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7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel | WritersDigest.com

7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel

Source: 7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel | WritersDigest.com

You’ve done it: typed The End. Those two wonderful words mark your graduation from always-wanted-to-write-a-novel to someone-who-did. Congratulations. Other ideas might be cooking away in the back of your brain, making you eager to start a new project. Often, this is where the spirit wanes as new writers lose momentum for the old manuscript. Because, you didn’t finish, did you? You only finished the draft. Now you have to focus on revising your novel.

Here’s the bad news (and there’s no good news): The rewrite is tougher than the draft. The draft is infatuation. The right rewrite strengthens your fiction into something that lasts to publication and gains a significant readership.

You know this task needs triage, so you won’t copyedit too soon. You line edit for tone, consistency and language, but you want more ways to improve.

Boost your novel-polishing skills with these seven strategies.

  1. Embrace the doubt.

Those murky feelings that cloud your mind when contemplating the massive task of revision? Welcome those doubts, that hesitation. A skeptical eye confers an appropriate attitude for rewriting. Every word in every sentence must carry its weight, either revealing character or advancing the story. Now be brave enough to cut or improve weak writing.

  1. Go back-to-front when possible.

Let’s say your plan for one brief session is a specific checkpoint. You’re verifying that sensory detail engages every scene, or perhaps you just want to note how many pages are in each chapter to ensure there aren’t twenty-five chapters of about fifteen pages while one chapter sprawls to thirty-five pages. If the revision item does not have to be done starting on page one and working to the last page, flip it and work backwards. This strategy prevents paging through in a direction that can distract you into an unintended sentence-by-sentence reread. The danger of that accidental read is that it risks dulling your reaction to the prose and worse, lets you fall in love with some passages while neglecting others.

  1. Structure your novel.

It’s not too late. Whether you’re a pantser, pantser-outliner hybrid, or an outliner, your finished draft can benefit from a new, careful outline. Note what questions and stakes the protagonist faces. How does he change in the end? What about the secondary cast?

Off the top of your head, do you know how many chapters are in your book? How does each chapter start and end? Where are the key actions and turning points found? How many scenes shape each chapter? Bracket each scene on a hard copy to reveal whether too much exposition lurks between the scenes. Is the climax close enough to the end that the bulk of the tale is composed of an uphill climb? Is the denouement placed to allow a satisfying, thoughtful resolution?

Gleaning the structure is a terrific exercise in critical examination. Graph and bullet point the features as though deconstructing someone else’s novel. This is not a time for emotional attachment to the piece; just factually note everything that displays the arc of the story, then see what surprises you or doesn’t fit.

  1. Revisit characterization.

With an accurate structure in hand, revisit your character construction while remembering the point of every passage. Did you use particularity in their descriptions? Is the reader shown what motivates every main character?

Crack open the draft to any chunk of dialogue. How obvious is it which of your well-crafted characters is speaking based on the sentences within the quotes? (Ah, yes, that’s just how a pilot/mad scientist/cowgirl would say such a thing.)

Perhaps your setting approaches the standing of character. Lovely, but don’t let the prose get flabby or insignificant—this is an opportunity for imaginative choices.

  1. Task your computer.

Various software programs highlight potential weak spots such as poor grammar and punctuation, or an overuse of modifiers, but any word processing program can be employed to help electronically. Do you have a pet phrase? Use the search function to find those repeats, then fix them. If you gave a person a verbal tic (perhaps she says “Nah” instead of “No”), do a quick find for the special term to ensure it’s not overused. And if another character displays the same tic, make it intentional, not an author slip.

When creating another hard copy to hand edit, select a different font for the second printing. Because of the different spacing, switching from Times New Roman to Courier can help freshen your eyes to the words.

  1. Listen to it.

Hopefully, you read aloud when revising, but you can do more. When my publisher sent author copies of my debut novel’s audio version, I reveled in that first experience of listening to a voice-acting pro read Orchids and Stone. However, I had heard it before, read by my computer.

There are good programs available—I use Natural Reader, which offers a free trial—that lets you listen to any document. This computer-generated reading will be flat, but the robotic affect is a good thing, because your writing must stand on its own, without inflection to carry the drama and dialogue. Chances are you’ll keep putting the program on pause and clicking back to the document to make edits.

