Tag Archives: revisions

Your Ego is Not Your Friend – How to Take Criticism

23 Sep

or,

How to Avoid Hysterical Fits of Sobbing/Rage

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
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Since Kat and Vahini both wrote wonderful articles about critique partner relationships and how to provide useful critiques respectively, I thought I would talk about – in further detail – how to deal with criticism (which Sarah talked about here; and how to get over yourself… which Sarah also talked about here). Because for me, the most difficult part about being a critique partner is being critiqued.

Not everyone reacts to critiques the same way. Some people get insulted; others become so sad and dejected that they lose all desire to even continue writing; and there are people who are indignant and think their critique partner has no idea what they’re talking about.

If you’re new to being critiqued, you’ll find yourself feeling INCREDIBLY nervous. Heck, even if you ARE used to receiving all kinds of criticism from others, you’ll probably still be a bit nervous about sharing your work with others.

Take me for example. Having been an art student, I’m used to receiving criticism – and art professors and fellow art students never hold back from telling you what they really think of your work. I’ve also taken a couple of creative writing courses and have had to share my work. So I should be used to receiving critiques, right?

HELL NO.

I mean, in a way I am; I’m much more apprehensive about myself, actually – and how I’ll end up responding. But I will always be nervous when I hand my work over to someone else for their opinion. I know myself. I get hurt as soon as I start seeing red everywhere. It’s just the type of person I am; though I know it’s silly of me, I want EVERYONE to be pleased with my work. Even though I know that it’s unrealistic.

I sometimes get so bummed out that I just sit in a slump at my desk, unwilling to continue working on my MS. Or I find myself looking for comfort food; ice cream and cookies and hot chocolate to devour as I sulk (and thereby also avoiding any and all writing). Or I scribble down angst-filled poetry. And other times I feel FURIOUS! I think, “How is my writing melodramatic?!? It is LYRICAL, dammit!”. Or, I think to myself, “Well, our styles of writing are SO different! Idiot.”

Harsh, I know. But I HAVE thought things like that; about people I respect and admire, close friends, and near-strangers. And chances are you’ll probably feel like that sometimes too. Sure, you’ll tell your critique partner, “Be honest! Tell me if something doesn’t work, if there’s something off. I want your real opinion! Don’t hold back!” – but once you see all the comments they’ve made, and read them pointing out all the flaws in your story, you’ll find yourself getting defensive. EVEN if you know you shouldn’t.

If you’re having this problem (and don’t worry – it’s only natural!), take a step back. Don’t respond right away. If your CP is using the track changes feature on Microsoft Word, don’t go through the entire MS in a fury rejecting all the changes your critique partner has made without even looking to see just what changes they’ve suggested.  It has actually happened to an editor I know – she just got on the wrong foot with the author, and he ended up even rejecting her corrections of spelling mistakes. So remember: your CP has done a WHOLE lot of work for you. They’re trying to help you improve. They WANT your MS to be the best it can be; they want you to get published.

So, here are 10 tips to help you throw your ego aside and take criticism from your critique partners – or anyone, really – gracefully.

1. As I said before, never respond right away. Don’t write a scathing email to the agent who has just rejected you and offered a few suggestions for improvement. That’s rude, and unprofessional, and you can bet that agent will never look at any of your future works. Likewise, don’t freak out at your critique partner if they think a character serves no purpose and should maybe be cut from your MS (or further developed, if you want to keep them). Read their critiques and do nothing – at least not right away. Let it sink in.

2. Take a step back. Wait a few hours; or better yet, wait a day or two. Distance yourself and try to be objective. Let their critiques sink in before you go back to reread your CP’s comments. And then read your work. Chances are, they might just have a point.

3. Don’t take it personally. It’s hard, but you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that they aren’t telling YOU that you lack personality – they’re saying your MC does. Find out why they’re saying that (and a good CP will give you reasons as to why your MC lacks the qualities of a great character). And even if they don’t give you reasons, you should always…

4. …ask. If you’re not quite understanding what they mean and need clarification, email them (when you’re NOT upset, of course). Or call them. Or meet up and talk about it over coffee (just don’t go if you think there’s a chance that you’ll throw your coffee in their face. Cause that’s a sign that you’re still pretty upset). Being good critique partners means that talking about one another’s work – in depth. Have a conversation.

