Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Misc News + Paragraph Makeover

Um, wow. How do I follow up a blogpost like last week's? Thanks so much, everyone, for your enthusiastic congratulations and well-wishes on my agent acquiring notice. This week I've started to plow through my revisions, rethinking characters and scenes and gasp--even the beginning page of the novel. So far I'm happy with my tweakings and slashings. I'm not a writer who detests revising/editing, so all is well. (Don't tell anyone, but I'm actually having fun doing it.)

Less stupendous but still important and delightful news:
1. I passed 300 followers! Welcome to the blog, all my new cyberbuddies.
2. Since mid-March, I've received FIVE new blog awards. Many thanks to the following people (visit their sites via their names/award icons on my sidebar):

One Lovely Blog Award from Michelle Merrill
Powerful Woman Writer Award from Tyrean Martinson
From Me to You Award from PK Hrezo
Encouraging Blogger Award from Lindsay Currie
Versatile Blogger Award from Carolyn Arnold

And now, for the writer tip part of my post: a story beginning makeover.
If you're an old follower experiencing deja vu, it's because I used a longer version of this post last year (what can I say? I'm busy revising for my lovely agent).

THE STORY:

She had arrived for the summer.

Jane Brownwell looked around crossly, putting her suitcase down. Here she was at last after a long hot bus ride, and Aunt's May's house looked really boring. Across from the dining room window was a table, round and plain. Faded doilies were placed across the top of the couch. Another doily was spread out under a collection of flowers in a vase, on the coffee table. Most of the flowers in the vase were wilted and droopy. The couch was a mess, all saggy and stained with tea.

It was horrible! How was she expected to stay here for an entire summer?

This passage introduces conflict, albeit the overused theme of arriving somewhere new for the summer and hating it. However, it could be written a lot more colorful and interesting. I'd change Jane's name to something more current and interesting. I'd omit adverbs and replace weak "was" verbs with more vibrant/active verbs. Otherwise, the reader will be as bored as Jane by the description of her surroundings.

MAKEOVER:

She had arrived for the summer.

Lacey Brownwell dropped her suitcase with a thump, and glared at the inside of Aunt May's house. BO-ring. Not much to look at, and certainly not worth the sweaty eight-hour bus ride getting here. A plain round table stood across from the dining room window, while faded doilies draped themselves like limp and bedraggled butterflies across the back of a tea-stained couch. The vase of flowers on the coffee table pinned yet another sad doily to the coffee table. The flowers drooped, wilted beyond recognition.

Horrible. Her mother expected her to stay here for an entire summer?

More active sentences used here; the subjects are doing the actions--the table stands, the doilies drape, etc. I added specific details, like an 8-hour bus ride versus a long one, and a sweaty bus ride versus a hot one. A bit more voice added, too.
The doilies also serve as a narrative interpretation of how Lacey is feeling or viewing her new surroundings (limp, pinned to her circumstances). Narration can be a filter through which the setting is viewed through the main character's eyes.

And the changes didn't affect the word count much. The first example was 108 words, the second 103--using basically the same information, just assembled differently.

YOUR TURN
Do you enjoy revising or do you HATE it? A necessary evil, like grocery shopping?
Do you lapse into "was" and "were" verbs when you describe characters & places?
Have you ever written a story where the main character arrives somewhere new for the summer? (I have.)


21 comments:

  1. Hmm, I hate the idea of revisions, but once I start actually working on them, I enjoy the process of making my writing better.

    I do use was/were, but sparingly.

    I haven't written a story where someone arrives somewhere for the summer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't revised on a big scale but I'm looking forward to it-- the line edits anyways, the big picture stuff should be 'interesting'. I'm in first draft mode and try to keep my sentences active without getting so bogged down that I only write 500 words in an hour. That will be where the fun part of revision comes in.
    - Sophia.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love revising. That's when I really see the entire picture and what needs to be done. I learn from it.

    I have written a story where the main character arrives somewhere new for the summer. I write historical fiction so that would be the year 1863 and she arrives in Gettysburg...hmmmm.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I hate revising. I'm not so bad on the line editing bit as I can get through that quicker but the re-looking and re-thinking if this works or that works just drives me crazy.The bit about dates and times etc tallying also drives me nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Another two awards for you: The Versatile Blogger Award AND the Blog on Fire Award! Stop by my website to claim your prize! :)

    Scott
    www.scott-niven.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Definitely a necessary evil, lol. But it's like going grocery shopping over and over because you keep forgetting something vital each time. Let's face it...revising is grocery shopping hell.

    LOL

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Carol, congratulations on the agent and all the awards. I actually like revising, but for some reason, I just dawdle and dawdle before starting. Then I'm happy to be doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Congrats on your awards!

    I like revising too, as long as it's not a complete, major overhaul like I'm doing now. :( I seem to go much slower getting through it when it's an overhaul. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. My current wip has the summer journey thing... hope that's not a bad thing! But, the 2nd example is clearly better. Specificity and word choice can always help!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Congrats on your 300+ followers and congrats on all your awards. I love the make-over, especially "BO-ring". Adds so much.
    I used to hate revisions but I'm starting to enjoy them now. It's such a satisfying feeling when a scene finally comes together.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I lOVE revising. Good thing considering my revision workout. :D

    Congrats on all the blog awards.

    Love the second version. Much more colorful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have a love/hate thing with revising. Umm, maybe dislike/hate?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm about to do my biggest revision so far. I'm going to change my ms from third person to first. I'm a bit scared, but know the advice to change it was given to me in my best interest.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hate revising! Necessary evil. With a few exceptions, I despise it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love editing. I just love to rip something into shreds and build it back up and see what new thing I've created. Sometimes I just edit mid writing. The only problem I have is grammar. I'm working on that though but yeah I mix up verb tenses all the time, my biggest flaw and mixing up homophone spellings.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm not a big fan of revisions, but I think if you're working with someone in the biz to get it ready to go, that makes a huge difference. Best of luck with your journey, and yay! Blog bling!!! :D <3

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have very mixed feelings about revising. And it usually has to do with vision. I see this character as one thing, and the reader sees them as something else. I just need to make sure that my ideas are portrayed in a way that the reader "gets" them.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I really enjoy editing and revising, too - which is a good thing, because I do so much of it!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey,
    Congratulations on having 300 followers! That's amazing. How are your revisions for your new agent going? I'm glad you're enjoying the work. Have a great day!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Congrats on (1) your agent, (2) 300+ followers, (3) all your blog awards (LOL, what an awesome week you've had!!!). I do enjoy revising, though I'm finding it's starting to drag on for me a bit now :( I try to stay well clear of "was"/"were" unless they can't be avoided.

    I was thinking about the excerpt - you could possibly get a cool first sentence (with lots of voice) out of commenting on the doilies. Something along the lines of "Lacey had counted seventeen doilies already, and she hadn't even stepped off the front doormat of Aunt May's Doily Palace--a.k.a 'home for the summer.' Just a thought :)

    Hugs,

    Rach

    ReplyDelete
  21. Revisions are the best! How can anyone not love them? :)

    ReplyDelete

Hi, bloggy buddies! I respond to all comments via email if you have an address linked to your profile. Sorry, I have had to turn OFF comments from Anonymous users due to Spam.