I wanted to talk to you a little bit about revision today. I’ve got some RANDOM thoughts that have been marinating and I thought I’d share them with you…
*Right now, revision is a blast because I’m in the slay-the-monster-zone. The only thing stopping me from having a kick-ass, completed, manuscript to send out to my agent, is the fact that I’m a rather slow monster slayer. LOL! Even so, it’s a fabulous feeling and I’m really enjoying it. I’m pulling out my laptop every chance I get. (Have revision fort, will travel.) Even though things are going great, I’m prone to self examination, so I’ve been wondering…Why is this section of the writing process one of my favorites?
I think it’s because it consists of 50% structure and 50% intuition. I’m not in a place where I’m just doing the brain-numbing task of fighting with my horrible spelling and grammar. I gleefully have more than the bones of the story down on paper. My rough drafts, riddled with their own issues, are a full story. This means I don’t have to work in the place where I have ALL the ideas in the world. That can be overwhelming. Right now I’m walking the line between being creative AND doing the nuts and bolts work. It’s a really good balance for me. Of course, it always helps that there’s a light at the end of my tunnel to guide me home.
*Lately I’ve heard a lot of words bandied around–procrastination, fear and writer’s block. These are words I’ve used from time to time. In fact I pull them out at at regularly scheduled intervals in my writing process LOL! We all do. But as I’ve been pondering the joy of revision, I’ve realized that there is something to be said for revising my process as well as my manuscripts. Sure, I can write volumes about how and why my second book has gotten away from me during the process of being a debut author. I can talk to you about my emotional writing style and why I approach writing the way I do. I’ve got a zillion fabulous posts in me about these topics. You’ll likely even get a few of them from time to time, but I’m a growing girl. (No, I’m not gonna get taller than 5 foot 4 inches–no matter what I write.) What I mean is, if I open myself up to it, I’ll learn to revise myself, the same way I do my words.
K.L. Going once said to me...you can’t put a book on the shelf if you don’t put it on paper. It’s not a book if it is in your head–it’s an idea. That was a big turning point for me. But I’m also coming to realize that I need to expand upon that nugget of truth. What will I be doing the minute I put THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY in the hands of my agent? I’ll be working on CHASING ADAPTATION! It’s not just enough to get the book on paper, it’s important to understand what role procrastination, fear and writer’s block play in that process. They can be speed bumps or they can be excuses. They can be challenges to overcome or they can be blog posts that keep a writer from doing the real work. You know what I choose. I am discovering where and when to push myself to be the writer I want to be.
*This next thought is going to sound counter productive to my last one, but if you were paying attention you know that balance is important. I just suggested that it’s necessary for me to push myself harder through the parts of the writing and revising that are naturally hard for me. It’s true. It resonates. I believe it. But I’m also suggesting that an important part of revision is what I think of as The Feel. It reminds me of my son at his music lessons. As he’s learning the guitar, his instructor doesn’t want him to look at his fingers while he’s playing. He needs to know where his fingers are supposed to go. Playing has a feel. I had a very similar experience when I learned how to type. I spent lots of time looking at my fingers in the beginning, not believing that I’d ever be able to stop doing that. Then one day I realized I could hit those keys without thinking about where they were. Writing and revision are like that. They have a feel. You DO have to push yourself to show up when the work is hard. You DO have to understand you won’t always be comfortable in the different phases of this process. But you also shouldn’t be trying to push a square peg into a round hole. No one benefits from that. Not the peg. Not the hole. Writing is art–there are parts that have to be felt to be done “right.”
*Agents and editors have special-super-hero-vision and can see a manuscript in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend. They have a whole different skill set than I do, which means I want them to pull my manuscript apart. Their work is a pivotal step in the process of changing a manuscript (a solitary endeavor) into a book (a collaborative event.) BUT, even though I want my agent and my editor to pull my words apart, in order to get to an even better version of my story, I still need to bring my very best work to the table. Maybe it’s just me, but I liken the revision process to shopping for a very awesome birthday present for a friend. Sending out a completed manuscript is like giving a gift that is well thought out, nicely wrapped, usable, exciting and timeless. Sure, it’s about me too–a good book is going to benefit me as much as the agent and the editor, but when I’m working on the revision, I find myself having a sense of intimacy with my first new readers and that makes the process really wonderful for me.
*Or there are times when you’re revising and it feels like a you’re wrestling a giant octopus. Just ask my friend Amy. But hey, the cool part about that is you can wear those tentacle burns like a badge of honor when your done. *fist pump* So, what I guess I’m saying is that revision is awesome…even when it isn’t.