5. Never confront your CP if you’re upset. Yes, I’m repeating myself – but this is important. Don’t tell them that they don’t get you or your work. They probably do. But they aren’t as emotionally invested in your work. It’s YOUR baby; your sweat and tears. And as a result, you’ll be blind to a lot of the problems – and get pretty upset when confronted with those issues. Especially if your CP has something to say about the one character, or one plot arc, that is your absolute favourite.

6. Read all the good things they have to say. A good critique partner will always mention what they really liked/enjoyed. They’ll highlight lines/paragraphs/bits of dialogue and say, “LOVE this!”. So if you find yourself getting upset, read only the good things they had to say. Chances are, you’ll start to feel better (not only about your work, but about yourself).

7. Be open to new ideas. Don’t automatically ignore what someone says because it’s not something you’ve ever thought of. Your CP is trying to push you to becoming an even better writer; and that means they’ll push your boundaries.

8. Embrace change/ have multiple drafts. I probably should’ve made this the first on the list. If you can’t bring yourself to revise your first draft because you think it is THE shit, you might not be ready for a critique partner. Your first draft WILL NOT be perfect. It will be flawed. If you understand that and are okay with the thought of changing your MS, then you’re ready to be critiqued.

9. Critique your fellow CP. Put yourself in their position. It’s not easy, now is it? You’ll probably feel terrible pointing out things that you feel don’t work. You’ll feel as though you might be overstepping your bounds by offering suggestions. And the last thing you want is for them to get really hurt by what you say. So try to understand both sides.

10. Don’t lose yourself. While you should never brush off someone’s critique, you should also remember that it’s okay to have differing opinions. You don’t HAVE to agree with everything they say. But if you do disagree, you should discuss it more in detail. And if you still feel that you’re right, get a second (or third) opinion.

So, think you have what it takes to be a critique partner (and take criticism yourself)? Then head on over to our Critique Partner page and find yourself a CP! And if you’re already a CP, remember to always give your reader credit. Be respectful, take a few deep breaths (and maybe eat some ice cream), and you’ll be on your way to earning the status of awesome-critique-partner (and maybe even earn this snazzy “Accepting Criticism” Writer Merit Badge):

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Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Critique Partner Relationships

20 Sep

Okay, so you’ve written a novel—or at least the first draft of one. Or maybe you’re not all the way done yet, but you’re pretty darn close. You stumbled upon LTWF’s Critique Partner page and found yourself an awesomesauce beta reader. You’ve gotten to know each other a bit, discovered that you both have a secret weakness for chocolate-covered gummy bears in your late night ice cream and a fondness for melodrama. Things are going good.

Then it comes time to send him or her your story.

Eep.

This can be a nerve-wracking experience both for you and your new beta, especially if neither of you has ever critiqued for a critique partner before. And even old hands can get nervous when working with someone new. What if they get offended? What if they don’t tell me what they really think? What if I come across as a total jerk? What if they secretly hate my story but refuse to tell me?

Here are a few ways to smooth over this transition.

First of all, if you’re new, let your CP know! As a writer gets more and more work out there, his skin grows thicker. I’ve gotten a lot more resilient to critique since I first started. Good, honest critique is very important, but there are many ways to phrase something.

For example, if I’m critiquing a manuscript for someone I know well—someone I’m good friends with and who I know has been writing a good long time, I might just say, “That ballroom scene isn’t grounded enough. Your characters seem to float in a void, and I don’t feel an emotional connection to the protagonist.”

But for someone I know is new and who might not be ready for more blunt, straight-forward remarks, I might phrase things differently: “I think you could improve that ballroom scene; maybe try adding a few sentences about how the other girls’ dresses look or how the chandelier sparkles or things like that. Right now, it’s hard to picture the characters’ surroundings. Also, I’d like to know a little more about the protagonist’s feelings. That way, I can sympathize with her more.”

See what I mean? Both get the same points across, but the second is a little gentler about it. Of course, always be polite! No one appreciate your saying, “The ballroom scene sucks.”