Unintended alliterations, assonance and consonance borne in every sentence and surrounding paragraph are much more apparent when voiced. You might marvel over having missed some of these now-obvious editorial problems in print or on the monitor. You’ll hear repetitions that you didn’t see.

Good reading programs allow you to select the speed and gender of the speaker. After a significant rewrite, choose the other gender for the computer’s reading voice, then listen to the entire manuscript a second time. Chances are, you’ll still discover small improvements to make.

  1. Continue to study the craft.

While your polished draft gets some drawer time or is out with beta readers, reread diverse books on writing, studying instruction on revision. Let Robert Olen Butler admonish you to avoid abstraction, interpretation and izing (don’t generalize, summarize or analyze). Pay attention when David Morrell asks if you really want to publish that sentence in that form. Listen to Sol Stein’s warning about tunnel revision—the mistake of only tweaking small ticket items on a rewriting pass while missing the big picture and exposing your pages to excessive front-to-back reading, which makes your editing eye grow cold.

Improving your knowledge of the craft will improve your rewriting skills.

Here’s the deal: new writers often mire themselves and their work in the world of the unpublished due to a lack of self-editing their way to a polished manuscript. The only hope your draft has of becoming a well-read novel is you, and how much effort you put into the rewrite. Go all in.

***

Lisa Preston. Preston is the author of Orchids and Stone as well as several nonfiction books on animal care. Her experiences as a mountain climber, fire-department paramedic, and police sergeant are channeled into fiction that is suspenseful, fast paced, and well acquainted with human drama. She has lived in Arizona, California, and Alaska and now makes her home in western Washington. Visit her at lisapreston.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/lisa.preston.3152.

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5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

Brynn Kelly, author of DECEPTION ISLAND (June 2016, HQN Books), shares 5 tips for moving past Author Anxiety and to keep writing.

Source: 5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

It turns out Author Anxiety is a Thing. It’s not just me.

I discovered this on the eve of publication of my debut novel, DECEPTION ISLAND, when I was silly enough to Google my shiny new title. Up popped a Netgalley reviewer live-tweeting as she read it. Only she was hating it—pulling it apart chapter by chapter.

I’d had loads of great reviews—in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, on dozens of blogs—but this one hobby reviewer withered my fragile confidence. It was the intimacy of it. I could see what she looked like, I could see what page she was reading, I could certainly see exactly what she thought of the story. And I couldn’t stop refreshing. Because I’m an idiot.

I’ve been a journalist for two decades and I’ve published a bunch of nonfiction books, so public criticism is nothing new. Why, then, did this rattle me?

I did what any 21st century dweller does when faced with a 21st century dilemma. I Googled. And I discovered I wasn’t alone. Not only is Author Anxiety a Thing, but it’s such a Thing that, yes, it deserves initial caps. I set out to find a remedy before this vile feeling paralyzed me from writing another fictional word. In the interests of author solidarity, I’m sharing five of my best cures.

1. Find perspective
Many years ago, to finance my journalism degree, I worked as a TV publicist. A fun job but intensely shallow. (Ask me anything about “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place.”) Even so, like all jobs, sometimes it got stressful. The most important lesson I learned from that two years was from a boss who was fond of saying, “It’s entertainment. It’s not f***ing brain surgery.” Same goes for my novel. It’s a romantic thriller. It’s not important. My bad day at work is when a reader isn’t entertained or moved and I lose that reader. I’m not a doctor who has lost a patient or an air-traffic controller who’s lost a plane. The worst-case scenario? This novel tanks, everyone forgets about it, and I write another one.

2. Embrace imperfection
Don’t tell my publisher this, but DECEPTION ISLAND isn’t perfect. There, I’ve said it. What a relief. I could have spent three decades rewriting it and it still wouldn’t be perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection in creative endeavor. At some point—usually when a deadline hits—you must step away from your manuscript and say, “There, it’s done. It’s the best I can do right now.” That book has become your past, not your future. It’s not even your present, anymore. The only thing that remains wholly in your control is your next book.

3. Get productive
If I read a bad review, suddenly I don’t feel like writing. But you know what? A good writing day blows away my doubt and fear. And studies into motivation have found that the muse kicks in after you begin a task, not before. Don’t feel like writing because someone just told the (virtual) world that you suck? Open your WIP and start somewhere, anywhere. Tinker with a paragraph you wrote a year ago, write a random exchange of dialogue, change the font. Just. Start. Your brain will light up, the motivation will come and the angst will evaporate.

