Tag Archives: revision

Midwest Musings: Recharge

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Note the change in the headers above. I’ve added one for Driven to Matrimony, my new romance soon to be released by The Wild Rose Press.

Every so often, when I’ve been driving myself day after day on a certain project, there seems to come a time when my energy level drops. I reached that point this past week. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block; I found I was forcing myself to put new words on my computer screen just to keep going, not that they were really contributing to the story. Though I’m not a runner, I’ve heard how runners “push through” when they hit a similar stage in their races, a technique I also use in writing but can only take so far.

If you recall my last two posts, I’ve gone into great detail describing how I was approaching this stage of revision. What I learned is that I could only pursue this in-depth review so long before I hit the wall.

So I switched to another project, the sequel to The Sleepover Clause, which I hadn’t worked on for over a month. Well, well. What did we have here? I actually liked most of what I was reviewing, even though that didn’t prevent me from changing various words and phrases with new words and phrases. Moving on to a different project benefited me three ways. First, it was a shot in the arm to my ego, which had gone to that nasty place most writers visit every so often, self-doubt. It’s amazing how refocusing your brain on something you’ve written that you discover you really like can unlock those gray cells. A second benefit  was that I made progress with this manuscript, adding several new pages once I read through what I’d already produced. Finally, this gave me a chance to “check in” with this project so we’re not strangers when I return to finish it later. Won’t prevent those “what was I thinking?” moods, but hopefully I’ll remember enough to actually answer that question.

I also realized it was time to rest the brain by briefly pursuing other activities. Fortunately, it was also time for my biweekly coffee with fellow retirees. We get together every two weeks and touch base with each other’s lives, now that we don’t see each other every day in the workplace. This time, I lingered a little longer (actually, we went about ninety minutes longer than usual), savoring the company and chitchat. (Writing can be sometimes be lonely.)

A recent signing at Coldwater Creek in Jordan Creek Mall, West Des Moines, IA. From left, Leslie Grefe, Mary Ann Hills, Me, Kathy Roat, and Sue Varley.

A recent signing at Coldwater Creek in Jordan Creek Mall, West Des Moines, IA. From left, Leslie Grefe, Mary Ann Hills, Me, Kathy Roat, and Sue Varley.

I also played Mah Jongg. Want to exercise the brain? Try this game. It requires memory, strategy, and luck. Even if luck isn’t with you at any particular sitting, each round you experience the thrill of the hunt.

iowa field

The corn crop is looking good this year. The other “crop” in the background is wind turbines providing low-cost energy.

As luck would have it, we already had a weekend trip scheduled, so my husband and I saw both our children and most of our grandchildren. Nothing recharges my brain better than family and a drive through the Iowa countryside when the corn is nearing harvest.

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The Sleepover Clause

Amazon ebook, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

iBookstore

Kobo

And He Cooks Too

The Wild Rose Press, TWRP POD

Amazon Kindle, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble Nook

iTunes

iBookstore POD

Kobo

Midwest Musings: Digging Deeper

CrimsonJulySaleLast week to take advantage of Crimson Romance’s sale on Amazon. Last week to get The Sleepover Clause at this price.

 

“Editing is like an archeological dig. You start moving big things, but, in the end, you focus on the smallest details.” Stephen Roxburgh, “Gobsmacked! Memories of Editing ‘The Witches,’ Publishers Weekly, July 12, 2013.

 

Thanks to Crimson Romance staffer, Jess Verdi, for posting the link to the above article on Facebook. Stephen Roxburgh’s article validated a recent “a-ha” moment I experienced while going through my current manuscript. As I’ve been recounting for you, I’ve been updating a manuscript I finished some time ago with two major changes: a plot change and elimination of two points of view down to two. Last week, I finished going all the way through incorporating these modifications. I celebrated in my “Good News, Bad News” blog post, the good news being that I’d finished that phase, the bad news, realizing that now I had to go back through for a “deep clean.”

