Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

It's a little late in the day for WIP in progress Wednesday (my clock currently reads quarter to 9), but it is still Wednesday, so I'm squeezing this blog post in anyway.

Last week I wrote about how during my various rounds of rewrites and revisions I never differentiated between the two words, until finally during this current round, I came to see a very drastic difference between the two.

I had some really excellent comments regarding how other people defined their own rewrites/revisions/edits and wanted to share a few of them here.

K.M. Weiland: I definitely differentiate between revising and rewriting. Revising is routine; rewriting is radical!

Jennifer Shirk: It's like taking a chunk out of a cake that tastes funny and putting in a different layer. They you do the REVISIONS which is the frosting that keeps it all together so you never see the rewrites and it looks all pretty.

Lady Glamis: A rewrite to me means opening up a blank document and starting over. That's what I've done with my novel Monarch. I've been rewriting it for months now, and I'm almost done.

Elana Johnson: There is such a HUGE difference between revisions and rewriting. I call revisions edits and rewrites revisions, though. Because when I revise, I'm doing all that chopping, moving and rebuilding you talk about. Just different words. :)

What I think these comments highlight is not only how differently we all approach the writing process, but the many different ways that we can define it as well. I also have to mention that while I was writing last week's post I knew there was another word for rewrites/revisions that I couldn't think of, and it wasn't until I was reading my comments that I realized that word was "edits". It was definitely a hand-meets-forehead moment.

So, onto this week. I've actually made a lot of progress with what I've defined as my reWRITES. I even had one of those moments when the writing was just flowing and everything inside of me was like, "Yes, this is what I'm meant to be doing." Of course, that was Friday night and everything I've written since then has been like pulling teeth, but still that one moment almost makes the rest of it worthwhile.

Another thing that I've tried to keep in mind while doing my reWRITES are some general guiding principles or ideas that I want to use a criteria to judge what needs to go out and what needs to be put in instead. I boiled this down to three basic ideas that I wrote down and have been referring back to, constantly asking myself if I am sticking to them.

1. Simplify.

This one mostly refers to my overly convoluted plot, which towards the end grew so complicated that I could barely understand everything that was happening and how it all tied together.

2. Lighten and Go with the Quirk

This is more of a note on tone. Overall, my MS uses a lot of humor, but there were some very dark and weighty moments. While some of those moments are staying, others are being stripped away - especially where things got a little too dark and depressing.

3. It's the Character's, Stupid!

This kind of ties back into number one, when I became so wrapped up in the plot, I ended up losing some of my most important characters - so while I am at work unraveling bits of plot, I am also gently reminding myself where to keep the focus instead.

Anyway, those are three pretty broad statements, but so far they are helping to keep me on track. Has anyone else tried to use something like this to keep yourself focused on what your want your story to be - whether it be with a first draft or the (as I am calling my current draft) 500th one?

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Wow, it has been over a month since my last official WIP Wednesday posting. And it feels even longer than that.

When I last posted a WIP Wednesday progress wwaaayyy back in August, I had plans for finishing off revisions and beginning work on a brand new shiny and exciting WIP.

Except that didn't happen.

Instead I am once again elbow deep in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Up to this point when talking about revisions and rewrites I have used the two words interchangeably. However, as I have begun to make the latest changes to BTDATDBS I have been very carefully referring to them as reWRITES - and suddenly the difference is very clear to me.

Now other writers may see this another way, and this is strictly my own way of looking at things, but here is what I see as the difference between reWRITES and reVISIONS.

REVISIONS. This is something that is done with red pen in hand (well technically you can use any color ink... but why would you?) where you cross out little bits, maybe write in other little bits, and just generally make a lot of squiggly lines indicating the need to split a paragraph or correct a misspelled word. In a word, revisions are nit-picky.

REWRITES. This, on the other hand, is something that is done with a power saw, and a take no prisoners attitude. It's big, bold, and sometimes even bloody. No part of your manuscript is safe - from characters to plot points to location - anything can be torn to shreds at any moment. Of course, it's not only about destruction - because then you have to go back and fill in the now gaping holes. Depending on the level of devastation - you may end up doing a lot of rebuilding.

