WS Episode 20: Revision

Revisions revisions. Jocelyn does a great job hosting how we, the Writing Snippet Crew revise our novels (or don’t in some cases). We also touch briefly on the difference between short story, poetry and article revisions.

(about 23min.)

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Information for the beginning or aspiring writer about all things writing in the fiction world. Novels, publishing, etc. We feature author and other professional interviews. View all posts by Writing Snippets

29 responses to “WS Episode 20: Revision

  • Jess Smart Smiley

    This is easily one of my favorite episodes. An instant classic! I love everything you bring to light here, about revising a work.

    The idea of keeping an ‘extras’ folder is new to me and something I’ll have to try. I’m pretty merciless when it comes to editing my work as it is, but the folder is sure to open up new possibilities in editing. Thanks for the suggestion!

    I’m not to the point yet where I can start editing my current story, but when I’m done, I’ll print it out (as you mentioned David Farland does) and edit the book in it’s paper form. It’s easier for me to navigate and hash up when it’s on paper.

    Someone mentioned changing the font in your writing, and it’s something I’ve done to help me view my story in a certain light. For whatever it’s worth, Garamond suits my story well πŸ˜›

    I’m writing my story in the order I’d like it to appear in the book, but there are certain vignettes that I’m able to shift around and place in the story where they can be the most helpful in changing the tone, or switching perspective. When I started writing this story, my writing was all based on what I was most excited about at the time. Every now and then, I’ll go back to those pieces and plug them into my story, where they belong.

    Your mentioning of the Five Versions of a character and story is really interesting. It seems like a great way to thoroughly know your character and get a sense for how they’d react in any situation. I might have a hard time with it, because I want to be attached to the way I see a character, or the way I feel that they need to be written. I’m a little worried that knowing my character in such a way might dissuade me from writing a full novel about her, because I would already know how she reacts to things and what she things and I might feel cheated in the writing process. I don’t know—I’ve never tried it! I might try it for some short stories, though. It reminds me of the Ender series by Orson Scott Card.

    You mentioned NanoWriMo and I’m so glad you did! I conducted my own personal NanoWriMo last month, to kick out the first 50,000 words of my novel. I did it and am now nearly halfway through my story!

    Alice—how did Kala grow from a short story to a full novel? I’m curious as to what sparked your decision to change its size.

    Lastly: the suspenseful music at the end of this episode leaves me impatiently waiting for the next!

    • Alice

      Yay Jess for writing 50,000 words in a month! That’s amazing with everything else you have going on. How’d you do it? I’m glad our suggestions have helped. I’m like you when it comes to characterization. I personally don’t get to know my characters very well until after a few revisions. I have to see how they react in different situations. Action comes first for me and I don’t always like to know what’s going to happen next in my stories. I like to sometimes discover as I go, too.

      • Alice

        Oh and in answer to your question about Kala, I originally entered a short story contest for fairytale rewrites with a twist and thought it would be fun to write an African Snow White tale. I didn’t win, but entered it in another contest years later and placed second. My writing group, especially Lili, encouraged me to make it into a novel because it had too much info for a short story and needed to be expanded. And so I did!

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      Thanks! I guess you’re the first person I’ve told. I haven’t been advertising that I’m working on a novel, because I’ve wanted to reach a certain part in the story, and a certain word count and prove to myself that I’m committed first. Wow. It feels good to write it out: I’m writing a novel!

      The 50,000 words last month was quite a challenge, but I have a fairly consistent work schedule on my side and a very supportive wife who wants to see me finish. It has been tough finishing illustrations and designs for other projects and there are some things that I haven’t even gotten to yet (namely: your poor Kala), but I’m excited to be in the thick of the story now and am learning a lot from the Writing Snippets crew. I listen to your episodes when I workout, walk, and before I go to bed. I listen to older episodes several times, to make sure I understand what everyone is saying, and I’m happy to have made it to the halfway point in my novel, thanks to your help πŸ™‚ That doesn’t mean it’s any good, but it’s getting there, I hope!

  • John D. Payne

    Thanks for the podcast, all. I’m trying to finish a novel for the first time right now, and I think part of the reason it has taken me so long is that I am still learning how to revise effectively.

    I started working on a science fiction novel my freshman year of college. I got about 10,000 words written (plus reams of notes), and then just kept revising that chunk. But almost all my revisions were just tweaking individual sentences. I didn’t want to throw anything away. When I came back from my mission, I decided that the whole thing was junk, and abandoned it.

    From then on, I just worked on short stories, several of which were 8-12,000 words long. I kept joining writing groups, but they never lasted long. So I would write a story, get feedback from one group, then revise and resubmit to a different group later on, get more feedback, revise and resubmit to a third group, etc. That really helped me see that revision really helps my stories get better.

    Then, as a working adult, I enrolled in Brandon Sanderson’s class at BYU (with Alice!), which required me to be working on a novel. So I did some brainstorming and started my second ever novel, ten years after the first attempt. I got 15,000 words written and then the class was over so I set it aside.

