Monday, January 31, 2011

Revision Success!

Regarding my previous post, I am a prolific writer and although I can maintain enough patience to keep from spreading my new work to the universe, I have to show it to someone, that person usually being my ever-supportive husband.

I thought I had the first few chapters of my new manuscript in amazing shape and passed them to him. He read and enjoyed the first two and put it down at the third.

"Isn't it amazing? Isn't this the best thing you've ever read?" I asked him.
He lowered his eyes while rubbing the back of his neck.
"Umm, it's well, uh, it gets a little slow," he replied, and cowered in anticipation for my wifely outrage. (which did not come)

Instead I went back to my computer. Immediately I found the reason for his boredom. There was information I needed to impart to the reader that I didn't think was very exciting so I started the chapter further along and dumped it in as backstory. Too much backstory. Two pages of backstory. So I re-wrote it, starting the chapter in a new place and added a bit of a rush to the circumstances to build the excitement.

He re-read it yesterday and said, "I don't know what you did. It seems like all of the same information is in there, but it's so much better."

Now that is a great revision compliment. Sometimes turning something good into something great just takes one brave person to tell you it's boring and you having enough sense to listen to them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Benefits for the Prolific Writer

Yesterday, agent Rachelle Gardner posted a blog: The Dilemma of the Prolific Writer. Since I happen to be one of these writers, I read it several times.

Rachelle's intent was not to suggest that cranking out novels is necessarily a bad thing, but as a first time novelist, there will be some considerable waiting time, and these books may spend years on a shelf before they can be submitted.

I think one of the key points in the entry is..."they’ve finished that new project and they’re antsy to do something with it."

If you're going to write novel after novel, you can't get antsy about it, and there will come a time when you have to set aside a new work in progress to market or edit an older one. Though, understanding these challenges, I find there are some benefits to being a prolific writer as well:

1. During waiting times for feedback or revisions, there is no better way to distract yourself than to work on something new, and since you might have a year or more before it goes out for sale, you can experiment. Try different voices, narrators, play with the language, really use this as an opportunity to work on your craft.

2. Like it or not, your work is a product to be bought and sold. If you own a dress shop and only have one dress, you only have the opportunity to sell one dress. A customer comes into the store who adores your designs, but is looking for something blue, and all you have is purple. Well it just so happens I have a blue dress in the back. It might need some major alterations before it can be sold, but that's easier than making one from scratch.

3. Break it up and sell it for parts. Agent says, "I'd really like to see a scene where elephants trample through a suburban neighborhood." Luck behold, I just wrote a scene in a new book where dinosaurs trample through a suburban neighborhood! I can change the dinosaurs to elephants, insert the character names from my older manuscript, rework the language and dialogue, and it's done. I can always insert some other terrifying scene into the new manuscript later.

Are you a prolific writer or do you take a break between manuscripts and brainstorm? What are the benefits to your process?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chapter Endings

I've been avoiding watching True Blood for a while, saying to myself, "I need a break from vampires." I finally gave in, drank the Kool-aid, and have become obsessed. My hubby and I watched eight hours of it yesterday. Eight hours!

There are so many things that make it great: the premise, the mystery, the dialogue, the multi-dimensional characters, but there's one thing in particular that kept us going from one episode to the next...the endings.

We'd start a new one and say, "Okay, this will be our last." Then at the end, the characters were left in such dire circumstances we had to find out what happened next. Do they live? Do they die? Will vampire Bill be able to save Sookie yet again? We finally had to quit so we could go to bed, but I'm sitting here at work, counting down the hours to another episode.

Even though I spent my entire Sunday on the sofa, it wasn't a complete waste of time. It made me think about how I could incorporate this ploy into my own work and because of it, I thought of a few high-strung places where I could cut to a new chapter and keep people reading.

The Hunger Games is another example of great chapter endings. Prim's name is called for the reaping and BAM! End chapter. If you can close the book there, you have stronger willpower than I do.

I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse books yet but they are on my list (along with about 20 others) I want to see if Charlaine Harris employed the same chapter endings in her writing. What about you? What books have you read that left you wanting more chapter after chapter?