Three Dirty Birds Talk James Scott Bell and Revision and Self-Editing for Publication

ThreeDirtyBirds-400In honor of the halfway point of NaNo, and with the idea in mind that people will soon be editing their NaNo novels (Right, everyone? No sending it off to the agent on December 1), The Three Dirty Birds is reading James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition.

Kate: I already like this guy. He’s got a very friendly tone and he’s obviously well-read, both in terms of craft books and in genre fiction.

Zoe: I really liked his (very short) How to Write Your Novel from the Middle, so I’ve been looking forward to this one. (The intro made me tired though—so much homework! :D)

Kate: I want to do the homework for this one, though. I need to get Merry Maids or something in here, so I have time.

Zoe: Maybe we can pitch and buy our own set of Merry Maids, and just pass them around the three of us each week. That or maybe I can find someone on Fiverr to do my homework for me. “Here read these novels. Make notes.” (Actually…maybe I can just ask James Scott Bell for his notes on the novels he’s read instead.)

Ana: Can I have cabana boys instead of maids?

Kate: My TBR pile is groaning already. It needs structural support.

He really gets the why of writing though, that feeling like you’re flying, or God, or whatever, when things are working and the words are coming out at the speed of light. The feeling of accomplishment when you officially declare one finished (for now). Which makes me want to trust his advice.

Ana: I want to say I’m not necessarily writing fast when I’m ‘in the zone’, but it’s like I’m completely immersed and everything else is secondary. I might have maybe 1 or 2k words at the end of a five hour session like that, but I won’t know where that time went.

Zoe: Yes, the house could burn down around me, and all I’ll have is a tiny voice at the back of my head going, “I could use a glass of water soon, I think.”

Kate: I like when you’re writing along, and there’s no puzzles, you know where you’re going and why, it all makes sense and you’re absolutely delighted when the story goes somewhere else better than what you had planned.

Zoe: Yes, I love the surprises that come when things are falling together. When your subconscious is getting into the game and pulling its weight. (I just wish I could figure out how to lure my subconscious out more often. I’ve tried leaving chocolate for it..but I always give up and eat it myself.)

Ana: Absolutely. Might be my favorite part of writing. When you’ve poured hours and hours into a scene/chapter whatever and it was frustrating but then in the end its GLORIOUS and it was so worth it. (And sometimes you realize the solution was really so freaking simple.)

Kate: Sometimes that is because you were trying to do too many things at once, and you overwhelm yourself. Like his golf story–I could totally see that happening. But you can’t learn everything at once, and you can’t apply everything at once either. That was a good idea, when he said you needed to assimilate anything you admire about some other book. To take the technique the other writer used and go practice it on a piece of throwaway writing, so that it becomes a part of you and you don’t need to think about it.

Ana: More homework…. 🙁

Kate: Poor Ana.

Zoe: “In Part I…we’ll be covering a broad range of fiction technique with exercises.” The homework isn’t going to end. But since I’m working on a project (when am I not), I’m looking forward to playing with the exercises.

Ana: I did like his line about diving into revisions without a plan being like a strawberry jumping into a blender. Love the image, and it’s so true too.

Zoe: When I go in without a plan, I wind up just futzing with the words here and there. It’s a waste of time. (On the other hand, it might be a useful use of time, because I’m reacquainting myself with the work.)

Kate: You can get lost in the bits and pieces, until you go back and page through the whole thing. You forget details that are important and affect how you’re going to tweak things and rewrite sections. I’m going to take another crack at that ‘planning your revision on the paper copy’ and see if I can make it work for me.

Ana: You mean printing out a copy and marking it up?

Kate: Yes. I have the paper copy of Knight printed out, and I think I’m going to try the same thing with the squirrel and its sequel. (The sequel’s sequel?)

Ana: Oh my God, Kate’s squirrels are multiplying and trying to take over the world.

Kate: We know who to blame for that, don’t we? Wait until we get to the cockroach. 🙂

Zoe: I do most of my revisions with the paper copy. (Granted, a lot of my notes might just be “DO BETTER,” and I’ll do the actual fixing when I get to the computer, but I do much better taking the book away from the computer screen and my desk chair.)

Ana: I have ‘do better’ notes too, but usually just on my kindle since I don’t own a printer. 😛 What helps me revise the first draft into something readable is having a specific reader in mind. At that stage, I’m not writing for myself anymore, so I make an effort to make this heap of words I’ve amassed interesting to someone else.

Kate: That’s a good idea. I usually try to make the plot more cohesive. Recreate the goal of the story after I’ve played around with it a bit, and figured out better stuff.

Ana: Since my alpha reader often gets my chapters as I’m done with them, that really makes me think about how I can end a chapter in a way that’ll make her ask for the next one.

Zoe: You dirty bird. 🙂

Kate: I think it’s an excellent idea.

Ana: It’s motivating, for me at least. I know a lot of other writers can’t work like that. (Showing off something that isn’t 100% finished.) Coming from a fanfiction background it’s kind of how I started, though.

Zoe: I could probably do that with Mr. Rider. By the time I give him stuff, the story’s been in revisions for a while, and I’m reaching the point where I need a new set of eyes. I could easily dole out the chapters to him instead of giving it to him in a big pile.

Ana: Another upside of this approach is that when I get stuck revising, or I have a new idea, I can discuss with someone who’s read up to that point.

Zoe: I’m usually not stuck or coming up with new ideas by the time I’m working on the draft for Mr. Rider…but his input as he reads could help me shore up things (I didn’t see myself) in chapters he hasn’t gotten to yet.

Kate: It might save you time, if you can figure out things that need to be written differently, before you’ve actually gotten them written.

Zoe: Well, before I’ve gotten the latest round of revising finished at least. He’s not going to see a single page that hasn’t been already written and screwed with a few times. (Too much is missing the first time through!)

So, I just hope that reading this book for Dirty Birds doesn’t send me running back to early parts of the book I’m currently working on. I want to get to the end, so I have something to work with.

Ana: I’m very curious about the ‘deepening’ part he mentioned. I might have a peek ahead of time.

Kate: That’s a Dirty Trick, Birdie. Tempting, though…

Ana:Nothing can stop me in my pursuit of knowledge… or chocolate.


Kate: *packs and heads for Zoe’s place*

Ana: I have chocolate, chips, and booze.

Zoe: *waits for Kate to get here so we can go to Ana’s*

Kate: Right. See you guys at Ana’s on Wednesday. 😀

About the author: Kate Lowell

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