#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger – Linda Lee Williams

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Today’s Guest Blogger is Linda Lee Williams, with a look at how she tackles writing a first draft, and then revising it. You go, Linda! 🙂

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Revision: To See Again…

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Prachett

I’m an author who spews from the heart. When I’m finished with my first draft, I have quite a mess to clean up.  The task to refashion the story seems daunting.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to manage the chore.  It’s impossible to do everything the first time around.  Multiple revisions are required before a book takes form.  Here’s how I tackle the project.

After a “cooling period,” I read the printed manuscript. I note where the story drags or the plot falters.  Then I start pruning, beginning with introspection—too much “internal monologue.”  It took me a while, but I figured out that readers don’t need to know a character’s every thought!  Another problem area for me is description.  I tend to go overboard rather than zero in on specific details.  During this phase of revising, I trim 10% from my book.

Next, I assess the characters. Are they who I imagined they would be?  Do they fit with the storyline and the situation?  Are the protagonists likable, sympathetic?  Do they have flaws, inner strengths, and emotional conflict?  Will the reader connect with them?  My fictional people grow and change, but I develop personality profiles well in advance of writing the story.  Knowing “the players” beforehand helps me keep the plot on course.

While evaluating the characters, I study the dialogue. I keep in mind that dialogue is the distillation of conversation.  Like introspection, it can be cut down or condensed.  Characters must live on the page, not be static.  However, too many gestures or actions can weigh a story down.  Often, I’ve qualified or explained a character’s speech when it wasn’t necessary.  I try to remember the adage, “If you tell, you don’t have to show; if you show you don’t have to tell.”

Now, it’s time to don my editor’s cap. I scrutinize grammar, punctuation, and syntax.  Do the sentences flow smoothly and make sense?  Did I vary their structure?  Are they punctuated properly?  Did I overuse adjectives and adverbs?  Are the verb tenses consistent?  Have I relied on too many “pet words” or expressions?  Did any clichés sneak in?

My story comes into sharper focus. At last, the book is ready for beta readers.  Once I’ve heard back from them, I make final changes.  I give the manuscript to a proofreader.  Then I check the eBook in my Kindle Previewer to make sure that the document is formatted properly.

During the throes of revision, I take time off, giving my brain a break. Right now, I’m revising my first novel, which needs a thorough “housecleaning.”  I know I can tighten the narrative and improve the story.  Writing is, after all, a continual learning process.

How do you tackle the difficult task of revising your books?

linda-l-williams

Linda Lee Williams

Linda Lee Williams lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their sweet dog, Bart. Over the years she’s taught creative writing classes, hosted a writers’ group, and written a variety of contemporary romances with a paranormal slant.

In addition to Elsewhere, Linda has a family-oriented, vampire series titled Blood & Company: Old Town Nights, Sisters of the Night, New England Nights, and Brothers of the Night. She’s participated in two anthologies and contributed to a fun cookbook: Cooking With The Crazy Lady Authors.  Her Christmas novella, The Breadth of the Soul, will be out this month.

Connect to Linda on Social Media Here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Lee-Williams/e/B00CB1K7SG
Website: http://www.lindaleewilliams.com
Blog: http://indielindy.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.linda.lee.williams
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7123006.Linda_Lee_Williams
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lindaleewilliam/my-novels
Twitter: https://twitter.com/williamslindal
eNovel Authors: http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/linda-lee-williams/
Crazy Lady Authors: http://www.crazyladyauthors.weebly.com

Buy Linda’s  Books HERE: 

Old Town Nights, Book 1
Sisters of the Night, Book 2
New England Nights, Book 3
Brothers of the Night, #4

Elsewhere

Cooking With The Crazy Lady Authors

48 thoughts on “#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger – Linda Lee Williams

