What to Do When You Finish a Draft

I finished draft two of my romance novel this past weekend. Woot woot! It still needs work so there was no dancing in the streets or swinging from chandeliers. Just a quiet sigh of pleasure.  And there’s always a bit of confusion as I ponder, what do I do next? So I figured a blog post about just that topic was in order.

Let it rest.  Simmer, marinate, compost, whatever you want to call it, your brain needs time to do it.  You’ve been close to this baby–so close–for months or even longer now. You’ve got to get away and get some distance from it.  Give yourself a few days, preferably at least a week. Go off and don’t think about it.  Let your subconscious do that while you’re busy playing golf or making soap or doing something, anything but working on your novel.

Decide what happens next.  (You can do this while it is composting.)  Was this your first time through, also known as the discovery draft, the rough draft,  or Shitty First Draft?  If so you likely have at least one more draft that you’re going to need to write.  But if it is your third or fourth draft, you may be pondering getting it out in the world. So, at his po9int you have a choice to either:

Write another draft or carry on.  Let’s discuss writing another draft first.  

First, of course, you’re going to re-read it. Duh. As you read, make notes. I use the post-it note method for flexibility. You can read about that and my entire theory of rewriting here.  I like to keep notes of things that I’ll need to put in next time through, ideas that will make the plot stronger, additions to character arcs.  Go through these and see what you’ve got.

Sometimes, this is a matter of going through and dropping things in. For instance, you may have decided on a physical object that is of importance to your protagonist, but you only figure this out fifteen chapters in. So now you need to go back and salt it in a couple times earlier.  These are fairly easily accomplished (once you figure out where they go.)

Do these easy run-throughs first and then see where you are. If you are several drafts in, or an excellent first-drafter, you may well feel very pleased with your work, and ready to take the next step.  And so, ta-da, it is time to get some fresh eyes on it.  You may have a trusted family member who reads all your work, or an agent or editor you work with.  Or perhaps you need to find you some:

Beta Readers.  These are the most wonderful of creatures, those lovelies who will read your book in its current form and give you feedback on it.  You can find them among friends and family (as long as they promise to be honest), amid your writer friends, or on social media.  Some of you may already have a trusted group who read your every release.  Take their ideas and incorporate them or not as you see fit and get ready to carry on. Woo-hoo! Almost there!

Here you have another choice point.  (You probably already know the answer to this.) Are you looking for a traditional publisher or will you publish yourself?

If you are going to self-publish, you will need to find an editor, formatter (or learn to do it yourself), and cover designer.  Don’t skimp on any of these, because they can make or break a book’s release.  You want your book to stand out from the crowd and actually get purchased, and going the cheap route is not going to do you any favors. Trust me.

And, if you are going to seek traditional publication, you will need to search for an agent. Fun times.  It is a process that basically involves writing a query letter, researching agents, and then submitting to them. And a whole lot more. All of which I am going to cover in my upcoming How to Get an Agent class.  Which you can read more about here.  Summer writing conferences are coming up, with opportunities to pitch, so why not learn all you can about the process and present your work in its best light?

Good luck with whatever stage you are in! And please leave a comment and let me know what draft you’re on and how you’re feeling about it.

On Discovery Drafts and Writing Fast

In case you hadn’t noticed, writing fast has become quite the thing lately.  This is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, if you want to indie publish, your fans expect you to pump books out one after another.  And you can’t maintain that pace if you write slowly.

Writing Fast

But I think it is also because writing fast works.  Again for a variety of reasons:

–When you write fast, you access the subconscious mind, bypassing the conscious mind which tends to be, um, critical.

–When you write fast, you get something, anything, down on paper. And once you have something down on paper, then you have something to work with.

–When you write fast, you bypass perfectionism.  And let me tell you, perfectionism breeds procrastination big time. Because if you’re putting yourself under pressure to be perfect, you’ll think of 5,000 other things you’d rather be doing.

–And besides, writing fast is fun!

It’s when you get to revision that the hard work begins.  Which I am learning as I take the first draft of my novel, which I wrote really fast, just working to get the story on paper.  Which leads us to…

The Discovery Draft

You’ll often hear the first draft of a novel (or a story, or a memoir, or anything) called different things. Like a rough draft, or a discovery draft. I’m guilty of most often calling it a rough draft, though I think the term discovery draft does it more justice. Because the most important thing to remember is that you are discovering the story.

