Saturday, March 5, 2011

Have You Lost the Plot?

Losing your way in your very own plot can happen to any writer. You're pounding along and suddenly - wham! - the plot thickens and turns into your worst nightmare. Suddenly you can't see the wood for the trees! Before you throw your computer (or typewriter or pen and paper) out the window, here's some great advice from James Scott Bell's The Ultimate Revision Checklist. I found this on the excellent Writer's Digest site courtesy of Jane Friedman.

There Are No Rules - 6 Common Plot Fixes

Some Key Questions to Ask About Your Plot
* Is there any point where the reader might want to put your book down? (Shudder! Yes, it happens to the best of writers.)
* Does your novel feel like it's about people doing things? (Maybe doing too many things?)
* Does the plot seem forced and unnatural? (Even though you know in your heart of hearts this is the best novel since ... well, since the last best novel ever.)
* Is the story out of balance? Too much action? Too much reaction? (Ha! Seriously, can there be too much action?)

Maybe even one 'yes' means you should read this good advice because there are six simple ways to doctor your plot back to (almost) perfection. In fact the six simple steps are so simple you could say to yourself, "Hey, I knew that!"

These tips are so good I'm going to print them out and stick them on the wall when I begin the monumental task of editing my second children's adventure novel. Oh yes, I'm going to ask myself, "Is there too much action here? I mean, seriously, can there ever be too much action?" Don't answer that that!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are You a Perfectionist?

If the answer to the title question is yes, then look no further for advice than Jami Gold's excellent article A Perfectionist's Guide to Editing: 4 Stages.

Jami's words will strike a resounding chord with anyone harboring even vaguely paranoic perfectionist tendencies.

Jami says, "Perfectionists tend to be nitpicky, no surprise there. But there’s a time when that trait is very helpful, and a time when we need to ignore the compulsion to tweak. How do we tell the difference?"

That's a good question: how does one tell the difference between useful tweaking and compulsive (possibly ultimately destructive) tweaking.

Finish the Story!
As the song goes, "start at the very beginning" and that means "finish the story."

Jami: "Before we even start on the revision process, we need to finish the story. Many people give advice to not edit previous chapters before finishing the draft of the whole thing. Usually, the thinking goes like this: If we start editing before we’re finished, there’s a greater chance we’ll never finish the story and much of that editing time will be wasted further down the road."

4 Stages of Editing 
Expanding upon these four stages of editing this excellent article tackles:
*Revising - scene structure and character
*Dialogue, POV and motivation
*Polishing - grammar, sentence structure, use of words/adjectives/adverbs etc
*Tweaking - everyone's favorite! There is no finality about tweaking. One can tweak forever but that's when one has to rein in the tweaking tendencies and know when to say, "It's finished!"

Oh, but is it ever finished? Possibly not, but by then your product should be at a stage where you can submit it to the eagle-eyed agent of your choice. Good Luck!