Tag Archives: Short Stories

One Writer On Revision

I’m in between projects at the moment (literally; if I don’t get my critiques back this evening I’m going to pull a writing prompt and start a new story), so I wanted to share some thoughts I had on revision. I like my revision process. I have two elements of writing, the muse, whom I often envision is a blip of fuzzy blue light (she has no voice, just an overbearing presence at times), and the editor, he is also intangible, but he’s got this enormous red pen wherever he goes, so it’s easy to draw him in: I just pick up his red pen.

I love revising. The second draft is where the story truly comes alive for me. My subconscious did a lot of work during the bang-it-out-fast first draft, and this is where I go picking through the treasure. The step is read the story, and this is where muse and editor dance, sometimes in unison sometimes in the most discombobulated imitation of a pre-k dance recital. Amusing, yes, but not productive. That’s because not every story really works. Some stories can’t be fixed. Those stories were practice. But I still do this process for those because it’s experience I can learn from. (That doesn’t mean I spend the week inputting those changes: it’s the analysis that’s important).

Back to the reading: as I do, I outline each scene on a sheet of notebook paper, just using the left half of the page. As I’m reading, I realize where the scene went wrong or missed something, so on the right side, I record/outline what the scene should be, aligning it to fit the story I wanted to tell, rather than the story I told.

During this read-through, I’ve got my red pen and I circle grammar and misspellings; paragraphs that cover the right material but need to be rewritten because the writing is crap, those paragraphs get a vertical red line in the ride margin. I don’t worry about fixing these until the input phase because I need the muse to put the puzzle back together. The editor is just telling us what’s wrong.

I prepare another sheet of paper, unlined if possible (lines are too constricting for this part). Ideas are coming to me–the muse is starting her dance–things that needed to happen that didn’t, mentions that were never born, or elements that repeat throughout the story. I number these down the page. It can be something as small as “change hair to long and blonde” or “foreshadow the tools she needs for her self-rescue”. Anywhere in the manuscript this needs to come up, I write the number in the margin on the left and circle it. I’ll refer back to this sheet during the input phase. I should mention that this kind of stuff, story elements rather than writing mechanics end up in blue ink. The manuscript is so marked up, it bleeds.

It keeps the muse happy, just as the red keeps my editor happy.

It takes me about 2 – 3 hours (about 2 writing sessions) to get this part done. The inputs take about a week. Then I pass it on either to a crit group if I’m feeling good about it, or to a friend or two if I know something is off but can’t quite figure it out. Reader comments often shine a light on something I missed, so it’s helpful. Then I can go in, fix these items, then present the story to one of my crit groups or buddies.

While I’m waiting, for feedback, I’ll either work on another smaller project or work on doing critiques for other people. But when the feedback comes back, I print the clean manuscript, and mark it up with the comments (or just circling). I then get to see where the holes are and were something bothered a lot of my readers. I take a few days to make, brainstorm, research, and polish. I have a checklist that I review during the polish to make sure I reviewed my weak areas plus a reminder of short story basics (sometimes those disappear if I’m too excited – it’s good to make sure they stay in the story.) Then I submit it. I do like to wait a day before submitting. Sometimes something will jump out at me or hit me overnight in my sleep.

I thoroughly enjoy the process. It’s the perfect balance of analysis and creativity that doesn’t exist any place else in the world for me.


Week 2 Success

Write1Sub1 on or ahead of schedule: story number two, “How Cherry Coke Saved My Life” has been written, revised and submitted. It’s flash at 750 words, but is a quirky little science fiction story that just tickles me. Hope it does the same for some editor someplace. 🙂

The novel is progressing, though not as quickly as I’d like. I’m not writing on it every day, but I should be. Now that I have my short story quota out of the way, I have more time to focus on the novel and the critiques I’ve got in progress. I also wrote two children’s stories, based on a story telling session with my daughter. One is called “No Dress Princess” and the other is “The Crystal Castle on Cinnamon Island”. Both require transcription, but they’re safely in my notebook. (And now that I said that, I won’t sleep well until they are safely transcribed and backed up in three places).