My plan was to do several “spot checks” rather than attempt another straight-through read at this point. First, I developed a list of several “logic” questions: why does A do x? How does B know A wants y? I’d reached the point in revising that I couldn’t bear to look at the actual manuscript right then, so these all came from my head. I was amazed how easily they found their way to the computer screen, considering the brain fatigue I was suffering. Apparently I’d tucked several plot, motivation and conflict questions away as I was writing which were just below the surface waiting to be called upon. I added the comments I’d left behind in my last revision. When I finished, I wound up with 24 questions and 21 comments, quite a high hill to climb, but if I didn’t tackle these, I worried how flat the story might otherwise read.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Back to Roxburgh’s comparison of editing to an archeological dig. Although I’ve never actually participated in one these endeavors, while I was studying anthropology in college, I learned a little bit about the process.  Digs are painstakingly slow, so as not to disturb or corrupt the potential artifacts beneath. They are conducted by zones, one zone at a time, the zone carefully marked and recorded. Due to both of those considerations, they require extreme patience and persistence. That, in a nutshell, is how I’m proceeding.

Unlike the archeologist, however, I’ve added a couple other steps to my process. Although many of my questions refer to a specific scene (zone), others are more general. For those, I’ve done “finds” for key words that address a particular question and listed those page numbers with the question. So, in some instances, my “dig” goes all over the landscape of the entire manuscript. Also, in moving from spot to spot, as there have been words, phrases, even paragraphs in a few instances that needed revising, I’ve taken care of those as I went.

The scene analysis document I described in the “Good News, Bad News” post has proved quite handy for locating scenes that address particular questions.

Like the dig process, this approach to revision is also painstakingly slow. Some of my questions address the arc for both the hero and heroine; this requires me hit several places in the story. But as I create these citations, I’m discovering where I’ve done a good job laying out the evolution of my characters and where I may have missed an opportunity. In a few cases (fortunately only a few), some items don’t make sense or are even incorrect (probably due to missed plot point changes).

I anticipate receiving some additional benefits from this list of questions. They will serve as my starting point when I send the revised manuscript to beta readers to determine if I addressed those points well enough. At a later time, they could also serve as the nucleus for discussion questions for book clubs.

So here’s a final tip from this process: if you’re going to invest this much time and effort improving your story with tools like these revision questions, see how many other ways you can reuse them for other purposes. And be purposeful, persistent and patient!

9781440556463 The Sleepover ClauseAndHeCooksToo_7346_750

The Sleepover Clause

Amazon ebook, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

iBookstore

Kobo

And He Cooks Too

The Wild Rose Press, TWRP POD

Amazon Kindle, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble Nook

iTunes

iBookstore POD

Kobo

Midwest Musings: Good News, Bad News

CrimsonJulySaleJust nine more days to take advantage of Crimson Romance’s sale on Amazon Kindle of all their romances released during their first year. That includes my first book, The Sleepover Clause.

I’ll be signing both my books this Wednesday, July 24 at Coldwater Creek in Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, Iowa. Stop by just to say hi. The store will offer a special discount that day.

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The good news is: I finished the current revision of my manuscript-in-progress. Yeah! Lest I dismiss this achievement too fast, let’s recall how long I’ve been mentioning this process. I started over three times before hitting on the plot changes that needed to occur to make this story work. As I went, I not only deleted the old story and incorporated the new plotline, I also removed excess tags, cut extraneous language, and wherever possible, glitzed up verbs.

I started with something like 86,000 words. I’m now 10,000 words shorter. The cuts came mainly from transitioning from four points of view to two. Had to lose those scenes where neither the hero or heroine were present and reintroduce the information found in the cut scenes through other devices, like having one of the cut POV characters tell either the hero or heroine what transpired offscreen or skipping it, if it wasn’t truly necessary.

The revised version is currently riddled with comments I inserted as I went, changes or questions to be addressed now that I’m finished. I handled some of the easy ones as I went, but others, which would have slowed my progress or I had no idea how to fix, remain.

Besides the revision itself, I also worked on a companion piece as I went, a scene analysis. I’ve developed my own template for this over the years, although it’s certainly nothing terribly different from other authors’ techniques. I set up a table, usually with five or more columns and 20 or more rows. Each scene gets a separate row. I list the chapter and scene information, page numbers, POV character, day on my timeline, and major purpose/action of the scene. Sometimes I add location and follow-up action, if any, required. I didn’t this time. [Note: one of these days, when I’m using Scrivener, its functionality will handle inputting this information as I write each scene.] I hold off creating these until I’ve been through the revision process at least twice, because I want the page numbers to correspond fairly closely with the finished or near-finished versions.

