Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For Writers - Ruthless Revising with Gwen Roman

Our tip this week comes from Gwen Roman, the super hero identity of mild-mannered New Yorker Jen McAndrews. Jen has been one of my critique partners for ten years and is one of the writers whose work I admire most. Though currently working hard on her next full-length romance, she also writes mystery and young adult fiction, works full time, is obsessed with hockey, and wishes she had more time to read... or sleep.

Gwen's first book, TRAIL OF THE TUDOR BLUE, makes its debut tomorrow. Woot! (You can read an excerpt on Gwen's website or follow her group blog, Pirate Writers of the Universe.)

Gwen says:

A couple facts about me: I hate doing detailed plotting, and I love a writing challenge. Pretty sure I can’t be alone in this. I bet there are several thousand NaNoWriMo participants who feel the same, who sailed off into the creative mist and wrote and wrote and wrote. And of those several thousand, a large number face revisions that are both frustrating and disheartening, filled with repetitions, dead ends, and fluff scenes.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share the method I first tried while revising TRAIL OF THE TUDOR BLUE and have used ever since.

Open a blank spreadsheet, or create a three-column table in a word processing document, or draw one in your notebook. Label the first column “scene# and location”, the second column “characters” and the third column “purpose.” With the table ready, crack open a copy of your manuscript and begin filling in the blanks, keeping information as simple and straightforward as possible. Use the manuscript only as a reference, not as reading material, nor as something in need of editing. It’s only a guide for you to fill in the table. Here’s an example:

#4- nightclub / Ardis, Ahnshen/ Ardis must get info from Ahnshen about Marco

Why list it like this? It’s easier to be objective about a scene if you’re not reading and thus caught up in the momentum of the story and if you’re not lost – in a good way – in your own writing.

Once you have the whole manuscript set out this way, in its simplest form, take a good long look at the result. You’re checking for: scenes with no clear purpose; scenes that accomplish only one thing/arent’ working hard enough and should be combined; multiple scenes serving the same purpose.
Make all the keep/cut/combine decisions by looking at – and marking up – the table only. Then execute those changes on the manuscript page – ruthlessly! The result is a lean manuscript with stronger scenes…and a lot less time agonizing over revisions.

More links for your writing week:


Filter Senses Through Mood
(Paranormal POV)
Show Emotions Through Actions
Seven Keys to Good Dialog (Nathan Bransford) Not new, but worth another look.
Orchestrating Characters (Blood-Red Pencil)
Villains Galore (Gail Carson Levine)
Character Building (The Siren's Song)
Make Your Characters Extraordinary (Carolina Valdez Miller)
Raising the Stakes (Julie Musil)
Pretty Good vs Great - And Sellable (Genreality)
Avoiding Filter Words (Write it Sideways)
Pesky Pleonasms (BloodRedPencil)
Cool Research Tool: (Google Timeline)
Many Drafts
(Plot Whisperer)

Writers Writing:

Find Time to Write or Don't (Whatever)
Handling Criticism Effectively (Query Tracker)
Self Confidence Crisis? (Kidlit.com)
Commitment, Control, & Challenge (Writers' First Aid)
Common Traits of Successful Writers (Write It Forward)
Common Traits of Successful Writers, part deux
(Write it Forward)
Why Writers Should be Readers (Writer-In-Progress)
Happy Jealousy
(The Happy Writer)
Writing and Kung Fu (MeganCrewe)
Continuing Education (Genreality)


When to Keep Your Trap Shut (literaticat)
When to Mention Your Blog (querytracker)
Start Small (Writer Unboxed)

Now go! Write!