Archive for the ‘Editing, Revision’ Category

Marshall Public Library
August 19, 2017   3:30pm-5:30pm

Our August mid-month writers’ meeting will be used for critiques only.  If you need feedback on your WIP,  send an email to pocatellowriters@gmail.com to reserve a reading spot.

We ask all attendees to RSVP this time, so that we can tell the readers how many copies they have to make.  Respond via email by Thursday noon if you plan to attend, and let us know if you will bring something to read.

To give everyone a chance, keep readings as short as possible,  maximum 10 pages double-spaced.

Happy writing.


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Marshall Public Library
Saturday, March 21, 2015 / 3:30pm-5:30pm

Greetings, Fellow Writers:

Do you have a partially written novel that is stuck or stalled, and you just can’t manage to finish it? Or do you have an idea for a great book, but don’t know how to begin? Perhaps you are someone who can’t think of anything good to write about at all.

There are two basic types of writers—detailed planners and gardeners—with a lot of variations in between. Next Saturday we plan to study the ways of the gardener as one way to help you start and finish that book.

Be sure to attend our March 21st meeting when we’ll use the first hour for a study topic on how to grow an entire novel from a tiny seed—how to get started, how to edit it, and how to finish it.

Second hour will be reserved for readings, if you want to share some of your work. Come to get inspired and enjoy the company of local writer friends.  In the meantime, keep in touch on our Facebook open forum.

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Thanks to LaRaine, Bob and Laura for their enjoyable readings at our critique meeting at the library this weekend. Special thanks to Laura McDevitt for her lively readings of her own and LaRaine’s works. It was a lot of fun.

John Roscher has volunteered to lead a study topic on Point of View (POV) for the first hour of our February 21st meeting.   I’ll do something for the March 21st meeting about how to write, grow, edit a novel.

Second hours will be reserved for readings if you want to share some of your work. Anybody who wants to lead a discussion for April, can sign up on our Agenda page above.

Until then, happy writing, – Sherrie
See you on our facebook open forum:

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If you missed our Saturday meeting on writing without an outline, here is a copy of the meeting handout:

– Sherrie Seibert Goff

Free Your Muse
The Muses are nine goddesses who embody the arts and inspire creation with their graces.  Many writers are of the opinion that a plot outline acts like prison bars, restricting and stifling all the life out of one’s muse.

In school, teachers still assign students the task of crafting a plot outline, doing character profiles and identifying a theme, before they can start writing.  Today we will abandon the planning method and explore the freedom of writing organically – harking to the genius of the muse.

What is a Literary Seed?
If you are like most writers, you harbor a secret story idea you always wanted to explore, but you can’t decide where to begin or how it should end, or even what the title should be.  Maybe you started it and got stuck, never able to finish.  Others can’t think of anything to write about at all.

Or maybe you have had the surreal experience where some tiny fragment of a lingering thought or recurring dream, or vague impression or character trait, even some insignificant scene, word or phrase stays forever and strangely stuck in your psyche like some old song?  It might be just an overwhelming feeling or sensation that you can’t quite put a finger on.  It seems always there, like an old memory, just out of reach or meaning, occasionally surfacing from your subconscious for no good reason. You have no idea what it means, just that it must have gotten imprinted in your mind by some fluke of the brain or distant recollection from childhood.  Believe it or not, this is a seed that can grow into a storyline.

When you are out and about in the world, a tiny pocket notepad is an essential companion.  If something fleeting catches your eye or amuses you, record your impression lest you forget it because inspiration is illusive and short-lived.

Select one of your poignant seeds and start to water it, examine it, think about it.  Ask your muse: “What could be going on here?” “What if …?”  Start writing down random thoughts that well up from your subconscious no matter how silly they seem.  Query your muse with: “Who are these people?  What do they want?  What stands in their way?”  This is called free-writing.

Just as an acorn can become a mighty oak, a tiny seed can grow into an entire novel

First Step  – Finish a rough Draft
The first draft is about getting a rough storyline down on paper so that you have something to work with.  Don’t agonize over the best opening sentence at this point – just jot down any old thing and keep going.  Don’t stop to rewrite or revise or worry about grammar or spelling.

E. L. Doctorow said writing a novel is like driving at night. You can see ahead only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Silence your editor brain and write flat out as if no one will ever read what you write.  Some of your best writing occurs during this first draft because it is uninhibited, spontaneous and running on sheer inspiration.

Allow the characters to take over the action and determine the course of the story.  Repeatedly throw another problem or predicament at your protagonist because good books are tales of struggle.  You can make it through the entire first draft of a novel by asking yourself, “What else could go wrong?”

Trust the muse when she’s on a roll.  A tale that grows organically in bursts of creative enthusiasm feels more natural and inevitable than an artificially outlined plot.  As things get worse, the conflict, escalation of tension, and rising stakes will lead you to a moment when everything seems lost, resulting in a climactic encounter.

The hard part is quelling your left brain’s urge to edit each sentence and to go back over your work again and again.  Over-editing drains the life out of the work. If you succumb and start revising before finishing the manuscript’s first draft, the work’s brilliance dulls or dies.