Some authors may remember everything about their characters’ actions and goals and various plot points, but given the number of changes in this version of the manuscript, I need this guide to refer to now as I go back through with more spot revisions.

And that comment leads me to the “bad” news: there’s still more revising to do. I’ve created a new framework that appears to hold the new plot together. Now, I need to assure that’s the case. This will be at least a two-phase process. First, while what I’ve been writing is still fresh in my mind, I’m doing these spot checks. Several questions have occurred to me as I made my way through to the end. These will now become the basis of my checklist. I’ll also read through the “action” column of my scene analysis and refer to the comments made on the manuscript and add those concerns to my list.

Once that phase has been completed, the plan is to take a little time off from this project, work on something else for at least a week. Then I’ll do another read through of the manuscript in its entirety, like I’m a reader, and identify areas that do or don’t flow.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

I’ll discuss the phase after that in a future post, the use of beta readers.

So the “bad” news isn’t so bad, after all. It means I’ve made it this far in the writing process, I know I don’t have a finished product yet, and I have a plan for reaching that goal. That’s not bad at all.

Coming soon: Driven to Matrimony, my second book with The Wild Rose Press.

The Sleepover Clause

                                          Amazon ebook, Amazon POD

                                    Barnes and Noble

                                 iTunes

                       iBookstore

                   Kobo

And He Cooks Too

The Wild Rose Press, TWRP POD

Amazon Kindle, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble Nook

iTunes

iBookstore POD

Kobo

Midwest Musings: Knit, Purl and Pick up Lost Stitches

CrimsonJulySaleAmazon’s sale of all Crimson Romance releases during its first year of operation is half over, but there’s still time to take advantage of this temporarily reduced price for the Kindle version. My first book, The Sleepover Clause, falls in that group.

Knit, Purl and Pick up Lost Stitches

A few years ago, when I first retired, a friend of mine thought it would be a great idea to start a knitting club. As a former teacher, she’d shown many a student how to cast on stitches and eventually turn out a recognizable product. I became her new student.

Actually, years before, I had already done a little knitting and mainly needed a refresher course on how to get started.

I am proud to say that I now do a pretty fair job with the knit, purl and stockinette stitches, the latter taking forever to absorb because I kept counting wrong. As a result, I’ve produced some very nice scarves and wash clothes.  And one afghan, for my new grandson.

My friend is a purist. She doesn’t believe in wrong stitches. You mess up, you go back and repair, i.e., pick up lost stitches or drop a stitch, depending on your crime. Unfortunately, unless she was around to help me do this, I either had to wait until the next meeting of our group to get help or continue to mess up.

Then one day, when another member of our group had grown tired of hearing me complain of all the redo’s facing me, she gave me a how-to knitting book as a gift. Although figuring out the diagram showing how to pick up a lost stitch required extensive brain power, I finally accomplished it.

Discussion of my knitting experience is preamble to this week’s update on the revision of my current manuscript. If you recall, I recently decided to make a major plot change in order to make my heroine more likeable to readers. I am happy with my decision. I still believe it was the right move to make. That said, I’m also learning how making such a change effects the entire “fabric” of the work. It’s a lot like missing a stitch: though there are techniques for picking up the thread of a certain plot line without total rewrite (like picking up a lost stitch), there are also times when you have to “pull out” rows of completed stitches, or in this case, copy, because if left alone, it would take the plot off another direction.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

So far, I’ve deleted two entire scenes. The first instance was the more difficult cut to make; I introduced two tertiary characters (they made sense for the original scene and plot point, but they would then disappear for the rest of the story). I had so much fun writing these characters, but the plot point was no longer necessary, so they weren’t either. I stuck that section in my “outtakes” piece. Sometime, maybe as a blog post featuring deleted scenes, I’ll find a place to show it off. Or I’ll find a home for them in a new story.

The second axed scene was easier to lose as it didn’t add much to the story.