    • I’m very happy to have you, Linda, and it’s been great getting to know you the last few days. I’m so glad you’re part of this group, and look forward to more posts from you, especially as your latest project comes to fruition. Keep us posted on that! And thanks for taking the time to put this great post together for us, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks so much Marcia for sharing this helpful blog from Linda Lee, Revision, to me, is a nightmare, but I have been using NaNoWriMo to push myself into doing the revisions that needed to be done. Thanks for giving some great advice!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting hearing how other writers work.
    Despite all the advice out there, I still can’t get past revising as I work. I have the characters and plot in mind, and my first draft is mostly dialogue and action (I add description later), but I share it in chunks with my writer’s group as I go, and if they pick up a plot hiccup, I’d sooner go back and fix it then, than have to re-work it after I’ve finished. I often find this throws up new slants that strengthen and tighten the plot.
    It still takes several more revision passes after the one big one (to fill in the bits I missed out first draft), and this makes my process rather lengthy. Perhaps one day I’ll manage to speed up, but just now I’m comfortable with this process and the quality of the end product.
    BTW I’m always relieved to hear about others who do their own editing. I use beta readers and a proof reader, but I don’t pay for formal editing. So far no reviewers have picked me up on any major issues, so I’m assuming I’m doing a reasonable job. I know one or two others who do the same, but with all the ‘you MUST pay for editing’ advice out there, I rarely admit that I don’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s no easy way around revising, Deborah. I’ve tried “revise as you go” and revise later and both took equally as long. For me, it’s better that I don’t stop the momentum. If I break the flow, I lose my place in the story.

      In regard to editing–grammar, punctuation, etc.–I don’t trust anyone but myself to do the job. Editors have their own likes and dislikes, which are often based on personal preferences rather than the actual “rules.” Still, I have a lot of respect for editors; it’s hard work!

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  3. It’s very interesting to compare how you work Linda, with how I work. I am the odd man out in this, I’m sure, but I simply can’t write a really ragged draft. I write fast, but I tend to have a scene laid out pretty clearly in my mind, and I write it with the best language I can think of at the time. I’ve tried being looser, but it doesn’t work for me. I don’t think that way. 🙂 I think in complete sentences, with dialogue flowing as though I’m hearing it. So my rough draft is more like a 2nd or 3rd draft would be, I think. Plus, I work with Betas as I go, which gives me enough feedback to know if my chapters are working like I want them to, and I can make changes early on, if something is way off.

    When I’m done with my first written draft, I go through it myself, revising, and cleaning up what I see obviously needs to be cut or reworded. Then it goes to my editor, who does a fabulous job of both watching for grammar and continuity issues, and asks all the right questions, if something feels off to her. When we’ve finished editing, I have betas who like to read the “finished” product, looking for typos, etc, and then I give it another go myself. But it definitely takes me longer to write the draft (usually 4+ months) than it does to revise, edit, and polish.

    It’s not that I think the other way is wrong. It’s just that I don’t seem to be capable of doing that. I think it’s the fact that I narrate everything in my whole life, in my head, all day long. I’ve gotten used to “announcer voice” and structured paragraphs, describing everything from working in my garden to washing dishes. Uh-oh. I guess that sounds pretty insane. Maybe that explains more than I meant for it to. 😀 😀 😀

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  4. Not insane at all, Marcia. Every writer has to figure out what methods work best for him or her. Here’s another confession: When I write my first draft, I always think I’m being more careful than I am. I struggle over every paragraph, changing sentences and words in an effort to “get it right.” When I go back to my first draft, I’m disheartened to discover how much work the manuscript needs. Writing simply doesn’t come easy for me, no matter how I approach the project!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mostly, I meant the insane part about the narration that goes on in my head 24/7. 😀 As for the rest, I think we all have to find a way to write (and revise/edit) that feels comfortable for us. I’m not happy unless I like the sound of my first draft overall. This does NOT mean it doesn’t need help. I have a habit of saying the same thing too many ways. (Comes from enjoying teaching, I think, where you need to rephrase the same info several ways to be sure everyone gets it.) The largest part of my revising and then the editing process is cutting. I can tell when something should be trimmed, but I’m not always good at figuring out what should go and what should stay. Caitlin, my editor, is VERY good at that.

      But as for writing I’ve heard some people call a “vomit” draft (oh, UGH!), I just can’t do it. It has to sound at least pretty good (to MY ear) as I’m going, or it isn’t even going to make it into the very first draft. Every now and then, I read something by a well-known writer, talking about how they always edit as t hey go, and end up with a manuscript that doesn’t need much work. While I’m not anywhere NEAR that good, it’s more comfortable to me than the opposite.

