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Posts Tagged ‘revising’

That Old Thing? Forgot I Had It

I have a pair of jeans in my closet, one I bought five years ago or so. I usually buy classic cuts, but in this one case, I bought a trendy style. I really did love them, and when they started getting that velvety horse nose texture on the knees, I stopped wearing them regularly. That was to save them for special occasions, like nights on the town or meeting new people who wouldn’t yet realize I didn’t have a trendy bone in my body.

Then they went out of style, and became errand running pants. But my brain was used to grabbing them¬† for special occasions, and between that and other things, the pants were completely forgotten until I was purging the closet. When I found them, I was briefly confused – why did they look so unfamiliar while at the same time bringing up happy memories? Then something clicked, and I remembered, oh, hello favorite jeans. I’d put them in the wrong part of the closet when we last moved… two years ago. Also, the jeans are closer to ten years old for all I thought it’s only been five years.

At any rate, that feeling of “huh? Oh, YOU, I used to love you” washed over me when I got my copyedited manuscript back from my editor. (Her Heart’s Divide, on sale this June ;)) It felt familiar, comfortable, wonderfully fitting… and like it belonged to someone else. Seriously. I could have been approving changes to a stranger’s manuscript, and at the same time I know I loved this story and these characters like no one has ever loved before. That bit of distance made me fly through the final edit copy.

I’ve read on various writer workshop sites that it takes six weeks for the forgetting/distance process to happen. According to the time stamps on my computer, it took me five. I wouldn’t have believed I could forget one of my children so easily, but not only is it possible, but it’s better for the story. I’m glad I didn’t do that between draft one and draft two – knocking the rust off the part of my brain that lived with the characters would have taken ages. But the next time I get stuck on a story that I want to save, I’m totally going to do what the experts have always suggested and trunk it for five weeks.

Revisions

I finished the revise and resubmit material on the Widow and the Gentleman story. As much as I would like to think that my original story was a thing of beauty, with rainbows sparkling off every golden word, the revised material is about one billion times better.

The final stretch of rewrites went hard, though. Not the writing, the ignoring my own doubts part. The revised piece is 12K words longer, and I was/am terrified I’ve done harm to the pace the editor liked so much. And of course, the reason the suspense subplot was so puny in the first submitted version was because I am positive I’m a terrible suspense writer.

That’s a ridiculous statement, mind you. I haven’t written suspense before this story, so I have no outside opinions as to if I’m terrible or not. Guess I’ll find out… in a month.

But as soothing as it was to go back to characters I knew well, I’m relieved to have it off and done, and I feel much more confident about my ability to plot a longer story now. Heck, at the rate my word counts are rising, I might even write a novel someday.¬† /snort

If it sells, I’ll write a post about the before and after and show you the story charts, but meanwhile, I need to cleanse my brain of Vanessa and Derek, and get back to figuring out my new characters.

Revise and Resubmit

There is a middle ground, when it comes to letters from a publisher regarding your latest manuscript. (If you are an old writing hand, skip on down to the *** bit.)

One end of the spectrum is “hello, we would like to buy your story.” That doesn’t mean you’re done. That means you’ve got a couple rounds of edits, cover consultations, and six months minimum before you have a book in your hands or in your digital reader.

The other end of the spectrum is “thank you for sending us your manuscript but it doesn’t meet our needs at this time.” It might not be that exact phrase, but it’s polite, short, and unambiguous. That’s a rejection.

One step up from there is the rejection letter, along with a line of personal feedback. This is a great sign. You can write well enough that someone working a fifteen hour day took some time to say something you can use.

Two steps up from there is the rejection letter with a ton of specific feedback. The editor does not want to see this story again, but you could use that feedback to rewrite and possibly sell that story somewhere else. And this editor really liked you/your voice/your story. Send her your next manuscript with a nice note thanking her for all that great feedback last time.

Three steps up (or more cheerfully phrased, one step down from acceptance) is the revise and resubmit letter. Tons of specific feedback, along with a disclaimer that reads “making these changes doesn’t means we’re going to buy it, but we’d like to see this story again if you decide to try.”

***

I got one of those last week. It’s funny, but at first I was more bummed by it than I’d been by a flat rejection. It was like missing a potential home run by an inch, or missing the qualifying time by a millisecond. So close, and yet so far. I’m rational enough to know it’s a good sign (and that I have friends who would kill for this, and kill me for whining), so I just put the email down, thanked the editor, and noodled for a couple days.

