Again, Really?

I keep having dreams about Tom Selleck. No, I don’t understand it either. The latest installment has Selleck in a Navy uniform ala Magnum PI, however his personality is more like a sober Jesse Stone. You know, still pensive, but without the scotch.

Anyway, ol’ Tom has a perch at the edge of a cliff overlooking a deep ravine. On a shelf that extends out over the cliff, he has what looks like an iPad. Except, this device allows him to plug in sections for troop movements. When he plugged in the last section, the main screen of the “iPad” was complete. What do I know? It was a dream!

Now, I suppose this dream has something to do with my current revision cycle on my own writing. It really does feel like moving around puzzle pieces at times. And that cliff overlooking the ravine? Yeah, at times I feel like I’m going to take a dive, figuratively speaking, of course. I’ll recognize that a section doesn’t work at all where it’s at, so I have to do a complete rewrite and insert it at a different place in the book. Now it works great, but requires a major rewrite on the next chapter. And on, and on.

Honestly, some days it feels like there is no end. Still other days, I know that what I am doing is making the book better, so it’s worth it. And yes, at times it does feel like I’m moving around troops and strategizing the best ways to improve my work. Now, if only I can find another actor to star in my dreams. Love ya, Tom, but I wonder what Nathan Fillion’s evenings look like.

Embracing Revisions

I learned a hard lesson by writing my first novel. For starters, you learn quickly that what feels like a good flow when you are doing the actual writing may not work at all when reading it back; even less when you read it aloud.

I tried reading my novel out loud recently. I stopped six pages into the first chapter realizing that I needed a major rewrite. With a deep sigh and a heavy heart (it’s hard to tell your children they are imperfect), I began to cut the book like it was a character in a slasher movie. But you know what? It worked!

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept telling myself, “hurry, hurry, hurry” and “move, move, move” or anything that would keep the pace up. As a writer, you can’t bore your reader or they will put you down. Literally, they will put the book down and not pick it up again if you don’t keep their interest.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are at the beautiful, flowery prose. You remember what that was like. It was the crap they taught you in college that you’ve spent years trying to unlearn.

“Simpson strolled down the market street soaking up the colorful flower bouquets lining one side of the walk. He picked up a vibrant orange from the fruit vendor’s cart and inhaled deeply. Just then, he heard rushed footsteps from somewhere behind him and turned to see three men, each in long dark coats approaching quickly.”

But I’d rather read:

“Simpson hurled himself onto the market street, crashing into a flower cart and leaping over fruit baskets as he tried to escape his dark-coated pursuers.”

As I said, one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned in the revision process is the simple act of reading the words aloud. My husband and I have started doing this, with great success. We have a few rules for the sake of sanity.

  1. The listener may not interrupt the reader for any reason, but should take good notes.
  2. The reader may stop at any point in the reading to correct or make notes or revisions.
  3. Listener gives feedback and constructive criticism at the end of the reading.

You will be pleasantly surprised if you start doing this exercise with your own writing. It will keep the flow of your story moving and ultimately keep your reader turning pages.