Not to brag or anything—It’s just a nice confidence boost 🙂
I just got the Feb 2014 Romantic Homes in the mail. It’s like getting Christmas presents throughout the year. The magazines surprise me by just appearing on my doorstep a few months after I’ve written the articles.
After a whole year of writing articles about pretty houses, I finally took some of my own medicine and actually DID one of the tips that I tell people to do: I spray painted two grungy brass lamps for a clean, … Continue reading →
How often have you tackled a manuscript draft, only to meet with overwhelming discouragement? No matter how long you spend on that scene, you can’t seem to fix everything. The dialogue won’t pop, and the descriptions still don’t jump off the page. However much you tweak, something always needs fixing. Recently, my perspective on the editing process changed incredibly. The person who changed it is Reyna Grande from a UCLA Writers Faire panel.
Grande’s advice is simple and practical. When approaching a 2nd or 3rd draft, focus on one element. Just one. Don’t try to edit everything at once. First, look at the big picture to check that everything makes sense. Once the essentials are in place, then you can get to the fine tuning. Each of these 4 elements often deserve a draft of their own:
Consistency. Your main character’s blue shirt can’t inexplicably turn plaid by the end of the scene. And where exactly is 12th street? How did it jump locations so quickly? Personally, I find it horribly easy to mix up these details, so my first editing spree will be to double check for consistency.
Character growth. Fine tune your character’s gradual changes. At what point does he or she show maturity? Courage? Loyalty? It shouldn’t just appear with the snap of your fingers. Weave it into the fabric of your story so that the change feels natural and satisfying.
Dialogue. If you had a hard time pinning down your characters’ voices on your first draft, listen closely this time around. How do they talk? Any slang or jargon that they should use? Get to know them on a conversational level.
Descriptions. Once you have the plot and character essentials taken care of, start delving into the background. The atmospheric sights, smells, and sounds. Give texture to your world. Imagery draws your readers in, giving them more ways to connect emotively with the story.
[Above: My edits from 2008. I put so much work into this page, and it doesn’t even exist in my story anymore! Ah, silly younger Sarah. Was that really just five years ago?]
I’m sure that you’ll need more than 4 drafts, but these are enough to get you started. After each draft, you’re closer to your goal of a perfectly sculpted manuscript without adding the stress of scene-by-scene perfectionism. Any other elements that you think deserve a draft of their own? What does your editing process look like?
Even though you’ve probably read articles, blog posts, and even books on the art of writing, I’d like to add one more tip. Every writer needs this skill to set his or her writerly dreams into action. It floods the imagination with fresh inspiration, and opens new worlds for exploration. And what is it?
The ability to listen.
For a solid sub-point I should add, asking good questions.
People are very willing to talk about themselves, their lives, their experiences, their grandchildren—you get the point. They’re also excited to talk about their work or studies. Listen to your movies-obsessed friend long enough, and you can get the highlight reel from her film undergrad. You’re bound to hear lots of stories, whether they originate from a classroom of restless freshmen, or from the lore of Hollywood glamour.
Any good journalist knows this right off the bat. But novelists are a different breed. Less outgoing, more introspective. So to those of you who are waiting for inspiration to strike: get out of your house, away from your desk, and talk to people. The post office lady. The random couple that you see at Starbucks every week. The list goes on and on.
Since I’ve been more active with my writing recently, I’ve gotten through chapter 2 (finally!). That chapter often bewilders me, because of one complex scene: Two characters meet another character for the first time, thinking that the party of the third part may or may not be insane. They dialogue, each bringing their own emotions into play as they discuss the safety of another character, who may or may not be in jeopardy.
I feel like I’ve finally kicked it in the butt! I pared it down and followed the flow of thought. A lot of tweaking to go, but it’s manageable 🙂
Soooo… I wrote last week! I plunked myself down and forced myself to have “butt in chair” writing time. None of my usual flitting about organize this or clean that (I can’t stand having a messy house).
It was great! I skimmed through the first chapter again, because I’m planning on sending it off with a grad school application. And then I moved on to the second chapter, which is closer than ever to being finished. I’ll sum it up this week, and then start on number three.
Tea of the week: Milk tea. Infused with either rose, or star anise. I just learned how to make it, and it’s amazing. (So wonderfully amazingly amazing. And easy to make.)
I don’t normally take much stock in my dreams—they’re just a weird resurfacing of the subconscious. Something to laugh at in the morning as I tell Hubby about it.
Last night’s dream was different than usual. It held the contents of a complete novel, and I have a clear picture of both the protagonist and the antagonist. Really, I have a clear picture—I drew my protagonist in my inspiration journal, and gave a description of her clothes, character, and conflict that drives the plot forward.
During the dream, I remember scoffing at this character, saying “You’re such a wannabe Audrey Hepburn.” But even though I thought she was being pretentious, I started to respect and care about her more as the dream went on.
Weird, right? Do any of you have dreams like this?