Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Change is Good…. March 4, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing — justwritecat @ 10:16 pm

I’m extremely overdue for posting an update on my revision work.  I apologize – I’ve been working hard on the revision…which is going much better than I originally expected.  When I first received the developmental editor’s feedback, I was um, a bit…miffed.  There were some suggestions that seemed so contrary to what I envisioned for my character, that I couldn’t get past it.  That was at first.  Now…now I’m much more o.k. with making the changes (most, not all – you have to stay true to the vision of your story).

I’m an impatient person.  And stubborn.  And I’d rather be in control of what happens to me than not.  Not necessarily in control of a situation – I can go along for the ride if someone else is in charge.  But I need to know – or like to think I know – what my role in something is or might be.  I don’t like to go into anything with blinders on.  And that’s exactly what you have to do when you turn your manuscript over to someone.  You never know what he or she will like/hate/feels is not essential to your storyline.

And that’s o.k. – because if you desire an honest, professional, objective opinion on your work (and you should), then you have to be willing to give up some things, be willing to open your mind to the input and suggestions.  And to the possibilities.  Because after giving serious thought to the editor’s suggestions, I realized he was right about so many things.   And so the next several posts will cover the changes I made based on the editor’s feedback and a ‘re-vision’ of my characters and the plot.

Here’s the first one…

I’d been told by three editors and one agent that my opening was good, but the pacing needed attention.  The opening lines grabbed their attention, but then the scene quickly spiraled downward (not their words, they were much too kind…but that was the gist).  One editor said it felt as if I was setting up a scene, rather than letting the action play out.  And that comment made perfect sense.  In the original opening, my protagonist – Joe Cooper – is having a drink at a bar.  He’s listening to the bartender tell him about some creepy teens that were in the place earlier (it’s also a restaurant).  The teens had tried to hit on one of the younger waitresses – in a way that suggested the teens were of Joe’s kind (he’s a vampire).  As the bartender is relating the story, the same teens come in and the action starts.

The feedback I received suggested I get rid of all the set-up and just have the teens walk in and start acting in a way that quickly gets Joe’s attention.  I made the changes – and wow, what a difference in pacing and tension.  So really, a simple change but one that I would never had made without that outside feedback.  It’s tough to see the problems in your own work.  And even when you do, it’s not easy to know how to make a change for the better. 

Sure, looking at the original scene now I see the problems, but before, I couldn’t.  I thought setting up the confrontation was o.k., but it just made things drag.  Lesson learned – don’t set things up more than you need to, just go with the action if you want a fast-paced opening (or any scene).  If you want to slow things down, that’s different – but you don’t want slow right out of the gate. 

What about the opening to your book?  Does it get reader attention right away?  More importantly, does it keep their attention?  Think about it – how many times have you picked up a book at the bookstore or library, read the first few lines, and then put the book right back down.  What about those books that draw you in immediately, and never let you go?  You know the ones I’m talking about  – the ones that keep you awake until four in the morning, even though it’s a weeknight and you know you’re going to pay for it the next day?  Or that make you forget about your family, your other responsibilities, your own life because you simply cannot put the book down? 

That’s the kind of book I want to write.  And with the help from the developmental editor, I’m closer to that goal.


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.


You Need Help – Working with a Freelance Editor September 18, 2009

Filed under: Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 5:22 am
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So I’m writing this novel…

…and I figured I could use some help.

I completed the first draft of my novel this summer.   Two revisions later, and I figure it’s a good time to bring in a freelance editor.  Some might argue a freelance editor is unnecessary.  Write the best novel you can, then send out your queries.  Okay.  But I’m struggling with demons of insecurity – so I figure getting the eyes of a pro to take a look is not a bad thing.  This pro is an uber-helpful kind of gal.  Experienced, patient and just plain nice.  She edits by the page, or you can go for the first one hundred pages or the full deal.  I opted for the first two chapters for monetary reasons, though a further investment is still on the table.  I emailed the chapters, along with my query so she could get an idea of the plot.  Quick turnaround on the feedback–slightly over a week.  And her edits and feedback were more than helpful.  I learned a couple of things about those pesky grammar rules that cover topics such as when to use em dashes and that sort of thing.  Minor details, perhaps – but clearly ones I needed to learn. 

The overall experience:  She provided thoughts on my characters, writing style, voice, dialoge, pacing and tension/foreshadowing.  Per her comments, some areas were right on track, while others could use a tweak or two (tension, foreshadowing).  Sure, it was nice not to read my work was destined for the shredder, but what really helped were her line edits.  Suggestions on cutting out a word here or there, making things tighter and more POW-ish. (Yep, another made up word.  You can do that on your own blog, you know.  Give it a try, have some fun.)

The details:  She used the comments feature to make note of any changes, while she offered thoughts and suggestions within the text (in red).  And not just things that needed attention, but things that were good.  Funny, powerful, nice, great – words I liked to see.  When reviewing her comments, I kept an open mind and tried to look at things from a reader’s perspective.  Then, I opened my working draft and went through each edit, making changes along the way. 

There were a couple of sentences she either deleted or changed that I kept as is – which I felt was acceptable.  Suggestions are just that.  I may change my mind down the road – ahem, perhaps if/when an agent and another editor mirror the suggestion.  But for now, the lines/words stayed.  

One of my problem areas–and I knew it, but didn’t know how to fix it–using to be verbs.  Was, is–that sort of thing.  She pointed it out, made some changes–and now I am confident I can go through the rest of the manuscript and exorcise those weaklings.  Fortunately, passive voice didn’t creep in too much so the changes are do-able. 

Survey says:  If you can swing it, give a freelance editor a try.  Especially if the work in question is your first.  You can read all the books on writing you want, work on your craft and send our your chapters to a writing group or to a few friends.  But nothing quite compares to getting that set of experienced eyes looking at your work.  And after what you’ve put into your manuscript, why not take that extra step before sending it (or part of it) out to an agent?