It’s time to start rewriting again

I apologize for taking so much time off from Choices. My temporary day job has been exhausting and as such has given me little time or energy to write here. However, I’ll be free of it early next week and look forward to getting back to my writing work. That said I attended a rewrite seminar last weekend to hopefully help me get revved up to work on my novel after a long hiatus working a proposal management consulting job. Some of the contents of the seminar were familiar – I learned a lot about rewrite and revision while working proposals in the aerospace business – and some things discussed gave me some new nuggets to incorporate in my work. Here I’ll try to give you ways to tackle your own drafts. The two-step process for writing a book are: Step 1 – write the draft Just get it out Don’t hang up with editing Don’t go to the Thesaurus to find a word. Lay all your cards on the table as fast as you can. And avoid tendency to write in chronological order … [Read more...]

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Another novel milestone met

I just sent off draft seven of my novel to another reviewer. I very much value this person’s judgment because of her experience editing books for the Oxford University Press and that she helped me revise and edit my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   I spent the last two and a half months working on this draft, looking for repetition, places where I told the story rather than showed it, and rewriting in response to some earlier review comments. As a result I cut out almost five thousand words. It’s now down to 85, 485 words. It’s still a little heavy for a novel, but in the right range. I’ve asked this reviewer to especially assess the content - are the story and its characters worth even pursuing at this point. My problem is the more I read and work on this material these days, the less confident I get. I said I don't need her to edit, except for giving me possible suggestions on where to delete/add stuff. After I sent my manuscript off to my reviewer today, my h … [Read more...]

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Hemingway on writing and revision

I’ve been reading Brain Pickings a couple of years now. It is full of wonderful information about authors, artists, and the whole world of creativity. This past week’s issue was particularly interesting to me since I’m rigorously working on revising my novel. Arnold Samuelson, who spent a year with Ernest Hemingway in 1934, left a book called, With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba – discovered by his daughter in 1981 after Samuelson's death. The book contains the very valuable writing advice that Hemingway related to him. I’ll share some of Hemingway’s writing advice here, but please go to Brain Pickings for the real meat – or read the book: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. "The main thing is to know when to stop... When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. “The … [Read more...]

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I’m writing poetry this month

I'm writing poems while a group of beta readers reviews my  novel draft. And I'm loving it. Again this April I'm taking the prompts from Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day challenge, though not especially concerned about entering the challenge. I'm a little poetry rusty after spending so much time this past year revising my novel. I'm satisfied just to have a poem prompt to write to every day. I'm in it for the practice. That said, here's a couple that might pass muster (with Brewer's prompts). I'd love your thoughts. 4. Write a departure poem. Many people depart to school and/or work every day, and they depart on a plane, train, or automobile–some even walk or ride a bike. Of course, that’s keeping things rather physical; there are also emotional and psychological departures. You may even decide to make a departure from your normal writing style in tone or structure today. The Long Departure On the platform she, in a flowing white dress with gloves, shoes, and hat to ma … [Read more...]

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Draft five of my novel is with five beta readers

  Last June I sent Draft Four of my novel-in-progress to five beta readers. This past Sunday I did it again. I sent Draft Five to five different beta readers. I also sent the manuscript to one of the first five beta readers and asked her to let me know if she thinks I created any damage as a result of all the cuts, changes, and rewrites I made to this latest draft - to comply with current guidelines for lengths of novels, I cut almost 9000 words. Hopefully, I left enough in tact that I didn't ruin anything. However, I have a safety net. I have saved every single draft of my novel. I can always add something back in if necessary. You can probably tell from the above, I consider getting my novel out in public both scary and exciting. However, it gives me a much-needed break from it. I've asked my readers to send me their comments by June 30 or sooner, so now I have time to blog, write some new poetry (I plan to participate in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day Challenge t … [Read more...]

