Writing Wednesday: Revising the Life into Your Story

Welcome to Writing Wednesday!  This is my little corner where I update you on my writing and discussions going on in the writing world of interest, share call stories of fellow writers, and generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this installment!

word count

My current word count on my #Blurb2Book entry, Always the Last to Know

If you follow me on social media,  you’re more than aware that I  was one of 75 people selected to  move to stage 2 of the  #Blurb2Book competition hosted by Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editors for all three lines. A record 326 people entered! Needless to say I was ecstatic when they picked my first page and hundred word blurb to move on to the next round.

I’ve been working on the proposal due May 1st, which consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my story. This is a new process for me. I’ve only written two synopses, and only one of them was written before the book was finished. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I start the next day, but now I’m having to revise as I go, a completely different prospect. I need to have three complete chapters that balance depicting what’s going on now with hinting about things that won’t happen for chapters without seeming ham fisted and amateurish without having the benefit of having written the story and knowing exactly how it ends on the page.

Revising as I go has me thinking a lot about my revision process. I think I’d make an excellent editor because I think writing revision notes is my super power. My critique partners think my drafts are really good, but that’s because I revise much better than I write. So what do I do in my revision process to make my manuscript sparkle?

  • I print out the section I’m working on. I can do some light editing on the screen, but for proofreading and revising, I need to print the pages. Sorry trees! I do recycle when I no longer need them.
  • I read through the pages and make notes in the margins, usually first thing in the morning. I go with my gut. Sometimes this means I write “fix” or “make this better” because I don’t know how to fix it yet. I may write “add in emotion” or “show he’s upset by his actions.” Sometimes this is me highlighting a phrase I want to change or circle words that I repeat too close together so I know to find a different way to say something.
  • Unless it’s a proofreading correction, I don’t make any of the changes right away to the saved manuscript.
  • I make sure I know why something isn’t working and indicate it in my notes. There may be more than one way to fix it, so I need a way to determine which changes address the underlying issue.
  • I edit in red. It’s a psychological thing. I feel like my manuscript has been attacked and is bleeding; it’s my job to heal it. I have to treat each nick and cut. (See? That wasn’t as morbid as you thought going in, was it?)
  • The biggest secret to my revision process? I revise as a reader, not a writer, in the first pass. I don’t read for structure, check word count, or check items off the story arc checklist consciously when I make revision notes. I’m a reader first. I’ve read more than enough of these books to know what works for me in a book. If this were a book I bought at Wal-Mart and I read this, what would I think? Is there something missing I should know? Is there something here I’d skim or skip altogether? Did the end of that sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter make me turn the page or would I put my bookmark here and put a load of clothes in?
  • Bonus: My best kept secret? I make a “cutting room floor” document for every story I start. I put everything I cut out into that folder. That way if I need to add that backstory in later, I can. I can make a newsletter containing a deleted scene or something if the book is published. No matter what I do or don’t do with these words, I never truly lose any of them. This makes me feel better about deleting them from the manuscript, and the manuscript gets to be better without all the dead weight.

Revising as you go is a hard thing to do. But knowing my characters and the big plot points makes it easy to decide what to put in and what can be left out or added to a later scene. So far this process has worked for me. Let’s all pray it continues to for a long time.

Your Two Cents: How do you tackle revisions?
XOXO,

Erica

Advertisement

Writing Wednesday: Targeting Submissions, Rejection, Voice, & the Contest Elephant in the Room

Welcome to my first Writing Wednesday! I’m getting back into writing reviews and adding fun Friday features featuring published authors, so I wanted to make sure I left a little corner to update you on my writing, discussions going on in the writing world of interest, to share call stories of fellow writers, and to generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this first installment!

Breaking Her No Dating Rule

Yesterday on Facebook and the Harlequin boards I witnessed and participated in a lively discussion on targeting category lines, entering contests, rejection and finding your voice begun by Amalie Berlin, an author with Harlequin’s Medical line. Here’s a snippet of the post that started the discussion:

When you submit and get a Rejection from a particular line, do you automatically decide that means you shouldn’t be writing for that line and move on to another?

