One Writer’s Journey

March 15, 2017

Revision: You Gotta Love It

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:00 am
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So many writers I know want to rush through their revisions.  If they get feedback from an editor, they are determined to turn the manuscript around in two weeks, three at most.  Me?  I want to give myself time to internalize the feedback. I also enjoy seeing the manuscript change and grow.  Why rush it?

In truth, writers really need to love revision.  You rough out the manuscript once.  Once you have a manuscript and have given it time to rest, you are ready to revise.  And you aren’t going to do it in one draft.  My process looks something like that.

  1.  Horrible, scary, terrible, no-good first draft.  Okay, maybe it isn’t that bad but I’m often just slapping it down at this stage.  There are even gaps because I don’t take the time to look up missing information.  I just type myself a note.  FIND OUT WHEN THIS WAS AND WHO WAS THERE.  Then I move on.
  2. During this draft, which is the first revision, I fill in gaps.  I also look for things that need to be shifted from one spot to another.
  3. Are any sections slight?  This is when I bulk them up.  Not that I want them to feel bulky but there has to be enough information to justify a stand alone chapter or section.
  4. Can’t manage that?  Then I combine sections or split something too dense in two.  I’m looking to create balance in this draft.
  5. Now is when I smooth things out and check the reading level.  Too high or too low? This is the time to make adjustments and make it flow.
  6. At last, I print it out and my husband reads it.  Then I take care of any issues he spotted and do a hard copy rewrite.  I always do one rewrite on paper because there are problems that I miss until I see them in print.  This is also when I cut excess words.  Again, I spot things on paper that I wouldn’t see on-screen.

That makes for six drafts total although sometimes I can do it in four.  Either way, that’s one first draft and three to five revisions.  You really need to love revision to make your writing work.



January 5, 2016

Preparing for ReviMo 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:58 am
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For those of you who don’t know about this program, ReviMo is Revise More.  It is a picture book revision challenge in which participants pledge to revise 5 days during the week of the challenge.  This year that would be January 10 through January 16.  You can revise five different manuscripts or you can revise the same manuscript five times.

Five times?  Yep.  That’s for those of us who like to focus on one thing at a time.  My first revision might be to deepen characterization.  My second involves starting the story in just the right place.  My third?  Cutting details the illustrator could provide.  My fourth would be getting rid of excess words.  My fifth focuses on ramping up picture book language.

This week I’m chosing the manuscripts I want to rewrite next week.  My focus will most likely be on nonfiction since my plan is to use these to get an agent.  I will be revising:

What’s Up Chuck?  The Biology of Vomit.  Yep.  That’s an actual manuscript.  It started out as an early middle grade but for marketing purposes, translation: to avoid a competing manuscript, I rewrote it as a picture book.  I’m still sitting on draft #1 so I need to nudge the piles on my desk and find my critique group’s comments.

Good Morning Sun (working title).  That’s the manuscript I’m writing for critique group this week.

Fearless Felicity.  I need to tie her greatest desire more closely to the solution.  Fortunately, I know that to do and just need to sit down and do it.  This one is actually GASP fiction.

Embarrassingly enough, I have no recollection what I called the next manuscript.  It is a grade school astronomy book on time zones.  I need to rework it ala The House that Jack Built.

Ink and Paper is one of my first manuscripts and is about a boy and his grandfather.

Prey vs Predator.  This one is simply a matter of reordering some spreads and I’ve been sitting on it an embarrassingly long time.

Feel the Music. This is the one that almost became on app.  I want to revisit it and see if I still like this new version and get it back out.

That’s 7 and in all honestly I could probably come up with something like 15 or 20.  The reality is that first drafts are a lot more fun than rewrites.  Still, I can’t submit a first draft and Meg Miller’s ReviMo challenge will get me moving.  Click here if you are interested in signing up.




March 10, 2014

Rewriting: Getting Around To It

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:29 am
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Get to work on those picture book rewrites!

If you are anything like me, if you don’t have a deadline you can put off working on that rewrite again and again.  Fortunately, there is a challenge this week that can get you moving on your picture book rewrites.

In January, Meg Miller hosted her annual ReviMo which challenged authors to complete five or more picture book rewrites in one week.  It really got me going on some work that I had been putting off.  The program was so successful that Meg is launching a Petite ReviMo, 2 days of picture book rewriting, each month.

