Discovering a new revision process

August 2, 2013

It’s often hard for writers to figure out what process works for them. Natasha posted to a blog chain sharing a few thoughts on her process a few weeks ago, and Storywonk Sunday devoted most of their podcast last week to talking about process, including their concept of the ‘Frog Box’, which I love; it’s a feature on their website that prompts you with process ideas to try, that other Wonks have sent in.

I stumbled across something new in terms of process for revising while I was at Odyssey, and apparently it’s stuck with me. The first thing you need to understand is, I’ve done a lot of critiquing before going to Odyssey, but aside from the few in-person writer’s circles I’ve gone to, most of it has been with electronic manuscripts; the novel swaps forum on Nanowrimo.org and the CSSF short stories workshop rely on email, and critters.org has a hybrid system where you can get manuscripts emailed to you or download them off the website, and send them in either way as well.

At Odyssey, everything was hard copy. You printed out your story when it was ready, Jeremy the work-study writer made fifteen photocopies, stapled them, and handed them out to everybody at the morning lecture. We made notes in pen on the hard copy, typed up and printed our overall critique of the story, and handed in the critiques and the marked-up manuscript back to the author after everybody had said their piece in the circle.

It’s a system with a lot to recommend it; there’s no confusion over possible multiple copies emailed out, or any possibility of somebody not getting the manuscript critiqued because the college wifi decided it didn’t like their laptop. Also, it means that it’s a lot harder for anybody to keep copies of somebody else’s work, which I can understand a lot of workshoppers being concerned about.

I have issues with pens. I’ve been holding them an unusual way ever since I was little, my handwriting is horrible to read, and for most things, writing in pen on paper saps my creative energy like a black hole sucking up everything that comes near. But marking up a printout in pen is never the worst thing. I’ve been able to critique in pen on paper before, and I did some of my Block Revision last summer with pen and paper–but when I needed to write long passages I had to switch over to the Alphasmart.

When I was working on a story to submit in week 2 of Odyssey, after I’d come up with a first draft, I was having a hard time looking at what I’d written on the computer screen and figuring out what changes I needed to make before I submitted it. So, somewhat whimsically, I printed it off and tackled it with my official Odyssey pen as if it were somebody else’s story I were critiquing, and that worked quite well. Like with Block Revision, I wouldn’t write many words on the manuscript, but generally with just a short scribbled phrase I could tell myself what I needed to know to expand on a scene or insert new action. I did that with every piece I submitted for the rest of Odyssey, and for the story I abridged to read at the Flash Fiction Slam in Nashua.

I guess I hoped that after being home from Odyssey for a week, I could go back to editing by staring at the computer screen. Either that, or I entirely forgot about this new approach. But I went back to the paper and pen approach for my new revision of ‘Masterpiece’, and it’s still working great. Something about having a pen and a printout really brings the best out of my Inner Editor; who’d have thunk it. Maybe he’s just trying to find his own thing and emphasize how different he is from my Inner Pantser, who’s all about fingers on the keyboard. Whatever. As long as he’s willing to perform, I don’t mind killing a few trees for him.

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Send your Inner Editor on a nice November vacation

October 31, 2011

Inspired by my incredible Hamilton ML, Gale, I have decided to go on a new tack with Inner Editor control for this year. I’m sending him off for fun in the sun.

After all, I’ve been working him pretty hard for most of the year. We’ve got most of the details sorted out. After finishing a rewrite and a guest blog post for Chris Eboch this evening, Editor is going to be getting up before me tomorrow, and taking the shuttle over to Pearson to catch his flight. He’s booked for the whole month at some reasonably nice resort in the Bahamas. And because I know that he couldn’t really relax and have fun without some sentences to tinker with, he’s packing lots of my writing – past Nanos, screenplays, short stories, even my old fanfic. But if he tries to call me up and tell me ANYTHING about it, I’ll find a way to make him pay dearly.

This is probably not an approach that everybody could take with their Inner Editors. Many are too wily and competitive to simply go away for Nanowrimo, or at least, they might not go for it THIS year. But my IE and I have been through this before, and I think he’s learned that he can’t derail me during November. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m excited about this idea.

I just hope that the Bahamas Nanowrimo group doesn’t try to send him back because he goes and messes with THEIR masterpieces!


1 year of Kelworth Files

June 22, 2011

Well, looks like I was so busy with rewrites and starting off the ‘Harry Potter’ review series that I missed a milestone – this blog turned one year old on June 10th. Happy Belated Anniversary to me!

So, to commemorate the occasion, I’ll link back to three of my favorite memories for each month, June 2010 to May 2011.

June

The very beginnings of my blogging journey.

  1. My very first (and most popular) Beat Sheet – Serenity!
  2. My trip home from Toronto CSTS 2010 and the G20 riots.
  3. The prologue debate.

