The Big, Fat, REWRITE POST

And now, for something completely different.

I am rewriting someone else’s book, so I decided to come here for a moment, and tell you what I’ve learned about how to go about the revision.
I find it really effective.
First, you’ll need 11 colors of sticky notes. YES, ELEVEN. I am doing this particular job with only seven.
Second, you’ll need to print out four copies of the book.
I’m only printing out one, as this is a short book, and I feel I can read my own writing. haha. (we’ll see if I regret that.)

You’re going to take a color of sticky note, and read through it with one focus each time, per color.

First read: mark the things you like. Moments that speak to you. Moments the voice feels strong, the story coherent; whatever your reason, just mark them. If you have moments later on (you will) of feeling discouraged, you can come back and look at these things you’ve marked.

Second read: take another color, and mark the things you do not like. Look for places where the storytelling falls flat, there’s too much explanation, exposition that doesn’t arise out of action, stilted language flow, voice not matching character, character’s voices sounding too alike.

Third read through: Mark big picture issues.
Fourth: mark craft issues
Fifth: mark flow issues

GENRE: Mark everything that doesn’t suit the requirements of your genre. (this does *not necessarily fall into a rewrite, as sometimes we can blend genres or break the rules, but we really have to be aware we’re breaking them, and do it wisely.*)

Conflict & tension: a sense of urgency drives ALL fiction, regardless of genre. Especially these days, we need to write everything as though it is a thriller, and make sure readers want to keep turning the page. Mark places where the air goes out of the scene, or where you make a predictable choice.

In your structure, make sure the story has a thread, a through line that drives the reader through the story.

keep things personal.  Exploit your character’s weaknesses and feelings.
Add time pressure, if you can.

Add a sticky note where you feel you can create more urgency.

Clear Conflict/ Dilemma: Describe it in one or two sentences. Write it down on a post-it and mark the book in the color you choose as soon as that conflict appears. If the note doesn’t show up until a quarter of the way through, revise it to be sooner.

the “holy grail” must become increasingly difficult for the characters to attain.

PLOT: take a sticky note and summarize plot twist. mark the places where this occurs.

Character:  don’t let one character have the upper hand all the way through. who are the main characters, and what do they want? What is in their way? What are they willing to do to attain what they want?
MOTIVATIONS: mark spots where this shows up, and see how you can make it more clear.

Scene: if you come across a scene that does not add to or move the plot forward, mark it

Dialogue: characters must have different voices, motivations, points of view, reactions,

another read through: Bring your characters to life:
give us first impressions.
add small details (glance at the watch, etc) that capture important details of character in the way they react to things. What they say or don’t say.

more sticky notes: mark sections where you dump a character’s history and CUT THEM ALL. Instead, add a sentence or two, tops, and only if it’s important.

Think about your relationship with your reader as a new relationship – one in which you would not discuss your exes, being a savvy and caring person who wants to keep your new relationship a healthy one. You’d only mention things about your exes *if it somehow applied to your current relationship, or was something your new love needed to know.* don’t jeapordize your relationship with your readers by dumping character details on them!

rather than telling, show who they are in how they interact or react. And taking a reaction as an excuse to dump “this reminded her of the time her father…” blah blah is HORRIBLE – just don’t do it.

make sure the details make your characters relatable. Not every character can be the best, the youngest, the top, the smartest…we hate them already.

Take more post-its and find spots where you can add depth to your character.

more post – its: hunt down stereotypes and get rid of them, revise them, or use them to your advantage.

Something has to affect the characters in order to make them do something. MOVE THAT PLOT.

Another color: normal world. Do you have it? Mark it.
Inciting Incident? Mark it.

Middle: do events deepen the conflict?

Is there a mirror moment/ point of no return/ all or nothing? Mark it

A dark moment when all seems lost? “Pinch point” – mark it. if you don’t have it, mark that TOO.

Do events speed up or delay the moment of conflict?

END: is it in line with the setup in the beginning?
Is it in line with the character’s motivation?

If it is a happy ending, did you have a moment in the middle where all seemed lost?
If it is a tragic ending, did you have a moment in the middle where all seemed settled and won?

Main plot ought to be able to be summarized in cause and effect.
Fiction is not haphazard as life is.

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so. Steps 1-4

1) genre
2) conflict
3) character
4) plot 

5) tighten manuscript : 80,000 words – 100,000. for YA, 60,000. 

if manuscript is 20k off, trim it.

Take out post-its and find things to cut. Are you getting to the point as efficiently as possible?

-Make us wait for revealing character’s background/ story until it is relevant.
– Until it is relevant, show it slightly in behavior.

CUT: transitions/ detailed background information:
*no history lessons, and no science lessons!

Do your worldbuilding within scenes. With action.
Don’t introduce or lead into every scene. Begin and end in the middle, it creates momentum.

Skip descriptions of the mundane.

Make sure every scene contributes to overall plot & conflict.

AVOID purely transitional dialogue to put information forward.