It just so happens that the challenge for March is Wednesday and Thursday.  I already know which manuscript I’m reworking.  After having my critique group go over the picture book on animal coloration, I realize that I need a new hook and a new final spread.  I also need to redo the back matter, beefing it up considerably.  I’ve had these comments on my desk for a solid month.  Clearly, I need this nudge to get me started.

What about you?  Care to join me in reworking a picture book or two this week?



January 14, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:03 am
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edff0-take4Yesterday, I mentioned that I am participating in ReviMo 2014 this week.  ReviMo is a picture book revision challenge.  As participating writers revise picture book manuscripts they can register to win prizes.

Prizes are good, but I’m doing it as a way to schedule some revision time. The rules specify that all revisions must the substantial, reaffirming that this is a time for “new vision,” not copy editing.

Here is some of what I plan to do as I revision various manuscripts:

1.  Remove and replace spreads.  When I drafted one particular manuscript on animal coloration, the editor asked me to include spreads on how humans use coloration.  I’ve never loved these two spreads so I’m going to get rid of them but that will mean adding replacement spreads.  This will give me a chance to expand on several ideas hinted at in the manuscript.

2.  Alter the narrative style.  One of my manuscripts is a straight forward narrative.  That may work for most things but this is an early-elementary astronomy  text.  In showing the constancy of how the solar system works, the text gets very repetitive.  Darcy Pattison suggested that I take advantage of the necessary repetition by recreating the manuscript as a cumulative text.  You could also take a rhyming text and recreate it as prose or weave in a chorus of some kind.

3.  Fine-tune characters.  I must admit, that I’ve never had to add characters to a picture book but I have had to remove characters who just don’t carry enough weight.  I’ve also had to deepen my characterization.  Working up character sketches can help you get to know your character, a reality that will come through in the story even if you don’t use all the details you’ve discovered.

4.  Illustration possibilities.  A picture book has to offer the illustrator the chance to create varied art work.  Not only does something have to happen on each spread (think action), but you also need changes in setting, characters and emotion.  I generally do okay with characters and emotion but have to force myself to add settings to the story, or at least alter my settings so that there is a greater visual difference between Point A and Point B.

5.  Word play.  A picture book is meant to be read aloud.  This means that it has to actually be fun to read aloud and one way to do this is through word play.  If you don’t use any kind of word play, consider adding a chorus, playing with consonance and assonance or onomatopoeia.

What do you look at when you revise a picture book text?


August 28, 2013

Revise, Revise, Revise

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
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Do you have scads of picture book manuscripts languishing, waiting for you to clean them up? Then you need to check out ReviMo sponsored by author/illustrator Meg Miller.

From January 12 – 18, 2014, participants will have access to a series of blog and vlog entries to encourage them to get off their fannies and revise.

And believe it or not, there’s a prize.  I know.  I’d think that having polished manuscripts would be enough, but Meg is clearly a generous human being.  One lucky participant will win a critique from Simone Kaplan.

Check out the details on Meg’s blog and sign up today.  Do not put it off.  Your unpolished manuscripts need to be cleaned up so that they can find a home.


September 24, 2012

Why You Need to Revise Your Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:54 am
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It can take multiple tries to get the photo you meant to take, or the story you meant to write.

This week I’ll be blogging about some of what I learned at the revision retreat led by Darcy Pattison.  I know I’m seconding (or even thirding) what has been said by other writers.  If you get the chance to attend a retreat led by Darcy, do it.  She will change how you look at your work.

The first thing that Darcy asked us to do was realize that each and every time we write something we will need to revise.  Sometimes the revision is small.  Sometimes it is immense.  Either way, the reason that we need to revise is that the story we get on paper is never the story that we intended to write.

That’s a really important point.  Let me repeat it.

The story that you write down is not the story that you meant to write.  The story in your head is always different.  Maybe your setting is richer.  Or your characters are more artfully drawn.  Or your emotional arc is clear and well-paced compared to your plot arc.

The whole point behind revising is to make your story more than it is now and the only way to do that is to carefully assess what you have written down.   One of the tools that we used to do this was a shrunken manuscript — your novel reformatted so that it can be printed out on a much smaller number of pages.  You then mark whatever it is you need to study (the strongest chapters, dialogue vs action vs narrative, where and when various characters interact, etc).  With your marked up shrunken manuscript you can spot balance or lack thereof.

