The Good Dinosaur Rewrite

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Spoiler Courtesy

If you haven’t watched Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, and plan to, you may not want to read this.

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I have given this a lot of thought since I took my son to see The Good Dinosaur on Black Friday, and since it keeps swirling back to me the way a boomerang is supposed to I decided to share it.

First you must understand: I am a believer in the movie making magic that Pixar Entertainment wields. I pretty much go in to their movies with the expectation to be floored, wowed, torn into tiny pieces of human emotion. Over the years, I think I’ve developed an addiction to their specific brand of story. I gear up for the feels and I have rarely been let down.

I am also a writer that has endured — will always have to endure — high-level critique of my work. I know how hard it is to take that in, and even more, I understand how easy it is to get lost on the story’s journey, veering, spiraling, floundering until you no longer even recognize the work you’ve ended up with. I know how hard it is to fix it once you get to that soul-crushing crossroad.

That said, I have a pretty huge note at the story level of The Good Dinosaur, and rather than only tell you what I think isn’t working, I am going to offer what I would do to fix it.

Here is the movie description:

Luckily for young Arlo, his parents (Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand) and his two siblings, the mighty dinosaurs were not wiped out 65 million years ago. When a rainstorm washes poor Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) downriver, he ends up bruised, battered and miles away from home. Good fortune shines on the frightened dino when he meets Spot (Jack Bright), a Neanderthal boy who offers his help and friendship. Together, the unlikely duo embark on an epic adventure to reunite Arlo with his beloved family.

It would take too long to give you a play-by-play of the entire plot, so what I am going to do instead is focus on the key points I feel like needed to be revised.

Shall we?

Concept and Set-up:

What if dinosaurs didn’t die out but lived on? The movie offers a society (similar to the world in CARS) run by dinosaurs. They have evolved to the point of creating their own jobs for themselves, finding ways to sustain their food supply, forming family units. They are essentially humans in dinosaur clothes.

I do think this concept works for an animated feature. Children can get into it, like they did CARS, and adults can pick out the finer nuances of the idea. (An example: The T-Rex cattle wranglers, meat eaters, that look like they are riding horses because of their tiny little arms. Pretty fabulous!)

But that is not the only BIG IDEA at play in this story. We also have parallels drawn between the world of Good Dinosaur and the Range, like Home, Home on the, as well as the classic protagonist spirit journey arc.

THEN we have the protagonist’s inability to fit in with his family because he’s timid and fearful.

Thanks to the protagonist’s fear, his father ends up dead.

But it’s not until the little Caveboy comes back a second time, that the inciting incident happens. Arlo (the protagonist) finally shows some story gumption when he confronts the Caveboy and blames him for his father’s death, chasing the boy away from the safety of his home and getting swept off by the river.

It is, to me, a case of too much, too fast. It gets muddled on delivery.

My Revision:

The description of the movie leaves out a huge chunk of this information and instead focuses — as it should — on Arlo’s journey. The issue with the setup is figuring out a way to make Arlo’s stakes high enough so that he needs to take this spirit journey, and endearing enough that we need to follow him on it.

I am suggesting two major changes:

  • Eliminate his brother
  • Leave his father alive.

Begin with the world set up: Dinosaurs don’t die.

Go to the small picture: a single dinosaur family surviving.

Introduce Arlo — scrawny, fearful, not really built for field labor, and is subtly seen as a disappointment by his father. On farms, boys usually take over once their father’s can’t run it anymore, but that isn’t Arlo’s strong suit. To give it a feminist edge, hint that his sister is better suited for this work and also wants it more than he does. Build the relationship with his sister up, show that Arlo needs to face his fear of letting his father down, and show how that manifests in him being fearful in other situations.

Introduce the Critters eating their food supply, and Arlo’s inability to kill the Caveboy. Have a scene here where Arlo says something awful to his father about farm life. Have his father call him a coward. And then, to drive it home, have his father go searching for the Caveboy to finish Arlo’s job and get injured. Arlo blames himself, and when he sees the Caveboy again, he CHOOSES to catch him to prove he’s not a coward. This is of course the wrong motive, which is important to show his growth through the story.

