I’m over at Word Whores today, giving my secret (okay, not so secret) list of tics and errors I check for on my final manuscript polish.
She mainly came to Santa Fe to get out of the crushing Minneapolis winter. In fact, when she Tweeted that she didn’t know how she could make it through the endless snowstorms, I sent her a link showing how cheap plane tickets to Albuquerque were and reminded her that I have a guest room.
Ostensibly I was doing her a favor.
But then she did me one. First of all, having her visit brought several days of nonstop writer convo into my life. Carolyn is one of my favorite people (and RWA roomie!) and we had the best time rambling over numerous topics, gossip, business and ideas. We even came up with an amazing brainstorm for a Sekrit Joint Project. Best of all, Carolyn got along great with David and even had him bringing out his guns to show her the different kinds. You’ll all be pleased to know that her Associates will have a much more varied arsenal now. 🙂
At the same time, I got back my final set of line edits on an upcoming manuscript. For this third round of edits, my editor STILL wanted more on a particular scene I’d never wanted to put on the page in the first place. Her instincts are good on this kind of thing, but I felt so *done* at this point that I just couldn’t face taking another stab at it. But Carolyn – well, she cleaned my kitchen for me.
You all know what I mean, right? Or maybe this is mainly a female thing. I know a lot of guys cook and clean, too, but I’ve never heard them mention this. But my female friends and relatives sure have. And I know I’ve said it to them.
“Oh, let me finish the clean-up – it’s so much more fun to clean someone else’s kitchen!”
Because it just IS.
My own kitchen I’ve cleaned hundreds, if not thousands of times. I know every countertop stain, the persistent yellow crud in that hard-to-reach lip of the sink at the back, that one pan that never *quite* yields up that old burn on the bottom. Over time I give up on these things. I just don’t care enough and I’m resigned to these little, enduring failures to reach perfection.
In SOMEONE ELSE’S KITCHEN, however, I become a dynamo of shininess. I scrub those pans until they gleam. Those countertop stains cannot withstand my zeal to see them gone, gone, gone. My mother managed to get my glass-top stove cleaner than it was when we moved in – and was happy to do it.
So much more fun to clean someone else’s kitchen.
Likewise, Carolyn took up the torch of expanding that scene with excitement and enthusiasm. She wrote a page for me in no time at all – and had fun doing it. Once I had that from her, I was able to see past the old stains and revised it to blend with the story. What she gave me was brilliant. More, I don’t know that I had it in me to do myself. I might have just let that stain go, yet again.
A gift beyond price.
Best of all, she’s excited that I owe her. She’s got ideas for a scene or two she’ll ask me to riff on. And I’m excited to do it. I’d love to take her story and play with it. For the first time, really, I get what fan fiction is all about.
It’s all the fun of cleaning someone else’s kitchen – just once – without having to face it day after day.
I’m over at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog today with advice for post-NaNoWriMo! I’m talking about my final short list to polish a manuscript before I send it to my editor. And also revealing my secret writer shames.
I’m over at Word Whores today (because I swapped last Sunday), talking about why drafting is the holy work and revising sucks.
My folks came through this weekend, so we spent time doing fun things like going out for breakfast and visiting galleries. It’s important to make sure you match the tablecloth at fine-dining establishments.
My mom and Stepdad Dave are on their way to Denver for the summer and stayed two nights with us. Because this is their spring migration of the household, they have their cat, Sally, with them. Sally stays safe in the guest bedroom and bathroom, where our kitties won’t bother her. Sally is a rescue cat so she’s particularly shy and sensitive. She went on strike, not eating or drinking, which made my mom anxious to get her home.
This morning I’m feeling all discombobulated, which is what happens to me when I break from my routines. Not just the family visit, but we’ve been having some work done on the driveway and the influx of people coming and going has me all rattled. It doesn’t seem reasonable that just having worker people around the house would make that much difference. At the same time, I look at Sally and recognize that the animal in me reacts much the same way. It’s not a logical thing, but it is real.
I need a few days of quiet in my den to get myself settled again.
Maybe roll a rock over the door.
I’ve got 55 pages left on my developmental revision of Master of the Opera. This has just been one of those difficult books. It was hard to write and the revision has been carving out my gut, too. I’ve rewoven threads from beginning to end and now I just have to adjust this final episode. I’ve been procrastinating on it, even, which is just not like me.
Time to put my head down and get it done.
~rolls rock over den opening~
I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about that torturous decision: when to stop revising and commit to the book being done.
Now that the weather is turning cool, I’m getting more frequent cuddly desk companions again. I’m sure it’s me they love, not my warm lamp.
I used to have this writing teacher who did not believe in revising via word processor. Yes – she was old school. But she was firmly convinced that the advent of word-processing software had created lazy revisers, because writers could cut, paste, rearrange and massage the existing words. Before the software, revising meant retyping or rewriting by hand from beginning to end. She thought that recasting the story from the beginning led to greater insights and a more cohesive product. She exhorted us to resist the urge to revise the existing document and instead, type it again from the beginning, the old-fashioned way.
