Nancy: Is That a Book on Your Wall?

There comes a time in every story’s life when, in order to grow up into a book, it will undergo revisions. And just as my writing process has evolved over the years and tends to require variations based on the needs of each book, so too has my revision approach changed over time. One constant, though, is at some point, I need to look at the story differently by literally changing its appearance.

I’ve used the standard tricks over the years. Change the entire manuscript to a different font. Color code each POV or type of scene/action occurring. Print out the document in hard copy. For my current revision  fiasco project, I needed a new trick. Cue the music of worlds colliding as I realized I might have just the right tool sitting in the toolbox I used for my “day job” career.  In that career, I managed projects creating business proposals made up of multiple volumes of information, sometimes with hundreds of pages in each volume. These proposals had strict margin, font, and formatting requirements; included graphics, tables, and charts; and usually had page limitations per volume as well.

Teams would write, revise, and review the documents online, but by the time we got to our first round of document reviews and revisions, it was time to hang that puppy…er, proposal…on the wall. It’s such an industry-standard practice that companies with enough capital (and interest in investing in the department that brings in the business) install rails on the wall that are sized to slide 8.5×11-inch pages in and out of them. And it’s such an important step to get the big-picture visual of the proposal’s progress that if the CEO walks into a war room (the affectionate name for conference rooms where teams work on these projects) and does not see the proposal on the wall, someone in my position could get fired over it.

In other words, multi-billion dollar companies take this tool seriously.

I’m not suggesting there’s a lot of cross-over between what works for such companies and what works for novelists. I’m just willing to look far and wide for ways to get through the #E(*@+%! revision process. It’s that kind of thinking that gets you a wall full of a book manuscript and a spouse sleeping with one open in case you’ve really snapped this time.

I had to move a sofa and take down some family photos, but redecorating was worth the effort!

But what’s really important, other than reassuring your spouse you’ll be fine someday when this revision is completed and you’re able to sleep again, is whether a tool works. And hanging nearly 300 color-coded manuscript pages on my family room wall worked for me. It helped me work through one of my biggest issues with this book. (Imagine a four-act romance story where the couple spend very little time together in act two and NO time together in act three. Yeah, I wrote that story.) I could very quickly see who (POV) and what (non-romance stuff) was happening, identify places to combine or dramatically edit scenes, and introduce new or revised scenes that feature our happy couple together on the page as if they’re, you know, working toward their HEA.

I learned a few other things in posting my pages on the wall as well. For instance, my average scene length is approximately five pages, which translates to 1500 words for me. It’s important that scene lengths vary to keep things interesting, but good to note when and why they do. When I saw the two- or three-page anomalies, I checked to make they were full scenes, self-contained units of conflict with stakes, changes, and realizations for the characters. For those that went longer – and some went twice as long or more – I confirmed the need for such verbosity. You’ll be shocked to know that some scenes went on a wee bit too long.

Max got all choked up at the ending. Or he sneezed on it. One or the other.

Also, in this story, our girl gets a little more POV page time than our guy. It’s not enough to be a problem, but something to revisit post-revision to make sure I haven’t thrown the balance between their POVs out of whack.

And finally, I learned that everyone’s a critic, including Max the cat. After I’d pulled some of the pages off the wall while I worked on certain scenes, Max removed several of the pages he could reach. I’m not sure whether that means he loves them, hates them, or just wants to see if they make fun crinkly noises.

The moral of this story is, don’t be afraid to try to new, different, and frightening (to those who care about you) tools to aid to your writing, revision, or other creative processes. And remember to warn those living with you before you do something drastic like wallpaper a room with your latest masterpiece. And, oh yeah, don’t let those cat critics get you down!

Have you ever hung a book (or chapter or scene) on a wall? What’s the weirdest tool you’ve used on a creative project?

Kay: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

from wisegeek.com

I’ve been reading the Ladies’ posts—you know which ones I mean—the ones where everybody talks about their development editors, proofreaders, graphic artists, cover designers, blog tours, FaceBook friends, Twitter followers, and advertising campaigns. I am totally in awe for the time, energy, commitment, and planning all this work requires. I admire them beyond words for what they’re doing.

I’ve never done any of that.

Not that I’m proud of it. Far from it. Mostly I’m just super lazy. And I’m an ex-editor by trade, so when I think my manuscript is as good as I can make it, I get a cover, and I publish it. Done. And sometimes people buy my book and leave a review, so overall, I’m fine with my career, as low-key as it is.

However. Continue reading

Jilly: Alpha Males Revisited

Is anyone up for more discussion on the evergreen topic of Alpha Male heroes in romance fiction?

Mr. Alpha has been on my mind recently, thanks to a combination of circumstances. I lost a chunk of writing time earlier this year following the death of my mum. Dealing with her estate has been a time suck, so the books I had hoped to self-publish this year are now rescheduled for 2019. Which means that I will still be unpublished at the end of 2018. That’s frustrating, but the upside is that the RWA has decided to run the Golden Heart contest for one more year, and now I will be eligible to enter. I would love, love, love to final in the Golden Heart, to join the supportive and welcoming sisterhood that Jeanne described in her recent post, The True Heart of the Golden Heart.

