AutoCrit, C.S. Lakin, Critique groups, finding professional editor, Grammarly, Holly Lisle, One Pass Manuscript, Revision, self editing, Writing

Five Tools to Use After Writing "The End"

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After 12 drafts of my first manuscript I believe I now have a few ideas on what to do after writing “The End,” on a first draft. No matter how capable you are as a writer and proofreader, your first draft is just that-a draft

Writers use several different ways to revise their writing: critique groups, beta readers, or scrutinizing each chapter with a lice comb. You can do that, ad nauseum, but I found that delving into your manuscript using a method such as Holly Lisle’s One Pass Manuscript revision process was the most helpful. 

Yes it can be a difficult task, but isn’t what you want to say worth it? If it’s not, then perhaps you should rethink why you’re writing the novel, short story or memoir that you initially thought was a good idea. 

Unfortunately, I did not realize the wisdom of using a revision process until after several months of long and laborious critique group sessions. Don’t get me wrong, the right critique group can be invaluable and I belong to an awesome group, but why waste their time, and yours, ‘critiquing’ a piece that isn’t ready. 

Now that your first revision is done, it’s time to make like a gold miner and  sift through the muck, dark water, and rocks. Run your sediment and dirt clods through the sluice by using these (or similar) writing tools:



1. Spell check- I use Grammarly to make any grammar corrections and list the use of passive phrases. This tool goes beyond the MS word auto check function. And it’s free.

2. Editing– How many times did you use words that weaken your writing by using “and,” “that,” adverbs “-ly‘s” or repeated a word six times on one page? (five too many). 

AutoCrit identifies these types of problems and can identify sentence variations, cliches and readability. Copy and paste 1,000 words of your revised draft through this software tool and you’ll be amazed at what comes up. 
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Now that you’ve rinsed your nugget of gold through the water it’s time to fix your revision. Do this before you meet with your critique or writing group.
3. Critique Group-Take your first 5 pages or whatever is the limit for your group and ask your fellow writers for some specific information about your writing:
  • Have I introduced the main character in the first few lines?
  • Did I introduce some sort of a conflict, either internal or external? 
  • Have I begun the story in the middle of something that’s happened or about to happen? 
  • Have I given the reader a sense of the setting? year, locale
  • Is there a hint at the character’s need, desire, goal, fear, dream?
  • Is the dialogue (if any) concise, at cross purposes, and give a sense of the characters personality? 
  • Do you consider my first line a “hook?” Does it give an image that grabs the reader, makes them go to the next line, the next paragraph, the next page? 
4. Self-critique: That rock is beginning to look more recognizable. Yes, it may be gold. Use this checklist I found at C.S. Lakin’s “Critique My Manuscript. Read it, use it, revise your manuscript. You’re shining up your nugget.

5. Professional Editing: Your piece of gold may be at a dull shine, but you want to polish up this baby, fashion it into best it can be, see the true luster of your work, then hire an expert.
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Yes, this tool is the most expensive in your toolbox. The decision to find and pay for a professional editor to review your work is highly personal. It can be scary. You have to decide if you will pay for another set of eyes to constructively criticize your manuscript. But wouldn’t you take your gold nugget to a reputable jeweler, have it appraised, help make it into something beautiful? 
If you answered “yes” to the question above, come back next week when I’ll take you through my experience in looking for a professional editor. 

Until then, put your butt in the chair and keep writing.


Encouragement, Holly Lisle, Jeff Goins, Joe Konrath, Kristen Lamb, Rachelle Gardner, WANA, Writing

Open Your Medicine Cabinet to Write

I’m sure you’ve heard the often quoted  proverb by Lao-Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But what you may not have heard so often is the translation that results from the original Chinese quote:
                                 
                                             “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”  


Before the first step is the desire to move. All of that ‘would, could, should, if, want to, maybe,” ( insert a favorite stopper phrase) doesn’t do squat but leave our feet planted into the ground. Sure we make a little dust while we shuffle our feet to the litany of ‘if’s’ but when we look at our position, we’re are still in the same place. Sometimes we must find the desire to move and shake off the constant buzz of our family/work life.


The quote is analogous to writing. Oh, yes, how we want to write a novel, get an agent, get published, see our story enjoyed by thousands millions. But none of it will happen if we do the ‘woulda, coulda’ mambo instead of making ourselves sit in front of the blank page/screen and write. And do the same thing the next day, and the next, until we are finished with a first draft. And then guess what? We do it all again during rewriting/revision.
          
                                     “It is perfectly okay to write garbage-as long as you edit brilliantly.”~Molnair.
          
