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This week: Devil's AdvocateEdited by: LJPC - the tortoise
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This newsletter is about how to revise.
“I don't write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.”
~ Dean Koontz, horror author
“There's no reason you shouldn't, as a writer, not be aware of the necessity to revise yourself constantly.”
~ John Irving, novelist and screenwriter
“It's never too late - in fiction or in life - to revise.”
~ Nancy Thayer, author
“Yes, in my books I do edit myself to keep from becoming the Village Explainer.”
~ Thomas Perry, mystery/thriller author
“Truth is, every writer has to be a good editor, and you have to edit yourself. It's a skill every writer has to acquire.”
~ Lisa Scottoline, thriller author
“I think I'm able to do so much because writing is what I love to do. So, often when I have free time, I choose to write and edit.”
~ Lauren Oliver, YA dystopian author
Why You Need to Revise Your Work
When I first started writing, I was thrilled to see my ideas and characters come to life on the page. I couldn’t wait to put my story up on WDC -- a bright, shiny nugget of perfection for all to read and enjoy! But I was shocked when people viewed it but didn't leave comments. Or worse, when people commented it wasn't very good. A few people left helpful comments over the weeks, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. What was “telling” or "POV?"
But can't you just think up a story and write it down? Isn't that being a writer?
It turns out -- the real writing is in the re-writing.
Confused but determined, I burrowed my way into WDC until I found groups willing to help me learn and improve. Over the years, I did improve! I started selling short stories to ezines and anthologies, then succeeded in getting a literary agent, and now have a YA Horror novel publishing in December.
You can do it, too, and it all starts with learning how to revise.
To do this, you need to play devil’s advocate. Forget that you love the story -- in fact, forget it's yours at all. Look at your writing as if it belongs to someone else, ask hard questions and give honest answers. Be critical. Be mean.
What to Revise
Here are the five most important things you must ask yourself when deciding what needs revision.
The Plot Premise
The premise is your story’s main idea. Is it unique and unusual or have you read it other places and seen it on TV? If it's been used before or is very similar to other works, you need to think of some way to make your premise different.
The Plot Conflict
Every short story or novel must have a conflict. If the character is meandering around with random scary things happening to him, that’s only a vignette (or scene), it isn’t a story. A conflict is usually between the hero and the villain -- one wants one thing, the other wants something else. Make sure you can name your story's conflict and that it can be reasonably and believably resolved at the story's end. (And don’t take the easy way out and let the mc get killed just because you can’t be bothered to figure out a good solution to the conflict.)
The Character’s Personal Goal
In addition to making sure your plot has a conflict, your main character needs another motivation besides getting out alive from the obstacles you give him. He needs a personal reason, something he’ll gain besides his life. Maybe he’s saving a friend or lover. Maybe he’s searching for a cure to an illness that runs in his family. Maybe he’s a weakling or nerd who wants to prove he’s a man. Other than getting out of trouble, what will your character gain at the end of the story? If you can’t answer that, you have a problem.
The Character’s Arc
During the story, the main character (and all the characters if it’s a novel) must learn, change, and grow. All people have faults. Your character should have one that’s preventing him from succeeding. He must recognize it and change it by the end. That’s a character arc. You must be able to say your hero’s personality or opinions changed by the end.
*NOTE: if you're writing flash fiction -- 1000 words or less -- you can get away with no character goal and no arc.*
Keep POV and Tense Consistent
The two most typical and grievous errors in stories are accidentally changing the POV (point of view) or the tense. If you start in first-person, present tense (I see the killer and run), stay in it. If you start in third-person, past tense (He saw the killer and ran), then stay in that. Consistency is key. This and other mistakes in grammar or punctuation can be fixed by proofreading. One way to proofread and not miss anything is to read it out loud. Another way is to read it from the end and go backward one paragraph at a time. Sometimes it helps to change the format of the document, for instance: magnify it or change the font or print it out.
If it’s hard to find problems in your own writing -- Get help!
Don’t ask your mom, sister, or best friend to read it and expect them to find the faults. Unless they’re professional authors, they don’t know enough to see the flaws. Plus, they love you and aren't mean enough to play devil's advocate.
Find peer review groups and forums where you can get feedback from other writers. (I’ve listed some of the great review groups on WDC below in the Editor’s Picks section.)
Another great way to improve your revising skills is reviewing! When you find things you don’t like in others’ stories, you’ll be sure to look for them and take them out of your stories.
I Want Your input!
Are there any questions about writing you’d like answered? Horror topics you’d like explored? Craft technique you’d like explained?
Reply to the Newsletter with your questions and suggestions. If I pick your request to do a newsletter on, I’ll mention you at the beginning of the newsletter and send you a Merit Badge.
Thanks for your help!
Until next time: Let the horror bleed onto the pages with every word!
Here are some Reviewing Groups or pages to help you revise.
Become a member of WDC Power and post on the “Review Me” list
Purchase reviews from Showering Acts of Joy
Submit an item for consideration in this newsletter!
Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!
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Your full time Horror Newsletter Editors:
Brooke - Working my way back Kate ~ Midsummer Night Rune billwilcox
and LJPC - the tortoise .
To my delight, some writers took the time to comment on my last newsletter: "Make It Scarier" Thank you!
Comments listed in the order they were received.
Vampyr14 writes: It's always so much more satisfying if the hero doesn't only conquer the monster/obstacle, but also grows as a person by overcoming his own weakness in the process.
Exactly! Thanks so much for replying to the newsletter.
WriterGirl88 writes: I've been feeling creative lately, and I'm planning to start writing a long story soon. The tips you included here on creating conflicts between the main character and the situation he or she is in are really helpful!
I’m glad you’re feeling inspired and are working on something challenging. Wishing you good luck on all your writing!
9 years whew! writes: Another great NL that can apply to any genre. This and your answer to my previous response has been very helpful! Thanks again!
You’re so welcome! I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to the newsletter.
Joy writes: Very useful tips on how to burden characters. Great NL. Thanks.
You’re very welcome, Joy. I always appreciate your opinion.
BIG BAD WOLF submits "Anthros Versus Zombies" and writes: Try being a young man, new to army life, who has to face a war that just can't be won, only endured.
That sounds dark and gloomy -- perfect for a horror story!
Shaara submits "Spider Hopping -- November NaNo 2012" writes: What a skillfully written newsletter. You really hit the nail -- in fact, you pounded it perfectly. I don't know what CGI means. I'll be looking it up in a minute.
As to Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies???? Tell me you made that name up. Is there really a movie with that title. I almost fell off my chair reading it.
Great newsletter. Thanks!
CGI = Computer-generated Imagery, and -- don’t fall out of your chair, Shaara! -- not only is “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” being made into a movie, but it’s based on the best-selling book of the same name, written in 2009. Thanks for replying to the newsletter!
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