Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning For Writers

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Ahh, can you feel it? Spring is in the air and while we're chasing down those dust bunny's it's a good idea to clean out our writing as well. We can do this in several ways.

  1. Literally. We can clean our space. Do you have a certain place you like to write? If you're anything like me you collect papers and all sorts of things that clutter your desk. Go through it all and organize! There's nothing like a clean workspace to make you feel comfortable. 
  2. Clean our desktop. I have about a million files on my computer that have to do with writing. I have two million versions of every manuscript not to mention power points and notes and random things... I regularly try to go through and make sure things are in the right folder. AND very importantly that I have the latest versions of everything backed up. 
  3. Finally we have to clean up our manuscripts! Whatever you're working on it's important to go through and do a pass for spelling and grammar. Make sure your formatting is correct and up to date. Be sure to eliminate extraneous words like adverbs and extra adjectives that aren't needed. That same refreshing feeling of clean will help your manuscript as well. No matter how many times you've been through this, it's still an important step! 
Anything else we can clean out having to do with writing? 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Post Critique Polish

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We've gotten our manuscripts back from our readers now and dealt with the shock of finding out they weren't perfect (see pic). Time to dive back in. The way I do it? I open one document at a time and go through it side by side with mine, stopping to address each comment/change. 
That doesn't mean I do whatever they say. It means I think through WHY they said it and see if it makes sense. Most of the time I pop myself on the head and think, OF COURSE! Sometimes, I hesitate. If I hold off I still make a note of it and when I get to the next one I see if something is marked in the same area. If it is, or if it's something different but in the same section, I take a look at that part and see if I can find yet another reason a reader may be getting caught at that part because chances are if more than one person finds a problem, something is wrong. 
When I'm all done with that, I go through one last time for simple catches and to make sure it reads smoothly. I might do several things here. I might read it out loud. I might put it on my Kindle and read it like a book because that can reveal things that I didn't catch on the computer. Or I might print it all out on paper and go through. Seeing it in different ways like these can prompt something in our brains that helps us see it in a new light. 
If you aren't sure you're done, put it away again for a good long rest. Okay, even if you ARE sure you're done, put it away for a good long rest then read it again. If you are satisfied, go back to step one, take out your summary and start working on that query! If you have an agent, then send it to them. If you're self publishing, I don't know! What's the next step? The editor I suppose. If anyone wants to weigh in on this please let us know. 
And don't forget the chocolate. Especially when you look like the kitty above.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting Critiques

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So we've written and revised our novel until we can't see straight. Now it's time to let others take a look. It's not always easy to find the right critique partners. I've been very lucky in that department. I find what works best for me are Beta Readers. Those that will take a look at the thing as a whole and give me honest feedback. I know it's nerve-wracking, but in truth, how can you expect a million readers to like it if you're afraid to get feedback from a few writers who know what they're doing? 
So we hit send and wait. Eat some chocolate (I probably support the chocolate industry a little too much, huh?) and... IMHO start a new project which will take our minds off of it. 
At this point I have to pause and give a shout out to my two closest writer friends and beta's - Julie Musil and Leslie Rose! And I couldn't forget Martina Boone either. They all have fabulous blogs, so if you haven't visited you should. 
I'm skipping ahead now to the point where we get our notes. Take a deep breath then dive in. Try not to be defensive and remember they're trying to help! 
But you'd thought you'd fixed everything! And now there's red everywhere and it feels like you have to start from scratch... 
Not true. You're foundation is still there. Think of it as icing on the cake. Or better yet - what if you forgot to add the eggs??? Better go back and fix that! It's worth it in the end. So Take a look at each comment carefully. Don't dismiss the good ones. Those are patting you on the back for everything you do well! Sometimes as a critiquer I take it for granted that my partner will know she's good at something - but the truth is we ALL like to be reminded of what's working, so don't ever forget those comments!
If you need to, take a break again, and think it through. Let it sit. If you still have a gut problem with one of the comments (not ALL just one or some or something else may be going on) then see what the others say. If two comments are in conflict? Pick the one you prefer! That's always fun. 
And how much do you want to bet that something in those notes will be flashing back to the niggling doubt you had but skipped over in revisions? :D

Monday, April 9, 2012


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We've done it. We've finished an entire book. We've written a full draft and celebrate with chocolate. Or maybe cupcakes. Or perhaps chocolate cupcakes... You get the idea! The next major step is revision. Some people put it away at this point for a good month or two. I say the more space the better perspective, and we'll discuss later in the process the advantage of doing this. But it's not completely necessary YET. 
If you're brain is brimming with ideas withheld while writing, and you just can't wait to get in there and fix it, I say go for it! You're going to do more than one pass anyway, why not get it as ship shape as possible before the drawer? 
It may feel a bit overwhelming at this point. You've been reading blogs and attending workshops and learning, learning, learning about all the mistakes you've probably made and will have to fix. Where do you even start? Don't panic. Take a breath and think it through. 
Everyone has a different process, but here's mine. Maybe it will help. And please note that it can vary from book to book as well. 

  1. Read it through for major glaring inconsistencies and fix whatever I catch. I take notes in a separate file at this point or a notebook for things I see that aren't easy fixes, but I know have to happen. This can include extra scenes, character issues, and timeline. 
  2. Keep a checklist and fix one thing on my list at a time.
  3. Do another read through, see if I have it whittled down to the usual suspects (e.g., extra adverbs and useless words). 
  4. Make a pass for each major thing. One for extraneous words, one for sentence structure, one for world building, etc. Whatever it is I know from past experience (or research) I need to work on. 
*One HUGE tip I can offer is this. If you think something might be an issue even for a second... it probably is. Change it now instead of waiting for it to come up later. 

When I've exhausted myself and can no longer see straight, or when I keep changing tiny words here and there, I know this phase is over. My "rough" draft is now in decent shape. At least decent enough for next week's step... Oh I'm so mean! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rough Draft Love

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Now that we've prepared for our amazing novel, the next step is to actually write it! Exciting, no? This is the rough draft stage. And for those that may be new to the craft, be warned, no matter how AMAZING your book it, it's still a rough draft. Never jump the gun. 
I write straight through from beginning to end. I've had moments where I had to stop and write a scene that just wouldn't leave my head, but I tend to really try and keep it in order if I can. It's just what works for me. Probably has something to do with the whole Pantser thing! 
I'd say there are two controversial subjects when it comes to the rough draft.

  1. Editing on the spot.
  2. Writer's block
Most people say not to edit as you go. It's true that doing that means that you may never get to the end because you are going for perfection. However, I find it difficult to move forward when something is really bugging me. So I actually do edit a bit as I go. One time I was probably about ten chapters in and realized I didn't have the antagonist! Yikes. Yeah, I kind of had to go back for that one to get the right groove. If you can start from there and pretend like you've written him in all along, great for you! But it doesn't work for me. I guess that proves that we all have individual differences in process and it's best to do what works for you.

As to Writer's Block, I've experienced it. But the best cure is always the same. Butt in Chair. Make yourself write. If you do that, even if you think it sucks, it ends up working. And chances are it's not as bad as you thought when you actually look at it. Any writing time is good. It all helps and contributes to better craft. Actually sitting down to do it can sometimes be tricky, but if it's important enough to you, you will find a way - even if you have to take a break because of circumstances out of your control. 

So that's it! I love rough drafts. It's the exciting, what's-going-to-happen-next stage that gets my adrenaline pumping. It's all fresh and new. What's your process? Do you love this stage as much as I do?