Thinking Ahead… Revisions

Post-it notes

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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!

Happy Dance Milestone in WIP

Writing

I have to share my happy dance moment today. My WIP (work-in-progress) that I’ve been working on for almost a year (ouch, hurts to admit its taken that long) is 65,000 words right now (200 pgs), and is about 3/4 of the way done.

Woo hoo!

It’s a contemporary romance (with a hint of suspense) about a springboard diver who has an accident, ends up in coma for 3 months, and when she wakes up, discovers that her life plans are taken. Stolen, really, by her rival: her NCAA title, her dream job, and the man she’s had a secret crush on for years. As she recovers and tries to pick up the pieces of her drastically altered life, she fights between finding (or settling) on different dreams, or trying to fight for the ones she had before.

I won’t give away the ending (because what kind of writer/aspiring author would I be if I did), but was the injury an accident, or sabotage?

(And by the way, I used to a springboard diver, so I’m qualified to write about that sport. They say, “Write what you know.”)

I shared this piece of accomplishment with my writer’s group buddies (Greater Fort Worth Writers) because I knew they’d understand this accomplishment and how much I’ve struggled with it. I’ve had weeks and weeks of writers block scattered throughout the last year, and had to go back and revamp several aspects of this manuscript as I discovered major flaws. (Which my writers group helped me find.) They’ve supported me, pushed me, motivated me, and *cracked the whip* to get my brain in gear to finish this thing.

I’m still not finished. But I’m much closer. There have been times of utter pain and disappointment with myself. Alas, I’m my harshest critic, but there are plenty of even harsher critics in the publishing industry that would give me a run for my brutal words (incase you newbies weren’t aware). And this is only the first draft. First drafts are always ugly, many times don’t even end up looking anywhere close to the final product. But many authors I read say that their first drafts are always the most difficult, most time-consuming, and most painful. Which I’m extremely glad to hear.

Because if there’s worse pain than this kind of mental agony, I might have to find another passion. (Nah, writing is too much fun, even during the painful parts).

And in case you’re wondering from my previous post about my main character having bi-polar due to battling themes, no I haven’t fixed that yet. I need to finish the first draft before I go back and fix her behavior. That will be part of the first revision.

But I did my happy-dance this morning (looked very much like Evan Baxter’s happy dance in Evan Almighty. Yes, I watched that movie and I love Steve Carrell).

I think everyone could use a little happy-dance in their lives, so I’m spreading the love.

Now, DANCE! *commence “Celebrate” music*

“Ce-le-brate good times, come on! Duh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, Weehoo!”

Now, back to writing.

Keep writing forward, everyone!

Returning the Favor

Since I’ve been under a random version of writer’s block for the last few weeks, I’ve been practicing my critiquing skills for others. I figured it was a good way to pull myself out of my void of creativity by helping others with their WIP’s. Returning the favor.

Get away to write

My local writer’s group has a few chapters posted from members here and there, so I go there first to give my advice (as a reader) on ways to improve what they have. If you’re local to the Dallas/Ft Worth area, please come join us! Greater Ft Worth Writers

But recently over the last 2 weeks, I’ve become addicted to two different sites as well that was created specifically for that purpose. To get feedback on your work and help others with theirs.

BookCountry.com

Scribophile.com

BookCountry.com I was actually a betafish for the launch of the site and helping them fix bugs, create new features, and of course participate in the community (created by Penguin publishers). It’s recently been opened to the public and I highly suggest checking it out if you’re interested. It’s specifically for adult genre writing (i.e. no children’s books, Young Adult or Middle Grade). But they have romance, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, all that good stuff. You can follow individual writers, their works, or just follow certain discussion threads on a whole slew of topics. The really cool thing is that not only writers and authors are perusing the site, but also agents and editors too. It’s a great way to get visibility.

Scribophile.com is a whole other enticement. I found Scribophile from another author blog I followed who raved about the advice and support she received from Scribophile and the readers who critiqued her work. So I gave it a shot. LOVE IT!!

Scribophile works off Karma points. You have to earn 5 Karma points in order to post a chapter of your work, and you earn those points by critiquing others’ work. The longer your critique, the more Karma points you earn. But they do it in a very creative way to help you earn even more. Some writers offer higher critique points if you post a review over a 200 words from their own Karma bank. So if you wanted, you could search for the options with additional Karma points. Also, if you only wanted to critique Fiction Thrillers, you could search through just those. Just interested in short stories or poetry? You can peruse those as well. They make it very easy to access other people’s work in any filter you want. They also have writer’s circles and forums. If you wanted to connect with other Romance Writers, or Thriller Writers from New York, they have circles for that. If you wanted to post your work and have it only visible to that circle, you can do that. If you wanted feedback on your work, but only on certain aspects (i.e. plot, voice, characterization) you can specify that.

