Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Latest Revision Epiphanies (pronounced Epi-Fannies) and My Latest Failings on the Blog

It's Wednesday, yo. 16 days until my revision deadline. Don't remind me. Seriously, why'd you even bring it up? Stop Judging me!! Gah!!!

1. A week ago Monday, I created a weekly blog feature: Questions from the Question-Maker.

And then last Monday? Totally forgot. So I guess it's not a weekly feature yet. Looks like I'll need to tweak it a bit. Maybe I'll take the issue up with the little man behind the curtain of the blog. (He's sort of a cross between the Wizard of Oz and an Ooompa Loompa).

B. I was interviewed on the Working Writer's blog. Go check it out if you get a chance, and leave a comment if you feel so inclined. :)

i. The Latest Gems I've Learned from Revising

I'm really coming into the crunch time for my revisions, and I've noticed a few tics of mine that keep popping up. So I thought I'd share things I've learned here with you, in case any of you are in the middle of your own revision H-E-L-L. (Helping to Educate and Learn Letter)

1. Pay attention to your tics.

In the first book I ever wrote, my main character had a lot of breathing problems. Her chest would feel tight, her breath would get caught, she'd fight for air...

This time around, all of my characters flinch. A lot.

Someone looks at them funny, they flinch.

Someone says something mean, they flinch.

A gust of wind approaches, they flinch.

They find out the end of the world is near, they flinch.

My book is full of a bunch of people with nervous tics. Not that there's anything wrong with nervous tics. Some of my best friends (including me) have adorable nervous tics.

But when every single character is clocking in at about 20 flinches per second, it's bound to resemble a scene out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The funny thing is, I never noticed the pattern until this last round of revision, and my editor politely made note of it. After she pointed it out, I flinched, and then I was all, "How did I not see this before? It's atrocious!"

So, here's the tip:

Fresh Eyes can Uncover Tics (Not to be confused with the insects who burrow under your skin)

2. The world in my head often doesn't make it onto the paper.

Someone once told me that if the reader has all the answers at the beginning, he won't want to keep reading.

I think I took this piece of advice to the extreme, to the point where I didn't even have a clue what was going on.

I now make a conscious effort to err on the side of giving too much information, and even then I have people demanding more. I get editorial notes like this*:

Fictional editor (not my editor): "Um, this section makes me think there's a key, somewhere, that will unlock the treasure."

And I'm all: "Duh, of course there's a key. It was hidden on the earth like a century ago, in a cave in the Andes mountains. That's like the crux of the book."

fictional editor: "Where is this information in the book?"

me: "Silly editor. That all happened before the book begins. I don't want to waste my time with backstory."

fictional editor (with a sigh): "So how is the reader supposed to know about it?"

me: "I'm beginning to see your point... I'd just hate to spoon-feed every detail to the reader."

fictional editor: "Then perhaps you'd rather just give the readers the title of the book, and tell them to figure out the story."
me: "Fine. I'll tell them there's a key. But I'm keeping mum on the dragon that lives below the school."

fictional editor: "Good, because this isn't a fantasy."

*The above conversation is completely made up. There is no key in my book. And of course there's no such thing as the Andes Mountain range.

So, here's my second tip:

It's Okay to Let the Reader in on the Story

Are any of you revising? What have you learned along the way?


  1. All of my characters looove to roll their eyes and their stomachs drop a lot. Blerg.

    This is GREAT advice about giving enough information...not too much but not too little. Awesome to remember!!

  2. I'm not revising yet, but I'm sure gonna start watching for tics!

    (I was going to have the first comment, but, dang it, I took too long writing the TWO lines above, and now I'm not even the first Robin! Curses!)

  3. Robin- Don't even get me started on my characters' gastrointestinal issues! Thanks for the comment.

    Next Robin- But I'm so glad you took the time to make those two lines perfect! It's all about revising, and striving for perfection. Even in comments. :)

  4. I love that made-up conversation :D So true, though — some backstory is always helpful for the reader!

  5. My characters are an impassive bunch: they love to shrug. It's amazing they haven't shaken the planet out of orbit with all that shrugging.

    They also sigh a lot. Poor, poor, exhausted characters. I make life so tough for them.

    So I always know I'm going to have to go through and take out all the sighing and shrugging in revision.

  6. I really laughed at your description of your tics. Yah, we all have them. One of mine is the qualifier -- "seemed like," "looked like" "sounded like" "felt like" -- as if I don't have the gumption to just call a thing exactly what it is. Invariably, all these empty phrases can be deleted.

  7. I'm not revising...about the only thing I write is Facebook status updates, comments on random blogs and event details on the Google calendar for the youth group at church that no one but me ever reads (seriously, I've offered a free frosty to the first person who tells me they've read a certain comment...and I've never had to pay up). But I have learned some things recently.

    I've learned that college kids love homemade cookies and people who love college kids love it when you send their college kids homemade cookies. Seriously. I organized a "cookie drop" for some college groups my church supports and you would have thought I was volunteering to pay off student loans. Who knew sending a few cookies would be so appreciated?