Also, if you’re the one getting your story critiqued, try helping your betas out by letting them know what points you’d like them to focus on. For example, let them know you’re having trouble with world building and ask them for their thoughts. Or maybe you’re afraid your protagonist is too whiny, but you’re not sure. Ask them! Think your middle lags a bit? Or that your epilogue is too neat? Ask for advice, and you shall receive 🙂

Every critique partner relationship is different. Some like to do line-by-line comments. Others like to exchange the story chapter by chapter. Still others want to read the whole thing at once. Each adds its unique perspective on your story, and all are incredibly useful.

So get out there and start marking up some stories!

~~~

Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She has recently signed with literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.

QOTW: Writing Endings

14 Apr

Hey all, just a quick reminder, we are still having a Comedy Contest, the deadline for which is May 1st. We’ve got a few entries already and they look pretty solid, so whip out your banana peels and make some funny!

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Right now we’re doing a Question of the Week Week to alleviate our backlog of Questions. Today’s question is from Elizabeth:

Do you freak out when writing your climax? Do you try and avoid it? I’ve heard Libba Bray say that the times when she’s most running to the refrigerator or doing some other silly little task while writing, is when she’s about to tackle something important. Does this happen to you?

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I have to admit, this really doesn’t happen to me.  I do a lot of “back story” before I begin my manuscript, so I know my characters really well.  When it comes time to write the climax or any other big scene, I throw my characters into it and it gets written because I just let them act and react to the situation without much control on my part.  (Also, I don’t fret over the style and quality of the writing when I’m doing the first draft.  I just get it down on the page.)

Now description is a totally different thing for me!  All the back story in the world won’t make it any easier to write a paragraph of description!  THAT’S when I find myself making a zillion trips to the refrigerator!

-The Newest LTWF Contributor Who is Already Out on Submissions!

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I rush through the ending. I just want it done, done, done. Because my first drafts are crap.

Complete, utter crap. When I started writing YOU WISH, it kind of freaked me out– becuase I kept looking at Prada & Prejudice (the shiny, published version) and thinking, OMG I CANNOT DO THIS AGAIN.

But then I realized something: P&P started out as utter crap too. So if I can get this stupid ugly draft done, then maybe I can revise it.

So I kind of went off on a tangent here, but my point is– I rush straight through the end so that I can make it something other than total junk. But if I dont write the end– if I avoid it– I’ll never be able to do that.

-The Literary Agent and Writer With a New Book Deal!

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Congrats on finishing a project! Usually when I’m writing I have a very clear idea of the ending, and of course as a writer my ideas come with word descriptions. So typically I’m writing on the ending all throughout the book, and by the time I’m ready to connect the middle bits with the ending, the ending has already been edited a bunch of times as I’ve combed over it, and is actually the best part of the book. I’m always eager to record the grand and dramatic moments so I don’t forget how they feel in my head; those are my favorite part to write and I’ll pretty much abandon any other part of the story in order to get to them.

My ‘running to the refrigerator’ moments come when I have to give a scene a complete rewrite and it’s going to be painful, or when I have to write something I’m not exactly sure will turn out with the purpose I want (ie when I don’t have a clear idea of where I’m going).

-The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Actually, the things I usually figure out when I first come up with a story idea are the beginning and climax/ending. I LOVE writing climaxes, because they’re often the part of the story that I look the most forward to (and thus become a reward for writing the entirety of the book). However, because they’re so emotionally draining, I will often set aside an entire day for them–and make sure my fridge is stocked with caffeinated drinks!

But don’t drive yourself crazy trying to nail the climax in the first draft–you will have plenty of time to revise and polish it up!

The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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The points where I slack off the most or do research or get distracted by the internet are normally the boring parts or slow parts of a project. I don’t like writing them as much but they’re necessary to connect the interesting parts or provide needed information. I tend to write my major scenes, or at least parts of them, earlier in the process. They’re the things that keep me awake at night, demanding that I get my computer back out and write them down. I think the most difficult part for me (which I just relearned as I was finishing my WIP) is the connecting section between the last event and the climax, the part that actually brings the characters to the tensest moments. I have trouble building up to that.

