Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Revision and Remodeling

I've decided writing and revising a novel is a lot like buying and remodeling a house. Here's a comparison from my own life lately, based on my novel SHAPERS and the house my hubby and I just bought here in sunny ol' California.

Initial Stuff
SHAPERS: Wrote rough draft, mid-Feb to mid-May of 2010. Yep, 2.5 months.
HOUSE: Searched from mid-July 2012 to mid-October 2012. Yep, 3 months.

False Start
SHAPERS: Met interested editor at SCBWI conference; tweaked and sent off. Crickets.
HOUSE: Put in offer on a house on 1/4 acre built in 1972, 2000 sq. ft.; offer accepted and then house was taken off market due to odd legalities.

Trying Again
SHAPERS: Tweaked more, sent to agents: 2 requested fulls but ended up rejecting. Met the lovely Kelly Sonnack at SCBWI retreat in Oct. 2010, who requested full.
HOUSE: Found another house and made offer that fell through 'cuz they didn't accept VA loans. Found a lovely purple tri-level built in 1990 with 1668 sq. ft. on 1/4 acre.

The ONE!
SHAPERS: Call with Kelly in April 2011; she offered representation! Signed contract.
HOUSE: Put in offer on the tri-level mid-Oct. 2012; it was accepted! Started escrow.

Revision and Remodeling 
SHAPERS: Kelly's editorial notes: Boost romance, get closer to 80K words from 63K, fix "empty" villain, change the ENTIRE ENDING (gak!), slash a coupla scenes, etc.
HOUSE: Projects: Remove red/green chair railing, take down hugeous red/green shelves in living room, paint over the light GREEN living room walls (gak!), take down flat PLAID valances, remove door molding chewed on by a dog, etc.

Living room BEFORE, with old owner's belongings. Cluttered! Ugleee carpet.
SHAPERS: Sept. 2011. MC still "felt distant." Kelly suggested switching from 3rd to 1st person POV. Gulp. Extra surprise: I decided didn't sound right in past tense anymore, and changed the novel to present tense. Did 2 line-edits + minor changes in 2012.
HOUSE: After we moved in: That ugleee stained and worn carpet just had to go. Went with oak hardwood laminate. Extra surprise: With the carpet up, we discovered the sliding glass door had been leaking…had to replace the door, too.

2013 Final (?) Touches
SHAPERS: Made MC less snarky/insensitive, with less selfish goals. Boosted sci-fi worldbuilding elements. Fleshed out 2 minor characters, toned down another one.
HOUSE: Bought area rug and curtains for living room. Found awesome impressionistic-looking valance for kitchen at a thrift store for $7. Painted my office. Hung pictures.

Living room, AFTER. Less cluttered, hardwood laminate flooring.
Living room AFTER. I've since lowered the highwater curtains! :)
Whew. Are we there yet? Perhaps not, but I'm getting WAY closer on both, and really liking the changes. Special thanks to my CP Lynda Young for continuing to gruel along with me while I shape up SHAPERS, and Michael Di Gesu for sharing interior decorating tips for my new house!!

SHAPERS: Guess you'll have to wait to see. I hope you get to read it someday!
HOUSE: Photos in this post…my new writing office is below. I love it!

My writing spot, where Words Happen. Includes assorted dragons and sewing machine.
Guest bed side. Includes ballerina I drew eons ago, my bear Woofie, and the quilt I  made.
Have you had to revise and revise, like I have? Is your manuscript getting stronger?
Have you remodeled a house and shaped it up the way you wanted it--or do you have ongoing or future projects you'd still like to tackle?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing THE Scene

THE Scene
In every book, there is a scene that is THE scene. You know, that big moment where something momentous happens. You write along, you anticipate this scene for pages and pages--and you know you'd like to write it extremely well when you get there. It has to sound and be perfect. Right? This big scene is often found near the end of the story, at the climax, but not always.

Examples include:
1. When some major secret is revealed
2. When the danger escalates or reaches an all-time high
3. When two characters realize they're in love, or a tender romance scene
4. When the story takes a surprising twist--a whoa!! turn of events
5. When a new character is introduced (especially if he/she is the romantic interest)
6. When the villain finally gets the protagonist in his/her clutches, mwuah-haha
7. When there's a joyful reunion between two characters who've been apart
8. When one of your characters is severely injured or dies
9. When there's a crucial fight or battle scene
10. When the main character's world dissolves (literally or figuratively, depending on your genre) or becomes much more problematic

Multiple THE Scenes
Books can have more than one THE scene. These are the big moments where any of the above things (or similar things) happen. I personally like to have many scenes like this throughout the novel, to some degree or another, not just near the ending or climax. These are those "ta-DAH!" moments that I often place at the end of a chapter ending for a cliffhanger effect. I think they add spice as well a compelling tension to the story.

How Do You React?
Since we want that THE scene to be so incredibly awesome, to match the intensity and emotion that we want to impart into those words, it's often a very troubling scene to write. We approach this scene with excitement…yet sweaty palms. Fear, and trembling. We can suddenly be seized by an unexplainable urge to catch up on our social networking or color coordinate our linen closets. Or most likely, a mixed-up combination of all of these things. When we finally reach that point in your manuscript, it can feel very surreal!

Tips for Writing THE Scene
1. Know you can always change the scene later and improve it. Rah for revision!
2. I turn OFF my inner editor (more than usual) and write on more of an emotional level. I throw the sentences out there willy nilly, in almost a stream of consciousness way. Usually that makes the rhythm of the passage sound much more natural than if I try to ponder reactions at length, or plot out short vs. long sentences, etc.
3. Similarly, let your adverbs and adjectives flow. Throw a lot of them out there. Really. Then you can go back and pick the strongest adjectives later, and eliminate adverbs by replacing them with more unique (and less Telling) ways to say something.
4. Use music or photos to help get into the mood of the scene.
5. Watch movies or read books with similar dramatic scenes to get ideas about reactions, focus, settings, mood, clothing, visual placements, fight moves, sounds, smells, etc.
6. Choose a time and day where you have a decent block of time and aren't rushed (yeah, I know--easier said than done).
7. Jot down snippets of phrasings, descriptions, and dialogue ahead of time to make the scene less daunting. Put these in a separate file or document for when you need it.
8. Understate rather than overstate the emotions. Often it's more impactful to read of a character who has a few tears or is holding back tears, rather than torrents. An excess of grief, shouting, anxiety, fear, etc. in a scene can backfire and actually induce the opposite--creating a sense of detachment in the reader.
9. Write out a brief outline of the scene first. Nothing complex, just a list of things you want to be sure to accomplish as you write.

How do you feel when you get to THE scene in your book--excited or nervous?
Do you find it difficult to get across the emotion/impact you want in a major scene?
What is THE scene that you're anticipating writing in your own work? Is it one of the examples listed above, or something completely different?