Hunt down non-dialogues and mark them to be cut.
Tension is vital. Characters can argue, tease, flirt, etc… just don’t let them stand around explaining things to each other.

MARK ALL ADVERBS AND PASSIVE VOICE.

POV:
Whose story is it?

How might the reader relate to the character? Intimately, or from the outside?

First person: World through the character’s eyes.
Third: we see the world over the character’s shoulder
Omniscient: as a reader, we don’t identify, but remain at a distance.

There are shades of these, but I don’t feel like writing about them, as this is already too long! ( Do you see why I rarely edit my blog? xD)

Don’t break POV. Don’t show things the character couldn’t possibly know, if you are in first person. Mark all places this kind of thing happens.

Don’t confuse 3rd person and omniscient: don’t “head jump” from character to character. If you are in omniscient, you CAN’T share the characters’ thoughts.

Mark slip-ups with yet more sticky notes! These slip-ups hide, so go carefully here.

7) VOICE & STYLE
the narrator is NOT the same as you.
It’s a voice, a stance you take to tell the story.
Writing style must serve the story.  Mark any place where the language is more YOU than the narrator.

Use sticky notes to mark where you can improve your imagery. If we are reminded we’re reading a story, we put the book down.

Step 8: Storytelling  
You’ve all heard it. “Show, don’t tell.” Observe, rather than comment. Give detail, rather than summarize. BUT if the “showing” is slowing down the pace, tell some things. Tell the things that can be throwaways.
Telling is on-the-nose explanation; showing gives the world in details that allows us to experience it.
Try to involve all our senses in narration. Watch & inhabit the world around the character. Using “dead time” (like at bus stops or something) to do this is a good trick.

Use stickies to mark places where you can add more detail.
Use stickies to mark places where the pacing seems to get bogged down, and needs to speed along.

Steps 9- 10: Structure

9: Read the work out loud to find missing and misspelled words. You’ll notice your “favorite words” that you use too often.
Mark sentences that are just too complicated.

You’ll learn where your language makes music, with variations in sentence and word length, and where it doesn’t.

Check for :  characters missing/ descriptions off
Timeline off or not tight enough
Give sense of urgency, again, it needs to sing on every page.

First page needs to foreshadow the last: work on the first page LAST.

step 10: THE BEGINNING
The first page and a half are one unit
The first 30 pages: one unit

First page has to have a “hook”
First 30 have to get the story going and reel us in.

If 30 pages do nothing but explain the premise, REVISE.

The beginning has to firmly ground the character and reader in a time and place, establish and transport us into the world immediately.  In the beginning, certain promises are made. Promises of : voice/ genre/ character/ possible goal/quest. We have to be really mindful about breaking these promises, or we risk reader betrayal. It can be done, but it’s a deliberate choice to make.

Urgency drives fiction
Sticky notes are your colorful road map.
Start revision with big picture things, then work your way into the small ones.

Repeat the process until you 1) can’t improve it any more or 2) can’t behave like a human anymore.

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Interview: Author Sioux Trett

The following post is an interview I did with young adult fiction author Sioux Trett (her blog is here!

You can head over to her blog to enter an awesome giveaway for book launch 🙂

A new book in her exciting series Paper Dreams Chronicles is being released on Tuesday! It’s a great moment to introduce you to her, if you haven’t yet found her books, and add some links so you can check out the first book in time for the release of book two.

If you like Diana Wynne Jones, Hunger Games, Upside of Unrequited,  you’ll likely love Sioux’s series, which is an interesting, playful and yet suspense-filled adventure in time, books, and space…with first love thrown into the mix.


Hi Sioux !
First of all, I have to say I’m really loving your books. Book two ramps up the stakes in a big way, and we get to know Rennie and the others a lot more.

It surprised me in so many good ways, and I can’t wait for people to get to read it.

Thanks Becky!
It makes me so happy that you like my books! And thanks for having me on your blog today. It’s always so great to get to catch up with you.
Let’s just jump right in with a few questions –

1) Which character do you resonate most with? Which is the voice of Sioux (if there is a voice of Sioux in here..), and which ones are your favorites?

Oh that’s an easy one for me. Rennie (the main character) is definitely my voice, We don’t look alike, and most of the time we don’t act alike. But she speaks in sarcasm and nerd quotes which is definitely all me.

Since it is written in a first person narrative, it seemed like the way to go for my first attempt at this whole novel writing thing, and I have to say that I’m loving the experience. Getting to write a character who speaks so much like me is a luxury for sure.For this second book, though, I have to admit that my favorite interactions to write were Rennie & Seth.  He’s feisty and snarky in a way that Alex isn’t, and that interplay was surprisingly fun to write.

2) I know this is a very frequently asked question, but here goes: can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Any tips and tricks, or things you’ve learned along the way that are helpful to struggling writers out there?

 

My writing process is haphazard at best, haha! I wish I was more disciplined with it. But I do have some tips, mostly based on my own mistakes. Most people sit down to write their first book and think, “Okay, Chapter One, Page One… Here we go.”

