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Showing posts from August, 2014

Ten Revision Techniques: The Belly of the Beast

One cannot revise a manuscript (go into the belly of the beast) without a plan, a tactic, or training.   Writing well is both a science and an art.   There are certain skills that are integral to good writing before a courageous writer can take risks and propel forward to great writing. Revision is a scientific, laborious task and must be done page by page.  Step One: Circle or highlight all the verbs on one page of manuscript.  Identify each verb as a passive or an active verb. Step Two:  Eliminate as many passive verbs as possible by rewriting the sentences, using active verbs in their stead. Step Three:  Circle or highlight all adverbs. (Remember not all adverbs end in –ly.)  Can the verb and its accompanying adverb be replaced by a stronger, more energized verb? Eliminate unnecessary or redundant adverbs.  Can any of the remaining verbs (those without adverbs) be replaced by a more energetic or descriptive verb?   Step Four: Circle or highlight all repetitions: verbs,

Teenagers: Stinky Little Extraterrestrials

Years ago, a skunk sprayed our yard during the night and the next     morning I trekked out to my car to drive to work and unknowingly stepped into the oily residue. I tracked skunk stink into my Jeep and onto the carpet in my office, a room I shared with a kind and forgiving co-worker. It took a week or two and several large cans of Lysol and air freshener to get rid of the smell. Ever since my profound Close Encounter of a Second Kind (I never saw the skunk but it left evidence of its presence), I became a skunk expert. I learned the way of the skunk. My experience imprinted itself into my hippocampus and I acquired a heightened sense of smell.  I can detect a skunk several miles away, outperforming a normal human nose that can only start to do the same at one mile. I have the same uncanny sense about adolescents.  After 30-plus years of teaching teenagers and having raised three of my own, you might say, I have reached the Close Encounter level of a Fifth Kind: I have actually

Plotting the Plan or Planning the Plot

One thing I learned as I transitioned from writing short pieces to longer manuscripts was that I needed to outline or structure my plot or else I would stray and lose control of the story. Without a plan, my characters wander off course.   My middle sags.   My plot becomes pedestrian.   I am highly “field dependent.” I need to see the whole before I can distinguish the individual components. If I know where I am going, I can map my way there. I start off with an exciting or controversial idea – a topic, an alluring beginning, or a surprising ending, but the real creativity begins when I plan the delivery of that promise.   I don’t want to start off with Bang! … then lose steam after the first few chapters.  I don’t want to wander about lost in the middle of the story, or worse yet, end it all with a disappointing, impossible, or rushed ending. I need a plan! I need an outline!   Characters have to be cast, pertinent information has to be delivered according to genre, and sc

The Pitch

It said to check in fifteen minutes before my appointment with the literary agent. I was there thirty. I had declined dinner the night before to revise (for the umpteenth time) my written pitch.  Thankfully I had packed extra 5 by 8 cards in my luggage.  I worked on it over and over until it lost all its previous cohesion and was now a babbled mess. I would need the freight elevator to carry my formerly stream-lined fifty word “elevator pitch” up to the third floor of the hotel. I lied myself into a show of confidence. I showered and changed into my jammies, praying that I would wake up refreshed, perky, transformed. I attended two workshops that morning just to keep my mind off the impending appointment; besides I had spent half of my monthly income paying for this conference and I wanted to get some sort of return for my investment. I skipped the session before my 3:40 appointment to go back to my hotel room and “freshen up.” My hair refused to cooperate and laid flat.  My