Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Revising Is Like Onions

When I was planning this post, the scene from the movie Shrek came to mind where Shrek explains that ogres are like onions. It applies to revisions as well.

Yes, revising can stink (metaphorically).

Yes, revising can make you cry (literally).

More accurately, it has many layers.

When you finish the first draft of your manuscript, that’s only the beginning. It’s a huge and important beginning though. You should celebrate and prepare for more work. It doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser (a person who doesn’t plan the entire story out before writing it), that draft will need to be revised...many times.

It can take me about a month to write a first draft. That’s usually followed by at least three rounds of revisions before I give it to my critique partner(s). Using their feedback, I do another couple rounds of revisions. Then it may be ready for some beta readers. I believe the manuscript I’m currently querying took me about four months to revise. Then I decided to work with a freelance editor and it was another few months in revisions.

It’s impossible to make everything work if you only revise once or twice. There are so many aspects to focus on that you can’t hit every one without multiple passes. This is why it’s important to pick a couple things to look for during each pass. Some people do specific passes in their manuscripts to check dialogue, or an edit for each story line/sub-plot, or a read to focus on a specific character.

By the time you’re in the middle of the editing process there’s a good chance you hate your manuscript and are ready to burn it. I’ve hit that point several times over.

First, when you finish your initial draft, put it away. Don’t look at it for at least a week. A month or more is better. This allows you to distance yourself from your work.

When I go back to revise a first draft, I look at the overall story and scenes. This is especially important for me because I’m a pantser—though I prefer the term exploratory writer. I write all my scenes or major events on cue cards and lay them out in chronological order by day. I look for scenes and events that don’t work or can be melded together. I check the timing. If something was done on Monday in the story, how soon is it wrapped up? If I come up with a new scene, I write a new cue card and add it in. I shuffle events around until I’m happy with everything, then I put it in a blank calendar to keep me on track.

Once I’m happy with the chain of events, it’s time to make it happen. I set to work adding, deleting, or blending scenes. I make tons of notes using Word’s comment feature if smaller details comes to mind or I need to remind myself to fix a transition between scenes. I attempt to fix continuity and repercussions of events as I go but things get missed, so I worry about that on the next pass. It can take two or three passes to get everything smoothed out.

With a smoothed out manuscript as far as events go, I start focusing on adding more details to scenes and life to the world I’ve created. This pass fills out the story, adding in explanations, a little backstory, more emotion and body language, ensuring I’m showing more than telling. My first draft can fall short of my target word count because I’m focusing on getting the skeleton of the story laid out. At this step, it’s time to elaborate. This is the part where I edit a section on the computer, print it to edit it again, then, as I’m putting the paper edits into the computer, I edit again.

After this round, it’s usually ready for a critique partner to have a look and point out any lingering problems. I find my critique partners give me a totally different view on things. When I go through their suggestions, I’m able to flesh out sections that still aren’t where they need to be or change scenes.

Next, I send it to a few beta readers who can tell me what they like or don’t like, what they understand and what’s still missing. Their feedback leads to another round of revisions. I have a critique partner who will read the story again for any lingering issues that I missed.

One of the final passes I do is to check wording. Are verbs strong enough? Are there overused words? Clich├ęs? Weak sentences?

The last edit I do is for lingering spelling mistakes and grammar. Much of this is caught in the previous passes, but not all. I used a feature on my tablet that reads me the manuscript, which is very helpful. I also read the manuscript aloud. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it also helps you catch mistakes and ensures flow.

Basically when you start editing your manuscript, start with the big issues (story, plot, characters) and work your way down to the nitty-gritty (word choice, sentences). Revisions take time—a lot of time. Try to find others who are also going through the process so you have support and a shoulder to cry on.

Though I love the writing process, editing is just as important. Editing is where you
make the story shine.

Do you have an editing process or tips?

Monday, March 7, 2016

C is For Chimera Book Review

I was fortunate to receive an ARC (advance reader copy) of the anthology, C is for Chimera, edited by Rhonda Parrish. Though I was provided a copy of the book by the editor, please know that all opinions are my own.

C is for Chimera is twenty-six stories, each by a different author, ranging from fantasy, to steampunk, to sci-fi, to strange (in a good day). Some of the stories have the mythological creature, some use the concept of transformation, some use both.

With so many stories, I can't give a synopsis of each one, but what I can say is that I was amazed at the variety of the stories. There was such a wide selection that there is bound to be something in there for almost everyone. I found most of the stories darker in nature, which is my preference.

The blurb on the website hints at
some of the stories:
A shadow tells a tale of schoolyard bullies. A long-vanished monster returns from the cold dark. Make-up makes up a life. Alchemy, Atlantis, and apocalypse. These 26 tales bring both chaos and closure to dark and elusively fantastic geographies.

I enjoyed many of the stories, with their darker tones and twisted plot. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be U is for Uncoded by Samantha Kymmell-Harvey. It's a story set in the near future where genetics are used to cure a woman's cancer and it starts to change her. I don't want to give anything away.

Some of the stories weren't my speed, which is something you usually find with anthologies, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's all subjective. Stories I wasn't fond of, someone else may love.

I recommend picking up a copy C is for Chimera if you like strange and twisted stories, are a fan of fantasy or sci-fi, or are looking for something different.