You are not:

–Worrying about every comma and period.

–Fussing over not knowing everything.  Instead, when you get to a place you don’t know something, you insert a TK and keep going. (Using TK allows you to do an easy search at the end.)

–Stopping writing for a month when you don’t know what happens next. Instead you start writing where you do know what happens.

–Reading back over your work and editing as you go. Forward motion is the name of the game.

In other words, you are writing fast, getting the story down.  The discovery draft is for you to discover the story. Subsequent drafts are for you to figure out how best to present the story.

I am currently rewriting a discovery draft of a romance novel I finished in February, though in this case, the word rough really does apply.  There are vast stretches where I’m not exactly sure how it all goes together, and these pages are full of TKs and all caps notes to myself.  There’s lots of cursing and name-calling in those all cap sentences.  Not that it does much good to call myself names and tell myself what a terrible writer I am. But it does the trick to get those thoughts out of my head so I can keep going.

What I’m finding, though, is that the bones of the story are strong. I’m rearranging like crazy, dramatizing long stretches of narrative that were flat on the page, and making the characters more complex.  But my discovery draft, written fast, captured the story I wanted to tell.

So the moral of the story is: don’t agonize over every word.  Produce those pages and get to the end of your discovery draft. You’ll be happy you did!

Should you need help with your discovery drafts, learning how to write fast, or any aspect of your writing, I’ve got a couple of spots open in my coaching.  Pop me an email and we’ll set up a time to talk!

Photo by hisks.

My Most Annoying Writing Tics (Any of These Yours?)

I spent last weekend going through my novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery. My agent is about to submit it to some editors again and she suggested I might want to read through it.  I hadn’t looked at it since last August, when I rewrote it.  So I said, yeah, I’d take a glance.

Geezus.

I’m really happy with the overall state of the book. The rewrite I did last summer is the best yet, reversing some of the horror of the previous revision and adding in new dimensions to the characters and story.  But I could not believe some of the terrible mistakes I repeatedly made. I offer them to you as cautionary examples. Such as:

–My main character, Madeleine, waffles. She says things like, I was fairly certain, when she could just use the word certain. Or, it seemed a bit like. C’mon, Mad, be direct!  All her statements are modified, pacified, dumbed down, softened.  (Have to admit, I was on the lookout for this because I’d read in The Bestseller Code that characters in bestselling novels were strong, direct, not afraid to have opinions or take action. Once I started looking for how Mad acted, I cringed over and over again at how she weakened herself.)

–I over explain. Instead of trusting the reader to get it, already, I hit them over the head with what I’m telling them. Over and over again.

–I write one sentence too many. (Similar to above.) I’ve written what I need to write, and then I write more. Sigh. JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN’T GET IT.

–I tell, then show.

My clients are laughing as they read this, because I would never let them get away with doing any of these things!  I was never able to see them before because I was too close to it. Oh, and let us not forget the Wordstrumpet Hall of Fame for words that are used so many times they need a new warranty:

At this moment

And (swear to God, I start every other sentence with it)

And so

In order to

Actually

So

Of course

One of the things I found helpful was paying attention to the Word grammar suggestions. Sometimes they are laughable off the mark, but they also showed me how often I used “in order to” when “to” would do just fine.  And there may have been a few unforunate instances of using not one, but two adverbs together in a sentence. Such as really miserably. Oh God, I’m hiding under my desk at the thought!

The moral of the story is twofold: letting your work sit for a while is a good thing, and yes, those people at Microsoft know at least a few things. Or, use whatever tools you got!

What’s your worst writing habit? Leave a comment so we can revel in it together.

And please don’t forget connection calls! I’m loving connecting with you guys. You can go here and book an appointment directly.

Photo by clix.

Now That You’ve Finished Nanowrimo: A 10-Step Plan for Rewriting

post-itsSo, you did it. You finished Nanowrimo. Huge congratulations! It is quite a journey, isn’t it? But now what, you might be thinking. And rightfully so.  You’ve just put forth a ton of creative energy over the last month.  Here is my 10-step plan for what to do next.