Any thoughts on revision? What do you love? What do you hate? Have you ever eaten octopus? I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m off to the revision fort!
OMG! I have copy edits. This is simultaneously thrilling and scary. It means that I’m one step closer to TOUCHING THE SURFACE being a “real” book, *becomes dizzy at the thought* but it’s also a little bit like learning a completely new language. Here is a little example of what my manuscript pages look like now.
It’s a little like hieroglyphics, don’t you think? Of course I was given a crash course on how I should tackle this, but in case your curious, here is what some traditional copy editing marks mean.
As you can see, the copy editor used red pencil to make his/her changes. The production editor uses a brown pencil. (In case you’re wondering what a production editor does.) And my editor uses blue to make her comments. Now get to add one more color to the mix. This is so everyone can quickly distinguish who made what mark or comment on the pages. And more importantly its an excuse to buy a brand new package of colored pencils. LOL!
I’m leaning towards the darker purple or possibly green if the purple doesn’t work. Did I mention that brand new colored pencils just make me happy? Love it!
I’m dying to hear about your experience with copy edits. I’ll take any advice you’re willing to share. If you haven’t gotten to this phase yet, I’ll do my best to answer any question you might have. And if you’re not a writer at all…you can just tell me what you’re favorite pencil color is. :o)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–okay…up until January 2011–I was given lots of advice during the great agent and editor search. I ate up the recommendations like they were Dibs, those bite size chocolate covered ice cream bites. But there was one piece of advice that I found hard to swallow–don’t jump at just any agent and/or editor who is interested in you. Hold out for the right one.
Intellectually that sounded nice, but in theory that felt more like asking me to put a piece of gum in my mouth and not chew it. I wasn’t sure I could do that. Would I even recognize a bad fit if I found one? Luckily for me, the fates intervened and everyone rejected me until the perfect fit came along. Ha! My agent Michelle Wolfson makes me grateful for everyone of those BIG FAT NO’s. And one of the many ways that I know she’s the perfect agent for me–she sold TOUCHING THE SURFACE to Anica Rissi, my editorial soulmate.
This is a small bit of advice, yet the hardest for most people (desperate for validation) to wrap their minds around. But I’m passing it to you anyway. Yes, things fell into place for me in the right time. I was very lucky, but I also believe that I was freakishly open to not having a timetable for success. I used determination to drive me forward, but I also gave myself enough flexibility and forgiveness to let MY journey unfold in it’s own way. I know it’s really hard, but don’t settle–ever.
First ever book contest was a success and we have a winner!!!! Woot!!!!
I haven’t mastered the on-line entry form yet (tutorials welcome) so I went with the next most high-tech plan I had. Here’s how it went down…
I wrote everyones name down on a piece of paper. (Went green and used the wrap from the last pack of paper) *takes little bow*
This is where the Whole Lot of Shakin’ was going on. I may have gotten some exercise. Sorry, Linda Grimes, I know that you expected more from that title. I’m a sad excuse for a Romantic Comedy Writer. *sniff* I’ll leave all the fun stuff to you.
–the Mater of Ceremonies pulled a name. The Winner is….*drum roll please*
Logan E. Turner!!!!!! Logan chose I AM J by Cris Beam. I’ve already got it on my to-read list and I’ll be getting that copy out to Logan ASAP. Lucky me, later I’ll get to read her wonderful blog review of the book. Thanks Logan!!!
So, why am I getting drug store reading glasses you ask? (I see you have the attention span of a flea.) It’s a long story. Well, actually it’s not that long, but the first half is boring so I’ll speed through it.
Went to eye doctor recently. Eye doctor asked if I was having trouble seeing things up close. Of course I denied it vehemently. Then got home and had a light bulb moment–was that why I was putting everything on my computer into a larger font??? Crap. *head thunk*
So I figured that I’d ride it out to my next visit because that’s why God made flexible font. Right? That plan of attack was working great for me until I got the first seven chapters back on my first round of revisions. Anica RIssi writes the BEST editorial notes EVAH! And…She has the cutes, tiniest, most adorable hand writing you could imagine. It’s like getting notes from Arrietty Clock of the Borrowers.
*squints* But I totally don’t care that I’ve been outed by my editor and forced to admit that I have body parts that are betraying me. What I care about is that Anica gets me and my writing. In the places where I need improvement, her guidance will get me through the tough spots. She says things in a way that doesn’t make me feel defensive or stupid for not seeing it myself. She also does this absolutely beautiful thing where she makes everything feel like a wonderful collaboration. I like this so much because this book isn’t just my dream anymore. Michelle and Anica are as deeply vested as I am in bring this book to life and making it the best that it can be. I don’t need special glasses to see that. I can feel it. *heart squish*
I can’t show you my favorite comment from Anica’s notes because it would be a spoiler. Just know that it’s written on an index card and is sitting on my bulletin board where I can see it. But I’ll give you my second favorite…
Yes, I’m lucky and I know it. I’m also grateful and determined to soak in every moment of what I’m experiencing as it happens. I have a feeling that happiness isn’t about getting what you want–it’s about wanting what you get. I love what I’ve got.
