It doesn’t matter if you write short stories, novels, poetry, or blog posts…if you’re a writer, one single word makes you place your head in your hands and groan: Revision.

You’ve written your manuscript, and now it’s time to get it ready for publication. If you have an agent, great! They’ll help you along the process and get your piece polished and ready for publishers.

If, like the rest of us, you’re still searching for representation, the revision stage can be daunting.

Where do you begin? When is enough…well…enough?

There are stages.

*Deep, Star Trek narrator voice* In the beginning…*back to me* of my writing endeavors, I couldn’t write more than a chapter at a time before hungrily re-reading my work.

I analyzed, I spell-checked, I re-worded, and re-wrote as I went without allowing a ‘resting’ period.

Like a good steak, you need to allow your manuscript to rest, giving it a few weeks to settle in the wake of the first draft. It’s important. Swallow your impatience. It will wait for you.

Like I said, I’ve since learned my lesson.

Revising in the moment stunted my creative process. I would constantly lose sight of what was to come, focusing only on the story that I had already written, and not allowing the plot to develop on it’s own.

When a new thought sprang to mind, anxiety would overcome my process and I would obsess over changing x, y, and z in what I had already written in order to accommodate my latest plot twist.

This time around, I forced myself to do something that caused even more anxiety…I wrote a first draft without revising. Well…almost. I made it to 65,000-ish words before I decided to begin the revision stage. All that’s left is the grand finale…probably another 15,000 words, give or take.

Everyone’s process is totally different, but I found that almost writing that entire first draft in one shot, I was able to really develop the plot into something special. I allowed myself to spit it all out, changing as I went, and I’m finding it easier to revise.

So…after all that…what are the stages of revision? It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, or what your end-game is (whether one of the Big-recently-Six-but-now-Five publishers, or self publishing through Amazon etc), here is my own, personal check list of stages…

  1. Second Draft
  2. Grammar Check
  3. Read Through
  4. Beta Readers
  5. Final Draft

Honestly, if I have to put spell check on the list…we probably wouldn’t get along. So, spell check is a given after the first draft stage.

SECOND DRAFT:

This is exactly what it sounds like. Going line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter until you reach ‘The End’.

Fix the following:

  • Plot Holes
  • Overused phrases
  • Strange syntax
  • Ensure that each thought flows into the next to ensure a seamless reading experience.

GRAMMAR CHECK:

Easier said than done…believe it or not. There are a few great FREE resources online that will help tremendously. Even the best of us have trouble with possessive cases! If you’re a grammar whiz, then you’ll probably end up combining stages 1 and 2.

READ THROUGH:

Allow your second draft to rest for a few weeks…preferably a month (like the first draft)…before reading through.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If your book was a movie, could you ‘see’ what’s happening?
  2. Have you fallen victim to the fatal ‘info-dump’?
  3. Does your story flow?
  4. Is it a page turner?

If so, you’re ready to move on to the next stage. If not, allow your manuscript to rest another few weeks before embarking on a third draft.

BETA READERS:

You think you have a winner, but you need other people to read it to know for sure.

Here are some HELL no’s when it comes to Beta Readers…

  1. Your mother should never be a beta reader (or sister, or father etc.). Sorry, but close family will never tell you the truth. They know how you have struggled, they’ve seen you sweat, and cry, and drink coffee like a fiend in the hopes of realizing your dreams…see where I’m going here?
  2. Your best friend can’t be a beta reader…for the same reasons above.
  3. Someone that reads…say…historical fiction, might not be the best audience for your sci-fi masterpiece.
  4. Never, EVER, have the initial post-reading interaction in a face-to-face environment. Why? Because you WILL be upset. You’re going to be all: “But that’s how she is, I mean, didn’t you ‘get’ that she’s sarcastic?” Apparently not…and that’s why we need to have beta readers. We know the ‘whys’. We know the ‘hows’. We know our stories inside out and backwards. But we have to convey all that…so if your beta readers are telling you something, you HAVE to listen. You failed to convey a message. Take notes.

