Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Drafts and Revisions

First drafts can be a blast. There's something freeing about the blank page, like setting out on the open road in a convertible, hair whipping in the wind as we take in the new discoveries that pop up around every corner. It's a rush.

Of course, the opposite can also be true. Even with a road map, we can blow a tire, waste time because of a detour, or wind up in a scary part of town.

Part of the joy of a first draft is knowing it can be for our eyes only. Nobody is judging us. If, however, our inner editor parks her rear end on a shoulder, it can be slow going. The blank page might look like a mountain--a really big mountain with an alligator-filled moat encircling it, and oh, did I mention the writer-eating witch who lives on the top? In other words, the blank page can be intimidating.

Then there are revisions. When we're revising, the clay is already on the wheel, ready to be shaped. It requires a different type of energy. Gone are the days of running wild. During revisions, we assess, rewrite scenes, move things around, fill in gaps, and tighten, tighten, tighten. Darlings are killed, and characters who aren't pulling their weight are run out of town.

Revisions require us to keep our stories--start to finish--in our heads. If we change something in chapter two, we have to comb it through the rest of the book, tracking any related changes that may splinter from it. We do major construction, tearing things down and building new things in their places, all while making sure we don't mess up the wiring. Then, at last, we do the feather dusting, the fine edits.

Are either first drafts or revisions easy? No way. But how rewarding would it be if they were?

What's your favorite part, the first draft or revisions? Or do you have a favorite?
My answer would vary, depending on the day, but I think I'd usually pick revisions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing Tip

At one of my critique group meetings in February, Sheila Roberts reminded us that action scenes are not where we should add lush details. On description, she said, "Once the action gets going, lose the seasonings 'cause they're eating the dish."

I love that.

Do you have any writing tips you want to share? Maybe we can build a list with lots of helpful tips!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Mysterious Writing Interruption: Dog Gamers?

I was trying to find just the right words for a chapter ending. It was Thursday morning, the kids were at school, Jim was at work, and my brain was wrapped up in the last paragraph of chapter 21.

Someone turned on the Xbox. I ignored it for a minute. Then the barking started.

I went into the other room. Suspect #1, Thistle, stood by the TV and faced Suspect #2, Pepper. Pepper was lying on the left couch cushion, staring down Thistle. Thistle looked innocent and Pepper flashed me a guilty expression.

Something to keep in mind: Thistle always looks innocent, and Pepper seems forever guilty. If Pepper has an accident, she hides under the kitchen table and shakes. If Thistle does something he's not supposed to (like stealing sour
dough bread from a child), Pepper hides under the kitchen table and shakes. If I scream, "You can do it, Colin," to Colin Firth when he's on TV just before they announce the winner of Best Actor at the Academy Awards, Pepper hides under the table and shakes. See the pattern?

I said, "What are you guys doing?"

Thistle looked from me to Pepper. I was pretty sure he wanted me to see that Pepper was lying on his very favorite couch cushion--the one on the left--because in Thistle's mind, this is the WORST CRIME EVER. This explained the barking.

After glancing at me, Pepper barked at Thistle to let him know she wasn't about to give up the spot.

Something else to keep in mind: whenever there's a disagreement between the dogs, Pepper is the one who started it. If he's "helping me write" in the den, snoozing by my chair, she might stroll in and chew his face--just for fun. If he's playing with his sock monkey, she'll steal it. Maybe there's a reason she always feels gu

I looked at Exhibit A, the Xbox. It was open. Inside was Exhibit B,
Call of Duty. I turned back to the dogs. Neither one cared about Exhibit A or Exhibit B. Neither one knew how to turn on the TV, which would have been required for them to play Xbox. Neither one had opposable thumbs, which meant even I could have probably beat them at Call of Duty.


1. This case would never be solved.

2. I wasn't very good at training dogs.

I turned off the Xbox, went back to the den, and had a super productive writing day, no thanks to my dogs. They stayed in the family room and worked out the couch issue, no thanks to me.

Background information: We have witnessed each dog turn on and/or off the Xbox. This behavior started just after Christmas. They use their noses. We think they smell the kids' fingers on the on/off button. Another reason they might do it, according to my family, is they think turning it on will bring the family to the couch; maybe they're trying to get the pack together. Just as turning it on will bring the family together on the couch, that may be why they turn it off. As you know, the couch cushion on the left is very special, and some things can only be shared so much.

Thistle (Suspect #1) and Pepper (Suspect #2)

Saturday, March 5, 2011


We have a winner! I did my drawing old school, pulling a name from a bowl. Actually, I asked my husband to draw the name so I could take a picture and bring the drama to you, bloggy friends o' mine. Yes, nothing is too good for you people.

Here's Jim, picking a name...

The winner is:

Congrats, Stephanie! E-mail me with your address, and I'll get the book out right away!

to all who entered. I wish I had a book for everyone. You guys rock.

On a separate note, it has been a long time since my buddy Debra has made an appearance at my blog. (There's a photo of us sledding on
this post.) While Debra is not pursuing a writing career, she understands the writers' journey through years of listening, encouraging, cheering, and just being there.

She and I went out last night to celebrate her birthday, and we had a blast!

Happy birthday, Debra! I love ya!
In the comments, tell me about someone who supports you on your journey.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Cover of Stasia Ward Kehoe's AUDITION

Last year, I wrote a post about a manuscript I'd read for a friend that truly inspired me as a writer. I later posted when that manuscript sold, and I told you the name of the manuscript was AUDITION and the author was Stasia Ward Kehoe.

Now AUDITION has a cover! Wee-haw!

(AUDITION coming from Viking in October 2011)

Isn't it beautiful? Here's the blurb:

Once you've been chosen, what step should you take?

Seventeen-year-old Sara's dream of becoming a star ballerina is challenged when she falls for Remington, an older choreographer. Instead of success onstage, she becomes Rem's muse, which is a future she never considered--and one that threatens to break her heart.

Congrats, Stasia! So exciting! I can't wait until it's out and I can hold a copy in my hands!

* * *

Reminder: my THE FOREST FOR THE TREES giveaway ends Friday, March 4, at 11:59 p.m. PST. If you'd like to enter between now and then, check out the last post!