It’s okay to rewrite your novel.

When we sit down to write our first manuscript, we’re caught up in the excitement of a new story and the rush of seeing it exist outside ourselves. But we all know that first draft is not the best version of your story, which is why we revise.

Sometimes, that first draft is just a rough outline.

I figured this out the hard way… by means of beta readers. (For which, I’m eternally grateful!) I started my current WIP during NaNoWriMo 2014, had a completed draft by the end of January, then went through seven rounds of revisions before sending it to my beta readers April 1st.

I thought I had a decent manuscript. I’d cut a lot of words, added a lot of words, fleshed out scenes and rewrote the second half of Act 2.

Safe to say, I was still a LONG way from having a query-able manuscript. You can read the post on my experience with my beta readers, here.

In order to make the changes to the novel, I had to deconstruct it. I took my outline of the beta draft and began reconfiguring the chapters/scenes to fit the new structure. There were some scenes that remained, some that were altered, and some that were deleted all together. But there were a lot of new scenes to add as well.

At first, I was pulling my hair out with the revision, focusing solely on the quality of the words instead of getting the new story down. Mind you, I don’t [totally] regret that bit because the writing did improve, so I’m ready to tackle the MAJOR REVISION waiting for me at the end of this draft.

I think a lot of us get lost in everything wrong with our writing that we lose sight of our excitement for the story we’re telling. It’s okay that this happens, but you can’t let it determine your writing journey. So if the first version of your MS isn’t what you want it to be, deconstruct it and dive back in to Rough Draft Mode. Then you can revise the new version until it glistens and shines.

Happy Writing!

3 Tips For Rounding Out Side Characters

Back in May, I received notes from my beta-readers on my current MS. There was a lot of positive feedback, but there were some definite places where I could improve. Specifically, rounding out my non-POV characters. In my head, I knew each character’s ups and downs, favorite ice cream, back stories, etc. But the actual writing didn’t reflect that depth.

There were a few things contributing to that issue: 1. The 1st Person POV, 2. My writerly brain focusing solely on the MC’s experiences while writing, and finally, 3. The very thin narrative.

I’m a big fan of fast-paced novels. It’s my reading preference, so in my baby-writer way, I wrote a slim narrative that wasn’t fair to my side characters.

Which brings me to Tip No. 1…
Don’t be afraid to write from side characters’ POV’s.

This tip goes for all POV styles, but where the actual words go differs. If you write 3rd Person, you might actually be able to use those words depending on how it applies to your plot. But if you write 1st Person (which I do), this will just be an exercise to become more acquainted with your characters.

So here’s the exercise: Take any scene from your WIP and rewrite it from a secondary character’s POV. This is particularly useful for scenes where you introduce a new character or moments of high-emotion (e.g. inciting incidents, romantic scenes, plot-turning points, etc.).

Tip No. 2…
It’s okay if the MC doesn’t control everything.

I realize this is rather a ::face:palm:: kind of tip because “Obviously the MC doesn’t control everything.” But let me explain. Sometimes when you’re writing [specifically 1st Person], you get so absorbed in what the MC is experiencing or what his/her character arc is that you develop blinders against other ideas. This was definitely an issue for me during the pre-beta drafts of my WIP, and it restricted me.

Exercise No. 2: Take a plot point from your MS that is on the verge of being trope-y. What characters are involved? Choose the most important character of that scene [apart from your MC] and let them take the reigns on when/where/how that scene takes place.

Side Note for the above exercise: I did this with my own MS and the scene ended up containing more world/character/plot development than it would have in its original form.

Tip No. 3…
Remember Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an opposite or equal reaction.

And suddenly this turned into a science blog. Sorry, writers! 😉

Seriously though, while you’re writing, remember that there are things happening off-stage as well. Every time your MC does/says something, it affects another character. Remember what Kurt Vonnegut said about how each sentence should either advance plot or reveal character? That applies here. So if your MC offends someone on page 50, that someone should come back around to cause an issue later.

Exercise No. 3: Pick a scene with dialogue where the MC makes a decision that affects the person he/she is talking to. Write the fallout of that scene from the perspective of the other person. How does it affect them? How will it affect their relationship with the MC going forward? These words don’t have to end up in the finished MS, but you should integrate what you’ve discovered in how the two characters interact.

What about ya’ll? What tips do you use to flesh out your secondary characters?

Happy writing!

It’s Okay To Not Be Perfect

I think it’s common for writers to feel the need to be perfect. Write the perfect word. Tell the perfect story. Create the perfect character.

But here’s the reality of it: no one is perfect.

Not even John Green, the biggest name in YA Contemporary at the moment, is perfect. He even pointed out a typo in his author’s notes for The Fault In Our Stars on his YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. (If you haven’t read the book, do it! Also, check out John and Hank Green’s YouTube channel! It’s my weekly dose of humanity reminding me to be awesome! DFTBA, Nerdfighteria! – Please excuse the excessive exclamation points; all of them are necessary.)

If this particular video, 5 Worst Typos of History, John Green goes through some of the worst typography errors from the U.S. Constitution to a specific printing of the King James Bible. But he ends with asking for forgiveness for any other errors that might exist within the pages of TFIOS.

