Dramaquill's All Things Writing

June 25, 2014

Should you work on more than one manuscript at a time?

My business closes every summer for six weeks. As much as I love what I do, this holiday time allows me the luxury of working on myown personal writing projects, rather than the writing I do for work during the school year.

Currently, I have a finished draft of my second suspense novel. It has gone through a round of critiques and I am ready to do one more revision before it’s ready to sub out to publishers and agents.

I have about half of a third suspense novel that I started last summer.

I also have three quarters of my YA novel completed and a game plan for how the book will end.

I recently completed the first chapter of a new novel, with a quirky character, that I think has great potential.

So which one do I choose to work on?

It would seem that I should focus all my energy on revising the completed suspense novel so that I can start subbing it out. And for the most part, I believe that is exactly what I am going to do for the next six weeks.

But what about those days when my head just isn’t in the right zone for suspense? Or when I’ve hit an obstacle and aren’t quite sure how I want to handle it yet?

For me, it’s very healthy to turn to something else. My creativity may still be flowing, just not in the direction of my first project. I love having the option of opening up a completely different world and writing new words.

Revisions are necessary in order to ensure that you have the best manuscript possible but revising can be tough. When my head isn’t cooperating in revision mode, I switch to writing mode.

I know what you’re thinking. A lot of folks who jump from one manuscript to another end up with a computer full of unfinished projects. I do agree that this can certainly be a possibility.

We all work differently. For me, having the option of switching to something else is sometimes exactly the jump start I need to get back to the original project.

I’ve worked like this all my life. I’ve finished three full length plays, several one acts, an adult suspense novel, numerous articles and maintained this blog. So for me, working on multiple projects at the same time keeps my creativity flowing.

Do you work on more than one manuscript at the same time?

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November 8, 2013

Show, Don’t Tell: It’s a matter of sense

Having just attended the Humber College writing intensive last weekend, I’m still energized after having spent two full days talking nothing but writing.

One of the great struggles many writers face is using too much telling in their writing. “Show, don’t tell,” is a criticism many writers receive but some find difficult to correct.

Joe Kertes, the Dean of Humber’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, facilitated the workshop and offered us some great insights into the craft of writing, including what I found to be a very helpful and easy way to think about *show – don’t tell*.

Instead of telling your readers what’s happening, use the characters’ senses. What do they see? Smell? Taste? Hear? Is there something to touch and what does it feel like?

Instead of saying “John stepped outside and it was very cold” (which is very telling), let the reader experience the cold the same way John would. Perhaps your sentence would read something like this: “John stepped outside and immediately felt the icy stab of wind on his bare skin. He pulled the zipper of his jacket up all the way, tucking his neck inside like a turtle, taking refuge in his shell. He hadn’t thought to wear gloves so he shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets, bracing himself against another gust of arctic air as he made his way to the subway station.”

Now you can really feel how cold it is outside and so will your readers when you use the senses as a way to show, rather than tell.

Here’s a sentence for you to try. Feel free to post your *show* versions in the comments section of this post.

Stacey was afraid of the dark.

I can’t wait to read your *show* versions of this sentence.

For more information about Humber College’s creative writing programs, check out their website:  http://www.humber.ca/scapa/programs/school-writers

April 14, 2010

Writing about writing isn’t writing, but it’s a lovely distraction

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Okay, so I’m completely drowning in my content revisions for my adult suspense novel.  Just by changing one reveal in the plot, I have created a domino landslide of details that must also be changed.  My eyes squint like tiny slits from reading and re-reading my print copy of my manuscript.

So what am I doing blogging when I have so much to do to finish my rewrite?

I’m writing about writing, of course.  It’s a lovely distraction from all the details bouncing around in my brain like a stadium full of randomly released ping pong balls.

I know many of you can, and will, argue that writing about writing IS writing.  And to some degree, that’s true.  Anytime one puts words to paper (or fingers to keyboard), that’s writing. 