I recently got my very first editorial letter. *gasp*
Those things are a little scary, even when they’re exciting. I’ve wanted to tell you about what it feels like to get that letter and make those changes, but it’s really hard to put it all into words. The thoughts have been tumbling around in my head. Finally, I figured out how to tell you when I went to see WICKED this weekend. The author/editor relationship is a lot like the relationship between Elphaba and Galinda. I’m serious! At the end of the day, when the book is finished and the story closes, if you’ve done it right, it should feel something like this…
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
But until that day…I’m guessing it feels a little closer to this…
Just a few days after I sold TOUCHING THE SURFACE to Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse, I got a letter home in the 7 year old’s book bag. The second graders were studying communities and were asking parents to come in to do a mini job fair with the kids. I looked at the sign up sheet, bit my lip and took the plunge.
(I can’t lie-I giggled and did a little happy dance when I saw this. Didn’t even care about the name typo.)
Then I put the date on my calendar and forgot about it, until I realized that I should bring stuff with me that was authory. But what should I bring? I don’t actually have a book at this point. I took my best guess and stuffed a bag with authory stuff and headed out. Of course, as I made my way to the school, it was raining like I was in the middle of a biblical plague. There weren’t even any close parking spots. Can you picture me hauling a giant dance bag, a rather large bag of book stuff and a pocket book while balancing an umbrella and herding the 5 year old? Kind of hilarious, but so worth it when I got to do this…
You know I was grinning like a little fool. And of course two of my favorite mom librarians were there and there was extra jumping up and down and looking silly.
So what did I bring and why did I bring it?
I started with a variety of dance shoes, my teacher’s notebook and some pics of me dancing over the years… What was that? Oh, you wanted to know about the author stuff? Just kidding.
I arrived with the tools of the trade! I started with a hard copy of my manuscript that I’d used with a beta reader. The guesses of how long it took me to write that thing ranged from 7 days to 200 years. My response? "That would make me like 227 years old." *grin* My humor totally went over their heads.
I also brought books and magazines that I like to read. Some I read for pleasure and some are about craft and some straddled both. I explained that if you want to be a writer, the single most important thing you could do was be a reader. And own a dictionary. And be proficient at marketing and networking…(Notice I was doing subliminal sales for my fellow wolf-pack member Kiersten White and her YA novel Paranormalcy.)
Lastly, I brought chocolate. I shouldn’t have to explain my love of it by this point in our relationship, but this was no ordinary chocolate. This was editor love chocolate. I sniff it often while admiring the amazing note from my editor AND THEN I wander off to find similar looking chocolate to eat while I’m writing. I can’t part with this one. *I reserve the right to revise that statement in a chocolate emergency.
So was it fun? Being an author/dance instructor, role-model, thing-a-ma-jiggy?
Ummmm…YES! YES! YES!
I even got some love from my own second grader. He picked me first. *phew* with his gaggle of guy friends. They all sat down and with my most serious looking face I said…"I’m pretty sure I know which hat you guys want me to wear for this interview. Today I’m going to teach you all about ballet." *gasp* I never said I was a nice author.
But paybacks can be tough…
(My favorite second grader.)
After I told the boys all about being a WRITER, they tumbled off like a pack of puppies and an adorable little blonde girl wandered over…
Girl: "Are you Ty’s mom?"
Me: "Yes, I am."
Girl: "He’s been telling me a lot about you."
Me: (Beaming) "I hope he’s saying all good things." (Beams some more)
Girl: "Eh, about half and half."
Me: *Head thunk* followed by a *grin.* We all know the truth-any publicity is good publicity, right?
If you haven’t heard me screaming and jumping up and down with joy–you may be suffering from undiagnosed hearing loss. Why all that hooting and hollering you wonder? It’s because my most amazing agent, Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency sold my Young Adult novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE to the incredible Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse. *jumping, shouting, jumping, shouting*
I wish I had some crazy story to reel you in with, but the truth is…
GET YOURSELF A FANTASTIC AGENT WHO KNOWS EXACTLY WHO WOULD BE THE PERFECT EDITOR FOR YOU.