And it looks like I maintained my weight this week – which is fine since we went out for dinner one night and got take out another. I’ve been trying to keep up with the workouts and the water, but it’s been a serious focus week at work and my brain just plain fuzzed out on the health stuff. At least i didn’t go back to the cherry coke. 🙂

Hope you had a great week, too.

writing “magic” or “security blankets”

I have a set of 3 books on short story writing that I turn to whenever I’m stuck on a story, or feel that I’m in the midst of some writing discovery. I picked them up today after having lent them to a friend, and found myself comforted by their mere presence. I decided to skim through one of them over my lunch break, and selected one of the final chapters in the book about revising. I feel like I’ve come a long way this year through practice and crit (rinse repeat repeat repeat) that I wanted to see if I could find something new to grasp onto.

Three pages in, the magic hit. It felt like a ton of bricks hitting me; there was this little gasp, and a feeling of elation and I felt like a kid as I scrambled for a bookmark and a pen. Quite the OMG moment… and the magic, my friends, is that the chapter I was reading (revision) had nothing to do with the revelation that hit me.

The revelation concerns a short story I outlined and started drafting back in May. Despite the outline, I couldn’t write it. I knew something was wrong with it, but not what. In that instant, the ending of the story came to life, answering both what was wrong and how to fix it, or rather, how to write it to begin with.

This magic book, my security blanket, has been in my possession for maybe twelve or thirteen years. It was one of the first books on writing I ever purchased. I didn’t even know who Damon Knight was at the time.  (I’d probably have been more excited at the time and read it more carefully; truth is, I figured if someone put out a book about writing and got it published, they probably knew what they were writing about).

I’m not going to analyze the magic, except to say this particular book puts me in my happy place, my comfortable place, in regards to learning about writing.  As much as I’ve learned, there’s more. I can feel it.

Anyway, I have a story to draft. While I’m off doing that, why not comment on your own writing “magic” or “security blanket”? I’m curious if I’m insane, or my book really is magic.

Happy Writing.

the big plan

Just like thousands of other writers, I’m working out my goals for 2011. The big scary goal for next year is the Write 1 Sub 1 challenge. The most short stories I ever wrote in a year was 9 to 10. I’ve done it twice. This past year, I focussed on my revision skills. I’ve submutted 7 new stories this year. I learned a lot about my writing, and about the methods that work for me. Armed with this, I’ve set myself a half goal for the Write 1 Sub 1.

The original goal for the challenge is to imitate Ray Bradbury, and each week, write a story and submit a story. I’m pushing this year, but I’m not pushing myself so far I’m going to break myself. My half goal of 26 stories written and submitted is over double what I’ve ever done.

This breaks down to about two stories per month written and submitted. My method, to keep me sane, will go something like this:

  • 2 new stories: one from my story ideas file, one from a prompt.
  • 2 revisions pulled from my completed stories folder (preferably not the newly drafted stories)

I need distance to revise well, and I think writing more stories will create that distance.

This could be a good approach; I’ll try it and see. It is subject to change. 🙂 Also, I don’t want to pass on my May Story A Day challenge, so I will likely not be revising that month, and writing extra short stories.

I’m eager to see what this will do to my writing, both skill and habit.

Good luck to those of you taking part. 🙂

SAD # 3: The Encroaching Hand of Winter

Another story done. I actually started this one Friday night by hand, but tossed out everything I wrote. It was enough for me to get the feel for my character and her predicament. Last night, I sat down and wrote the entire story out on the computer. I almost didn’t. It was one of those “I can’t sit still” night, since my husband and daughter are away from home for a few days. Eerie silence in the house. But I connected with some friends in chat on Forward Motion and got things going.  See, friends come in all forms….

trudging onward

It’s been a rough week with being sick and getting family plans underway and dealing with the day-job workload. Two of my herd are out of the house and it’s confusing the “child awareness” center of my brain. I can’t sleep because the house is so empty.

I have two stories that are in first draft progress. One is Moondust which is one of the werewolf stories, but I’m stuck for geographical reasons which I hope to resolve once I can think more clearly. The other is one I started tonight by hand, entitled The Encroaching Hand of Winter.

I think I’m getting better at titles. 🙂 Then again it might be my disrupted sleep cycles playing tricks on the brain…

SAD # 2: Calico Under Cherry Blossom

Rang in my birthday while writing a story by hand in bed with my favorite green pen. Yes, it works like that. I’m calling it Calico Under Cherry Blossom and it’s modern day but mystical and maybe a little fairy tale. It’s different from what I’ve written in the past, but it feels good. I really like it. For my FM friends, it’ll be up later today on the FM boards, I just need to transcribe it first.