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Making my product perfect

In Joe Bunting’s "The Write Practice" piece, The Ten Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers, dated February 27, 2015, I resonated with these two lessons: 6. Be a Perfectionist: It took Dr. Seuss nine months to finish The Cat in the Hat, a book that only contains 236 unique words. He would often spend as much as a year finishing just one book. And these were not long books! Each sentence, each word is important. Don’t rush. Keeping molding your writing until it’s just right. (Share that on Twitter?) 7. Cut Your Book Down to Its Essence: Longer is not better. Cut your book down to its essence. #SeussLessons (Share that on Twitter?) As he worked on a book, Dr. Seuss would sometimes discard ninety-five percent of it before he was finished. “It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book.” *** These points verify how important it is to edit and cut. My goal was to cut 9,000 words from my manuscript, and I’m happy to say I’m just about … [Read more...]

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Revising and editing are like sculpting

Here’s a piece of advice from Samuél L. Barrantes in his article, 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Samuél L. Barrantes, for Chuck Sambuchino’s website: Guide to Literary Agents. It came at exactly the right time. I am in the very nitty-gritty editing and rewriting phase of my revision process. Barrantes says:  Writing = Re-Writing. I used to have a romantic notion of writing as a frenzy of creativity, where the words poured out of me, the Muses singing by my side. But the truth is writing is as much about editing and re-writing as it is about creation. You really have to love what you’re working on to stick with it. I think of the first draft as the sculptor’s block of cold stone—there is something there, buried within, but the sculptor spends years chiseling away.  For example, I cut approximately 35,000 words between the first and final drafts of Slim and The Beast, with countless rewording and revising throughout. My goal is to cut 9,000 words from my manuscript that i … [Read more...]

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Introducing A Flapper’s Dictionary

In celebration of completing one more pass through my entire novel as part of my revision process, I'm sharing A Flappers Dictionary. I used it to provide a smattering of flap talk throughout the second half of the book. The talk and the dress - especially shoes - of the 1920s are integral to my story (the working title of my novel is Papa's Shoes). Unfortunately I cannot say I'm done-done with Draft 4. I have many Post-it flags on pages to go back to. Plus I need to cut. I'm about 9,000 words over the 90,000 word-limit for novels. Another daunting job to start on Monday. A Flappers' Dictionary (courtesy of Book Flaps and the guy behind the counter at The York Emporium used book and curiosity shop in downtown York, PA. Visit him online) During the Roaring 20s of the last century, young ladies took on a new, and for the time radical, lifestyle. These were the years following World War I and prior to The Great Depression. It was the jazz age and the ladies were taking full adv … [Read more...]

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Writing work check-up

On January 5, 2015, I wrote a short writing to-do list for the coming few months. Today, since it's almost the end of January, is a good time to take stock. I'm pleased to report that I'm moving right along on my novel revisions. I've incorporated my red lines and yellow highlights into my online Revision 4 chapter files up to page 124. That means I have only 54 single-spaced hard-copy pages to go. Of course that doesn't mean that I'm finished finished. As I've revised I've tagged many many pages that I need to go back to. Like yesterday for instance. I was working on Chapter Seventeen which required that I add a new subsection at the chapter's end. I wrote it. I stepped back from it, I thought about how John Updike writes incredibly detailed descriptions, and I realized I wrote only the bare bones so far. I need to go back to that little subsection and add and add and add more. Remember the old adage - show don't tell? Well my bare bones only tell. I haven't written the scene t … [Read more...]

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Character description

As I go through my novel chapters during this revision I'm continually checking back to the character descriptions I wrote up prior and during my writing process. One of the main considerations is keeping the characters' descriptions and actions and attitudes consistent throughout or revealing how they have changed as time goes by. One of my four main characters is described below (though a bit haphazardly). I've been told she is the most interesting. Please let me know what you think. Ruth Schuman, wife of Ira, mother of Charles and Ava Physical appearance: heavy-set, huge breasts, smooth white pale skin, short – about 5 feet, Always wears an old tight-fitting black dress usually with a dirty apron over it – until she transforms. Wears a wig at first, then her hair pinned in a bun until she gets it cut in a modern 1920s style Dark brown eyes At first all for going to America until the death of her three sons changes her so that she doesn’t want to leave Sokolow and the bu … [Read more...]