He falls into the river, goes unconscious and finds himself far from home with no survival skills and no idea how to get home.

This gives Arlo’s character real tension and tightens the plot, we don’t waste all that time on the father’s death, and we don’t meander with the brother that adds nothing to the plot. Arlo needs to be active, and he needs to be searching for something more. He’s a kid, of course he wants to get back home, he’s worried he’ll be in trouble because they’ll think he ran away, and probably secretly worried they will be fine without him, but Arlo is on this journey because of fear, and I think, because he needs to find out who he is. This is a coming of age tale, after all.

Things this changes:

  1. Needing to get home to help with the harvest. In the movie as it is now, Arlo arrives home at the end when they have already finished bringing in the harvest, negating this motive. They are exhausted and for all they know he abandoned them. By eliminating the father’s death, and making the sister more active, this would no longer need to be a driving force for Arlo, leaving him to have deeper goals and motives.
  2. The conflict he has over his father’s death. This is not The Lion King, guys, and for me, the father’s death had little emotional resonance. He spends the whole time either watching his son fail, or telling him to face his fear. Telling is the key word. With all that telling, I lost interest. I also feel like this is something I have seen too many times, and in this case it didn’t add to the movie.
  3. The connection between Spot (Caveboy) and Arlo over the loss of a parent. I think this could still be established. Arlo is a lost child, and so is Spot. All they have now is each other.

Smaller Points:

Shaman Character-

There is a weird Styracosaurus introduced early in the second act that could have served as a Shaman or Spirit Guide. Later, the father is used as a sort of Spirit Guide. Streamline this, pick one Shaman character and have that character recur at least three times in the story. Again, this is about utilizing the concept and worldbuilding. When you are trying to create an imaginary world, some things need to be told and retold to make the world feel fully fleshed out.

More characters on the Range-

Another way to utilize your world building is by using common and recognizable archetypal characters to fill out the world and drive theme home. Arlo needed to experience more for this to be a true spirit journey. His experiences are not varied enough, and his encounters to not provide enough of an argument.

Final Thoughts

The script would have to be revised throughout based on these changes, with an emphasis on the spirit journey concept and worldbuilding. By cutting unnecessary plot points, and getting the tension off a death and onto the struggle of the main character, the story will already feel less passive and more focused.

Critique is a compliment, it means I cared about this story. It is easier to stand on the outside of something and see the problems and even the solutions, than it is to be inside trying to solve them in real time. This is one opinion of a way to improve a story, and I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this.

Also, Pixar, if you are interested in hiring me, my contact info is in my bio. I have a screenplay sample, and I’m available immediately.

Ready. Set. Write! Update #9

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Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

Last Week’s Goals:

1. Revise three more chapters.

I ended up revising 60 pages, so this is a major win. 

2. Write three more scenes on the screenplay and fill in the scenes I have skipped over.

I worked on a story grid for the screenplay, and then sent it to one of screenwriting friends for feedback, and then my week got CRAZY so I haven’t gotten back to it. But I think it is going to make a huge difference in shaping the Screenplay. 

3. Read

I read Isla and the Happily Ever After. Oh the feelings. 

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

I stare at the back of her head, my vision blurring from tears trapped in my eyes. I shake my head, and a few of those tears break free to sneak down my cheeks.

“Did you even love my father?”

She reaches up to run a hand through her hair. When she speaks, her voice is almost a whisper.

“Beyond reason,” she pauses to swallow hard. “I loved him beyond reason.”

Biggest Challenge:

This week I took Sam to the water park, Legoland, and Cosmic Jump as part of our EPIC SUMMER. I was exhausted from all the fun, and then I had to finish prep for his Power Rangers B-day party on Sunday. It was all worth it.

Something I love about my WiP:

The revision is stretching me. It’s the slow kind, where you feel the burn across all the writing muscles, must push through the pain and doubt that you can stretch that far, but you gain new flexibility.