1.Decide if you’re at the end, really, or have farther to go. This depends on if you set out to complete a novel in 50K words or knew you’d be 50K in but not finished.  I fall into the latter camp. I completed Nanowrimo but figure I have about 15K words to go to finish my draft.  If this is the case with you, also, then finish up before proceeding to step #2.

2. Take a break.  It will do your creative spirit good to step away from your WIP for a bit.  When you do come back to it, you’ll have fresh eyes and new energy to bring to it. So go stare out the window. Take a bath. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk. Knit a pair of mittens for someone you love for Christmas. Go forth and put your novel out of your mind.

3. Resist the urge to consider it done and begin your agent search.  Please, please, please remember that what you’ve written is a draft. It will need to go through at least one and possibly several rewrites before it is ready to go out in the world.  Agents dread December 1st because their inboxes fill up with manuscripts completed during Nanowrimo, though only the authors of said manuscripts would consider them finished.

4. Reread and make notes.  This is the heart of my rewriting method. Which, by the way, I stole learned from Rachael Herron and have adapted for my own purposes. (Shout out to Rachael, who besides being one of my favorite novelists does lots of incredible things for writers, including a podcast of author interviews and essays on the creative process you can access through Patreon.) Anyway. This step has two parts to it, that you will do concurrently as you read:

A. Make an outline of the story.  Rachael says to do a sentence outline of each scene, but if that’s too much for you, figure out a way to do it that will help you to keep track of the story. Because the point here is not only to get the story back into your head, but also to give you a reference point later on.

B. Put any thoughts and ideas on post-it notes.  One idea to a post-it. This is the freaking brilliant heart of the method.  You don’t have to organize them or think deeper thoughts about these ideas, just scrawl on a post-it note and slap that note on a piece of paper. In no particular order. That will come later.

5. Review any rewrite notes you kept during the writing process.  Add these notes to your post-it pages.

6.  Create a page per chapter. Just a blank page with the number of the chapter at the top. I like to put them in a three-ring binder.

7.  Go through post-its and order them. Take your little post-its, put all the ones that go in chapter one on that page, all those that belong to chapter two on the #2 page, and so on. You can refer to your sentence outline to help you remember what happens when.

8.  Review and ponder.  Do your characters need deepening? Does your setting need clarifying? Does your structure need shoring up? Do the necessary work here and add to your post-it note outline.

9.  Celebrate.  A glass of red wine is called for. Because look how far you’ve come!

10.  Have at it! Carry on!  Get this baby rewritten so you can get it out in the world.

That’s all there is to it, friends!

Okay, so if you have any questions, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com.  And if you need more help, let me know. You might be a great candidate for my coaching. (Which, I just so happen to be having a sale on until midnight Friday, December 3.)

Cutting the Fat

So, my novel manuscript, the one I’m almost done rewriting, originally came in at over 107,000 words.

I know.      spaghetti_fusilli_pasta_242129_l

Waaaaaay too long.

“But part of it is recipes,” I told myself.

Right. Like maybe 500 words.

Under orders from my agent, I’m in the process of cutting it to under 100K. (I’m currently at 99,378, with about 100 pages yet to comb through, so not bad.) I’ve realized as I do this, a couple of things: 1. that trimming the fat is making it a much better book, and 2. that this is a very inexact process.

All that being said, here are some ideas about how to approach cutting your precious words back:

Keep the noodles on the stove.  My characters love to noodle. To ponder. To think deep thoughts about life. And I, in my efforts to make sure the reader gets it, often have them noodle about the same issue. Over and over and over again. Noodling is one of the easiest things to cut. (A brief aside. I was cooking Mac and Cheese for my three-year-old granddaughter the other day and mentioned that the noodles were on the stove.  “What’s a noodle, Nonni?” she asked. Because only people of a certain age call it anything but pasta. Duh.)

Cut entire scenes or chapters.  This is far and away the most painful thing to do. And the most effective–in my case, I ditched several thousand words in one quick swoop.  It was a chapter I’d added in to supposedly give the reader more insight into a particular character, but much of it was fluff. So I held my breath and slashed it. (Though nothing is ever deleted forever. See my procedural notes below.)

