Category Archives: rewrites

Finished!

I made my poor critique partners work harder than usual on my last manuscript.  I had a lot more red ink to swim through when I got my pages back, which means they had a lot more mistakes to deal with.  Red ink doesn’t depress me anymore.  It means my friends have found ways to make my manuscript better.  And the pacing and storyline worked really well, so overall, I’m happy with how this book turned out.

Somewhere near the end of all the changes I was making, I spent an entire day in my office chair, plowing through lots and lots of fixes.  At the close of the day, I only had 14 more pages to go, but my brain took a hike, so I thought I’d finish things up the next morning.  Except–when I went to look at the last chapter I’d worked on–none of the changes were there.  I scrolled back.  Not one change showed up for the entire day.

I panicked.  Okay, truth time.  I cussed and fussed, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t find the changes.  All that work–gone!  Finally, I did the smart thing and walked away from my computer to make a late supper.  I visited with my hub, watched the evening news and Wheel of Fortune, then came back to my computer.

This time, I typed The Bodies in the Wetland in my search program, and lo and behold, there was a new version stored under Windows C.  How it got to Windows C, I don’t know.  I’ve never done that before.  But when I pulled it up, there was all my work.  I don’t think I did anything different when I saved each section I finished for that day, but I do know I was sailing through “Save As” on auto pilot.  No more.  From now on, I’ll look to see WHERE I’m saving my work.

Anyway, I got lucky.  I didn’t have to redo what I’d already done.  And it was a wake-up call.  The good news?  I finished the last of the rewrites today!  I already have ideas for Book 3 and even a slim idea for Book 4.  Time to take a breather tonight and celebrate.  Hope all of your writing’s going well!

Webpage: https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

How Much Can a Head Hold?

For whatever reason, I’ve been hungry for cabbage soup, so I made two big pots of it today–one for John and me, one for my sisters (who love soup, but hate to cook).  I used two Dutch ovens, and they LOOK about the same size.  Except they weren’t.  By the time I sauteed the sausage slices, added onions, carrots, potatoes, and diced tomatoes, along with seasonings and broth, one pot had room for the sliced cabbage and one didn’t.

At the moment, my head feels like pot number 2.  If I add anything else, something is going to overflow and spill out.  John and I love people, but we’re not exactly social.  Most nights, we’re just as happy staying home as going out.  But September has been a buffet of friend delights.  Our calendar has never had as much ink on it for things to do.  I’ve loved every minute of it, but when I sit down to write, I can tell there’s more jiggling around in my brain than usual.

I always rewrite whatever I wrote the previous day before I let myself write anything new.  I have to.  I’d never put in the time to do it right if I had to rewrite an entire manuscript.  It’s too daunting, so I rewrite in stages.  Polish yesterday’s chapter before I start a new one.  Polish a fourth of my manuscript before I move to the next one.  And I can tell I’ve been busy, a bit distracted.  There are sentences with missing words.  The ideas are there, but little things haven’t stuck to the page.  They’ve spilled out.  Or I’ve used the wrong name for the wrong person.  Little things.  Things you can mop up and clean.   But things that don’t usually happen.

I know this story is far enough in to find its own way.  I wake up in the mornings with tweaks and new scenes in my mind.  The characters take turns I didn’t expect.  The book can hold its own with everything else that’s happening this month.  But if the writing holds its ground, something else has to give. I forget to put the chicken out to thaw or my foot goes in my mouth and I sound as intelligent as a hamster when I open my mouth.

Have I reached the point that if something pops into my brain, something has to fall out?  Not usually, but I’ve never been a multi-tasker, and when life gets busy, little things bite the dust.  We all lead busy lives these days.  I hope you juggle better than I do.  Happy writing!

Webpage:  (I posted a novella on it):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

Tweaking

I’m always surprised how little it takes, at times, to make something so much better than it was before.  Last weekend, I knuckled down and rearranged our closet and bookshelves, tossed things we were “going to look at”…someday…but never got to.  And dusted and scrubbed.  When I finished, the house looked happy and sparkling.

When I cook, a little spice or an herb, a simple sauce, can make all the difference.

