Friday, August 26, 2011

The Revision Diaries (3)

this week's installment of the revision diaries (confessions of an author on a deadline!) reads a little like a Goofus and Gallant episode.

side note -- Goofus and Gallant, for those who did not grow up with Highlights magazine, are two boys who get placed in a situation with choices. Goofus always chooses the irresponsible path, while Gallant is more thoughtful.

side note to the side note -- as a kid, i always pronounced it Goofus and Gal-AHNT, because i'm fancy like that.

totally off-topic tangent -- when i was growing up, G&G were drawn with pencils in black and white. but i just checked out the website for Highlights magazine, and those boys are full-color computer graphics now! and guess what else? you can totally play a G&G "choose your own adventure" game online! i played it... twice.

okay, back on topic!

Friday, i was oh-so GalAHNT. i wrote and revised and wrote and revised again. new scenes. reworked scenes. continuity checks. word choices. i stayed on schedule and did not get distracted. very responsible author this day.

Saturday, i woke up a Goofus. i was exhausted from two full days of revisions and decided to put off writing until the afternoon. i ran errands, did chores, chilled out with Handsome. typical Saturday stuff. except this was not supposed to be a typical Saturday, because the Tic-Tock-Deadline-Clock waits for no weekend!
of course, my day got away from me until only the evening was left. at that point, i had to choose between revisions and poker night with friends.
i won the first game, lost the second. net gain: fifteen dollars.

Sunday, the Gallant on my shoulder came to the rescue. i wrote from practically sun up to well after sundown.
and... i finished.
i know! crazy! i so didn't deserve the satisfaction of being done after my Goofus Saturday, but there it is. i reached The End - again. and then i panicked. Goofus and Gallant were perched on each of my shoulders, having an argument:

Goofus: we're done! press send and let's go celebrate.
Gallant: maybe we should have a crit partner look at those scenes we're still concerned about first.
Goofus: naw! we're tired of revising. let's play some more poker.
Gallant: but we haven't fully addressed that one issue our editor mentioned. let's go back to page one and --
Goofus: you're boring!
Gallant: maybe i am, but if we work just a little harder, hopefully no one will say the BOOK is boring.
*poof* Goofus disappears in a ball of smoke.

actually, i compromised. Gallant isn't always right, and he is a little boring sometimes. so i sent the questionable scenes to a crit partner and took Monday and Tuesday to be a Goofus. i hit the gym, hung out with my gal pals and relaxed with Handsome.

Wednesday, i spent all night dealing with that issue Gallant had mentioned until i was satisfied.
Thursday, i thought long and hard about a possible big change i had proposed to my editor and ultimately decided against it (because, among other reasons, i realized my editor is much much smarter than i am.) i tossed out my outlined changes and polished up the newly revised manuscript instead. and THEN i pressed send. Goofus and i are going to have a blast this weekend.

so that's the end of the Revision Diaries for now.
i'm in uncharted waters on this path to publishing, but i hear there are often several rounds of revisions, then copy edits, then bound pages, ARCs, etc... so i expect this "author on a deadline" will have more confessions to come.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Best! Lines!

i am kicking myself right now, because i wanted to do a "best lines" post with all of the golden nuggets i read in the ARC of the upcoming ASHES, by Ilsa J. Bick.

unfortunately, i had to send that ARC along to another reader, and i forgot to jot down my favorite lines.
do yourself a favor and buy ASHES to discover those nuggets for yourself - just be sure to read it with the lights on!

fortunately, i just finished another book packed with great one-liners, so we still have a blog post today. :D

here are a few of my favorite lines from CRACKED UP TO BE, by Courtney Summers:

I take a deep breath. It smells suspiciously like bullshit in here.

(Jake questioning Parker about drinking)
"Do you have, like ...a problem?"
"Yeah, and that was my solution."

Next time Chris tells me to loosen the fuck up, I'm going to tell him to fuck the fuck off.

