Tag Archives: revisions

Writing in Reverse

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the fact that my car was totaled in a June hailstorm. That unfortunate event necessitated a new car. My old car had a backup camera, but this car has a BACKUP CAMERA! It’s amazing. It has this beeping-warning system that lets me know if someone is passing behind me or if I’m getting close to backing into something. The other day I was backing out of my garage, looking at the view in the backup camera, when the phrase Writing in Reverse just popped into my head. You may have noticed from my posts here that I love analogies. So when I thought about Writing in Reverse, I knew I had to use this for a post.

Before Writing in Reverse, I have to get my my story down. So I just drive/write a first draft. Yes, I do need to have a destination in mind­—a character, the semblance of a plot or structure, events to drive my story forward, etc. I need to keep the Rules of the Road/Genre in mind as I write. I need to be aware of traffic/the audience I’m writing for, and I need to watch my speed limit/word count. OK, sometimes I do go a few MPH/WPM (word per manuscript) over knowing I can probably get by with it, but I don’t want my speed/word count to get completely out of control. So, pretty much, I just drive/write on. The first draft is a hugely important part of writing. If I never do this part, I’ll never get anywhere. My ideas will be stuck at home and never see the light of day. Never get out into the world. And once the first draft is finished, I do feel like I’ve been somewhere. But I know this same journey will become very familiar . . .

. . . because now comes Writing in Reverse/revision.

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It’s time to take the same drive using my backup camera. It will be much slower. I will cut my speed limit to a crawl. Each twist and turn will require my complete attention. I will be more cautious and more aware of any obstacles that will hinder my story. I will listen to my internal beeps. I will listen to my critique group who will make me aware of my blind spots. This journey will take much longer than my first draft, but it has to be taken to get to that “sweet spot” for submission. I know this. It’s tough. But it must be done. And it’s worth it.

Recently my second deal was announced. A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE sold to Maria Modugno at Random House Children’s who also bought THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT. It will be illustrated by Ben Mantle who also illustrated my dragon story. Talk about Writing in Reverse! I had 102 “Saved As” files of A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE. Not all were complete rewrites, but all had tweaks. Some major, some minor. That’s a lotta Writing in Reverse. But it served me well. When I emailed Tricia (love my agent) that 102nd file, she deemed it “ready to go”. In two days, we heard back from Maria. She wanted my story 🙂

So make sure you use a BACKUP CAMERA! A really good one. Take that slow, Writing-in-Reverse journey where you pay attention to every detail and find that “sweet spot” before submitting. It will be worth it!

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penny editedPenny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHTis coming from Random House Children’s Publishing August 4, 2015. Also, coming from Random House Children’s is A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, Spring, 2016. You can follow Penny on on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence.

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Filed under Picture books, Uncategorized

Gone Revisin’

Wasn’t Tara Dairman’s launch party week fun? And lucky me, she and I are neighbors, so I was able to join in the festivities in person at her launch party in Boulder. I sampled Tree-nut tarts, homemade hummus, and gajar ka walwa, three recipes inspired by All Four Stars. Tara (and Gladys!) charmed the crowd, and the party ended with a long line of readers eager to have their book signed.

 

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And a lucky one of YOU is the winner of a signed copy of All Four Stars! And that winner is:

leandrajwallace!!!

Congratulations, Leandra!

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I wanted to write a funny post for today about receiving my first-ever, under-contract, editorial letter from my editor, and the excitement of that moment. (I may have kissed my letter).

 

 

I wanted to write a post about how receiving that letter makes everything feel real, and how you have all these fluttery feelings about your dream being realized, and you read the letter in a state of almost disbelief and wonder . . .

 

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Approximately what I looked like upon receiving my editorial letter.

 

. . . and then the panic sets in when you realize this is for real-for real, and strangers are going to be reading your book, and these revisions are one of your last shots to make your book as good as can be, and–AAAAAGH!

(Just a minor panic attack. Excuse me for a minute while I hyperventilate into a paper bag.)

Okay, I’m back.

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My desk pre-revisions.

 

My plan had been to write this post in diary format, like I’d gone missing while doing revisions and the diary entries would show me progressing from enthusiasm to panic to determined resolve to the voices taking over and me going crazy . . . I don’t know, it was hilarious in my mind. But that’s the thing about writing, right? It’s all brilliant in our minds. Who would ever sit down and dedicate priceless hours, weeks, months, years to craft a story with the intention of having flat characters and a derivative plot and clichéd dialogue? We are all trying to tell good stories to the best of our abilities.

 

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My desk during revisions. . .

 

But I couldn’t pull off the super-duper funny (no-really-it would-have-been) (probably) diary format post idea because my brain is totally fried, you guys. More fried than eggs at a roadside diner. More fried than a bucket of KFC.  More fried than all the food combined at a state fair.

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Mentally speaking, this is about the phase I’m at right now with my revisions. So things are going well . . .

