Monday, 26 May 2014

Another Revision Milestone Reached

Last night I finished writing out the 'one index card per scene' exercise for my first draft. (I'm following Susan Dennard's Revision Guide.) And I learned that writing a complete scene - with a protagonist, antagonist, scene goal and scene conflict - is something I need to learn how to do properly. The number of scenes that I wrote without a true conflict in them were an eye-opener.

But I'm not going to get depressed about that. I wrote and finished a first draft. This is my lump of clay and it will look very different as a finished second draft from the way it looks right now.

Dangers of Studying the Craft...

Of course, all the weak points I've seen in my first draft have sent me out on an education spree. I've been buying or borrowing craft books left, right and centre. This did lead me down a blind alley at one point last week where I nearly walked myself into a Writer's Block, but a sensible comment from a fellow writer in a Google+ group I'm in had me backtracking out of that blind alley pronto. It turns out that it is very easy for me to get caught up in the studying of the craft to the point where I start re-imagining what I've written and wondering if it needs scrapping and re-doing from scratch. Not a good place to be. (Big thanks to Tannille!)

That brings me to another thing I've discovered and which I'm sure I've mentioned in an earlier post.

... and the only way to get better

The only way to learn how to write a good story is to sit down and write it. I've read a tonne of craft books since I started to take writing seriously (back in 2003), but it's only now, as I sit down to revise, that I feel I am finally beginning to improve my skills. Instead of reading theory, the books are now providing me with concrete techniques because I have something to apply the theory to. It's not abstract reading out of interest, it's reading with a purpose and applying what I'm reading to what I've written. There's a huge difference.

What I'm reading/watching as I revise

Here are some of the craft books I'm reading and which I highly recommend (affiliate links included):

The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke
Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
Dialogue Secrets (Screenwriting Blue Books) by William C. Martell - and Martell has several other titles in this series of craft books that I will very definitely be investing in. They're chock-full of techniques and exercises. (I'll be posting a more thorough review later on in June.)

And I've been watching James Scott Bell/Writer's Digest online revision webinar in short chunks as and when my time allows. (Posted below)

Short Story/Flash Fiction Update

Now that I've reached a revision milestone, and feel like I need to take a step back for a short while before I tackle the next step, I'm going to try my hand at a short piece of fiction. I chose three cards last night from Doreen Virtue's Angel Tarot deck, one for the beginning, middle and end of the story, and I'll be doing some free writing using them as prompts to see what develops. It'll be something fun to do after the hard slog. :)

So, my goals for this week are:

1. Write a piece of short fiction
2. Read William C. Martell's book on dialogue (as this is a definite weak point in my writing)
3. Be ready to start back into the revision by Thursday or Friday at the latest
4. Comment on 3 other ROW80 writers' blogs

Check out the other ROW80 blogs here!


  1. I find it amazing how much we villianize/idealize what we wrote, especially when you are about to approach it for editing. I've written things and as I sat to edit I thought, "I know this is a mess and this is going to take forever to fix." Only, when facing it for real, it was much better than my memory said. (Of course, I've had the opposite happen!)

    I wish the best writing the short story and tackling those revisions. I hope the rest of the round goes well for you. :)

  2. Thanks, Gloria!

    I found that fast drafting gave me lots of fantastic stuff that I'd never have written without doing it that way, but in terms of execution, well, that's another thing!

    I definitely didn't dealise what I'd written, I knew it needed work, and I'm not letting my perfectionist tendencies get the better of me. :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Great post Lisa !!

    I have been doing a lot of refresher courses myself because I was feeling unmotivated and unhappy with the writing I was producing. But I did one course where I got a bit frustrated with how it was taught. It reminded me of the spit it out message I posted in the forum, take what you need and spit the rest out.

    I realised the other week that the best way for me to learn how to write well is to just write.

  4. It's hard to not to get bogged down with "advice" from the professionals. It helps if you know where you are at with your writing journey. It can knock confidence - I've been on this soap box before lol.

    Keep at it!

  5. I have been recommended so many books on craft and I never get around to reading them. But I have taken courses, and studied literature, and I agree it's definitely a great benefit to learn the techniques that are behind writing a novel. It can be such an endeavour and having a methodology can help get the job done. But I also think it's important to remember that what works for others may not work the same way for you. As you write and hone your craft, you will develop your own methods and techniques. So don't feel discouraged with your own work. Although craft books help, writing is also an art and is open to your own interpretation and experimentation. That said, good luck with writing your short fiction piece. I hope you have a lot of fun writing it. Cheers

  6. @NaomiF: Thanks, Naomi. Yes, spit it out is good advice. Not everything is going to work as it's given to us; it might spark other ideas or, as you say, we might just have to spit it out and move on without it.

    For me, it was a piece of advice on establishing genre... Had I confused a reader who would pick up the story expecting a contemporary young adult or new adult genre, and get a shock when it turned out to be fantasy? I considered changing the set up, but then it would have been a completely different story and gone in another direction altogether.

    So, it's up to me to establish the genre from the perspective of my character as she stands now. I know my beta readers will tell me if anything is not working!

  7. @oracleopus: know where you are in your writing journey... hmmm. I think I could be considered an intermediate-level writer at this stage. I've been studying the craft a long time, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I suppose it's my book that will confirm that. Scary!

    But I will definintely keep at it. And thank you again for your voice of sanity at a moment when I had strong doubts about what I'd done. :)

  8. @thegiantsquill: "what works for others may not work the same way for you."

    This is so true. I have read a lot and studied a lot on different courses, and I tend to let go of anything I can't work with, after spending some time struggling to fit myself into the mould presented by the instructor. Some things just won't fit, sort of like the difference being between a plotter and pantser. Either it works or it doesn't.

    In this particular case I wrote about, it was how I'd set the story up that had me flailing with doubts. What I've decided is to make the set up work harder at establishing genre, among other things. (From Jeff Gerke's The First 50 Pages)

    Thank you for stopping by and adding to the conversation. :)


Hi! I love reading new comments so thank you for sharing. I'll be sure to get back to you to continue the conversation. :)