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Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Revision Grief Redux: We’re in this Together

In Business of Writing, Craft, General, Writers on Revision on January 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

My facebook/twitter status this morning: gutted and slaughtered darlings everywhere. It’s carnage over here in novel revision land (said gleefully, like a serial killer!)

I try to make clear to my clients and students  that I am a writer too. A working writer striving her hardest to get to the same place as they are: published. My hope is that this makes it a little bit easier when I tell them what has to go, what isn’t working, and what I think needs to happen next. Because we all know it’s far easier to be a critic than it is to produce material.

Yes, I’ve published a bit already–two writing guides, one fairly big press, one fairly small, but I also dream of the day that my novel sells to a publisher. Or wait, let me rephrase that…I also dream of being published, send my work out for feedback from people who will be honest about what has to go, what isn’t working, and what needs to happen next. And I too curse, cry and moan until the feelings pass and the answers start to rise from the mist.

I am in the same boat as my clients/students. When they email me saying they feel discouraged by all the work ahead of them, or are sad that a chapter or scene just isn’t succeeding as they’d hoped–I FEEL their pain. I know exactly what they mean. When the novel my agent tried to sell to publishers didn’t sell several years ago but “came close” as they say when you receive positive rejections, I had to take a really long time to recoup that loss. After all, writing a novel isn’t something you can do in a couple of days. Slowly, painfully, I mended. I wrote another novel (and let’s not talk about the first four abandoned novels I wrote early on), ran it by several people for feedback, saw its potential and its limitations and made the tough decision to let that one go too. It wasn’t coming together.  Then I picked up a different half-attempted novel and tried it back on. And this time it fit me. I was able to finish a first draft that I felt good about.

The whole purpose of this revision series has been to bolster myself through the revision process of that novel. But let me point out that every published writer on the shelves, from the flash in the pans to the mightiest of success stories was on the receiving end of some serious feedback at one point or another. Each one of them had a cringe-worthy moment or several thousand where they thought maybe they’d never get “there.”

And the only way they got there was by realizing that writing IS rewriting. That the pain is good for you. That it builds something beautiful just like exercise painfully sculpts a beautiful body.

REVISE for Publication:

In honor of all this, I’ve decided to teach a new 4 week online class in April on revising your manuscript toward publication. It will contain strategies and tips for how to revise your work in the most effective ways, including self-soothing tips for the hard times. I hope you’ll join me.

Full cost: $159. If you register before March 15, only $129.

 Until I get the paypal link up and running, email me if you’re interested in registering: jordansmuse (at) gmail (dot) com.

Mutual Respect between Editor and Writer: Maria Schneider.

In Business of Writing, Craft, Interviews, Profiles on January 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

In this Writers on Revision series, we’ve heard a lot from the writers themselves this past couple weeks. Now, I bring you Maria Schneider, former Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Digest magazine, creator of www.EditorUnleashed.com, and current Lifestyles Digital Content Manager at the Cincinnati Enquirer.  For anyone who believes that a magazine editor is some kind of power tripper who just wants to shred your work, let Maria’s point of view forever change your attitude!!

From your perspective as an editor, what would be most useful for writers to understand about revision? (What would make your job easier?)

 That it’s almost always necessary and not a condemnation of you or your writing. For magazine writing in particular, every publication has its own house style rules and space constraints to consider. And getting the tone right for your intended audience is so important—it has to fit into the whole of the magazine.

 Where is the line between an editor revising a writer’s work and re-writing it. What should a writer expect in magazine writing?

 This really varies from editor to editor. But in general, I’d say that most magazine editors will ask for at least one rewrite and may ask for more specific detail, a stronger lead, or just an overall tightening of the piece. It’s true that some magazine editors will rewrite a piece to the point that it’s almost unrecognizable. As a writer, you should always ask to see any edits and have final approval of anything with your byline. It can be a tricky situation to confront an editor who’s rewritten your piece too zealously, but I would definitely recommend speaking up if the piece has your byline but no longer has your voice, or if there are factual errors. Otherwise, you’re better off letting it go—editing is just part of the process.