 

But what I do have for you today are links to some great posts on revision that have helped me along the way in my own process. I’m including snippets that give you a taste, but if you are revising or will soon be revising, I highly recommend reading all of these in full. Without further ado:

From Anna Staniszewski‘s blog post “Lessons from the Revision Cave”:

“. . . since I didn’t have time to let the manuscript sit in order to gain some perspective on it, I read the entire manuscript aloud. This got me to really focus on it again, instead of just skimming over what I’d read a hundred times before, and notice things that still needed work.”

From middle-grade author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford‘s post “How to Respond to a Manuscript Critique/Editorial Letter”:

“Confronting a revision can be extremely daunting because of the Cascade Effect: when you change one plot point it necessitates two more changes so that the plot still makes sense after the change, which prompts still more changes and more and more. Ten or more changes can cascade from a single change, even a minor one.”

From author Lisa Schroeder‘s post, “Monday Motivation on Revision”:

“For me, when I’m deleting old scenes and writing new ones, I’m often scared I’m making the book worse instead of better. And it’s so messy – all that deleting and moving things around.”

From author Jeannine Atkins‘s post “Building and Wrecking Walls of Words”:

“Revision means going back to dredge through what we first came up with. Kicking holes while asking new questions, which lead to still more questions, which stage greater messes, demanding we again haul out the trash and finally tidy.”

From Maggie Stiefvater‘s “On Characters, Knowing Them”:

“I need to know what they want out of life so I can deprive them of it. I need to know what their mortal flaw is so they can struggle to overcome it. I need to know who they love so I can turn that person into a wolf and laugh meanly.”

From Jennifer Hubbard‘s “Avoiding Info Dumps”:

“People around us don’t stop to explain every little thing, every piece of their history, every allusion they make. We are used to gathering information and piecing it together ourselves.”

From Nathan Bransford again, this time on revision fatigue:

“The best way to deal with revision fatigue is to trust in your heart that it’s a very useful and necessary feeling: what better time to turn a critical eye on your book than when you think it is an affront to humanity?”

And from the Emu’s Debuts archives, a post by Lisa Schulman “Real Life: The Nemesis of Revision”:

 “No one ever warned me that the pre-publication revision stage would result in Foggy Brain Syndrome, which gives another disorder I suffered from, Pregnancy Brain, a run for its money. Life has somehow become the dream, and the world of my book-in-progress, reality. I am not fully functional in the noggin’, and I can’t quite explain why.”

 

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jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Deadlines, Editing and Revising

This Woman Is So Neurotic, You Won’t BELIEVE What She’ll Do to Avoid Revisions

Sorry for the silly title. I read an article this week about the people who write those dramatic headlines for Upworthy. The drama taking place in my head right now seemed to warrant a sensational title of its own.

As you may have guessed, I received the revision notes for MOTHMAN not long ago. There’s a lot to fix, but that’s not what’s tripping me up. I’ve revised projects before. Many times. Many, many times. The difference this time is that the project is under contract. Someone actually plans to give me money for this. Every change I make feels live-or-die important. I fret that each page will be scrutinized, criticized, analyzed–not just by my editor but by eventual, real-life readers. It feels so real this time, because it is.

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Striking fear into knuckles everywhere.

Let me first reassure my kind, patient editor if she happens to be reading that I’m making progress (no, really!). But never have I so badly needed my own personal schoolmarm to rap my knuckles with a ruler when I stray off task. Or avoid being on task in the first place. I suddenly discover urgent errands to run, closets to reorganize, correspondence to catch up on. I’m simultaneously frustrated by and grateful for interruptions. I tear apart and rebuild the same sentence ten times, then convince myself it was better before I messed with it.

Is there a name for this crippling revision syndrome? For those of you who’ve conquered it, what’s your secret? Fear of failure is an excellent motivator, so I’ll tuck that away and call it Plan B if nothing else proves helpful. But I’d rather learn to work through this like a healthy, teachable human being. Because every once in a while, I’ll polish up a sentence and pat it on the head and send it on back to the paragraph its shares with its brothers and sisters, and lo and behold: it’s pretty good! That’s a great moment. I can actually feel myself grow as a writer, with the proof right there on the page. At least until I read through it again the next day and realize how terrible it is.

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Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Maybe the key is simple persistence. Stubbornness. Refusal to yield. Like every other step in the publishing process. We claw our way up the mountain until we reach the next peak. We take a moment to celebrate and shout words of encouragement to the people still climbing. And we hum, loudly and rather off-key, pretending not to see that next impossible peak stretching ahead into the clouds.

In other news: Congratulations to Amie Norris, winner of FAIR COIN by E.C. Myers, from Tara Dairman’s book giveaway in last week’s post. Yay, Amie!!!

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May Arboretum 027Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Helpful or Otherwise, Writing, Writing and Life