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How I Write: Knowing and Growing (when to submit)

(Check out Ansha’s blog for participating writers.)

I finished my first draft of my first story. And I knew I was ready. (cough, cough) So I submitted. Yup. And I got rejected. Double yup.

Agents wish writers would wait before submitting. Unfortunately, after our first story with maybe some revisions thrown in, we think we’re ready. Because we don’t know any better. And I say kudos. Go ahead. It’s a brave first step. We need those form rejections to realize we have a lot of growing to do.

After several rejections and critical feedback, I stopped. I knew I had more to learn. I wrote another couple stories, maybe queried a couple agents, but then stopped and moved on. Yes, I could have rewritten those stories and rewritten and rewritten, but I needed to take what I had learned and apply it to something new.  I could have queried every agent on the face of the earth, but I didn’t. They were practice novels. I could do better.

If you’re a beginner and you’re not quite sure how to revise yet, (or you think you don’t really need to) I say query a bit. Get your feet wet. But read craft books, read books, and continue to write. Don’t stall your writing for your first story. Move on.

You’ll know when you’re really ready. The feedback from readers/crit partners will be more line editing. You’ll know the checkpoints of macro and micro editing. You’ll have figured out how to intertwine emotion and tension into the heartbeat of your story. You’ll know about scene and structure and goal and motivation. All that good stuff.

And if you mess with that manuscript anymore, you’ll kill your voice and any raw emotion you had. That’s when you might be ready.

All you can do is craft the best query you can and send it out there. Easy squeezy. (cough, cough)

How do you know when to stop revising and send your baby out into the world?

Comments { 12 }

How I Write: Macro editing, Me, and Light bulbs

(Check out Ansha’s blog for a list of participating writers!)

I have to be honest. It took me a long time to understand macro editing. I mean, it’s so much easier to line edit. It’s very concrete to look through my writing for weak verbs, over-used words, weak chapter endings, typos…etc.

I’d read phrases like adding emotion, inner and outer conflict, three-act structure, goal/motivation, pacing – and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. At some point, a light bulb flickered on inside my brain – and I got it.

As I just started macro editing, I’m going to share what I’ve done so far.

1. I let my story sit for 6 weeks while beta readers took a look. Then I read it and took brief notes of obvious stuff that needed rewriting. I also added smiley faces for parts I liked.

2. I wrote a few drafts of a query letter and the synopsis to be revised later. This helps with plot holes.

3. I wrote a new beginning with a stronger hook to tie in to my story goal.

Story Structure

4. I wrote a one-line description for each scene. I separated my scenes into the three-act structure. I took Alexandra Sokoloff’s wisdom to heart. I checked to make sure I had opening tension introducing the story goal. I checked for the Act II midpoint climax or big twist. I checked for increasing tension up through the climax. Her blog is a must read.

5. I plugged my story into the nine point grid I read about on query tracker.

At this point, I know parts need to be rewritten. Sentences cry out to be beefed up and rewritten. But I’m not doing anything yet.

 6. And this next step is new for me. I have a 4×6 index card for each scene. And here’s what’s on them.

  •  mc’s goal
  • action taken
  • opposing force
  • Outer (point of change)
  • Inner (point of change that corresponds to the outer)
  • Suggestions: (Here I write down suggestions for what I’m missing)

And so far, a lot of my scenes are missing the inner conflict, which means the emotion is weak. Geez!

This is where I’m at now. I do know the next few steps I’ll take.

7. Rewrite the big scenes that need to be changed.

8. Rewrite according to the index cards.

9. Rewrite according to my notes from my read through.

And there you have it – my long learning curve with macro editing. Is there anything I missed? What works for you? And I hope I’m not the only one who once thought revisions meant line editing. (Feel free to lie to make me feel better.)

Comments { 15 }

How I Write: Boxing match of the century: Revision vs. Writer

Announcer: Hello folks and welcome to today’s exciting event. In one corner is the Writer, and in the other corner, Revision. 

 Crowds go wild.

Announcer: It’s been six weeks since the face off when the writer left the ring. You heard it right, folks. But the Writer is back and in top shape. She’s been training for this night for over a month. Let’s see if she’s got what it takes.

Revision curls its pages and glares at the writer. No words are needed.

The writer chews on peanut MnMs, then cracks her knuckles.

Announcer: The bell rings and the match has started. Writer jabs to the right and leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the manuscript.

 Revision curls over, gasping for air.

 Revision: You’ll never fix me now. Your line edits won’t make a dent.

 Announcer: Writer doesn’t give in to Revision’s trash talk. Instead, she attacks. She cuts and pastes and rewrites. She trims and tightens. She checks each scene for goals and motivation. We’ve never seen such action from our Writer. Revision is folding under the weight of sensory details and strong verbs.