    I've learned that no matter how many people at work you tell they shouldn't use those plots that don't have that one important line on them and they should use the NEW set of plots, the one that includes that important line that makes it all clear, some people will still dig up the old plots and come asking you why the things don't make any sense and it will take four times of telling them that they're misunderstanding things because they don't see the invisible line that's not on the plot but is on the new set of plots that you emailed them about earlier in the week, no really, they shouldn't have ignored that email.

    I also learned that it's best to dress correctly for planned, spontaneous disaster drills...cause they will, almost certainly, happen on the one day in the past 8 months when it's been cool enough that you really do need a jacket to go hang out outside for 15 minutes with 12,000 of your closest coworkers. But we did get to watch a pretty airplane fly by, so that made it all worth it.

    So, not so sure how any of this is useful in your revisions, but if it is, I'm glad to have helped.

  8. I'm glad QM only shows up every now and then. If he was here all the time, I'd start to think he was stalking you.

    I'm glad you decided that it was okay to let the reader in on the story. The reason I say that is because of a book I read written by Robin McKinley. Sunshine had a fantastic premise and I really liked the story. BUT, and that's a very big but. I felt like it was the middle book in a trilogy. There wasn't enough information about why the story was where it was. And, there wasn't enough resolution. I'm not saying she had to tie up everything in a nice, fancy bow or anything. I just wish I would've realized what was going on more and how the world would continue or cease to exist after this story. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, when I read Echo, I didn't feel like you left anything pertinent out. Of course I wanted more, but that's because I think you're a phenomenal writer and I really liked the story. But, I do think erring on the side of giving too much information is a good side to be on.

  9. Excellent tips! I find my character's tics can take over, too. Thank heaven for fresh eyes!

  10. Danya- I know! Backstory isn't always bad. I need to get that through my noggin.

    Brenda- Poor, poor characters. Ha ha!

    Gail- With the way I use "seemed like" you'd think I'm selling a subscription to "I heart the word SEEMED" magazine or something. You're totally right!

    a) I love homemade cookies too! Feel free to send me some.
    b) Your work sounds way above my pay grade.
    c)I never dress correctly. I wore pants to my Prom. Seriously. True story.

    Jenni- Awww! Thanks, girlfriend. And I hate books with "big but"s. I try to avoid them.

    L.T. Amen to that.

  11. Hey Brodi...This is soooo true...My main character cringes a lot and chokes back tears. I find myself using qualifiers too : "seemed to", "felt like", "looked at"...THEY HAUNT MY DREAMS...Ughhh...BUT that's what revision is for...:)

  12. i have nothing clever, witty (or dumb for that matter) to say today...however i *DID* pick you up a box of Good-n-Plenty" at the store today....

    now to try and remember to drop them off at your house! :O)

  13. I remember when Bree was talking about how her MC used to have migraines because Bree has migraines and she cut most of them out. XD

  14. What I have learned is that I'm no writer... But I have GREAT ideas!

    I'm sad that QM is missing, but now you have Fictional Reviewer (FR) to keep us company?

  15. Charissa- That's exactly what revisions are for! (I loved the "choked back tears". Maybe I'll trade out a few of my "flinches" for your "cringes".)

    Dorien- Here's your reminder: Bring me by some Good 'N Plenty please!

    Robbie- Oh yeah! I wondered if Bree's mc had an aneurysm or something.

    Una- Maybe FR can have the fictional Wednesday slot? If I remember...

  16. So here's a question for QM to use, if you've already answered it please just ignore me. It's that magical time of day between 3:30-5:30pm that my brain takes a nap.

    Are you an outline sorta gal or a fly by the seat of your pants sorta gal?

    I enjoy the act of writing but seriously my stuff is just stuff because I have no concrete ideas on where I'm taking this story. I think I need an outline but it's like pulling teeth, only not as much fun.

  17. Debbie- You're right. Pulling teeth is very fun.

    Excellent question about outlines! I will enter it in the Question-Maker and answer it on Monday. Capice?

  18. Your deadline is in 16 days and I still have to wait over a year to read this book?!? Surely you can pull strings for family, right?

    So I just started and then finished Huger Games today. It got me thinking about page turners. I have to tell you Brodi, that I would definitely list Echo in my top 10 of page turners. I'm excited for Everneath. Since you're such a reader - what are some other amazing page turners out there?

  19. Heids- Thanks for the Echo love. And excellent question about page turners. They're really so rare, I think! Hmmm... Maybe I'll have to let the Question-Maker eat that question and see what he produces on Monday.

  20. I'm excited and reluctant (is that possible???) to get my revision notes. I'm sure there will be many tics... One of my big ones is "looked (insert adverb)." She looked lonely. He looked overwhelmed. She looked constipated. Argh.

  21. Jill- "looked" is my favorite shortcut. It's so much easier than explaining the intricate movements of the character's face!