 Do you have any tips or approaches on how to make revision “easier”?

 Knowing the tone of the magazine you’re writing for is so important. If you read the publication and get a strong sense of its tone you’ll have a much easier time with revising the piece to make your editor happy. If your editor requests a revision, try to get her to be as specific as possible: If she’s asking for a new lead, would an anecdotal lead fit better? If she’s asking for the piece to be tightened, is there a specific section that she’d like to see cut back or sections that could be fleshed out with more detail? Editors are very busy people so you might have to reach out to get specific feedback on what she liked or didn’t like about your piece.

 In order to be published in magazines, what kind/how much revision can writers expect to do both before submitting ideas and after acceptance?

If you query with a story and the editor assigns you the piece, you’ve already won her over with your idea, your voice, and she already has confidence that you’ll be able to turn in a good piece. But don’t be surprised when you submit a story and are asked for substantial revisions. New writers often don’t realize that it’s just a part of the process of making a magazine—they tend to take it personally. You should expect to be asked for at least one revision, perhaps two, and if it’s still not quite right in the editor’s eyes after two revisions, most likely she’ll either reject the piece or have an in-house editor rewrite it. 

 What’s your own approach to revising your own writing?

 I tend to edit as I go. I really like to get the lead right before I dive into a piece, so that can take a lot of writing and rewriting time. So I’d say my typical process is editing in waves. It’s always useful, if you have the time, to finish a piece, and leave it for a day or two before you go back and try to revise it. And if you’re stuck, printing it out and reading it with fresh eyes and a pen is always helpful.

The Ecstatic Agony of Revision

In Craft, General on January 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Right now I’m embarked on Draft Two of my novel-in-progress. I’ve been trying all morning to come up with analogies for the difference in the feeling between each draft.

Writing the first draft is hard, but smooth, like running on a treadmill–it’s not as easy as walking, sure, but it goes in one straight line…it flows. There’s no series of editorial road blocks to hurdle over. I can make notes to myself like “come back to this later” and “research this.” If character motivations are unclear, I can “deal with it later.”

Draft Two, however, is like obedience training an unruly, wild, but passionate dog. You know there is a good, loving, perfect little dog inside, but it’s going to take a lot of time and tricks and setbacks to get there.

I love how our guests so far in the Writers on Revision Series have addressed both the agony and the ecstasy of revision. I want to thank Hope Edelman, Ellen Meister and Susan Henderson for sharing their wisdom. I think there is even greater reward in the revision process than the first draft gush, but it takes also a greater faith to get there. You have to believe in yourself, muster the courage to see what isn’t working and not take it personally when it isn’t.

I say over and over again to my clients that writing is a craft. Not a science, a craft. As in: the more you do it–consciously–the better you get at it.

But just like exercise or dog training, first you have to feel the burn before the reward.

Wednesay I bring you Maria Schneider, of www.EditorUnleashed.com to talk about the revision process from the editor’s point of view. She expounds on the idea that writer and editor are in a relationship and that both must learn to respect each other’s work.

Susan Henderson: Trust Your (re)Vision

In 1 on January 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I thought of a lot of different ways to “introduce” Susan Henderson here, but each time they came out sounding cheesy. You may know her for her powerful writing, published in multiple print and online sources, or from www.Litpark.com, her brainchild and baby. You may know her from when she edited at Night Train magazine or from one of the many ways she champions writers. 

Fortunately, Sue speaks very well for herself, and I think you’ll find this to be one of the most inspirational interviews yet. She reminds us that even though we must listen to the sharp and wise voices of criticism, we must also trust our own voice and vision as writers.

You have the distinction of being editor and writer both. So which is harder: walking a writer through a revision, or doing one yourself? 