But if you really want to write with a purpose and achieve your goals, you must focus on specific projects…in my case, this novel revision.

Just like email and surfing the net can become giant distractions for writers, so can writing about writing, however, if you need a moment of distraction, what better topic to blog about than something to do with writing.

Distraction over…back to revisions.

October 5, 2008

Can you really make me feel for the villain?

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As I continue to work on my final revisions for my adult suspense novel, I vaguely remember an article I read in one of the many ezines to which I subscribe.  The article addressed the villain character in novels, plays, movies etc.

What does the writer have to do to make the villain more than just a horrible, frightening individual?

Well for one, this article stated that the reader had to be able to find something “human” about the villain.  We have to remember that no one, not even our worst villain, is 100% bad. 

So, that’s had me thinking a lot about Mel, my villain, this week.  Basically, Mel is a controlling, abusive, obsessive guy who has killed the women who tried to leave him.  My heroine, Eleanor, ends up in a relationship with Mel, but finds out before long that Mel’s idea of a relationship means she will have to surrender to him in every way or be punished.

After almost a year and a half of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, Eleanor leaves Mel and changes her identity so he can’t find her. 

Now, as a reader, I don’t think you’re too crazy about Mel right now, are you?

But everyone has a story.  Mel was left in a dumpster by his biological mother when he was just a few months old.  He was a sickly little fellow with extremely bad asthma and spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals.  He moved from one foster home to another until his eighteenth birthday, never being allowed to  establish himself in a loving, family environment. 

We still cringe at the things Mel has done, and continues to do, but at least we have some insight into “why” he behaves as he does. 

Mel has a vulnerable side and longs to be loved unconditionally.  Unfortunately, because he does not know how to elicit love from the people who come into his life, every relationship ends in disaster.

I still cringe when I read the pages I’ve written detailing Mel’s horrific actions.  I still feel my heartbeat pounding in my chest when I watch my heroine try to escape.  I don’t like Mel one bit!

But, I do feel for him at times.

How does your villain stack up as a character?  What will your readers think of your villain?

Here are some good articles/blogs about creating villains:

http://blog.worderella.com/2008/06/developing-villainous-characters-part-1/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU0711/S00197.htm

http://www.theromanceclub.com/writers/articles/article0042.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_2222257_avoid-creating-weak-villain-creative.html

http://www.stellacameron.com/contrib/villains.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Credible-Villain-in-Fiction

July 4, 2008

Why don’t you like me?

Revising my novel has become part of my daily routine.  Even when I’m not re-writing scenes or slicing chapters, I’m constantly thinking about Eleanor, my heroine, and Mel, my villain.  They’re inside my head and they won’t be silenced, each vying for my attention.

I don’t like Mel – that’s a given.  He’s controlling, abusive, deranged and unpredictable.  Now, considering he’s the villain in my suspense novel, I guess those are good qualities.

But the revelation I had while working on a chapter the other day was that I’m not sure I really like Eleanor, either.  My critique group has eluded to this once or twice saying things like:

  • Eleanor seems to cry too much
  • Although someone might actually react like this, it doesn’t seem to draw me into her (Eleanor) as the heroine of a book
  • Eleanor often lets someone else help her instead of facing things herself

And the more I re-write and revise, the more I’m beginning to see Eleanor as less than the strong woman I first envisioned her to be. 

So what do I do now?

How can I write passionately about someone I’m not sure I like?

Eleanor can’t help that she was a victim of serious verbal, physical and sexual abuse.  Eleanor can’t help that she’s terrified of Mel.  But, Eleanor can help herself.  She did it once before.  She got away from him.  She has to do it again, not only for herself, but for her readers.

So Eleanor, you’ve challeneged me to review what I’ve revised.  If I don’t like you, how will my readers?

The revision process is a long and complicated one but on the other side of all this hard work a better novel will emerge!