My plan is to finish out the rest of the manuscript checking for plot points that no longer make sense or advance the story and cut as I go.  I’m adding new copy, when it’s obvious what needs to happen, and making comments about possible additions that might be needed later.

The “good” thing is that I’ve already passed the point where I stopped my last two revision efforts and threw up my hands because it wasn’t making sense. I’m hopeful I’m going to make it to the end this time. Or maybe I’ll start knitting again.

9781440556463 The Sleepover ClauseAndHeCooksToo_7346_750

The Sleepover Clause

Amazon ebook, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

iBookstore

Kobo

And He Cooks Too

The Wild Rose Press, TWRP POD

Amazon Kindle, Amazon POD

Barnes and Noble Nook

iTunes

iBookstore POD

Kobo

Midwest Musings: Revision Hell

CrimsonJulySaleBig news for The Sleepover Clause – the Kindle version will be on sale for the next month at $1.99 on Amazon.

Revision Hell

Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic. Maybe more like Revision Torment with the chapter I’ve been going through. My post of June xx talked about decluttering and described the two steps I planned to take to declutter this manuscript. I also promised I’d update you with a progress report.

One of the changes in that plan involved starting from the beginning and inserting notes to myself with questions and suggestions. The plan was to begin each note with %% so that I could later do a find and readily find them. I also highlighted them in red.  Some changes were easy enough to make at that point, so they were incorporated as I progressed. Some are still there to be tackled when I have more time to think about them.

About the second day of this approach it dawned on me that I could just as easily insert “comments.” But there were times went it felt more appropriate to stick with the original insertion, so I’ve been doing both. Don’t what differentiates them from each other; I couldn’t tell you. It’s just an intuitive thing. Rather than stop and try to discern which made more sense, I just did whichever felt right at the moment.

I also mentioned that I was changing the plot slightly and reducing the points of views from four to two. This process is a bit like pulling a loose thread on a sweater; the “repair” may do more damage than just leaving it alone. So I found myself leaving more notes for these than dealing with them as they arose.

This new revision process went pretty well until I got about a third into the book, about the same point I reached with the previous read-through when I stopped and altered my revision methods. Here’s what I found myself doing when I reached this point:

a)      Spending an inordinate amount of time line editing. Doing things like deleting unnecessary tags, changing proper nouns to pronouns and vice versa, rearranging words, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this element of revision but not when I mistakenly let myself think that’s all the revision required.

b)      Staring at the same paragraph forever, knowing something’s wrong with it but unable to figure out what.

c)      Discovering long passages of telling versus showing. Nothing wrong with narrative, but is it shortcutting action or dialogue?

d)     Debating if I even need this chapter.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

If a writer friend were to describe these symptoms to me, I’d probably tell them to take a break, go do something fun that frees their brain or switch to another project temporarily. I took my own advice with the first two suggestions and sort of tried the third. It may be that other personal matters are blocking my concentration. We almost lost my ninety-year-old mother last weekend to pneumonia. She’s much better now, but that’s why there was no blog post last week. Now that she’s on the mend, I’ve returned to decluttering my home. A garage sale is less than a week away. Until that event takes place, my energies, both physical and mental, are focused there.

Just prior to writing this post, another idea occurred to me. Change my approach. A simple idea, but it seems to be having some positive results. I usually do most of my composing and revising on-screen, but occasionally my brain needs a different medium in which to receive the copy.  So I printed off the chapter in question.

I also moved away from my  office and set up temporary shop on the kitchen table. And I turned off the ever-present background noise of the television. Since high school, I’ve been studying with the television on. This process got me through college, my master’s degree and several years of writing, but every so often the auditory part of the brain needs a rest. That seems to be what I need right now.

Finally, I’ve made a commitment not to line edit as I read through the chapter in question. Instead, my focus is to take in its full totality – how it advances the story, whether this is the appropriate place to reveal such information, how it flows, and how it connects the previous chapter with the next chapter.

This is no aha moment discovery. Most writers are familiar with this line of thinking, the trick is knowing when to employ it. Sometimes you have to micromanage each line of copy, but sometimes, as I believe is the case for me now, you have to step back and absorb the organic whole.

Once again, stay tuned. I’ll report back in a future post.