This Week’s Goals:

1. Enjoy the last week before school starts with my son.

2. Revise the next chapter, which is a killer chapter.

3. Finish the Story Grid Revision on the Screenplay and send back to screenwriter friend.

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*

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(*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

 

 

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

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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.

 

What’s up Wednesday: Revise

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.

What I’m Reading

Still reading my ARC of The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas. I’m about 200 pages in and I think I may love it more than The Burning Sky. Plus, look at the pretty cover.

perilous

 

I haven’t had as much time for reading this week because of my writing news.

What I’m Writing

On Monday morning I received a revise and resubmit for my manuscript Redhunt. I was floored, if a little shocked. It’s with an agent I’m really excited to work with, and the notes were things I could see how to revise, and could see how they ultimately would strengthen the manuscript. I had come to a point with this book where I wondered — especially after finishing my new MS — should I move on? No, I hadn’t been querying it all that long, and really I hadn’t even queried all that widely. I had received multiple partial and full requests, but so far none had turned into an offer.

This is exciting not only because it is a fantastic opportunity to work with an agent, but a chance to give this book one more go through, one more reinvigoration, and see what happens. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to tell this story right.

What Inspires Me

The MS I am revising. My main character, Olie, is a hard voice to live with. She pushes at me, she makes me ache, she makes me angry, and she never does as she is told which is incredibly frustrating. I also know her so well that writing her is like breathing. I never question her voice, I just go with it. Being with her again (please, do not commit me, I promise I am sane) is a complicated thing, but a good one.

Having an agent get your book on this level is, easily, the biggest confidence boost ever.

Mumford & Sons, because they are my main soundtrack when working in this manuscript and I am excited to get to listen to them again. While I was writing Of Blood and Promises, I had to ban Mumford & Sons from my playlist. Their music is so synonymous in my head with Redhunt, that it distracted me.

What Else I’m Up To

I added a My Books page to this blog, because I have now written two novels. This felt like a milestone worth marking somehow.

My brother and his wife dedicated their baby at church on Sunday, and so of course they wanted to have a crawfish boil. I had never been to a crawfish boil. It was an experience. I am a little squidgy about shellfish, but I am always determined to experience different cultures than my own with an open mind. I will say, the part of the boil I enjoyed the most wasn’t the tiny, muddy creatures, but the telling of stories around the table.

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Happy Wednesday to all!

 

 

What’s up Wednesday

TreeWUWWhat’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

A lot of amazing beta reading happening here. I got to read my critique partner Susan’s incredible novel about a teenage Reaper who falls in love with the brother of a girl she reaps. I seriously laughed out loud and was brought to tears reading this manuscript. Not to mention, I am in love with one of the characters (not the love interest, though he is also dreamy) so it was extra fun for me. Then I read my friend Alex’s Middle Grade Fantasy manuscript about a girl who can talk to animals with a really unique magic system and interesting world. Lots of love for this manuscript and the well-drawn cast of characters. To sum up, I am a lucky girl.

Now I am doing more beta reading, along with reading an ARC of The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas. I seriously loved The Burning Sky, especially Titus and the Crucible and Eton College. This book is going to break my heart, I can feel it.

What I’m Writing

I did a revision on my recently completed MS, which is now titled Of Blood and Promises, then I wrote a query description, after that the synopsis. I switched gears to work on a screenplay I put on the back burner while writing my novel. After feedback from a trusted advisor, I am anxious to complete this screenplay and incorporate her notes.

I have been working on posts for I Believe in Story, the literary blog I contribute to. Last week I wrote a post about handling query rejections like a boss, which was a lot of fun, and kind of liberating.

What Inspires Me

I think Susan Dennard may be the best ever at explaining things. When preparing to write a query or synopsis — no matter how many times you have done it in the past — check out her blog for help. I know I have talked about it before, but it is worth repeating.