I know it sounds easier than it is. I’ve been there. It’s worth it. I know that you can do it, so don’t give up. (((hugs)))
Well, that covers the first half of my title, but I know you’re wondering about the second half. It’s simple…I write about my Dad a lot. If you know me or my blog, you know how much he means to me and you’re aware of how much I miss him. But I have a great Mom and she’s been equally as instrumental in helping me to be who I am today. The thing is-it’s easier to write about dead people-they don’t argue with you, get disappointed or make you feel shy about expressing your mushy side. Dead people are extremely accommodating. They handle your neurosis with kid gloves. But sometimes, even if you’re not sure if you’ve used the right words, you have to take a risk and talk to the living people too.
My mom has been lifting me up for as long as I can remember…
She used to write little quotes and notes and tack them to the mirror in my room or put them in my lunch box. I grew up with one on my mirror that started like this…
"Being beautiful isn’t a talent…"
I looked at that every day and always knew two very important things about myself–my mom thought I was beautiful and she also thought that I was more than that beauty.
Back when I was growing up, a full Angelina Jolie mouth wasn’t popular or pretty. I can remember standing in front of that mirror and practicing how to hold my mouth so that no one would tease me. I did it so I wouldn’t hear someone say that my lips were so big that if I licked them, they could stick me to a wall. The mouth exercises never worked, but the quote was a good anchor to hang onto. Intellectually I knew how insignificant little comments like that should be-but it doesn’t work that way. We all know that.
My mother taught me that words have power and that I should use them both carefully and with abandon.
When my Dad passed away, my Mom asked my brother and I if it would be okay if she put our names on their stone. She wanted to write that Richard and Jean were the parents of Kimberly and Terry. She wanted everyone to know that raising us was the greatest accomplishment of their lives. Oh, the power of words…
As you continue to write and search and reach for publication, remember that you write for you and you alone and you do not have to be published to be the greatest accomplishment of someone else’s life. You write to fill your own soul and you love in order to fill the rest of them.
February 11, 2011
Congratulations!! Grandma always said you were a dreamer. Lots of people just dream and never do anything about it. Not you. When the time was right you took a huge leap, sprouted wings and landed safely in your dreams. You were blessed with such a wonderful talent and I am so proud of you. I’m sure Daddy is busting his buttons telling everyone how proud he is of his "beautiful baby"!
It wouldn’t be a SCBWI Conference if we didn’t start off with this…
The lovely, talented and very funny Lin Oliver. Lin remarked that there were 35 people at the very first LA conference. We’ve come a long way baby! When asked how many people in attendance were first time conference goers-there was a sea of hands raised. I think that’s soooo wonderful. Welcome to the SCBWI tribe everyone!!!!
*drum roll please*
IT’S LOIS LOWRY!!!!!!!! Author of my favorite book of all time-the Giver. I can not adequately express how excited I was to hear her speak.
Lois used fan letters to show that almost everyone has two burning questions for her…How do you get your ideas and do you have a dog? *grin* Yes, she does have a very cute dog, but I have to admit it had never crossed my mind to ask. On the other hand I’ve always wanted to know where she got her ideas. I’m going to touch on two…
A SUMMER TO DIE (1st Book) -Lois had a sister that was her best friend, worst enemy, side-kick and the person who taught her how to read. -Her sister died leaving her own young children behind. -In order to cope with the grief, Lois would tell her own 5 year-old the stories of her sister. After awhile her child was bored with her grief as all young children should be. -Lois told the stories to herself instead…
She reminded us to "give sorrow words…"
THE GIVER -Lois’ father was suffering from dementia. One day while looking through pictures together, they came upon a childhood picture of Lois and her sister. Her father couldn’t remember what her name was and then when reminded, he couldn’t remember what had happened to her. Lois had to remind him that she had died. His grief was such that it was like he’d heard the news for the first time. -They continued to look through pictures and came across another of the two sisters and once again her father couldn’t remember. Lois told him that her sister had died and once again it was a brand new pain for her father. -On the way home in the car Lois began to wonder about the idea of removing painful memories from people’s lives. -She decided she was going to write about a group of people in the future who’d found a way to be happy, comfortable and safe-removed from painful stimuli. -The book became more complicated as she began to write it, but this is where the story started.
I walked away from Lois Lowry’s keynote speech feeling as if there is no other way to create, than to use writing as a way to explore your own feelings and thoughts. I know that it’s tempting to try to write to market and trend (and it never hurts to know what is going on) but I do believe that the very best writing comes from that place we aren’t sure we should allow other people to see…
Of course there was an additional moral to her presentation…If you want to be a great writer-you need to get a dog! ROTFL!
