Friday, February 13, 2015

1 I Heart Revisions: A Craft of Writing Post by Elizabeth Langston

Few writers approach revisions with as much love as the initial creative process. But not author Elizabeth Langston. She joins the blog today to give us a fresh, and much appreciated, perspective on how to really dig revisions. And we get to help Elizabeth celebrate the cover reveal of her upcoming book. Congrats, Elizabeth, on a fabulous cover for Wishing for You! Check it out below!


I Heart Revisions: A Craft of Writing Post by Elizabeth Langston


I love revisions. Maybe that’s freakish, but it’s true. For me, edits (no matter how many rounds) are fun! I’d rather “fix” a second draft than write the first.

So today, I’m sharing three of my favorite revision techniques to try with your next draft. I’ve included an exercise with each, plus examples from my book I Wish.

Rediscover the heart of the story

What is the point of your book? What is its “North Star”? Whenever you feel frustrated or distracted during revisions, it helps to have clarity on the emotional core—the heart—of the manuscript.

In one sentence, can you capture what the protagonist strives to achieve or needs to discover? You don’t have to share the sentence with anyone else, so it can be as corny, sweet, or idealistic as you like. The heart of the story can be whatever helps you—the author—to stay focused.

Write your sentence on an index card, put it in a teaser, or make it your computer’s background. Just have it front and center, so you’ll always know where your story is headed.

Exercise: Write the heart of your story in one sentence. If you can’t think of something original, then:

  • borrow a proverb (“slow and steady wins the race”)
  • use a movie quote (“there’s no place like home”)
  • fill-in-the-blank (“[protagonist] discovers that _________________”)

I WISH Example:



Witness scenes from all perspectives

Read through key scenes multiple times, once from the perspective of all major characters present.

I do this for the emotional, intense, story-changing scenes. I start with the “least” important character there. What does this character know before the scene begins? What does s/he observe in the scene? What does s/he smell, hear, taste, and feel? Does her dialog or reactions reflect her true emotions? Does his presence contribute something important? If not, could the character be removed from the scene?

Once I’ve allowed a character to affect the scene (or not), I go through the scene again in the head of the next character—and then the next, revising as I go.

Exercise: Pick an important scene (from your 1st or 2nd chapter) with at least 3 characters, such as friend & hero & heroine. Get into the friend’s head and experience the scene, especially using all of his/her senses. Is anything missing from the narrative or dialog?

I WISH Example: Lacey argues with Grant (the genie) about her depressed mother—in front of her mother. In the first draft version, Mom says something vaguely hopeless to Lacey after Grant leaves.

     I wanted to be part of my mother’s solution. I wanted her children to be the reason for the miracle. “Why does it have to be a stranger who helps you get better?”
     “Grant isn’t a stranger.” Her voice sounded weary. “He doesn’t remind me of Josh.”
     It was the first time I’d heard her use my stepfather’s name in months. “What does Grant do that I haven’t done?”
     “Nothing. It’s just different with him.” Her fingers reached out to smooth my hair. “You don’t get to be a kid anymore, and I can’t even promise when that’ll change.”

When I reread the scene through Mom’s eyes, I realized that she felt regret for how her depression was affecting her daughter. So I let Mom reveal her regret through dialogue.

     I wanted to be part of my mother’s solution. I wanted her children to be the reason for the miracle. “Why does it have to be a stranger who helps you get better?”
     “Grant isn’t a stranger.” Her voice sounded weary. “He doesn’t remind me of Josh.”
     It was the first time I’d heard her use my stepfather’s name in months. “What does Grant do that I haven’t done?”
     “Nothing. It’s just different with him.” Her fingers reached out to smooth my hair. “I’m sorry, baby. You don’t get to be a kid anymore, and I can’t even promise when I’ll be able to be the adult again. I’m just…sorry.”

Give all relationships an arc

When I’m in the first round of revisions, I don’t analyze the subplots; I analyze the protagonist’s most important relationships. I write a mini-description of how each of her relationships evolve over the course of the book—ensuring that I address their status at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Exercise: Pick a secondary relationship, such as between the MC and a teacher or employer. How do they feel about each other on page 1? On the final page? Does their relationship arc flow smoothly? Should it?

I WISH Example: When the story opens, Lacey has isolated herself from practically everyone. By the end, I wanted her to have happy or hopeful connections to all people who are important to her.

  1. Grant; Mom; brother; best friend; former crush: All of these relationships had clear arcs. I only had to tweak and smooth.
  2. Estranged friend: Lacey remained estranged from her best friend Sara—start to finish—in the first draft. I decided to bring them to more a civil place by the end of the book—which required 2 new scenes.
  3. Deceased stepfather: Lacey is angry with her late stepdad for leaving a mess in her lap. In the first draft, her anger never went away. But really, she needed closure. I added a new chapter so that Lacey could release her pain and remember how much she’d loved him.

So there you are—3 techniques to consider when you’re revising a manuscript. I borrowed and modified these ideas from a craft book called: Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. I highly recommend this book.

If you have suggestions for other books on revisions, leave us a comment!

About the Author:


I'm Elizabeth Langston, and I write Young Adult (YA) magical realism. Whisper Falls is a time-travel series set in 18th- and 21st-century North Carolina. The I Wish series features a "genie with rules." The first books in both series are on sale for 0.99 through February 15th at most e-book retailers. See my blog (http://authoretc.blogspot.com ) for details.

I live in North Carolina, USA and work in the computer industry for my day job. I have two college-age daughters and one geeky husband. At night, when I'm not writing, I'm watching TV (dance reality shows, Outlander, Elementary) or reading (and that is all over the place.)

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About the Book:


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24822667-wishing-for-you
Wishing For You (I WISH #2): Avail Oct 2015

With high school graduation only months away, Kimberley Rey is eager to discover what her future holds. The next big decision is rapidly approaching--where to apply to college. But this choice is complicated by a memory disability. How will her struggles to remember affect her once she moves away from home?

Help arrives through an unexpected and supernatural gift. Grant is a “genie” with rules. He can give her thirty wishes (one per day for a month) as long as the tasks are humanly possible. Kimberley knows just what to ask for—lessons in how to live on her own.

But her wishes change when she discovers that a good friend has been diagnosed with a devastating illness. As she joins forces with Grant to help her friend, Kimberley learns that the ability to live in the moment—to forget—may be more valuable than she ever knew.

Wishing for You on Goodreads | I Wish on Amazon | Whisper Falls on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. A lot of great advice here. I'll keep this one bookmarked. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)