Of course, we all rolled our eyes at her and totally ignored this advice. I mean, who has the freaking time? When you have this great technology that lets you tweak an existing document, why on earth would anyone spend all that time and effort to type it all out again?? So none of us followed her advice.
More and more, though, I’m starting to think she’s right.
Not that I do it.
Those of you keeping track at home know that I’m deep into writing the sequel to Rogue’s Pawn, fondly known as RP2, because I haven’t decided what title I want to propose. I’m kind of waiting to see how the story turns out.
(I love to say things like that, just to imagine all the plotters clutching their heads with anxiety.)
A couple of days ago I realized I’d forgotten to weave in a thread that I needed and that a scene I’d cut from Rogue’s Pawn was exactly what should go there. For all of you readers who
bitched noticed that there were some questions left unanswered in the first book, this is part of why. There were chunks that had to be cut out, just to find some kind of reasonable conclusion. I always knew they’d work into the later stories somehow (or hoped), but I wasn’t sure where or how.
So, on Wednesday I pasted in this 5K chunk and yesterday I set to massaging it into place. A task I thought would go quickly.
In fact, having cut half of it and writing a whole bunch of new stuff, I’m still nowhere done with that section.
Worse, I’m starting to realize that if I’d just rewritten the scene, I’d likely be done already.
It’s difficult to explain why, but it’s somehow more challenging to wrestle old work into a new mold that to just write something fresh in the new vein. A lot has changed in the story. This is a scene between Rogue and Gwynn and their dynamic has come a long way. So the way they talk to each other, touch each other, where they’re at in their heads, their goals and desires – all of these things have changed. And that all requires subtle reworking of what they say, how they say it and when, the tone, pacing, word choice.
Yeah, I’m clutching my own head. I totally deserve that.
So, will I just rewrite the damn scene from the beginning? Probably not. It’s reworked now. I did end up just cutting the rest of the scene and I’ll write the second half of it fresh, because a lot of that part no longer applied.
I did a post about six months back on Letting the Babies Stay Dead. It elicited some lively debate on whether outtakes (those babies that need to be “killed” or cut out) should be kept or ditched entirely. In that I said I wondered if I should give all of mine a decent burial, instead of keeping them around in case I could reanimate them.
Clearly I didn’t do it and now I’m looking at the monster I brought back to life by patching new flesh onto old and I’m thinking that if I hadn’t saved that scene, I would have had to retype it from the beginning. Just like my teacher advised us to do.
One of these days I’ll learn my lesson.
One of the things I love about this blog is the conversations it starts. Jodie Griffin, one of my Carina Press stable-mates (whinnies) said she thought I should touch on not giving up on editing, too. I invited her to guest post and here she is!
Yesterday, Jeffe posted a great blog about over-editing a book. Today, I want to talk about the other side of that.
Don’t give up too easily.
Let me take this to a personal level. Forbidden Fantasies, my first Carina Press title and my first published story ever, was rejected by Spice Briefs. Form rejection, no suggestions as to why, nothing. I put it aside and worked on some other projects, but it was never far out of my mind.
I submitted two other stories to different Harlequin lines, both of which were rejected. At this point, I was seriously questioning my writing skills and wondering if the stress of raising a family, working a full-time job, and trying to get published was worth it. But Forbidden Fantasies wouldn’t let me go, and I started to fiddle with it again.
I deleted a lot. I added new stuff. And then I let it sit. I was considering some other publishers, but just wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to try again, and then Harlequin ran a Carina Press pitch contest. I submitted my two-paragraph blurb and was chosen as one of five to pitch my story to Angela James. I was crazy nervous, but Angela was wonderful. When I finished my pitch, she asked to see the full manuscript. I was elated and terrified at the same time. My fabulous critique partners helped me make sure it was as clean as could be, and I sent it in.
You’d think the story about not giving up would end here, since Forbidden Fantasies was published in March, but you’d be wrong. Because rather than a sale, I got a revise and resubmit request. In a way, a rejection, but the best possible kind of rejection. We like it, but it needs work. If you’re willing to try to fix it, we’re willing to look at it again.
I felt like I’d won the lottery. Deborah Nemeth, my editor, had incredible ideas on ways to strengthen and expand the story. I took my time, played around with it, got advice from my crit partners, and (holding the longest breath I’ve ever held) sent it back in again.
And this time, I got an offer. The editing and revising didn’t end there by any stretch, but now it was being guided by Deb, a wonderful editor who understood what I was trying to say and helped me make sure I was getting that across.
Forbidden Desires will be my second story with Carina Press, and it’s coming out in November. And guess what? It was also rejected by Spice Briefs, same as the first story. Form rejection, no explanation, nothing to tell me why. To submit it to Carina Press, I changed it from first person to third person, and used everything I’d learned from the editing process with Forbidden Fantasies to make it stronger. It sold without a revise and resubmit, but I would’ve been fine with that, too.
I loved Jeffe’s don’t over-edit advice, and I really agree with it. But there’s definitely a fine line between that and giving up. I’d hate to see someone give up after their first rejection. If you truly believe in your story, you owe it to yourself to try more than once. It’s a chance I’m glad I took.