(there's another set of lines i LOVE but won't share here to avoid spoilers, but if you have this book, flip to chapter 16 and read the very last lines. most powerful moment in the story for me.)

see you at the end of the week with a new entry in the Revision Diaries!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Revision Diaries (2)

...week two in the chronicles and confessions of an author on a deadline!

so, as promised (to, um, myself), i truly began revising on Sunday. it was going great. i was trucking along, knocking down those skinny little post-its page by page for a couple days - until i hit a scene that stopped me in my tracks.

this scene needed a fix similar to a scene i'd already revised, so i attacked it in the same way - trimming back paragraphs here and rewriting the language there. but it wasn't working the same as it had worked for the other scene. and no amount of shaking my laptop could shimmy the words into their proper place.
so i got up and walked away for the first time since i'd really started revising.

but unlike with first drafts, or even revisions for my agent or crit partners, when i can walk away for as long as i need to... i knew i couldn't pause for too long. when writing/revising on a deadline, you can only let something sit and stew for so long before - in the immortal words of Tim Gunn - you have to "make it work."

so even though i wasn't sitting at the laptop, whatever i was doing, i forced myself to be thinking/scheming/mentally revising. i schemed while i played iSlash on my phone. i thought hard while watching the Real Housewives of who-knows-where. and i mentally revised while making dinner with Handsome.
(isn't it funny how much thinking/scheming/mentally revising all have in common with procrastinating? huh. wierd.)

but seriously, it was during one of these moments of obvious procrastination that the lightbulb went off. i knew how to fix the scene. i had to completely rewrite it - my first big full-scene makeover in this revision.

but AH! here was a new problem.
i am not one who can edit a single scene in multiple sessions, bouncing in and out of the chapter over the course of a few days. i have to do things in chunks. i needed a good block of time to write the scene AND make sure it was polished, so it wouldn't read like a first draft. but at this point, i was thick into my work week with other obligations looming, and i had not budgeted my week-day writing time for a marathon session - merely for a few sprints.

so with that deadline clock Tic-Toc-Taunting me, i set aside the manuscript for two whole days.

fortunately, i was able to use vacation days from work during this revision period, so i started again Thursday, with 4 full days of nothing but writing time stretching out before me.
and oh boy, did i rewrite that scene! it took the better part of my Thursday and kept me away from the gym and other chores i had hoped to slip in on my day off. but i got it done, and then i went back to sprinting - and smashing those post-its.
today i have a new scene to write and another scene that needs a big re-write, so i hope to be as productive as yesterday.

the only hiccup in my plans will be the carpet cleaners i scheduled to be here this afternoon.
but even if i only write 5 words while they are here, i'm sure i'll still get more done than if i had spent the entire day off cleaning the carpets myself.

i'll be back next week with another installment. (and probably sometime before that when some other random blog post inspiration strikes - i.e. when i need to walk away from the revisions again.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Revision Diaries (1)

OR: Confessions of an author on a deadline!

you know what you should do when you get your editorial letter? you should totally, ABSOLUTELY, commit to a new blog mini-series.
because that's responsible.
and a good use of your time.

here's the deal. i thought it might be fun to share my editing crazies with all of you here on the blog. this is partly to make sure i AM, in fact, blogging during this time and not letting the space go dark. it also gives me an excuse to blog exclusively about revisions, which will be all i can think about for awhile. prepare for the descent into madness.

The Revision Diaries, Week 1:

my ed letter arrived on a friday, while i was at SCBWI. everyone told me you should let the letter sit and sink in for a few days, so i figured that was perfect timing. i'd just get started when i got home.

48 hours later, i was skipping the one free meal at the conference and an entire afternoon of sessions in order to sit in the lobby for a few hours, reading my manuscript and taking notes. (guess i'm not one for sitting and stewing!)

i spent the first few days back at home doing the same thing - reading and taking notes. all of this prep work is good, i told myself. i'll really be organized and ready when i actually start to edit.

eight pages of handwritten notes later, it was time to get back into the book and really start to work. BUT WAIT! the manuscript pages with my editor's notes had just arrived. naturally, i had to write out all new notes for myself based on those pages. really, you can't be too prepared.

the next friday, i talked to my editor on the phone to discuss revisions and bounce ideas back and forth. it was a great convo. i took lots of notes. i am so ready to start working, i thought.
(meanwhile, somewhere in the background, a deadline clock is ticking away. one week gone.)

finally, saturday arrived. my first full day to devote to editing. but i was TOTALLY UNPREPARED! i simply HAD to rush over to the office supply store to stock up on multi-colored Post-Its in all sizes. and as long as i was there, it made sense to pick up a 3-ring binder and new red pens and highlighters.
now i could REALLY get organized!