Ditch telling and then showing.  I see this often in my client’s manuscripts.  First they tell us something, then show it.  I thought I was good at not doing this. But hahaha, turns out that’s not only the case. Since my characters love to noodle, they often sometimes think about doing something, then say it in dialogue, and then…gasp…they actually do it.  Thus I am repeating the same thing three times. A good rule of thumb in such situations: dialogue or action is always stronger than thoughts.

Edit out sentences that say the same thing in different ways.  Similar to the above, in my efforts to hit my reader over the head with my brilliance, I say it on way. And then another. And then…oh wait, just in case, let’s try yet another way! Away with all of these repetitious bits.

Keep the momentum moving forward.  It’s easy to unintentionally stall the action.  Here’s an example. My main character, Madeleine, is at a party.  She goes outside to deal with one of the party-goers and then thinks, “Suddenly the prospect of returning to the party wasn’t so appealing.” But I’ve still got a bunch of things that have to happen at the party. Yet she’s letting all the air out by saying that. This also happens when writers build up to a scene, say an argument between husband and wife, and then don’t end the scene without writing the argument.

If something is niggling at you, pay attention to it.  Sometimes it happens that a little thought comes into your head along the lines of you should go back to chapter 14 and look at what Richard says. But you ignore it. Because, you’re way beyond chapter 14 and who wants go go back? But that thought keeps niggling at you. Pay attention. This happened to me earlier today and after I dragged my metaphorical feet long and hard, I finally went back–and rewrote a chunk of the chapter. It’s much stronger now.

That’s it for the actual wordsmithing.  But below find a couple of procedural tips:

Keep a hold file.  This is an extra file in which I copy and paste the gems I’m cutting.  I’ve done this for years, so that I’m certain to hang onto my brilliance. However, I learned a better way to make sure I don’t panic when I highlight vast swaths of copy and hit delete. And that is:

Save a new file every day.  I do this by date: BCRewriteFour8.25.16. And so on, through all the days I’m working on it.  Then you know you can always go back to what you wrote the day before and your brain won’t tell you that you can’t delete those delicately beautiful words because the world will suffer if you do. (I learned this tip from Rachael Herron.)

What are you working on? Doing any rewriting? Got any tips to share? Please do!

(Photo by brokenarts.)

Dog Days of Summer and Rewriting

wasp_macro_wasp_243277_lI’m back. It didn’t seem like much of a hiatus, at least from this end. And I’m still not finished with the rewrite. But I’m making excellent progress and feel very good about it.  (And, so you don’t think I’m all fakey optimistic, let me just remind you that I sat out most of July working on it because I didn’t know how to approach it.)

I have a couple of brilliant thoughts on rewriting to share, but first, let me tell you a few fun things that happened while I was gone:

  • I got a bee sting while valiantly defending my three-year-old granddaughter from said bee. Her mother is allergic, and we’re not yet sure if Liv is. She’s been stung once, but often the allergic reaction doesn’t occur until the second or third sting. I sure didn’t want to be responsible for anything happening, so I was glad the bee stung me. But it turns out I’m having a fairly intense localized reaction, with my arm red and swollen to about the size of an elephant’s leg. And it itches like a mo-fo.
  • I have a dying root in a tooth. If you’ve never experienced this, it is hard to explain the agony.  And I thought being pummeled by my massage therapist was bad. Also, a helpful note: do not get a toothache in August because every dentist in town is on vacation.  I’m in between dentists because I needed to find a holistic one, aka, one who will not fill my mouth full of mercury. I already have plenty, thank  you very much, and I just went on a nasty three-month cleanse to get rid of it.  Anyway, I have an appointment two weeks hence. Meanwhile, I’m swishing with coconut oil and Listerine and salt water, and using clove oil and Orajel. Also taking lots of ibuprofen, which I know is terrible for me but c’mon, this pain is intense.

Aren’t I a fun date?

