NaNo Checkup! (National Novel Writing Month)

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So I finally typed up my handwritten notes, transferred my out-of-the-house typing from my AlphaSmart Neo, and I have a new word count. WAHOOO! (And yes, I’ve also been typing late at night from my laptop.)

18,382 of words down and 31,618 to go as of last Thursday.

Plans for this weekend: NaNo writing.

I’m still behind, but I give myself some leeway because I didn’t start my NaNo writing until November 12th.

What an incredible experience it is once again to be pushing myself to work on this fantasy series. And this story is perfect for NaNo as it seems to be writing itself. I have an idea of where all the characters are and where they are going, but the words come out and surprise even me. And what is this about? This new character that just put herself into Doyle’s life? A ghost who can shift herself into the physical form of a stray dog? Now, this scene is getting interesting in an unexpected way.

Happy Writing!

June

QUESTION: Have you had an unexpected event happen during your NaNo writing?

A Writer’s Process, Part 9 – Rewriting and Recreating

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We previously looked into how to use the feedback you’ve received. Today we’ll explore rewriting and recreating your manuscript as you move through the revision process.

To recap:

Catching the idea

Evaluating the idea

Growing the idea

First draft

Space

Reading the draft

Re-vision and self-editing

Critique group feedback

Rewriting or recreating

More revision

<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>

Final manuscript

The revision process is more than correcting grammar, restructuring sentences, and tying up loose ends of the story. It’s more than cutting scenes or passages and adding new ones. What I’m referring to with rewriting and recreating is a combination of using the feedback you’ve received and your own intuition of what’s just not quite working with your story. Sometimes a writer needs to step back and look at the big picture. Ask: What’s bugging you about the story? What isn’t meshing?

Here’s a list of items you might want to consider when rewriting (recreating) your story. If you can’t answer these questions, or there’s something not “right” about this aspect of your story, explore to see if you can discover how you might fix this.

What’s the overall theme of your story?

What mood and tone is your story presenting to the reader?

Does the number of characters you have in your story work to move the story forward?

Is it possible to remove a character without major impact to the story?

Is it possible to combine two or more of the characters into one character that serves the same function?

Do all the subplots weave into the theme of your story? Do they enhance the main plot?

Is the POV character(s) the best fit for the story? (Ask this same question per scene: Is this the right POV character for this scene?)

Does the chosen POV work in the best interest of the story?

Does each scene have a purpose? What does it do to move the story forward?

Are there any characters doing something in the story that is not justified?

What is the goal/want/need and the conflict for each of the main characters?

Consider the settings for each scene: Does the setting work for or against the story? What would happen if the scene happened in a different setting?

Is there conflict throughout the story?

Opening (Act I): What happens in the opening that will make the reader want to read more of the story? Do you at least hint at what the upcoming conflict will be?

Middle (Act II): Are the characters and character relationships deepened? Are there points where the story gets too slow?

Ending (Act III): Are all the story threads concluded? (NOTE: If the book is part of a serial story, not all threads will be concluded.) Are the readers left satisfied?

Are there sections that give the reader lots of background information?

Is your description too generic? Is your description woven into other story elements? Look out for stand-alone description that isn’t working on at least two levels.

Does the dialog add to the tension or suspense of the story/scene? What are you trying to give to the reader through the dialog?

What might be a way to increase a conflict?

Do your major characters have secrets?

Do your characters have emotional responses to the story events? To other characters?

How have you made use of at least one of the five senses in each scene?

What discomfort have you put your main characters through?

Keep asking yourself questions until you get a better idea of what your intuition is trying to tell you. Talk it through with other people, especially others who know your story. Try brainstorming, using diagrams, or journaling to get to the root issues. Do whatever it takes, because when you figure this out, you’ll have a better story to give to your readers.

Don’t just revise your story – work to recreate it in a way that will have your readers wanting more.

Question for today: Have you experienced knowing that something is just not “right” with a story? Share your experience! How did you discover what the root issue was and what did you do to fix it?

