Tag Archives: revising

Happy Book Week

It’s book week this week; a great week to celebrate all things books and reread some of your old favourites (maybe introduce them to your kids or recommend them to some friends).

Remember at school how book week meant dressing up as your favourite book character? I can remember dressing up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Emily from L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Climbs and a fairy (though I can’t remember which book it was from). As a teacher I remember one year dressing up as Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series. I can’t wait until my son starts school next year and gets to dress up for book week.

All week I’ve been sharing some of my favourite books on my Facebook page as part of the book week celebrations. So far I’ve covered my favourite picture book, chapter books and YA book/series. Watch out for my favourite adult book and all time favourite in the coming days. Feel free to tell me some of your favourite books.

In the spirit of book week, and following a great three days at Write on Con, I’ve been busy revising some of my writing, including several picture books, a chapter book for boys and a young adult contemporary thriller. I’ll be posting a Write on Con follow-up post soon.

And as if book week wasn’t already great, I got some fantastic news at the start of the week: my picture book Monster Sister was shortlisted in the preschool category in the 2011 CYA conference competition. The winners will be announced at the conference on the tenth of September and unfortunately I can’t be there. I’m so excited just to be shortlisted though, since it means my story will be seen by publishers!

Advertisements

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts May 2011

It’s time for my monthly round up of helpful writing sites and blog posts. All links will be added to the masterlist (link at top of blog).

Writing

50 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer

A list of 50 of the best writing books, from Stephen King’s On Writing to Stunk and White’s The Element of Style.

Need Some Bling for Your Title? Try PRISM

Five elements to keep in mind when brainstorming an effective title for your novel.

How to Write the Ending of Your Novel

Author Joanna Penn gives tips on writing the ending of your novel so the reader will finish the book wanting to buy your next novel.

How to Write (a Book). A Wee Rant

12 points on how to write. No, this isn’t about the technicalities of writing, or plot, it’s about sitting your butt down and actually putting words on a page. One of my favourite lines, “No wonder we all have writer’s block. We’re not even writing. Plumbers don’t have plumber’s block, do they? NO, THEY GET ON THE FLOOR AND CLEAR OUT THE WINDEX AND EVIDENCE OF MOUSE POOP UNDER THE SINK AND GET TO PLUMBING.”

The Only 12 1/2 Writing Rules You’ll Ever Need

A great motivational poster for writers with some great tips.

Ponder, Polish, Perfect: How to Successfully Revise

Literary Agent Natalie Fischer goes over some ideas to help you ‘re-envision’ your work.

Wordcount Dracula

Literary agent Jennifer Laughran (aka literaticat) has put together a very comprhensive post on word counts in kidlit (PBs through YA) including examples of published books.

Picture Book Construction: Know Your Layout

A must read post for picture book writers on picture book layout and having an awareness of page breaks.

16 Manuscript Format Guidelines

Getting ready to send of your manuscript to a publisher and all the guidelines say are, ‘Standard Manuscript Format’ and you’re not sure what that means? This helpful post outlines what standard manuscript formatting entails. A couple of the points are a little outdated, so I would also suggest scrolling down through the comments that correct them. And in particular have a look at the comment by NEB which is quite informative.

Pitching

Hook ‘Em In (in three seconds or less)

Literary agent Natalie Fischer gives some helpful hook tips.

Marketing

The Seven Book Marketing Mistakes That Authors Make

Want your book to sell? Make sure you’re not making these marketing mistakes. A couple of these are more applicable to self-published authors, but some of them are applicable to all authors.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself After Hearing: We Can’t Sell Enough to Justify Publishing It

Some tips on what to do next. I’ve put this under the heading of marketing because in most part the tips relate to making your book more marketable or building your author platform.

Blogging

Formatting Posts and Pages

Geared towards WordPress users, but helpful to other blogging platform users too, this post outlines the golden rule for formatting your blog posts to make them easier for your readers to read (hence keeping their attention).

Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal?

Many writers I know do giveaways/ have competitions on their blogs. But are those giveaways/competitions legal? An attorney and blogger provides information on running blog giveaways in simple/easy to understand terms.