4. Log out
Only one thing will make you a successful novelist: writing novels. Let the virtual world live without you—especially if it drags you down. Forget the rules that you must regularly post on social media and engage online. If bad reviews on Goodreads or Amazon discourage you, don’t read them. If you can’t help flicking onto them—because validation is addictive— but you hate yourself for it, get a productivity app and block those sites, and any others that routinely make your heart soar and sink. (If a review falls in a forest…) Ray Bradbury once said: “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” And if you just want the boost without the pain? Ask a friend to email you only the great reviews, in a monthly digest. It’s not a cop-out. It’s sensible.

5. Escape
If that sniping little head of yours is not a pleasant place to hang out, get out of it. Do something immersive: play a card game with your kid, see a movie, whack a tennis ball around a court. When you return, you should find your mind is a more agreeable—and productive—environment. Keep it that way by throwing a little love into the world to offset the negativity. Tweet an author about how much you enjoyed her book—because she may be feeling Author Anxiety today, too.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Healthy writing”

11-reasons-writing-is-good-for-your-health

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/11-reasons-writing-good-health?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-nl-170214&utm_content=921445_WDE170214&utm_medium=email

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February 15, 2017 · 11:56 am

Writing tip Wednesday: “Write better Villains”

How to Write Better Villains: 5 Ways to Get Into the Mind of a Psychopath

By Peter James

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/write-better-villains-5-ways-get-mind-psychopath?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-170124&utm_content=915933_WDE170124&utm_medium=email

1. Where to find a psychopath who will talk to you – the importance of meeting your monster.
Over my years of research for my Roy Grace mystery novels I’ve given many talks in prisons for the charity, The Reading Agency, which encourages literacy in UK prisons, as it gives me the opportunity to meet many different kinds of criminal face to face.

I had been wanting to write about a female “black widow” character for some time, and had been studying past cases, and thinking hard about creating a convincing character. Three years ago I was talking in a women’s prison and there was a well-spoken middle-aged woman in the audience who was asking particularly smart questions about literature. She fascinated me, being clearly well educated and I wondered what crime she had committed. Perhaps she killed someone drunk driving, or something like that, I wondered?

steve-james-featuredOne big perk of my talks is that I get to mingle with the prisoners after and chat to them one-on-one. I made a beeline for her. I never ask a prisoner outright what they have done – it’s not proper etiquette! So as an icebreaker I said, ‘How much longer do you have to serve?’

She replied, in a booming voice, ‘Nine and a half more bloody years – and it’s just not fair! A woman did exactly what I did, in London, and she’s only got six more years to go.’

‘So, what brought you in here?’ I asked, somewhat startled.

‘I poisoned my mother-in-law, the old bag!’

‘OK,’ I replied, somewhat astonished. Then she went on.
‘The thing was, she went into hospital to die, so I embezzled her bank account. Then the bloody woman didn’t die – she came home. I realized she would find out so I had to poison her. Then I realized my husband would find out so I had to poison him, too. And it’s just not fair – this woman in London did exactly what I did and she’s only got six more years!’

As I was being taken back out by a prison officer I said to him, ‘Is this woman for real?’

‘Oh yes sir, he replied. ‘Her husband was three months on life support and he has permanent brain damage – and she’s just angry about the length of her sentence…’

I knew at once I had found my character for Love You Dead!

2. Make your monsters lovable.

If you think about the most endearing – and enduring – characters in the history of literature they are the ones that are not simply portrayed as black and white evil, but with shades of coloring. Think about Dracula – he is a monster but he has huge charisma and charm. Frankenstein’s monster turns to his creator, Dr Frankenstein and tells him he never wanted to be born. Hannibal Lecter, perhaps the most success monster in all of modern literature, is enormously charming, charismatic, he has style and people find themselves rooting for him, despite knowing just how utterly evil he really is.