July

  1. Who could forget JulNoWriMo?
  2. The Polaris convention!
  3. Sharing a rejection letter.

August

  1. Travelling up to Hunstville.
  2. Fan Expo!
  3. CritMo on Stringing Words.

September

  1. I got awards!
  2. Another beat sheet – The Simpsons Movie!
  3. How to take criticism.

Read the rest of this entry »


National Novel Editing Month update, week 3

March 21, 2011

Total time logged so far: 32 hours, 14 minutes

I’ll have to put in quite a bit of time this coming weekend to get to fifty, but I really do think that I can make it. Since I last updated, I have…

finished the critters crit that I started last weekend, sent it in – and got a very nice thank-you note from the author for my feedback!
Finished proof-reading and spell-checking ‘The Angel’s Charlie’ – and grammar-checked it as well.
Participated in the ‘Hone your skills’ blogfest – yes, I counted the time I spent reviewing and sending feedback to other blogfesters as Edmo time, for the same reason as doing any other critiques, and I still didn’t have time to read everybody’s work, because of all the Wizard World craziness.
Began doing basic spell-checking, proof-reading, and grammar checking on a Roswell raggedy edge fanfic I finished last year, “Roswell Calling” – I’ve finished the spell-checking up to part 3 of 18, while the other stages are lagging a bit behind that point.
And I spent a lot more time reviewing notes for “The Long Way Home” and coming up with my own thoughts about what still needs editing in that manuscript.

Grammar checking with Microsoft Word is a process that I have to be careful with, I think, because while the automated tests can sometimes flag truly atrocious sentences that I never seem to notice when I’m reading the manuscript myself, and that sometimes slip by other readers – if I follow all of the suggestions about avoiding fragments and so on, I definitely I lose some of the unique voices of the characters. At some points I actually found myself growling ‘That’s voice!’ to the laptop while clicking on the ‘Ignore this rule violation’ button.

I’m not quite sure where to go next with “The Long Way Home” at this point… I might try to just pick something from the list that I’ve made that would be a fairly substantial rewrite of a scene or multiple scenes, and just start writing, in the hopes that I can get in touch with my creative side again, because my Inner Editor is all over the place and doesn’t seem to have a regimented plan for whipping the manuscript into shape. (Not that it’s in such terrible shape at the moment, but I know that it can be better, though I’m unsure about how to get there.)

One thing that was oddly fun about writing my Long-way-home list of things to fix, was getting into the possibility of powering-down my heroine’s magik arsenal, since it stands to reason that if things generally go too smoothly for your hero, taking away some of their resources or abilities and seeing them flounder a little and have to be clever about doing more with less sounds like a good tack to take. It works quite well in the Robert Asprin Myth-adventures series, actually, where for most of the books the Great Magician Skeeve has really only a few basic tricks down pat – but they’re also reasonably versatile tricks, and he’s smart about using them in fresh new ways.

Wish me luck for the final ten days of EdMo.


In (mild) defense of the Inner Editor.

November 12, 2010

An open letter to Lindsey Grant, of the Office of Letters and Light

Nov 12 2010

Lindsey,

Ever since I watched your NanoVideo segment ‘Silencing your Inner Editor’, something’s been nagging me about it. As I drifted off to sleep last night after a successful write-in, the reasons why came clear – you are maligning my Inner Editor, and likely those of tens of thousands of other writers around the world. I cannot let these calumnies stand unrefuted.

Lest I get tarred and feathered myself, I should be clear that I don’t believe my Inner Editor has a part to play in National Novel Writing Month. And the little voice inside me that whispers the sort of things you mention in the video – that my writing isn’t worthwhile, that I should stop and give up etcetera – that voice is there, and it deserves every bit of abuse you threw in its direction. But that’s not what I’d call my Inner Editor, and I propose calling that voice the Inner Critic.

The Inner Editor is a different beast. He doesn’t want me to give up writing, or think that my words aren’t worthwhile. He goes the other direction, nagging at me to make each phrase and sentence the best that it could possibly be. If he suggests deleting my draft so far, it’s only because he thinks that I could start over again and do it better – if he whispers that I shouldn’t start the next scene, it’s only because he thinks that the scene I’ve just finished could use some polishing.

So no, I don’t listen to my Inner Editor during November – that’s part of the point of National Novel Writing Month. But neither do I believe that he should be ‘trashed’ permanently. He has a worthwhile contribution to make to my writing, and in fact I’ve spent several months this past year working closely with him, trying to get my 2007 Nanovel ‘The Long Way Home’ into suitable condition that I could show it to an agent!

Rather than a trash bin, I suggest a well-appointed and comfortable cage as the proper way to keep an Inner Editor out of the way for November. Make sure to stock it with all of that healthy food that takes a long time to prepare that he keeps saying you should eat more of instead of junk, and offer him plenty of your old manuscripts to read through and make notes in the margins – as long as he promises not to show them to you until the 1st of December.
Wishing you high word counts,

Chris K.


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