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Monthly Archives: February 2009

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Revisions Or Make Me Beautiful…

‘What don’t you like about yourself?’

The pages before me are nothing spectacular or eye catching, the basic form of the story, a rough draft.  A few pretty features mingled with the unsightly, overall its average at best.

‘Make me beautiful,’ beg the words on the pages.  ‘Make me sparkle.’

‘It’s only been a month since you where completed.  You still have that new manuscript shine.’

‘That won’t last.  One thorough read and it will be gone.  Every imperfection a lasting impression, my few good features a fleeting memory.  This is a tough business and I do not want rejection stamped across my title page because you were squeamish.’

‘But…’

‘No buts, you know perfectly well what I don’t like about myself.  You don’t like it either.’

‘Don’t you want to wait for a second opinion?’

‘You passed me on to a chosen few and comments have been made.  Many of which echoed your own.  In the end, you have the final say before sending me out.  So what’s it going to be?  Are you going to risk a foolish rejection or are you going to pick up that red pen and make me beautiful?’

Picking up the red pen is often the hardest and easiest thing I do, a strange combination of fear and elation.  What if there are so many red marks that it’s unfixable?  What if I can’t see beyond my own selfish love of the words and neglect to cut something that’s not needed?  What if, what if, what if…  Phffft, get over it.

What I have is bits of muscle and skin clinging precariously to the bones of a story.  Comments from my writing group and beta readers have been helpful in confirming some of my doubts and questions.  Now it’s up to me.

I finished printing it out, ready to read it from a reader’s perspective instead of a writer.  No pen yet, just reading.  Reading parts, especially dialogue aloud, looking and listening to the words.  Do they flow?  Are they awkward or do they stumble?  Am I confused, do I have to reread parts to understand what’s happening?

Once the initial read is accomplished then I’ll pick up the pen and start all over.  This time making notes of things that bothered me.  When that’s done guess what?  I’ll start all over again, this time looking for grammar and punctuation, misused, unnecessary and repetitive words.

The next step will be to take my notes and move back to the laptop.  I’ll remove the excess, move sections to where they will benefit instead of hinder, and implant where needed.  Then it starts all over again, until I’m satisfied that I’ve made the words on the page beautiful.

With a little patience, a lot of caffeine and the ability to retain some semblance of sanity, I just may end up with something worth sending out.

Do Your Deadlines Whoosh By?

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” -Douglas Adams

I always start a project full of energy.  I can visualize where I want it to go and that enthusiasm carries me until life gets in the way.  Suddenly my real estate business picks up and I have to change gears to work with either a new buyer or seller and my writing has to wait.  At this point in my life, the real estate business has to come first, that is where I make my living.  It’s not unusual for me to be working with several clients at a time.  So why do I always seem to drop my writing before I can complete a project? 

It’s because, my clients are my priority.  I plan to work with them.  I schedule appointments with them.  I schedule time to take care of their needs.  Why can’t I do that with my writing?

I can. It’s all a matter of planning and prioritizing.  I’ve taken the Franklin Planner class and I understand how to use it so I have decided to apply it to my writing.  My writing project has become my new client.

If you’re dealing with some of the same issues I am, maybe you can benefit by some of my suggestions.

  • Schedule your writing time into your planner.  Even though I use a Blackberry, I still like my paper planner.  I use the larger Monarch size.  It allows me a large space for writing notes and tabs to keep track of my clients.  I include a tab for my current scene that I’m working on.  I’m a fairly patient person but sometimes I end up waiting for appointments and it’s nice to have something to work on while I wait.
  • In that tab, I also keep a writing journal.  It keeps me on track.  It’s nothing fancy, just lined note paper.
  • With each journal enty, I write the date at the top. By writing the date, I can keep track of my writing success.  If my last journal entry is a week old, I can tell that I’m having problems focusing and need to address it.
  • I also make a note as to how long I plan to write on the journal page as well as my calendar for that day.  I block the calendar time just like any other appointment.
  • I then make a note of what I plan to accomplish during this writing session, in my journal. If I’m writing a new scene, I write a brief description of that scene.  If I’m revising, I have notes about what I want to do to make the piece better.
  • At the end of my writing session, I try to determine how it went.  Did I accomplish what I wanted to for that day and if not, where did this session leave me for tomorrow.
  • My last journal entry is where I plan tomorrows writing session.  I give a brief description of what I plan to do and then I flip back to my calendar for tomorrow and note the time I plan to work.

I run my real estate business by planning the night before what I want to accomplish.  Over time, I’ve discovered that planning ahead can help me be more successful.  Writing is like any other business so now I look at it as a business.  With real estate, I keep notes of my conversations and activities with clients.  With writing, my notes are my guideline to the end and my journal keeps me on track.

As always, I’m interested in what other writers do.  If you would like to share your approach to the writing process, please feel free to comment.

Oh, and by the way, this month I have been working on chapter three. My day job as a Realtor has limited my writing time but now that I have a plan, I plan to implement it. 

