Category Archives: Welcome

Revision, from Macro to Micro

Posted on February 24, 2011 by

When I think about revision, there’s a big mental divide: I can actually see the Grand Canyon. On one side is storytelling stuff, the nuts and bolts of plot and character that I’ve talked about before, the stuff that addresses the question, does this story go?

Way over on other side of the divide is the paint job: the question of whether the language used to tell the story is, in any way, pretty. I’ve written about that, too, listing some of the qualities I expect to see in well-written prose.

This isn’t the way I usually revise, mind you. I move through a document doing both at once, at least until I’m on the last pass. But I also know when I am making a structural revision, and when I am tuning the words. The best way for a new writer to know, if they aren’t sure, might be to ask: did this change necessitate others? If I altered this one thing, in other words, did I have to go through the manuscript and work through the consequences of the change? Or did it just make the whole thing flow better?

Belaboring the point: if you decide to switch from first person present to past, you are gonna be changing a lot of verbs. Or imagine if you change your main character’s sex. If you decide to substitute ‘lazed’ for ‘languished,’ on the other hand, you probably only need check that you haven’t used six languid variations already.

The qualities of prose post I mentioned before is something of a checklist. If your prose is ungrammatical, it says, get yourself some grammar. If it’s all dialog, all the time, you might have a balance problem, so consider putting in some narrative. Now, though, I want to talk about the process of actually shaping prose.

I have the idea that polishing your prose is pretty intuitive, at least for most of us. We read aloud, or work with a printed manuscript and a pen in hand, or we just sit at the computer and tweak, tweak, endlessly tweak. The goal, speaking very generally, is to come up with something that reads well–that offers maximum clarity to the reader and also possesses some glimmers of what I’ll call poetic rhythm. After we get to the point where the story’s told and the words are doing the job, we can strive to imbue them with some specialness.

I realize this is a gross generalization. Some writers cannot work forward through a story unless or until each sentence has a bit of sparkle. But a fair proportion of writers–especially beginning writers–seem to start with figuring out how to put together a working story, and then they move on to luminous prose. (It might also be hoped that for most of us, as we get better at the former, our prose also improves at the draft level.)

For sake of discussion, let’s assume you you’ve written a nice bit of fiction: the characters are okay, the plot works, it achieves a clear emotional effect, and the fact is you can probably sell it. But you want to work on the prose, and you want some kind of roadmap on how to start. What to do?

One strategy is to work from the big to the small, the macro, in other words, to the micro.

With this approach, you start by dividing the piece into scenes, then ask yourself: do the events unfold in a logical order? What’s the imagery, and how does it fit in? Does the scene do everything I want it to?

Second, you chop the scene into emotional beats or passages and repeat the process. This is about the words, again, so you’re looking for clumsy bits, things that may toss the reader out of the narrative. You’re also checking how each thought leads into the next, because part of flow is about that–about giving the reader the information in an order calculated to achieve a specific effect. This is true whether you want to ease them through a little lump of character history or if you want to slap them sidewise with a surprise change in in direction.

The above stages are a bit like prepping to paint a room. You’re getting major obstacles out of the way: in a sense, you’re washing and taping your walls.

After passages, naturally enough, we get to painting our paragraphs. Does each accomplish what it’s meant to? Are there any sentences that echo each other, creating wordy redundancies? How do they sound when read aloud? Does the first sentence flow logically from the closer of the paragraph preceding it?

You can probably see where I am headed now. After the paragraphs, you work the sentences. Are they varied, or do they all have the same Character verbed the Subject structure? And after the sentences, you work the words. That means all the lovely fiddly things we think of as perfecting the piece: pruning the adverbs, making sure the pronouns aren’t ambiguous, looking for stronger verbs.

Long, time-consuming, fiddly? Perhaps. If you’re pretty sure you can sell the piece anyway, go on and send it to market, and see what happens. This is one of those exercises that can wait until you feel like a stretch.

Does anyone else do it this way? Your revision thoughts are always welcome.

New delivery systems for my stuff…

Posted on February 4, 2011 by

Folks have told me that my East Van lesbian werewolf romance, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2010–I haven’t confirmed this with my eyeballs, but I hear that M.K. Hobson and Cat Rambo are on it too. Anyway, it was nice to hear and I want to cyber-hug all my friends and acquaintances who also made the list. (And, really, all my other friends and acquaintances too.)

In other news, Indigo Springs and “The Cage” are both available in an electronic bookstore called Diesel. I’m not sure how this works, formatwise, but they can be had. And they are both in the Sony Ebookstore now, too. iTunes is supposed to have them, but continues to lag behind.

It’s boggling, really, how many things have just become ours for the clicking.

Edited to add: The list is up again, here.

Dipping a toe into e-books

Posted on November 9, 2010 by

kelly-yoyoKelly bought herself a Kindle not long ago, and one of the first things I learned as a result is that a Kindle account comes with the assumption that you may have more than one e-reader in the house. If one or two of those happen to be, say, an iTouch, there are unexpected benefits. For example, once I’d downloaded the Kindle ap, either of us could buy a book and then we could both read it at the same time.

I’d have thought reading on the iTouch screen wouldn’t be all that appealing, but I gave it a try, and absolutely ripped through the latest Connie Willis book. Was it the novelty, or do I really like reading this way? I’ve bought a history book, Bloody Crimes, to put it to the test. So far, I’m halfway through.

It is also nifty knowing that, what with the Kindle version of Indigo Springs being out, I can essentially carry a copy of my book with me everywhere I go.

On a completely different and more toobalicious note, my Quantum Leap rewatch of “Catch a Falling Star” went up on Tor.com last week.

Indigo Springs giveaway at Goodreads!

Posted on October 31, 2010 by

A restorative and invigorating Samhain and Hallowe’en and Day of the Dead, everyone!

Today, rather than posting yet another spider photo, I’d like to announce that as a tie-in to the release of the trade paperback and Kindle editions of Indigo Springs, I am doing a giveaway of three copies of the novel, through the nice folks at Goodreads.

Want it? Don’t got it yet? This is your chance.