What an editor does is, she says “Based on my vast experience as a reader, these are the things that–to my ear–stand out as needing improvement.” The easy edits to offer are simply pointing out your experience while reading—This is where I got confused. Who’s saying this? This is where I got impatient or bored. Now, the dangerous water for both the editor and the writer is in the suggestions. Sometimes, you have a great idea—I know, what if the story starts on page 8—wouldn’t that be an explosive beginning? Even things that seem easy—a suggestion to change “She was sleeping” to “She slept”—can begin to erode a writer’s voice once you start making these small changes page after page.

 What an editor has to be mindful of is that she is put in a very peculiar position for someone in the arts. If you were a painter, it would be unbelievable for someone to come in with his own paintbrush and begin to “correct” your painting. How about more yellow? I’m just going to fix the nose on this woman’s face and add a few clouds in the sky? The editor has to be careful not to fiddle with a person’s work to the point of missing the author’s unique heart, voice, or lens on the world. I mean, imagine asking Cormac McCarthy to be clearer and to shorten his sentences and so on until the final result was something that read more like James Patterson?

But you asked which is harder, and I think offering an opinion is infinitely easier than the work of receiving that opinion with an open mind and then running it through the hearts and voices of the characters to see if it fits. The writer must find that balance between making the story tighter, fiercer, and clearer while staying true to her own voice and that initial and urgent impulse to tell the story in the first place.

What’s your process for revising your own work without the input of others?

 I definitely edit in waves. One thing I do, once I have a complete draft, is track a single character from beginning to end. I make sure that character is vivid, that he has a clear story arc, a definable desire that’s always with him, no matter who or what he faces. I do this for every single character, no matter how small his role in the story. And I also do this for the setting, which I consider one more living creature in my story.

 Later, I’ll read for pacing. I try to put myself into the mind of someone who’s exhausted and doesn’t have time to read my book. This is my way of making sure each chapter really moves, that there’s something surprising or satisfying that happens, that there’s the promise that more will happen if they turn the page.

 The last big edit I do is I read the entire book out loud. This is how I catch anything that’s off about the rhythm. I was a poet long before I wrote short stories or novels, so the cadence is as important to me as the plot.

 Your debut novel is being published in 2010. Break the myth for readers that once you sell a book your work is done. Tell us what you can about your post-sale editorial process.

 The day my novel sold, I spoke on the phone with my new editor who wanted to let me know some of her ideas for revision. Most had to do with one section of the book that she felt was disjointed and episodic.

 Her other thought was that I consider adding a “frame story” to my book. My novel is narrated by an eight year old, and my editor felt there were things she wanted to know as a reader that this kid couldn’t tell her. So she threw out this idea: What if there was another story with its own plot that followed any characters I chose into the future? What are they doing now and what could they say or do that would satisfy some of the unanswered questions carried by the reader?

 The wonderful thing about my editor is that she gave her impressions (and I think they were right on), but she really stayed out of suggesting how I should fix them. The fun of edits is that unknown space where you have to get creative again. What’s a different way of getting from point A to point B? What would I like to say about this story that my narrator’s incapable of knowing or communicating? That’s the part I love—it’s going to bed with no ideas at all, and then, over the next week or two, beginning to see ways to make the book something much bigger, something that says much more than the original.

 After this revision, there were some nips and tucks, and we’re still without a title, but basically, once your book is taken by an agent, and then again when it’s bought by a publishing house, be prepared to go back in and do more work. Also, don’t expect praise at this stage. You will likely get warmer responses and more compliments in your rejection letters because, once the book sells, everyone is going to look hard for what’s wrong with it and want you to fix it in a way that makes it more marketable.

 What is the most difficult revision you ever had to do and why?