After having recently been given some excellent suggestions on how to make my manuscript stronger, it is in reWRITES of this type that I currently find myself. These will actually be the biggest rewrites I have undertaken on this MS. Prior to this, I'd say I did about two rewrites - although much more minor ones - and they were after getting feedback from my first beta readers. Since then there have been many many many many many - just uncountable really - round of revisions. Revisions, for me, are kind of like that - one round just blends into another. And after I finish these reWRITES, there will be another round of reVISIONS - acting as a clean up crew of sorts.

So, that's where I'm currently at. What about you? How are your works in progress? And do you differentiate between reWRITES and reVISIONS (your definitions don't have to be the same as mine) when you are working on your MS?

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who Am I?

This week on the blog chain we are getting all existential with a question brought to us by Michelle:

Do you choose WHAT you do because of WHO you are? Or is who you are determined by what you do?

Wow. BIG question. It's not quite: "what's the meaning of life", but it's pretty darn close.

So, I'm just going to jump right in and say straight out: I label myself by what I do. This means that even though I have been writing stories for as long as I've known how to put words on paper, I wouldn't say "I've been a writer my whole life." I mean, I've always had a passion for writing, but then again I've always had a passion for chocolate, but I wouldn't call myself a chocolatier either.

The thing is despite the notebooks that I've over the years filled with short stories and bits of novels - writing was very rarely my focus. In undergrad I planned on getting an English degree, but then the acting bug bit and suddenly I was working towards a BFA in theatre. Even though I loved the opportunities to write - even taking a playwriting class - the experience that I seized upon during those four years for my future goals was when I directed a one-act play my senior year. I was meant to direct, I decided, and not wanting to limit myself to the stage I headed off to California for film school.

Luckily, the MFA program at Chapman encouraged writer/directors, which meant that I had the chance to do not only do a lot of writing, but also see it come to life on screen. Even as I fell out of love with directing, I came to became more passionate than ever about my writing. I still wasn't a writer though. Why? Because over the next few years I intermittently worked on one full length screenplay and began a handful of half-baked novels.

So when did I actually become a writer? That is difficult to capture. Was it two years ago when I began writing the first novel that I would actually finish? Was it when I began to research how to send that novel out to agent's and had to tackle my first query letter? Was it when I received my first agent request or, even better, my first rejections? Or maybe it was the moment when I trunked that first book and started writing the second one?

Perhaps it is simply the accumulation of all those moments.

And is there a moment when I would stop being a writer? I think so, and that one is easier to pin-point - it's when I say to myself, "Enough with this writing crap. It's time to follow my real passion: chocolate!"

Okay, what about you: are you a believer in the motto "writers write" or do you think there is something more to the whole thing than merely action? And was there a moment when you first said to yourself, "I am a writer?"

For more thoughts on this topic make sure to check out Rebecca before me and Amanda who is up next!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life In Progress

I had a plan. It was a good plan too. I returned from my semi-vacation (2 plus weeks staying at the parents house in Buffalo, NY) last week and I was ready to work. Okay, yes, the thousands of blog entries that I had missed and needed to catch up on reading did give me pause. And the latest massive rewrites (rewrites, not revisions, more about that in another post though) that I was looking at for Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea did make me feel like I was sometimes swimming against the tide.

Overall though my mood was upbeat. I was refreshed and ready to get some work done. I had even begun composing this weeks celebratory Work in Progress Wednesday post in my head - about how sometimes all we need to unplug once in a while, and we'll come out on the other side better and stronger and maybe even with whiter teeth than before (okay, this last one is probably only true if your time off included a trip to the dentist, which mine did not. Who the heck goes to the dentist while on vacation?).

The thing is I had a plan, and then...