June 3, 2008

Keeping yourself motivated on your revisions

Writing a first draft is an exciting adventure for me.  As I develop my characters and start to get to know them, I enjoy sending them into different situations and seeing how they react and respond.  I wait eagerly for them to push my plot into new areas and take me down new paths.  In fact, I even enjoy the research required to make my manuscript credible.

But we all know that the first draft is simply that.  It isn’t a polished manuscript, reading to submit to agents or editors.  (At least I hope we all know that!)

So, we send it through a critique group or writing partner and await feedback.  Again, an exciting time for me as I read comments and criticisms of my work, hoping to make the writing stronger and the book more saleable with each new batch of feedback.

Now comes the part of the process, and yes, I can hear some of you groaning, that I feel really takes the work:  Revisions.

When I first got my adult suspense novel back from Marilyn Henderson, with the 12 pages of single-spaced, typed critique, I cringed.  Could she seriously have this much to say about my masterpiece?  But as I read through her comments, one thing became clear.  Revising is necessary if I want a chance to get represented by an agent or publisher.

But with revision comes change – sometimes huge change. 

I took Marilyn’s advice to remove a character from my original draft.  This one revision sent a domino wave of changes through my entire manuscript, resulting in deleting complete chapters and totally rewriting others.  Sometimes it feels like I’m writing a whole new book.

Now, I’m submitting all my chapters to my online critique group, hoping to get enough feedback to make this final revision my best work possible.

But this project has dominated my writing life over the past two years.  There are times when I wonder if it’ll ever be polished enough to send out there.  And then, when it’s making the rounds, how long will it take before it gets noticed?  Or will it ever even get noticed?  When I think like this, it can become easy to just chalk the whole experience up to a exercise in the discipline of writing an entire novel and then move on to the new projects I’m anxious to begin.

So how do I stay motivated on continuing and finishing this final set of revisions?

* Knowing I have to submit to my critique group keeps me working on the
        revisions.

* When I get tired of revising, I research publishers and agents in my genre,
   which gets me excited to finish my manuscript.

* To help motivate me to workon the revisions, I keep a post-it on my
   computer that says, “How badly do you want it?”
 

* I re-read my book from the beginning and get excited about the story again.

* I read my favorite author, Mary Higgins Clark and picture one day being able
   to read a published copy of my own book.

* I talk about my project to friends who enjoy listening to the thoughts of a
   budding novelist, which gets me jazzed about my book all over again.
     

We’ve all heard it enough times:  Make sure you submit only your best writing.  Well, that’s what I intend to do.

Oh, and I forgot the most important way to get myself motivated to get back to my reivisions:  I blog about it!

Thanks for listening.  I’m off to re-write the next chapter.

 

January 11, 2008

Something fun to try

Blogs are a great way for a writer, published or unpublished, to create a web presence.  Some are very pointed and specific while others run carefree. 

 I recently read somewhere (I know, as a writer I should have written down so I could cite it properly for all my readers) that some authors use blogs to allow their characters to speak out.

And I thought – HEY, what a cool idea!

When I first started this blog, I talked a lot about my adult suspense novel.  I’m still hot and heavy into the final (yeah, right) revision and I wondered if my heroine, and my villain, might have some things to get off their minds.

So, don’t be surprised if they start making an appearance here shortly.

November 27, 2007

Now here’s a contest that could boost a new writer’s career

So far I’ve blogged mostly about my suspense novel in it’s final revisions and my Nanowrimo suspense novel.  But in fact, I’m also a kidlit writer.  I write about eight original playscripts every year for our studio’s drama department and I enjoy writing rhyme, inspired of course, by non other than the master of rhyme, Dr. Seuss.

I’ve had several poems published in both print and online kids’ magazines with two more coming out in 2009 with Hopscotch and Boys Quest magazines.  I love writing rhyme and also have several rhyming PBs making the rounds.

