Stick Figures

End of Summer Reflection

imageDid you accomplish everything you wanted to this summer?  We technically have a few weeks until the end of the season, but as August closes, many of us come to the end of a significant chunk of time we spend reading, writing, and relaxing with our families.

This summer was incredible for me for several reasons–the top being that I attended my first RWA Conference!  I finaled in my first writing contest: the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers with my YA time slip romance, STARCHILD.  I took road trips, caught up with family, and read, read, read.

I also completed another manuscript and began revising it with my critique group.  The new baby’s working title is BENEATH US.  This YA paranormal is as strange as anything else I’ve written (no vampires, werewolves, or “normal” paranormal here), but I’m going to hold off on specific details for now.  I used Scrivener to reverse engineer BENEATH US, strengthen, and rewrite it.  I’m feeling very good about it now. 🙂

During the conference, I connected with new writers, have been communicating with some of them online, and have been checking out their social media.  I learned from YA and adult romance author Marty Mayberry about Pitch Wars which I plan on participating in during their next run.  She’s a Pitch Wars mentor and it seems like an incredible program!  Contemporary romance author Aly Grady clued me in about Pitch Madness which begins on September 10th.  This is a twitter pitch session which lasts the entire day.  I’m getting my 140 character pitches ready for that now.  So excited!

How about you?  How did your summer go?  What are you up to now?

Michelle Joyce Bond

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Writing

Best Craft Book (In My Opinion) of All Time: THANKS, BUT THIS ISN’T FOR US by Jessica Page Morrell

untitledIt is my firm belief that any writer, novice to pro, can benefit from reading this “(Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected” written by an editor who has seen it all. Entertaining and informative, she reveals common pitfalls and guides writers to write the best book possible–beginning with the underpinnings of fiction including plot, conflict, and character. She then moves outward in chapters on sensory detail, dialogue, style, emotion, and more. I come back to this book at least once a year, especially when I’m in the planning stages of my writing. If you are a novice–even if you’ve never submitted a manuscript–consider it your duty to pick up this book!  Seriously…READ IT.

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Bad Metaphor Monday: Weeding My Manuscript

imageIf writing a first draft is like planting a couple of marigolds…

and if revising is like ripping out those marigolds, moving them around, and going back over time to add in more varied, layered, vegetation so that everything tangled beautifully together as in an old English garden…

and if you finally realize your damn garden’s too big…

then re-editing is like finding the unnecessary vines, carefully following them to their source, and then ripping them out.

Thanks to the encouragement of my awesome critiquing partner, I finally came to terms with my way too long 133,000 word manuscript, and though I’m still short of my goal, I was able to rip out 16,000 words.  In the past, I’d deleted bits and pieces here and there, but I had to think bigger.  Out came almost three chapters, one secondary character (killed that darling dead), four tertiary characters, and a mess of other not-so-bad-but-uneeded details.

The result?  It’s so much tighter!  I didn’t think I could do without the above for so long, but once I started cutting, I got on a roll.  Now I’m seeing my manuscript through different eyes.  How much more can I cut?  I’m hoping to get down to 110,000, but we shall see.

Shout out below if you’ve ever had to cut a huge amount of words or if you know you have to.  I’ll cheer you on!

Stick Figures

First Draft Manuscript Goes Up In a Glorious Blaze

imageYesterday, I dumped 16,000 words of my latest WIP in my never-to-return folder and started over again.  Did the writing suck?  I like to think not, but I’d gotten to the point that I could see a better way to write the book.  When this happens, dump the old manuscript and start over from scratch.  You will thank yourself.

Really, 16,000 words isn’t a big deal. I’ve rewritten entire books (one of them twice).  This time, it came to me that I could strengthen the entire story if I changed the basic make-up of my antagonist.

“What?” you say.  “You’re changing the entire story to work around your antagonist?” Well…yeah.  As a serial revisionist, I make changes to my manuscripts all the time, but there was no way to work around something this big.  Here are the reasons:

  1. My characters’ actions are married to the plot—antagonists included.  If the antagonist does something differently or is a different person altogether, the plot must change.
  2. The major antagonist’s traits echo the protagonist in some ways (personal preference), so when he changes, she must change.
  3. If the protagonist changes in her desires and actions—even small shifts—the plot is directly affected in fundamental ways.

I know I don’t have to do the above—that my characters’ basic make-up and the plot do not need to be so closely connected…but I can’t help myself.  I am not a writer who sits down and speedily bangs out a book (though instinct and discovery writing definitely have their place in the drafting process).  I am a writer who spaces out while leaning over blank notebook pages, and—let’s be honest—at various other points during my day.  Only after weeks of this daydreaminig will I sit down and begin to write about characters, settings, plot points, experimental scenes, etc. in a notebook.  Often, I’ll write through half the notebook and start over again because I figured out a better way to plot it—a way in which everything was connected. Then, and only then, do I begin drafting.

And now I’ll start over again.  Happily. 🙂

Have you ever burned it all to the ground and started from scratch?  Share below!

Stick Figures

Delete Your Darlings…Or Save Them in Another Document Because They’re Really Annoying

imageYou may already be familiar with the Faulkner quote: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings,” but I bet you seldom find yourself shouting “Kill!” into the open book before you.  Your sudden ire is unfortunate since you picked this book to help you relax and get away from your own crazy writing for a few hours.  Overall, the book isn’t bad.  It’s just…this scene.

You read on, growing more and more confused because—over the course of this lovely scene where two characters are sharing a pizza or whatever—nothing is happening. Sure, there’s dialogue and the author might argue some mild character development, but…no.  The whole thing is nothing more than an excuse for two people to make eyes at each other and joke about cheese.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t count as a “scene” because there is no goal, conflict, or disaster…but it’s not a “sequel” either.  A sequel is the aftermath of a scene and includes a reaction, dilemma, and decision.  None of that exists in happy-yummy-pizza world.  The only reason these pages haven’t gone up in a glorious blaze is because the author can’t let them go.  Then again, maybe the author isn’t aware of his or her own shortcomings.

Three things can help with this:

  1. reading a lot of good books on the craft of writing
  2. reading a lot of well-written books that exhibit these features (and books that fail to)
  3. critique, revise, rinse, repeat

If you are a writer working on a manuscript everyday, you are probably in love with it.  That said, you need to accept that the book you’re writing may never meet with more than a few sets of eyes.  But even if your book baby never “makes it,” tangling with the words can turn that project into a really good learning experience—a stepping stone on the road to possible success with a future book.  This only works, however, if your process improves.

You can learn a lot from looking at a published book, but keep in mind, you are looking at a product.   One cannot see the hours of planning, revision, reimagining, and re-revision the author went through to “finish” that product.  That’s why we need the three-punch combo listed above.  Read, apply, work toward mastery.

For most writers, the longest and most difficult part of the process is revision.  Be your own worst enemy first—tear your writing to pieces and make a better monster out of what’s left. Then, get others to go through it with their own sharp eyes.  Please, not your mom.  She would love that pizza scene.

Writers, do you have a particular “darling” you had a hard time deleting? I’d love to hear about it!

Readers, is there a particular not-scene in a book you’ve read recently that makes you want to scream?  Tell all below!

Michelle Joyce Bond