Friday, January 15, 2010


The last month I've been neglectful of all the great blogs I usually read (sorry, guys! You still rock and I still love you--really), but not just because December is super-crazy-I-have-to-do-a -zillion-things-a-day-and-sleep-too-*hysterical laughter* yeah, right-and-throw-in-a-couple-big-holidays-and-kids-out-of-school-and-house-guests-on-top-of-it-all. You see, I've been a neglectful blog-reader because I started a 5 month online writing workshop. It's beyond awesome but it's also a lot of work.

For those who might be curious, it's Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel Workshop" The tag line of the course is:

Create the book you want from the book you have.

*bouncing in my seat, raising my hand and waving it around* "Oh, me, me, me! I want to have the book I want rather than what I ended up with."

I'm 7 weeks in and my revision paradigm has completely shifted. Revision isn't just about tweaking here and fixing there, it's about clearing out the deadwood so that your vision can shine.

Here are some of the more specific things I've learned:

  • My NaNo book is as bad of a train wreck as I thought.
  • I have to consciously decide what I want the reader to feel for each scene and with the characters. If I read a scene and the only emotion I feel is "Ummmm" then that scene is not working.
  • The importance of first impressions and the implicit promise you make with how much attention you give to details. For example, if the real ugly statue on a pedestal isn't critically important to the main plot, don't spend half a page describing it.
  • Your setting is as much a character as your characters, and there has to be a reason your story takes place where it does. If it could happen anywhere, then you have a problem.
  • You have to know why your story matters. And it's much better to know that before you start rather than after your done and realize you went off on some rough draft tangents that really have nothing to do with the theme you want.
  • Every good scene needs a protagonist, an antagonist, some conflict, and some sort of change.
  • Look at the big, overarching problems before starting in at the line by line edits, because you might waste your time making a paragraph/scene/chapter just right, only to realize you have to cut it.
  • The rough draft that is making me cringe can only get better; it won't get any worse. *Whew!*
  • I can do this! (Which means you can, too.)


Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere! I think you have about the best excuse for having been very cool that you're revisualizing your nano novel. Thank you for sharing your revsion tips as well. I've bookmarked this page! My favorite: "You have to know why your story matters." So true....

L.T. Elliot said...

So cool! That sounds like a killer class. Thank you so much for sharing your learned wisdom because I'm going to need it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

You can do, you can do it, rah, rah, rah!
I've heard really great stuff about Holly Lisle's workshops.

Tess said...

Hi,Jamie! What fun it was meeting you last night. Sorry you had to run before the games .. maybe next time we can have the opportunity to chat more. I hope so :D

Thanks for sharing this great advice. The one that speaks to me most right now is about how setting counts so much. I did that on my novel With A Name Like Love (I think), but my current WIP is lacking in that area -- a lot. So, good reminder here to go back and give that some more thought.

Carolyn V. said...

Jamie, I had such a great time getting to know you last night at the writer's thing. You are so nice! Good luck on the revisions! I'm almost there. I'll have to email you with all my revision questions! =)

Mary Campbell said...

Wow - that workshop sounds intense, but probably very worth it to get your novel into shape. I'm still trying to finish the WIP so not quite to editing yet, but I do need to remember not to edit too much now.
Great to hang with you the other night.

Terresa said...

This sounds like a lot of fun! You are lucky to be in such a class. Looking forward to hearing more of what you're learning (do share it!).

Kimberly said...

What a fabulous post to come back to your blog and find! I've been avoiding reading the blogs of authors and struggling writers because I've been letting my writing slide the last several months. My baby is past the newborn stage and sleeping more and more though so I am back in it.

Fabulous insights you shared here - can't wait to put them into practice!