What’s Up Wednesday: Resubmit

 

RobotWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

Resubmitting a manuscript to an agent is the equivalent of a call back in an audition. Querying is really auditioning. It is your chance to show an agent you are the right one to play the role of their New Client.

When you get the chance to resubmit a manuscript after revision, you take it, and you do your best to hit all your marks.

Even after you have revised, read aloud, sent to a CP, and walked through the book one last time, it can be hard to be sure. And the truth is, it may never be perfect (most published authors will tell you it never is) but you have to resubmit it and have faith that it will be perfect enough to show the agent what you can do, to make the story shine in a new way, and to make them fall in love.

I resubmitted my manuscript today, with excitement and a lot of nerves, and now it is out of my hands.

What I’m Reading

Finally getting back on the reading wagon. I just finished (after far too long) The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas. I loved it, though I did have a hard time with certain chapters and plot points. Definitely recommend if you read The Burning Sky, and if you haven’t read that you really should.

I am finishing up a friends MS, and starting on another tonight. Also, I will begin reading In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis, and I am so excited.

What I’m Writing

Right now I am working on a secret WiP that I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with. It’s kind of personal, and it’s different from my normal genre, and it’s a little freeing. Also, the Screenplay. I want to get a draft complete by the middle to end of June. That may be my ambition talking, though, and not possible in reality.

What Inspires Me

I had a writing session with my friend Lindsay today. Her debut The Murder Complex comes out in a couple of weeks, and her excitement is evident. We’ve been friends now for about a year, and watching her walk through this process has been not only inspirational but educational. It is such a huge accomplishment, and I am really happy for her.

My own love story. Monday, Memorial Day this year, May 26th my husband and I celebrated our 8th anniversary. There is not one part of me that wonders if I chose my partner wisely. We have grown up together in these eight years, we have made hard choices and faced uphill climbs. I am thankful to have him beside me.

 

What Else I’m Up To

This weekend I am going on a road trip with my husband and son to Houston, TX. We are attending the book launch for my friend and awesome writer Jennifer Mathieu, whose debut The Truth About Alice releases this week. I got to read an ARC back in April, and seriously LOVED it.

We are then planning to take my son to visit NASA. He has wanted to go since he learned about it. My maternal grandfather worked in the aerospace program in the 60s, which makes it extra special to share this with Sam.

The last stop on our trip will be to celebrate with my friend Sarah Penrod, who is a contestant on this season  of The Food Network Star. Everyone watch and cheer her on. She’s a super cool, immensely talented person.

Happy Wednesday to All!

On Writing a Novel: Critique Partners*

critique

(*This post will be about Critique Partners. I know, I said it was going to cover more topics. Critique Partners are too important. They need a whole post.)

Revision is now complete. You have read through one more time for good measure. You are about to write your query—

Hold on. You are not ready just yet. Reel that trigger finger in and holster it.

Everyone has a first reader, many writers are already blessed to have Critique Partners — don’t forget to show them love, good Critique Partners are manuscript currency— and some are at the point where finding a Critique Partner is the next logical step in their writing journey.

Critique Partners: What are they? Where do I get one?

Critique Partners — or as they will be referred to henceforth, CPs— are other writers that you exchange manuscripts with, giving and receiving feedback.

It wasn’t until I was on the fifth draft of Redhunt (FYI: There is now a 6th. Revision isn’t over until the book is printed.) that I began seeking readership outside my husband and a few close friends.

CP Tip #1: Find an online community of writers and connect with them. Check out writer’s groups in the area. Take a workshop. Reaching out to other writers is the best way to find one you might connect with.

I took a workshop through Mediabistro taught by the illustrious Nova Ren Suma. Beyond Nova’s invaluable critique and feedback on pages from Redhunt, there were eleven other students giving feedback. I loved all the awesome people I met through this workshop, but a few of us started exchanging work and haven’t stopped since. In many ways, that workshop was the best $600 I have ever spent.

Pro Tip: You may not have sold a book, but technically you are a business operating at a loss as you pursue publication. Classes for writing are totally deductible.

CP Tip #2: If you can’t find someone who writes in your genre — sub-genre if you write YA — at least find someone who likes to read what you write.

I have three CPs and none of them write YA high fantasy. Susan writes Adult magical realism and YA urban fantasy. Sam writes YA paranormal and contemporary, and Jess writes YA paranormal and contemporary. The thing we have in common is our love of YA and our enjoyment of each others genres.

CP Tip #3: There are all kinds of CP relationships. Learn what works for you and them, and how to get the most out of critiquing each others work.

Besides my three CPs, I frequently read and exchange notes with screenwriter and Middle Grade writer Alex, as well as Courtney, who writes upper YA/NA. I am buds with YA writer, Sara Biren, who has a critiquing and editing business (and shares my love of the Ruby Red Trilogy).

