First Whole Novel Revision

Did it. I finished writing my next book in the War Unicorn series, standing now at 64K. The writing was a long and hard part. My relief is sweet, but short. Now onto the next hard(er) part (whole novel revision) before more revisions and sending off to my first editor for even more revisions.

Most of my chapters have already sailed through my critique group. They are a remarkable group. I find it amusing how one can spot things the others don’t, and that’s true for each person. I love my critiquers!

For this first whole novel revision, I’m basically using Darcy Pattison’s book Novel Metamorphosis. It’s meant as a workbook. The spine glue on my copy is coming apart even though the only writing in it is Darcy’s signing on the title page. The book is well-worn because I’ve used it for nearly every one of my manuscripts. This particular book is a bit more complicated than my others, so I needed wider eyes to evaluate it.

I just finished my Connotation Worksheet, found on page 69 of her book, but expanded it. In order see my characters more clearly, I adapted her basic form to my own categories. I have many characters. By doing this, I am able to see where to strengthen the individual’s relationship to his various aspects. These are some of my categories across the top of my page:

CHARACTER    FAV FOOD   SECRET   AFRAID OF   ANTAGONIST   MAIN GOAL/DESIRE

 Okay. Enough sharing with you all. Off to do more analyzing of my novel so I can revise better and delight you each with this book coming out in September. And here’s the cover reveal:

Carlson-WarUnicorn2Escape 4mb

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What I’ve Learned About Whole Book Writing – One, Two! One, Two!

Nearly everyone in the profession says to first get your story written – the rough draft bit. Only from that point can you see: 1) character development; 2) plot twists; and most importantly, 3) the big picture. Here, you might be like me, and after seeing all the holes and inconsistencies, you drop your head to the desk and never want to write another word, because calling what you spent months writing a rough draft is simply being polite. But you pick yourself up to see what can be done.

After the rough draft is completed, you start hacking away at it, cutting scenes and even chapters which don’t push the story or character development forward. I’ve even thrown away major characters because they were redundant or didn’t serve much purpose.

Then comes your rewrite.

Then comes revisions, lots of them.

Then comes letting your critique group read some. Although sometimes my dear critique group reads subs which I later eliminate, but that is because they only see slices at a time (1-3 chapters) v.s. the big picture (whole novel). They do, however, keep me writing and writing and writing, as well as continue being terrific friends.

Then come the editor’s comments to address.

Then comes the word-by-word read to make sure every single word is right, and not just spelled correctly. (And sometimes, you all still miss some.)

My next book, Escape: The War Unicorn Chronicles, Book 2, is scheduled for a September 2018 publication date. A month ago, I switched plans and decided to combine two books. Whatever was I thinking? Plus, I feel writing in two points of view is distracting, both for the writer and the reader, yet here I am, doing just that.

It was only after finishing the rough/rewritten/revised draft of one and starting on the next, that I realized the two needed to be mashed together. I’ve already cut out about 20,000 words from the second story, but need to now finish that rough draft  to another 20- 30,000 words, making sure they not only make sense as one story, but that they mash seamlessly together. I’m painfully deleting from that first story. Painfully, because I adore those scenes, those dialogues, those descriptions and interactions, but…“One, two! One, two! And through and through the vorpal blade went snicker-snack!”

So…1) finish your rough draft; 2) delete and add; 3) rewrite; 4) revise; 5) send through critique group; 6) revise; 7) send to editor; 8) revise; 9) do word-by-word check; 10) release your baby to the publisher.

 

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 4

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On Saturday, October 9, 2010, fantasy writer Cinda Chima spoke at the SCBWI-MI Writers Conference on “Engaging a Middle-Grade and Young Adult Reader.” She stressed the importance of drawing the readers in with your first line. She said to open during a change, or with an interesting character, or an interesting setting; to open with humor, or with atmosphere and suspense. She gave several examples of first lines of novels.

Cinda said that writers need to make a promise to the readers about the story in the very beginning, and then keep that promise at the end.

Use conflict and action to keep the readers reading. Story happens when character and conflict collide. She encouraged us to “write cinamatically” with our delivery, like screenwriters.

New world-building slows the pace of a story, so deliver information on a “need to know” basis. To help speed the pace, use dialogue with the scene, use short paragraphs and sentences, and use simple sentence structures.

Cinda suggested printing out your story, then highlighting in different colors the narrative, the action, the dialogue, and “the exciting parts” to see where the story drags.

She spattered her talk with quotes, one from Alfred Hitchcock: “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 3

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At the writers conference a week ago, I was honored to get into Darcy Pattison’s workshop, “Using the Hero’s Journey to Enhance Your Novel.” Darcy is amazing, and so spot-on in her craft of writing suggestions. I highly recommend her books, CDs, or attending her novel revision workshop (which I sincerely hope to do someday).

Darcy based her talk (tweeked to that which only Darcy can do) on THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, by Chistopher Vogler. At the conference, I bought two copies — one for me and one as a gift. This post is paraphrased from Darcy’s talk. Formulas are meant just guides.

