Category Archives: Articles

How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

This is the second of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here.

ROUND TWO

Identify each of your subplots. Do they all have a complete arc (beginning, middle, and ending)? Do they have their own twists and complications? Can you think of a way to make them richer? Is there a thread that never fully developed? In your notebook, write down every idea that comes to mind.

Take a close look at each of your main characters: protagonist, antagonist, and the most important subordinate characters. Although it will be time consuming, go through the manuscript multiple times, zeroing in on one character’s story at a time. Have you identified their external needs and their internal needs? Do they each have their own arc (do they grow over the course of the book)? Does each have his or her own unique voice? (This is my biggest challenge. My daughters say all my characters talk just like me. Sigh.) Does your bad guy have at least one redeeming characteristic? (Maybe when he comes home from work, he shoots baskets with the neighbor kid for five minutes.) Make notes. Fix the easy stuff; think about any big changes.

Work through the entire manuscript a few more times, fleshing out the weak parts, and implementing the best of your notes. When you’re satisfied you’ve done the best you can, print out the entire manuscript, double-spaced, in all its glory. And buy a set of different colored highlighters (pink, blue, yellow, orange, and green), and a red pen.

ROUND THREE

Analyze your manuscript. I like Margie Lawson’s EDITS system. (Margie Lawson is a phenomenal writing instructor and the founder of Lawson Writer’s Academy, which offers online courses—or you can order a packet of course notes—well worth it!) The linked article gives the process, but start by highlighting all the dialogue in blue. After you finish all the steps, you’re ready for round three.

Shrink large, unbroken expanses of green (description). Gone are the days when you could spend a page describing your character’s eyes (although, maybe you still can in a Victorian romance novel). Include just enough details to make it real for the reader. What is out-of-the-ordinary about your characters or your settings? What is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, requiring explanation? Use words that activate the senses, pulling the reader in to experience the person or place on the page.

Break up pages of yellow (narrative) with action, dialogue, and emotion. Action implies motion. Your character’s thoughts do not constitute action or dialog. Maybe while your protagonist paces in his hotel room processing the arson of his home, he can hurl a lamp across the room. And if you need help inserting more pink (visceral responses), I recommend you acquire The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The book lists physical manifestations of every emotion. (If you want, you can try out the abbreviated version, Emotional Amplifiers, for free.)

By the time you finish round three, you might be sick of your story, or you may be super excited about it. Either way, set your manuscript aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else.

You’re not done yet. But don’t worry; I’ll post the rest of the process next Tuesday. See you then. If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button below, and share on your favorite social media.

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Creative Juice #55

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Creative Juice #55

Fill up on these amazing glimpses of genius.

  1. More modern quilts.
  2. Rope art.
  3. Almost as good as being in a watercolor workshop.
  4. Taking paper flowers to a highly-refined level.
  5. What do you believe in?
  6. Sweet little rats.
  7. When I was a student in Pittsburgh, I visited Heinz Chapel and loved the blue light streaming in through the stained glass windows. Here’s a mosque in Iran whose windows cast a kaleidoscopic effect.
  8. I’ve read nine of these one-sitting books. Only 91 more to go…
  9. Pigeons wouldn’t be nearly so annoying if you could get them to wear crocheted duds.
  10. Gorgeous astrophotography.
  11. A gallery that features art of 60+year-old artists.
  12. A husband and wife who create snow globes together.

How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel–Part I

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel–Part I

First drafts are ugly.

They’re supposed to be ugly. The function of the first draft is just to get the words down. Much of the first draft will not even appear in the final copy.

But how do you get from the first draft to something that is publish-worthy?

Disclaimer: As an as-yet unpublished novelist, I don’t have the credentials to say I’ve found the definitive process that will guarantee a best-seller. However, I’ve spent many years rewriting, revising, and editing my work, and I know the strategies that follow can help you improve your manuscript.

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When you finish that first draft, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least six weeks. Fall out of love with that beautiful baby. Work on other projects in the meantime.

After six weeks, read the manuscript from beginning to end with a notebook at your side (preferably the one you started with your planning notes for this book). Don’t worry if some parts of that baby aren’t as beautiful as you originally thought. Write down everything you see that needs re-thinking.

Consider the big picture. If you outlined your book during your pre-writing process, check it to see if you adequately addressed every section of the outline. If you think of addition points not included, write them down in your notebook. Maybe even rewrite your outline.

If you didn’t outline your book already, do it now. Outlining at this late date may reveal plot holes. If you hate outlines, at least make a list of every scene. Some authors like to do this on index cards, so they can change the order of scenes easily. (The Scrivener software has a virtual index card function.) Note the characters who appear, the setting, the action, and the purpose of each scene.