Have you ever heard that joke about how if you want to make God laugh - tell him about your plans? It's a funny joke, although also kind of depressing. And it definitely doesn't go with the whole vision of God that I was brought up with Him (yes, He was definitely a He.) seeing us as beloved children or sometimes lost sheep. This God who laughs at our plans though is more of the type who looks down and sees us as all a bunch of schmucks. I'm not judging or saying either one is right or wrong. It's just an interesting contrast.


I had a plan, and then I got sick. Not a small case of the sniffles either. Although also not swine flu. No, it was more of a puke (sorry for the oversharing here. Is there a more discreet way to say puke? Would vomit or upchuck have worked better? I think they all give one a pretty graphic idea of what was happening.) until there's nothing left, and then go to the hospital and puke some more. Yeah, this sickness came with an express trip to the hospital. Where I was hooked to an IV. And put in the coldest room ever in the history of the world. I swear they were importing the air from Antarctica. They also gave me medicine that stopped the puking. And Sprite on ice with a bendy straw. The bendy straw was key.

That was Sunday. And since then I've been sleeping, taking care of a sickly toddler (although not sick with the same thing as me, OMG thank goodness), and praying to any type of God who will listen to please let me never ever ever ever ever again in my entire life have to throw up like that again.

So, there was no rah-rah yeah me celebratory Work in Progress Wednesday this week. But as this week continues to plod forward I will be working towards having progress to report next week and on once again catching up on all your great blogs (I miss all of you really I do! Sorry I haven't been commenting, but I have been reading).

In the meantime has anyone else had life get in the way of their plans? Or maybe you've been sick (my mom says it's going around... although I think she says this every time I get sick) too? Or if you have some actual work in progress Wednesday stuff to report I'd love to hear that too:)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taking and Breaking the Rules

The last blog chain topic was about sharing our own writerly advice, so for the current blog chain (that I have the honor of starting) I wanted to look at advice from the other side - as the receiver rather than the giver.

As writers I think we have a tendency to collect writing advice the same way other people do coins or baseball cards. It can be a quote from Hemingway, a link to an agent's blog, or a highlighted passage from Bird by Bird. Most of these rules we follow with the eagerness of the newly converted, grateful to have been brought into the light... but others we chafe against, and maybe even question their usefulness. So the question for this round is:

What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?

When it comes to cannot (To differentiate between the question of can or will go back to your grade school teacher who when you asked "Can I go to the bathroom?" would smartly reply, "I don't know. Are you physically able to?" At which point with a sigh you would answer, "May I?") - run-on sentences are the bane of my existence.

Over and over again I have written a sentence that has around fifty words, six commas, and maybe even a dash or two added in for some extra flavor. And even through several rounds of edits I will look at that sentence and my brain will assure me, "Yes, that is one sentence. Clearly." And I will be happy with this... until one of my lovely crit partners will point out a place where a period could oh so easily replace a comma, or maybe even two of them. I then look my one sentence, now made into two or three and my brain says, "Oooh, yeah. That works much better."

For some reason though it is just one of those things that I have trouble identifying on my own.

There are other rules though that I break more willfully. At the top of the list is the: Show, Don't Tell rule. I think, I mentioned a while ago my objections to this rule - which is that as writers it has been so pounded into our heads that we go through our manuscripts on seek and destroy missions for any instances of telling, when it actuality there are time when simply telling the reader some crucial bit of information in one quick sentence can be way more effective than using three pages to painstakingly show it.

Perhaps as writers we need to remember that as children our teachers had us present to ou classmates in a segment known as "Show and Tell" - with both of these components equal in importance.

The other "rule" that I object to - although I haven't personally had a chance to break this one yet - is the anti-prologue rhetoric out there. Personally, I love a book with a good prologue, and think they can be especially useful for setting the mood of a story.

Oooh, I feel so rebellious now with all this rule breaking.

So what about you? Have you thrown rocks through any of the writing rules lately? Or are there other ones that you struggle to keep, and yet fail despite your best efforts?

And to follow the rest of this chain check out Amanda's blog next!