It’s an excellent site to get the kind of feedback you’re looking for. I’ve learned quite a bit so far, and I’ve only been actively perusing it for a few weeks. I HIGHLY suggest looking at that site if you’re writing, or want to write. But you have to be willing to review other writers’ works to get something out of it. And you learn a lot that way, by seeing other people write: their strengths, their weaknesses, and even get ideas for your own.

I’m hoping this gets me out of my writer’s block, or funk, or whatever the heck this is.

Even Muses need to read for Inspiration

I’ve been enjoying it and wanted to spread the love. Have a great week, my friends, and keep writing forward!

Snail’s Progress on WIP

Golf bunker

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Happy Easter everyone! And even if you aren’t Christian, I wish you peace and love.

Since I shoved my first manuscript in a drawer, I’ve been trying to focus more attention on my current Work In Progress (WIP). I’m up to 58K words, which is just a little over half way. Inquiring friends and family always ask me how far along I am in the novel (just like they do when you’re pregnant, “How far along are you?” “Oh I’m at 28 weeks.” And how we always answer in weeks, instead of months like normal people.) And I realized something.

I have been at the half-way point in my WIP for about 2 months. That is extremely frustrating. In 2 months, one would think I would have gotten a little further. Probably to the 2/3’s mark, or 3/4’s even. But no. I realize I’m still only halfway. That’s like being stuck in the vomiting and constipation phase of pregnancy for the whole nine months.

Good lord, am I rambling in my WIP? Just like I ramble in my blog posts?

The only thing that means is that I will have a crap load of editing and revising to do when this thing is done. Bummer. But that’s just par for the course as a writer. Par for the course… Completing an 18-hole course slower than a snail. Yep, that’s me. A snail. But I hope a pretty snail with minimal (if any) slime that doesn’t run into any water traps or bunkers on my trek through the literary golf course.

But granted I’ve been working out the battling themes in this piece at the same time (a big sand trap), and I’m sure that’s also taking some of the focus away from actually writing. (Not to mention a 2.5 year old who has rebelled against naps and declared anarchy in this house. Which he can get away with because he’s so freakin’ cute.)

But I have been getting good feedback from fellow critique partners (thanks Greater Ft Worth Writer’s group) and critique sites (Scribophile) that I’m on the right track. I have a good story line, and that to me is always the first step. The story line. Goes back to my need for outlines and planning, since I’ve never been a pantser writer (I envy those people). I wonder if snails are planners. Probably not. Since they go so slow, the path they plan on changes constantly so they have to be able to adapt and change plans.

So I must be the first Planning Snail in existence. Not sure if I like that title. I’d rather be the bunny. 😉

Happy Easter everyone, and keep writing forward.

Romance Manuscript Woes – Final Swan Song

Another bird portrait. The white swan from Aub...

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I had to sit on this thought for the last week. I didn’t want to make any rash decisions on this, considering that I’ve worked five years (off and on) on my first manuscript. But last weekend I received another rejection on my full manuscript submission to a literary agent. I appreciated her thoughts on my work, and that she actually spent the time to personalize her rejection, inform why it didn’t work for her and gave me specific examples on what didn’t jive.

But it still hurt. A lot. No one likes to hear their first baby (granted, just a piece of literature) is unliked. The unpopular manuscript in class. But as I sit back and reread her rejection email over and over like a deranged mother, I realize it has a lot in common with another personalized rejection letter I received a few months ago from another agent. Both reference issues with voice and style (in one form or another). And any writer, or aspiring writer can tell you that’s not something that can be fixed overnight. Not even over a weekend or month. It can take some writers years to develop their voice. And that thought crushed my motivation.

After spending five years on my first manuscript, and now I’m halfway through my second story, having to spend MORE years trying to develop my style and voice before acquiring an agent is the epitome of frustrating. So I’ve stewed over this for the last week, discussed it with my husband and perused the blog tours for more insight. And I believe I’ve come to a heart-breaking decision.

I need to shove my first baby in a drawer and let it alone. It has sung its final swan song.

Maybe down the road when I’m more experienced and have a more developed voice I can go back and rewrite it *gasping and sobbing at the thought of starting from a blank slate*.  Maybe I’ll have a better chance with this second story I’m writing. I’m not too far into this manuscript that I can’t go back and fix some things relating to my voice.

I’m not being overly dramatic in my decision. Just two rejection notices and I give up on it? Absolutely not. This is after probably 40 rejections on this thing over the years (between publishers and agencies). I’ve given this manuscript a good run. The story is great, the plot is well-developed and I really like the characters. It was all about voice. Probably just sheer lack of experience in putting words onto a page. And that’s what hurts the most. That’s what a writer does. Puts words on a page. And if I’m having the biggest problems with that aspect, then what does that say about me as a writer?

My motto has always been to keep writing forward. And I will. But it’s been a little harder this week. After all, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. And if I’m practicing bad writing, that’s exactly what I’ll be: a bad writer. And I don’t handle failure well.

So here I go: keep pushing forward, no matter how much muck and sludge I have to plow through. Keep writing forward.