Revisions, and learning to love them.

Yes, you read that right. Learning to love revising.

Oh come on, don’t groan.

We all know revisions are part of writing. It’s what takes that first draft to polished finished manuscript. But it can be drudgery.

You’ve finished your first draft. Go you! Now put it away. If you start revising now, you’re still very much in the story. You’re riding the high of it being finished, and you may miss some things that could/should be changed. So put it away.

After you have left it alone for a while, and you may even be starting to forget a details of your story, then pick it back up. You will have fresh eyes and be able to read your story as a critical editor.

Read it all the way through. Don’t stop. Make some notes if you must, when you find glaring issues, but read it from beginning to end. This will give you the best picture of the over all story and any big plot holes or gaps you will need to fill in.

Ok, so you’ve read it, you’ve made a few notes, and you have a good feel for the issues in your story. Now you start revising. If you’re like me, you will want to work in stages. It’s easier, I promise.

Round One of revisions.

I like to break my stages up into three chapters each. Unless there is an arch in the middle in which case I may add a few more chapters to round it out. As you’re going through, don’t pay too much attention to your punctuation just yet. Because you may change bigger things later on that will have made those punctuation changes useless.

After you have finished this first round of revisions, now you send it to your critique partners. When you get their critiques back look and see if they are similar. If they found the same issues, or had the same suggestions. This usually means there’s an issue that needs addressing.

Round Two of revisions.

So you read through your critiques, you made your decisions based on their suggestions, and you revised. Now, send it back to them. See what comes back. Did what you changed/added/removed change anything major that you missed? Did it cause a plot hole? This is what they are looking for the second go round.

After they send it back, you’re(me/we’re) hoping there are no huge changes, only minor grammar and punctuation at this point. If all street lights are green and the road is paved in gold, it might be. But for now, let’s just say that it is. Great!

Round Three of revisions.

You fixed the grammar, the punctuation, and your critique partners didn’t find anything big that needs to be changed. Now what? Your Beta readers. You send it to your betas to read through. You will get comments back. They will make suggestions, and you will have another revision to do.

Round Four of revisions.

Ok, you made the changes. It’s getting better with each pass. You’re confident in it, and you send it back to your betas. They jump up and down and call you the next [insert your favorite author here]. You’re stoked! What’s next?

Round Five of revisions.

One final pass. One final revision. Polishing it to the very best it could possibly be. You wanted to rip your hair out and throw your computer out of your window, but you’re done.

Why would anyone ever love this process, and why should you? Because, if you hadn’t done it that polished and shiny completed manuscript you have wouldn’t even be there. And looking back at it, isn’t what you ended up with so much better than what you started with? I’m willing to bet you fifty bucks it is. Just make your check payable to A.G.

But in all seriousness, while revising can be daunting, and it can feel like a never ending loop, know that with each pass you are one step closer to that finished publishable novel. And isn’t that something to love?

On Critiquing

Ok, it’s something we all need as writers. We need to give, as well as get critiques on our writing. And when I say critiques, I’m not talking about your spouse/partner/family reading it and telling you how much they love it. Sure, that can be a good boost, but that’s not what you need.

You need another writer. Someone who knows about structure, plotting, voice. Someone who is focused on the elements of a story that really make it sing. Someone who can call you to the mat and tell you something sucks isn’t working. But with telling you something isn’t working, they offer helpful advise and suggestions.

While your critique partner should never be mean to just be mean, and if they are stop swapping with them; Your critique partner should also not be afraid they will hurt your feelings. As writers we must always strive for better. A better scene, a better description, a better dialog exchange. An honest critique will help you get there.

Here is an example of a very good critique I got:

I like your use of descriptive words here, but I think changing them around a bit will help the flow of the sentence structure. Also, try an avoid cliches, you have a few in this paragraph. Cut them, and see what happens. Does it stop the scene in it’s tracks, or does the scene keep moving forward. Never be afraid to cut something if it’s not working. And right now, I don’t think it is.

Here is an example of a critique that’s nice, but not very helpful:

You did a good job here. I would change a few things, maybe move some things around.

And finally, here is an example of a completely unhelpful critique:

Nice. I liked it.

Now, which one do you think will help me grow as a writer and craft a better story? The first one right? Right. The second was good, it did let me know that there was obviously something wrong and that I needed to look closer at it, and the third, well while it’s nice to get compliments, if that’s all you have to say in a critique it’s not very helpful.

I haven’t gotten any like the third, but I have seen them before. So, when you are giving critiques, while you should be mindful of your word choices, you should never worry about hurting the writers feelings. If you are giving an honest critique with helpful advice, trust me, the writer is not going to string you up. We really do want those kinds of critiques. Not our egos stroked.

