

Even searching several screenshots of people online (Yahoo Images) to see if I can find anyone that closely resembles the image I have in my brain of my characters. I can’t draw for crap, so literally sketching them isn’t gonna work. I’m much more visual.

But I can sketch the rest of them on paper. Their goals, motivations, conflicts (GMC to any of you writers out there). What makes them tick, sing, cringe, and I can find all their buttons (and push them relentlessly!)

A writer friend of mine gave me what she uses for Character ‘Interviews,’ where she gets to know them more by playing the role of a therapist while her MC’s sit on a couch and dish out their lives and inner most thoughts. Creative!

If you peruse around on the web, you’ll find a whole bunch of different resources to help you create your characters. Character Development, character sketches, character questions… type in anything for ‘character’ and you’ll find umpteen-million.

The one I’ve used before I found here.

But clearly that’s not the only thing I’m going to use to know every inch and cranny of my characters for this iota of an idea. But you need to start somewhere.

Revise, Revise, Revise… I Need More Coffee

For those of you who are wondering which stage of my manuscript I’m in, and what that looks like:

Even though this cartoon shows working on 6th draft, I’m currently on the first round of revisions (just me looking through it), which should take maybe another two weeks to complete. And about three more bags of coffee beans. Preferably French Vanilla or Snicker Doodle flavor). Then I send it out to my critique partners for their full glance-through. I have no clue how long that will take, but I’m sure that’s at least three weeks. Perhaps I should buy them each a bag of coffee. Or tea, whatever floats their cup.

I think in total I may have about 4 rounds to go through, but if it takes more, carpe diem and carpe cafe!

Keep writing forward!

Thinking Ahead… Revisions

Post-it notes

Image via Wikipedia

Alright, now that I’ve done a quasi-happy dance that I’m 3/4 done with my WIP, I know once I’m finished with the first draft I have to start revisions. MAJOR revisions. I’ve received feedback from friends in my writers group and a few online critique sites, and I’ve kept track of those suggestions in a separate file. But I haven’t incorporated them into my WIP yet, because I knew those had to be a part of the revision. If I sidetracked myself to work on the revision, I knew I’d never get the whole first draft completed. (Trust me, I’ve done that before and my first manuscript took YEARS to finish just the ‘first’ draft).

So, I’m keeping the ‘known fixes’ tracked on another file. The vast majority of the suggestions I’ve received I believe are good and I’ll implement them. There may be a few small suggestions that don’t fit (in my opinion), and I’ll wade through those as I go.

But I think its important that items for revision in any WIP be tracked on a different file, whether it be a notebook, computer file, physical file, or even sticky notes (that could be quite a mess, particularly with a 2.5 year old roaming the house that loves to tear up paper). If you think of something while you’re writing, or a friend makes a suggestion about Chapter 3 when you’re on Chapter 22, and you’re too tempted to go back and fix it right then, you’ll do that over and over again and the first draft will take three times longer to finish.

I actually have my revision items separated into categories. I have a characterization section, plot section, emotion section, even a dialogue portion. And when I come across something that I need to change, I note it in the proper section. Something quick, so it won’t take away my time from the first draft. (Example: Ch2, Parag4- Stacey needs to have more sense of smell.)

Occasionally, I’ll have a scene come into my head that I absolutely HAVE to write in full, even though I don’t know where it goes. A quick scene of 4 or 5 paragraphs of an argument or other pivotal moment, and I’ll shove that into my “Revision” file as well.

All of the revisions above are the bigger things, not the smaller stuff of grammar, punctuation, and word order. That in-line detail needs to be done once those major items are implemented. Otherwise, I’ll just go back and do it all over again. (Which is a given anyway- revisions take several more ‘drafts.’) A lot of times, I’ll get caught up in those in-line grammar fixes and miss the bigger issues like a major plot flaw, or the feel of a conversation isn’t right, or yet again my MC has bi-polar issues.

But I think revisions (the main parts of it) tends to be the most fun, at least for me. Even though it can be tedious, I like to take the step back and look at things from a different angle. Many times, scenes will progress completely different from the first pass. It’s always interesting to see how those scenes will morph into an alternate reality. Almost like those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books!

Writers: What is your process for revisions? What do you during the first draft when something comes to you that needs to be changed? What do you like more: first drafts or revisions?

Back to writing. Keep writing forward!