Here are some hell YES’s when it comes to Beta Readers…

  1. Join online forums and social media sites where you can build relationships with impartial readers that will give you honest feedback
  2. Choose readers that would want to read your book…in other words, if you’re writing a thriller, choose readers that like thrillers.
  3. Always have your beta readers send their post-reading thoughts/notes/critiques via e-mail…that way you can scream, throw things, and pull your hair out in private, without terrifying your poor readers.
  4. After number 3 happens…STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER AND RESIST THE URGE TO IMMEDIATELY REPLY.
  5. Sit on your beta reader’s thoughts for a few days, and then re-open their e-mail. Are they right? They probably are. Unless the advice is something along the lines of: So, instead of a crazed serial killer, maybe it could be an alien race conducting experiments…then they’re probably right. Plot twists are suggestions…plot overhauls are not constructive.

FINAL DRAFT:

This is exactly what it sounds like. The. FINAL. Draft. This is it. You take the constructive elements of your beta readers critique, mull over your work, and go through it one more time with a fresh perspective. Then…? You’re done!

And onto the dreaded query…*cue terrifying Halloween music!*

The idea for today’s blog came from a conversation with one of my Twitter followers, so please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and wishes for future posts.

Until next time, you can find me tweeting nonsense on the Twittersphere… @Maria_Tureaud

Signing off…

There are rules…didn’t you know that? Why do you want to be a superhero…a rebel…and break them? What’s wrong with you??

You, my friend, are an edgy author; and that rule book can get tossed out the window if you do it right. Today, we will discuss Genre Blending.

Think of your book as a delicious smoothie; too much kale, and your smoothie is destroyed – doomed to the depths of being re-named: veggie juice. Too much pineapple, and your smoothie becomes as sugary sweet as Steve Harvey’s buttery smooth wit (I love that man!).

So what the hell am I talking about? Balance. There has to be balance.

First, I should discuss the rules of some of the most popular novel genres.

Romance: Generally written from the heroine’s perspective. We are introduced to the love interest by the end of the first chapter, the couple consummates the relationship in some way, and there is always a happy ending.

Fantasy: The parameters, histories, and limitations of the world that you create must be well thought out before hand. The theme (good vs evil), must be consistent but subtle…and when it comes to fantasy, the more original the plot, the better. Let’s be honest, it’s probably been done before.

Historical: The time and setting must be established on the first page, and the details must be perfect for your era. Also, your protagonist’s behavior and actions can only be judged by social norms of the era in question – not by modern day standards.

Science Fiction: Your plot must focus on the fringe. Something that stretches our imaginations beyond the limitations of our world. You may use technology, or any of the sciences (even psychology) to create your plot. But sci-fi also lends itself toward thoughtful, pensive, and sometimes mind-blowing revelations for the reader; so put your philosophical hat on!

Young Adult: This is one of the grayest of gray area genres on the market! But there are still rules. Your protagonist must be teen-age, and no matter the content or sub-genre, you must focus on your protagonist’s feelings.

So how do we blend? What’s the formula? Well…the short answer is that there is none. Oops! However, when we know and understand the rules of each genre we can be sure to correctly balance our manuscripts.

For example, you’re writing a Historical Fiction novel, and there is a love interest, but you – personally – wouldn’t categorize it as a Romance. Your love interest also happens to be a 1000 year old vampire…but you wouldn’t classify it as a Paranormal book either as it’s set in Henry VIII’s court and that’s the main premise. Besides, she doesn’t end up with Vlad in the end anyway. So what do you do?

Here’s my two cents. Set your time and scene in the first page – as dictated by the Historical genre rules. Next, make sure that Vlad is not introduced in the first chapter (if you do, your sweeping Historical will be classified as a Historical Romance). As for the 1000 year old vampire thing (seriously, could I have picked a more obscure example?), I would definitely just elude to his vampyric nature. Would your protagonist have known what a vampire was in the 1530’s? And if she doesn’t end up with him in the end, a little flirtation wouldn’t hurt, but do not – I repeat – do not, have them consummate their relationship in any way, shape or form, unless you want to market your book as a Paranormal Historical Romance.

Today, it’s all about genre blending. YA (young adult) continues to push the boundaries of genre – especially as so many YA novels are being consumed by actual adults (and by actual, I mean…people my age and older – no I will not divulge! How dare you!)