The big picture (of your story) is in three Acts: Act One (approx 8 chapters) is the set up; Act Two (approx 16 chapters) is the twists and turns; and Act Three (approx 8 chapters) is the resolution.

Act One Objectives: show the hero in his/her ordinary world, call to adventure, refusal, crossing the threshold.

Act Two Objectives: tests, enemies, allies, approach to inmost cave, supreme ordeal, reward.

Act Three Objectives: the road back, resurrection, and return with elixir.

Darcy used BRIDGE TO TERABITHA for her example throughout the workshop, with some mention of the original STAR WARS. Some of my own  favorite fantasy stories which also follow this “formula” are THE HOBBIT, LOTR, and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. The formula works!

On to work on my own writing. <deep and heavy sigh> Writing is such hard work.

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 2

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On Saturday, October 9, 2010, Susan Chang, Senior Editor at Tor, spoke to our group. This was her second SCBWI conference. There was much she shared in the ninety minutes. This is a brief summary.

Susan continues to be fascinated with the publishing process, after eighteen years in it, the last seven years at Tor. Tom Dorety formed Tor in 1980. In 2002, Starscape was started fo 8-12 year old readers. In 2003, TorTeen was stated for 13-19 year old readers.

Twelve years old is the reader age when science fiction/ fantasy reading starts. This, of course, does not include fantasy of talking animals, etc in picture books.

Not every editor is the right match for a good story.

Agents are looking for you. But… if you query fifty agents and receive all rejects, take a step back. Writing needs to sparkle. Ideas are easy to come up with. Susan added, “I don’t write because it’s too damn hard.”

Good SF/F writing has action and suspense with strong, flawed characters.

Two books she suggested reading are DEAR GENIUS and SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS.

After our primary needs, the need for story is very basic. Book have the ability to change lives.

SCBWI-MI Fall Writers Conference, Part I

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Our SCBWI-Michigan Fall Writers Conference is going on this weekend. I am commuting since it is: 1) close to where I live; 2) cheaper than staying there; (Those reasons should probably be reversed, but I’d sound too cheap if I wrote it out the other way.) and 3) I get to see my husband, and sleep in my own bed, actually sleep during  conference! Nice.

Our speaker for Friday was fantasy author Cinda Chima. She spoke about fantasy. (Surprise.) She directed us to: Why write fantasy? What are the categories of fantasy? And, what is magic? To greatly summarize her talk, she said that the elements of fantasy are character, setting, plot and magic, with magic being why it is fantasy, and the first three elements being the reason why others would want to read your story.

I do enjoy live writing conferences. It has been wonderful (as I anticipated) to see all my writing friends whom I only see at conferences, and some I’ve only known via the internet. I was also able to eat dinner with spot-on author-speaker, Darcy Pattison. Words flow from her mouth like diamonds. I was in a workshop with Darcy several years ago, and have her Novel Metamorphoses book, and get her Fiction Notes. Since I’d invited her to this conference, I didn’t expect anything less than diamonds.

Last night, I also had to privilege to introduce myself to Tor Senior Editor, Susan Chang. I was the one who invited her, too, to the conference, so naturally, I was looking forward to meeting her and listening to her pearls of wisdom. I’d heard many wonderful things about Susan pre-conference. Face-to-face (even for a minute) has been a thousand times better. First impressions are very… impressionable. She is gracious, knowledgable, reasonable, an excellent listener, quite charming, and (I’ve been told) humorous. (No, I am not buttering her up! She truly is quite nice.) I look forward to her talks today and tomorrow.

My guess is that I will not post again about the conference until Monday. Need to focus. On to the writers conference.

Daily Writing Word Counts

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I have found that when I record the number of words I’ve written every day, I hold myself MUCH MORE accountable… er… to me. It’s rather like eating or exercising. When you write down everything you shoot past your lips, you get a fairly accurate reading on how many calories you have eaten. When you put on the timer and exercise, v.s. “oh, that’s good enough; I’ve got other things to do now,” then you know exactly how much you’ve exercised.

Do the same with writing. Record your daily word count. I used to record emails and journaling, and would have counted my blogs, too, but I don’t do that any more. It feels like I’m cheating. My DWC (daily word count) is for actual someday-this-puppy’s-gonna-get-published writing, even if it’s background stuff, or very drecky rough draft stuff.

So, write, and record. Hold yourself accountable.

August Writing Challenge Followup

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YIKES-A-ROONIE! I just realized today that earlier this month, I put out an August Writer’s Challenge of writing 10,000 Raw (first draft) words by September first. How you doing? Surprisingly, I may make that goal. I know I have nearly 10,000 words started on a new YA (young adult) fantasy, but I’m not sure if I’m going to leave in certain bits to make it into a MG (middle grade) story or not, yet. I THINK I wrote nearly all those words this month, but I may have started in July, too. I’ve been a tad bit scatter-brained this summer.

Has this summer been crazy for other people as well? Family, travels, cleaning oil off of turtles… well, maybe everyone hasn’t been doing that last one, but I’d encourage you to help if you can… heat, humidity. There are lots of summer distractions for writers.

So… how have you done on the August writing challenge?

No more excuses. There are still six days left in the month. Get writing, already!