3. Avoid stereotypes. A psychopath isn’t always a man in black in a dark alley with a sharp knife.

It may be a surprise to some people, but yes, there really are good psychopaths as well as bad ones. Or perhaps, paraphrasing from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, puts it into better perspective: Some psychopaths are less evil than others. He could be a past or a President of the United States? The CEO of a Fortune 100 company? Being a psychopath is the best qualification to get you to the top of a chosen path in life, but the worst to have once you are there: The reason most serial killers get away with it so long is that they are bright and cunning – and often total chameleons, able to blend into society. Ted Bundy, America’s worst to date is a classic example. A good-looking, charismatic former law student, estimated to have killed and raped over 100 young women. But it’s not just a good qualification if you want to be a serial killer, it’s a great one if you want to become a captain of industry or a top politician. The combination of charm, intelligence and utter ruthlessness is potent. The psychopath is capable of saying anything just to get to the top – how many politicians do we all know who’ve said totally opposing things many times during their climb up the greasy pole. But ultimately it is hubris that can be their downfall because their lack of empathy means they fail to read the warning signs. President Richard Nixon is a classic; Idi Amin; Saddam Hussein; Gadhafi. And how many CEOs of major companies, like Bernie Madoff and the late Robert Maxwell?

4. How to come up with a well-developed backstory for your psychopathic character.

Some years ago I spent a day at Broadmoor, the UK’s premier high-security psychiatric hospital. It took me a year before my request was accepted, but it was worthwhile because what I saw and learned there has helped me with so many subsequent characters. The qualification for admission to Broadmoor is, essentially, to be violently criminally insane. I asked the resident chaplain if he felt that there were some people who were born evil, or did something happen in their lives to turn them that way?

He replied that the inmates were divided roughly 50/50 into schizophrenics and psychopaths. Schizophrenia was a chemically treatable mental illness, and provided they took their medication, around 70% of the inmates in this category could eventually go back into the world and live ordinary lives. But for the psychopaths, it was very different.

He explained a psychopath is likely to first present symptoms at around the age of four. The majority is male but there are female ones also – as we will see. The earliest signs are likely to be a lack of empathy and no real sense of a moral code of right or wrong. A boy steals his best friend’s favourite toy – with absolutely zero guilt. He will also from an early age be an accomplished liar – and rarely found out.

The psychopath brought up in a loving, stable family may well go on to become a hugely successful businessman or politician. But the one brought up in a broken home, or a violent, abusive situation, is likely to become dangerously warped. Many serial killers come from such latter backgrounds, as did Adolf Hitler who had a bullying father who would not let him pursue the career as a painter he wanted in life.

5. Talk through any major villain you are creating with a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.

I was chatting at lunch with former armed serial bank robber, and self-confessed psychopath, Steve Tulley. As a teenager in prison, for his first robbery, he met criminal legend Reggie Kray, and persuaded him to let him be his pupil and teach him everything he knew. At 58, broke, Tulley is living in a bedsit in Brighton and has spent more of his life in jail than free. I asked him what was the largest sum he had ever got away with. He told me it was £50k in a bank job. So what did he do with the money? He replied, excitedly that he’d rented a suite in Brighton’s Metropole Hotel and, in his words, ‘Larged it for six months until it was all gone.”

I asked Steve if he had the chance to live his life over again would he have done it differently? ‘No,’ he replied with a gleam in his eyes. ‘I’d do it all again. It’s the adrenaline, you see!’

From subsequently talking to forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, I’ve learned that this “adrenaline” buzz that Steve talks of goes hand-in-hand, with some criminals, with the ruthless, chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence they lead. One of the most chilling things I ever saw was the police video of Dennis Rader – the BTK Strangler– confessing. When asked why he had bound, tortured and killed – horrifically – his victims he replied, simply and matter-of-factly, ‘It was erotic, I got a buzz from it.”

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Writing tip Wednesday: “New agent to consider”

Quressa Robinson of D4EO Literary

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/new-literary-agent-alert-quressa-robinson-d4eo-literary

quressa-robinson-literary-agentAbout Quressa: Quressa Robinson joined the D4EO Literary Agency in 2016 and is actively building her client list. Quressa was an acquiring editor at St. Martin’s Press, where she edited both fiction and nonfiction. Her acquisitions include Certain Dark Things (a Publishers Weekly Fall Announcement Top 10 Pick and October B&N Staff Pick) and The Beautiful Ones—both by Locus, World Fantasy, Sunburst, and Aurora Award-nominated author Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Spells of Blood and Kin (which received a starred PW review) by Claire Humphrey; and The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams, among others.