Bottom line, you can include romantic elements without your book being categorized as a romance. You can write Science Fiction that bends the rules of historical without using a time machine. Your manuscript is yours, and yours alone…until you share it with others!

I know that I didn’t hit on all genres, but the rules of each genre are out there for you to read. Google is a good place to start!

Until next time, happy writing! You can find me on Twitter or Instagram!

@Maria_Tureaud

-Maria

Your ‘voice’ is polished. It took years…and years…and 100’s of queries. So why haven’t you been snapped up by Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent? And where the hell is that 6 figure deal??? I mean, you’ll even take a 5 figure deal…or a 4…hell! If it means that your name is immortalized on a bookshelf you’ll take $10!

So what’s the problem? Your masterpiece is…well…it’s a masterpiece! There are a few probable causes. Let’s list them off together.

1. Your manuscript isn’t the masterpiece that you think it is. (Harsh? I know. But sometimes we have to consider the possibility).

2. Your manuscript is filled with grammatical errors, and Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent rolls her eyes after 2 pages (I know right! She loved the query and requested a partial. She HAS to love it – wth!)

3. Your manuscript is polished, beautifully written, and the concept is fresh…but Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent kindly rejects your partial with the following, damning, and confusing words: “I just didn’t connect with (insert your kick ass protagonists name here!) in the way that I had hoped.”

And the bell tolls. So what the hell is going on?  Voice.

That’s all there is to it…but guess what? There are two completely separate kinds of Voice – and you have to master both. (Is your mind blown? Because my brain exploded when I put two and two together).

It took me a very long time to figure out my Voice – or, (allow me to clarify) what I thought was ‘Voice’. As it turned out, I was had only developed one half of the whole. My Writer’s Voice…and unfortunately, it’s very unique to the writer. Emulating an author that you admire could severely backfire. Here are some of my own examples below.

Lack of Voice – Excerpt from 4 years ago:

Not really wanting to go to the party, she stepped into the bright tiring room, wearing her brand new dress, and squinted. It was too bright.

Developed Voice – Present Day:

Draped in a newly designed silk dress, the tiring room proved too bright for Netty. A thousand candles illuminated the party; banishing that afternoon’s confrontation to the damned shadows.

Verbose? Yes, I am. But that might not be you. A Writer’s Voice is extremely personal, and a reflection of who you are.

Naively, I thought that my Voice would be enough. That my prose lilted, and that my storytelling skills would carry the manuscript.

And then realization hit – like a ton of bricks. Honestly, it knocked the wind out of me. Character Voice – two of the scariest words in the English language (to writer’s at least).

What in God’s name does it mean? Of course my characters have a voice! They’re complex, and well thought out, and, and, and…and.

In order to transform from a writer into an author (oh yes…there’s a definite difference, and I’m certainly not there yet), we must first become actors.

Now, I’m not talking about an Academy Award winning actor, but like the Hollywood elite, we have to get into character.

You need to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who is your protagonist?
2. Who is she/he?
3. What kind of personality does she/he have?
4. How did her/his life shape the person that she/he has become?
5. What’s her/his trauma? (Everyone has a trauma – daddy issues, mommy issues, sibling issues, food issues, self-esteem issues etc.)

Congratulations! Now you have a character snapshot! Let the work begin!

Example Without Character Voice:

Though she was glad to finally be moving out and heading to college, Laura would miss her family. Truly. The house had always been crazy – and why wouldn’t it be? Twelve girls shared two bedrooms!

Example With Character Voice:

The Smith house was nothing if not claustrophobic. Every time one of the sisters moved out, Laura’s parents made good use of the ear muffs that she had given them for Christmas – ten years before. When prime bedroom real estate went up for grabs, the frenzy that ensued was always fraught with an awkward kind of tension. Her Mom called it ‘chumming the water’.

Laura called it: ‘Too Many Girls Squished Into Closed Quarters Syndrome’. Sighing, she closed her eyes. After tomorrow, her bedroom would be up for grabs. Laura had made it to – wait for it – Harvard!

