Posts Tagged ‘revise’


Traveling this long and interesting road since I decided to try my hand at writing a novel has been a real eye opener. Who knew there was so much involved in putting my story on paper? I respect authors who have written an engrossing story, then managed to find an agent and a publisher. On the other hand, I’m sometimes disappointed with the quality of writing, wondering how a book managed to get published at all.

This brings me to my fear of putting my story out there if it’s not as perfect as I can make it. Fascinating characterization, interesting setting, thoughtful plot line, and control of back story.  I’ve become a great lover of books written to educate a new writer. Most recently, I bought one called “The Emotion Thesaurus”. It  provides a laundry list of examples to write the emotions of your characters without falling into the trap of cliche. As my writing group points out on a regular basis, I sometimes forget to include my protagonist’s emotions, assuming that the reader understands what’s going on in my characters’ heads. Wrongo!

As I’ve been reading through this new how-to book, I’m inspired to go back into my story and find places where the emotional impact of a scene can be more accurately shown…never told!…to make my protagonist more human.

If you have a favorite book about the craft of writing, I’d love to hear about it. Always looking for new volumes to add to my ever-expanding library.




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During the past two weeks, I’ve been participating in an on-line course titled: “Revising Without Getting Sick of Your Manuscript” by Sylvie Kurtz.  The lessons were provided daily via both email and the Yahoo Group website. Each day brought a different aspect of writing fiction:

8-20 – 1.  Introduction

8-21 –  2.  General Outlook

8-22  – 3.  Plot and Structure

8-23 –  4.  Point of View

8-24  – 5.  Scenes

8-25 –  6.  Characters

8-27 –  7.  Dialogue

8-28 –  8.  Backstory

8-29 –  9.  Opening and Endings

8-30 – 10.  Voice, Style, and Details

8-31 – 11.  Conclusion

Sylvie is a fount of knowledge for each topic and provided examples to illustrate the point of each lesson. Her explanations and guidelines were easy to understand. But the best part of it all was her feedback! With her guidance, I now own a respectable pitch that I can send off to agents and publishers.

If you ever have the opportunity to take a course with Sylvie, I highly recommend that you do!

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I’ve been fighting with my opening scene for quite some time now.

First is the opening sentence… how to come up with those clever words to convey not only the necessary hook, but have the thought connect indelibly to the plot?

And then there are those opening paragraphs and the scene itself. An agent recently told me that beginning with a phone call was not interesting enough, so I’ve moved it to my character’s arrival at the music shop, where the inciting incident happens. But in those first few pages, I also need to introduce my protagonist, set the scene, and connect what’s happening to her story-worthy problem, even if she doesn’t know what it is yet. And all without a lot of back story… my personal downfall.

A tall order? You bet! I’ve managed to arrive at the inciting incident by the end of page 6, but I’m thinking that’s still not soon enough.

And so, I will continue to massage the words on the page until it reads as succinctly as I can make it.

Will I ever have a manuscript worthy of submitting to an agent or publisher? Good question.

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This afternoon, I returned from an educational weekend session with three literary agents. This event was sponsored by the Cape Cod Writers Center, and held at the Colonial House Inn in historic Falmouth, Massachusetts. This old sea captain’s house is one of several that claim ghosts in residence, but none of them visited me during the night!

The three agents guided the fourteen attendees through informative hour-long talks scheduled between the one-on-one sessions with each author. Katherine Sands from NYC spoke about “How to Discourage an Agent Even if You’re a Brilliant Writer”. Paul Fedorko from NYC shared his thoughts about “Finding the Right Agent for You”. And last, but certainly not least, Ann Collette from Boston provided her insight into “The Do’s and Don’ts for Mystery/Thriller Writers”.

My personal one-on-one session was scheduled with Ann Collette on Saturday afternoon. I found Ann to be a delightful woman with a quick wit and a sharp eye for quality. She’d already reviewed and made notations on my first 10 pages. Her suggestions were pointed and constructive, given always with a kind manner and an encouraging smile. As I left our session, my head was bursting with her ideas to improve my storytelling skills and notch up my chances for publication down the road.

Later on Saturday afternoon, we all gathered together to hear Ann and Katherine discuss “Writing the Query Letter”, which was a real eye opener. Concentrate on the unique facets of your story… setting-protagonist-problem. Or as Katherine says, place-person-pivot. Your carefully chosen words need to jump off the page and grab the agent’s attention.The goal is to make the agent want to read more.

Sunday morning provided a three-hour Q&A session with Ann and Katherine, who fielded questions from the attendees. They also shared surprising agent stories as they related to clients found and lost, or passed and regretted. It was an enlightening discussion, and gave us all insights into the inner workings of the agent’s job.

I’m sure I can speak for all the attendees when I say the weekend was well worth the time and cost to attend.

And, so, here I sit at home computer. I’ve pulled up my manuscript and have begun the revision process. As I work, Ann’s thoughts make sense to me, and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing any of the words that are being deleted. These revisions are only making my story better… whew!

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Revise, revise!

The revision process is time-consuming, but at the same time, gratifying. Whenever I read another book on the craft of writing…and I have read many…there is always some piece of advise that makes sense to me, and I go back into my chapters and write what I hope are improvements.

The most recent craft book I’m reading is called “Characters, Emotions, and Viewpoints”, and is one of the best collection of hands-on advice that I’ve read for that facet of writing fiction. Creating the characters without just laundry-listing a description is one of the toughest challenges. The key is to sprinkle their description and personality as I go, and not to lump it all at the beginning. Leave a little more to be discovered later in the story. How delightful!

I’ve also just converted a scene at the police station from narrative and boring repetition to what I hope is a more exciting and tension-filled episode. Only my readers…current and future… will be able to tell me if I’ve succeeded.

It occurs to me that although it is taking me a long time to finish my novel, I justify my slowness with the fact that I’ve practically rewritten the entire story, although the basic plot has not changed. It begins on a different day [closer to the action], has more interesting characters…I hope… and moves along at a good pace without getting stuck in backstory and menial distractions. my downfall when I first began this project. Not to mention that I feel satisfied that I’ve found my style.

Back to the keyboard!

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New Deadline

Crimebake, hosted by Sisters in Crime New England and Mystery Writers of America, is being held again this year in November in Dedham, MA. Nice because I don’t need to stay overnight as it’s only a 45-minute drive from my house.

Although I wasn’t ready for it last year, they offer a session with agents as long as you register ahead of time. This has put the pressure on me to finish my novel. Experts say you NEVER approach an agent until the book is DONE!

And so, I continue to revise.

Recently, I decided to move the introduction of a character to an earlier chapter. Of course, that changes the story in the remaining chapters… both dialogue and internal thought. But I’m happy with the move, so now I’ll just have to wrestle with the revisions.

And also finalize several scenes toward the end of the story that have been giving me sleepless nights.




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