April 26, 2012

How I Write A Novel Part Six: 2nd Round of Revisions

When I hit this stage of the process, I am feeling a little bit like this towards my manuscript:

Okay, still with me? I am going to get into the nitty gritty of the revision process now and that is the major revision that I do once I hear back from my crit partners. I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have three amazing full time crit partners as well as two others who do at least one read through for me (soon I will do a post about each of them and how they are crucial to my process because they are AWESOME).

At this stage, usually my three core critters have looked at my manuscript and have sent me back their suggestions.  When their comments come in, I am usually distanced enough from my WIP to be able to look at their comments objectively and not end up in a ball in the corner weeping, and moaning and gnashing my teeth. I read through each one as they come back to me and make the changes that resonated the most with me right away. If I'm unsure of a suggestion or don't completely agree, I'll wait for the other two crits to come in before I seriously think about changing those things. If one of the other crits come back saying something similar to the first I'll fix it, but if there isn't a seconded comment, I won't.

Once I've gone through and made critter suggested changes, I'll usually do my own complete read through of the manuscript and jot down notes to myself about where I feel like it's not flowing, about scenes that I may need to cut out or add, and about the overall unity of the piece. I did some of this in the first revision, but now that I've had some time away from my manuscript, I see issues that I didn't the first time. This is also where I start actively looking for symbolism, tone and theme--which occurs of it's own accord during drafting and now is there, but not highlighted enough. I start thinking about how I can make those things stronger and making notes about it. This takes weeks...that's right...I said weeks. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a strong manuscript. At this stage my manuscript is kind of like a landscape painting. All of the objects are in it and it's colored in with all the appropriate colors, but it's lacking texture and depth, so I aim to add it here.

I ask myself several questions about each chapter:

Is there a clear cut reason for this chapter to remain in the manuscript?

Does each chapter offer a strong foundation for the chapter that follows it?

Are my plot and character arcs complete?

Is there an obvious tone to what I've written that's united across chapters?

Have I foreshadowed upcoming events, but not given them away?

Is my character relatable and is her voice strong as is?

Have I clearly established what my character wants and what she has to overcome to get it?

Are all of my characters reacting/acting in ways that are consistent with who they are?

If there's romance, have I woven it in in a plausible way? Is there a strong connection between my characters?

Is my villian a big enough opposing force? Have I made him human enough? (all bad is not good in my experience)

If there is back story, is it where it should be and is it absolutely necessary?

Are all of my action scenes visceral and exciting, but utterly believable?

Is there any place where a scene is too long/short?

Once I've answered these questions and made my changes, I'm ready for the lighter end of revisions: line edits, scrutinizing chapter beginning and endings, sentence rhythm and, finally, looking for commonly overused words. AND once I've made those changes I'm usually thoroughly sick of the manuscript and ready to throw it out the window, but hopefully it's a lot tighter and stronger. And I am ready for a whole lot of these:

What about you, what do you look at during revisions?

April 20, 2012

My New Flash Fiction Is Up!!

It's Friday and that means that a new Fiction Femme Fatale story has gone up on the blog. This time it's mine....eeep! If you have a moment (or two) I'd love it if you took a look see and let me know what you think. And don't forget that starting next month we will be taking flash fiction submissions from all of you. The inspirational photo goes up next week. Hope you will take a stab at writing something and send it our way. I am dying to see what you all come up with!

 You can get to the Fiction Femme Fatale site here: www.fictionfemmefatale.blogspot.com

April 18, 2012

How I Write A Novel Part Five: Revisions, Round One

This picture is not of my WIP, but a cheap internet photo likeness. I promise to do better next time and photo document my own stuff:-)

We have come to what I know is the most important part of the novel writing process for me--revisions. This is where my story goes from a vague idea to a fully realized story. Once I'm done drafting and I've taken a day or two (or maybe five) to gather myself a bit and clear my head, I print out my entire rough draft-which is still not one document, but lots of scenes in different documents. I clip the pages of each scene together and attach a notecard to them where I list what happens in that scene (generally). I then lay all of the scenes out on the floor in the order I think they go in--which is the order I wrote them in-- and spend a few hours--or days--staring at them.

 I'm looking for where I can make things tighter, which scenes would stand out more strongly if they were moved around and which scenes don't futher the plot at all and must be taken out. I make a note of any place in the story where there seems to be a hole or a lag or an action full stop and brainstorm how to fix them which could mean adding a scene, adding a new plot thread, or reworking a scene. These are always the big, giant changes at this stage and I go in with a hardened heart and a detached eye--not detached from my HEAD mind you, just EMOTIONALLY detached--which at this stage is easy because I'm mildly sick of the whole thing by now. I get out a separate notecard for each scene and make note of what I want to add, take away, or change. I also number it so I know where in the final document it'll land.

 THEN I head back over to the computer and place them all in one document for the very first time. Now I could most definitely complete this entire process on the computer and I know some of you are able to do that rather successfully, but I am, unfortunately, very tactile during this entire process and something about printing it out and having it literally take up my entire floor, helps it feel real to me. I can't visualize what I need to do any other way, and believe me, I've tried.

Now I go back and add in what I need to and dun, dun, dun...send it out into the world to my crit partners--who by now have probably already read some of it, especially if I am feeling insecure and squirrely--and have them crit it. In the meantime, I try to do something short, start a new project--usually the research portion only---and generally steer clear of my WIP to give myself some breathing room. By the time my critters get back to me, I'm usually more than ready to dive back in (I'll detail revisions round two next post).