-The Writer Querying Agents

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I don’t worry about messing up the climax. As I always say: You can’t expect to write the scene perfectly in your first attempt. I just open the dam and allow for my excitement to flood out. I know the writing quality might not be top notch. But I’m usually too excited to stop and edit. I just write and write. I capture the scene that I’ve been longing to write since chapter one. And I write quickly because I’m afraid I might lose that excitement. Sometimes, however, the climax isn’t as fun to write as I imagined. In those cases it takes me several tedious attempts (writing, deleting, rewriting, deleting) before I finally write the climax as it should be.

-Writer Who Got A Full Request

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I…love writing the exciting stuff. Sometimes I’ll think of scenes months in advance that have to come later, and for my current novel I’ve had the ending in my head for literally more than a year before I finally wrote it down. Knowing about the climax actually motivates me to write faster and helps me connect scenes better.

That said though, I never actually sit down and say “And now I’m going to write the end!” So far, every single thing I’ve written that’s exciting or climactic has come out either in a totally unexpected place, or a fair amount of pages into my writing session. I always have a kind of lead-up to rile me up and get my adrenaline pumping, so that by the time I get to the exciting bits it’s all flowing out because I feel the same sense of urgency and need of the characters to throw a punch or RUN.

And don’t worry about messing it up. Just write. Pour out all the excitement you feel for it. You can always go back later with a clearer mind and fix it.

~-The Writer Editing her First Novel (Who Also Just Got a Twitter Account!)

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I find that the times I procrastinate most while writing is when working on scenes that I’ve planned out in my head. For some reason, I have a hard time getting through those in one sitting without getting up to get a snack or a drink, or checking Twitter or Facebook. When I’m just writing and going with it without a clear idea of where I’m headed, I tend to find it much easier; I fly through when writing those as-I-go scenes, no matter how significant (or insignificant) they are. Even if it’s the climax of my story, I find that if I didn’t plan it out in advance, it just comes to me quite naturally when I write. Editing, however, is a different story; I find it more daunting to edit those pivotal scenes. But yes, I definitely understand what you mean about worrying whether or not you’ll mess it up. When I’ve planned it out, it is definitely a huge worry, which in turn leads me to put it off. Which is why I try to let my characters just take me on a ride when I write; that way, I don’t see what’s coming!

-The Intern Writing her First Book

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How do YOU feel about writing endings?

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You can ask us a Question of the Week by clicking on QOTW in the upper part of our website and leaving us a comment. We try to answer Questions in the order they are received, unless something is really pressing.

Dealing with Ghost Dogs: The Fine Art of Revision

31 Mar

by Lynn Heitkamp

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My writers’ group has decided that, collectively, we’re done working with animals — dogs, specifically.

This doesn’t mean we don’t love our furry friends.  Most of us in the group are devoted pet owners, and my own labrador retriever usually isn’t very far away from my computer when I’m working.

No, we mean fictional dogs.

You’ve probably heard the old saying that you should never work with children or animals and thought it doesn’t apply to fiction writers.  After all, we do most of our work in our heads, and with pens and keyboards, don’t we?  It’s not like we’re part of a live performance that can get derailed by a temper tantrum or an embarrassing scratch.  We’re the creators of our fictional worlds, and even the kids and the animals inside them are supposed to follow our lead.  Right?

Right?

Well…

Let’s just say my writer friends and I have had some issues with that.  We’ve discovered that projects that include dogs as characters tend to derail in very odd ways.

Our most egregious case of fictional dog misbehavior came in one of my own novels.  I had been writing and revising the project for nearly two years before I finally decided to print it off and let my family members read it.

The manuscript was riddled with errors, ranging from weird jumps in font types, to repeated chapters, but my family loves me and were willing to overlook them in their eagerness to see what I’d been working on in secret for so long.

And then came the evening when I was sitting across the room from my mother while she read my manuscript.  I was doing my best to ignore what she was doing.  I wanted her to experience the story on the pages, and didn’t think hovering over her shoulder, asking “What do you think?” every five pages would accomplish much.

But then she turned a page, and started laughing.  Out loud.

My heart warmed.  I fancied that there were quite a few amusing incidents in this story, and I was pleased to know that one of them had tickled another human being’s fancy.  I interrupted her to ask, “What part are you on?”

