Writing Wednesday: Death by Deadline

January Jones, inspiration for my Blurb to Book heroine, Cordelia

January Jones, inspiration for my Blurb to Book heroine, Cordelia

It’s been a busy month of April for me. I found out halfway through that I had made stage 2 of the Blurb to Book contest and needed to come up with 3 chpaters and a synopsis by May 1st. Cue excitement and basking in the awesomeness that is me. *basking* Then I pulled out my calendar. I had about three weeks to accomplish this feat. Three weeks was plenty of time! I’d written the rough draft of a novel in a month! I could so do this!

Here’s the thing: as great as NaNoWriMo and other programs like it (like Seekerville’s Speedbo in March and Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July) can be, these are goals, not deadlines. We can treat them as deadlines, but they aren’t hard and fast. Neither are my personal deadlines. If I don’t make one, I’m inclined to give myself a break. I will take days off to rest and let the story “flow.” I’m artsy that way, y’all. I can’t rush my brillance (hence why Altered before the Altar was 4 years in the making).

Now I have a deadline from an actual editing team that wants to see my well-written, well plotted, make-them-hungry-for-more proposal. This Friday. As in the day after tomorrow… and everything that has breath inside of me has hit the panic button.

I used to be one of those writers who didn’t sweat a deadline. I was the last minute maverick of all things awesome in 24hrs or less. I pulled greatness out of some sweaty, past their best by date places searching for inspiration in the 23rd hour. I’ve hit print on papers with less than five minutes before class and gotten more than one plus (+) behind my “A” for the effort. But this deadline just might kill me.

I could blame it on being older and knowing that it’s important to have time to revise, etc., but I think it has more to do with the perceived stakes. I’ve never doubted before that I was a great writer; I’ve been told that my entire life. Now I’m not as sure as I was before. I question every word on every page. My perfectionist streak has struck with a vengence. I need every comma to be perfect. This is my LAST chance, you guys!

Except…it’s not. In fact, since I made it to this stage, I’m guaranteed personalized feedback from my dream editors at Harlequin, feedback that could lead to a sale even if I don’t make the next round. I thought that whole “publishing contract by 30” ship had sailed and I was over it, but it turns out that since I’m thirty until February 24th of next year, my brain has picked up on the fact I could still be contracted in that time and is PARALYZED by ALL THE FEARS.

Somewhere in the last few days, I’d stop having fun with my writing. I’d made it into a chore that I’d be graded on. I was making my characters do what I thought might interest the editors even though they were screaming at me they weren’t those kinds of people. Then they stopped talking to me at all. I had to decide that in addition to turning in the requested materials by a deadline, I wanted to turn in something that represented me–my unique voice and characters, give them more of that stuff that sparked their interest in stage one and make it even better.

So…I cut scenes. WHOLE SCENES. DAYS BEFORE A DEADLINE. I slashed anything that didn’t feel write. I gave myself permission to write crap, but crap that at least sounded like me, crap I could make not so crappy. I threw out the rules to write and then picked them up to edit. And by George, I think I’m going to make the deadline knowing I gave them MY best.

What about you? Do deadlines motivation you or paralyze you? How do you ensure that you meet deadlines?

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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