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forget sprockets: keep revising

Are we all revising like bunnies?

Yeah, I have no clue what that simile means, either. But aren’t they cute?

To recap:

  • First, I printed out all my chapters.

That concludes my recap.


Yes, yes, I know I am a sworn pantser. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when only an outline will do. My time is AFTER the first draft.

Bob is in pretty good shape, but there are threads in the beginning of the manuscript I’d forgotten about by the time I got to the end. Miraculously, many of them tie in nicely with later plot points.

I think that’s because I let my subconscious play.

Some ideas didn’t turn out well and were abandoned. When I’m first-drafting I don’t go back and rewrite unless I’m really stuck.  I try to keep moving forward in the story, as I tend to ruminate on perfect turns of  phrase. Which is ridiculous at a stage when I’m writing whole chunks of manuscript that might be thrown out.

After I write the outline of my first draft AS IS, I can go through and make the choices of threads to keep, threads to drop, threads to connect.

I make sure the plot is logical.

That the subplots ENHANCE the main plot.

Then I write  another outline AS IT WILL BE. This is what I’ll work off of for my second draft.

But. There’s one other thing I have to settle on before I start the second draft….



Hang on.


chasing the right monsters

I don’t want to waste time writing down the wrong path, but here’s what happened to me the other day…

I’m in the last quarter of my WIP, with lots and lots of subplots going. That’s fine, it’s a first draft when all possibilities must fly. But I hate the feeling you get when you have to carve out ten chapters and put them in the Dead File. I measure all those misbegotten words in terms of Time I Could Have Used Revising.

So I spent the day tippity-tapping up a storm, chasing a monster of my own making. Unfortunately, at the end of the day I decided the monster did not belong in this story.


After a few minutes of lamentation,

I picked myself back up and turned to another plot thread I’d been working on for weeks. And then a curious thing happened.

My WIP careened somewhere that SHOCKED ME.

I literally had to stop and recover.

How did this happen?


First, while I was chasing the monster with my characters, I got to know them much, much better. That never hurts.

Then, when I went back to the other thread, a sufficient amount of percolation space and time had passed to allow A Breakthrough.

That. Is why I love pantsing. *

Yeah, not like that.

* Writing, flying by the seat of your pants, rather than outlining beforehand.

another post about finding the perfect word

Yes, I’m that picky kind of writer. It’s hard for me to spew stuff willy-nilly, though I’m trying to learn that talent. I stand in awe of people who churn out 5,000 words a day and then go back to consolidate and shape their raw words into a cohesive story.

You DO go back and shape those words, don’t you?

When I find the perfect words, with the appropriate nuance, with layers of meaning…well, it gives me a little tickle. I like a lot of flavor packed into each sentence.

So beyond the dictionary and the thesaurus, there’s this tool:

OneLook Reverse Dictionary.

“OneLook’s reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. Just type it into the box above and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.”


Let’s try  “sad face”:

I get 100 words, including:

sorrow, gloom, doleful, long face, plaint, mournful, pensive, dejected, wan, sombre, weight, lined, heavy, suppress, tragedy, lugubrious, cloud, woebegone, mourning, buckle, vein, and mow, and many others…


Turns out a definition of mow is:

verb:  make a sad face and thrust out one’s lower lip (“Mop and mow”)  (MACMILLAN DICTIONARY ONLINE)

Dang. Words. Just when you think you know them.

Slippery little devils.

oh yeah. i swore a solemn oath…

…that I would blog every Tuesday and Friday. Dang my unrelenting Spring Resolutions.

Okay, I’ll take a break to let you know what I’m doing today.

I’m sure you are fully aware that I have FINISHED MY WIP AND I AM INTO REVISION TIME. No, this is nothing like Hammer Time.

Because I definitely can touch this, baby.

I spent this week going through past critique comments and consolidating them all on one hard copy of each chapter.  THAT was interesting. Sometimes, one person might hate a certain sentence, while another person would love that same sentence. But there are plenty of places where I have a POV slip, tense change, unnecessary attribution or leave my characters floating in space.  All in all, I have lots of fabulous advice to ponder from my critique buddies.