Best Wishes,

June

Out of the Comfort Zone – Part 7: A Writer’s Sanctuary

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What a discovery! (Or maybe re-discovery is a better word.) As I step further out of my comfort zone, I’ve discovered my writer’s sanctuary. I knew it was there; I’ve always known this. BUT. But now it’s REAL.

This is a place that has developed over time, separate and apart from my childhood comfort zone. My sanctuary is a place that the comfort zone only promised to be. Where the comfort zone wanted to keep me safe and secure, my sanctuary wants me to grow and experience, to take chances. Where the comfort zone wanted to keep me inside and used fears to keep me “safe,” my sanctuary wants me to go where I need to go, explore my fears, even if I fail in some of the challenges that I will face. The comfort zone wanted me to exist. My writer’s sanctuary wants me to LIVE.

I FEEL and EXPERIENCE the difference between these two spaces. Realizing my sanctuary makes it impossible to venture deep back inside the comfort zone. I might straddle the edge of the comfort zone while growing stronger in my sanctuary, but I can’t look into the depths of the comfort zone for my future.

Sanctuary can be:

A place to re-discover yourself

A place to experience peace and harmony

A place to be still and listen

A place of transition

A place of learning

For each of us, Sanctuary can look different. I might vision mine as a old, Victorian mansion, full of rooms which have individual purposes. Your sanctuary might be a beach, a mountain lake, the universe, darkness, a desert, or anything.

You hold the key to your sanctuary. No one else can enter without your freely given invitation.

Here are some parts of my sanctuary as it exists today. (Sanctuary is ever evolving.)

A library – Where I can access knowledge with the ultimate search engine.

A media room – Where I can experience or see any part of my life: past, present, or future.

Healing room – Devoted to health and well being.

Dress rehearsal room – Where I can try out new things in a safe environment.

Play room – Need I say more? We all need to play to be healthy and happy.

Dress-up room – Remember dressing up in grown-up clothes when you were a child? This is a place where I can be anything I wish.

I am supported, uplifted, and challenged. My sanctuary enables me to move forward in life and with my writing, to explore, experiment – TO LIVE. (Yes, it encompasses my entire life, not just my writing, and it’s there to offer whatever I might need – including challenges.)

Oh yes, there will be many challenges to face and ones that I might not necessarily want to at the time they present themselves. But I will move forward.

One other thing that is an important part of Sanctuary: the celestial teacher. (Other names for this might be master teacher, master instructor, mentor, guru, etc.) More about this next time.

Challenge for today: Describe your Sanctuary. What can you envision your Sanctuary doing for you?

Best Wishes,

June

NaNo Checkup! (National Novel Writing Month)

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Yes, it’s here again – NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short.

I’ve been working on the continuation of a fantasy story- working serial title: ShroudWorld. The first novel is LOGAN’S LAMENT, the first of four novels in this story world. (I have around 160,000 words from previous NaNos.)

I’ve been writing – by hand – in between other activities and work. If you are a friend on Facebook, you might have seen that I got tired of seeing ZERO as my word count so I upped it to one, and yesterday to two. I’ll post my actual word count after I type up the pages I’ve written.

Last night I saw at the NaNo website that we could upload a book cover. Cool! I had not created on for LOGAN’S LAMENT, so I did a quick on and uploaded it. I also wanted to share it with you here. (Hey, maybe I’ll add it to FB also!)

I hope everyone who is participating in NaNo this year is having fun!

Please feel free to share your experiences here.

Happy Writing!

June

A Writer’s Process, Part 8 – Critique Group Feedback

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We’ve previously looked into re-visioning and self-editing, and today the focus is on feedback. Especially your critique group’s feedback. I know. Kind words from family and friends are nice, but to get to the meat of issues, to develop your skills as a writer, you should have feedback from those that can provide honest critiques.