I keep seeing instances where folks say they are submitting to yet another line since their writing didn’t work for X line. Hopping from one line to the next… I’m not sure that’s a good way to go about things.

And as this has been on my mind a bit lately(with the Blitz going on), I feel like I need to say something in order to help without pointing fingers. I say this with love.

I understand the siren song of the contest/fast-response opportunity—seriously, I understand. If you fall prey to it a couple times, everyone does and everyone can understand. But if you keep changing your focus again and again, it’s like dating a bunch of people you’re really not into just because you want to get married. You might be happy for a year or two(or a couple books), but it won’t last. Eventually you’ll realize you’ve ended up with a spouse you were never all that crazy about, and a relationship that either breaks apart fairly quickly, or leaves you old, twisted, and bitter about your long, loveless marriage.

People lined up on both sides of this issue, stating whether or not they thought it was a good idea to enter everything until you find your voice. Side discussions began about whether loving a line was enough, and what happens when your voice doesn’t fit the line you love.

As I watched and added my two cents, I began to think about my own journey. I read very widely in general and romance is no different. I read Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Intrigue, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Desire, Presents, Romance, and the occasional Blaze (mostly through my fingers!), Medical, and Love Inspired Historical. Yet I’ve only submitted to three lines: Love Inspired, Harlequin Heartwarming, and Carina Press, all through contests (SYTYCW, Write from the Heart, #PitMad, and Blurb to Book).

I’ve found the Harlequin community to be very helpful for finding information on writing category romance for Harlequin.

Kansas City Cover-UpI received invaluable advice from published authors like Julie Miller, Sarah M. Anderson, Janet Tronstad, Donna Alward, and Michelle Smart and made many friendships. But like Amalie, I’ve also noticed the frenzy around contests and that many people do enter every contest regardless of the line. I didn’t participate in Killer Voices, Prima Flirty, Blaze Blitz, or the Romance Christmas challenge because I wanted to focus on this line. I felt left out and a little deflated. But I knew I didn’t want to write those books. So I waited for this opportunity to write for Love Inspired.

17738177

It’s taken a long time to figure out what I want to write, and some days I’m not sure if my voice fits the line. People have told me my voice would fit better elswhere. But as much as I love the emotion in Jennifer Hayward and other Presents writers’ books, I can’t write tycoons and princes.

I like creating small towns and writing series. That said, many home and hearth lines want cowboys, and I have no desire to write them.

His Hometown GirlI love the strong emotional conflicts in Heartwarming, but I don’t write that long, nor could I pack as much emotion in as a Karen Rock.

Finding a home for your voice that is interested in your settings, hooks, and characters is like finding the sweet spot in your bed–sometimes you find it as soon as your head hits the pillow, and other times you have to flop around for a while, adjust your pillow or position, and even stick one foot outside the covers to find it. Unless there’s feedback (the unicorn of submitting), you may not know what to fix because you don’t know what’s not working. Writing groups, critique partners, and contests can help. But you have to decide if you’re willing to conform to the guidelines of a particular house/line, or if you need to look elsewhere.

For those who are still worried about finding their voice, I’d like to leave you with Amy Ruttan’s wise words, to encourage you that finding your voice, and a true home for that voice, is so worth it:

I admit, it took me a while to figure out my voice even within Medical. My editor kept saying “Be true to your brand” and I felt like a doofus scratching my head wondering what the heck that was, until I tried for another line I loved and thought would be a fit. She liked it, but I had serious issues to work out in the partial AND she said that’s not where my brand is. In medicals I stand out because of that voice, that brand my editor has been building for me. I wouldn’t have stood out in this other line. It wouldn’t work in this other line. I see that now. It sucked, but you know what? I feel all the better now for it. Now I know where to aim and I’m excited! 

It Happened in Vegas

Also, a rejection doesn’t mean that a publisher is rejecting your voice or that a different story of yours wouldn’t sell to that line. Try to take each “no” as a standalone. No to this book, at this time, in this form, for this line, at this publisher.  That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comments section.