Today I am plotting Story Arc. Yes, most of you made an outline BEFORE you wrote your story. I think I may have told you previously…


I am taking index cards and briefly writing down each scene. After I have done this for every chapter, I will go back and ask myself, “Self, does this scene further the story or tell the reader something vital about the character that he didn’t know before?” If not…

dashing to the finish

I am in the throes of the pulse-racing climax and thrilling conclusion of my WIP.  While I’ve enjoyed the hades out of writing this one, I can’t wait to finish the first draft. Why? Well, Scooby Doo, I thought you’d never ask:


1.  I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.

  • That’s right.  I do not outline.  I have only the vaguest idea of where my plot is going.  I will find out how my manuscript ends when I have ended it.  I dance on the head of a pin, bruddah!

2.   I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more cowbell revision.

  • So many ideas for improving what I’ve already got, but I don’t want to start on them until I have the story worked out.  Framework before the molding.

3.    The line starts to the left.

  • Of my Id.  I’ve got several other projects I’m ready to put my figurative mitts on, but not until I’ve seen this one through to the bittersweet end.

4.    There’s more to life.

  • Than my writing.  I’ve discovered that I can’t read other writers’ fiction while I’m writing my own, at least in the first major stage of the process.  I get their voice in my head, and it becomes difficult switching back and forth.  Kate Barsotti told me that’s because I’m a “deep reader”.  Isn’t she nice?  I think it’s because I’m a “chuckle head”.

5.    Duh, or Me! Me! Publish Me!

  • Well, of course I want to be a prolific, published writer.  What’s that you say?  My telescopic ear is stretching over the intrawebs, and I hear some of you saying, “I don’t really care if I ever get published.”


Well, I do.

I’ll blog about that next time.

And it won’t be any dang month, I can tell ya that.

back in the saddle again: seven steps to a first draft


How do you get back into the writing routine, when you’ve had a reeeaallly long holiday?

I haven’t abandoned writing altogether, though you couldn’t tell by reading this blog.

I continued to put together my regional SCBWI weekly e-newsletter.

I blogged. Kind of.

I guest-blogged.  Once.

Took notes, researching my next opus.

Wrote e-mails.

Grocery lists.

But I haven’t entered that strange place where you inhabit another body, walk around in another world.  I’m kind of itching to get there.

Got a premise.

Got the main character.

Now, how to re-enter the realm where reality, imagination, symbolism and other universes collide?


And more importantly, bring something back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…


1.  Read books about what you want to write.  Is it a middle-grade novel about sibling rivalry?  Read other such novels, psychology books, parenting magazines, memoirs, watch movies.  Train your brain to ponder the subject subconsciously.

2.  Engage in a monotonous physical activity: walking, jogging, swimming laps.  Let your mind manhandle the ideas you’ve put into it.  Or womanhandle, if necessary.

3. Write long-hand in a cozy journal-like book.  (You find them at dollar stores for–wait for it–a dollar!)  Don’t look at the page as you’re writing.  Want to use three lines of space for extra-upper-case letters?  Go ahead.  A whole page for an exclamation point?  Brilliant!  Let it be messy.  Let it be whatever wants to spill out of your brain.

4.  Once you have a premise, ask yourself:  Why do I want to know about this?  What has happened in my life that makes me find this interesting, or challenging?  Write about the circumstances, the feelings, the outcome, what you wished the outcome had been, what you had feared the outcome would be.

5.  Blindfold yourself, open a word document, and go to town.  Do not, under any circumstances, peek.  Let the bilge run rampant across the screen.

6.  Have a character in mind?  Write his biography.  Interview him.  Psychoanalyze him.  Watch him through binoculars.  Look out through his eyes.

7.  By now you probably have enough material to play “What if?”.  What if Main Character had a little sister?  What if it was twin little sisters?  What if it was quintuplets?  What if they were sick, and his parents had to leave him with his grandmother?  What if his grandmother was a fugitive from justice?  What if she had been an eco-terrorist in the ’70’s?  And meanwhile, the healthcare cost for the quints drains away Main Character’s college fund.  You get the gist.  Before you know it, you have a great big hairy, almost unwieldy but unmistakable first draft.

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