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that over with, on to the gems of wisdom about rewriting. Here goes:

  • Every book is its own beast.  You have to honor the shape of what you have, you really do, and listen to how the book responds as you work. Some planned changes just may not work when you actually get to it. For instance, I figured out this elaborate backstory for one of the characters that was just perfect. I planned to fit it in in dribs and drabs. But when I actually got to places it might go, it didn’t fit.  So I had to let it go.
  • Rewriting happens in macro swaths, such as rethinking a character, but the meat of it is in the micro. How a character reacts to the character you’ve rethought, for instance, which you show in dialogue or action.  I’m struck this time through what makers of magic we are–erase one observation from a character’s head and you’ve changed the whole scene. Amazing. Which reminds me of something that used to happen all the time when I was in a writer’s group. I’d bring in a rewrite and people would wax poetic about how much better it was–when really all I’d done was change one or two tiny little things. But that’s the power we wield.
  • It really helps to have someone you can hash out ideas with. I was truthfully sort of scared of my agent at first, but this time through we’ve talked a couple times and emailed about what I’m doing. Also, when Debbie and I went on our writing retreat, we discussed our stories on breaks and at night. It really helps.  Find someone with whom you can brainstorm–or just moan and whine to.

Okay, that’s it, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m going to go take some more Ibuprofen and ice my elephant’s leg arm. But, I’ve missed you. So please tell me what you’ve been doing this summer and how the writing is going.

Photo by hberends.

Dire Straits: No Internet for a Week

Yes, you read that headline correctly. I was without internet for a week. One whole freaking week. Of course, as luck would have it, I was out of town for part of that time, but still. Come on.

It started when a car ran into a pole a few blocks away. Sheared the damn thing off, so that the top part of it was dangling from the electrical wire.  Power went out to our entire neighborhood early Friday morning.  Let me tell you, it was downright creepy to awaken before dawn that day and realize there was no fan running, no clock, no glowing lights from the power strip. And most of all–no sound from outside. Nothing. You don’t realize how much noise all our things make until they all go away. I had the oddest feeling that the electrical grid of the whole country had been taken out. But luckily, it was just my zip code. And the power came back on within a couple of hours.

All except the internet.

I can live without the TV, and the landline (which is disconnected anyway). But internet? No way.

Okay, okay, okay.  So I do have a smart phone.  It’s not as if I was totally disconnected from the world. But I am old of a certain age and it turns out I’m lousy at managing my life and my clients and my business from my phone. Really lousy.  Careful as I am to scroll through all my emails, I still miss some. And there’s no way to send attachments from the phone.

I know. Whine, whine, whine.

Anyway, I called Comcast (sorry, I just can’t get used to calling them Xfinity) and scheduled an appointment for the next Wednesday, when I would be back home. So much for all those TV ads I saw while watching The Voice. You know, the ones about how Comcast now schedules evening appointments, when it is convenient for their customers. Ha! Nope, they couldn’t come when hub was home in the evenings. The earliest appointment that I would be home for was quite a few days hence.

I went to the beach for a few days and my husband came home early. Bless his heart, because he was able to download messages (hello, data usage), he thought the internet was back up and so I canceled the appointment.  But, no.  The internet was not back up. It didn’t work at all. Another call to Comcast, and another appointment a few days out.

But! There was hope! Turns out we had an “end-of-life” modem (I swear to you it was only two years old) that had refused to come back on with the rest of its brothers and sisters.  And all we had to do was dash up to the Comcast service center, four minutes away, and get a new one.  At said service center we were assured that all we had to do was plug it in and everything would work again. (Oh, and routers are no longer needed–cool!)

But…you guessed. We plugged it in and everything worked except the internet. Sigh. So I waited until yesterday when the nice cable guy, Ben, came over and hung out and fixed all my things. He even moved my new, improved start-of-life modem/router away from the bedroom where I’m sure it was emitting all kinds of foul vibes while we slept.

So now I have the interwebs again.

Yes, I know this should have been a lovely amount of extra time to work on my rewrite. And it was. Except I still had clients who were expecting responses from me. And emails to answer. And blog posts to write. And dealing with a tech fail takes time, people! But really, I’m whining on the yacht, because: smart phone.

But I thought you might want to know why I’ve not been blogging.  And….I would also like to let you know that after this tale of woe I’m going to need to take to my couch and read for awhile. No, actually, I’ve got to hunker down and get the rewrite finished.

And so I’m taking a brief blogging hiatus.  I’ll be back the week of the 15th.  However, I do send out a newsletter every other week, so if you’re not on my list, sign up over there on the right so you can get it.  I used to do a whole formal ezine thing but lately I’ve just been writing what I call love letters on various writerly topics.  I don’t post them on the blog, so the content is completely different. It comes out Sunday (next one will be August 14th).