To recap:

Catching the idea

Evaluating the idea

Growing the idea

First draft

Space

Reading the draft

Re-vision and self-editing

Critique group feedback

Rewriting or recreating

More revision

<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>

Final manuscript

One of your motivations of belonging to a critique group is to improve your writing skills and knowledge. You can also get a more objective assessment of your writing than you can provide yourself or from family or friends. I don’t know a single writer who is capable of being objective about his or her own writing.

Some aspects of the feedback you receive can be as painful as reading a rejection. Keep in mind the reasons you’ve asked for feedback. You want your writing to be as good as you can possibly make it. Every piece of feedback might be a chance to make your story work better. Honest feedback is a gift.

Don’t just focus on what people said needs to be fixed. Look at what they liked about your writing. Can you find ways to do MORE of this?

What’s your plan for evaluating the feedback you’ve received?

You’ll receive at least two kinds of feedback (all gifts!). What you will use to improve your story and what you will decide to ignore. (A third might be feedback that is too general to be useful, such as “I loved this passage.”) Remember that feedback is subjective in general and different readers will point out different things. Not all of this will end up being helpful to you.

Evaluate/Analyze

Look for patterns in the types of feedback you’re getting. Do most people love your dialog but say your description is slowing the pace? Did more than one person point out plot inconsistencies? Try to groups the comments together and see where the largest issues are located.

Read over all your feedback. Mark what immediately makes sense for you to “fix.” Many times this will be in the form of fixing typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.

Thank the readers who provided you feedback. Do NOT say anything else, except to clarify something that  you didn’t understand.

Feeling defensive at times is NATURAL. Recognize what you’re feeling and ask yourself: Why am I feeling like this? (And remember that the reader is NOT deciding what you will be fixing. That’s your job. The reader’s feedback is a GIFT.)

Wait a few days, a week even, before reading over the feedback again.

Put your ego aside. Yes, we all have one! Repeat to yourself: Feedback is a gift.

Revisit the feedback. Do you see patterns? Maybe four out of six people pointed out things with your dialog. Put these items in a dialog category. Maybe three of them said the description slowed the pace too much in a scene and could be better woven into the story.

Maybe five readers loved your protagonist and how she had obvious goals and conflicts. Use this to your advantage. Can you say the same about the other characters?

If you don’t understand something a reader has provided, ASK.

Maybe on reader questioned some action of your protagonist or antagonist, saying this seemed out of character. If this doesn’t ring true for you, put the item in the “gifts not used” category.

Even if only one reader mentions a certain thing ask yourself: Is this useful to my story? Let your instinct guide you in making a decision.

For each item ask yourself:

Does this make sense to me?

Why or why not?

Is there something I’m missing? (Try to read beyond what the feedback is saying. Is there some basic craft element that could be improved at a deeper level?)

What’s the root cause behind the feedback items? (Especially on points that contradict each other. Is there anything at all these have in common?)

Is this part of a larger pattern?

If so, what can these patterns show you about your writing?

How can these patterns help you more effectively assess your story?

Look at the feedback you’ve received as objectively as possible. If you have problems with this: How might you make yourself less sensitive? What’s behind your sensitivity?

Each time you move an item to the “gifts not used” category, ask yourself: Why did you make that decision? If you can’t give a response that makes sense to you, re-evaluate the feedback to see if you can find anything useful.

Planning for Revision

Once you’ve reviewed all your feedback and organized it in some way, think about and plan how you might go about your revision. Will you do one pass or several?

Write out your plan, including goals for how much time you’ll want to spend on your revision. Start with high level goals and for each include smaller goals. (These goals should be something that is realistic, achievable, and include some indication so you will know when the goal is achieved.)

You are the author of your story. You have the final word on what is changed and how. Your responsibility is to carefully review the feedback that is offered and make a decision on using it or not.

Final words: Never loose sight that feedback is a gift.

Question for today: How do you analysis feedback you receive in order to make that “do I use this or not” decision?

Best Wishes,

June