Not to mention, I occasionally give feedback on queries, synopsis and read pages from some local writer pals and others I have met at various locations. And whenever possible, Lindsay Cummings and I hang out and write, talk through book problems, and read pages.

All these CP relationships are different, and come with different levels of commitment. Make sure you are clear about what you expect before you embark on a new writing friendship.

CP Tip #4: When you find a CP (or many), be generous with feedback, be kind with criticism, and don’t rewrite the book for them.

As readers, it is very easy to jump on a CPs manuscript or critique it into a book the writer just is not writing. There are many ways to tell a story, but when you are the writer, you are telling the story as only you can. As a CP, you must embrace the writer’s vision while helping them to strengthen the prose, see plot holes and other drafting problems, and present options for revision. The most valuable critique involves asking questions that will prompt the writer to find a solution.

CP Tip #5: Along those same lines, when you receive critique DO NOT argue with your Critique Partner.

Not every piece of feedback is going to resonate with you. Reading is “incredibly subjective” as you will be reminded countless times when you begin querying. And you know what? It’s true. The purpose of critique is to illuminate your manuscript in a way you as the writer couldn’t. Every note has merit because your CP is a reader — a much more forgiving reader than you will find in an agent you cold query or a teenager at Barnes and Noble —and whether or not you ultimately decide to revise is up to you.

Pro Tip: Some things are worth fighting for. Others are worth letting go. Those things are the barnacles on the belly of your manuscript.

CP Tip #6: Have fun with critique. I am so close to one of my CPs (though I love them all equally) that when she goes on vacation for a week and I don’t hear from her as much, I find a Susan shaped hole in my heart.

Here are some famous CPs (and a pic of Susan and me thrown in!):

Next up: Polishing and Preparing to Query

 

 

What’s Up Wednesday

AlienStarsWUWWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Oh, not a damn thing. I am the worst right now. Besides beta reading — which I do consider reading! — I just haven’t had time. It’s been a hectic month. Who am I kidding? It’s a hectic life. I am hoping to have some time next week to dedicate to reading. When I do I plan to dive into my ARC of In a Handful of Dust, the companion novel to Mindy McGinnis’ debut Not a Drop to Drink, which was one of my favorite reads last year.

What I’m Writing

I finished the Revision part of the Revise and Resubmit on my manuscript Redhunt last Thursday. I am waiting on feedback from one of my CPs because I would feel antsy about the whole thing without out. I began a lightish revision on my manuscript Of Blood and Promises, which I hope to have completed by the end of the week.

Every time I finish a revision or a draft I think I am going to knock out the screenplay I’ve been working on in the interim…and then something happens with one of my manuscripts that makes that impossible. This is a good problem to have, but the fact remains that I want to finish that screenplay. So, I decided to dedicate ONE hour everyday (sometimes a little more) to the screenplay. I’ve written nine pages since Sunday.

I’ve also done a fair amount of blogging lately. I started a series on my blog called On Writing a Novel and the first three posts have been really fun to write! If you want to check them out, I’m including links below.

Planning and Research

Drafting until it’s Drafted

Revision is not a Four Letter Word

What Inspires Me

Reader feedback and reblogs. Sometimes, no matter how many readers WordPress says come to my blog, it stills feels like I’m writing just for me. That sensation is not a bad one, necessarily. It can facilitate honesty in a way that would otherwise be difficult. Still, it’s always nice to know something you’ve written resonated. Even just to one person.

Dallas Comic Con. I am a fangirl. My participation in fandoms has multiplied exponentially in the last few years. But what makes DCC more inspirational is how being there, even for one day, gave me insight (on a small scale) to the mystery of Comic Cons as a whole. The most interesting part of DCC was watching fans interact with each other in a supportive way.

My favorite moment was when a girl dressed in some anime cosplay I cannot name saw a couple dressed as Ellie and Carl Fredricksen from Pixar’s UP and got so excited she nearly cried. Cosplayers happily pose for pictures with fans, even though cosplayers themselves are just fans. And the whole thing has my mind buzzing with ideas.

What Else I’m Up To

So, Comic Con. These things happened and it was good.

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When Nathan Fillion walked out, maybe 10 feet from me, my knees almost buckled. That guy is seriously handsome, and his appearance was totally unexpected. My brother Isaac (the guy in the picture with Adam Baldwin) is such an adorable fan, that when Adam Baldwin shook his hand, Isaac (who’s 6 foot 7) nearly fainted into my arms. It was one of my favorite moments ever.

What’s up with you guys?

On Writing a Novel: Revision is not a Four Letter Word

revision

Revision is a bloodbath. It is an assault on words you vomited — eked, spit, sweat — onto the page during drafting. It is where you get to the heart of your story. It sometimes involves massive cuts, sometimes surgical edits. Sometimes it is about character, and others about prose. It is a process, and while there is no one infallible way to revise, there are some truths universally acknowledged.

