Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Some Things I’ve Realized… July 11, 2010

After three intense sessions with independent editor (and character therapist) Lisa Rector-Maass, I’ve realized a few things.

Some of my scenes, a few, are pretty decent.  The rest suck.  Not suck bigtime – well, maybe some.  More like suck, with potential.  Which is better than suck without any redeeming qualities.  So, I have hope.  And no, Lisa did not imply said suckage in any way.  It’s more of a personal realization.  She’s been nothing but encouraging and positive, which is really quite wonderful.

You can always push your characters more than you have.  Raise the stakes – both internal and external, turn the conflict and the tension up to high, push them to their breaking point.  Sometimes, it’s more interesting to see what happens if they actually break. 

You don’t know your characters as well as you think you do.  Lisa asks questions about their motivations, history, goals, desires, fears – and even though I have answers for most of her questions (though not for all of my characters), I learn something new each time we discuss my novel.  I’m struggling with my antagonist.  I can’t seem to get a handle on her past, which makes it difficult to know her motivations.  Lisa offered up this challenge:  Look at the first fifty or one hundred pages from the antagonist’s point of view.  My first novel is in first person, so that was something I never considered (or would have).  She provided several questions and things to consider while I tackle this challenge – which I’m working on over the next several days.

When you revise, it can help to do so in layers.  Read your scene and/or chapter several times – each time looking for or working on specific things.  Tension, pacing, inner conflict, story development – whatever needs attention.  Everything’s connected, but if you try to tackle it all at once – you’ll get overwhelmed.  Or maybe you won’t, but I did. 

When you find someone who gets your writing – an editor, a writing buddy, someone from a crit group – it may help to work only with that person for some time.  Otherwise, if you get feedback from several different people at once – it can make it hard to know what you should or shouldn’t change.  I’m not saying getting input from several readers is a bad idea – it’s not.  But there’s a point when you’re either doing deep revision or even polishing a scene – and if there’s too much feedback or suggestions coming from all different directions, you don’t know who to listen to.  Too much noise, and you can’t hear the one person you really need to  – yourself.  Yes, get feedback and be open to it – but it’s okay to go with your own instinct.  Oh, but you can listen to your characters.  They usually know best.

One other thing I’ve realized – what matters is writing the best damn story you can.  Being true to your characters, to their story.  Heck yes, I hope to have an agent some day soon.  And to see my book(s) at Borders 🙂  But right now – I’ve put those things out of my mind (as much as possible) and I’m focusing on my writing.  There’s a freedom in that.  And that freedom seems to…well, free me up to improve my craft.

And so the revisions continue.  More on working with Lisa after the next session (I’ve got several more to go)!


Letting Go… February 2, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:46 am
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My manuscript will be undergoing a rather significant revision over the next few weeks.  Based on comments received by an agent (an agent who is willing to reread/reconsider my work upon revision), I decided to work with a developmental editor.  I did some research – and after hearing about him via a tweet by an agent – decided to see if Alan Rinzler would be open to working on my manuscript.  He read my work, sent me an email with his initial thoughts and estimated fee, and offered to field any questions/concerns via a phone call.  We talked, and then decided to move forward with the developmental editing. 

Let me pause to explain that developmental editing is not the same thing as copy editing.  A developmental editor offers something substantially different  – he or she considers the totality of your work.  Plot, characterization, pacing, dialog, subplots, marketability – so if you are considering working with such an editor, be ready to possibly make significant changes to specific aspects of your novel.  And that is what this blog is about.  The willingness to make those changes.  For more on this, please visit Alan’s site here: http://www.alanrinzler.com/home.html 

I’m a control person.  Maybe not a freak, but certainly someone who would rather be in control of my life than not.  At least to the degree than I can have any control over my life!  I’m also accustomed to working on projects alone.  Yes, I’ve experienced the challenges and benefits of teamwork, but usually everyone has their own ‘mini-project’ to work on and then we all come together and viola – the whole thing is done.  Yeah, working with an editor isn’t like that.  You do your part, he does his – and then the real work begins.  This is just the start of the process for me, so some of this may change, but…from what I gather, some back and forth is a necessary part of the experience. 

And while all the changes made are, ultimately, up to me (read, in my control) – if a better book is my goal (it is), an openness to his input and a willingness to make changes is essential.  And that’s hard.  Not because his suggestions aren’t good/great/so fantastic I wish I’d thought of it – but because sometimes you want to hold on to those ideas or to those chapters or to the images you have in your head of your characters.   It’s your story – and while you may beg for input on how to tell it better, it’s hard to make some of those changes.  But, not impossible.

And that’s where I am.  Deciding which changes to make, and of those I want to make – the best way to do so.  When Alan sent me the marked up manuscript, he suggested I read his comments/changes SLOWLY, and more than once.  And then I should count to ten, read them again – and then wait ten days to set up our phone consult.  Wise man, experienced man.  He certainly knows writers – or at least, this one who admitted during our first phone call patience was an elusive virtue for me.  He must also have picked up on other of my lesser qualities – hot-headedness for one.  My first read through of his comments, I misunderstood some of his suggestions.  Another read  – and several tears – later, I realized some of his suggestions were not what I first thought and were, in reality, quite doable.  So if you work with a developmental editor – don’t take any comments personally, don’t jump to any conclusions.  Take a deep breath, read any suggestions slowly and with focus – then cry if you still feel inclined (or yell, or whatever you do to work through your frustration).  And then, get to work.  Chances are, the suggested changes will make your book better – but it’s up to you to accept the challenge.

Hint:  It’s easier if you just…let go.