Second Step – Hone the Story Arc
The arts are not only about the Muse, they are also about solving structural problems.  Now that you have something down to work with, ask your editor brain to step up and look for a story arc to make sure that you have a novel, not just a collection of scenes and snippets  From the beginning the story should rise in an arc of ever increasing tension, building higher until a final climax and resolution are reached.  Each scene and chapter should build on the one before it to grow the arc.

Hold the needs of the novel in the forefront of your mind as you begin to cut ruthlessly.  If your favorite scene doesn’t have a danged thing to do with the purpose of the story, it’s gotta go.  If nothing has changed by the end of the scene you do not have a scene. If something doesn’t either advance the action or serve to develop the characters, change it or cut it.

Don’t resolve things at the end of each chapter, unless you want the story to die there.  Let questions go unanswered.  Suspense is a key factor.  Keep readers hanging on the edge by never turning the light on.  End chapters on a note of mystery to grip the readers attention and keep them turning pages.  Also, don’t immediately get your protagonist out of trouble.  If your characters too quickly solve something without a big setback you do not have a story.

Now is the time to revisit the opening which is the most important part of the novel.  Fiction demands conflict, the yeast of all drama, so make sure the opening action has a stressful effect on one or more of your major characters.  Cut the deadwood that got you started writing.  Maybe even throw away the first few pages to find the best narrative hook.

Writing organically will usually lead you to a crisis and ending that feels fated to happen.  Once the final climax is reached then tension dissipates, all the loose ends are tied up and the story is drawn to a close – not drawn out. Make sure you provide the reader with a satisfying denouement by tying up the major loose ends of the tale, but leave trivial subplots unresolved or forgotten, up to the readers imagination.  If your draft runs on too long or tries to work out too many things for minor characters, then weed out the flowerbed to better display the perfect sweet ending.

Third Step  – Add More Seasoning
The next revision is a strange melding of your muse and your inner wordsmith.  Now that you know what your story is about – you had to write it to know that – start again at the very beginning and revisit every single word, sentence, paragraph and scene to add more sensory detail, character development and tension to the stew.  Don’t rewrite, relive.

This is where you will add everything that you left out.  At the same time, delete extraneous words, useless sentences, and even whole paragraphs to improve the pace.

Flesh out your tale by enlisting more powerful description, stronger characterization and better word choice (tools that we studied in previous meetings).  Bring the story to vivid life and make the desired goal very personal.

Look the hardest at any scenes that you left off-stage or skimmed through or resorted to telling, because these may be the very scenes you need to show in excruciating detail and dramatize to the fullest.  Usually such “missed opportunities” result from our own inhibitions or they are things far outside our own experience.  Tackle them head-on.

Slow the action down and milk these difficult-to-write scenes for all they are worth, maybe take up several pages.  Go through the scene beat by beat in your imagination as if you are watching a movie in slow motion. Alternate between action, thoughts, dialogue and description, and take your time with each.  Milk them.  These are the scenes that will stick in the reader’s memory.

Step Four – Copy Edit
The next pass is a meticulous copy edit to make sure all grammar, punctuation and spelling is absolutely error free.  Use your editor brain to start at the beginning yet again and go through every sentence.  Make sure the book’s format is correct for the publisher as well.

Even if everything seems pristine and perfect, don’t send it out yet.  Set it aside to clear your overloaded brain and give the book a rest for several days.

Step Five  – Final Reading
You need to do a last check on the book’s flow and readability, but the fiction writer’s problem is that he can never see his own work clearly.  By the time you have read what you’ve written over and over again, you are no longer capable of viewing it as a reader.  Distance yourself from the story for as long as three months, then pick up the manuscript and read it with fresh eyes, as if you are the reader seeing it for the first time.

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Writing Organically
Saturday  4pm-6pm
Marshall Public Library

In school, writing teachers usually make their students craft a plot outline, do detailed character profiles, and identify a theme before they can start writing.  The planning method may be good for learning the basics, but many fiction authors don’t or can’t write that way.

For them, a plot outline acts like prison bars, restricting and stifling all the life out of their work.  On Saturday we will explore the freedom of writing organically – harking to the genius of the muse.  Join us and learn how to grow a novel from a tiny seed.

The second hour is reserved for a Critique Workshop.  If any of you want feedback on your work, copy & paste it to a critique slot on the menu above,  or bring copies to the meeting if you worry about putting your work online.   Posting the piece ahead of time allows others more time to prepare intelligent suggestions and useful feedback.

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Hi Fellow Writers,

In case you missed November 19, we talked about critiquing and put our skills to work. Judy Minshall graciously shared some fantastic notes on how to critique, and I brought in examples for critiquing from a book (it’s called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and it is a fantastic book for any writer, fiction or nonfiction). In the second hour, Larry Ferro read from his story — thanks Larry!

Our next meeting is December 10 — this is different from our usual practice of meeting on the 3rd Saturday, but that’s when we could get the room. So what’s happening? The plan is to make this an all-readings meeting, where people just come together to share what they’ve written. In the past, some people have brought holiday goodies to share as well. You don’t have to bring anything, but you’re welcome to do so if the season and the spirit strikes you. If you would like to read. leave a comment on this post, so we can make sure we leave time for everyone. I will not make this meeting, but look forward to seeing everyone in January.

Hope you’re having a great holiday season and, as always, happy writing.

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