Though I’m not sure Mr. Green meant for this to be inspirational, I found it a little uplifting, especially when trudging through this rewrite. Writing a book is hard. Publishing a book is even harder. All we can really do is try to put out the best product we can. It’s okay if your prose isn’t as gorgeous as Laini Taylor’s. It’s okay if your world isn’t as sprawling as George R.R. Martin’s.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t edit your stuff. Far from it. No rough draft is going to be the best version of your story. So find beta readers and trusted critique partners to review your manuscript. You should always strive to be the best storyteller you can be, but don’t drive yourself crazy when your writing doesn’t match up to authors like Green and Taylor.

Happy Writing!

Laini Taylor’s books include the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It’s one of those YA Fantasy series that takes a trope like Angels and Demons and flips it on its head for a unique and exciting adventure. Also, the writing is GORGEOUS.  

If you don’t know who George R.R. Martin is, you’ve been living under a rock. He’s the author of the epic Game of Thrones books. 

Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

This year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to attend a couple writers’ workshops and pitch some wonderful people. A couple weeks ago, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop and, wow, what an event. Along with a brilliant keynote from the incomparable Janet Reid (if you don’t know who she is, shame on you! Jk. Seriously though, check out her blog, jetreidliterary.blogspot.com), there were an array of different panels. In one room, you could listen to agents and editors talk about different parts of the industry. In another, you could learn how to strengthen your descriptions and characters. There were also numerous opportunities to discuss your WIP with agents and editors.

First up, I pitched Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency. He was incredibly insightful and helpful in the whole five minutes I spent talking with him. I didn’t get through the first sentence of my pitch before he started in with questions. It was a bit intimidating, but afterward, it was clear he was only trying to be helpful (or at least that’s how I’m taking it). In the end, he said my WIP didn’t seem to fit his list, but followed up with other agents who it might suit better. He also gave me something to think about while I’m revising to improve my MS.

Overall, I’d call it a win. Sure, it stung a bit when he said it wasn’t for his list, especially because in that short conversation he helped me analyze an important part of my MS and helped me grow as a writer. Seriously awesome individual and anyone would be lucky to have him as their agent. It speaks to the success and overall awesomeness of his clients Becky Albertalli, Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, and Adam Silvera, More Happy Than Not.

Then I had my query critiqued by Annie Berger, an associate editor at Harper Collins. Talk about encouraging! Sitting down with Ms. Berger felt like sitting down with an old friend. She was so nice and welcoming, really took the pressure off. [Did mention I ramble when I’m nervous!] She had a lot of positive things to say about the query itself, but also gave me input into how to make it stronger. She was also kind enough to say the premise was strong enough to stand on its own without all the extra details I was giving. Also (and I will probably hang onto this for the rest of my existence) said that my main character was a badass. XD It made my day!

When we were done talking about the query, we got to talk about the MS itself. Was I querying? Did I have any agents in mind? I had to tell her that I was in the middle of a rewrite post-beta readers and she made the comment, “This is your debut. You want it to be the best it can be.” Though I’ve read this advice many times, hearing it from an editor was still super encouraging, especially in the trenches of a rewrite.

Moral of this story: Don’t be afraid to pitch you WIP. Go to these conferences and workshops, get input from professionals, hire an editor. The worst thing they can do is say “no,” but even that’s not that bad. Look at each rejection as an opportunity to grow and eventually, you’ll get where you need to be.

Happy Writing!

*Quick Note: From what I’ve read in interviews and have heard from agents, pitch sessions aren’t exactly the best means to acquire an agent. They want to see the writing, so be sure to work hard on your query and perfect that. And in the words of Janet Reid, “Pitching is the spawn of Satan”. 

Why You Need To Write For You

Well I have hit that point in the revision process where my MS and I are at a standstill, just staring at each other, waiting on the other to make a move.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my characters and their stories, but making sure the writing is doing them all justice is – in one word – REALLYEFFINGDIFFICULT.

As a reader, the writing can either make or break a story for me, depending on the issue. Unimaginative writing can turn a brilliant character into a flat one or a character’s emotional climax into a plot point, neither creates a story that will stick around with you years after you’ve read it. I know the stories that I’ve hung onto over the years and if one of my stories can do that for someone else, I will feel like I’ve succeeded.

But here’s the reality of it all, even if I am never published, if I never receive representation, I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing. Sure, it would be fantastic if all this hard work and dedication paid off, but at the end of the day, I’m writing for me. I have done enough research on the industry to know that the odds of getting a 5-book deal (because that’s the length of the series I’m working on is – sorry possible future agent [if I’m lucky]) is EXTREMELY unlikely.

Does that mean I’m going to give up? NOOOOOOPE!

Writing fiction makes me happy. Getting to tell the stories of the 6 heroines in my series make me happy. Getting to play with all my favorite elements of the shows/books/movies I grew up on and love makes me happy.

Sure, the process is daunting and frustrating and sometimes disheartening. But I love what I do and if you love the story you’re writing, so should you!

Happy Writing, Everybody!

*On a separate note, me being a realist hardly means that I am not going to query. Once this new version of the MS is done, you better believe I’m going to start querying and submitting. ha ha. I’m just super aware of the challenges ahead. Here’s to hoping the characters/plots/world speak for themselves!