Crowds throw red ink pens at Revision.

Announcer: Writer backs away, exhausted, her fingers limp, her eyes crossed from the strain. Does she have the strength to make this a knock out? But wait, folks. Revision is back on its feet.

Revision flaunts the typos, overwriting, and forced emotion.

Writer wobbles on her feet.

Announcer: This is not looking good for our Writer.

Crowds quiets. Everyone bites their fingernails while clutching onto their favorite novels.

Writer: Help!

A murmur spreads through the crowd.

Announcer: By golly, folks. Three crit partners have stepped into the ring and hold up our Writer by the arms. They whisper and point and then leave the ring. Writer stands tall and with one last KAPOW, the Revision crumbles.

Our Writer is the winner!!!    

Statement in Newspaper of play by play plan of attack by Writer:

Take a 4-6 week break from your manuscript. Then print out and read through.

Macro Edits:

  • Goal/motivation
  • Inciting incident
  • Three-act structure
  • Big twist in middle
  • Plants and payoffs
  • Emotion
  • Tension
  • Time line

REWRITE and repeat as needed.

Micro Edits:

  • Strong verbs and nouns
  • Dialogue
  • Sensory details
  • Internal thoughts
  • Micro tension in each scene
  • Description/setting

 And that’s it, folks. That’s how the Writer defeated Revision. Writer is open to any tips or suggestions.

 (Check out Ansha’s blog for a complete list of participating writers!)





Comments { 18 }

How I Write: Muddled middles and motivation.

I feel really bad for the “middle”. It has a bad reputation. Seriously, it must have a huge guilt complex. And I don’t blame it.

The middle will make or break your novel. (No wonder we curse it so often.)

If you craft your novel well, the middle is the part where readers give a contented sigh and race to the end with their fingers gripped on the ereader device book. If you have a saggy middle – a reader just might close the book.

I’m a plotter. So when I’m writing I have motivation to finish because I know where I’m going. I’m excited to see how everything unfolds and to reach the climax. But when I’m plotting I struggle with the middle just like pantsers who are writing through the middle.

What I think makes a good middle: (or Act II)

  • plants for later payoffs or revelations
  • main character hunting down false clues or trying to reach goals, and they make mistakes
  • introduction or furthering of the inside character arc
  • disasters and complications
  • plot points and information that push the story forward
  • developing relationships

The middle middle: the big twist, reversal, huge revelation; the part where the reader gasps and the story takes off in a whole different direction.

  • real clues and plot developments
  • increased stakes in the outer and inner plot
  • everything goes wrong
  • payoffs from earlier plants
  • any subplots or separate storylines start connecting
  • devastation and the main character’s dark moment
  • mc makes plans

After the middle, the story heads into Act III and the climax.

There you have it. I find motivation through the middle by constantly asking how I can make it bigger, better, more suprising  – while moving the plot forward.  

Do you struggle with your middles? And what aspect of the middle is the hardest? How have you learned  to perfect your middles? (Srsly tell all because I’m stuck in a middle right now.)

Comments { 16 }

How I Write: Killing flies (or finishing a first draft)

Okay, I know, I’m two days late. My blog was being switched over to a new host. I didn’t mind though because I wasn’t sure what to say. Until a fly buzzed across the room.

So far, in the blog series on writing, I’ve covered everything I do before I write a first draft. I create the idea, plot, outline and all that good stuff. (Scroll down and you’ll find the posts. Sorry I’ve been at the ocean all day and I’m exhausted.)

Because I do all of the big plotting beforehand I didn’t want to repeat myself. I have no secret method or weapon that pushes me through the first draft. I don’t often get stuck because I get all the sticky stuff out during the plotting part. I hit my walls then.

When I sit down to write a first draft, I set goals: 1-2 thousand words a day and 5 thousand words a week. And if I go over – great. I write in order from the beginning to the end. If I have to stop to replot, I do. And then I jump right back into it.

I guess I can’t end the post without explaining about the flies. I hate flies. All kinds of flies. But especially big black buzzy house ones. I swear they are possessed. I try and kill them, usually with my shoe; and if I miss, they come back and dive bomb me. Totally freaking me out. So, I go on the hunt. I grab my flop and follow the bugger through out the house, swinging wildly until I kill it. And I always kill it. I’m always the victor. I never give up.

And that’s how I finish my first draft. Relentless. Driven. Fingers to the keyboard.

(My method of exterminating house flies was mostly foolproof – until my son tried to follow in my footsteps, except he used a 2 inch thick book and broke a window.)

Do you have any tips or top secret methods to finishing a first draft? Or tell me about the insect you hate the most and why. Let me know I’m not alone.

Comments { 13 }