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Posts Tagged ‘revising’

The first part of the year has been less productive than I had hoped, mainly due to serious family drama (middle son and wife splitting up) which really hasn’t taken that much time since they’re in California and we’re in New England. But there’s been a lot of time in conversation, and a lot of time lost to just pondering.

Possibly as a result of having so many churning emotions that are hard to articulate, I put a lot of emphasis on my art classes. I’m quite pleased with the progress I’ve made there.

Got one shiny new idea and worked on it for March Madness. Will keep poking at it and the teenage vampires story; hopefully one of them will be ready to go for November, if I decide to NaNo it.

I’ve made it about halfway through the Crows draft. I’m working on it for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, with the goal of having a solid though not polished manuscript by the end of the month.

May will be primarily a reading-and-crocheting month, with a scaled back Story-A-Day.

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You know how when you’re reworking a short story that has some real problems, you notice other things that aren’t related to the big problem, and you think, “Yeah, I’ve got to fix that, but it’s just a quick correction, I’ll do it later”? And then you get to it, and you start to make the quick fix?

Yeah, you realize it was a can of worms sitting there with only that one little worm tail sticking out to warn you.

Not only that, the more I pull on it, the more it seems to be wanting to unravel the reworking I just did.

Arrrrgghhhh!

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Erin M. Hartshorn
tagged me in a meme that’s going around, The Next Big Thing. The quickmeme entry seems to have been hacked by somebody with a Newt Gingrich fetish, but some googling turned up this as the main question list:

What is the title of your next book?
Where did the idea for the book come from?
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s geared to writers who are published, with a new book coming out soon, so many of the questions aren’t very relevant to me yet.

I have several projects under way that I’ll begin submitting in the new year.– short stories, a couple of novellas, and a novel titled “Overamped,” about a professional snowboarder dreaming of Olympic gold who gets the woman of his dreams instead. If I took out all Joey’s sex fantasies and all the f-bombs and other modern terminology, the book would shrink significantly, so it’s not a romance 🙂 I’ll probably just bill it as mainstream when I start to market it. I plan to start with conventional publishers, which means finding an agent. Self-publishers have done well in genres, but mainstream is still pretty much the property of, well, the mainstream.

I also have a bunch of ghost story/dark fantasy/somewhat erotic short stories and novellas to go out. I’ll use a different name for those and I’m planning to focus on small online publishers, at least to start.

It doesn’t take me very long to write a first draft. It’s the second and third that take forever. Generally the “first” draft is more of a proof of concept, to make sure the characters are interesting and complex enough to sustain the story, and there’s enough story there. So throwing out an idea after first draft is pretty common for me. Then I’ll expand it in the second draft. Way overexpand it, usually. Then the third draft will be about locating the heart of the story and cutting out non-essential stuff. Usually I wind up combining subplots and characters. For instance, in Overamped, Joey owns a small sporting goods store. In one scene he waits on a customer with a small kid. I was able to combine that woman with the mother of a kid on the snowboard team to turn two “furniture” characters into a bit of emotional trouble for Joey.

I’m not going to tag anybody in particular. If you’re reading this, and it sounds like something you want to blog about, consider yourself tagged.

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My biggest strength as a writer is that I’ve been able to come to a working arrangement with my Internal Editor — or critic, or censor, or whatever label you want to give to the part of your psyche that tells you what’s wrong with things.

I didn’t used to be this way. I used to regularly cower in a corner, figuratively speaking, while the critical function snapped her whip and dug her stilettos into my insteps. (Do you picture your inner critic? I do. Mine is a dominatrix in red leather, with short blonde hair, red lips and black nail polish, and a whip she knows how to use.) She never really went away when I stood up to her. She’d leave the room, but I could still hear her, telling me how everything I wrote was crap and by the way, I’m crap too and she’s not going to let me forget it.

It’s not a good way to write, and it didn’t take an expert to see that no matter how much it might be her fault, she was basically right. Most of what I was writing might have potential, but it was crap.

So I offered her a deal. I said if she’d let me just get the first draft written, so we had something to work with, then she could take over and we could work together to make something decent. But I wasn’t going to be able to do anything if she didn’t let me write first.

She bought it. Turns out she’s a damn good editor. The first thing we wrote that way was a strange little short story that got published a couple of years later. The first novel was Joey.

Our relationship has been a bit rocky lately; she’s been overstepping her bounds again. But we’ve got the whole Sal-and-Troy series going now, so she’s happy and so am I.

Today’s post was inspired by the “your strengths as a writer” prompt in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out what’s on their nightstand, check out the rest of the tour! Up next: Raven O’Fiernan at Raven’s Scribblings.