      But like you say, I don’t think it’s a matter of right or wrong. And I know most people don’t do it the way I do. It’s just more comfortable for me, and far more natural. And I most definitely do read over each chapter before I submit it to my betas, and make changes AS they pop into my head, because if I don’t, I won’t remember them later. I’m wondering if anyone else here does it more this way, than the other?

      Liked by 1 person

      • BTW, every single minute I spend writing is a joy to me, and never feels like work. I just feel like I’m telling a story around a campfire, sort of. 🙂 Maybe I’m too much of a newbie to know any better. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

          • Well, it works for me. I just love what I’m doing, and get so excited with every chapter, I can’t wait to see what my betas think of it. And then going back to revise, well, that’s like putting icing on the cake. Cutting here, adding a flower or swirl there, cleaning up around the edges. Then, of course, when my editor gets to it, she lets me know what I’ve missed, and keeps track of continuity issues, if any show up, and makes sure I don’t ramble on too long, by recommending a cut here or there.

            I truly love the whole process, and I’m SO happy to finally be doing what I wanted to do for 65 years, I can hardly stand it! I’m truly a lucky person!! And I try to be thankful for this blessing every day.
            (Oh, now I sound so goody-goody, I think I ‘m going to be sick! 😯 )

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      • Maybe my first draft is not as big a mess as I think it is and I’m overcritical of what I write? Eventually, I make friends with my manuscript again. That I was able to write any kind of story that makes sense is nothing short of a miracle to me. Ha, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

        • That could be it. Or maybe you don’t have quite enough faith in yourself and your writing, yet. ?? If I’m doing ANYTHING I’m unsure of, that feeling will grow until I’m convinced whatever it might be is beyond all hope. Hey, maybe we just need to spend more time revising OURSELVES? 😀 Then everything will look better to us.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve been writing for decades, and I’m still not certain of myself. Many seasoned authors admit that the “fear” never quite leaves them. I think we can all take comfort in that.

            In the meanwhile, if anyone knows where my “reset button” is, please tell me! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Oh, I’m so sorry if that sounded like I’m not nervous about what I write, and there’s something wrong with anyone who is. I didn’t mean that, at all! I get very fearful, indeed. Just not until I actually put it in front of people. 🙂 While I’m writing, I’m quite sure it’s excellent stuff. Hahaha. But my doubts happen when I suddenly realize I’m through having fun writing, and now people will read and say things, some of which are sure to make me snivel or cringe.

              Believe me, there’s probably no one on the planet more beset with self-doubt than I. But for some reason, when I start writing, I’m in my comfort zone, just me and my thoughts. The misery comes later. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

                • Yeah, I have plenty of the agony part, but that all disappears when I’m writing. Kind of like what Ned said in the post you shared. I’m so in love with the process, and the words, I am all but singing while I work. (Except that would drown out the voices in my head, and I NEEEED them. 😀 )

                  It all boils down to simply loving words. I love the sound of them, the shape of them, the WEIGHT of them. Sometimes I think I can taste them. It’s crazy. But maybe in the best way. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful guest post here Linda. So nice to get to know more about you. You’re description of the revision process is bang on. As Hemingway said, ‘The first draft is shit’ but Terry Prachett’s version is put a bit more eloquently. 🙂 I also have to agree with the ‘cooling off’ period, which Stephen King also recommends. We have to stand away for awhile to revisit our work with a new set of eyes, so to speak. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, D.G. This is why I enjoy writers’ groups or clubs, where we can band together and share the agony and ecstasy of our craft. The longer I write, the more difficult the challenge becomes to “one-up myself.” My goal is not to write just to write, but to continue on a journey of self-improvement. I know I have limitations and will never be the writer I aspire to be–but I’ll keep trying, nevertheless! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post. Yes, I believe in taking apart the word “revision” as in looking at again. That’s why taking a break from a draft to let it ferment and rest is such a healthy why to write a novel. Then I can come back with refreshed eyes to re-vision the whole package.

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