Creating and Recreating the Picture Book: Three Views
This was hands down the best Picture Book Panel I’ve ever heard. Here are some of the things that resonated with me…
JY-Things that haven’t changed about Picture Books… -The amount of work it takes. -How dedicated writers are. -How much authors/editors need to know.
JY-Picture books need to have lyricism-a musicality of language.
JY-A PB is about compression-words have to do double or triple the work.
JY-Child centeredness does not mean that you have to have a child in the book.
JY-Pick your words as carefully as a poet. -Children use big important words too-it just has to be the "right" word. -Sometimes you can make up the words-but this is a magical ability so take great care.
JY-Make it illustratable-think in pictures.
MT-Think about if your illustrations will serve the story.
PLG-It doesn’t come from your head.
PLG-Don’t squeeze any idea too hard.
Lin Oliver asked if Picture Books would be better if the author and illustrator collaborated more?
PLG-I’ve learned to keep them apart. Writers are verbal and artists are not, so they would have trouble winning an argument. LOL!
MT-It strikes me as a good tradition and cites Lewis Carroll (Alice and Wonderland) being a tyrant to his illustrator.
JY-You have to respect the genius of the illustrator.
Before we leave for our next session, we gave a great big thanks to all the SCBWI RA’s who do so much to make the tribe great.
Next up was the Pre-Assigned Workshops-What Makes Your Work Publishable: Today’s Market in Children’s Books.
My first Breakout session was with Alessandra Balzer-Co-Publisher of Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins)
My second Breakout session was with Alexandra Cooper-Senior Editor (Simon & Schuster) I know the picture is a little blurry, but she was so enthusiastic and fun, this one captured her personality.
At this point in the day, my stomach is yelling for some of that chicken, hand cooked by Lin Oliver *grin*. Unfortunately, my group of rabble rousers was tardy and we ended up in the farthest possible location from the the podium LOL! The food was still major yummy though.
The upside was that we were in snagging distance of our own pot of coffee LOL! Go Jeff!
Eileen, Gina, Kim and Jodi
Suzannah, Justin, Jill, Jeff and Scott.
Our Luncheon Keynote…all the way over at the podium was none other than kid-scaring, best-selling children’s author R.L. Stein.
See him waaaaayyyyy over there? His speech was on Writing for Fun And Horror but I laughed so much I hardly took any notes. :o) He was so fun to listen to. My favorite part of his speech was when he shared his favorite fan letters. My two favorites are…
"I’m your biggest fan. I’ve read your books so much my parents have to escort me to the bathroom."
"I’ve read 40 of your books-and I think they’re really boring."
He also reminded us that we have to be open to everything as a writer-you don’t know what the twists and turns are going to be. He had planned to write comedy and only wrote horror because he didn’t want to turn down a job.
Lastly, he touched everyone in the room when he got all choked up talking about receiving a compliment from his hero Ray Bradbury. It is nice to know that no matter how big you become, you still can have heros. *heart squish*
Breakout session #3 with Lisa Sandell-Editor (Scholastic) and author.
The last keynote speaker of the day is Jules Feiffer.
This was one of those speeches where you know that you are listening to a legend and every word is important. The speech is a continuous flow and it is almost impossible to pick out a piece of excellence, because the whole experience is amazing.
Here are some of my favorite things…
*At the time Jules was illustrating for his friend, Norton Juster, he was poor and did his illustrations for the Phantom Tollbooth on tracing paper. The originals have not survived and his thoughts on this were…"Norton didn’t tell me he was writing a classic."
*I have a long history of so whats. (meaning wrong turns on the path to success)
*It was spite that got me into children’s books.
*On entertaining the possibility of failure and letting it get him down–I’m going to make failure work for me.
One of Jules favorite illustrations from the Odious Ogre. "At my age, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to play like a kid…"
Jules Feiffer picking on me because my kids names are Irish sounding and I’m Polish and my hubby is Italian. He also wanted to know what the heck a Fishkill Frog was LOL! But he was lovely and signed the book for the elementary school library with a frog illustration just for the kids. Lots of fun!
Me and R.L. Stein…he gave me Goosebumps *grin*
The lovely and talented Jane Yolen.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a spaz I was meeting my idol Lois Lowry. I have no idea what the heck I said, although Nancy Castaldo was at the table and may have things to hang over my head for the rest of my life. All I know is that it was amazing and I’m very very grateful that she doesn’t look too frightened. Going to hang this one on my bulletin board…motivation for excellence.
I know you can’t even imagine Sunday living up to the sheer awesomeness of Saturday’s Conference, but it does. I swear. I’ll prove it to you in my next blog.