Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Book Revision, Take One August 29, 2009

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 2:50 am

This week the real work started!  I’ve been revising my first manuscript, trimming it down or building it up as needed.  I’m at Chapter Eleven out of Twenty-Two, so not too bad for a week’s work.  My goal is to have the first revision complete in time to send off to an editor by 9/5.  Hmmm….maybe that’s when the real work will start….

Given this will be the first time I work with an editor, I’m a bit anxious.  Not sure what to expect or how much ‘ink’ will end up splashed across the pages.  I’m excited, too.  Handing your work to a professional means progress is being made, your dream’s that much more tangible.  It also means you’ll get a reality check.  All those lines you thought were the cat’s meow will get an unbiased read, and you’ll find out if there is indeed a diamond under all that ‘rough’. 

I thought I’d start a revision journal of sorts, might be helpful to those of you working on your first manuscript.  So here goes –

Before starting the revision I outlined the areas that I knew would need work.  In this case it was the forensic scenes and setting in general.  I bought a couple of books – Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland and Forensics by D.P Lyle, MD..  Both are proving good investments.  I was able to add a more realistic feel to the crime scene, using proper terminology and such.  My goal is not to do a CSI-like book – the focus is on the characters more than the crime.  But I have to make it feel real.  If you’re writing a book that involves a crime of any type or police personnel, I highly suggest either book. 

Once I read the books and took notes, I worked through the relevant scenes a couple of times.  I’m going straight through the manuscript by chapter, so I haven’t revised all the scenes.  But what I did change looks better.  We’ll see what the editor thinks…that’s the real test.

It’s amazing how quickly you can pick up the things that need change as you read through your entire manuscript.  Word choice, tone – things just jump out at you.  I do agree with the suggestion you get the first draft down as quickly as possible even if you know a good part of it’s crap.  This way you get your story down and  you have something to work with.  As you revise, you make it tighter, better, more true to the intent of your story. 

I’m having fun with the revision – so far.  But yeah, it’s work!


Listen to Those Voices… August 25, 2009

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Write — justwritecat @ 7:04 pm

It’s an odd thing, living with all those characters.  Sharing their joys, hoping for the best, understanding their tears…

I gave myself a day off from my manuscript.  Of course, it never quite works that way…and last night, around midnight this great opening scene popped in my head (for the next story).  Fortunately, I had my nifty voice recorder nearby.  I tip-toed (not really, does anyone actually tip-toe??) to the bathroom, gently closed the door and recorded the scene.  Back in bed, I thought I could rest easy knowing the idea would not be lost by morning.  Instead, I started to think about the manusript I’d just completed…possible changes to a few scenes, a loose thread or two.  Next think you know, it’s around 3:00 a.m.  That’s how it works, sometimes.  You live, breathe, dream your characters.  You can’t turn that off whenever you like, not always. 

I watched The Hours (again) about three weeks ago.  This time I focused on the character of Virginia Wolfe, portrayed by Nicole Kidman.  She did a fabulous job, from what I could tell.  Watching Wolfe share her waking hours with her characters was really something.  And for the first time, I got that.  I understood that your characters are always with you, you can’t really shut it down or take a break.  Sure, you can politely ask them to wait, hold up long enough for you to actually listen to your husband who has been waiting patiently for your attention all day (uh, all week)…and sometimes, they cut you some slack and keep things to a whisper.  But they’re always there, biding their time until they can take center stage.  I suppose it’s only fair, some of those characters have been waiting some time – from what I gather.  Waiting for me to finally shut up about writing and actually write, give them some breathing room because ‘it’s kinda stifling up there in your head, what with all of us sharing the space’.  Thanks for your patience, guys.  I only hope I can do you justice.


“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”  E.L. Doctorow


What’s On Your Shelf…Books on Writing

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Where Did That Come From??,Writing — justwritecat @ 1:13 am

A few people have asked what ‘how-to’ books helped kick off my writing…here is my response.

Of Overall Help: 

Fire in Fiction – I picked up this jewel written by Donald Maass a few weeks ago.  How he packed so much in such a small book is beyond me.  Right next to Stephen King’s On Writing, this is the book to own.  I imagine you will read it multiple times, as I did, each time putting it down only to rush to your own work and incorporate what you just learned.  He includes excerpts from books from a wide variety of genres, explains how authors are able to grab your attention from page one (often, line one), and provides straightforward exercises that will undoubtedly serve you well.  I suggest you have a printed copy of your manuscript handy as you progress through this book.  You’ll want to check your work to ensure that fire in your fiction is burning hot!

Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market  – essential for so many reasons.  Yes, you can look up potential agents and get a feel for general submission guidelines, but the number one reason I found this book invaluable is because it jump-started the process.  Looking at the agents seemed five steps too far, given at the time I’d only outlined a story (maybe ten steps).  Instead, I turned to the list of suggested blogs.  Wow, there’s a whole word on the Internet for writers!  🙂  I spent two days (not not-stop, of course – a gal’s gotta take a chocolate break) browsing sites and reading agent blogs.  And that gave me a feel for the business of writing.  It set the mood if you will…

The Elements of Style – everyone needs this one, pick it up for a few bucks at your local bookstore. 

Concern Specific Reads:

The Power of Point of View, Alicia Rasley – My first manuscript is an urban fantasy/paranormal noir in first-person POV (point of view).  This book helped me understand just what that meant, and why it mattered.  Great cover on all POVs, so you can decide which one is best for your story.

Hooked:  Write Great Fiction That Grabs Readers At Page One, Les Edgerton – First, this was not a quick read by any means.  Small book, packed tight.  Seriously, a couple of times I stopped reading to get a good look at the size of the book and asked ‘how the heck did he fit so much in here?’.  I read this book – and followed the advice – when working on the first chapter of my book (first revision).  It helped.  Tremendously.  

Writing the Breakout Novel WORKBOOK, Donal Maass – I own the workbook and the book, I found the workbook more helpful in terms of practical application.  He offers fantastic exercises to get you thinking about character, plot, theme – everything you should consider when working on your story.  Fun questions, too.

The Write Great Fiction Series of Books, various authors – This is a series of area-specific books.  Think Dialog, Plot, Scene, etc.  Umm…I think I might own all of them.  My favs  – Revision and Self-Editing, James Scott Bell; Dialog, Gloria Kempton; Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, Nancy Kress.  You may need help with one area (say, setting), but not so much in another (maybe, dialog).  With this series, you can get the help you need.  Each one presents info in an easy to follow format, all are amusing, and each one is sure to give you advice that makes the cost of the book a worthwhile investment.

Genre Specific Books:

Howdunit: Forensics, D.P. Lyle, MD  – given my protag is a medical examiner, and that I personally have no experience in that field…this book seemed a smart buy.  And so far, money well spent. 

Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell – o.k., the person who thought up the name is a genius.  This is the kind of title that sells books.  At least, it worked with me.  It’s a handy guide to the bad guys–and gals–in fiction.  She covers the differences between heroes and anti-heroes, offers ways to create reader sympathy for your bad guys, and briefly touches on how to write bad guys in YA literature.  While the book is helpful for someone who wants to better understand the sometimes subtle differences between such characters, I found Fire in Fiction a better guide to creating memorable bad guys.

There are a few other books I own, but the ones above should prove a solid foundation for the beginning writer.  The one other book I highly recommend is Stephen King’s On Writing.  I wrote a review of sorts on this blog.

Happy Reading, Good Writing!


I’ve Done it Now… August 24, 2009

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 1:50 am

Spent the day on my notebook – ten thousand words, in one day.  Whew.  But the first draft of my manuscript is DONE!  Done, done, done.  And ready for revision.  🙂 

My plan is to go back and add some setting here and there, make quick edits and then put it away for a week.  Then…I start working with an editor, chapter by chapter, page by page, word by word. 

I know I have tons of revision to do, but having a “real” first draft is an incredible feeling.  Something to hold in your hands, something that can be taken apart and put back together again (with no cracks showing, one hopes).    I’m looking forward to the revision part of the process…I’ll let you know how it goes.  And what it’s like to work with an editor. 

As I was writing the last few scenes, I did have this “oh crap moment” where I wasn’t sure how things would end.  I had an ending – outlined and all, even a part of the scene written.  But then something funny happened on the way to my ending – and it had to change.  Not too much, but enough that I had to stop and really think about my choices.  This is the first in a (hopefully) five book series, so I had to consider how things would play out.  I wanted to wrap up this story, but set things up so there was still some tension to carry my readers to the next story.  Tie up the loose ends, but keep a couple of threads dangling…and I think I did that.  If not – that is part of the purpose of revision!

Happy Sunday and Good Writing.


