Archive for the ‘Revision’ Category

Summer Vacation Vs. Back to Writing: 10 Tips to Unblock Your Plot

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

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I’ve returned from a lovely vacation in Utah, where family members met and hiked in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. There is one slight problem with vacations, however. They end! When writers return to work, many of us occasionally have difficulties with getting back into the creative flow. The past few days I’ve done laundry, walked the dog, and even – - don’t faint – - IRONED – - in order to avoid my office.

But writers must write. How do you get back to your fiction?

Writing Prompts for Me and You:

1. Write about ANYTHING. Just get your pen moving, or type words on the computer screen.

2. Write an imaginary account of what happened on a summer vacation with the photos above. Make it as outlandish as you can.

3. So you want to get back to your novel? First, read what you have already written. Revise to make it better. Stuck on what happens next? Remember, everything goes back to your characters.

4. Write a journal entry in your main character’s point of view about what’s happening in your story. How does she/he feel about everyone else? What actions does she wish she could take? What does she want more than anything else in the world? What stops her from getting it?

5. What is the main character’s relationship with every other character in the story? What are each characters’ epiphanies? How do they get them?

6. If you are stuck on #5, write more back story for your characters, or have them interact in current scenes that may or may not appear in your book. Just get them together and see what happens.

7. Read another author’s good writing. Good reading inspires good writing.

8. Wonder about your characters. Wonder about them as you walk, wash dishes, or gaze into space. Wondering is often the most important step in writing.

9. How can you make the scene you are writing more difficult for your protagonist? More emotional or suspenseful? Push your writing to the limit. Have you used all of your senses? Enough specific details?

10. Ask your subconscious for help before you go to sleep. Don’t worry about your book. Just wonder what will happen next. Keep paper next to your bed. As you wake up, the answer may be part of your dream or a clear word or image.

On Writing Crappy and Writing Great (or at Least Better)

Friday, May 24th, 2013

I guess reporters don’t know which column will be published when, or else the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest article and photo just didn’t make it into my edition of the Contra Costa Times on May 23.  Next time I’ll only post it here when I see it in the paper myself. 

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As I’ve been working on a project, I’ve found myself being concerned with the marketing aspect and how the publicist would  react to the story.  After the day’s work, I closed my computer and purposely didn’t re-read my words. 

The next morning, I printed out my chapter and took a clipboard to revise and work on another scene.  Reading what I had written, my jaw dropped.  Who was this stilted writer who had composed these awkward sentences?  Do I know this person?  Where did she come from? If she was in my writing class, I’d take her aside and tell her to forget the final phases of book production, and free herself by going back to the basics.  Think about character!  Relax.  Wonder about the story, don’t let the final outcome block the writing process.

I set aside my previous day’s disaster, and started over.  This time, I let my mind wander over my characters and their world.  “No worries,”  I told myself.  “Have fun with these people.  Get to know them.  You don’t have to write the very next chapter.  Just write a scene where they talk to each other. What’s the worst problem they can get into together?  What will they do?”

Writing Prompts:

1.  What is a dramatic or interesting conflict you can have your character get into?  Can it somehow be based on her greatest fear?

2.  What emotion does your scene evoke?  What do you want your reader to feel?

3.  What is the motivation for why the characters in your scene act the way they do?

4.  Write about your characters BEFORE this scene.  What is their back story?

5.  Within your writing, can you locate where you are showing and where you are telling?  Highlight the telling.  If you have too much highlighting, where can you show in a scene rather than tell?  Or where can you cut out the telling all together?  If it doesn’t move your story forward, cut it out.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

A week ago, my husband and I took a couple of days and drove to Santa Cruz, one of our favorite towns to wander about communing with sea lions and pelicans, eating clam chowder at Stagnaro Brothers, and people-watching throughout this wonderful community. The locals here were able to support their fabulous independent bookstore, Bookshop Santa Cruz and close the large chain one who moved in to close them.  Hurrah Santa Cruz! 

We stayed in a motel we often visited when our son was young, but we hadn’t been there in years.  Away from the bustling crowds at the beach, the motel is quiet, not outrageously expensive or especially classy, but it suits our needs just fine. 

Settling into the room, I began unpacking, but paused as I heard my husband chuckling. 

“Liz, take a look at this,” he said, gesturing to our surroundings. 

The left side of the room had been painted maroon with blood-red flowers stenciled along the top near the ceiling.  A print hung near the desk with matching colors; the bedding corresponded too.  But the sliding glass door’s curtain shouted bold green, along with its wall.  I swear I heard loud screeching in my ears just  like I did whenever I walked by a middle school band room during a practice session. 

“So the question is, did they forget or run out of money?”  I asked as we laughed at the look the decorator achieved. 

When you think you are finished with your writing, it might only be half done. Set it aside for a while.  Your eyes have grown accustomed to seeing it and you might miss those big, bold errors that are glaring to everyone else.  Later, read it aloud to yourself.  Print out the pages for revision.  A paper copy is tangible and real.   After that make your computer corrections. 

Do you have too much narration?  This technique works best for your less dramatic scenes.  When it’s emotionally important, slow-down-the-moment with your senses with action, reaction, thoughts and dialogue. 

Highlight your favorite parts of your manuscript.   Why are they your favorites? 

Analyze the rest of your piece to discover how you can make this writing as resonant as your best, favorite parts. 

Don’t over-use tags.  If it is clear who is talking, you may not need to say “he said,”“she said.”

Do you have “pet” words?  If certain words come up over and over again, get rid of them!

If you were reading this in published book or magazine, what questions would you have?  Critique it as a reader, not as you, the author.  This is where the “giving it time” will help you.  If you’re still too close to it and can’t revise, call in a trusted colleague or pay for a professional editor to help you.

And finally this from George V. Higgins from On Writing:  “Reading your work aloud, even silently, is the most astonishingly easy and reliable method that there is for achieving economy in prose, efficiency of description, and narrative effect as well.  Rely upon it; if you can read it aloud to yourself without wincing, you have probably gotten it right.”

Writing Prompts:

  1. Revise one of your older manuscripts you THOUGHT was already perfect.  How can you make it better?
  2. Meet with another writer and revise the other person’s manuscript.  Share some of your favorite revision tips.
  3. Write something new inspired by this time of year.  Look around you for ideas.  The first object you see outside – - the first word or photo in the newspaper – - the first page in a book you open that is near you can be a prompt for a story.  Write as many drafts as you need on your computer and then print it out.  Revise with a pencil and then go back to the computer for another draft.  Did printing it out help you find more ways to improve your writing?

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For those of you children’s book lovers, here is a great link for you:

The Kirkus List of Best 100 Books for Children of This Year

 https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/2012-best-of/section/children/=