6/29/10

Decrapification Complete!

I made it through the first round of revisions to Mythos today, my son's fifteenth birthday. Happy Birthday, kiddo. I blogged about my revision process a few weeks back, and as many of you know by now, completing round number one means that my novel is officially:
Yes, that means it no longer smells like a dog park before the cleanup crew arrives. Let's check the scorecard.

Revision Round #1 - Decrap-ification
  1. Kill some recycled trees and print the first draft.
  2. Read it and take copious notes all over the page. Can't put the check here yet. I'm halfway done.
  3. Make all the changes from step #2.
As a result of these revisions, the word count has ballooned from nearly 71k to just north of 75k.In and of itself I'm cool with that. Out went passages that didn't advance plot or characterization. In went an epilogue to tie things up a bit and leave open the possibility of a sequel. This is a pretty good example of what happens in my second draft -- as I write my way toward the end of the novel, I discover more and more bits of back story, plot points, or characterizations I'll need upon revising. Hence, the initial increase in word count.

During the second round of revisions, I expect to remove more than add. Speaking of which, let's revisit what round #2 is all about.


Revision Round #2 - Incorporating feedback
  1. Gather all the critiques from the critique group (in this case, my YA writing pals on writing.com).
  2. For any editing/grammar nits, revise appropriately.
  3. For the "big issues", like characterization, plot, setting, voice, etc., decide if I agree with these points. 
  • If I agree, revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but several others do, consider that I may be wrong and revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but only one or two others do, the author wins. (Stephen King rule)
It's an exciting time. Being my own worst critic makes round #2 far more appealing and less painful to me. Plus, I promised my family they could read the second draft. Once Rona finishes Catching Fire (yes, I finally got her to read Hunger Games, so now she's hooked), she'll jump on Mythos.

I think I'll start round two tomorrow. I owe my YA writing buddies some reviews tonight.

6/24/10

6/21/10

Decrap-ification Defined

Recently, I talked about my revision process, in which I coined the term DECRAP-IFICATION. Some folks who didn't read that post have since asked me what I meant by this semi-vulgar term. It's quite simple, really. Your novel is like a lawn you spend all sorts of time cultivating, trying to make it a lush, green paradise.

As many of you know, I've got a little black pug who goes by the name Tinkerbell. Tink, our four-legged friend, does not use the toilet. Being a good little pooch, she uses the great outdoors to relieve herself. When we walk her around the park or down the street, we carry a baggie to dispose of her "doings" properly. (Darn, I love the use of "doings", almost as much as "leavings".) But at other times, her doopity-doops find their way onto our lawn. Guaranteed that if my son walks her, they will remain there until such time that I wander the yard, plastic bag and pooper scooper in hand.

As I make my way around our property, I am very clearly DECRAP-IFYING the lawn. Head down, eyes scanning a 180 degree area before me, I carefully step from one spot to the next, looking for that which sullies the lawn. In other words, I need to get the crap off the lawn before taking a carefree stroll about the yard, laying down weed killer, proper fertilizer and additional seed.

It's the same process with a novel. This may be crass, I realize, but my first drafts are littered with crap, and until I scoop that nasty stuff off the pages, there's not much sense working on the finer points. I'll just wind up stepping in a pile of my own "doings" and losing the attention to detail I need for the later revisions.

6/19/10

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Yes, I'm on a Harry Potter roll now. Here's the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Universal Studios in Orlando. Can't you just taste the butterbeer? I've got my trip set for August.

6/15/10

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Clip #1

Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait.

6/12/10

Mythos Revision Update

An update to the Mythos revision process. a new checkmark goes to step #2 of the Decrap-ification round. Tomorrow night, we move on to step #3.

Revision Round #1 - Decrap-ification (in progress)
  1. Kill some recycled trees and print the first draft.
  2. Read it and take copious notes all over the page.
  3. Make all the changes from step #2. 
I've taken loads of notes and have given myself a lot of work to do. This includes a small epilogue as well. I'm really excited about this, however, because I love revising. The hard part - giving birth to the story and characters - is done. Now I've got to groom the unruly little beast.

As a side note, I'm debating whether to combine step #3 of this revision round with Revision Round #2 - Incorporating feedback. That's where I take all the critiques I've received so far and make those changes as well. I've got mixed feelings. Combining will actually make round #2 easier, because the critiques are based on the first draft. The critiques won't always sync up with a revised draft. On the other hand, I need to give my own concerns priority over my critique partners.

Procrastination on this decision sounds like a good idea.

6/7/10

Library Activities plus Contests!

