Tuesday, February 16, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 As I write this, I'm making self-editing passes on Night's Bliss, the final book in the Ancients series. One of the most important stems from the three-pass system by the always awesome Liz Pelletier, publisher at Entangled. It requires a complete read through and deals with overarching things like plot pacing. Normally I have 3-5 pages of notes when I'm done.

This book, I had four pages--in the first 10%. 

Most were line edit type things. Wrong word choice, muddled phrase or sentence. So I went through the book cleaning up the prose first. Then I tried the full read again. 

This time I got through four pages and 14%.

Frustrated, I did another nitty-gritty pass, cleaning up muddled paragraphs and sharpening dialog.

Then, finally, I was able to read the book at the level where I could see problems with character arc and plot structure.

It brought to mind a workshop on editing I took with great writing coach Laurel Yourke as part of A Weekend With Your Novel (UW-Madison Continuing Studies). She calls it "trees" versus "forest."

As writers, we spend a lot of time honing the trees. Crafting an elegant turn of phrase, getting just the right word. But too many of us get bogged down in all those elegant phrases and perfect words. We never see the forest, which might be a horrendous mess. Yourke, as I remember it, said we need to do more forest-edit passes.

True. But I discovered something during my rounds of self-edits. While the whole-book high level pass is essential, the shape of the forest can't be determined if the trees are choked by weeds. That is, the prose must be clean enough that you can actually see the shape of the big-picture things.

I encourage every writer out there, if you're not doing a read through like a reader, where you plow through the whole book from beginning to end with as few stops as possible--start. (If you don't know what to look for, I found insight with the two people I mentioned, but there are plenty of guides out there. Find one that works for you.) But be aware that the grand read-through pass may not be possible until you've weeded the garden first (or trimmed the excess clay from the pottery wheel or plucked the extraneous hairs from the eyebrow or whatever metaphor works best for you).

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Use Artist

 I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published April 20, 2010 for Vivi Andrews

Question- How has your writing approach changed since you've been published?  Does the fact that you now know readers & reviewers will be reading your books affect your writing process at all? 

Use Artist

Thanks so much, Vivi, for having me here today!

I admit to being a total use artist, use rhyming with moose, as in usefulness. I wrote church plays when my church needed plays. I sang tenor in my husband's choirs even though it drove me nuts when the sopranos complained the notes were too high (I live for sailing above the staff). I'm a flutist but learned oboe when my college needed an oboist. When our wind band needed extra percussion for a tour I stepped in again—and soloed throughout Europe on bass drum, LOL.

As a writer I need to be useful too, so what the reader wants factors hugely. Oh, I have some general ideas where I want my stories to go. But if I sense readers want more or less of a certain thing (or sooner rather than later), I’ll do it if I can.

The big caveat being if I can. I spent enough time writing before getting published that I know my writer self pretty well. I know there are certain plots, certain character types I can't write, no matter how wonderful they are. My husband has suggested some stunning plot twists but if they involve the hero being less than alpha (for example) my heart won't be in the writing. And when my heart's really not in it, the writing really doesn't happen.

So my basic approach hasn't changed that much. Sure, writing to public expectation makes the process harder. Besides Little Miss Inner Critic I now have Imaginary Shoulder Readers (not to be confused with Liese’s shoulder buddies).  And I spend about a third of my writing time in the colorful world of PromoLand, which I didn’t have to worry about before.

But knowing reader expectation actually makes the writing process easier too. I write all kinds of stories, science fiction to erotic romance. Before publishing I had to guess which to work on. Now I can choose what to bring to the front burner based on what other people want to read.

So if it’s Biting Love people want, that's what I'll mostly write. To paraphrase Nixie, it's what I can do to make other people happy.