Write Tip #1: You must read your entire manuscript, from start to finish. There are no exceptions.

As you begin to read your manuscript, you will consider carving out your eyes with a melon baller as an alternative to reading anymore. Push past that and separate yourself from the hope that your first draft isn’t total shit. Even if you are a seasoned and stupendous writer, your first draft will have cringeworthy moments.

This read through is to identify the Global Problems. World building, themes, arcs — these are all Global. Focus on those first. Are they all working? Did you drop a thread somewhere in the middle and never pick it back up? Are character arcs satisfying? Is the voice consistent?

Once you have read and unearthed the large problems in your manuscript you can make a plan.

Write Tip #2: Do not begin cutting and slicing before deciding on a plan of action that will address the problems in your manuscript. Then write it down.

Break your problems up into categories. Define them by character. Divide them by plot point. I cannot tell you how best to organize the list of issues you will likely uncover.  It will all feel a lot more manageable if you organize it in a way that helps you relate to the story with fresh eyes.

If you focused on plot in the drafting stage, try organizing your revision by character arc and internal goals. If you were all internals and forgot plot points even existed, focus on the story structure.

Write Tip #3: Take it one step at a time. It is easy to get overwhelmed during revision, breaking it down into bite size pieces is how you avoid that.

During a recent revision I had to cut a character. Not kill her. Cut her – remove her from the story entirely. The first step was extracting her from every scene she was featured in. Then, I made notes with Track Changes to remind myself that the scene would need to be reworked later. I did this throughout the entire manuscript until all evidence of her existence had been edited away. I was then able to go back and revise the now chopped up scenes all at once.

Write Tip #4: When the first set of revisions is complete, and before sending it to critique partners, read it again, this time focusing on Local Problems.

Local Problems — grammar, punctuation, word choice and narrative flow. Local problems have a big influence on how the manuscript reads, and while they might not be as glaringly obvious as Global Problems, they are just as important.

You will never be able to make everything perfect, and even with reading and rereading you may not notice all the problems in your own manuscript. Print and read your draft aloud. When you stumble on the prose, examine why.

Write Tip #5: Give it to readers and begin work on another project. At some point you will take a draft as far as you can on your own, and a fresh set of eyes is essential. While those eyes are perusing, take out a Shiny New Idea from the vault and ask yourself what if?

Next up: Handling critique, revising on feedback, and preparing to query. 

To check out previous posts in this series follow these handy links ::

Planning and Research

Drafting until it’s Drafted.

 

On Writing a Novel: Drafting until it’s Drafted

write1

Drafting — or as I described it in my post on planning and research — the horrible, rough, manic, shit-storm that makes beautiful novels possible.

Just as planning and research is accomplished in different forms depending on the specific writer’s process, drafting happens for each writer in a way only they can truly understand. It is a little bit magic, a lot determination, fueled by adrenaline and insanity and caffeine. While there are different processes and methods, there are some constants that most every writer adheres to, and those are what I will focus on in this post.

Write Tip #1: You can start at the beginning. You can start at the end. You can write the inciting incident because it is the seed idea and therefor all you can actually see. But one thing is certain…YOU MUST WRITE SOMETHING.

There is a safety in research and planning, an insulation around your idea and it’s fragile bones that makes opening a blank Word document and actually writing feel a little bit like throwing your precious into the middle of a tornado. It will be tossed around some — this is a reality you must accept. Your fear is not a reason to stay in the safe zone.

I have written some horrifically bad sentences in my first drafts. Bad enough that I cannot even believe I am showing one to you. Nevertheless, here is a line from the first draft of my novel Redhunt:

I step onto a landing that opens into the kitchen and it’s dark, lit only by the morning light through the window.

With revision that sentence was cut. The scene around it was also cut and forgotten until today. It served its purpose — its only purpose really — to facilitate the forward motion of drafting.

Write Tip #2: Keep writing forward. You can do some minor revision as you go along, reread the pages you ended with during your last writing session to jumpstart, but the key to finishing is to not look back for long.

You will realize there are problems in your manuscript as you are writing it. Every single writer, whether a first timer or seasoned pro, has inconsistencies in their first drafts. The purpose of a first draft is to get the story out of your head and onto the page (or screen). A common mistake in drafting is going back to read through what you’ve written. Thus begins the eternal edit loop that will kill your momentum and silence the creative voice inside your head.

Instead, reserve any major revisions until the end of the manuscript. This is what you should especially do if you have attempted to write a novel before but never completed the task. A writer who has a few manuscripts under their belt might be able to seamlessly jump from past pages to current, revising and drafting at the same time, but that takes a level of skill most of us won’t achieve for a very long time.