We also marked up full-sized copies of our manuscripts.  I marked dialogue — one color for my main character and one for his best friend.  The best friend is a total brainiac and uses all kinds of $10 words and phrases.  I needed to make sure he didn’t steal the show.

Whatever tools you choose, you need to find something that lets you look at your story in a different way.  Darcy is a very analytic writer vs my seat-of-the-pants approach.  Because of this, her workshop or her book, Novel Metamorphosis, force me to see what I have on paper in a different way.  Build up your own tool box and you’ll be ready to take your writing to the next level.


March 11, 2011

Slogging through a Rewrite

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:23 am
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When good rewrites go from bad to worse.

Last week I spent a good bit of my writing time slogging through a picture book rewrite.  The editor had pointed out  that I needed to have more fun with my topic.

“I can do that.  I’m a fun person.”

So I sat down to revise my manuscript.

I worked through the first spread, replacing sluggish verbs with fun, exciting, peppy verbs.  I tightened my text.  Much better.

Then I went on to the next spread and the next spread.

About half way through the manuscript, that annoying part of my brain kicked in.  Maybe you have this problem too.  There’s that wee little bit of your brain that doesn’t always participate in whatever you are doing, but then chimes in with a comment.  “You can do better than this!” said my naggy brain.

Some writers call this their internal editor.  They do their best to shut it down.

Me.  I need to learn to listen.

Instead, I slogged through a few more spreads but the going was tough.  How could something that was pure drudgery to write be fun?  I decided to take a break.

As I prepped my lunch, a line of text popped into my brain.  “Scuttle and stop.  Poke and prod.”    Not bad.  Obediently, I trotted back down the hall and entered these lines into the manuscript.

After lunch, I finished my rewrite.  By the time I got to the last spread, there was one thing that I knew.  I hadn’t been rewriting.  I had been doing a line edit.  Tightening.  Minor corrections.  This was not the whole sale rewrite that I needed to do.

Just to prove to myself that I was right, I took the manuscript to critique.  “This part is really good,” said Lynn.  “Scuttle and stop.  Poke and prod.”   Lynnea agreed.

I need to completely revamp this manuscript which means that I need to be re-inspired.  I need to experience some of the fun that can be children’s nonfiction.  To this end, I went online and poked through the publisher’s catalog.  Everything that looked fun, I requested.

This week, I’ll be reading.  If another fun line comes to me, I’ll get it down, but my focus will not be reworking.  My focus will be enjoying children’s nonfiction.  When I’ve found the fun, I’ll try again, but not before then.


November 18, 2010

How to deal with a revision request

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:32 am
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Yesterday, I blogged about creating your own luck.  One of the best ways to create your own freelance luck is to learn how to revise.  Writing is the easy part.  Really.  You think that’s not true?  Wait until you get your first revision request from an editor or agent.  If you are going to succeed, you’re going to have to learn to do it.

For a really funny take on this, check out 10 Things to Do After Receiving a Revision Letter.

When you’re done laughing, read on for 10 tips on getting read to revise.

  1. Face reality.  Your beloved manuscript is not perfect.  It is beloved.  You love it in spite of its many flaws and all manuscripts have things that will need to be changed to make them publishable.  Seriously.
  2. Do not rant at your editor.  I mean it.  Bitch at the cat.  Tear out a shrub (ahem).  Rake leaves.  Scrub the shower floor.
  3. After you’ve worked off all that bile, reread the letter.  If you simply do not understand what you are being asked to do, ask for clarification IF YOU HAVE CALMED DOWN.  Do not ask for clarification if you are still indignant.  Not even a wee little bit peeved.
  4. Once you understand what your editor is asking you to do, think it over.  Look beyond the actual changes (the what) and look at the rational for these requests (the why). Your character may not be deep enough but that doesn’t mean that the suggested changes are really right for your manuscript.  Go think.
  5. Go think some more.
  6. Reread your manuscript.
  7. Reread the revision request.
  8. Keep thinking.
  9. Save a copy of your manuscript just in case your attempts to fix it goof it up instead.  It can happen.
  10. Reread it again.  Envision the changes you’ve been considering.  Do they work with YOUR manuscript?

If so, you’re ready to revise.  I’m not saying it will be easy but it is 100% essential if your work is going to see print — either paper or electronic.  Lucky writers all know how to rewrite.  I’m just telling you.


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