I'm still knee deep reading Mythos and scribbling various insulting comments to myself all along the margins, so I don't have much to say about writing process today. Well, except that a writer is his or her own worst critic. Until somebody else gets a chance to criticize.

On another note, I swung by the library with my daughter this evening to get her signed up for the summer reading club and to have her check out the requisite "massive" pile of books. This kid reads at a frightening pace.
She grabbed a mix of middle grade and YA books, like she does, including Matilda, by Roald Dahl, The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, and The Absolute true diary of a part-time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

The parking lot was over-full, and I wound up parking quite far away. It turned out there was a book signing and presentation this evening at the Rockaway Township library, for the book you see on the left, by the authors, Eleanor Mason and Patricia White. The line was out the door.
I've seen many books in this series cover our surrounding towns, and now our town finally has its own. Had I realized, I would have picked up a copy, but I think I'll grab one on my next trip to Borders.

On another note, here are some cool contests!

Literary Agent Natalie Fischer will judge a 5-round "Line-by-line" contest for Adventures in Children's Publishing starting Thursday 6/10. Polish up the first sentence of your YA or MG novel and be ready to enter at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday! They're taking the first 50 entries at 8:00 am ET and the first 50 entries at 12:00pm ET. Top prize? A 25-page critique by Natalie Fischer, and more prizes for top placers.

Over at Market My Words, there's an Agent Pitch Contest with Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management. 1st Prize is a full manuscript submission, 2nd prize is a partial, and 3rd prize is a query critique. Sounds good, no?

Good luck!

6/2/10

The Revision Process

Elana Johnson had not just one great post but a second great post on Getting to 100%. Her first blog entry was thoroughly rah-rah, sis-boom-bah about getting your novel and your query to 100% before even thinking about shipping them out. Her second post elaborated on the original premise by stating that getting to 100% was more about an emotional state -- are you confident enough to send your babies out into the publishing world?

This is a fascinating premise, because we writers are not always the most confident bunch. Cold rejection for our query and manuscript waits behind every rock in the big, scary world, ready to spring forth and say, "Boo." Actually, it's more likely to be a jack-in-the-box with copy paper stapled to its head, the word, "Boo" printed in Times New Roman. Naturally, we will try to interpret the meaning of "Boo" and make ourselves neurotic.

Since I'm in the first round of revisions of Mythos, I began to wonder at what point I might be confident enough to say that this urban fantasy of mine is 100%. So, let's see. What are my revision plans?

Revision Round #1 - Decrap-ification (in progress)
  1. Kill some recycled trees and print the first draft.
  2. Read it and take copious notes all over the page. Can't put the check here yet. I'm halfway done.
  3. Make all the changes from step #2.

Revision Round #2 - Incorporating feedback
  1. Gather all the critiques from the critique group (in this case, my YA writing pals on writing.com).
  2. For any editing/grammar nits, revise appropriately.
  3. For the "big issues", like characterization, plot, setting, voice, etc., decide if I agree with these points. 
  • If I agree, revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but several others do, consider that I may be wrong and revise appropriately. 
  • If I don't agree, but only one or two others do, the author wins. (Stephen King rule)
Revision Round #3 - Grammar and Dialog
  1. Judicious use of MS Word spell and grammar check. Correct as needed.
  2. Read the book out loud, or use tools like ReadPlease to read the book to me.
  3. Immediately fix the obvious grammatical issues.
  4. Immediately fix the horrendous dialog that the ear makes far more obvious than the eyeball.
Revision Round #4 - The automaton editor - bring on the pain
  1. This is where I take the book chapter by chapter through manuscript editing software. I've used AutoCrit and been quite happy with the results.
  2. This isn't so much about grammar or spelling, but more about finding repetition, clich├ęs, poor sentence pacing, readability, etc.
  3. This is tedious and painful. The Terminator is not kind.
  4. Revise appropriately.
 Revision Round #5 - One last look - one rule - no MAJOR changes allowed
  1. Gather any additional feedback and revise as needed (see round #2)
  2. One more MS Word spelling & grammar check.
  3. Final read through and tweaks.
I have that rule in round #5 to ensure I actually finish. I've heard of artists who keep going back to the same painting, and never finish. There's always something to fix, to touch up, or to re-do. Life just isn't long enough, and I have too many other ideas for me to allow that to happen. If I were to reach round #5, and the book still had major structural problems not fixed in an earlier round, shame on me, and I'd have to change my plans.

However, it's at the end of round #5 that I expect to cross that emotional hurdle, where I can say, "Yeah, this is good." I won't go back and read the manuscript again, except to help building the synopsis and query. *shudders* Okay, let me just get through the revisions before worrying about the query and synopsis.