A Potpourri of Revision Posts

Okay, so I have six scenes to go in the first draft. My goal for today was three scenes, which would have gotten me down to five left, and I wrote those six scenes, but one was a surprise with perhaps a little magic in it and a possible focus for one story thread when I start revising. So it’s staying for now, but the math says I now have six scenes to go.

Oh, math.

Anyway, I am getting closer to revision, and I’ve been letting the idea of it simmer in my head this past week. I wish I could say I meant “shimmer” there, but I’m actually a little nervous this time around, so “simmer” it is. I thought I’d do a little reading about revision to perhaps lessen the butterflies, and I thought I’d share some posts with you guys.

Here’s some of the treasure I found while browsing around the web.

From Robin LaFevers, two posts. One I basically intruded into her busy world and asked her for, over on Facebook, when I was hoping for some ideas about how to use software/spreadsheets in plotting timelines. The post she linked to is here. And another one here with some great questions to ask yourself before you start revising.

From Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds, this post is probably more “colorful,” than you’re used to if you visit my blog very often, but it’s very funny and pretty much spot on. (See, in particular, numbers 19 and 23.)

A very detailed, very good revision checklist from Nathan Bransford.

And another great revision post he links to, from Jennifer R. Hubbard, about revision fatigue.

I’m always looking for structure, so I like the to-dos in this post from Kristin Elise.

And some wonderful opinions/processes collected from other authors and posted at The Enchanted Inkspot.

Enjoy. And happy revising!

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Rethinking a Plotting System…Again

As I get closer to finishing the Breakout Novel workbook, my thoughts are jumping forward to starting the next draft of the WIP. Meaning, of course, they’re jumping into that not-so-little puddle of worry that even this draft, with all the work I’ve done, will still feel tangled and messy. Meaning, of course, that I’m trying to visualize myself organizing scenes, drawing out character arcs, laying out a nice, tidy order of events into which the actual words will just flow.

Hey, I can dream, right?

Plot is my burden, my battle, and my quest.

Every time I start a different project, I find myself searching for the plot system that will work. For me. Forever. I read blogs about plot, I play with my whiteboard, I picture myself with the perfect set of index cards that I basically toss into the air then watch settle happily into place…a place from which I can write.

I know that part of the “problem” is that, as a reader, I don’t really notice plot much. I’ve probably said this here before, but I can read the same mystery three times (okay, years apart, but still…) and not figure out whodunnit. What gets me when I read is the character dynamics, the interactions, the layers of personalities that play out on each other. And those are the pieces I really love about writing. Unfortunately, the best character studies fall flat without story. This, I get.

So…this time around, here’s what I’m thinking.

  • I’m going to read Save the Cat. I’ve been hearing about it for years, and lately Debbi Michiko Florence has been singing its praises. I’m going to see if there’s a takeaway for me that’ll push me forward this time around.
  • I’ll troll through Robin LaFevers’ blog posts, because I know she’s got some great plot stuff.
  • I’m thinking about index cards a little differently. Maybe I’ve missed this before, while everybody else got it (very possible), but I always get confused about who goes on what color card. I mean, my hero is in EVERY SCENE, right? So when does a blue card get assigned to one supporting character and the yellow one to another? What I’m thinking is that maybe those are the background stories, the plot lines that happen off-scene, that we don’t actually see. The events and actions that impact my hero IN the scenes that make it to the page. So I’m thinking green for every on-stage scene, with Caro’s plot points on the cards. Then, oh, purple for her BFF, yellow and blue for the brothers, red for her mother, etc. But the other colors track the back story, the arc of the other characters–what they’re doing while Caro runs around in the foreground crashing into obstacles. Yes? Maybe? If anyone out there realizes this has always been the way to use index cards, and that I’m a clueless wonder for not having realized it before, please feel free to let me know. Nicely.
  • See what I can do with Scrivener. As I go through the workbook, I have been tossing scene cards into Scrivener. Maybe I’ll work with my new index card system in this application. I do have a dread of getting all the physical index cards laid out on the floor, forgetting to close my office door, in comes the cat, and….poof! I’m not sure there’d BE any saving the cat, at that point.
  • Steal ideas. Here’s where you come in. I know a lot of you don’t plot. To be honest, I don’t actually want to hear from you guys right now. Except, you know, in sympathy and support. BUT…those of you who, like me, want a structured home to pour the stories into, who’ve managed–at least once–to build that home and have it work, how about sharing? Pretty please? With a cherry on top?

Yes, I know there is no perfect system. Yes, I know plot is a living, breathing, kicking and biting thing that resists any attempts to tame it. Does this mean I’m not going to try? Nah. I’ll look around, play with what I find, heave a deep sigh, and dig in. But I’d really love it if I had a shovel that at least has a sharp edge and an unbroken handle, that didn’t give me splinters or fall apart when it hit the first rock. So if any of you have a tool you’ve used and like, do, please drop it into the comments. With my thanks!