She laughed again and pointed down at what she had just read.  “He just reached down to pet the dog,” she said between chuckles.  “But the dog died in the last chapter!

Indeed.  I had committed one of the sins of cut-and-paste editing.  While rearranging the timeline of the novel, I’d moved an important conversation between my two main characters to a different point in the story, but I hadn’t remembered to account for all the changes that had happened between those two points — the most glaring of which was the tender death scene of said dog.  On my computer screen, scrolling up and down through pages, I’d never noticed the mistake, just as I’d never noticed my font issues or duplicated passages.

It has gone down in writers’ group lore as “the ghost dog incident,” and, though it was mortifying at the time, I did take away from it a valuable lesson.

Technology is great, but the human eye is better, especially when you’re editing.  Sometimes you have to actually have something in your hands to see what you’re doing.  Sometimes a Beta reader can save your story from a mistake that makes you cringe.

And some times, you just have to give up and say you no longer work with dogs.

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Lynn Heitkamp is the author of Thorn of the Kingdom, and several other novels on FictionPress.  She signed with Mandy Hubbard of the D4EO Agency in February 2010.  Despite her intentions, her characters still sometimes insist on keeping pets, but she’s learning to live with that.

Sex and Violence: A Writer’s Worst Nightmare

25 Mar

Vanessa Di Gregorio
~

If there is one thing I’ve been taught, it’s that sex scenes and fight scenes are the parts you keep an eye on, as both a writer and an editor (or crit partner). Why? Because sex and violence can make people uncomfortable. Because those scenes with sex and violence are difficult to write. It’s what most writers dread having to write sometimes.

So, we’ll start off with violence in books; specifically, those dreaded fight scenes. Chances are, if you’ve never written a fight scene before, you will write something nonsensical. People reading it might be completely lost and unable to visualize the scene at all. The flow and pacing might be too slow. It might lack the OOMPH you’re looking for.

The best way to remedy this? READ FIGHT SCENES IN BOOKS.

Don’t copy word for word, but take a look at how some books portray fight scenes. Heck, make some notes. If you read a book with a great fight scene, place a sticky note or a bookmark there; use it as a reference. But, some books might also have some awfully lackluster fight scenes; and I’m sure you all have come across some not-so-great scenes at some point in time. Writing a fight scene is so much more difficult than one would think. Watch fight scenes. Act them out in your living room. Think of how a body moves during a fight scene, and be varied. Don’t keep having them swinging punches; mention body weights shifting, balance; whatever you feel is necessary to make the scene not only make sense, but more engaging for your readers.

A fight scene consists of Action and Reaction.

He kicks, she stumbles back.
The action should come before the reaction.
She stumbled as he kicked her hard in the chest. While not a bad line, and certainly understandable, it might be more effective to write it this way: He flung his leg out, kicking her hard in the chest. She stumbled backwards, winded.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m brilliant at writing action scenes, but you get my point. The pacing is just that much more intense when the action comes before the reaction. If we find out that the character stumbles before getting hit, the pacing is different; the fight scene is no longer as intense, and it doesn’t impact a reader the same way. We can visualize it, sure (which really is the first goal of a fight scene; to have it make sense); but you also want to consider how tense your fight scene should be.

Short sentence are key. Long sentences in a fight scene can make it too complicated/convoluted. So, stick to the short and sweet. But be careful; you need to vary it a little bit. Don’t have all the sentences the same length.

Bad: She kicked. He blocked. She punched. He ducked.
Okay, so maybe that was a bit extreme. Here’s another example:
Bad: He could hear her approach. He turned and they faced off. She suddenly rushed at him.
Better: Footsteps echoed in the alley. He whipped around. A woman rushed at him, throwing a wild punch.

Vary your sentence lengths. Yes, the shorter the better; because then the flow and pacing is quick, as it should be for a fight scene. But you can see how having different sentence lengths makes it more interesting. If all your sentences are the same length, it can also interrupt the flow by being too staccato.

Now that we got through some violence, let’s talk about love (or lust) – and the even more dreaded sex scenes. Whether you are writing YA or Adult Fiction, chances are you might try to write a sex scene. My first suggestion? DON’T MAKE IT CORNY. Your readers should not be snickering while reading a passionate (or perhaps not so passionate, depending on the type of sex scene you are writing) love making session. It shouldn’t be painful to read unless you’re trying to make it awkward.