    I was busy with other things, but also I had absolutely no idea how to finish it. I had a lot of interesting ideas, and some fun characters, but didn’t know how to pull it all together. So I found another writing group, used the comments of my classmates to guide my revisions, and began resubmitting. I got a little farther, but then again ran out of steam and went back to short stories.

    After moving across country, I found a new writing group and again revised (using the previous group’s feedback) and resubmitted. Now I have 30,000 words written– my personal best– and an outline that I think will take me through to the end of the book.

    From this I have learned that I am both a discovery writer and an outline writer. I started with some interesting hooks, and started discovery writing with those. Revising the first several chapters more than once helped me see how I could take those hooks and build a complete story. So feedback and revision helped me discovery write my outline. Crazy.

    But like you all said, every writer is different.

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      John—what did you think of Brandon Sanderson’s class? You obviously got a lot more writing done, but did you feel like you learned things you had been looking for? Did your writing improve?

      • John D. Payne

        Loved the class. I think people can get a lot of the same value from participating in a writing group, and listening to him on Youtube and the writing excuses podcast. I do wish I still had my notes from his class, but they were unfortunately were lost when my laptop was stolen.

        The other great value of the class was that he read everyone’s work and commented on it. He gave me some feedback a couple of times (the class was divided into groups, and he visited one each week), which was super helpful. I also could have submitted a final draft and got his written comments on that, but I didn’t turn one in for various stupid reasons. Man, I wish I had done that.

      • Alice

        I liked Brandon’s class too. I turned in my story at the end, but never heard anything back.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Awww. Sorry to hear it, Alice. That’s one of the concerns I have. I really feel for Brandon, with all the writing he does on his own and with teaching. Do you feel like he gives your work the attention it needs?

        Obviously, the final paper didn’t get any feedback. How about the other drafts?

      • Alice

        I’m not sure if the emails I sent of my draft ever got to him, because I never got any response, but he gave feedback on my writing the day he came to our class writer’s group. We had to write partial first drafts of a new novel and my first drafts are always horrid so I don’t usually share them. My feedback wasn’t positive, but it was honest and helpful. It was a good exercise to force myself to write 30,000 words or so in a short period of time, and it gave me a good chunk of a novel and taught me to write faster. I finished the novel I started in his class during nanowrimo a couple years ago and am now in the process of revising it. I don’t think I would have written it if I didn’t take his class

    • Writing Snippets

      John, Great job getting to 30,000 words! It gets easier the more you do it. That bites about your laptop. I would have withdrawals for a long while. I dropped mine, open and on, in a bathtub full of water- dove after it to get it out, but it was too late. We took it all apart and let it dry overnight on the heater praying that would work. It actually will turn on and work just fine- as long as it is plugged in. MIRACLE! At least I have all the info on it.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Yikes! Sorry to hear about your laptop. Mine stopped working after owning it for 14 months—just out of warranty.

        I’ll check out his YouTube videos and I’m always a fan of Writing Excuses. Thanks for the suggestions!

      • Alice

        now that’s dedication, writing in the bathtub! My computer crashed a month or so ago. It was horrible not being able to write for a couple of weeks. We tried to fix it, but it would have costed to much, so I got a new one and was able to transfer most of my stuff.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Whoa, whoa, whoa. How did I miss that? You dropped your open/on laptop into the bathtub? Oh, gosh! You’re lucky to have come out like you did. That sounds frightening!

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        I vote for an episode dedicated to “How to Write in the Bathtub”. Anyone else?

    • Alice

      John, I remember your tory well and really liked it. I’m glad to hear you’ve kept working on revising it and hope you finish it! Let us know how it goes.

      • John D. Payne

        At my current pace, I think I’ll get to the end of the story by the end of the year. That will be really cool. Of course, I’ll probably want to do some revising at that point, especially of the later parts. But I think in a year or so I should have a more-or-less finished novel. Given the limited amount of time each week I can give to writing, I think that’s not too bad.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        That’s impressive, John! How many people can confidently say something like that? Congratulations on making it this far. Are you planning on attending Conduit, by any chance? I hear that the Writing Snippets is involved this year πŸ™‚

      • Alice

        Kudos to you John on plans to complete your novel. I hope you have a good writer’s group to help you out with your revisions.

      • Jess Smart Smiley

        Can anyone recommend a good writer’s group in Orem? I’m not quite ready to share my story, but am looking for options for down the road.

  • Alice

    I meant to say story, not tory! I’m short on time and in a hurry.

  • John D. Payne

    Never been to CONduit before. But their website says it’s next weekend. Hm… Maybe I should go.

    • Jess Smart Smiley

      A lot of people compare it to BYU’s LTUE. Last year was my first, so I don’t have much experience to back it up, but CONduit has a lot more workshops and gaming/costuming opportunities. I can’t wait for next weekend!

  • John D. Payne

    Thanks for the encouragement, everyone.

    Jess, I’m in a good writing group that meets at the Barnes and Noble in Orem on Tuesday nights. Send me an email (or a Facebook message or whatever) if you want more info.

  • alicebeesley

    That’s so cool that John and Jess could hook up in a writer’s group through writing snippets! Yay!

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