 The worst—the revision that caused me to lose 15 pounds and nearly give up writing altogether—was taking an editor’s instincts over my own and watching my entire book fall apart. I can’t even talk about it in specifics because the sheer agony of it is still right there. In the end, I made the choice to rebuild something that I’d destroyed, rather than throwing it away. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I won’t let that happen again. I’ve always been someone who’s open to suggestions. What I’ve had to learn is to not to be so open—or should I say, so intimidated by people in positions of power—that I discount my own voice in the editing process.

 What aspect of revision do you embrace or even look forward to?

 I love looking at every sentence and trying to sharpen its meaning, to say it in fewer words, to infuse it with action, to take out the clutter, to find the rhythm as one sentence joins with another. I like to try to end every paragraph with an image or a mood or a surprise. That’s sheer joy for me, just playing with language.

 How do you know when you’re done revising?

You can only know when you’re done revising “for now.” Sometimes, you know because you’re exhausted. Sometimes because you’re euphoric. And sometimes because you hate the characters and think you’re the worst writer on the planet. When you’re done, for whatever reason, put the manuscript away. For a week, for two months. Later, when you go back to it, you’ll have a much better sense how close you are.

 What advice do you have for the aspiring writer about learning to love revision?

 My agent taught me this: think back to when you really loved writing—before it was about feedback/publication/rejection, before it felt like a chore, before you felt like a failure. Remember the joy in coming up with the exact color blue for a character’s eyes. Remember looking up at the clock and discovering a whole day had gone by while you were lost in the world of your story. Find that again.

 If it’s hard to remember when writing was something you loved, try this. Imagine stopping. Imagine not finishing that story or book you’ve been stuck on. Imagine losing your computer and all your unfinished manuscripts in a fire. If that sends you into an utter panic, then—hard as it may be to get it right—you simply must find a way to tell your story.

 ***

SUSAN HENDERSON’s debut novel, (TITLE COMING SOON), will be published by Harper Collins in September 2010. She is Curator of NPR’s newest literary venture, “DimeStories,” produced by Jay Allison (of “This I Believe”), and is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award and grants from The Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and The Lojo Foundation. Her work has—twice—been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Publications include Zoetrope, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, North Dakota Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, South Dakota Review, The MacGuffin, Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies (nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2004), North Atlantic Review, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Opium, Other Voices, Amazon Shorts (nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2006), The World Trade Center Memorial, The Future Dictionary of America (McSweeney’s Books, 2004), The Best American Non-Required Reading (Houghton Mifflin, 2007), Not Quite What I Was Planning (HarperPerennial, 2008), and Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years (Snowvigate Press, 2009). She blogs at LitPark.com, and occasionally at Huffington Post and Brad Listi’s The Nervous Breakdown. Her husband is a costume designer, filmmaker, and tenured drama professor. They live in NY with their two boys.

 

7 Stages of Revision Grief

In Craft, Writers on Revision on January 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

If you’ve come away with anything this week with the help of our first two writers of the Writers on Revision series, I hope it’s this: writing is rewriting. That is to say, after the first ecstatic gush, the rush of the story and characters flying down onto paper willy-nilly, it’s time to do the laundry. And the sooner you willingly and joyfully embrace the task of revision, the quicker you will find yourself with complete drafts and that much closer to publication. But I want to acknowledge first the necessary and often painful process many of us have to go through around revision.

I edit other people’s manuscripts for a living so I am constantly talking about revision. As a writer myself, however, I come to a person’s work with full knowledge of how hard it is to put your work out there for critique.

I tell my clients in advance of receiving my critique that it is normal to expect to feel the “stages of revision grief” which may look something like this:

1. Overwhelm. The writer simply doesn’t know where to start. Considers drowning feelings in tequila shots or Scrubs reruns.

2. Defensiveness (this is where I get letters explaining why a writer did what he or she did, and why he or she is unwilling to change it).

3. Discouragement. The writer figures she should just give up this whole damn craft and why’d she waste her money on me anyway?

4. Ranting. This is the stage I don’t get to see, as the writer does it to friends and trusted colleagues, but I know it happens because I’ve done it.

