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Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

When I was around five and my dear little cousin Katherine was three, I took a pair of scissors and cut her bangs.  Of course they were crooked, so I cut them again.  Oops, still uneven.  Another swipe at it.  Hmmm…Should they be up to the hair-line?  I didn’t know how bad it was until my Aunt Jane screamed and my mom ripped the scissors out of my hands vowing I would never see  them again.

Luckily, I have not attempted this with my hair.  Unfortunately, I have with my manuscript.  After tons of feedback and many revisions, I think I have cut too much.  I am currently in a “Secret Agent” contest where I had to post the first 250 words.  (I know…only 250?!?  What can be done in that?)  What has happened is other bloggers have given their two cents.  Some say not enough setting, others scream “get to the action,” and more others say it’s too jumpy.  (THUMP!)  That is my head hitting the table in defeat.

My husband, the one who endears all my craziness, gave me yet another pep talk to finish the project.  Complete the revisions and let it stand.  It’s so hard when all you want to do it get it right.  The problem…what is right?  I have no idea.  I do think it’s improved and I’m happy with some of the revisions I have made.  I’m going to power through it and let it stand for a while.  Get a little perspective.  I’m even thinking of a different YA novel to start. 

I am putting the scissors down on chapter one.  That sucker was hacked to the hair-line long ago.  I’m going stand back and let it grow out a bit before I even think about working it again.  Let’s hope when I decide to revisit, crooked bangs are all the rage!

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I began to wonder if I would ever make it back to my computer to write books again.  The writer’s block was stifling and I second guessed myself about each of the novels.  So I got professional help.  No, not a psychologist, but an agent.  I saw a You Tube skit about an agent’s book and I went out to buy it the next day.

Not that I get all my advice from You Tube, but the director had a respect for the agent, Donald Maass, whose book was paraded around in the short scene.  The agent’s name is one I see regularly on the writing sites and has a well-known client list.  So I read it.  In fact, I’m re-reading it because it inspired.  His points were well made and questioned if I had presented my novel in a clear, interesting way. 

Although I’m not sure if this will be my last re-write, this is a deep cut into the previous version.  There has been more deleting than adding, but I think it’s making the piece tighter.  I make these changes without the heavy heart I had in past revisions.  I think the drought and fear of losing all interest brought something out in me.  I appreciated the desire to write more than I had since I originally wrote Crescendo.  It wasn’t a pep talk or a pat on the back that lit a fire under my behind, it was guidance of someone I have never met.  And with that, I edit with new life.

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Every relationship starts with a spark and evolves into a roaring fire.  Passion courses through your veins in excitement to spend every waking moment together.  When you aren’t together, you think about each other and what you will do when you reconnect.  Then reality sets in and you start to see the truth of the relationship.  You may even get to a place where you need a little space to think it over.  It’s the same path when writing a book.

In the beginning of my process, I didn’t want to spend any time away.  It was agony to wait until night-time when the kids were in bed and quiet filled the house.  Some nights, I thought making bedtime at six-thirty so I could get back to my characters and make progress on the story.  When I thought back about previous chapters, they were flawless in my memory.  Everything together and moved forward effortlessly.  It was meant to be.

I read an article about when Stephen King finishes a novel, he shoves the manuscript into a drawer and leaves it for six months.  This was an absurd thought to me at the time because who would want to take a break from their passion, their true love?  When I completed it, I re-read it immediately to make edits.  I found grammatical stuff and, as you hopefully read in the earlier blog, called it good.  Four edits and seven months later, I think I have a better product than when I finished.

I realized why it would have been beneficial to put the novel away for a few months before reading it again.  First, I needed to forget the story.  When I read it with the vision fresh in my mind, my imagination filled in the gaps.  Time would have helped with identifying the spaces that needed more information.  Second, I needed the objectivity of time.  The emotion was too powerful and too raw when I first completed it.  I was defensive to feedback instead of welcoming it with open arms.  Third, it would have saved time in re-writing the four chapters that I ultimately decided to delete. 

If I saw my book for what it was then, and not the romantic picture of a completed novel, I may have been able to break up with original version a long time ago.

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Every artist knows that there will be a critique.  If you want to be a successful artist, you must listen to it and try to learn something from it.  When I finished my first book, I printed it off and distributed to everyone who would take a copy.  “Let me know what you think” and “What can make it better?” were common questions I asked the readers.  They were very polite in their assessment and the compliment I most relished was “it sounds like a real book.”  So I did an edit, cleaned it up, and called it good.

Flash forward six months.  Some people outside my comfort circle ask to read it.  With confidence from my first readings, I passed it out ready for whatever they had to say.  Then it happened.  Someone returned it a few days later and told me it “it was unreadable.”  What?!?  How was that possible?  She elaborated with how hard she tried to get through it, but it was impossible.  It took a few pushes, but she managed to get the blade deep in the gut.  I plastered a smile on my face, told her that it wasn’t a style for everyone and I appreciated her time.

I took that feedback and rationalized that she was out to get me.  (That still could be true.)   But then I repeated it to some others who made it through the book.  Slowly, they admitted that the beginning was a little slow, but quickly followed it up with a spoonful of sugar that they still liked the book.  One reader reminded that might have been the cause for my best friend not being able to get through it either. 

The “a-ha” moment finally came when I read through a QueryShark critique.  She wrote the author took too long to get to the point in the query letter.  She gave too much back story and not enough meat.  QueryShark went on to say that the author’s novel probably read the same.  She could probably cut the first forty pages and no one would notice.

With all the feedback, from all the sources, bouncing around in my head I re-read the beginning of the book.  With a heavy heart I hit the delete button.  It was awful.  A month’s worth of work gone and several thousand words out of the novel.  I worried they would be missed.  Characters wouldn’t be as deep as I wanted.  What if this wasn’t the right decision?  Wasn’t that part of the story important too?  All good questions and all good excuses to negate all the feedback I was given.

It may have taken several months to come to this place, but I took the feedback (good and bad) to heart.  The sad part was I realized if it was the right choice, and I added back the important stuff well, no one would ever notice the pain I suffered to get there.

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What is more redundant than writing a blog about writing a book? It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. But here I am in the middle of the night starting my new blog.

I challenged myself last year to write a novel and a novel I wrote. Here I am a year later with two novels done and no closer to press. So I decided to write about what I learned and the pain in my quest to have a published work. Not just published on my computer paper and bound by Office Max, but a real life book.

Although, tonight I’m too tired to talk about anything since I spent the night re-writing that first novel I finished. But that’s another blog for another night…

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