Posts tagged ‘editing’

January 28th, 2011

Wordbird Says (1): Revisions

by Madeleine Rex

Thanks to Yahong Chi, who took the time to send me a much beloved email to put me out of my misery!

Yahong asked:

Hey Madeleine,

I’d love to see revision tips. In the midst of trying to rewrite a few scenes, and it’s killing me because I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!
So, yeah, that’d be helpful. 😀


As most of you know, I’ve just begun edits on The Lemonites. A few weeks ago, when I was still daunted by and whimpering at the thought of diving in, I posted a tragic and pathetic post. A woman named Susan Dennard commented and offered her help – and she’s one of my favorite people now.

Susan has a fantastic take on edits, one that makes the horrific experience much, much easier. I have finished part one of her six step process and will begin part two today.

Susan’s plan is deliberate and methodical, which may or may not work for you. In essence, my views on editing efficiently and writing efficiently are similar. There are a few things that are crucial to writing anything:

  • Try on different options. Approach outlining/free-writing/whatever in a myriad of ways before designating one as your personal process. There are so many ways to write a novel, and only one (or a few if you’re lucky) that works for you. I wrote my first novel after completing an outline so detailed that it amounted to a novel (though terrible) in and of itself. The magic of writing and the fun of it was diminished. Similarly, there are plenty of ways to edit, but only a few that are yours.
  • Set a goal. I wasn’t writing productively until I set myself a strict word count or time period to write. The daily goals (could be a week or a month, depending on what you prefer) motivated me and allowed me to feel spurts of success that encouraged me to keep moving. When working through part one of edits, I told myself I’d be done by the end of a particular week, and I was.
  • Diligence is key. Without pushing yourself to work even when it sounds unexciting, you lose the self-discipline that you need to drive you. As unemployed/unagented/etc. writers, we don’t have someone whipping us into shape and keeping us in line. There’s only me, myself, and I to keep me from slacking.
  • I know you were probably looking for something more specific. I can’t divulge Susan’s process here – it’s hers entirely – but it’s likely you could come up with something on your own. Sit down in front of a word document and type a ten-step process. Read through it. Could you handle those goals? Is the process too analytical, methodical, or laid-back? What do your personality and your tendencies warrant?

    If you’d still like to see others’ plans, I’d check out Susan’s blog. She goes into her editing process, though she only skims through it. If you like what you see, I’m sure she’d be willing to lend a hand.

    I hope I helped! If anybody else would like to ask a question/leave a comment/say something seemingly random, click the “Contact Me” to the left (please, please do)!

    November 26th, 2010

    Have You Ever Lost It?

    by Madeleine Rex

    Despite the picture above, today’s been a good day.

    It began with waking up to the task of helping a friend decorate for Christmas. I’d slept over at her house for this purpose. It took over three hours to decorate because her house is magical at this time of year. Then, I went home and watched Eat, Pray, Love with my mom. What’s not to love?

    It wasn’t until about 20 minutes ago, when I found myself contemplating what to do next, that something dawned on me. Not necessarily like a light bulb flickering to life in my head, but one turning off –

    I’ve lost it.

    The desire to do homework, tidy the house, bake, read, write. I’ve lost the motivation to do any of the things I used to fill my spare time with. Having four hours on my hands doesn’t bring with it the excitement it used to – the excitement surrounding free time in which to write or read or blog. It’s hard to connect to the me that wrote this – Why I Write – a few months ago.

    I’ve lost the motivation to do the thing I thought made me who I was. I say I’m a writer. I think about my book and feel the desire to see it finished, but I don’t want to finish it. I don’t want to edit it. I can’t even fathom how I would if I did want to. There’s not a single person around me who can help with this. No one close – who I have easy access to – that can come over and help me dig in. Can actually sit down with me and give me the advice I need.

    I feel terrible. I don’t blog as much anymore. I get home from school and feel like collapsing and doing absolutley nothing. The odd thing is, though, that I hate doing nothing. It’s counterproductive. It’s ending the day before it’s begun.

    All summer, I lived in a dreamland. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, exercised, dreamed, wrote thousands of words every day, blogged every day, kept the house in order – in other words, overachieved. The contrast between now and then – when I’m lucky if I get the bird cage cleaned at weekly intervals – is heartbreaking to me. All I do is dream about doing instead of actually doing.

    I want so badly to make The Lemonites beautiful. I want to feel as though I’ve accomplished something every day. I want to meet or exceed my expectations of myself. And yet I sit and sit and sit and live life as though it’s all in my head – as though dreaming and thinking about my ambitions and hopes and goals will help me achieve them.