5. Relief. Well, at least now she has a kind of map for what to do next.

6. Purpose. The writer, by damn,  is going to tackle this thing head-on and not let it get her down.

7. Revision. The writer, at last, takes on revision with energy and purpose and finishes another draft! Let this be you.

Ellen Meister: Bashing Through Revision

In Business of Writing, Craft, Interviews, Profiles on January 20, 2010 at 1:45 am

The title of this blog post is misleading, lest you think Ellen Meister, author of three novels, most recently The Smart One and the forthcoming, The Other Life, is anything other than elegant.

However, she’s got one of the wryest wits I know and it shows in everything she writes. (She’s also funny in person!) So leave it to her to quote Kurt Vonnegut right off the bat. Enjoy!

***

How do you approach revision? 

Kurt Vonnegut once said there are two types of writers—swoopers and bashers. Swoopers write the whole first draft and then go back and edit. Bashers hammer away at each paragraph before going to the next. He was careful to point out there’s no right  or wrong here—just two different styles.

I fall into the basher category,  which I think classifies me as anal. I just can’t let go of a paragraph until it feels right. That’s not to say I don’t go back and edit again after the whole thing is done, but I tend to keep the draft pretty tight.

 What aspect of revision do you find the most difficult?

When my editor or agent asks for a revision to the story that creates a ripple effect through the book, I just want to cry. It’s not ego—I have no trouble killing my darlings—but the daunting amount of work involved. It’s overwhelming. But … I kick the wall, whine and moan to a few close friends, and then get to work.

 What is the most difficult revision you ever had to do and why?

Before submitting my first book to editors, my agent asked me to make the through-line stronger. Apparently the book spent too much time meandering into subplots. The revision required a more massive rewrite than I understood, and I tried again and again to fix it by applying band-aids. After the third go-round, I realized I had to deconstruct the whole thing and rebuild it. It was a painful but valuable lesson.

 What aspect of revision do you embrace or even look forward to?

I love when a manuscript is really close to being ready to submit and I go through it one last time in hard copy with an erasable pen in hand (I prefer these to colored pencils). At that point the book is pretty tight, and all I need to do is make elegant tweaks.

 How many drafts does it take you to reach a finished book?

This is question I can never really answer, because I don’t write one full draft before going back to edit. With me, it’s a relentless, ongoing process. Every day when I sit down at the computer, I read and edit what I wrote the day before. And every two chapters or so I print out the whole manuscript and edit in hardcopy. By the time I’m finished with a book every chapter has been revised dozens of times.

 What advice do you have for the aspiring writer about revising one’s work?

 I have an old friend who is one of those rare and lucky individuals blessed with a rock solid ego. Back in college he had a talent for writing, so I asked him why he gave up. He confessed that he’s just too self-confident to be a writer, saying he could never edit his work because he thought everything he wrote was so good to begin with.

 That’s my way of telling you to embrace your insecurities. They’re not going anywhere anyway, so just recognize that the constant questioning and second-guessing you do is what drives you to deliver the best work you can.

 Now get back to it.

 ***

Ellen Meister is the author of three novels, THE OTHER LIFE (forthcoming from Putnam, 1/11), THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins/Avon 2008) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (Morrow/Avon 2006), as well as numerous short stories. In addition to writing, she served as editor for an online literary magazine and currently curates for a literary series that airs on NPR. Ellen also does public speaking about her books and related issues. She lives on Long Island with her husband and three children. For more information visit Ellen’s website at www.ellenmeister.com.

Writers on Revision: Hope Edelman

In 1 on January 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Today Make a Scene launches its “Writers on Revisions” series, which will go on for several weeks. I admit that this is a self-serving project. I’m embarking on a novel revision, and rather than jumping off into that terrifying place alone, I wanted to bolster my process with words of advice from published authors and editors. But as an editor, I also know that writers can’t hear enough about revision. So, jump in, and share your revision stories!