About Jodie Griffin:
Jodie writes naughty tales about nice girls & the men who love them. She loves chocolate, happily-ever-afters, and alliterative titles, and could seriously use more hours in every day. You can find Jodie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and at www.jodiegriffin.com.
There have been some interesting conversations this week about continuing to revise books after they’re published. Now, knowing when a book is done is always a challenge for an author. You can literally work on the same book your entire life and never be “done” with it. At a certain point, you just have to let go and make the conscious decision that you’re not going to screw with it any longer.
And, with print publishing, it used to be that there was a definite end point to this process. Once the story hit paper, you simply *could not* revise any longer. Over and done with. Move on.
Well yesterday, Sunita who is a reader and reviewer at Dear Author, posted to her blog about a self-published author who is responding to reader reviews and revising her ebook accordingly. She makes an excellent case for why this is a problem for readers on a number of levels.
I think it’s also a problem for writers to consider.
I’m pretty sure I’ve told this story before, but I’m telling it again. Back when I was in a writer’s group, there were 12 of us and we met once a week. Each meeting we focused on one person’s work, which meant your turn came up once every three months. Sometimes faster because people would bail on their turns. But still, this was a fairly slow schedule for feedback, especially to the cycle I have now. This one gal brought her essay to the group easily five times. So, for more than a year, we read and critiqued various versions of this one 5,000 word piece. Finally, another member became exasperated and told the author that she would never get this feedback she wanted that the essay was PERFECT. There would always be something to pick at. She needed to decide to be done with it.
The writer became very offended.
And the rest of us took to using the title of the essay as a shortcut reference to over polishing and obsessing without finishing.
It also puts me in mind of another author I know, whose book was published several years ago. It met with modest success. Not raving responses, but I don’t think anyone hated it either. Not an unusual story. The thing is, she’s still pimping that same book. She must have gotten her rights back, because she had it republished with a book-packager – essentially self-publishing, but of the very expensive paper variety.
So, now, several years after the original publication, she’s investing huge amounts of time and money into pushing this same book.
How many new books could she have written in the interim with this kind of effort? Instead she seems to be stuck on that one story. That one book.
I wonder if this isn’t true, also, of the gal who’s revising her ebook according to reader comments. She’s wanting it to be perfect. Totally understandable – we all have this fantasy that *everyone* will love our book, and us, and we’ll be universally celebrated – but there’s a serious problem with wanting that.
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.
Perfection does not exist. Universal acclaim never occurs. Someone will always find something to pick at. I’ve heard that quilters and knitters deliberately insert a flaw in their works. The rationale is supposedly that only god is perfect, but I wonder if it’s not just kind of restful to have something you know isn’t perfect and to be okay with that.
Being okay with moving on is crucial. Write the book. Revise and polish. Decide you’re done. Publish it and move on.
There are always new stories to be written.
That’s the magic.
I might have posted this pic before, but I recently put my screensaver on slide show and I saw this one from a couple of years ago go by. Kind of fun to see your own photograph and think it’s cool. It’s appropriate, too, because we had a rainy weekend. Very unusual for us, especially given the severe drought in the desert Southwest, but we’ve been socked in since Friday, with rain coming and going. The woman at the gym (not the Crazy Gym Lady – she is thankfully long gone) said it’s to be sunny tomorrow and how she’s looking forward to it. About three people jumped on her saying “We need the rain!”
Like we don’t have an average of 325 days of sunshine a year. She can’t give up a few to have some much-needed rain?
~Deep Cleansing Breaths~
I might have been a little sulky this weekend, because I received my developmental edits for Platinum. I know – that was fast! And they really aren’t bad at all, except Editor Deb asked me to write two scenes that I “dodged.”
She did this to me on Rogue’s Pawn, too – pushing me to write this one scene I just SO didn’t want to write. She said
On Platinum, though, I really thought I’d made a considered decision not to write those scenes. I’d kind of had them in my head all along, but when I got to that point in the story, they just didn’t seem to FIT. I mentioned this to her in an email and she replied:
Any time you try to dodge writing something, you should ask yourself why, and try to push through it and make yourself write it anyway. Writing through tougher scenes may often reveal something about your characters, helping you dig further to uncover some truth about them or the story. Whereas avoiding them will often leave readers feeling a bit cheated. They might not be able to put their finger on exactly why or what, but they may sense that a good story could have been great.
I know this. Right?
And this is part of why I really value having an editor like her, because she does push me to write a great book. Left to my own devices, I’d likely allow myself the dodge.
Because it didn’t feel like dodging at the time. I suspect all avoidance techniques are like this. We kid ourselves that we’re not really procrastinating, we’re Doing Research! Oh, I’m not being lazy about getting my wordcount in today, I’m giving myself a break! I’m not avoiding that friend who was a cow to me, I’m just really busy.
It takes a good, hard look in the mirror to parse some of these out. With emotional stuff, that’s why it’s often good to see a counselor, an objective third party who can point out your behavioral dodges. Sometimes your friends can do it, like your critique partners can. But often it takes a professional to hold your hand to the flame and tell you to do better.
Whether it’s easy or not.