How about you? How do you structure your revision process? Drop me a comment and tell me all about it!

April 12, 2012

How I Write A Novel Part Four: Drafting in Even More Detail

I know that last time I mentioned that I write everything long hand and then type it in aftwards, doing my first general round of revisions as I go. Well, I figured that the best way to show you how those revisions happen is to show you a passage written long hand (I've typed it word for word below because I would never ask you to decipher my chicken scratches...and because it's quite possible you won't be able to) then show you the exact same passage after it's typed in. This was difficult to do mind you with out getting all spoilery since this excerpt is actually from my current WIP, so the passage is brief and somewhat general in regards to giving away much plot. I'm only giving away about a paragraph or two. Still, I think it illustrates how my process is almost like a rewrite at this stage. The long hand bit is me warming up my story telling brain..while I love some parts as they appear initially, a lot of the time I veer off in a new direction and it isn't a very calculated or conscious thing. It is my brain finally limbering up and running in the proper direction. So, without futher ado, I give you my excerpts:

April 6, 2012

The First Fiction Femme Fatale Short Story is Up!!!

I am so excited and pleased to announce that our very first short story written by my fabulous critique partner, Krystalyn Drown, is now up on our group blog, www.fictionfemmefatale.blogspot.com! If you have a minute today, please drop by the site and take a look see. If you like what you read, I'm sure it would make Krystalyn's day if you commented. She's been sweating this story's unveiling because she will be the first to put her work out there of the three of us. I've read it however, and know without a shadow of a doubt that she has nothing to be nervous about! It is a dark, but very cool take on the picture we posted earlier this week (the picture above). Hope you check it out and of course, stay tuned for our next story due out next Friday and written by my other fabulous critique partner, Stefanie Jones. If these ladies keep producing the kind of stories they are now, I might bite my fingers to the quick from nerves while trying to keep up with them!

April 4, 2012

How I Write A Novel Post Three: Drafting

Once I've done my research, I'm ready to start the drafting process. Since I'm now writing full time on this novel, I've scheduled out my drafting goals by the day and week. This is to make sure that I'll meet my deadline for the next book which I've set for a little less than seven months from now. Based on how I wrote the last book, I think this will be more time than I need, but I had to take into account the fact that I'll be doing editorial revisions on the first book in tandem with this one. Here's where personal preference comes into play. I've made the decision to try not to draft on weekends. This is mainly because I'm a mom and am trying to put aside this time to hang with the family, but if I get behind on my weekly goals, this could change. Since I can be an erratic writer: one day filling up to thirty pages, another struggling to write five, I have made a daily goal of 2 thousand words,, 10 thousand per week. Some days I go over, in fact, most I do, but by keeping it realistic at 2 thousand I've almost built in time for unforseens such as sick kids, days where I'm blocked, etc.

I try to write at the same time everyday. My kids are at school and I'm back home by ten, so that's when I start. I will draft until I've made my goal, usually two to three hours since some of that time will be me staring into space, trying to figure out what comes next. I write on legal pads long hand for the first draft. It looks like this:

When I've gotten to my goal, I'll usually try to type in whatever I've drafted the same day. As I've mentioned before, I'm a notoriously slow typer and letting the pages pile up will only frustrate me. Plus, my head is still in the pages I've just written and so it's easier to read them (they are always pretty messy) and easier to revise them a little as I type them in. Sometimes I actually end up rewriting whole sections as I type them in. This is really where my first revisions start. It's purposeful and yet it's not. I'm not analyzing as I go, it's more like I'm clarifying, distilling down what I mean to say in this first rough revision. Usually I've written the equivalent of a chapter or two in any given drafting day. I type them in as separate documents at this point. I won't combine them into one draft until I do my biggest revision, but more on that in upcoming weeks. For now, I just like them to stay separate so I'm not tied to the order that I've written them in. Plus, not all of these chapters or scenes will stay until the end. Somewhere in the middle of the draft, things will begin to change and I'll have to adjust the front end of the novel to accommodate those changes.

I will continue drafting this way until I've drafted the entire novel. I try not to get too hung up on tweaking things a lot until I've finished drafting, but it's difficult since I can sometimes get obsessive about getting things right up front. I am getting better at this every time I start something new though.

So, there you have it. My drafting process in a nutshell. I'll have a workable first draft in about three months and will spend the rest of my allotted time revising. Notice that I save the bulk of the time I've given myself for revisions. That's because to me, that is where the actual book begins to take shape, the writing to go from just words on paper to an actual story. My finished draft is never the finished product....it's merely a beginning. How about you? What's your drafting process like?

April 2, 2012

Exciting Contest

Just a quick post today to let you know about an exciting new contest being put on by my awesome friend, Ruth in honor of her blog's anniversary. Right this very minute she is offering up a chance to skip the usual slush pile craziness and get your finished middle grade or young adult manuscript seen by one of two extremely wonderful agents ASAP. All you have to do is:

1. visit her blog
2. follow it once you arrive
3. follow her directions for submitting your query and pages of your manuscript
4. wait to see which lucky manuscripts she chooses!

 If she falls in love with your manuscript you just might be that much closer to landing an agent!!! So what are you waiting for? Click on over to her blog and get going!


 And you can tell her density has brought you to her site...I mean destiny...OKAY, I admit it, I've been waiting a looooonnng time to use that line. Back To The Future was huge for me! But you get the idea, now get out of here! Go! Ruth's waiting!