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Midwest Musings: Renovating a Manuscript

I am currently participating in the “A Year of Love Blog Hop” with several other Crimson Romance authors as we celebrate CR’s first year anniversary. Click on the Blog Hop tab above for more details about how, by participating, you have the chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, as well as read excerpts from each of our books and an original round robin story created by some of our authors.

The coming Friday, June 21, just happens to be the Summer Solstice. I will be posting a special post, “Summer Solstice Supper and Summer Reading List,” joining several other authors to provide you with a super summer solstice menu. Come back then for some great recipes and reading.

Coming up on June 22 and 23 I’ll be posting on www.justcontemporaryromance.com and will be giving a way a digital copy of The Sleepover Clause. Stop by and comment to get your name into the drawing. I’m also advertising on that same blog for the next four weeks. My first ad appears today.

Decluttering – Part 3

Have I mentioned here before that I’m a huge fan of the House and Garden TV (HGTV) Network? I’ve been viewing it for years, purportedly doing “research” for my residential development series, current working title, “The Dances of Sullivan’s Creek.” What I really love are the design shows. However, until recently, about the only one that has aired is, “Love It or List It,” so even though I’ve tired of its formula, I’ve been tuning in anyhow.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

The “formula,” as the title suggests, is a competition between a realtor and an interior designer who specializes in renovating “problem” houses to win the support of the episode’s problem houseowners. I usually root for the designer. The homeowners usually give her a budget that, from the beginning, has no chance of meeting all their listed needs. To add to the drama, her crew inevitably “discovers” structural/environmental problems the owners never revealed or knew about, which eats further into her budget.

This past week, I began the most recent revision of the first book in the series mentioned above. It involves the design stage of the project. The hero and heroine are the two architects assigned to work together to develop a design concept for an unknown client. The heroine sets out to break up her best friend’s relationship with her new boyfriend, the hero, so that the friend will return to the arms of the heroine’s commitment-shy brother. The heroine justifies what others might consider rather unsavory actions by telling herself her friend and brother truly love each other, and the new guy, known for his love-em-or-leave-em rep, will inevitably break her friend’s heart. This plot has met with mixed reviews from critique partners, contest judges and those to whom I’ve pitched it. Some have been fine with it and others, like the agent I met with last, said this type of plot rarely goes over well with readers.

Taking her comment to heart, I’ve decided to see what can be done to restructure the story to make it more palatable this time around. I now have the two friends working together to make the brother jealous. The hero is in on the plot, although he doesn’t know the heroine knows about it as well.

I’d made my way through the first third, when I threw up my hands in frustration. Like my designer, who weekly discovers mold, faulty wiring, structural decay, termites, or you name it after they’ve opened up floors, ceilings and walls, my new story isn’t holding up as much as I’d like now that I’ve deleted certain sections and rewritten other segments. I could almost visualize it wobbling, like the foundation was about the collapse. Could I borrow a cue from my designer? She usually has her crew give it to her straight. How bad is the problem? Can dealing with it be avoided (almost always, no)?How can it be fixed? How much will dealing with the problem cost? Then she gives the homeowners the “good news” about the repairs and tells them what she’s not going to be able to do with their “must have” list.

Since I don’t have a crew to give me all the facts, I have to establish them on my own. But the general principle still works: figure out what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and brainstorm what can be done, if anything, to fix it. Unlike the designer, I’m not stuck with a set budget. How much time, effort and creativity I invest in making this project work is entirely up to me. The only limiting part is that it’s the first book in a three-part series, where I have to set up the rest of the series. Of course, I always have the option of writing a new story to replace this one or even begin the series with the second book.

Unlike the TV show, this revision process is not a sixty-minute episode. It’s not going to solve itself overnight. But I’ve already tried out some new tools. First, I’m now going back through the first third and inserting notes to myself either describing the problem at that point in the story or suggesting what work still needs to be done to fix the problem. I’m identifying these with %%, so I can do a “find” to locate them as I’m ready to deal with them. They’re also in red font. Also, I’m back to writing a new premise statement. The Goal, Motivation and Conflict are still basically the same. I’m simply working through them differently.

Stay tuned. I’ll update you on my success, or lack thereof, in future weeks.

 

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