The Dreaded “R” Word: Revisions

Before I left for the Midwest Writer’s workshop, I had been working on a Southern Literature piece called Little Birdhouses. I wrote Little Birdhouses almost a year ago. It sat in a drawer gathering dust and vintage while I worked on finishing up No Turning Back and The Devil Within, and I pulled it out to start revisions in May. I’m a horrible procrastinator, as I’ve talked about before, and I didn’t get far with my revisions before wanting to stop. Something about the ending didn’t click in the correct way. It frustrated me not to know what wasn’t working!

At #MWW15, I attended Lori Rader-Day’s session on #AmEditing. When I edit, I think I tend to go for the little things first. Lori Rader-Day said there are no rules to editing but top-down editing, i.e. looking at the bigger picture, is probably the place to start first. In other words, don’t get caught up in the little things until the big things are fixed (there is a life lesson here too). The three types of editing are:

  • Structural — Also known as developmental. Big Picture. Print off your work. Read it OUT-LOUD. Look for scenes that are repeats, don’t make sense, or are in the wrong places. Look for anything that might need to be cut.If you notice smaller areas, such as line edits to be done make a comment to fix it, but do it later.
  • Line Editing — Fixing individual lines. Cutting lines that don’t make sense. Grammar.
  • Copy Editing — Proofreading. Getting ready for copy. Improve format and style of the text.

Rader-Day spoke a lot about how editing works at the publication level too. The big take-away there for me is not to be afraid to cry, but don’t let it deter you from the work to be done after you’ve used up your whole box of Kleenex.

And finally, here are Rader-Day’s FIVE HACKS for editing:

  • Pair Up With Another Writer: This helps you, as the author, to figure out what you hate about your own writing. Sometimes, we know something is missing or not working, but we can’t put our finger on what it is. Often critique partners can help point out what the missing piece is.
  • Plotters: Go through and make sure the plotting didn’t stifle the writing. (I think this is what she said, but I’m a pantser, so honestly I just wrote down the word plotter and moved on — Sorry!)
  • Pantsers: No, not someone who likes to de-pants someone, but someone who writes without outlining. A pantser may be lost in the book, so it could be helpful for them to reverse engineer and outline. This way they can see the story ARC and figure out what can happen next if they’re at a point where things aren’t working.
  • Save As: Save all your revisions as a different file, so you don’t delete something permanently that might actually work! I suggest saving to the Cloud, hard drive, and sending to your email. You want to make sure to have back-up.
  • Write Book Jacket Copy For Story: This narrows your focus and helps the author remember what they wanted to say in the book in the first place!

Do you have any editing tips that work for you? 

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Set The Tone

As you might know, this Southern Literature writer (I’m talking about me!) attended #MWW15 (Midwest Writer’s Workshop) this week. I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta airport with a three hour layover before I can wrap my arms around my kiddos and squeeze. My brain is processing all the information crammed into my head this weekend. Valuable information. Life-altering information.

First of all, if you’re a writer, and you’re thinking about going to a conference then you should absolutely go. Those who have been following my blog for a long time know I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. What you may not know is I have no technical training in writing. Sure, I sat through English classes in high school and college and loved them, but I don’t have a Creative Writing degree. I don’t have a MFA. What I do have is the love of writing. I love the craft. I love how I feel like myself when I writeI feel happy and content, and I’m nice to others around me when I’m doing what I love.

So how amazing to go to a conference with TONS of other people who feel the same way. Not only authors, but editors, agents, teachers of the craft: people who want to succeed and want to write just like I do. And if you’re starting out as a writer but are unsure of what to do, then attend a conference so you can meet other people who can help guide you on your writing journey. You will not be sorry. I promise.

The first day at #MWW15, I took an intensive class with Martha Brockenbrough (rhymes with “toe”). Her intensive was aptly named the “Writer’s Survival Kit.” And boy, doesn’t every writer need this? A way to get through. A way to finish. A way to revise. She spoke about her YA book, The Game of Love and Death (I had her sign it! I might be a groupie now since she’s a wonderfully fantastic human being.) and how the idea came from one question: Can love survive death? Simple, right? Every good book starts with ONE question. That’s all it takes. Sometimes plucked from nowhere, and the author’s job is take it, shape it, revise it and turn it into something that transcends time. Something to leave behind. Probably the biggest idea I zoned in on when Martha spoke was the concept of tone. Tone is the protagonist’s voice. Each protagonist’s voice is unique. Having a unique voice builds trust with the reader, because it shows the writer knows how to reflect a tone that meshes with the characteristics of the character (age, race, location, gender, etc.).

I thought about “tone” through the whole weekend. The word echoing in my head like a silent whisper. In my current work-in-progress-not-yet-named, my character is a thirteen year old girl from rural Alabama in the 1920s. She is a tenant farmer’s daughter. Her tone and voice would be vastly different from a businessman, say in Atlanta from the year 2015. Tone can make or break your work. It’s important to make sure the proper voice is representing each protagonist in each novel.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my key takeaways from the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. 

Are you a writer? Do you plan on attending a conference in the near future?