Writing is not for the faint of heart or for those who don’t want to fail. Writing until we get into print is for those who show up, fail, keep learning, rewrite, and move forward. I feel a ‘Hoo-Rah,” coming on.

But some days our cheering section of zero or one isn’t enough. There are times when we need some external encouragement, someone who has been there, to commiserate with us for one minute and then shove our behinds into the chair again. 


The problem is that we often don’t know when we’ll have one of those “I can’t do it anymore,” writing days. Something that works for me is preparation. I’ve assembled a personal medicine cabinet of writers and blogs filled with encouragement to face the stagnation and move forward. 
Some of my favorites are: 


When facing anxiety go to Writer’s First Aid for several posts on whatever ails you.


Some invigorating advice about persistently writing comes from JA Konrath’s post “Writing Matters,” and Holly Lisle’s blog on “Live to Write Another Day.” 


Someone who often says that writing is a lonely business and has built a community of writers is Kristen Lamb: We Are Not Alone. She introduced me to Twitter and the WANA concept. 


For optimism and insight there are few more encouraging blogs than Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner’s encouragement section. 


And to remind oneself of why we write is the ever inspirational Jeff Goins


Last but not least, just different, is visiting my Pinterest boards. I don’t have to read, just gaze  at the photos until I feel my fingers jumpstart.


There are more blogs I could mention, but you get the idea. 


What do you have in your own writer’s medicine cabinet? I’m looking for a humor pill (blog) to fill another spot. Suggestions are welcomed. 

Holly Lisle, One Pass Manuscript revision, Renni Brown, Revision, Sol Stein, Writing

One Pass Manuscript Revision

     In the last post I wrote about a comment given by author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez about journaling. She mentioned that when she writes in longhand she gets in touch with deeper emotions. I tried this and  ‘journaled’ the first two chapters of my MS, made some revisions and took those chapters to a critique group of twelve women. In short, I got the thumbs up in the area of emotions and interior monologue. Now I need to go through 38 more chapters and I hunted around sites to help ease the pain of revisions.


     But before I get to that I have to say that reading a few books about writing are necessary to make your revisions easier. That is don’t make ‘hack’ mistakes that many novice writers make while they write their first MS, or you’ll have more to cut-(Guilty). There are many books on writing but if I could only chose one I’d say the most helpful for novices (non MFA’s or English Lit majors) was: “Sol Stein on Writing by Sol Stein”. For revisions I’d chose these two:”Self -Editing,” by Renni Brown and “Manuscript Revision,” by Elizabeth Lyon.


     There are several ways to tackle revisions but I decided to chose one method and stick to it. The one that made sense and lured me in with its title, “One Pass Manuscript Revision,” is discussed on http://www.hollylise.com. The first draft of your novel is finished. Now, according to the recommendations of any number of writing books, pundits, and writers who go through this themselves, you’re in for five or ten or more rounds of revision, in which you’ll polish your work until it is a gleaming, perfect pearl … and in which process you’ll dither for months or years.You can do that if you want. But you don’t have to…” Years to revise? No, I’d rather write some more than spend years revising. 

      There is a supply list to gather first. If you can’t find these around the house head down to the Dollar or 99 cents Store to buy:  cheap spiral bound 8 1/2 by 11 inch notebook (NO Justin Beiber, unless you’re revising a YA book), two smooth writing pens (I like Pentel RSVP, nice cushion for your finger). Find good lighting and a table with enough room to stack your printed out MS in 3 piles with the spiral notebook next to it. I’d also add a water container, coffee, or other non-alcoholic beverage (you want to finish the MS not add a bottle to the recycle bin). And last and important, find your nerves of steel or ganas.


     Now open your notebook and write down:
1-Theme of your novel in 15 words or less: i.e. Love conquers evil, transformation, relationships, or any of the other several universal themes.
2-Subthemes
3-What is your book about in 25 words or less
4-A one line story arc for the books main character (the Protaganist).
5-The main characters and one paragraph of 250 words or less describing the story. Think of it like a blurb on the back of a book jacket.
6-Your word count: Adult novels fall in the 90,000 range while Young Adult falls in the 60-80,000 range.


     If you can’t do the above you can’t revise until you get these mandatory elements down. These will guide you on your ‘slash and burn’ expedition, which is the hard work. You can find the rest of Holly Lisle’s article at the website above. It’s a little too long to summarize and I could use that time to write some more. I’ll post my comments on Ms. Lisle’s method next week when I begin the process. Until then, write on.