Today I give you the wondrous Hope Edelman, author of The Possibility of Everything and Motherless Daughters.

***

How do you approach revision?  

 I typically edit as I go, perfecting each chapter as I write it, until I’ve done this about four or five times and the pages are ready to show to the women in my writing group. There are seven of us who’ve been together for several years, and I show them almost everything I write. Based on their comments, I revise again and then send the file to my editor. As I write subsequent chapters I’m always going back and tinkering with earlier ones as material moves around. So for this reason, chapters in the first half of a book probably get worked on eleven or twelve times total, which the last few chapters are revised maybe only seven or eight.

 What is the most difficult aspect of revision for you?

 Allowing myself to write a sloppy first draft.  I’m such a perfectionist, I always want to make a chapter as perfect as I can before moving on to the next one.

What aspect of revision do you embrace or even look forward to?

Watching a book or chapter unfold in the way it can only when it’s been worked on multiple times, over a long period of time. I often write under deadline but when I’m able to set aside pages and go back to them weeks or even months later, I can see them with a new set of eyes and new ideas, and the revisions I do then make the pages much stronger.

How many drafts does it take to reach a finished book?

I envy writers who can actually write a whole first draft, trash most of it, and create a second draft full of new material. Unfortunately, I get wedded to my early drafts and subsequent drafts don’t go through a major transformation. I think more in terms of revising chapters than revising a whole book. Ten revisions per chapter is probably my average. (See above)

I read an interview in which you opted to keep out a lot of information from your memoir The Possibility of Everything. How did you decide what to keep out–or more specifically, how do you shape your narrative arc of a book from the not-so-orderly mess of real life?

 Oh boy, those are big questions! I hope I can do them justice here. I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly how I sense what to put in and what to leave out, other than the obvious answer that I leave out anything that my husband or children think is damaging or upsetting to them. Beyond that, I think about pacing, characterization, and striking the right balance between narration and reflection. I digress by nature, so I have to be careful not to get too far into passages of reflection, which often start losing the reader. In my most recent book, I could have put many more details and anecdotes into the back story of the first three chapters, but I was acutely aware that I had to get us out of California and on our way to Central America before the first third of the book was over. So I was only able to put in the most critical details of the four months before our departure, and every single one of them had to be there for a reason. Anything that felt superfluous, I cut.  

As for shaping a narrative arc out of the messy material of real life, I don’t really know how I do that. I think in terms of stories, and can often see them literally rising out of the stuff of real life and taking form even as the events unfold. This last book revealed itself to me that way not long after we returned to California, with a perfect beginning, middle and end. Other times I sense there’s a story but only discover its meaning and message once I’ve started writing.  Instead of just knowing the story line, I have to create it from the material of ordinary life.

Thinking in these terms , writing creative nonfiction is the perfect profession for a control freak, isn’t it? Because you get to impose a sense of order on the chaos of everyday life. And, if you’re lucky, you get to inspire or help some people in the process.

What advice do you have for the aspiring writer about revising one’s work?

Know that generating new material accounts for about 20 percent of a writer’s time, and revision account for about 80. When I was writing my last book, every time I met someone new who’d ask, “What do you do?” instead of saying “I’m a writer” I was tempted to say, “I’m a rewriter,” which felt far more accurate. But I suspect writers are the only ones who’d get that joke.

***

Hope Edelman is the author of five nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers. She lives in Topanga Canyon, California with her husband and their two daughters. You can read more about her at www.hopeedelman.com and more about The Possibility of Everything, Belize, and the characters in the book at www.thepossibilityofeverything.com

Cooperate With Time (Don’t Manage it)

In Craft, General on January 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

The inimitable Alegra Clarke with another guest post on the reality behind any writer:

Time and the Art of Tightrope Walking

I first began composing this blog while I was out in the garden weeding. I began to edit it while vacuuming the house. I sat down to write the first draft with my children cuddled next to me on the couch watching an episode of Sesame Street from my own childhood; back when Oscar the Grouch was still allowed to be grumpy and the Cookie Monster’s obsessive compulsive cookie addiction was present without apology.  The first line of the first draft began something like this, “I am lying if I tell you I have successful time management strategies. I don’t manage time, I harness myself to its momentum and try not to fall off when it starts galloping and bucking.”