Three of the suggested changes were cosmetic, trifling things. The other items were all deeper, and it is my private belief that I’ve spotted the difference between “acceptance, now here are your developmental edits” and “revise and resubmit.” My first novella is almost through her editing process, and all the suggested changes were things that tightened the story. The suggested changes on my R&R are things that will change the story. There are ripple effects from these suggestions that run through the entire manuscript. It’s a lot more of a challenge than throwing in a few lines of description or giving the lead a bit of interior monologue. I don’t have a track record as a fiction writer yet, and no one knows if I can pull off this kind of challenge.

*I* wasn’t sure I could pull off this kind of challenge.

Something broke loose like a boulder in a flooded river. Yesterday I sat down and poured 4K new words into the manuscript. Seriously, I could have written all night. I DID write all night, I kept waking up and writing notes for more stuff on the pad I keep by the bed. I couldn’t turn on the light without waking my mate, so let me tell you how thrilled I am that I can read my own notes this morning. See, yesterday, while I was cleaning up dog poop, I thought of a single solution that will solve all of the plot and motivation problems at once. It means changing about a third of the manuscript and adding at least two more chapters, but it works, I really think it works.

It’s a little scary because one of the things I get most often about my work is that my stories are well-paced. Adding so much material can be risky, but I think this is going to be so worth it. Someday, I hope to write a blog entry on what I did wrong, and how I saved it. But first I’ve got to save it!

A Fool For a Client

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

As a freelance editor, I am often reminded of the old saw about lawyers as soon as I sit down in front of my own work.

I just got my first round of edits from CP. Nearly every freaking one of them is about an area I knew wasn’t quite right, but any attempts at tinkering weakened the pace of the story.

Just one example: My hero and heroine have just been told a story by their best friend, one that sounds absolutely insane. Totally implausible. The thing that makes them at least tentatively buy it is that their friend is genuinely devastated. Also, in attempt to prove the veracity of his story, their friend mentions some highly intimate details about the heroine, details the hero didn’t know.

When the friend walks away for a bit, the hero can’t resist… er… double checking.

The scene was written cleanly, paced nicely, had nice work showing the H/h are very emotionally connected… but something about it felt weird.

If you’ve already spotted the problem, you’re one up on me. Fortunately, the editor caught it right off. For the characters to have sex at that moment in time, well, it felt callous. Totally at odds with the close friendship I set up for the three of them throughout the rest of the novella. The solution was simple – build on the existing emotional connection early in the scene to show that the H/h have been shaken by their friend’s revelation, even if they don’t realize it, and are using sex to reaffirm their connection.

I know I said this before, and that many people disagree with me. But I truly believe that endless revision on your own accomplishes nothing. A couple polish passes, sure. Let the manuscript set a few days so you can get some distance before one of those passes, absolutely. I personally go through a self-editing checklist to prune out adverbs, adjectives, and exclamation points. I even highlight any examples of “telling, not showing” to see if I can impart the same information with action instead of internal monologue. Certainly I recommend that process to my friends.

But there comes a point where you just need an outside editor’s eyeballs.

Heinlein’s Rules For Writers

January 20, 2010 10 comments

I dabble in writing science fiction (dabble = not attempting to sell it at this time), and most of us who do that are familiar with Robert Heinlein’s Rules For Writers. I don’t see the rules come up in blogs nearly as often with romance writers, or erotica writers. I think they work equally well for all of us who produce genre fiction. Heck, these five rules established my non-fiction career.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Science fiction author Robert Sawyer has more to say, and says it well.

I want to add my own half-penny to his two cents on #3 (if you’re too busy to click the link, he says, in part “And although many beginners don’t believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable”). He is absolutely right. If you’re close, you’ll get the editorial order the rule calls for. If you’re not, your own revision isn’t going to get you any closer or you’d have already done it. You need to find an editor, a partner, or a functional critique group.

As a side note, that’s another downside to writing erotica. I need an editor, or at least a writing partner who doubles as an editor.

I’m good friends with several top notch editors. It’s just that when they heard about what I’m writing these days, they all got this… expression. One of them even asked if I put myself in the stories. Argh! No! Do you put yourself into your space operas? But now that I know what you’re thinking, I will show you a draft the instant hell freezes over!

Also, if you do put yourself into your space operas, knock it off, Mary Sue.