She is seeking: Science fiction/fantasy (including speculative/magical realism), nonfiction (celebrity, pop culture, pop science), upmarket and commercial women’s fiction, historical fiction, family sagas, contemporary young adult, and science fiction/fantasy young adult crossover. “I am particularly interested in OwnVoices and inclusive narratives. Genre bending is also great, i.e. epic fantasy romance or upmarket fantasy.”

How to submit: Send all queries to quressa@d4eo.com. Include the first fifty pages of your novel or full proposal and sample chapters as a Word attachment. If the submission is a simultaneous submission, please indicate that in your query. E-mail queries only.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “New Agent to consider”

Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary

munierPaula Munier (Talcott Notch Literary)

Notes: “High concept only.”

How to submit: E-query editorial [at] talcottnotch.net with “Query for Paula: [title]” in the subject line.

From their query page http://www.talcottnotch.net/index.php/queries:

What should an ideal query include?

Fiction
Your fiction query should include your genre, such as mystery, science fiction or mainstream, whether the project is for adults or for children, and the length of the complete project in number of words (for example, 86,000 words), not pages. The query should give us a brief overview of the book’s plot and main characters, but does not have to include a complete synopsis. For first-time authors, we do prefer that the project be complete before you query us.

Nonfiction
Your nonfiction query should include your subject area, such as history, biography or business, the main concept of the book, the word count you project the book will be when completed, and your credentials to write the work. Unlike many first novels, many first nonfiction projects do not require that the book be finished before it can be marketed successfully, and we’ll be looking to see that the book proposal and a sample chapter is available here instead. Let us know how long you feel you will take to complete the book. Be realistic with your estimations. It doesn’t matter if you give us an estimate that sounds good if you cannot deliver the book on that date.

Things that Make a Query Stand Out
Hook us in your first paragraph. What’s the most outstanding aspect of your book? Is it your characters’ conflict? Is it your protagonist’s background? Is it the completely surprising revelation you uncovered in your research for your new health book? Don’t assume that you have your entire query to get to your point. If you don’t hook your reader with your opening, your query could get pushed aside.

Show you know your market. Nothing says you haven’t given this a thought better than saying your book is for readers 8-80. But if you say your book is YA and would appeal to readers of two specific writers (particularly if they simply aren’t the two best-known at the moment!) and can even list reasons why, then you’re getting warm.

Don’t forget your ten pages. We ask specifically for the first ten pages of the manuscript and without those, we have to make a decision based solely on the query. Perhaps your query letter isn’t your strongest point, and your voice in your manuscript is amazing? Don’t lose out on the chance to convince us! Just be sure to paste those into the body of the email rather than add them as an attachment.

Things to Avoid In a Query
Don’t stress the fact you are a new writer if you are. Stress your qualifications to write the project and your ability to promote it successfully.

Don’t suggest a book length that is simply not marketable. Research the publishers’ websites, author guidelines and new releases to know what they’re publishing right now.

Don’t quote nice things other people told you when they were turning down your query or book. It might seem like a good idea to tell us that Fabulous Editor X or Amazing Agent Y told you your writing was compelling or your characters were complex, but the next person reading this is going to wonder why that editor or agent didn’t sign the book. In fact, by giving us the quotes from rejections, you’re making the book less appealing, not more.

Avoid insisting the book is going to be a bestseller, even if you feel certain it will be! Let your story and your writing speak for itself.

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Writing tip Wednesday: Agent to consider

New Literary Agent Alert: Maximilian Ximenez of L. Perkins Agency

max_agent-72dpi_5x6_4c-copy

About Maximilian: Maximilian Ximenez grew up within the New York publishing industry. Prior to joining the L. Perkins Agency, he worked at Blizzard Entertainment, creators of the popular Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo video game franchises. He is a strong believer in publishing and narrative as a central pillar of franchise and transmedia development.

He is seeking: Maximilian is actively pursuing clients for both fiction and nonfiction works. In fiction, he is acquiring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers, particularly cyberpunk and neo-noir as well as books with a uniquely deconstructive bent. For nonfiction, Maximilian is seeking popular science, true crime, and books pertaining to arts and trends in developing fields and cultures.

How to submit: For submissions, please send an email to maximilian [at] lperkinsagency.com with your bio, a brief synopsis, and the first five pages of your book or novel in the body.

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