This Saturday, my husband helped me tidy up two flower beds.  We clipped off dead stems and cleaned out withered leaves.  The beds needed extra work since I neglected them completely last year.  I couldn’t put any weight on my broken leg.  I still have to use a cane, but now, I can weed and deadhead and even rake.  I just can’t sit on my knees or shovel yet.  And I wanted to plant two new cone flowers and two Shasta daisies.  So I needed Mr. Muscle:)  After pulling dead iris and daylily stems, trimming phlox, and cutting back money plants, the beds look attractive again.  Next year, they’ll look even better.

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Tweaking does a lot for writing, too.  I started work on my second mystery.  I let myself write the first four chapters to get a feel for the flow of the story and to hear my characters.  Then on Friday,  I went back to do rewrites.  I changed sentence sequences, added description here, tightened there.  Took out a few things that will work better later.  And just like my house, my cooking, and flower beds, some studious tweaking made a world of difference.

Whether you tweak as you go or wait till The End, small things can make a big difference.  Happy Writing!  And have a great August.

 

 

Proofs & Pseudonyms

I’ve never worked with a book publisher before.  It’s a new experience for me.  My agent read and commented on my urban fantasy novels and usually asked for rewrites, but most of them only involved a few scenes. . .except for Fallen Angels.  And that was my fault.  I decided to make it multiple POV instead of single, and when I asked her about it, she said Go For It.  Lauren’s wonderful that way.

I got lucky when Kensington took my romance novels.  My editor, John Scognamiglio–who’s wonderful to work with, too–only asked me to change a few words in both manuscripts I submitted.  I did a happy dance. Even the copy edits were pretty easy.  Odd, isn’t it?  After I went over that manuscript so many times, and my critique partners looked at every word choice and comma, it still had mistakes.  But not lots of them.

The real wake-up call for me was when I got my page proofs, which I just finished and returned.  I’ve never worked with a book publisher before, so I’ve never experienced proofs until now.  It had an odd effect on me.  I read the pages, looking for errors, and the words didn’t feel like my own.  I couldn’t fiddle with sentences or structures any more.  I couldn’t change anything except a mistake.  I’d read a paragraph and just KNOW I could write better if I tried again.  I even looked up a scene in my original manuscript because I just KNEW I wouldn’t use the word “specified” for that sentence.  And guess what?  I did.

I’ve always had a problem with my writing once it’s published.  When I sold stories to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine or anthologies, I couldn’t look at them when I got my copies.  I saw every flaw I didn’t catch or every description I could have done better.  I didn’t like them at all, couldn’t see what I’d done RIGHT.  I had the same problem with the proofs.  Finally, I had to turn off my writer brain and read the pages as a copy editor.  Only then did the words flow smoothly.  Only then did I appreciate the story.  I’m sure that says something about my personality, but I don’t want to think about it too much:)

The other thing that keeps throwing me is my pseudonym.  When I look at the cover, COOKING UP TROUBLE, by Judi Lynn, I forget that’s me.  I understand the reason behind the pseudonym.  There probably won’t be a cross-over between readers who’ll like my romances and readers who like urban fantasy.  The pseudonym makes a clear distinction between Happy Ever After and battles and bloodshed.  But it’s going to take me a while to think of myself as Judi Lynn.

All in all, having a publisher has been a wonderful learning experience for me.  My writing has progressed step by step, from short stories in magazines and anthologies, to finding Lauren as an agent and working with Sharon Pelletier to put my novels and bundles online, to selling romances at Kensington.  It’s been a long journey. I’m no overnight success, and that’s all right.  Because it’s been a fulfilling one.

 

BTW, my novella bundle–The Babet & Prosper Collection II–will be free Monday to Friday, Dec. 7-11 if you’ve missed River City and its witches and shifters.

My webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

On twitter:  @judypost

Rewrites as you go: wrong? Not for me!