I was first made aware of the Delacorte contest when my critique group was helping me with the POV and other issues in my YA novel, “Thinkers”.   This prestigious contest is offered up to new writers of MG and YA novels who have not previously had a book published. 

But the competition is stiff and the judging tough.  Several years, the prize was not awarded, indicating that the level of the entrants manuscripts was not sufficiently worthy of the Delacorte stamp.

So a piece of advice to those who might be intrigued to enter:   Polish…polish…polish those manuscripts.  Join a critique group.  Revise and edit.  Check and double check spelling, typos, grammar and format.   Hone your skills at writing dialogue, developing characters that make us want to cheer for them and plots that keep the reader flipping to the next page.

If you’ve done all that and really believe in your manuscript, then it’s time to enter the Delacorte.

Although the MG category is closed for 2007, there’s still time to enter your YA this year.

http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/writingcontests/

Good luck!  Maybe one of you will be the next Delacorte winner.

November 7, 2007

I’m not making excuses but…

Okay, so it’s been 6 days of Nanowrimo and I’m supposed to have written approx. 6000 words by now.  I’ve done half of that.  So why did I sign up for this arduous task of creating an entire novel in a month if I wasn’t going to put nose to grindstone????

 Whatever you think of my explanation (or excuse), Nanowrimo has made me write more than I would have if I hadn’t joined. 

Today I worked for 3 hours on a totally new chapter of my adult suspense revision and guess what????  That was another couple thousand words, so really, I’m only 1000 words behind if you count what I’ve actually written.

But wait…

What about the zillion emails I’ve answered, the correspondence I’ve written for work and of course, my blog posts.  If you add it all up, then I’m right on schedule with my Nanowrimo word count.

Too bad the words are spread around and not all on my novel.

And yes…I’m still thinking of switching to the other book.

What would you do?????????????

October 13, 2007

Confusing myself with revisions

My suspense novel is really taking shape and this last revision, #5 to be exact, has really cut the fat from the manuscript as well as tightened up plot and POV issues.

Thank goodness for critique groups, though.  It seems I cut chapter 3 featuring Louisa, a housekeeper, from the final revision, only to mention her in chapter 15.  With an abundance of emails saying:  “Who’s Louisa?”, I quickly realized that revision #5 still needs a little bit of fine tuning.

But what did I learn from this?

After I’ve read the manuscript for the umpteenth time, perhaps it would be a good idea to go through it and look for inconsistences.  With all the deleting of certain scenes and the addition of certain others, it’s time to make sure that I’m not relying on my original draft version anymore.

Had I not sent this manuscript through my critique group, things like this would get through to potential editors and agents.  I don’t need to sabotoge my writing by making silly mistakes like this.

So how do I feel about revising?

I used to hate it, but now I love it.  When I re-read a revised chapter and see how much better it is, how can I not get excited!

Along with the revisions, I’ve been skulking out prospective publishers and agents for this project.  I’m anxious to start subbing it out so I’d better get back to checking for inconsistencies.

If you find revising tedious, keep your eye on the prize:  the contract and a copy of your book in your hands.

Tell me your revision stories.

October 7, 2007

Help! I’m being possessed.

Having written about 6 PB manuscripts and a couple dozen plays and musicals for kids, it was with great surprise that I found myself plotting out an adult suspense novel.  What prompted me to begin this new genre?

Her name is Eleanor and she’s the heroine of the book.  I don’t know where she came from but I do know that she wants her story heard.  The more I write the book, the more she overtakes my brain.  Some days I know it is she who is writing and not me – I’m just the channel through which everything continues to flow.

Am I anything like Eleanor?  Absolutely not!

Would I have a friend like Eleanor?  Probably not!

Do I feel a connection to Eleanor?  Yes, stronger than to many of the three-dimensional people who actually occupy the list of friends and family with whom I share close relationships.

Sorry folks but Dramaquill will have to write more later.  I need her to finish chapter sixteen right now.  Eleanor.

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