    Have you lost your motivation before? Have you ever been horrified by the fact that you can, indeed, do nothing? That you can not do the thing you thought was necessarily for you to live (writing, in my case)? What in the world happened to the person who did so much? Who used to put off meals so that she could finish doing the laundry? Who spent 6 hours a day for one week in the middle of the summer writing? How on earth did my books get written in the first place?

    Maybe it’s my lack of guidance and the intimidating prospect of months of editing – a truly foreign concept to me – or maybe it’s that I’m just overtired, but something’s missing. Have you ever lost it, too? And, more importantly, did you ever run into it again?

    Just For You:


    May 15th, 2010

    Wannabe Writers #16

    by Madeleine Rex

    Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

    Where I am in the Writing Process: Still in the deep, dark abyss of break-time. However, my editing shall begin next Saturday, so I’ll be plunging into a different deep, dark abyss. Nice to have a change of seen, though, right?

    I really fiddled with some new ideas this week. I tried creating a Seven-Step-Story-Outline for The Lemonites, but I’m really at a loss without Character Analyses. The book is so character driven. I actually tried plotting twice with the same outcome, so I intend to tackle a few analyses this week, if I have time. Thursday, I’m going on a mini-road trip, and we’re driving back on Friday, so I should have some extra writing opportunities.

    I came up with a random idea while in the PE locker room. I was talking to Regan on Skype and she encouraged me to write the scene, although I had little to no idea where it was going. So, I did. And it felt wonderful. I was surprised how vividly the POV character’s voice spoke to me and ended up writing 2,000 words late last night. Writer’s bliss.

    My Current Problems: Plotting. Why are all the difficult things in life necessary? Exercise, school, etc. I am the plot monster (fear me!). I plot very deeply. It took three months of working a strict schedule to plot That Boy in the Shed, which is insane, considering how simple the plot is. I already mentioned that I’m in dire need of character analyses. The impending plotting process for Forbidden can be spotted on the horizon. Forbidden is forty times more complicated than my other plots, due to the fantasy-elements and the fact that I see it as a more-than-one-book-project. Plotting for that one is going to take a whole lot of energy. It’s moments like this that I’m thankful to be fourteen.

    As I said in my post on creative messes, my plotting, though systematic, is not entirely organized. I used my giant pad of paper and markers last night for the first time when plotting a bit of The Lemonites, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I made it through most of the papers before I finish plotting Forbidden.

    The Question this Week: How to start a story. I’ve never been very good at writing hooks. Any suggestions? How did you start your story? (Dialogue, description, action, etc.)

    I love hooks – particularly the very first lines of novels. I like mine to not only catch the reader’s eye, but to induce thoughts of the “is she nuts?” sort. In my case, constructing the first sentence of the story is one of the most enjoyable tasks. I also love last lines. Last lines should be just as phenomenal and eye-catching as the first.

    I don’t oppose any of the options mentioned. The use of dialogue as a hook is one I’ve heard debated often. I don’t see much harm in it, as long as it serves the same purpose and has the same eye-catching affect. However, all my story ideas so far have begun with thought.

    For example, That Boy in the Shed began with:

    You have to pee before you can zip up your pants.

    See? I sound certifiably nuts, which is exactly what I was going for. The story I began writing yesterday began with:

    I could see her feet under the stall.

    Although that one isn’t quite as insane, I think it will make people wonder what the heck I’m talking about and keep reading. Your first line needs to 1) grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go and 2) induce questions. The last sentence above more obviously performs the latter. What stall? Are they in a bathroom? What the heck is going on? Who’s “her“?

    One of my favorite first lines is from Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. It taught me so much and inspired me to try harder to write wonderful hooks…

    Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.

    I clearly remember snorting in the middle of Best Buy when I read that. Niffenegger goes on in the second sentence to really put the cherry on top…

    Later he would remember walking down the hospital corridor with the cup of horrible tea in his hand…

    It’s the underlying irony of the entire situation that hooks you. I thought, She’s brilliant. She’s so brilliant. If you’d like to take a more classic approach, see Pride and Prejudice:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

    More brilliance, this time, from a legend. I think the the key is cleverness. Show the reader, right from the beginning, that you can be brilliant. Don’t be modest. Flaunt your smarts.

    In the case of action, it might be more difficult to be clever, per se. This is were the grab attention and threaten to never, ever let it go comes in. I don’t condone beginning with bombs dropping and people bleeding (unless your book is primarily about war or set in a war zone, then it might be easier to pull off). Don’t be overly active. But make sure that the reader feels the intensity of the moment.

    If you’re unsure, betas and critique partners will be able to tell you if your first line is strong enough. Regan had a friend read the first bit of her new WIP, and was advised to move one brilliant and clever line from the second paragraph to the very beginning.

    I couldn’t imagine how a dead man in a casket would make people hungry, but whatever.

    See what I mean?