Let me tell you, that first page is a BEAR. Like, big ugly snarling grizzly.Don’t force yourself to face that monster straight out of the gate. My best advice is to write what you know. You probably have an opening in mind, an ending in mind, and one or two big major points in the middle. Great! Write those! What is the strongest scene in your head? The one that makes you keep coming back to this particular story to tell. Write that! It doesn’t matter if it’s chapter three or 3/4 of the way through the whole thing. Just get that down and start crafting around it. That sounds chaotic, and it probably won’t work for everyone. But oh man is it freeing for me. For A Time Forgotten, the first scene that I wrote ended up being in Chapter 21. But it was what kept shouting inside my skull and getting it out helped to inform other scenes I hadn’t even known were in my head yet. That was a really long answer! I hope there was something helpful in there.

3) how many books do we get to look forward to in this series?
There will be three novels, and right now I have two novellas planned as well. Those are still iffy, though. There are two stories I would love to tell within this world, but they’re both prequels and the thought of someone reading out of order and seeing massive spoilers just haunts me.
Haha! Control issues much?
But for sure there will be the three novels. In fact, I’m starting on the third today. (And yep, I am indeed starting smack dab in the middle because this scene keeps playing out in my head.)
4) Are they mapped out?… do you know how this all is going to END? (eek!)
I do know how it ends! I’ve actually had the end in mind since day one. How I get there is another story. I know certain key moments, but there are some details still waaaaaaay up in the air. Secrets will be revealed, sacrifices will be made. I’m excited to see it all play out! 

Thank you so much, Sioux, I’m so looking forward to the big launch on Tuesday!

 

Thanks again for having me visit today! I can’t wait for Tuesday! 😀
 

Again, here are the links to Sioux’s books:

Book 1                                                                               Book 2

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Book Launch!YA author Sioux Trett

Just a quick post to let everyone know, author Sioux Trett’s launch of A Time Forgotten, the second book in the Paper Dreams Chronicles, is happening Tuesday! (her blog is  here! )

If you’re already a fan of Rennie and the gang, maybe it’s time to re-read book 1 so you’re ready for book 2 to land on Tuesday.

I’ll be interviewing Sioux here- in fact I’ve just sent off the questions – and likely that interview will go up on Sunday.

I’m so excited for you, Sioux, and very honored to beta read this wonderful series… I hear there are some changes I get to look forward to in the officially released version, and I can’t wait to read it again!

useful links: 
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Book 1: Drawn In

a time cover

Book 2: A Time Forgotten

Book Review: The Glassblower’s Daughter

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     I’m not sure how to categorize this- historical fiction? suspense? Mystery? all of the above.

This book reads like a single sentence, in that it is so seamlessly, exquisitely woven, it flows like a completely natural and unstoppable expression of a life from the moment the reader begins it. It is like picking up a life- between its covers, the events of this life are occurring, and when one picks up the book one simply hops on the train and is completely involved. It left me breathless; I stayed up until almost 3 am finishing it, feeling like I hadn’t blinked from the moment I picked it up.
It unfurls before the reader in sumptuous language, in exquisite detail, in breathtakingly, impeccably, REAL imagery.

There are moments of poetic, Virginia Woolf-esque language which capture the essence of the main character’s experience so completely, one can feel, see, hear along with her. There are moments of down-to-earth, commonsense rationality which serve as a beautiful counterpoint, thus ensuring that the novel never falls into maudlin dramatics (which, given the subject matter, it very well could have.)

The author handles the subject matter with genius. It would have been easy to distance from it by focusing on the emotions evoked, thus creating a more predictable piece of work…this never happens.

Oh, the emotions are there, and they are real, but that’s just it- they are real. They are shown, not told. We, the reader, get to figure things out…

If I had been told what this book was about, I would never have picked it up. I would have wanted to spare myself the pain. I am SO GLAD to be, in this case, utterly proven wrong in my assumption that authors can’t deal with tricky subject matter in a way that leaves a reader intrigued, warmed, fascinated, and healed, rather than stressed or drained.

This book is utterly beautiful. It’s not a light, easy, vacation read, in that it is an absolute work of art; but it is not stressful- it is simply true and honest, witty, warm, and the reader becomes an active participant and will grow right along with the protagonist.

I highly, highly, most highly recommend this book….It is one I will read again, no hesitation.

The characters are beautifully developed, faceted, none of them perfect and all of them utterly human and interesting. The setting is meticulously researched, with not a jarring note to be found.

The writing is exquisite. I am extremely picky on that score and I found not one thing (a couple of typos here and there, but nothing to quibble at) to distract me from this book.

Who will enjoy this: fans of John Irving, Virginia Woolf, Ruth Rendell, D.L. Smith, Barbara Vine… yes, this is an eclectic group of authors, because this author’s voice is entirely their own. I very much look forward to reading more of the author’s work.