In planning my final assault on the contest, I decided that in addition to entering my Alexis paranormal stories, I’d dust off the English/Scottish contemporary romance I worked on at McDaniel and which I haven’t read in the last three years or so.

I got fairly close to snagging an agent with that manuscript, and it finaled in a number of local RWA contests, so I thought it should be relatively easy to tweak.

O.M.G. I am sooo glad I never sold that book. It didn’t need a quick edit so much as a comprehensive rewrite. I think the general premise, the characters, the community and most of the plot points are solid, but among other things, the hero (who is, obvs, a very good guy) made me cringe. He was guilty of arrogant asshattishness rather than the kind of consent offences Jeanne discussed in her excellent post The Thin Line Between Alpha and Predatory, but still. Even if his BDE showboating was a persona rather than his true self, the patronizing way he interacted with the heroine was simply not okay. I had to give him a thorough makeover.

The thing I found curious is Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Should I Hurt the Dog?

Here’s Trouble! from mplsmutts.com

Ladies, I need your help. I’m at the end of my book. I have a big fight scene. My villain, Vlad the Assassin, has a tire iron, and he’s swinging it like a madman. He hits my hero with it, a blow that separates his shoulder and requires five stitches.

Then Vlad hits the dog, Trouble, breaking two of Trouble’s ribs. I need Trouble out of commission (that is, off the page), and I think the best way to do that is to have the villain hurt him, because then we’ll hate Vlad even more, right? If he hurts the dog, it’s abundantly clear that he’s No Good.

I did a little research on treatment for this kind of injury. Trouble’s lungs aren’t affected, so he doesn’t need surgery. He’ll recover much like a person would who cracked a couple of ribs. Trouble just has to take it easy, and in a few weeks he’ll be good to go again.

In the final chapter, my hero and heroine jet off for a few days to get married, leaving Trouble with his best friends, the neighbors, who will take excellent care of him and spoil him half to death. He’ll be fine. Better than fine.

But here’s my concern. I just recently read a blog somewhere where a commenter posted that she’d never read another book by a particular author because that writer had injured a dog in her pages. And then a bunch of other people chimed in and said the same.

Argh! Whatcha think? Would you read another book in the series if Trouble gets hurt, if the injury isn’t life-threatening, and if he makes a full recovery? Or is hurting a dog beyond the pale?

 

Jeanne: Deadlines and Schedules and Dates, Oh My!

Pocket WatchA couple of weeks ago, I was still happily piddling around with Girls’ Best Friend, the contemporary romance I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Then, one morning, I suddenly realized that if I want to release The Demon’s in the Details, Book 2 of my Touched by a Demon series, on October 1st, I was in trouble.

Let’s work backward through the schedule.

October 1: Make the book live on Amazon.

Last week of September: Load the book onto Amazon. Set up any ads I’d like to create to promote the book.

First three weeks of September: Have the book proofread and formatted.

August: Have the book copy-edited and work through the copy-editor’s recommended changes. (My first book had literally thousands of recommended changes, so I need a couple of weeks after I get the book back before I can pass it on to the proofreader.)

Are you feeling panicky yet? Well, I am.

Continue reading

Justine: The Necessity of Do-Overs

resertI’ve been having a particularly nasty time with a chapter in my book. It’s an early chapter, the first in my heroine’s POV, and I’ve spent way too many hours editing and tweaking it. I’m struggling to get all the info I need to in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story without it being 6,000 words long.

There’s a lot of stuff I have to pack into it. Much of it revolves around my heroine’s misbelief…both revealing what it is as well as starting to tear it apart. This involves backstory reveals and confrontations – both character confrontations, as well as emotional ones within my character. Basically, truth versus perception, which upsets my character’s misbelief. (For more on misbelief, check out this post.)

After much consternation and gnashing teeth, I decided it’s time for a do-over. No more tweaking. Time to just rewrite it. And it turns out there may be science to back up my decision. Continue reading

Justine: Writing in a Vacuum Sucks

59612318 - woman with vacuum cleaner isolated on whiteI’m very fortunate to have two fantastic critique partners, Jenn and Lisa, that I meet with once a week. Every Tuesday, we hit the Red Robin in Scottsdale, AZ for lunch (because it’s close to Lisa’s office) and we talk about writing, swap critiqued pages, discuss story problems, or vent about our husbands and kids.

Jenn, Lisa, and I have all have a somewhat similar writing background. We’ve done multiple Immersions with Margie Lawson, so we all look for the same sort of rhetorical devices in our writing based on the lessons we’ve learned from Margie. We’ve also all taken similar plotting classes and while we none of us write in the same genre, we know each other’s stories well and we have a pretty good understanding of our respective writing styles so as not to suggest fixes that change each other’s stories into our own.

As good as that all is – and it’s really good – I think every writer needs Continue reading