The Revision Process

Back in February I talked about how I planned to do my first lot of revisions once I finished the first draft of my manuscript. Now I have finished those initial revisions, I am now doing more revisions (does it ever end !) so I thought I would dedicate a post to what my focus is in this part of the revision process. First a brief recap of what I did for my first lot of revisions.

FIRST ROUND REVISIONS

Main focus: Structure and technical elements

1. Listen to chapter read aloud on ywriter and highlight flaws.

2. Read chapter, fix spelling and grammar and make additional notes.

3. Go back over highlighted parts of text and rewrite (highlighted parts generally indicate telling rather than showing and awkward phrasing)

4. Read aloud chapter to myself and fix anything else that stands out.

SECOND ROUND REVISIONS

Main focus: Tightening manuscript and fixing plot flaws

1. Delete all unnecessary words, descriptions and anything not relevant to the plot. This includes getting rid of words like ‘that’ and backstory that contributes nothing to the plot. I also deleted the entire prologue.

2. Make a list of plot holes then go back and fix them.

3. Rewrite beginning (multiple times) until it hooks the reader.

4. Raise the stakes! Delete anything boring and add more conflict.

5. Restructure chapter breaks. Instead of ending chapters at mundane natural breaks (like falling asleep at the end of one chapter and waking up the next morning at the start of the following chapter) use chapter breaks in high-tension places to hook the reader into the next chapter.

6. Create more natural dialogue between characters.

7. Work with critique partner to pinpoint flaws I have overlooked and to see what impressions a reader would have of the manuscript in its current state.

What do you do when you revise? Do you follow a similar structure or do you revise in a completely different way?

Being Flexible With Your Writing

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” STEPHEN KING

I read that quote this morning and I thought it really resonated with the topic I was intending to blog about today: being flexible and keeping an open mind when writing. When writing the first draft you probably have a good idea in your mind of what you want to write about, you may have even planned everything out and written in down. So you shut out the world and just write, getting all your ideas down on paper, then comes the rewrite and this is when you need to keep an open mind.

As a teacher, and particularly as a substitute teacher, I find that being flexible is an important aspect of my work. Some days I walk into a classroom to teach for another teacher and they have the day planned out for me, other days there is no plan at all and I have to come up with a days worth of lessons on the spot. Every day is with a different class too, so I never know what to expect when I walk into the classroom. Some days I have a lovely well behaved class who do all their work, other days I have a volatile mix of students who like to see how far they can push me. I think being flexible as a teacher can be transferred to being flexible as a writer.

In some parts of my novel there are scenes that fit well with my plan and don’t need much work apart from a little tweak here or there to fix the technical errors and reword the awkward phrases. Then I get to other parts and I realise I need to scrap the whole passage and write it again from scratch. Then there are the characters, who are a bit like my students. In some parts of the story they are quite well-behaved and I am happy with their characterisation. In other parts, however, they just don’t want to cooperate, there are voice issues and the characters seem flat.

It can be difficult to prune a story you have poured your heart and soul into and spent hours writing. In my first draft I had written a prologue, which I loved. It was the first thing I wrote when I sat down to write my novel and the idea for it had been floating around in my head for quite some time. I liked the way the entire passage flowed and was pleased with the imagery I had created with the descriptions, but in the end I had to cut it from the story. As much as I was attached to it I had to admit that it was unnecessary. The prologue started with characters that would not appear again in the entire story (apart from being briefly mentioned by another character) and the information included in the prologue could easily be incorporated into the story elsewhere. By cutting out the prologue I’ve created a stronger story.

As you rewrite be honest with yourself and be open to change. Be willing to stray from your original plan to make a stronger story. In my original plan I had a certain ending in mind, which I wrote in my first draft, but on reflection I realised it is not a strong ending. My original ending was really just a set up to lead into the next book (since I plan to write a series), but my novel would not work well as a stand-alone book if I ended it in that way. I had to rethink the entire ending to make it more defined and to allow the book to feel finished as opposed to a lead into the next book of the series.

When you finish your first draft try leaving it for a few days before beginning your revision and when you do start revising try to go in with an open mind and a willingness to be flexible. Let go of your preconceived notions of sticking to your plan and instead look at what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to prune unnecessary parts or rewrite entire passages to strengthen the overall story. It can be a daunting process, but in the end you will have a better story.