To learn more about the anthology to be released April 12, 2016, visit the Poise and Pen website or Goodreads.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Writing Horror - Guest Post By Danielle DeVor

I'm happy to be part of the blog tour for Sorrow's Point by Danielle DeVor. As part of the tour, she has provided a guest post for my blog...

The biggest thing to remember when wanting to write a scary story is that you have to freak out your reader. That begs the question, “How on earth do I do that?” Well, in my opinion, the easiest thing is to pick something that actually scares you. Then, you already know how you feel when you encounter it. Now, some might laugh it off, like the grief folks get when they tell you that they are scared of butterflies. But, there will be some that will feel that shiver down their spine. Especially if you do it right.

For me, there is nothing scarier than being possessed by a demon. You are paralyzed in your own body while you watch something making you into a horrific puppet to make the lives of you and your family a living hell—literally. The demon makes you do things you would never do in normal company. It damages the host, sometimes starving it or mutilating it. So, taking that idea and combining it with the point of view of the exorcist, well, I had a good starting point.

But, keep in mind that you will likely always find someone who is scared of something. So, don’t be afraid to approach anything that you come up with. Even the butterfly people aren’t completely wacky. In Eastern Europe, Serbia to be exact, a butterfly can be the soul of a vampire. And, I’m not talking about sparkly ones either. These are the true undead, the creatures crawling right out of the grave to kill you and swallow your soul.

So don’t let the haters fool you, sometimes, their bravado is just that. They laugh to cover up their fear.


Jones crept around the side of the massive home. He looked this way and that like they taught him in the academy. This was the first time something serious had gone on in Sorrow’s Point. He set his jaw, bound and determined to do the best damn job he could.
The sheriff’s footprints pressed into the tall grass, making it easy for him to know where to look. They led him to the back of the house and stopped as soon as they reached the stone patio. Something smelled sour-sweet. Flies would be swarming along soon.  He walked up the steps and across to the door. The smell grew stronger, but he didn’t notice anything else out of the ordinary. Suddenly, his foot slid and he almost fell.  His eyes drifted to the patio. A pile of puke almost the same color as the stone coated the bottom of his shoe. “Great.”

Backing up a step, he wiped his shoe on the stone as best he could. Then, sidestepped the puddle and peered in the window. Black was there, sitting at a butcher block table, facing the window. His dark hair stood up from his head in all directions. Eyebrows arched like the Devil's own. The deep red blood covered him, almost from head to toe. He took another bite out of the small human leg he held in his large hands, grinding his teeth through the raw flesh.

“Oh shit.” Jones shook, unable to release his death grip on the windowsill. Then, the world shifted.

Jones peered down the smoking barrel of his gun, following the path through the broken window. He hadn’t meant for the gun to go off. He didn’t even remember reaching for his weapon. Black’s chin slumped against his chest, the back of his head gone. Bits of gray matter stuck to the wall behind him. Black’s fingers relaxed. The leg fell to the floor.

About the Author:

Named one of the Examiner's 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching "Salem's Lot" way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino. 

To learn more visit her her website or blog. You can also follow Danielle on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Twitter Writing Contests

Twitter is a great resource for writers. Not only is it the perfect place to meet other writers, and follow publishers and literary agents, but there's lots of fun including special days of the week to post lines from your writing, pitch parties, and contests.

I've entered a few of the writing contests on Twitter, the most recent being Pitch Madness, hosted by author Brenda Drake, and made possible by the generous donation of time by editors and other writers/authors.

The contests on Twitter vary. Some take your manuscript as is, while others have you work with a mentor to improve your manuscript before the agent round. There are contests for query letters, different genres, and manuscripts. All are run by committed volunteers who are eager to help writers.

So far I haven't had much luck with the contests. Urban fantasy is a hard sell right now, so when the volunteers are sorting through submissions, they are also considering what sells, not just what they like. One important thing to remember when entering these contests is, like querying agents, it is subjective. Everyone has their preferences and the volunteers weigh what they like along with what they think will be successful. Like querying, it can be frustrating.

One bonus with contests is that querying doesn't have, is that you often meet some great people. Entering Pitch 2 Publication last year, I met a wonderful editor (Kate Angelella) who really connected with my manuscript (though she didn't choose it for the contest), and I decided to work with her. The contests are also a perfect place to meet other writers who could turn out to be your next beta readers, critique partners, or even friends.

Another bonus of the contests is feedback. Sometimes you get some personalized feedback, but more often tips that are tweeted as reader go through submissions are helpful. There's always fear that they are tweeting specifically about your submission when they point out an error, but most often it's a trend they are seeing in the submissions.

It's not easy to be chosen for these contests because of the number of entries they receive. Early numbers suggest that over 800 people entered this year's Pitch Madness. Only 60 of those entries will be chosen to go to the agent round.

It's easy to get discouraged.

These contests are not the end all and be all though. They are fun and useful for networking. People do get signed by agents or publishers through these contests, but it's not the only way.

If you entry isn't chosen, that doesn't mean it wasn't good. Again, subjectivity of the readers. It also doesn't mean that you won't get an agent. It just means that you need to keep querying. Despite the popularity of these contests, most authors are still discovered in an agent's slush pile. I've seen many writers share that they didn't make it into any of these contests but ended up signing with an agent.

If you are interested in investigating some of these contests, there's a list here.

Whatever you do, just keep on writing.

Have you entered any Twitter writing contests? What were your experiences?