 

 

> Five Friday

Okay, I admit it. Sometimes when I can’t think of a good blog topic of my own, I scan the internet for other people’s thoughts to share with you. BUT…this morning, I had just barely opened up my Google Reader when fantastic posts started jumping out at me. So today, be glad you’re getting links to other blogs! And that I let myself cheat on the Friday Five and not bother counting!

  • A few things Jennifer Hubbard was thinking about that, as usual, I spend time thinking about, too.
    Older and Younger
  • Beth Revis interviews Robin LaFevers, whose newest book Grave Mercy I have been raving about since I read it.
    Robin LaFevers interview
  • Alex Villasante talks about how easy (NOT!) it is being out on submission. For the first time. Go, read, sympathize!
    What I Know about Being on Submission
  • Jo Knowles has a wonderful post about actually knowing, truly, where your manuscript is–even if that “where” isn’t yet Done.
    A Little More Work to be Done
  • Ramona DeFelice Long has started a new series of How-To posts. Ramona is a freelance editor as well as a writer, so stop in here at her first post and just keep reading throughout the month.
    A Bold New Blog Plan
  • One of Jennifer Laughran’s usual intelligent, thoughtful posts–this one on reading books by authors we personally dislike or disrespect.
    Reading with the Enemy
  • Jeannine Atkins posts about getting some pretty intense critique feedback. This is, as far as I’m concerned, the courage and strength we all need to have about and for our writing.
    One Hundred Pages

Friday Five: What’s Up Around Here?

1.  Right now, my son is off in Southern California, (possibly yawning and) playing stand-up bass in a music festival. Jazz band is first on the calendar for the day, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t get into the hotel till 11:00 or so last night. I’m also pretty sure the adrenaline is going to make the lack of sleep irrelevant! Not to mention the fact that, Disneyland is next, this afternoon and all-day tomorrow. Too much fun!

2.  What that means for me is a few long, uninterrupted days of writing. Okay, plus a few errands, a couple of work tasks, and some date-time with my husband. But mostly I’m spending time with my historical YA and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Yes, again. Yes, still. Got started yesterday, and am remembering how great it is to be able to just sit for a long stretch, thinking and taking notes, rather than trying to cram brainstorming and illumination into a brief hour here and there.

3. HUGE storm here last night. I tried not to spend too much time thinking about those big buses taking all the band kids down Highway 5 and up and over the Grapevine.

Here’s to good, safe bus drivers! There’s a tree down on our road somewhere, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be without power some time today. Here’s to good, charged laptops! This weather feels an awful lot like that lion March was SUPPOSED to come in like, even though it’s mid-April.

4. I spent time the last two days immersing myself in Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1,and let me just tell you how happy that “Book 1” part makes me. I love all of Robin’s books, but she has surpassed herself with this one. So many layers. Such an awesome heroine–complex and angry (totally justifiably) and smart and powerful, with just the right amount of flaws and need to change. All smoothly and seamlessly integrated with real history, including a young-teen duchess I would totally support as ruler. Not to mention lots of action. If you’ve been hesitating about this book, don’t–it’s a wonderful read.

5. I’m struggling with finding the right music to work to lately. I’ve got my playlist for the historical, but it’s feeling a bit old (probably a clue about how long this book is taking me to write!), and I’ve been switching around on Pandora with some Electric Blues here, some Folk Rock there, but nothing’s quite making me happy. If you’ve got any new stuff to recommend–something with a strong percussion or bass line, some awesome strong-voiced singers, or just something you’ve discovered this year that you must share, feel free to leave a note in the comments! With my gratitude for the assist.

Saturday Six: Links to Share

Lately, I feel like I’m checking in a blogs a lot, but not necessarily posting comments. I know there’s a lot of discussion around about whether blogs are on the way out, and I never know if my pattern is part of a trend or just a piece of my general business? Either way, I know there is still a lot of good stuff out there, and I thought I’d share a few today.

1. First, in case you missed it during the week, a link to my own blog–but to someone else’s post! Annette Dashofy guest-posted here on Wednesday about managing and participating in an online critique group. She’s got great stuff in the post, and if you leave a comment before Sunday night, I’ll enter you in a drawing for a copy of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.

2. Have you been following the Ed DeCaria’s Madness 2012! Poetry Competition? I’ve been popping in and out to see some rounds and give an occasional vote. I’m not a big poetry expert, but when something wows me, well…then I feel like adding my reaction to the count. It’s an amazing concept, I think–each poet gets a random word to build a poem around, and their poem comes up against another poet’s poem, written around a totally different word. Susan Taylor Brown wrote a great post here on dealing with her word and her fears–check it out. I wasn’t sure what page to link to for the contest itself, but here’s the scoreboard for the competition, which does have links to some of the poems. I think! Myself, I’ve just been watching for status updates on Facebook and then following those posts to the poems. Whether or not you’re a poet, I think this is both amazing and fun.