Okay? Okay.

Oh, by the way, the France retreat is now full. Woot woot! But we’ll be going again next year, so if you’re interested, do let me know.  Debbie and I are working on a new website for Let’s Go Write and once that is done we’re going to get very official about a mailing list and actually send information out on it, too!

So now I’m going to go work on my rewrite. Actually, I’m going to go have a glass of wine and sit outside and talk to my husband.  Yes, I’m still speaking to him, even though he told me to cancel the first Comcast appointment. I’m not bitter. No, not me.

See you on the 15th.

Five on Friday: Done!

There’s a lot going on, so let’s get right to it.

yarn_handicraft_crocheting_262893_lWhat I’m Happy About: I finished the rewrite! Woot! I submitted it to my agent and she will soon submit it to an editor who is interested. Think good thoughts for me, please.

What I’m Reading: A little of this, a little of that. I read about one-third of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan.  I’m fascinated with the surfing life, but a little of this one went a long ways.  Finnegan has a lyrical bent to him, and he can write about waves and the ocean in a gazillion different styles. But I couldn’t get over the sense that the story wasn’t going anywhere so I gave up.  I read All The Things We Never Knew, by Sheila Hamilton, about the mental illness and eventual suicide of her first husband.  I listen to her on the radio, and knew her slightly many years ago, so it was great to read her book, which I found quite riveting.

And finally, my bathroom and kitchen books (you know, those tomes you pick up when you have a spare moment) are The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes, and Knitting Pearls: Writers Writing About Knitting, by Ann Hood. Both are essay-type books so they are easy to pick up and put down. Sort of like knitting.

What I’m Watching: My daughter has introduced me to the wonders of Fixer Upper.  Chip and Joanna Gaines–too much fun.

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Teaching the Ins and Outs of Publishing at Another Read Through. Its 9 to 5 tomorrow and we’ve got room for a couple more if you happen to be in PDX and want an overview of publishing, from the legacies to the indies.

What My New Guilty Pleasure is: The smoked butterscotch latte from Starbucks. Don’t puncture my happy balloon by pointing out how bad it is for me.

Photo by ukapala.

It’s About Damn Time She Wrote a Post

Hi. Bear_waving_bear_252005_l

Here I am again.  

I've been pretty much missing in action, with the exception of a prompt round-up post or two, and one measly blog post, for the last couple of weeks. (And, now that I'm here, I've just had an idea for another post–which proves my oft-repeated point that writing breeds more writing. Alas, I don't have time to complete it at the moment.  But it shall appear soon.)

But I'm nearing completion of my rewrite of the Bonne Chance Bakery, my next novel, so I thought I'd pop in.  I'm learning all kinds of things as I rewrite this novel.  And that is why I love writing so much, because there is always something new to learn.  

Have I ever told you my favorite story about this?  Well, if so, sorry, but you're going to hear it again.  

I was at dinner with the parents of a friend of my daughter.  They were lovely people, and both had retired from high-powered corporate jobs.  Fly all over the world, big responsibility type jobs.  The mom asked me what I did and at that time I was in the middle of earning my MFA, so I explained. And then this happened:

"And how long is the MFA program?" she asked.

"Two years."

"Oh." Startled look.  "I would have thought you could learn everything about writing in six months."

Yes, she really said that, people.  And for once in my life I had the perfect retort, which still pleases me to this day:

"Some people think it takes a lifetime to master the craft of writing."

Boo-yah!

So, anyway, I'm learning lots.  Which is a wonderful thing that I'm sure I'll write blog posts about. But not yet.  In the meantime, however, a few things I need to give you a heads up about:

I have another free book on Noise Trade!  It's called, Set The Words Free, and it is all about smashing writer's block.  It's available in all the usual formats, but since it is a workbook, I think downloading it in a PDF is the best, because then you can print it out.  You can download it here.

Next week, my publisher is participating in the 4th Anniversary party of the Romance Reviews website, and on March 20, you can enter to win a copy of Emma Jean!  I will remind you next week, as I should be back in action by then, since my rewrite deadline is this Friday, March 13. Urp.  I better get back to it.

But before I do, one more thing to put on your calendar.