And, if you are getting critiques, don’t ever take them personally. They are not critiquing you as a person. They are critiquing the story and the way it is being told, and they honestly are trying to help.

 

Top 3 issues you might face when returning to Writing

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So starting a blog is the easy part. But figuring out what to write about, yeah, not so much on the easy scale.

I have been racking my brain on what in the world I could share after my first post, and then it hit me. I could talk about what it’s like and the feelings of jumping back in after not writing for a while.

So here we go, my experience thus far:

  1. Fear: Yep, fear. Afraid I couldn’t write anymore. Afraid the imagination I once had and all ideas would be gone. Afraid that anything that I managed to get out would be chock for of garbage.

Well guess what, it’s not that bad. Honestly. I think I was in my head too much which kept me from starting sooner. If your currently afraid to start working on that story you’ve had in your head, just sit down and do it. Push that negative voice aside and just start typing, or writing, or lyrical dance it out, just get it out. The fear will go away as you continue.

Yeah, sure, my first draft may be complete sh**, but that’s what revisions are for. The first draft is for me, and you too. Just get it out and on paper.

Even if your first sentence is: I have no idea what I’m doing everything sucks I have no ideas this idea isn’t good enough maybe I should just stop now but if I stop now I will never finish this thing and I really want to finish this I really want to write this and I will write this I can do this and here we go.

And so on.

Once you start writing, and you get into a rhythm, you will find that fear slowly goes away. At least it did for me. Now, what happens after the fear?

  1. Excitement: Excitement over writing. Excitement for the story and the characters you’re working on. Excitement for the idea that THIS. MAY. BE. THE. ONE. And excitement to see what others think. But slow down, are you even done with it yet? How many chapters do you have? It’s not ready for other peoples eyes yet.

After excitement comes…. Bum bum buuuum….

  1. Procrastination: Yep, you’ve reached the middle. And you’re bored. You’re sick of your story and you’re wondering why you even started it when that new shiny story over there is begging to be written. So what do you do? Well, I’ve found myself stumbling here more and more often. I wind up at places like Pinterest and Facebook, and now here. But you have to push through this. You have to keep going. Finish that story. As you get closer to the end, the excitement comes back.

You’ve Finished! YAY! Now what? You revise. And Revise, and revise some more. Oh what, you thought you were done? Nope, revise again. Polish that story until it shines like a silver dollar.

Now you’re ready for others to see it. Now you’re ready to start querying. If that’s the route you’re going. Now you have a fully completed, polished story and you have successfully finished writing a book. Congratulations!

Seriously, that’s hard work. That’s awesome. Go have a drink. Reward yourself.

Welcome!

Hi, and Welcome! To what is my very first blog post. Thank you for stopping by. My plan when I first decided to start this was to just document my journey through writing and (hopefully) getting published. But then I thought, maybe I could help other young writers along their journey as well. So here we are.

I plan on sharing my ups, my downs, my bumps in the road, and a few pieces of writing advice I’ve picked up along the way. If I can help anyone, like I’ve been helped, I want to do it.

I want to first say, I am no expert on writing, by any stretch of the imagination. No where near it. But I’m learning every day. I know that I have been writing short stories, novels, and poems since probably 3rd grade. So I know a little something.

I am also, not currently published or agented. Though one day I certainly hope to be. Though throughout the years my writing was always just that, for me, it’s something I have never been able to shake.

I once thought along the way I wanted to be a journalist, because, writing. But the facts and not writing what I wanted really got me down. Boo. So I shifted, and thought maybe I could just be satisfied with writing and no one ever seeing it. But…. That was not what I wanted.

I’m going to be honest here, I know a lot of people, and other writers will say, write for you first and never expect to be published or anyone to ever see it. And that’s fine and good if they believe that to be true for themselves. But that’s not me. I have always, always, always wanted to be able to walk into a bookstore and find a book with my name as the Author.

Will that be easy? No, no way, no bueno.

I know it will be hard, and I know it may or may not happen. I know that there are writers out there who have been writing for years and have never gotten an agent or a publishing contract. But I’m not going to let that discourage me, and you shouldn’t either.

While writing for just yourself is noble and could help you keep your sanity, at least be honest with yourself. Me, I am writing to be published.

(Please hold off on the name calling and tomato throwing, seriously)

I’m writing to be published, and ideally, I would like it to be traditionally. I do not care if it takes me 1, 10, or 50 years. That is my goal. I will write, every day, and revise, and critique, and get critiques, and beta readers, and polish, and query. Until all avenues of traditional publishing are shut to me. (Really hoping that doesn’t happen.)

So if you’re like me, and you have that end goal in mind, welcome to the club! We can take this road together.