Writers often fall into the use of clichés, or use inappropriate names for body parts that can either be completely and utterly ridiculous, or just plain offensive. Sex can be both, if it’s your intention to do so. But most authors trying to write sex scenes aren’t trying to make you squirm in outrage (or laugh outright). So here is a list of things to consider when you come across an intimate scene between your characters.

Avoid euphemisms. They can end up being really tacky, funny, and just plain awful. Unless you are trying to be ridiculously funny, avoid body part euphemisms. In fact, why mention the naughty bits at all? I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but really, there are so many other body parts. What about the small of her back, or some trembling hands? You could even just say that she reached for him and you would get the point. So, if at all possible, avoid words that might make you laugh. You can be explicit without being… well… explicit.

Make your sex realistic. Are two teens going all the way for the first time? Well, I’m not sure if you remember what your first time was like, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the greatest session of love-making ever. Sex can be boring or unsatisfying for your characters. It doesn’t always have to end with the ultimate climax. But when a sex scene is earth shattering for your characters and boring/unsatisfying for your reader, well… you have a problem.

People do not talk like porn stars
. Unless you are writing about porn stars, your characters should in NO WAY sound like them. Again, it is tacky. And funny (in a sad, this-is-hilarious-even-though-it’s-not-meant-to-be sort of way). No one talks like them during sex; porn is over-the-top. Your sex scenes shouldn’t be.

Don’t forget to use all the senses. Sex (like any intimate scene) shouldn’t just be purely physical. There are sounds and scents and tastes. And it doesn’t have to be obvious, like a shuddering moan or something. Think of all the little details: her strawberry lip gloss, or the sound of the bed sheets ruffling.

So now, hopefully when you go off to write about sex or violence, you’ll find some of these tips helpful. Have your critique partners pay particular attention to these scenes when they read your work. And just keep writing them. Don’t shy away from these scenes because you don’t know how to deal with them. Practice writing; you don’t necessarily have to show it to anyone, but the more you practice, the better. Once you feel comfortable, then write the scene for your manuscript. Look over the scenes after; often, these are the scenes a writer will write, and then not edit/revise. Sure, it might be embarrassing, but if you can’t read it, then why would anyone else? Believe in yourself and your skills as a writer; you never know what you can do until you try.

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Vanessa is an intern at The Rights Factory, a literary agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program, and is trying to figure out where in the world of publishing she wants to end up in. Currently, she is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Vlog: Sarah and Savannah on Revisions

9 Mar

Sarah and Savannah discuss the Revisions process, both pre-agent and post-agent.

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

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Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Her agent currently has her novel on submissions to editors. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

Question of the Week: Murdering Your Darlings

22 Jan

REMINDER: OUR BOOK TRAILER CONTEST ENDS TONIGHT (1/22) AT MIDNIGHT PST.

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR ENTRIES TO letthewordsflowblog@gmail.com.

CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE GUIDELINES AND PRIZES.

WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, JANUARY 25th.

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This week, we’re answering a question from Caitlin, who asked us: When editing, what was the most painful decision you’ve had to make regarding cutting things out (like, what was your favorite scene or character or sub-plot that you subsequently found yourself removing?) and how did you deal with it?

Great question, Caitlin!

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I think that the most painful things I ever had to cut were ‘traditional’ things; scenes or character names I’d had in there from the beginning. The hardest thing for me to learn was that you HAVE to delete something if it’s not good, even if you can’t imagine your story without that particular scene. If it’s bad, it must go.

Something I found helpful is to have multiple drafts of my story. Work in Progress 1, Work in Progress 2, etc. Then I can always go back to an earlier version if I don’t like the cuts I make. But you know what? I’ve never gone back to an earlier version. Ever. The cuts are made for a reason, even if it’s painful to lose the flack.

The Other Writer Waiting On Submissions

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What I had most difficulty cutting out was the scene where my hero, Lord Candover, got mortally wounded in a brawl. That didn’t work out, so I tried to shoot him down in a duel instead. This didn’t work either. I thought to have his ex-mistress stab him…but that ended up being too melodramatic. So I reverted back to the duel scene, trying to manipulate my story so it would allow this scene to remain. But it JUST wouldn’t fit in with the story. I tried a few other ways to mortally wound Candover… Until I finally gave into the arrogant man’s angry demand: DAMN IT WOMAN! I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO GET SHOT, STABBED, OR BEATEN!!!! I sighed in defeat. Sometimes your characters know your story best.