MacaronsNEXT FRIDAY, MARCH 20, IS MACARON DAY!! (The subject of the Bonne Chance Bakery is macarons, or more to the point, a woman who bakes them.) In Paris, New York, Portland, and many other cities, you can go to participating bakeries, donate money to a charity (here it is the Meals on Wheels), and get free macarons!

That's all for now.  What's going on with you?  How is your writing?

Bear photo by omster-com.

Macaron photo by Oregon Live.

A Compendium of Writing Tips and Tricks

Note_creative_author_260972_lAs I've announced at least fifty million times in every place I could possibly think of, I'm busy rewriting my novel for my new agent, Erin Niumata, which is why things have been quiet around here.

But as I've been concentrating fiercely on my rewrite the last couple of weeks, I've realized some things that are working well for me–and things that I'm learning.   I'm hopeful these miscellaneous tips will be of value to you, too, so here they are.

1.  Getting up every 30 minutes (or so) makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE.  I've been at my desk a lot lately, for longer stretches than usual, and I've been consciously getting up regularly and walking around and stretching.  One day last week I didn't do this–and I felt completely difference at the end of the day. The romantic image we have of writers requires us to be so wrapped up in our work that we sit for hours.  But actually you will feel better and do better work if you get your butt up off the chair.

2.  Your main character needs an origin story.  Just as superheroes have stories about how they got their superpowers, your protagonist (and probably others in the story, too) needs an origin story.  How did she get her obsession for fashion?  Why did he become a detective?  Did he watch his best friend get killed and vow to avenge him?  Figure this out and you've unlocked your character. This deserves a whole post and will get one when I'm done with my rewrite.

3.  Use more description than you think you need.  I mentioned about how I've been learning this as I rewrite to my agent's notes.  And I am finding that more description makes for a fuller, richer read. (Bear in mind that I'm writing women's fiction, and lush description is a huge part of it.  In another genre, this might not be so.)  Also, as my buddy J.D. Frost brilliantly pointed out to me in an email, you can use description to pace your plot.  A lot of it signals a restful spot.  A lack of it shows action.  

4.  Having long stretches of time to write is a wonderful thing.  I'm the original proponent of using little bits of time here and there to write when you can, but for this rewrite, I've gotten in the habit of clearing away whole days to work.  (See #5.)  Let me tell you, it is fantastic, especially when you are working on a rewrite and need to hold the whole book in your head.  Having more than one or two hours at a time to devote to the book gives me the mental space to dig deep into character arcs and figure out a more cohesive plot.

5.  You have more time to write than you think.  I have a lot of clients at the moment.  They are all wonderful and diligent and doing good work, and I adore every single one.  (I really, truly do–I am constantly amazed and honored to be chosen to shepherd a writer's creation.) And, they all need my care and tending: reading their work and then time on the phone to discuss.  I'm also planning three in-person workshops (France here, Nashville here, Portland is already full).  And I have a clamoring family that I love to let distract me.  Yet I've carved out four full days to devote to my rewrite in the last week.  I never would have thought I could do that I've you'd told me so in January.  But I did it, by working really, really hard on the other days and carefully managing appointments.  It is working so well, I'm going to continue to do this even after I'm done with this rewrite.

6.  Notes are your pals.  I had pretty much totally gone over to Evernote, which I do love, because I tend to accumulate scraps of paper with notes on them all over my desk.  But that's gone out the window with this rewrite and I've got lists and notebooks everywhere.  The thing is, this is working for me (it wasn't before, which is why I sought out a different system). When I'm working on chapter six, and I get an idea for chapter ten, it is easier to grab a piece of paper and scrawl my idea on it, then to open the Evernote app and create a new note.  The thing to remember is to go through your notes regularly!  And the point of it all is to do what works for you to get the writing done.

7.  Reading is your BFF now more than ever.  I'm reading a ton at the moment.  What am I reading? Women's fiction, exactly what I'm writing, with a stray girly mystery thrown in.  As I read, I learn.  In the novel I just finished, I noticed how the author handled description of characters and emulated it.  In another novel I just started, I liked how the author wrote about the setting.  All these ideas go directly into my work.  (And yes, I will write a post like this one about the books I'm reading soon.)

So that's what I've learned while writing lately.  How about you? What are you working on? How is it going?