Nearing the beginning of the end… August 18, 2009

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing — justwritecat @ 4:29 am

Three cheers and a ‘yeah, baby’ – slightly over 60,000 words as of this evening.  As Michael Buble sings, “and I’m feeling good.”  Hey, maybe others sing it too.  But for me, it’s Buble.  This genre – urban fantasy/paranormal noir – calls for an 80,000 – 100,000 word manuscript for a new writer (unpublished).  Mine will be closer to the lower range, although that could change after revision.  Last night I worked on knocking down that first domino, tonight the others started to fall.  After they all topple to the ground, it’s a few solid good-byes, a couple of see-ya-laters and my first draft is done. 

Then the hard part begins, right?  Revision, revision, and more revision.  Actually, I’m rather looking forward to the revision part.  I know some of the things I need to add – more setting peppered throughout, slightly more backstory maybe.  Couple more action scenes might be warranted.  The part I’m really look forward to is getting in there and getting messy.  Taking each scene apart, word by word, and hacking away or building up as needed.  Fine tuning.  Polish and shine.  That’s the goal.  I can’t wait.  Because if you are revising your first draft that means…you have a first draft.  Which means…you have something tangible in your little ink-stained or keyboard-strained hands.  And that must be a golden feeling, indeed.  I don’t know that feeling yet.  But when I do, I’ll let you know if it’s as good as I think it’ll be.  I’ll let you know in about 24,000 more words.  Or about 100 pages.  Or two weeks, because I’m hitting 2,000 – 3,000 words a day, six days a week per Stephen King’s suggestion.    I know that last part sounds like bragging, but it’s not.  It’s encouragement – to all writers out there who may think you’ll never finish your first draft.  And it’s encouragement to me for those times when I’m tired or think I can’t get ‘into character’.  Then I can come to my blog and read the part that shows me ‘oh yes, you can’.  Thanks for reading!


Killing It Softly…

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Writing — justwritecat @ 4:13 am

Had to kill my first character.  I knew it had to happen, I’d planned for it, knew the how and whys of it.  Still, it hurt to say good-bye.  I even cried a little near the end.  This was not necessarily a major character, but major enough that her demise gave me pause.  It’s funny how your characters become so real.  Almost as if you think you can pick up the phone, give them a call, maybe have a drink with them…

What do they tell psychiatrists?  Keep a safe distance, remain objective, don’t get personally involved.  Guess that would be good advice for writers, too.  Or maybe not, maybe by getting that involved we can be more true in what we write.   More true to our characters.  Then their voices come out, not ours.  I sometimes feel like I am therapist to my characters.  They tell me their problems, their desires, their fears, what pushes their buttons.  And I use it.  I use it all, if possible.  Hmmm….good thing there’s not some sort of confidentiality agreement you have to sign with your characters! 

Someone else has gotta go.  Soon, I think…as the story is drawing to a close.  Maybe two more, but I haven’t decided yet.  It’s an unsettling sort of power.


Writing the ‘You Know What’ Scenes August 14, 2009

Filed under: Where Did That Come From??,Writing — justwritecat @ 6:48 pm

I couldn’t put it off any longer, so last night I took my notebook out of my office and trekked to our living room.  I sat in my chair (yes, I have my own chair which I do share…but not always), nibbled on a freshly baked biscotti (my husband is a baker and how!) and got to work.  I thought a more comfortable atmosphere would help me overcome my nervousness.  It did, long enough for me to write the scene…but once I started to think about people actually reading what I wrote – and knowing who wrote it – well, that changed things.  I’m referring to the sex scene.  I knew I had to have one in my story – not because readers expect it – but because it was necessary to the plot and development of two characters. 

I knew I didn’t want an overly graphic scene, nor one that called things what they were…if you understand my meaning.  Something more seductive, less about the details.  The writing part was rather easy.  The read through was more difficult – because I kept thinking to myself oh, crud – my mom’s going to read this some day.  Yeah, that was the tough part.   Could I somehow arrange to send her a copy with that part blacked out?  Or rip out the pages before she could read the book?  Seriously, I considered both options.

At the PNWA conference I asked a question about writing sex scenes.  How graphic, how much?  All three agents leading the panel responded with this – if you can write it, fine.  but if you are embarrassed to write it, we’ll know, the reader will know and that will be bad.  As to how graphic, one agent said that yes, there are intensely graphic scenes in some books.  And more taboo subjects of a sexual nature.  But not all books have that, nor do they all need to.  Which did give me some room to breathe.  Knowing I didn’t have to include a graphic scene actually gave me the freedom to choose.  And that freedom helped me realize that yes, a sex scene really was necessary and yes, I could write it any way I wanted to…so long as it was true to the characters and story.  And I think I did that.  Course, there’s always time to revise if not!