The Writer Who Got Two Partial Requests

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For me, the pain of taking beloved material out of QUEEN OF GLASS was like ripping off a bandaid. At one point, my manuscript was 240k words long, and I was told I needed to cut out 100k words before ANYONE–agent, editor, etc.–would even look at it. It was pretty much do-or-die, so I took a deep breath and just started cutting. It was terrifying at first, but even as I threw beloved (but pointless) scenes and characters out the window, I began seeing how–with each tossed word–my book was becoming stronger.

Cutting material will always be bittersweet for me. I still groan when I have to remove a scene that I LOVE, but I also get a total thrill knowing my book just became THAT much better by cutting it. So, if I had to pinpoint the “most painful” cut, it’d definitely be that first one, when I sliced 100k words from my manuscript in one fell swoop. There were some scenes that were harder to let go of than others, but I know it was for the best. Learning to see my writing objectively and not be afraid to make big revisions is a skill I’ve truly come to value.

The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Remember, get your Book Trailer Contest submissions in by MIDNIGHT (Pacific Time) tonight!

Revising the Monster-Of-A-First-Draft

4 Nov

Have you ever read through your massive first draft and felt faint at the thought of having to revise it? Don’t worry if this is you. You are certainly not alone. The way I revised my 90k manuscript was by focusing on these five elements:

RELEVANCE – Weed out everything that is unnecessary. Ask yourself: Does this scene, dialogue, narration advance the plot/development of my story? If not, delete it—even if you absolutely adore what you’ve written. Sacrifices must be made. I, for one, omitted up to 10,000 words (with trembling fingers!) from my manuscript because it served no purpose to my story. Many other writers who have put their manuscript through intense rounds of editing would tell you the same story.

TONE – If I were to ask readers what the tone of Pride and Prejudice was, the immediate answer would be: light-hearted. If I were to ask readers what the tone of Wuthering Heights was, the answer would be: dark. Both works have consistent tones. For example, you would NOT find a scene of Mr. Darcy in the moor crying out Elizabeth Bennett’s name while tearing at his hair. It just wouldn’t suit. Hence, consistency is important! Keep an eye open for anything in your story that doesn’t complement the tone of your overall work. You don’t want any scenes to jut out awkwardly as if it had been cut out from another genre and pasted onto your manuscript.

CHARACTERIZATION – Make sure that the portrayal of your characters is consistent. Here is a simplified example: Cheated on by so many guys, Jane is shown to be jaded with men, and yet, one chapter later, she is desperately in love with John. Lame, I know. But see the contradiction there? We writers, as creators of fictional human beings, must play the psychologist. One thing I learned while revising is that it’s hard to pick up on these issues when editing one chapter per week. What will prove to be most helpful is to read your manuscript all at once. So book a few days off and read from start till finish with a red pen in hand!

SHOW, DON’T TELL – This is an advice writers will encounter everywhere. It is one of “THE” advices to writing a good fiction. Anyone can tell a story, but it takes effort to show a story. An example to illustrate my point would be something Sarah J. Maas picked up while editing my first five chapters. I had written down: “She was subjected to his indifferent stare.” Sarah asked me: “How does one look indifferent?” How, indeed? Maybe his expression was blank? The readers want to know.

HEAD HOPPING – Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s something I did (and still do) often in my writing. But it’s not fun for readers to read. It sometimes confuses the heck out of them (for an extreme case, try reading Virginia Woolfe’s To The Lighthouse). There are some published authors who are able to pull this off very well. I would recommend, however, sticking to the safe side by breaking the story into sections each time the “point of view” changes.

There will be moments when revising your manuscript will seem overwhelming. You might find yourself with an endless list of character inconsistencies, plot holes, and other errors that needs to be fixed. But don’t give up. Don’t let it suck the joy out of writing. Under the jumble of words there is a gem of a story that NEEDS to be told. Just take everything step by step and you will get through it all!

As quoted from Joyce Carol Oates’ book, The Faith of a Writer: “How to attain a destination is always more intriguing (involving, as it does, both ingenuity and labour) than what that destination finally is.”

If you guys have anything else you focus on when revising, feel free to share it, because I’m sure many of us (including myself) will benefit from it.

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June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the responses of two agents that requested a partial of her manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.