I just finished rewrites on the first fourth of my WIP. I’ve heard all of the advice: “Don’t edit as you go.” “Let the words and ideas flow.” “Write while you’re drunk; edit while you’re sober.” Those don’t work for me. They don’t work for Les Edgerton either, and here’s why: http://danaking.blogspot.com/2013/12/twenty-questions-with-les-edgerton.html Les’s writing blog, in general, is worth checking out. It’s chockfull of good advice: http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/

Now, I have a few writer friends who HAVE to take this advice, because they border on the perfectionist side. They could spend YEARS rewriting the beginnings of their books. I’m talking about you, Kathy Palm, among others. (Kathy has a great writers’ blog, too, that I highly recommend: https://findingfaeries.wordpress.com/. And yes, she does believe in magic, but she’s also a fan of horror. One of her short stories is in the upcoming anthology Halloween Night: Trick or Treat–https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25673465-halloween-night). If you’re like Kathy, you have to MAKE yourself let go of your writing, or you could spend a lifetime perfecting one book. (Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).

I’m not a perfectionist. I have no such patience. AND, I strongly believe in rewrites when your story feels “off.” I’ve mentioned that I start each writing day reworking the pages I wrote the day before. One, that gets me back into the story. Two, after sleeping on my words, they don’t look as brilliant. I can add, tweak, clarify. I’m not sure I’d take the time to look at those pages so closely when I work through the entire manuscript. (I did say I’m not patient. Now maybe you’ll believe me).

The thing is, when your story’s “off,” you know it. You know something’s not working. Your gut sends a memo to your brain, and even if you try to ignore it, you can’t. You’d think that me–a plotter–could avoid this problem. Yes, I know my characters. Yes, I know nearly every single plot point. Does that guarantee I’ll get it right? Hell, no. It just means the basics will work–period. I plugged through 78 pages on my new novel, and I knew everything was in place, but did it work? Not for me. Something was missing.

Guess what? It’s hard to plot for emotional impact, for depth, for internal turmoil. Those come from your characters, not your brilliant planning. And those are the REAL things that drive a story. Plotting just keeps you on track. Your characters have to bring every single one of those plot points to life–and that means, your characters have to live and breathe and worry and cuss and drink a beer and eat a slice of torte when they want to lose weight, then be angry at themselves for succumbing to empty calories. Plotting won’t bring your characters to life. Only you, the writer, can make them real. But plotting can make them move from point A to point Z with few or no pages you have to pitch. It makes sure they start their journey from New York and end up in Indiana, where they belong. (Indiana’s my home state, and it gets bashed enough, so I’m defending it).

When I read through my first 78 pages, I realized I was hitting every plot point, but I hadn’t included enough of the characters’ motivations, hang-ups, and feelings. I knew how Paula (the protagonist) would react to what was going on around her. But she wasn’t hitting the right emotional notes. And that’s important. Emotional notes are what bring the character to life, what steers them through the story. I’ll follow a character I love through a mediocre novel, but I won’t follow a character I don’t care about through a brilliant novel. Something to consider. I can go back in my next set of rewrites to fill in more depth, more details IF I get the motivations right the first time around, but if they’re off? I’m in trouble, and my gut knows it. If I force it and keep writing ahead, I’d be going in the wrong direction. My scenes would focus on the wrong things. Now that I’ve identified the problem, I can forge ahead, knowing I’m on the right path.

Here’s one more good writers’ link for you to consider: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/. Readers view the world you’ve created through your characters’ eyes, mostly your protagonist’s. We often react the way the protagonist reacts. If the protagonist isn’t worried, happy..something, neither are we. We read to FEEL, to live through someone else for a brief period of time. Make your characters stir us.

P.S. I put a snippet from Voodoo and Panthers on my webpage, if you’re interested:
http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Follow me on twitter: @judypost

Rewrites–Oh, the joy!

I’ve stepped away from my novel long enough to be able to look at my critique partners’ comments and plunge into rewrites. I’m no longer as fond of my words, my chapters, my “babies.” I’m ready to dig in and make my manuscript better.

When I’m in writing mode, I have to be passionate about my characters and story. I “hear” them and I’m excited about what they’re doing and why. Sometimes, they endear themselves to me a little too much. When I go back to edit, they weren’t always as witty as I thought they were, and the time they spent bonding together in the car gets a little long and dreary. If I were a reader, I’d be saying “When will we get there?” If a scene doesn’t have enough tension, if it doesn’t move the plot forward enough, I need to be objective and cut it. More especially for me–since I tend to write lean–I need to fill in more internal dialogue and description so that the reader can hear the same character inner thoughts that I’ve been listening to since I started the book. I try to remind myself, during edits, that readers turn pages because of tension and emotional impact. Plot’s great. It drives the story, but it’s not enough. Have I delivered? Did I make my characters believable and real? Would a reader care about them enough to follow them through a second book, if I’m writing a series? Will the readers miss them when the story’s over?

