Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conference Notes Part 2: Revision

We are still in lovely Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It's been a great trip, but it's been a whole lotta together time. I don't know why I always think I'm going to be able to go with the inspiration and get wonderful writing or painting done on these trips. Oh well. That's what school days are for, right?

One thing I did do was get to spend a day at the Steamboat Springs Writers Conference (see earlier post), thanks to my hubby who took the kids for the day. But, before I begin my conference notes from Erika Krouse's incredible workshop on revision, I must reveal "Bear Sighting #2."

We were visiting some friends at the nearby Home Ranch--and look who was hanging around a pen which housed two very cute and very nervous piglets.

Erika Krouse's Workshop: REVISION AND REINVENTION:

Erika made it clear that revision is not about editing, changing sentence structure, or running spellcheck. Revision means redreaming the dream--literally seeing it again (RE-VISION). She called it the "journey of 1000 choices."

Writers revise in different ways:
*Some writers begin the revision process before they ever begin to write by doing heavy outlines and rethinking structure and plot points on the front end. They revise during the planning process.
*Some writers revise as they go--they write as if they are driving a car at night and only seeing as far as the headlights. They take a left turn and if it doesn't work out they go back and take a quick right.
*Some writers believe in writing that really bad first draft. Just get it all out there on the page--then deal with it.
Of course, many of us do a combo of these revision techniques.

Elements of Revision: (things to think about while revising each part of your story)

1. Beginning: Must immediately engage reader while doing these things:
-introduce character
-establish setting
-set pace
-set tone
-establish point of view
-introduce main conflict
-introduce situation
The introduction of conflict is the most important part of your beginning. If you don't get to the point, your work will be too leisurely. Conflict is your North Star--you cannot deviate from it at any point in your story. Something or someone should immediately be in trouble.

Common problems in the beginning:
-veering into backstory and staying there for a while (if you need to tell something have it come out in dialogue or have characters look at a picture or journal, etc.)
-spending too much time on a subplot--you should have faith in your subject and not run away from your story.

Ask these questions:
-Is there a better point of view?
-Does the tone match the pov and compliment the conflict?
-Are your characters developed?
-Could a different setting heighten the story?
-Can you maintain the pace set in the beginning?

2. Middle: The middle of your story has three jobs--
1) Introduce Complications and Obstacles: Try everything--what if your character did the opposite of what is expected? Do not veer off into the land of subplots--subplots should relate to the mission. If your subplots end up being your actual story, cut your losses and go with it.
2) Raise the stakes. Things must get progressively worse. We must torture our subjects to see what they'll do.
-external: how can this get worse?
-internal: how can this matter more?
3) Show change. There should be a turning point where the narrative peaks and you change course.

3. Ending: The ending exists to show change and tie up loose ends. You can have an open ending, but you must keep your contracts with your reader (i.e. resolve what you've set up)
Common Problems:
-Endings that fizzle when they should bang
-An ending that you saw coming the whole time
-Morals--nobody likes a lecture
-"And then I woke up . . ." (it was all a dream)
-The unearned ending--someone reaches an epiphany out of the blue.

If you are having trouble with your ending--go back and rewrite the middle.

Ways to Revise:

1. Cutting: "Kill your darlings"--they actually don't deserve to be killed but your feelings about them do
1) Get out of the way of the reader's dream. Being a writer is like being the host at a party. You want to be sure everyone's needs are taken care of and you're in the kitchen doing all the work.
2) When you are narcissistically in love with your own beautiful words, you are in the way of the reader's dream. Sometimes you have to lose that perfectly turned phrase.
How to cut:
-Show, don't tell: Cut explanations and replace with scenic writing (dialogue, pictures, what's in their fridge).
-Cut repetitions (don't think they didn't get it the first time and repeat it again and again)
-Cut anything that defects from the main conflict.

2. Adding: You get to redream the dream.
You also get to fix thin writing (in order to appeal to general feelings you must get as specific as possible)
Things to add:
-Make people to talk to each other
-Make someone do something--action
-Show setting in more detail--see a room through the emotional eyes of your character (even in third person)
3. Rearrange: Think of flashbacks as salt--sprinkle them and intersperse them sparingly.
Types of order:
-emotional--the emotional narrative cannot be compromised (change chronology for a more satisfying emotional narrative if necessary or skip around in time for emotion's sake)

Erika finished her talk by taking us through an intense and wonderful sensory writing exercise. She began by taking us through our body, beginning with our feet, and feeling the energy flowing through each body part. She paused at our head and had us focus on our five senses. Then she had us think about a scene in something on which we were working. She asked questions about that scene--specific questions about tastes, smells, etc. and how each of these sensory traits effected our emotions. She had us all walking around inside of our manuscripts, and then she said, "write."

It was truly amazing. I wrote about (what used to be) a minor scene in my WIP which I can see is going to be an emotional turning point for my main character.

Now, if I can just hold onto that brilliant inspiration until the kiddos go back to school in a couple of weeks and I have some blessed alone time once again!



Katie said...

Wow - what GREAT things to think about! I love your conference notes! love, love, love!

Now hurry up and get home :-)

christinefonseca said...

What a great post! Sweet!!!

Paul Ă„ertker said...

As always, great notes. I sure hope you let us cheat off your notes in LA!!!

jessjordan said...

Great notes! This gets me super excited about SCBWI--hopefully I leave that equally inspired :)

Lisa and Laura said...

Awesome notes! Thanks SF. SO timely for us as we enter revision hell over here.

Robin said...

You are the BEST note taker. Thanks so much for sharing these!!!

Irene Latham said...

Ooh, I love when revision stuff like that happens! Wonderful of you to share your conference notes... good reminders here. Will either of you be attending Miss. Writers Guild conference in Vicksburg in August? Today I am working on preparing for the 3 workshops I am teaching. Yikes!

Kimberly Derting said...

I love all of your conference notes! Thanks (again) for sharing!!!

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! I feel like I was there! :)

Hardygirl said...

Thanks all! I wish I could recreate her whole visualization/relaxation exercise.

Irene! Sorry we'll miss you. The Mississippi Writer's Guild Conference comes right on the heels of the L.A. SCBWI Conference. I know you'll be great!


Kelly H-Y said...

Wow ... another bear sighting!!
Your conference notes are impeccable ... THANK YOU!!!!!

Christena said...

Reading, give some inspiration so that is why people like this kinds of information ..........

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