Thursday, March 13, 2014

Revision Tips from Authors for Authors Post 2

Hi everyone! I hope you're enjoying these great revisions tips from some of my clients so far. Today I will be posting tips from two more authors. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful!  

Look out for Post 3 next week!

Erica Chapman, YA contemporary:

I've heard from several sources that good writing comes in the revision stage of building a book and I have to agree. I do love the idea of getting words down in a first draft, but when I can manipulate those same words to really mean something--really make someone FEEL something, that's when a revision is working for me. There are a few questions I have to answer in each revision, here are a few...
  • Continuity errors - If you have flashbacks, do they make sense? Is the timeline right?
  • Transitions - Are the ends/beginnings of the chapters and scenes smooth? Does the reader always know where they stand?
  • Are the words in my story being used correctly - Like, "Microscope for Telescope"
  • Does each character have goals? Are there enough conflicts keeping them from them?
  • Does your MC have a choice of what to do to get to their goal? Can they leave and go back to regular life (life before the inciting incident) and be fine? If the answer is yes, then add in some type of conflict that changes that. If the answer is no, then you're on the right track.
  • Is everything authentic? - Do the actions of each character make sense? Does the plot make sense with how you've shaped your characters to be?
  • Do the sentences sound like they should? - I agree with Annie from an earlier blog post, reading out-loud helps find those words and sentences that are awkward.
  • Are the characters' actions physically possible? - Act them out and see.
After my CP's or readers send their feedback, I like to let it sink in for a little while. Maybe a week, two weeks, or so. Then I read through their notes all at once and see if I answer "Oh yeah! or Wow, how did I not see that?" those are edits I make right away. If they've brought something up that makes me think but that I may not have an answer for at the time, then I keep those on the back burner and when I read through my MS again and revise I think about what the reader noticed and see if I notice it too. Usually, they're onto something. I always weigh each comment the same whether I agree or not because there's a reason they noted it, and maybe I can address it in a way that fixes the issue the reader had but also keeps the integrity of the story the same.

For revision, the best thing I've learned is to take step back and read the story as I believe a reader would. It's not easy, but when I do, I find the most errors that way. Happy revising!

Suzanne Warr, Middle Grade:

Lord of the Rings cake: The Eye of Sauron!
When I get revision notes, whether from myself, my CPs, or my lovely agent, I like to take a step back and look at the book as a whole.  Think of this as envisioning the cake you want to set out before your party guests.  There are lots of delicious kinds of cake in the world, from Angel Food cake to Chunky Apple Oatmeal, to Triple Chocolate Lava, to Maple Pecan.  No one cake can be all of these—if it tried, it would wind up a disgusting mess!  So, what kind of cake are you making, or what kind of story are you telling?

Once you’ve got your eye firmly fixed on that deliciousness and can see the big picture for your story, look at the notes and organize them by type.  Are they integral to the plot, indicating a fundamental flaw in its development?  Did you drop out of character, or forget to detail a scene?  Think of plot issues and other big ticket items as the stage where you take a sample taste of your cake, to see if you forgot the salt or didn’t mix in the baking powder properly.  Thankfully you can rework your story more easily than you can bake a cake from scratch under deadline, but it can still seem a daunting task.  However, at the end of the day, these are fundamental issues you want to fix before ‘serving’ your cake!

Other issues may be more superficial, and can be thought of as the icing and decorations.  Impatient writers may see these as less necessary, but where would a wedding cake be without white frosting and gorgeous wedding trim?  And what about a Triple Chocolate Lava cake if the last layer is the shaved chocolate curls?  You don’t want to leave that off, right?  So, when reading through the feedback, picture your book as you most want it to be—something that fills the heart with delight, and wows the socks off your readers.  Then figure out how the notes you’ve received can strengthen and complete your story, helping it to take the cake amongst novels!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Dear Lucky Agent" Contest

I'm pleased to announce that I am judging the Writer's Digest 14th "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest! If you have a contemporary middle grade, all the details on how to enter can be found here

Basically you have until March 18th to send the first 150-200 words of your middle grade contemporary novel. I will then look over all the entries and pick the top three. The top 3 will win a 10 page critique from me and a free one-year subscription to

Winners will be notified within three weeks from the end of the contest.

Again, all the details can be found at the Writer's Digest Site at the link above. Good luck and I look forward to reading! 

Here is what's at the top of my contemporary middle grade wishlist: 

  • A good, light contemporary coming of age, sister or friendship story, a fun MG mystery or humorous contemporary. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Revision Tips from Authors for Authors

Revising a manuscript is a process...a process that everyone does differently. I thought it might be helpful to aspiring writers out there to get some tips from other authors so this post was born! I have asked several of my wonderful clients to help me with this post and answer questions such as: what is your revision style? How do you use feedback you receive when working on a revision? Are there differences when it comes to revising different types of  projects for different genres or age groups etc.? 

I've decided to do this as a blog series. There will be a post a week, each post will include two author's advice. I will announce when the next post is up on twitter. About 8 authors of mine are contributing so the series should last about 4 weeks. The advice below could be for any genre or age group really, I just specified what each writer writes. 
At the end  of the series, I'm thinking of having a Q&A post where the authors who posted their advice will answer a question or two you have specific to them. 

Annie Sullivan, YA fantasy: 

1.)    Give yourself as much time as you reasonably can between revisions. This way you can return to a piece with fresh eyes.
2.)    If you don’t agree with a criticism, try and at least explore why a critique partner would have felt this way. You may discover that the tone was off or that it was due to a character inconsistency.
3.)    If you find revising overwhelming, try revising in layers. For example, on one read through, focus solely on character development. On another, look only at dialogue. If you focus on something specific each time, you won’t be overwhelmed.
4.)    Print out a copy of your story to edit. I’m all for saving the environment, but there’s something different about editing a hardcopy.  Sometimes it’s easier to spot repetitions, scenes that go on too long, and structure issues this way.
5.)    Read your work aloud. This will also help you spot repetitions and awkward phrases.
6.)    Always do a final read through, especially if you’ve added or deleted a lot of scenes. It’s easy to delete a superfluous scene while forgetting that it’s referenced later on.
7.)    With every major revision, try and have someone new read it to make sure everything still makes sense. 

I study the revision notes from my critique partners before I even open the story document on my computer. I go through big issues they saw and outline locations where I can make improvements based on their feedback. For example, if I’m adding backstory, then I like to know where that will go and what other scenes it might effect before I delve into the document. This way, I’m not constantly having to double back and correct a scene effected by something I changed later on. This method is especially helpful since I like to start from the beginning and work my way through the entire story so I can monitor how it all flows together.  

Jamie Gehin, YA contemporary

How do I go about revisions?

Well, after I get feedback from Christa (always insightful, by the way!) I don’t touch the manuscript at first, but read over the notes a few times. Then, I write down the questions by hand and mull them over. I add questions of my own, and ask myself: Are the issues Christa had because I didn’t develop a particular chapter/scene well enough or is something lacking because another scene altogether needs to be created? I try to give myself a deadline on revisions, but a big thing for me is not to rush this process… some epiphanies come through when I’m just relaxed and allowing myself to dream with a cup of coffee in hand, others, when I’m on a long walk.

I’m currently trying to work on making sure everything in my timeline is consistent – it’s easy to have tunnel vision with certain scenes. Christa catches little inconstancies that I might overlook. Something that’s helping is developing an actual one-page, yearlong calendar so I can see all the events of the story without having to scan through the manuscript. It also gives me a great feel for how the plot is moving along without getting wrapped up in the emotions of the story.

So, there it is. On a side note… working with Christa has been amazing! I feel very lucky!