Until next time,

Virginia

Learning to Revise

In my attempts to come up with my February blog idea I searched saved files, old notebooks, idea boxes filled with clippings and articles.  It came to me as I sat in the pedicure chair bouncing ideas back and forth with my daughter in the chair next to me.  I have been revising my story for what seems like forever and I don’t feel I’m getting anywhere.  It finally hit me I need to give my story a pedicure.
 

I watched as my cuticle was carefully tended to, trimming away all the unwanted skin.  I realized this is what I needed to do with my story.  Trim the dead wording from around the original idea.  I knew I had added a lot of extra words which didn’t need to be there.   I have a habit of telling and not showing.  All it was doing was making the story boring, unattractive and a difficult read.  The extra words needed to go.  After all that was trimmed away it should leave me with the basic premise of the story I began with.

 Next I watched as a layer of dead skin attached to the bottom of my feet was exfoliated.  It didn’t need to be there.  All it was doing was making the bottom of my feet dry and unattractive.    So the next step in revising my story will be to scrap away the layers of dead calloused concepts which have managed to cling to the original story sucking the life out of it.  It seems no matter how you try to stay focused on the story line somehow these layers attach themselves becoming part of the story.   They will end up in the garbage just like what they scrapped from the bottom of my feet.

 When I am finished I should have a clean fresh copy of what I originally started with.  It should shine bright.  Buffed to it’s height of glory.  It should read as smoothly as a fresh pedicure.  l will take my story and massage it again applying just the right amount of grammar and spell check.  Now it should be ready to apply liberally a layer of new wording to take it from shiny, bright, fresh copy to spectacular and brilliant.  I can stand back and admire my hard work and appreciate a job well done.  I might even pull out the open toed shoes in celebration.

Things You Don’t Learn in College

    I should be mad at Maggie Rivers. I should blame her for the obsessed person that I am today. I should never forgive her for turning me into a crazy person that will never again lead a normal clueless, uninformed, beige life. I should, I could, I would except that I actually enjoy what has happened to me. What she did was open my eyes to the world and how I perceive it. She is a writer and now I call myself a writer, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

    Oh, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Since I learned to put pencil to paper back in grade school I entertained my teachers with my stories. It only seems natural that somebody with a vivid imagination and zany story telling skills, such as myself, would end up calling herself a writer. What made me want to take that leap from storyteller to writer was the class I took. Maggie Rivers was my teacher.

    My world now is one of awareness – and eight years of college didn’t give me that. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without spinning the situation into a new story plot or scene idea. I read the obituaries every week so I can collect unusual names, interesting occupations, hobbies and town names. What may seem mundane and ridiculous to “normal” people, is priceless story content. The bad side to this madness is that I haven’t learned how to turn it off. I call it what-if-itis. What if this, what if that. I go to bed at night, struggling with sleep as I wrestle with a plot. I can only go to sleep once I’ve worked out the scene. I wake up in the morning and a new idea has hit me and I’ve got to get to work on it before it’s lost. I have a full time job, but for most of the day I am scanning my environment for plots and details that I can use, quirks in human behavior. 

    And then there’s the research. I remember enjoying the many research papers I was required to do in college. Everyone thought I was nuts, but I loved it. Still do. For every new story, there are weeks of research to get the details right. As long as there is another new story, there will be more for me to learn about. As long as there is more for me to learn about, there will always be another story.

    Should I be mad at Maggie Rivers? Nah. I’m grateful to her for introducing me to the world of what-ifs and why-nots. One of the best hints she taught us? If your story isn’t going anywhere…just burn the house down. Metaphorically, of course. Hopefully, I’ll never need to do that.

Writing the Back Cover

Writing a story in a way that will captivate someone else can be learned. Sometimes there is inspiration and you find yourself writing the story as fast as you can. Other times it is darned hard to get it down. To tell the truth, it’s hard work most of the time.

I’ve taken courses in writing and I have learned a lot. I learned how important each and every word is. I’ve learned how to throw out pages when you drift off onto something that will not move the story forward. I’ve learned how to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. That’s what it takes.

Then there is the blurb on the back cover. It’s kind of like a synopsis, only shorter and harder to write. At least in my opinion it’s harder to write because it’s very important. That’s one of the two things a person looks at when they decide to buy a book or not buy it. The other thing is the front cover. I finally came up with the blurb for the back cover of my book. Hopefully there will be a back cover – if I can find someone to buy and publish my book. What do you think?

Mystique, Iowa seemed like a typical Midwest city, or town. Whatever you consider a place with 89,621 people, 98 churches, 67 taverns and 1 cult. Michelle moved to Mystique when she married Mark fresh out of college. She was not raised attending a mainline Christian church, but found she liked the church Mark grew up in. She volunteered there for about five years. When they had a job opening, she applied and was hired. Little did she know that job was the start of some very interesting and exciting experiences. To name a few – a murder, threats from a cult and becoming friends with the churches founder who happened to have died 150 years earlier. Michelle’s life and attitudes changed drastically the day she started working at Frontier Church.