 

 

 

Typing on laptop DeathtoStockWrite a summary of your story—the one you are trying to tell. Reread your manuscript and see if it does, in fact, tell your story, in the clearest way possible, with the greatest potential impact. Does the way you’ve structured your story make sense? Does your plot include complications and twists? Did you leave anything out? Could a change in the order or length of your chapters improve the novel’s readability? Keep your mind open, and write down any possible changes that occur to you. (Writing them down doesn’t obligate you to make the changes, it just saves your ideas for future reference, so you can remember and ponder them.)

Read through the manuscript again, this time looking for two things: plot holes in the main plot, and any inconsistencies. As you read, write down any plot questions that come to mind, such as, what would have happened if your character had chosen a different path at a pivotal moment? Look for solutions that come too easily, or events that are too implausible. Does the plot have a full arc, with a set-up, an inciting event, action rising to a climax, action leading to resolution?

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Also, hunt out details that contradict each other. Did the grandmother have salt-and-pepper hair in chapter one and platinum hair in chapter two? Was the antagonist writing with his left hand at one moment and firing a gun with his right hand later on? Either fix these inconsistencies as you find them, or make a note so you don’t forget to rectify them soon.

Reread the story again, examining each event. Is everything predictable? If so, rethink each scene, and look for places your characters (or external forces) can do something unforeseen (but plausible). Changes might require major rewriting of large sections of your manuscript, but if it makes your book stronger, it’s well worth the effort.

Reread all your notes and give them serious consideration. Simmer them while you walk the dog, fold the laundry, wash the dishes. Go for a few long walks with notebook and pen in hand. (I know it sounds counterintuitive, but some of my best ideas come to me while my body is in motion.)

Go through your manuscript with your notebook open, and implement as many improvements as you can, while noting new ideas. This is ROUND ONE of your revising (or, if you’re making truly big changes, rewriting). If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of making changes, save the original draft, make a copy, rename it Your Novel’s Name 2.0, and make your changes in this new document, knowing you can always go back to the original. (In my experience, after I’ve spent several weeks in my latest draft, I go back and delete my previous version. I never regret the changes.)

You’re not done yet. But don’t worry; I’ll post the rest of the process this Saturday and next Tuesday. See you then. If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button below, and share on your favorite social media.

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Review of Aimless Love by Billy Collins

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Review of Aimless Love by Billy Collins

I recently read a list of recommended books that included the entry any book of poetry by Billy Collins.

Hmm, I thought. I don’t know the poems of Billy Collins.

So I immediately surfed over to Amazon and browsed through the selections by Collins, and chose a used (like new) copy of Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems.
Billy Collins is a former Poet Laureate of the United States who also served a term as Poet Laureate of the State of New York. He has written ten books of poetry. I can’t remember who wrote the article that recommended him, but I am forever in his debt.

A well-written poem can transport you to another place or time, can help you experience someone else’s emotions, can make you see a familiar object with new eyes. Collins’ poetry does all those things brilliantly.

I have to share a poem:

Absence
by Billy Collins

This morning as low clouds
skidded over the spires of the city

I found next to a bench
in a park an ivory chess piece—

339px-Chess_piece_-_White_knight Michael Maggs

Photo by Michael Maggs; edited

the white knight as it turned out—
and in the pigeon-ruffling wind

I wondered where all the others were,
lined up somewhere

on their red and black squares,
many of them feeling uneasy

about the salt shaker
that was taking his place,

and all of them secretly longing
for the moment

when the white horse
would reappear out of nowhere

and advance toward the board
with his distinctive motion,

stepping forward, then sideways
before advancing again,

the same moves I was making him do
over and over in the sunny field of my palm.

Can’t you just hear the pigeon-ruffling wind? And I love the personification of the other chess pieces, uneasy about the substitute colleague; and the mention of the way the knight has to move. The poem delights me each time I read it.51TbLKa6oYL

Cleverness resides in this book, as well as mocking the way people express themselves, and serious gripes about growing old. Some of the poems don’t move me at all, but most insist I read them a second time, and a third, and then pause to ponder.

Guest Post: How Writers Should Handle Bad Reviews by Lev Raphael

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Thank you to Lev Raphael for the following great advice, which was previously published on A Writer’s Path.

A Writer's Path

by Lev Raphael

Don’t tweet that the reviewer is an absolute moron who deserves exile to Chechnya or at least a lifetime of bad sex and lukewarm meals. It’ll only make you seem nutty, and most people won’t know about the review until you tell them anyway.

Don’t make snarky, veiled remarks about this reviewer when you’re interviewed, because sulking and bitterness will just end up making you come off as a crank who should get a life or see a shrink.

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17 Great Ideas for Your Next Project (Roundup)

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17 Great Ideas for Your Next Project (Roundup)

Need an idea for your next creative endeavor? Whether you’re a blogger, a writer, an artist, or a little bit of everything, here are some terrific suggestions:

  1. For blog posts.
  2. And some more ideas for blog posts.
  3. Even more ideas for blog posts.
  4. Write a guest post for another blog.
  5. Make a video podcast.
  6. Create your own YouTube channel for promotion.
  7. Writing exercises to generate ideas.
  8. Start a writing journal.
  9. Where fiction ideas come from.
  10. Tell a story through letters or diary entries.
  11. A YA romance.
  12. Try experimenting in a different medium.
  13. A visual representation of your dreams.
  14. I bet you’ll have to make one of these craft projects.
  15. Take on a photography project.
  16. 28 projects in 28 days.
  17. Slide show on making your project a reality.