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Time to build a new version (Revision 6) of my novel

After going over a hard copy of my novel three times: once to find too much telling and not enough showing, once to address my beta readers comments, and once to improve my verbs – change as many to be verbs to action verbs and improve the actions verbs that already existed – I took the marked up copy of my novel off the wall. Amazing! After having the book on my storyboards for almost three months, it took me just thirty-five minutes to take it down, remove the push pins, and carry the foam boards into my garage. My next step is to start incorporating all of my mark ups into a new version. That means inputting any editorial changes I made with my trusty red pen, deleting material that I highlighted with my yellow marker, and adding chapters and sections where indicated – again with my red pen. However, I’m going to give myself a couple of days off to let the enormity of the upcoming task sink in. I’ll be back at it on Monday, hopefully creating a new version that will be good … [Read more...]

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Now it’s all about the verbs

I’ve finished another round of revisions by marking up my novel chapters with a yellow marker to indicate telling instead of showing passages  and noting with a red pen places where I need to add and subtract material and provide major rewrites - even whole chapters. Now I’m going through the book again paying attention to verbs. One of my beta readers said: “I also sense that there are opportunities here for verbs that better-convey how people are using the space. For example, you can surely upgrade words like "watches," "going in," "been in," and "give up." Although maybe there's a deliberate simplicity in choosing such clear verbs, I also sense that there's more to observe that we're missing because of [this] plain style.” This reader was so thorough that he went through the text line by line indicating where I could improve my verbs. For example: "He gets out..." My reader said, ‘Another opportunity to convey mood with stronger verbs:’ "He skips out..." or "He pops out.. … [Read more...]

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Does NaNoWriMo make sense for me or not?

I’d love to get involved with the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I’m almost finished with the first run through of my revisions based on my beta readers’ comments on my existing novel and plan to be complete in time to start the challenge on November 1. However, I don’t know if making major revisions and rewrites rather than writing a new novel qualifies. I know the warning not to edit as we write makes a huge amount of sense and definitely slows down our writing. Take my advice for those of you in the challenge. Just keep you fingers moving. Don’t stop to think. Just write. However, my situation is totally different. I’ve already written my first draft and even spent hours and hours revising and editing it. Now it’s ready for another major revision. As I’ve marked up my hard copy with my yellow marker and red pen, I’ve identified places to cut, to add, to rearrange, to carry through a whole slew of thre … [Read more...]

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I’m making slow progress with my novel revisions

I’ve posted all the comments from my novel’s beta readers on the wall, I’ve posted the entire novel on the wall, and I’m working through the comments by scribbling page after page with yellow marker and red pen. I use the yellow marker to highlight where I explain and/or use expository language to tell rather than show (a lesson learned from the Writers Digest tutorial, Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft). And, I’m actually rewriting with the red pen, with special emphasis on clearing up inconsistencies – like one of my characters has a black bushy beard in one scene and a light brown beard in another – improving on the quality of my verbs, and further developing my characters - while making sure I describe them consistently throughout. I storyboarded my memoir when I worked on its revisions as well. However, this time I actually saved time, wall space, and printing costs by reducing the size of the book to  single space rather than space and … [Read more...]

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Am I going to take a creative U-turn?

Today is the day I asked my novel beta readers to send me their comments. So far I’ve received two sets. And of course I’ll very patiently await the rest. I feel my readers are doing me such a huge favor that whenever I get their comments will be okay. My dilemma now is with the two conflicting sets of comments I already have. One set says my novel is amazing, well written, and gives my writing lots of other kudos. The other set suggests major rewrite, reorganization, and more work shopping before I send it out again. This second set of comments reminds me of Julia Cameron’s section on Creative U-turns in her book, The Artist’s Way. It makes me want to stop working on this novel altogether because the task is too deep and too tall. I fear that I don’t know how to pull it off. Cameron says: “We usually commit creative hara-kiri either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory….Creative U-turns are always both from fear – fear of success or fear of failure. It does … [Read more...]