Write Tip #3: Find rewards for hitting word count goals, or scene goals, or plot point goals. Further, make sure to set a goal when drafting and find a way to keep yourself accountable.

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I frequently update my feed with progress reports, failures, reward system announcements, and any other thing I can think to Tweet that will mark my progress.

I have used caramels and alcohol, an episode of a TV show that I am really into (Doctor Who, Veronica Mars, Game of Thrones episode largely featuring Jon Snow, etc.), pages in a novel I am currently reading and dying to get back to, as a reward for meeting my drafting goals.

Write Tip #4: Set a deadline to finish. I am a goal oriented person, which you can probably tell by the above tip. But having a deadline is less about a goal, and more about prioritizing your writing over watching TV, shittin’ around on the internet, or, yes, even reading.

No one is going to finish your book for you. Writing is you and your characters, their story, and nothing else. It is a dark room of silence. It is screaming into the void of your imagination. You can have a gaggle of cheerleaders at your back, but if you don’t sit your ass in that chair and turn thoughts into words on a page you will never have a book. If you cannot complete a draft, you cannot revise.

In order to be an author you will have to meet deadlines. Start now. Maybe you don’t make it, but don’t plan on failing. Don’t let yourself off the hook. The misery of beating yourself up about a deadline is the joy of finishing on time.

Write Tip #5: Finish it. Make is messy and wild and break every rule in the book. You can fix it later. You’ll slash sentences and circle paragraphs, writing in red ink WTF?, when you do your read through. Don’t stop until you have typed THE END.

 

 

 

 

On Writing a Novel : Planning and Research, a Prologue

stephenking

This post will begin my three-part examination of writing a novel. I have written two manuscripts in the last two and half years, which makes me neither an authority nor a novice on the subject. However, writing and revising a manuscript is something I have done with a degree of success. If success in measured by the manuscripts being readable, agents responding to my query and pages, or my CPs not cringing when I send pages.

Since this is my blog, I choose to believe it is.

The first part of my examination will hit on Drafting — the horrible, rough, manic, shit-storm that makes beautiful novels possible.

The second part will cover the blood-bath that is Revision, which will steal your joy, and rob your faith, and create something actually worth reading.

The third part will delve into handling critique, revising on feedback, polishing and spit shining. In other words, getting that baby ready to query.

To have a novel you can pitch to agents you must have revised and polished it. To revise you must have a finished draft, and to that end you must also have some idea of what you are writing the book about, who is narrating, and so on.

Before we get to the three stages of writing a novel, we will spend some time in the land of pre-writing.

Prologue:

Planning and Research

Everyone handles this stage a little differently. I can tell you what I do, and you can tell me it is wrong, and we will somehow both be accurate. As a non-plotter, my planning does not include a written outline. I spend a lot of time listening to the narrative voice in my head. Asking questions. Trying to understand who this person is and why her story is worthy of telling.

This sounds mythical and unknowable, but what it really means is I cannot sit down to write until I have heard and defined the characters voice in my head.

Write Tip #1: Voice is the hardest thing to revise. If you do not have a distinct narrative voice, you will struggle with more in revision. Make sure you are listening to your protagonist from the beginning.

Once I am jiving with my MC, the plot begins to take shape in my mind. I am of the school of thought that “plotting” means knowing the large movements in the story in a vague and changeable way. You should know the big plot points, and you should have an idea of the goals, the stakes, and so on, but so much of writing (for me) is about the chase. If I know everything ahead of time, I loose that since of wonder at uncovering the true story.

Write Tip #2: You can always go back and add in, but you must keep moving forward in order to ever know what needs to be fixed.

Research is a funny thing, and can be done in a myriad of ways. My friend Lindsay Cummings took self-defense classes and handgun courses and walked around with a knife in her boot to better understand her protagonist Meadow. For my first manuscript, I researched as I drafted, which I do not recommend. But I was just learning, and my protagonist, she wasn’t too sure what was actually going on in her world.

For my second manuscript, Of Blood and Promises, I wrote 5,000 words and then I decided I should maybe have some things defined about this world — which has its foundations in Polynesian culture — before I went any further.

Write Tip #3: Research is essential. You can never write a book without some level of knowledge or inspiration backing you. Don’t think you have to know everything about your world up front, but know enough that you aren’t the blind leading the blind.

Once you have a grasp on your world, and you know what Trichotillomania (if you are writing a book with a protagonist that suffers from hair pulling disorder, like a friend of mine is), or when the fall of the Roman Empire occurred (if you’re writing an MC with an interest in world history), it’s time to bite the bullet and start drafting.

Write Tip #4: The blinking cursor in the blank Word doc is villain to your confidence. Just start typing. Be willing to put aside your research, to trash your outline, to start in the wrong place and write sentences that will make you cringe in shame. We all start somewhere. And it’s always slogging through shit at first.

Next up : Drafting until it’s Drafted