i spent a good half hour using a hole-puncher on my pretty manuscript pages. then i used my fancy new Post-Its to color-code my manuscript, page by page, with each color representing a different thread of things that need to be changed.

look how pretty! you can see how much work went into all this, right?

and do you know how many words i had actually edited in my manuscript at this point?

on the one hand, i do think it is CRITICAL to organize and prepare. at this point, i have my letter and my notes memorized, which should make the writing part much easier.

on the other hand, i confess, this first week was partly an exercise in procrastination. i find it very difficult to START revisions, because it means taking that polished manuscript - the one with every word spelled right inside of its perfectly-formatted one-inch margins - and tearing it apart. it's hard to take the thing you once called "done" and go back to calling it a "work in progress."

but it's time. i could not possibly be more organized. today, the REAL editing begins.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SCBWI in pictures

i apologize in advance if this post makes the blog load slow on mobile browsers or anywhere else. there are quite a few pics.

here are a few of my favorite (and only!) shots from SCBWI-LA. i have to start, of course, with my AWESOME roomie, Emily Hainsworth - fellow Apocalypsie and author of THROUGH TO YOU.

next up, my agent sisters! meet a few members of the literaticult: Whitney Miller, Jo Whittemore and Kristen Kittscher!

sorry, cell phone shots.

now, here is my prize photo from the conference! me and the LA girls (Melanie Abed and Kristen) posing with Judy Blume!

again, cell shot. sorry.
Judy Blume was kind and patient with all of us drooling all over her. i thanked her for all of her books, but mostly for BLUBBER. and i don't even think my voice shook too badly!

the winners of the PJ party!

the Steel Cage Pitch Match in action! writers and illustrators had 30 seconds to impress ABLit agent Mary Kole. hosted by - a brand new blog you should absolutely be following.

SCBWI was exhausting, educational and inspiring. i can't wait to go back someday.

oh, and psst! - i got my editorial letter for BUTTER while at the conference, so i am about to be a busy girl! (read: neurotic, over-caffeinated, obsessive mess)
it's possible the blog will go quiet after this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

quotes from SCBWI

here's the thing about an SCBWI conference...

you talk. a lot.
sometimes from 6am to after midnight. wonderful, thought-provoking, inspiring conversations with amazing people.
but the talking - whew! let's just say i'm running out of words.

so i thought i'd share some words from OTHER people today.

maybe it's the journalist in me, but i noticed almost all of my notes from the conference are exact quotes from the fabulous speakers and presenters. here are a few of my favorites:

Bruce Coville:
(remembering a letter he got from an adult who had been deeply changed by reading one of Coville's books as a child. the book was a quiet, unreviewed, fourth-in-a-series paperback)
"Everything you do ripples outward. You don't know what kind of difference you're going to make."
(on taking a break from a book)
"Sometimes the best way to get back INTO the work is to get AWAY from the work."

Libba Bray:
(on the pain of first drafts/rough revisions)
"Embrace the suck."
(on writing characters who are gay or minority or anything else that might be different from your personal experience - and not making them PSAs)
"Write from the outside in."

Judy Blume:
(on the WSJ writer using Judy as an example to make the writer's point in that infamous article)
"I was so pissed!"
(on the popularity of children's writers today)
"We are so hot."
"We're the money-makers... I mean for the publishers."
(other insights)
"I start a book on the day something different happens."
"You know what? I've never really understood the creative process."
"Everybody needs somebody who's supportive."

Gary Paulsen:
(on the publishers who rejected Hatchet, which has now been a best-seller for 21 years)
"It must sting."
(on money)
"I don't give a good goddamn what they pay me for it, as long as I get to do that dance."
(on enriching the lives of children)
"Do the best you can for the young people."
(on passion and a message for young readers)
"Read like the wolf eats. Read when they tell you not to read. Read WHAT they tell you not to read."

Laurie Halse Anderson:
(on discipline and having a writing routine)
"Order is required so the chaos of art can unfold."

tomorrow i'll post some pictures and share the moment that might just have made the whole trip for me!

Friday, August 5, 2011


hello from SCBWI!

full report here on the blog when i get back, but just taking a quick time out to say:

check out my interview over on the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire blog! - all about being on submission and selling Butter!