Monday, July 29, 2013

Revision and Seeing the Big Picture- Part I and a Giveaway!

Some of you have already met Rebecca Petruck (either on-line or in person), my writing coach who is helping me shape, hone, and revise Half-Truths. In this blog and the next, Rebecca shares her own revision journey.  I am currently following Rebecca's advice on letting my manuscript rest while she reads my entire manuscript. 

When I posted a photo of my revision map on Facebook, Carol invited me to write a post for her blog. STEERING TOWARD NORMAL will be released by Abrams/Amulet Spring 2014. I received my editor’s letter and marked-up pages March 2013, with the final due by June. But let me back up a little.

I’m a big believer in the benefits of letting a manuscript “rest." I can’t say enough how important it is to take a real break from a story—the kind of break in which you write something else. Even if your deadline means you can only let the MS rest a few days, take those days to write a short story, fan fiction, even type chapters from a favored author’s book—anything truly separate from your novel. Your brain needs to be entirely turned to the off position re: your story in order to be able to see it new again. Critique partners are hugely helpful in this, too. Anyone who gives you fresh insight into your work is a keeper.

I didn’t let myself read STN again until I received Howard’s notes. I wanted to see it through his eyes. Afterwards, I didn’t let myself do any work on the actual manuscript until I had thought everything through and had a plan. (This is harder than it sounds—jumping in is easy.)

I’m not an outliner, but I am organized. I had a three-month window and broke it down into, you know, three’s. :) One month for planning, one month for writing, one month to tweak per notes from my critique partners. One month for planning may seem like a lot of time with a deadline fast approaching, but that time to think through what I wanted to do was ESSENTIAL. It saved me from being slowed down by a bunch of false starts and misdirections.

I had a list of sixteen questions from WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron that I used as starting points. I journaled about the four major characters, and brainstormed a B-story that ended up being so exactly what the book needed I couldn’t believe it took me eleven drafts to figure it out. (Thank you, Howard, for asking about Diggy’s friends!) The questions that resonated most with me ended up being: “When and why was his worldview knocked out of alignment?” “What does he HOPE will happen (vs. what does)?” “What is his ‘aha’ moment?”

I tend to think of early drafts as heart-and-gut writing. If we’re lucky, and if we can stand it, this is the time we write something about the world we believe deeply, even (especially?) if we’re not aware of it. Later drafts are the terrain of the analytical brain. What IS the theme? What can I do to make it pop more? Do these scenes speak to it? Do these characters learn it, get hurt by it, care? WHY?

Theme is one of those things you can’t think about while you write, but you must think about between drafts. It’s that thing so important to you, you wrote a NOVEL. Yet is a classic Catch-22—if you think about theme too overtly while writing, your story is likely to be didactic or simply bad. But you can’t ignore it either. Every story has to have a POINT. Even so-called “light reading” or humor books—the ones that rise to the top anyway—have a clear theme, sometimes as simple as “Life is ridiculous and then we die.”

Next week, Rebecca will return with advice on what to do once the thinking is done.

Meanwhile, she is once again generously offering one of two giveaways. You can win either a 10-page critique from her, or a copy of WIRED FOR STORY. Here are the rules:

  • Post this blog on your social media site of choice OR become a new follower of this blog and I'll enter your name once. 
  • Post this blog on two different social media sites OR become a new follower of this blog AND post it on a social media site and I'll enter your name twice.
  • Either way, leave a comment with your email address (if you are new to my blog) with what you did. 
  • Winner will be drawn on Monday morning, August 5 - so get those entries in!

How many writing coaches agree to meet you at
Whole Foods Market in Wilmington, NC?
Rebecca did!

Rebecca Petruck is a Minnesota girl, though she also has lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, England, Connecticut and, currently, North Carolina. A former member of 4-H, she was also a Girl Scout, a cheerleader, and competed in MathCounts. She reads National Geographic cover to cover. She is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary, and her first novel, STEERING TOWARD NORMAL, will be released by Abrams/Amulet Spring 2014. Please visit her online


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

"I tend to think of early drafts as heart-and-gut writing. If we’re lucky, and if we can stand it, this is the time we write something about the world we believe deeply, even (especially?) if we’re not aware of it.Later drafts are the terrain of the analytical brain."

Love the insights, Rebecca. And I'd love to win a critique.

Carol, I posted on FB and Twitter.

Barbara Younger said...

I'm a huge fan of letting a story rest too. Took me years to learn that though. Thanks for reminding me just how important it is!

Rosi said...

From one old Minnesota girl to another, thanks for the good suggestions, Rebecca. Carol -- very helpful post and thanks for running the giveaway. I posted it on Facebook and I tweeted it. ( I am presently letting my manuscript rest, but I need to get back to it soon.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi, Joyce, and Barbara for leaving comments and posting this on social networks!

Mary DeSantis said...

Agreed. Time away is a must-have, even if it's just a few days. It's amazing what 24 hours changes.

I shared this to facebook and twitter. Thanks for the awesome opportunity!


Carol Baldwin said...

thanks for sharing. Your name goes into the hat!

Jocelyn Rish said...

Great advice from Rebecca. Although I ended up letting my WIP rest too long when I contracted the dreaded procrastination virus. :-)

Linda A. said...

You are so wise to have hired Rebecca as your writing coach. Best wishes to you both.

Do not add me to the drawing since I just won Chicken Boy. Thanks again for that.

Rebecca, I enjoyed your guest post very much. The book you recommended seems packed with terrific activities for revision. Thanks for those pointers.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda, for stopping by. You are sweet to say not to include you! Appreciate your generous spirit.

Francesca Kaplan said...

So great! Thank you. I just signed up to follow the blog - looks great!!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks Francesca--appreciate you joining!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Rebecca, I've heard nothing but rave reviews of your work from Carol, and I can see why from all this good advice you have shared in this post. I'd love to win the critique, so I'm off to FB and Twitter!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. You're entered twice!

sheri levy said...

I just found your blog, Carol. Loved reading about revision. Please sign me up to continue following. I will try to add your post to my Facebook page. I don't blog...
Hope to see you in Sept.

wordwranglernc said...

I posted to both FB and Twitter! Great post and great opportunity!

Bess Weatherby said...

What an encouraging post! I'd love to win either -- I tweeted about this and followed your blog (which I can't believe I hadn't done already!!)

~ Bess

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Bess. I'll add your name to the hat--twice!

Ruby Stephens said...

I feel smarter just reading this blog.....God knows I need help!
Ruby Stephens

Kim Van Sickler said...

Rebecca sounds wonderful! You're lucky to have her, Carol. I just tweeted about your giveaway.

Janet K Brown said...

I posted something to the same effect. Time gives us a fresh approach. Good article.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol and Rebecca,
A great post. Thanks, Carol for sharing Rebecca's ideas on your blog. I put a comment on my author facebook page and I also tweeted about it. I'd love to win. I hope I am not too late. I've been out of town.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Joan, Janet & KIm! Janet, if you want to be counted in this giveaway, you need to let me know what you did to qualify. JOan--not too late. WInner to be drawn on Monday!