Creative Juice #53

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Creative Juice #53

Twelve creative articles for you to enjoy! May they inspire you on your artistic journey.

  1. Living in that uncomfortable place where you want to just create, but you have to pay bills.
  2. John Singer Sargent’s visual harmony.
  3. Photography: Princess Diana being a mom.
  4. Sculpture from garbage.
  5. How to paint heather. (Click the picture—it’s a video.)
  6. Good reading list. I’ve read at least seven of these. Disliked one, though.
  7. Gorgeous photographs. I just wish there were captions listing the locations they were taken.
  8. Watch these quilting videos, and enter this quilt giveaway today!
  9. You can never have too much summer.
  10. Thinking of visiting San Francisco? This will change your mind. Maybe.
  11. Minimalism in photography.
  12. An artist’s allegiance to watercolor.

#ALCGC2017 August Check-In

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#ALCGC2017 August Check-In

I created the hashtag #ALCGC2017 for ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017. Feel free to use it to tweet about your goals and your progress.

Another month down. How are you doing on your creative goals?

I didn’t write any poetry during July, but I did make a little watercolor every day for two challenges I’m participating in, Index-Card-a-Day and World Watercolor Month. Here are some of my favorite cards from July (and last week’s cards are in a separate post).

I’ve submitted a second picture book manuscript to agents. No nibbles yet. Sigh. 

I’m still getting feedback about The Unicornologist from my trusted beta-readers, and it’s clear from their responses it still needs some work. Sigh.

frustrated-writer-2Since I’ve been spending so much time rewriting lately, I wanted to write a blog post on how to rewrite, revise, and edit your novel. It’s turning into a series. Look for it this month on ARHtistic License. I’m only about two weeks ahead on my blog posts, half my comfort level.

I’m making progress on guitar. My fingers are beginning to form chords on their own with less effort from my feeble brain. I’m up to page 52 in Essential Elements for Guitar. I’m also coming along on recorder. I’m working hard on the last pages of Sweet Pipes Recorder Book 1. I still have a project in mind for the duets at the end of the book.

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Photo by David Beale.

And I’m singing in a chorus! It’s just a short-term thing. It’s actually a series of master classes for choral conducting students, but there will be a concert. I feel like I’ve been transported back to college days. Rehearsals started last week, and I’m stoked. I haven’t been in a chorus or choir for about twenty years.

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing with your goals? Don’t be shy! If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. And remember to check in on September 1, 2017 to share your progress during August.

Five Little Quilts

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Five Little Quilts

I am a member of the Piecemakers quilt ministry at my church. We make quilts that are given to members in need of comfort, and to babies being baptized, and to the Crisis Pregnancy Center. Today I’m sharing some of my recent projects.

This scrap quilt was pieced from odds and ends of donated fabric. The pattern is the traditional Rail Fence.

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This baptism quilt uses Snowball blocks alternating with Cross blocks.

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The blue fabric features little lambs.

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This scrap quilt, also made from donated fabrics, will go to the Crisis Pregnancy Center that our church helps support.

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The fabrics feature construction vehicles, cars, trucks, and trains. It’s backed with the star fabric you can see binding the edges.

If the comfort quilt below looks familiar, it may be because I posted a picture of it last year while it was still under construction.

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It was put together from snippets of donated fabrics. I pieced the backside (pictured below), too. (By the way, that center panel is a printed fabric. I didn’t put all those little rectangles together.) After a blessing ceremony at church, it went home with a man in our congregation who had been facing health challenges.

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The last quilt is a miniature I’m keeping for our bedroom wall. I started it twenty years ago, when my husband gave me several sets of Granny Nannies, little paper-piecing patterns. I sewed up these Log Cabin blocks and never got any farther with them, until recently. I hung it vertically on our bedroom wall, but I think I’m going to take it down and re-hang it horizontally. I think I like it better like this.

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Creative Juice #52

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Creative Juice #52

Your weekly fix of artistic inspiration.

  1. House block quilts.
  2. Palm paintings.
  3. Advice about creativity.
  4. A closer look at Gustav Klimt’s painting, The Kiss.
  5. How to get really good at something.
  6. I am such a terrible mother. I never even thought of doing this. My girls are now in their twenties and thirties. Maybe when (if) I have granddaughters…
  7. Photos of Jersey City and Manhattan. (As a former Jersey girl, I get a little homesick when I see scenes like these.)
  8. Do you have too many books? Maybe not.
  9. Amazing footage captured on a security camera and the science behind it.
  10. Art with an expiration date.
  11. How an engineering student became a children’s book illustrator.
  12. What do you see in the clouds?