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The storyboards are going up again

Once I get comments and critiques back from my first round of beta readers – hopefully by mid July – I’ll start revising again. Here’s my process. 1. Take my reviewer’s suggestions as just that -- suggestions. I feel it is important for an author to stay in control of his/her book. So I will review each comment and make decisions on whether to incorporate my readers’ notes or not into my next revision. If I decide not to use a comment, I’ll file it away for future reference should the need arise – I  never throw anything away. The bottom line - I am the person with the last red pen. 2. Create a revision plan. One of the first lessons I learned from my 28-year job editing and rewriting proposals to the U.S. Government was to plan before doing. And that’s what I intend to do at this point.  I will create a revision plan based on my readers’ notes – especially if major changes are suggested and if those changes affect many parts of the book. 3. Post a hard copy of my book on story … [Read more...]

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My novel is now with beta readers

As of this afternoon I took the leap. I  sent off copies of my novel in progress - actually Revision Three - to five beta readers. It is both an exciting and scary step. Now I plan to wait. I won't make any changes to the book until I've heard back from everyone - hopefully around July 15. In the meantime, I'll catch up on my blogging, write a few poems, maybe put together a poetry chapbook, and perhaps enter a poetry contest or two. I can also spend more time at my hometown beach. Really, the options for a writer are endless. After all beta reader feedback is in: I'll review the comments and criticisms I'll make changes as appropriate and turn them into Revision Four I'll seek out another group of beta readers to critique that revision I'll again review the comments and criticisms once I get their feedback I'll again make changes as appropriate and turn them Revision five And the last step before I make any decisions about publishing: Hire a professional editor to … [Read more...]

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Does fear of rejection cause procrastination?

I’m procrastinating about getting my novel ready to send off to my first group of beta readers. I keep thinking – what will I work on while it’s being reviewed? I don’t have another book in mind – unless it’s poetry, or maybe a book of essays. I feel at a loss right now about what I’ll work on next. I’m also procrastinating because I’m worried about what the reviewers will think. After all, this is my first novel – most of the stuff in it is totally made up – something I’ve never done before, so it is a huge confront to send it to people who will actually read it and hopefully give me their honest opinions and criticisms. However, Seth Godin – one of my favorite bloggers – came up with just the right words in his blog today: "But I might get rejected Indeed, you might. You might get your hopes up only to find them dashed. You might decide on where you want to go, and then not get there. You might fall in love with a vision of the future and then discover it doesn't happ … [Read more...]

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Novel in progress

I'm almost finished with revision three of my first novel. After that's done, I'm hoping to recruit a few beta readers to read and critique. Needless to say it scares me to death. Putting this project out there is a huge confront. And of course the first group of beta readers is not the end. I'll use the comments to create revision four and then send it out again to another group of readers. After that, one more revision and a final edit by a professional. It seems like all this is taking forever, but in the end, I think my book will be better off for it. Plus, it will help me get used to sharing it before it hopefully gets published. My novel is historical -- early 1900s on into the 1920s -- and the age of the flapper. In my research I found a long list of flapper words and I've inserted some in appropriate chapters. I've found these words fascinating, and thought I'd share a few with you here. I'd love your thoughts - has anyone ever used these terms?   This is th … [Read more...]

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How to write a novel

I was smitten with the following photo that pranced around Facebook yesterday courtesy of Melissa Foster. It makes the writing of a novel seem so simple and the deterrents to writing a novel so easy to solve. I’ve been working on my novel for about four years – off and on. I revised and got my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, published in the meantime, and I spend a lot of time every day marketing it. However, I don’t let any of that take away from my writing time and my commitment to my novel. What I want to do is to briefly comment on the photo I’ve shared here and let you know where I am in my novel’s process. Think up a story I was fortunate to have a story fall into my lap from my aunt’s lifestory writing, and when I presented the idea at my first novel-writing workshop, it was very readily accepted. I’ve, of course, fictionalized her true story, making up characters, dialogue, events, and locales. However, I’ve tried very hard to be historically accurate about plac … [Read more...]

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