Both examples paint the same picture. Laura is going to college. Laura has a LOT of sisters (poor dad!). The house is a little insane. Laura would miss her family.


But, which example would appeal more to Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent? The second one. Hands down. In the second example, we learn about Laura. The writer has gotten into Laura’s head. We learn who she is, who her family is, and we really get a feel for where she came from. The writer translates Laura’s thoughts onto the page – how she would think about things – but the writer tells the story in her/his own way.

Even though the excerpt isn’t in the first person, we feel connected to Laura. Any reader that has had to share a room – or any reader that couldn’t imagine having that many siblings – will immediately feel something tangible when they read those sentences.

Voice is complicated, and personal, but just keep on trucking. You’ll get there eventually. I hope that these examples can help someone else out there. I’m still on my journey, and I’m still developing my skills, but always remember: You will never be perfect, and you will always be learning. If you ‘know it all’, you will never succeed.

Signing off for now!

Until Next Time!

Come follow my madness on Twitter  –   @Maria_Tureaud

Take It On The Chin.

Never give up. Never surrender.

These are the phrases pinned to our refrigerators and vanity mirrors, the words we share on Facebook…and the heartfelt mantra chanted over and over again as we rock back and forth in our office chairs like the crazy old cat lady of lore. We. Are. Writers.

And good dear GOD do we know all about rejection!

This isn’t my first rodeo kiddies! Years writing ‘The Masterpiece’ (we’ve all written one!), months perfecting the synopsis and dreaded query…in the hopes that we might get that *PING!* in our inboxes after weeks of waiting for…*Air Quotes* …’The Response’ (cue creepy Halloween-esq dun dun duuun).

It’s terrifying. Days and weeks go by, until – at last – you stop jumping at every ping, and you quit checking your e-mail every five minutes. The pathetic truth sets in – ‘The Masterpiece’ is not actually a masterpiece (*sadface*).

This was me three years ago. On the verge of giving birth to the love of my life (my actual son…not my book!), I queried the literary world like a woman on a mission. It was my first time out of the gate, and…you know…this was ‘it’!

A partial request here…a full request there…things were looking up!! But in the end…nothing. I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe it. What had I done wrong?

It wasn’t until I received some pretty damning feedback from a reputable mid-size publisher (I had truly given up on finding an agent by then) that reality hit home. I had it all wrong, and my attitude was backwards.

After that golden e-mail (I didn’t think it was so ‘golden’ at the time), and the birth of my baby boy, I realized that I needed to take a step back. Relax (with a screaming newborn), and find myself a little. Find a new subject…and I did. Two separate novels that I just couldn’t finish…because ‘The Masterpiece’ haunted my every waking thought.

Fast forward to January of this year. I work 50 hours a week and somehow balance parenting with writing novels…and I re-opened that single rejection from 3 years ago and took a very deep breath.

Perhaps it’s my day job (high powered, fast-paced, and doling out a little constructive criticism of my own), but I was able to recognize the fact that I was the issue. Not the agents. Not the publishers. I wasn’t listening. I needed to humble myself if I wanted the damn prize  **Literary Immortality**

Sure, I was reading these letters…but it wasn’t sinking in. So I did the unthinkable. I said to myself (as I’m a very important person in the real world *cough*)…what would I advise, if someone handed this to me?

The answer? Scrap the entire frigging book and start at the end. So I did. 6 months. That’s all it took…stealing an hour here, and a half hour there…to completely destruct ‘The Masterpiece’, and build it back up brick by brick.

The result? Three years ago, my voice was by no means ready. And now? ‘The Masterpiece’ has been re-named ‘The-Let’s-Hope-Someone-Loves-It-Because-I’m-Really-Moving-On-This-Time-If-I-Can’t-Get-An-Agent’. Too long? I thought so too. ‘Card Houses’ seemed to fit a little better, and so far, so good.

Six partial requests, two full request…and plenty of rejection (it’s a good balance really). But I’m not getting excited. My mother always says that ‘expectations are the graveyards of broken dreams’…and she’s right.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress…but always remember:

Never give up…and never surrender.

You can find me on Twitter  –  @BuckinghamsBabe