I am a mother to two children under the age of five and a month old baby.  There is always something to do. Bills to pay, things to clean, needs to be met, illnesses that pop up and consume hours I thought I would have to work. Plus, procrastination and self-doubt regarding my goals are messy, high-maintenance relatives that often visit right when I think I have secured a moment of peace to be productive in. 

I have a deadline looming on the horizon – I need to have the first 40,000 words of my novel and a thesis written by July. Every day that deadline, which once began as a speck on the horizon, gains size as ‘my time’ is consumed by, well, life. The thing that I have come to realize recently is that while I have picked up some rather type A personality strategies along the way — such as writing out my goals and breaking them down into manageable, daily actions which I then turn into a chart that allows me to check off each ‘to do’ and track my progress — these things are really just the imaginary safety net beneath me. They give me a sense of control and confidence but don’t offer any security that I will actually be able to follow through with my grand plans. The truth is I have learned to consider it a success if I accomplish 25% of my daily checklist. 

As I worked out in the garden contemplating this topic, I realized that achieving goals and managing my time has become more about an act of balance. I tightrope walk through my days by keeping my eye on the goals I have set for myself. It takes a certain level of faith and determination to set out on that narrow rope. I cast my imaginary safety net as I tack my lists and charts to the refrigerator, as I declare them to anyone that will listen, and then I take the first step. As life roars beneath me, I have to imagine it as something that supports, rather than threatens me. If the kids get sick and the days I expected to work get taken away from me, I adjust my weight. I pause and wait until my balance is regained. Often in those moments of adjustment I am given unexpected insight into a project I am working on.  One of the greatest helpmates in managing time has been realizing and accepting that time as it exists in my world is not something to be managed, it is something to co-operate with. 

Find out more about Eros-Alegra Clarke at:  http://alegra22.wordpress.com

The Road MORE Traveled

In 1 on January 11, 2010 at 11:45 pm

On some level I’m always thinking about revision because a) I’m a writer, and at some point after the joyous font of writing pleasure, I know I’m in for it. b) I’m an editor and daily I offer suggestions to others on how to revise their work.

I’ve also had the good fortune to interview a lot of successful authors, from TC Boyle to Sara Gruen to Tess Gerritsen–a wide gamut. And not a single one has ever said, “I just churned out greatness and it went on to be published.”  (Okay Boyle may have said that somewhere 🙂

Sara Gruen, if I recall, printed each of her pages some dozens of times until she could only find 1 single thing she’d like to change, and then she’d move on.

I struggle to tell my clients, many of whom desperately want to be published, that a published novel often goes through DOZENS of drafts. It can be mind-boggling, aggravating and heartbreaking–but if you don’t learn to take some joy from the revision process, that road to publication is going to get even longer.

So in honor of embracing what I call “the road more traveled”–I’ll be featuring interviews with published authors about their revision process.

Before that, I’ll have a guest post by the talented Eros-Alegra Clarke.

Keep coming back!

And feel free to share your revision process.

Jordan

Temporary Abandonment=Creative Flow

In 1 on January 9, 2010 at 3:41 am

For the first time in AGES I am not blogging because I’m too busy writing fiction 🙂 It feels so good. I proclaim for all to witness that I WILL finish a draft (a first draft) by March, if not sooner, and a second draft by June.

So, dear agent who hasn’t heard from me in ages, stay tuned. I will be bothering you before long.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for some guest posts!

JPR