My brother and his wife are here from Israel. I haven’t seen them in a year, which means these last few weeks with my niece and my new baby nephew, have been precious. Talking with them about life in Israel, listening to them describe their home, and looking at my brothers incredible pictures, is definite food for the creative.

What Else I’m Up To

Tomorrow I am filming a promo video for my friend Lindsay Cummings’ upcoming debut, The Murder Complex. It’s awesome to use my filmmaking connections and experience to help her put something fun together for future readers.

My husband and I have been working our way through Veronica Mars. We are into the third season and it is a bummer to think we are almost finished.

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Easter Egg hunts with my kiddo. That’s hunts, plural. And then Church, which he was disappointed didn’t also include a hunt.

So…What’s up with you?

Writing Again

Advice-from-the-Worlds-Best-Writers-Quotes-on-Writing

I want to take a few minutes out of my Friday to talk about writing…again. Over the past two months, I have been taking a much needed break from writing. Well, I should rephrase, a break from writing a novel. I did plenty of blogging, and brainstorming, and worked on scripts for the webseries I’m doing with a group of teen writers and actors, but not a word was written in a manuscript.

My first novel took a lot out of me. One friend compared the experience of finishing a book (and by finishing, I mean being done with revision) to post-partum or baby blues. I loved this comparison, because it gave a rhyme and reason to the utter sense of emptiness I was left with when it was over.

Beyond emptiness was exhaustion. Beyond exhaustion was nagging, terrifying fear.

What if I had put all my writing talent into one book?

How did I do it?

Can I actually write an epic fantasy sequel?

Why did I decide to do a book that would require a sequel as my first novel?

Side question: Why the hell did I pick fantasy with extensive world building?

These are just a few of the questions that began to surface in my time off, leading me to a paralytic state whenever I sat down at my computer. The first few weeks off were bliss. I was in Hawaii. I was hanging with my son. I had long lunches and martinis.

It did not last. It wasn’t an issue of not being busy enough — please, I have a four-year-old son, an acre and a half of land, and plenty of extracurriculars to fill my day — it was the not writing. It was the fear of never really being able to do it again.

And it was this that finally forced me, beyond all other voices, to sit down (wine in hand, because, well, liquid courage) and write the opening pages to my sequel. Upon doing so, the whispers of inadequacy and trepidation ceased. I could only hear my main character talking to me, telling me she wasn’t done. Her voice reignited proved something very simple to me.

I can do it again, and it is very much just as it was the first time. I do have more in place to work from. I do know the general direction I’m going. I have a world already built and characters developed. I do know that it will be utter, hopeless shit for a long time. And that is OK, because somewhere in revision I learned to accept the shit for what it was: the first step in the creative process.

At dinner last night I was discussing this with my husband, and we got around to trying to figure out how many words I had written total. The first draft was 76,000 words. From that draft I either cut or revised close to 50,000 words. The next drafts went much the same, only with adding in characters and many world building elements, they grew to somewhere in the 90-96,000 word mark. My most recent revision, which also saw major reworking, is 104,000 words. For YA fantasy, this is about as big as you can get and not threaten turning people off to your MS. ( I would like it to be shorter, but can’t seem to get it there.) Just guessing, my word count total into this novel so far is somewhere around 500,000 words.

The encouraging thing in this comes from the fact that seeing all of that in print doesn’t make me less excited about doing it all again. In fact, last night I decided I am ridiculous with anticipation about the prospect of another book. I am so excited I may try writing two at the same time. (I may also just be a lunatic.)

What you should be taking from all of this is? Fear can be your friend, but it is never a reason not to do something. I would argue, it may even be a reason to do something. I am a writer, not because I want to publish a book. I want to publish a book because I am a writer. Writing is my way to balance and maintain all the other aspects of my person. It makes me solid in the world when I want to float away. I am writing again, which means I am me again.

“I think we should see other people.”

I’ve been struggling to blog these past couple weeks. It’s not that I haven’t had topics to discuss or thoughts to share, but it’s that when they grab me, I’m not sure I want to share them. Coming to the end of a revision always leaves me feeling a little lost. My main characters voice grows quiet, and with her absence I’m left a little hollow.