A fellow blogger whom I read has developed a novel approach to editing. The linear, from start to finish approach, isn’t enough for her anymore. She has some great tips on editing, ways to make the middle of your story stronger. https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/a-rebel-with-a-cause/. Rewrites, for me, are about honing a novel until I’ve made it as good as I know how to. It’s when I look at the foundation of the story, as well as the fine points.

Did I start with a great hook? It can be in your face or subtle, as long as it grabs you.
Did I deliver the set-up soon enough? Anymore, lots of books state the protagonist’s big problem in the first paragraph or by the end of the first page. It tells me what this book is about.
Did I create the perfect setting? Will it flavor every nuance of the story?
Did I create protagonists the reader will care about? Are the stakes high enough? Does my main character have to struggle and change to achieve his goal?
Did I people the story with minor characters who have goals/problems of their own? Are they distinct? Memorable? (I read a post on Writeonsisters.com that gave great advice on creating characters. I like it for more than just POV: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/5-tests-for-writing-multiple-povs/)
Did I add enough sub-plots to keep the story afloat? For a novel, I like to have at least two sub-plots, more if the book’s really long.
Did I add enough tension in EVERY scene to keep the pacing tight?
Were the plot points strong enough to keep the story afloat? Did I have an inciting incident, then two twists, and finally a final showdown and wrapup?

I’ve talked about all of these things on this blog before, but I’m in rewrite mode. All of the above is floating around in my head. And those are just the foundation pilings. Grammar, language, and imagery all come into play, too. That’s why rewrites take time. And that’s why they’re so wonderful. Rewrites help you tweak your tale from the basics to the “much, much better” and, if you’re lucky and persistent, topnotch.

(I’m still playing with my writing experiment on my webpage, and I’m still having fun with it:
http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/)

Who’d Want to be Methuselah?

Last week, I got the final comments back for my 3rd Wolf’s Bane novel. I’ve made it to the middle of the romance I’ve been working on, but I’m going to take a break now, staple my fanny to my desk chair, (ouch!), and plunge into rewrites. None of the critiques were major. All of them were good, and all of them do-able, so if I work at the manuscript for a week, I’m hoping to have it done. I’m still struggling with a title. I called the book Magicks Unleashed while I worked on it because that fits the story, but there are so many urban fantasies with “Magic” in the titles that I’d like to think of something else.

I combine a lot of different supernaturals in the Wolf’s Bane books. My female protagonist is a witch who falls for a gargoyle, one of the guardians of Bay City. The gargoyles work with a pack of werewolves to protect people from supernatural rogues. In this novel, the characters feel their ages and pasts more than usual. Wedge, the alpha of the werewolf pack, grew up in Oregon, where his father was the alpha of that pack. He’s lived a long time. Not as long as Damian, the gargoyle, who was carved from alabaster and sat atop a church in Europe for ages until the city breathed life into him. Their enemy, Morpheus, was driven away by gargoyles when he practiced the black arts in Europe. Often, the longevity of their lives weighs on them. And long lives can bring lots of baggage. The two young vampires they rescue have been kept caged and mistreated since they were infants.

Writing their stories made me think about mortality, and it didn’t seem so bad. My husband was ready to retire at sixty-five. But what if you were like Methuselah and lived to be 969? Who’d want that? Okay, the alternative is dying. That’s pretty much of a downer, but things are supposed to look up after that, right? A change of scenery is good? What would it be like to be a witch, like Reece or Hecate, and live one lifetime after another?

I found one of my favorite quotes on Jonathan Cainer’s horoscope site. It’s from a top business expert, Stephen Covey. “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” My mind can’t wrap itself around immortality, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want it here on Earth, as it is now, century after century, even if I didn’t age. I think I’d get tired, emotionally weary. But supernaturals persevere. And good ones, like my protagonists, find meaning in life by protecting mortals who are too weak to protect themselves. If nothing else, that makes for great stories:)

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/