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11 paragraphs

The Joey edit this week progressed by a whopping 11 paragraphs. Several of them are only one sentence. It’s not unusual for certain sections to give me trouble, but this was different — in the earlier draft, I had several minor scenes with very little tension or drama; they were mainly there to show some necessary events and fill in enough time to get to the next major scene. Obvious candidates for deletion, and the main story flows much better without them.

The trouble is, the reader has to have the information, which means some kind of transitional or flashback scene. In an ordinary narrative, it wouldn’t have presented much problem. But Overamped is in first person present tense, and an ordinary summary or reflection didn’t work. Joey just doesn’t do that kind of long narrative.

I tried putting it in the form of a letter to his brother in jail, but that didn’t work because there wasn’t enough going on. I tried having him tell Alyssa. It was too much like another scene. I tried having him think about it while he was running, which almost worked.

Eventually I got deep enough into his head to figure out the main emotional thread of the scene I was tying into. He’s lonely, he’s horny, and he’s having trouble with the idea of being in an exclusive relationship. Once I figured that out, the scene wrote itself in only a couple of hours. Fringe benefit, it even provides some extra motivation in the next scene.

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A while back, there was a bit of a stir around a study at New York University about how publicizing goals made people less likely to do the work to achieve the goal. Among others responding to the study, Erin had some good points about different people reacting differently in the same situation, and mentioned how important it is to try different techniques until you find what works for you.

One of the things I noticed about the study was that the goals were quite abstract. “I intend to make the best possible use of educational opportunities in law”? Okay, but I doubt that very many law school students would say “I plan to skip class today and play Frisbee on the quad,” even if that’s what they were planning to do. But beyond that, the connection between wanting to pursue one’s educational opportunities, and engaging in difficult optional case analysis, is not direct. I’m sure the phenomenon they’re studying is real, but it’s not the whole story. If I’m studying civil tort, would analyzing criminal cases benefit me much? (Or vice versa.) Especially if I’ve got a test the next day and I can either study or do the extra cases?

And I wonder where fear of failure kicked in. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that a percentage of students looked at the first couple of cases (which are described as difficult), realized they were too hard, and just gave up. Or saw how hard they were, thought, “I can’t do this,” and gave up without saying that’s what they did.

Or succumbed to bad time management, thinking they had time to do everything but then realizing they didn’t.

I thought about this quite a bit while I was sick. I find it very difficult to transition from an abstract goal, like being the best writer I can be, to a specific goal, like, “What do I work on today?” Do I edit an old novel or start to write a new one? Would I be better off starting with short stories? What about planning for what to write in November?

And then even after I decide, I have trouble carrying it through. I either find out I took on too much, or I start second-guessing myself halfway through and find myself not working on either project. Right now, I’m stalled on the genie story because niggling doubt says, “Wait! You’re supposed to be editing Joey!” But I know if I switch, that same voice will say, “Wait! You didn’t finish the story!”

I don’t know whether the problem is worse when I declare a public goal — certainly when I go to Forward Motion and say, “I’m going to do this dare,” or “I’m going to participate in this marathon,” it’s a good way to make sure I have a stunning new idea for how to proceed on something else. Sometimes I make good progress on the other thing, but more often I find myself in the same bind, where no matter which one I work on, I feel like I should be working on the other one.

One of the things I’m thinking is that I need to break down what needs to be done into smaller, more specific pieces. Not just “work on this short story” or “write so many words” or “edit Joey for 5 hours,” but “finish the love scene” and “rewrite the scene where he meets Alyssa.” I’m also thinking that if I keep that list in order, with specifics for each project, it will matter less when I flip around among projects. Part of the problem with switching is that I have to reread, reorient myself, and figure out what I was going to do. If I have more specific information, it won’t take as long to change context.

On the other hand, this all might just be an excuse to spend several hours of planning, and feel like l’ve done something productive when all I’ve done is avoid real work.

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Outlines don’t work for me for planning and writing a novel. But on the other hand, I have found revision outlines to be an extremely useful tool under some circumstances. I’m looking at Nicky (Not Forgetting) now, thinking in terms of emotions and thoughts as Alex suggested, and things look like they might fall into place. I’m not sure how much of the older drafts I’ll be able to salvage as I work through, though. Probably nothing, which would mean another rewrite from scratch. So the question becomes, how much do I believe in this story? Would I be better off taking what I’ve learned and applying it to the new story?

I’ll ponder that in the back of my mind while I write genie smut and finish Joey’s last-pass edits. If things work out well, that will put me at NaNo ready to do something just for fun. A new draft might be just the ticket. But we’ll see.

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