When you spend a lot of time talking to characters, bickering about how things are going to go or examining their motives, their feelings, their world, your world, your motives, your feelings can get tossed to the wayside. This may not be true for all writers, but it is for me.

I can disconnect a little too much from myself while writing. This particular revision maybe even more than the others, the disconnect was more acute. I can’t pinpoint the reason, other than this revision has been the most in depth. I spent a lot of time examining character arcs, not just my main character and her counterpart/love interest, but the other significant characters. I learned so much about them, and fell so much more in love with them, or more in hate in the case of the villain (although, honestly, villains rock my world, so…), that each one took on a life inside me.

When the bulk of the revising was finished, and what was left was minor tweaks, my characters voices left me with a whoosh. In their place were bouts of melancholy and aimlessness.

I was forced into actual conversations with living people. (Weird.) I went shoe shopping and got overwhelmed by all the selection. Too many and yet, nothing. (Sad.) I realized people in my life needed help, mine or someones, and those muscles were out of practice. (Woah.)

The past couple of weeks have been a little eye-opening. Getting away from my MC was scary at first. It’s like being away from your codependent boyfriend. Will he stop loving you or you stop loving him if you have breathing room? If you can’t see him, will he still think about you? The answer is hold on, simma. (Do you guys remember that skit on SNL?) That’s not how it works, and not ever how it should be, and if it is, there’s something majorly wrong there.

My advice to any writer coming up to the end of a revision: don’t be afraid of a little distance. Your characters won’t die without you. In fact, it’s only by distance that you can allow readers to fall in love. Or that you can handle feedback when it comes. Or that you can accept more edits. Eventually your words will, hopefully, be loved by many others. They won’t care about how you feel about your characters, because your characters become theirs.

That why we write, isn’t it? I know that’s one reason I love to read. Here’s a funny post from buzz feed illustrating that very thing. So, to sum up, the end of a revision is not a break up, it is a girls night, a boy night, a moms weekend. It’s you and your characters seeing friends so that you don’t kill each other. It’s wonderful, and hopefully, fruitful.

What to do? What To Do?

It sometimes takes a lot for me to dig myself out of my own mind. On days like this I find it difficult to do much more than coast. I am a bad coaster. I don’t like to feel unproductive, or directionless — and I really don’t like to be at the receiving end of my own disapproval. On those kinds of days — or weeks, or over-long months — I try to place this wandering mind on something to refocus it. Some of the ways I do that are as follows, in no particular order, with no discernible reasoning:

  • My son’s long black eyelashes. There is something mesmerizing about sapphire blue eyes curtained in charcoal lashes so long they can tickle your cheeks when he kisses your nose.
  • Real Estate. Not real estate in my budget were I looking to by a house or apartment. Not even real estate where I live or have lived before. Usually real estate in the most fantastic sense of the word.
  • Wander around the park (Central or Prospect) and pretend I’m in the woods. This is good for many reasons. Quiet. The location of the first third of my novel which I’m in revisions with. The chance to climb a rock or a tree. Running water. Playing pretend.
  • A nice glass of wine well before evening time. This may be counter productive since wine can also make you tired, but it definitely calms me down.
  • Default to reading some YA I need to familiarize myself with in order to be able to hold conversation with the rest of the YA writer/bloggers out there. I am behind. Sometimes this helps by merely triggering my longing to see my book in print and putting my brain back in the place it needs to make sentences someone might want to read.
  • Remember that everyone needs a break and then turn on an episode of Weeds because I am way, way behind on it.

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Being a writer, mom, and wife I forget sometimes to also be an individual person with many facets and needs. Sometimes I forget to place my mind on things beyond my need to finish rewrites. (To just get.it.done!) This can be a bad place to write from, because it can make you very selfish and one-sided. Writers revel in their solitude, but solitude and hard work is not the only way to create. And probably not the best.