3. I’ve had people see me at the bookmobile, with my (yes, rather largish) stack of books to check out, and sigh that they wished they had time to read that much. Ack. Yes, I get that there’s never enough hours in the day to do all we want, but I also know that nobody in my family would want to live with me if I didn’t get my reading time in. Even so, I totally know what Jennifer R. Hubbard means about the rarity and the delight of just curling up with some reading time, not letting anything else demand your attention or your minutes. And someday, I’m going to get myself away on the kind of reading retreat Debbi Michiko Florence has been scheduling for herself this past year.

4. Until I was scanning my blog roll for links today, I actually missed this post by Nicole at Viva Scriva on getting back to her WIP after a forced “vacation” from it. Oh, so much here that resonates with me this week, plus some of the links that helped Nicole get back on track. Blog links within blog links–that’s what it’s all about today, folks. BTW, if you don’t have the Viva Scriva blog on your reading list, check them out for a few weeks–I’m guessing they’ll be a permanent add.

5. Another post I missed until this morning (okay, maybe I AM skimming too much!) is Jen Robinson’s review of Robin LaFevers‘ new book, Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1. I am a huge fan of Robin’s Theodosia books and enjoy her Nathaniel Fludd books, too. Not to mention I read Robin’s blog posts avariciously for her help with plotting. I haven’t read this new book yet, because if the car works and the creek don’t rise, I’m hoping to go buy my copy (and finally meet Robin!) at her Books Inc signing on April 4th. Jen’s review should give you a good idea, though, about why you want to read this book.

6. Here’s a fun post from Beth Revis, where she polled the members of her debut-authors group, the Elevensies, on the top three things they learned in their first year of publication. There’s a definite thread of letting the things that are out of one’s control be, well…out of your control. And another one on getting that next book started.

Enjoy the links, and enjoy your weekend. Happy writing inspiration to everyone!

Thankful Thursday: From My Blog Reader

There are times when it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the information on the Internet, especially when we tell ourselves we’re supposed to be keeping track of it all and applying it to our writing lives.

Um…impossible.

I have a long list of blogs in my blog reader, and on any given day, I can look there & find something to update or instruct me about the latest technology or publishing changes, to motivate and inspire me about the writing life, to reassure me that I’m not the only one wondering what it’s all about.

So just to mention a few of my favorites today and to say thanks…

Obviously, these are just a few of the blogs I check in at every week, but they are definitely some of my staples.

Have any thank-yous to bloggers you’d like to share? Feel free to drop them in the comments.

Beginnings

I’m sitting at the coffeehouse, having just dropped my son off to do volunteer work (his first day) at the little science center in town where he, many years ago, took after-school classes. I’m having semi-mushy thoughts about how far he’s come, thinking about the two friends he still has, with whom he took those classes, and thinking about how far they’ve come, too. (Their mothers and I, of course, have not aged a day.)

So here I am, thinking about paths and milestones and the beginnings of all those, when I bump into two blog posts in my Google reader, and I realize there must be something in the air.

Kelly Fineman is posting about the fallow periods in her writing, but she warms us up with some thoughts about how she got started on her writing path. I love that Kelly makes a distinction between when she started and when she committed.

And Robin LaFevers is at the start of a new novel and is letting us into her world with a post about how she begins a project. If you haven’t read any of Robin’s process posts, now would be a great time to tune in. And, tell her, yes, we want more of these!

I began writing so long ago I can’t remember; I thought I had committed fifteen years ago, but no that it really didn’t happen until about three years ago when I was hit with the idea for my MG mystery and got serious, in terms of both hours and revision; I started this WIP about a year ago.

Really, you know, it all blurs together, except for moments like today, when I looked at the bike rack by the science center. It’s one of those racks that’s a single tube of metal curving up and down and up and down–one of those that’s perfect for little kids to climb all over, to swing on and between. And I realized that not my son, not one of his friends, would fit on or in it anymore. I’m not sure it would reach up to their knees.

On the writing path, too, there are moments. Kelley’s talked about hers. Mine are the memories of laying on my bed as a young girl, writing a story into my notebook in that curly, loopy cursive we all experimented with at some time or another. Coming to the early meetings of my first real critique group, drinking tea and sharing words. Sitting in the workshop, half-listening to the teacher and half-scribbling notes about Joel & Victoria, the two cousins in my mystery. Reading the passage about the suffrage march in Washington, D.C., when the white suffragists asked Ida B. Wells to walk at the back of the parade and knowing that I had the next story I had to work on. Realizing, as I finished the first draft, that I still wanted to tell that story, but that it was not the one I was working on at the moment. Having instances of revelation and astonishment about story, when I wanted to dance around the room and/or type words into my computer so fast that the CPU would start smoking. More instances of revelation and astonishment, this time about the writing craft–a way to sharpen a character or heighten plot tension–and finding a way to weave all that into whatever book I was working on.

Where am I today? In the middle of all that, still, and knowing there’ll be more to come. We hear it a lot today, and probably enough that it loses some meaning, but there’s a truth in this statement: It’s all good.

What are your beginnings? Your moments?