Tag Archives: Novel Metamorphosis

25 Feb

Hot Potato: Let that Manuscript Cool Off

You type, “The End.”
Then, you write a fast letter to an editor and send off a couple sample chapters.

You forgot one thing. That manuscript needs to cool off before you send it out.
It is the single, hardest thing for me to do. I do not want to wait and besides that, I KNOW the revisions I just did are fantastic and the editor will be dying to read it. Yes? No.

Sadly, I send out material before it is ready. When I wait and read something even a week later, I find so many more things to revise.

Repeated words. Subconsciously, I fall in love with this word or that and it repeated endlessly. I don’t notice this unless the mss has rested a while and then, the words stick out like pimples. My goal is to cut that repetition to a single instance. After all, a single pimple isn’t bad, it’s the allover pimple face that’s bad. Two words I constantly overuse are bit and whirl: She whirled around a bit before settling down. Not bad, until she whirls 13.5 times per chapter.

Spelling and Grammar. OK, all you grammar witches. I know you are out there, because you email me all the time. My blog posts tend to be more off the cuff and I pay for it in humiliation every time a Grammar Witch reports in. (NOTE: I LOVE you, Grammar Witch. I am yours to command. I just WISH I had your eye for detail.) My remedial Grammar Witch glasses only work well when a mss has cooled off a while. Then, things pop out at me.

Darcy, sporting slightly askew Grammar Witch Glasses.

Pacing. I am much better at spotting pacing problems after something has cooled off. It is the places where I–the author–lose interest and start skimming. Oh, that’s bad when I can’t even keep myself entertained. On the other hand, I often find places to slow down, to zoom in and let the reader feel more emotions. Either way, I need the story to sit a while before I can spot these.

Vague, Unsettled Dissatisfaction. It’s hard to say exactly what this is, because it varies with each manuscript. Just–something is wrong. Off. I can usually pinpoint what that is and fix it. But when I can’t do that immediately, I start analysis, such as the Shrunken Manuscript or using other tools from Novel Metamorphosis. Because I must find and fix whatever it is. Usually–there’s something and it’s not a minor something. I just can’t see it right away.

What about you? Do you let a manuscript cool off?

03 Jun

REvising Novel Metamorphosis

novel metamorphosis by darcy pattison

Novel Revision Retreat in a Book

One project for this summer is to revise Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. It’s the workbook for my Novel Revision Retreat and it’s also a “retreat in a book.”

This year, there are four debut novels coming out of the retreats and three so far for 2012. (BTW, I”m booking retreats now for 2012, email for details at darcy at darcypattison dot com.)

One reason to revise the workbook is that I’ve slowly added sessions to the retreat, especially a session on Scenes. I’ve written a series, 30 Days to a Stronger Scene and I see what a difference this attention to the details of creating a scene can make. I want to add some practical activities to the workbook on creating scenes.

I’ll also update the bibliography with new reference books. Any suggestions?

What else? What would you like to see in the revised version? What novel writing tasks would you like to have dissected, made visual, explained, doled out in parcels easy enough to understand and DO? I’d love your suggestions on how to make this the most practical and helpful workbook ever. Thanks for chiming in!

25 Nov

3 Ways Writers Survive Slow Times

Yesterday’s news was sad: PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.

NOTE: News has filtered down that the buying freeze applies to adult imprints, not the children’s imprints.

How Can Writers Survive in Slow Times

In light of our sluggish economy, how can writers still pay bills — make money? Of course, I’d like to become Famous Editor’s new best friend, sell five mss by January 1, receive calls asking me to write a great book on a fascinating topic (for a great advance), and so on. Not likely.

Instead, I will read Art and Fear yet again, and try these three ideas.

  • Write Better. Emily van Beek, Kathi Appelt’s agent, said Appelt revised The Underneath eight times.

    Help is readily available. For example, my workbook on revision, Novel Metamorphosis, helps you diagnose problems, plan a revision in 8 strategic areas, and gives you tools to accomplish those revisions.

    Or take online classes, sign up for that MFA program you’ve been wanting to try, or give yourself an assignment to seek out information and learn learn new writing skills.

  • Diversify. Look around for other writing opportunities such as writing newsletters and magazines: consider children’s magazines, parenting magazines, adult magazines. Publicize your public speaking to schools or organizations. Teach online, at a local community center, local university, or in your neighborhood.

    To find school visits, find resources such as Authors and Illustrators Who Visit Schools, and evaluate which meets your needs best.

    If you write fiction, try nonfiction. If you write nonfiction, look for new markets. Try writing a movie script.

  • Maximize Your Writing Time. If you have to spend more time making money, consider maximizing your time for your own fiction/nonfiction by using things like Nanowrimo to keep you motivated to produce a lot in a short amount of time. Also check out their NanoFinMo (Finish Month) and other variations.
    (Of course, be sure to morph your fast writing into great writing with Novel Metamorphosis!)

Times are sluggish, but not desperate. I’m optimistic that books will be popular as Christmas gifts. I’m optimistic that the economy will turn around soon.

30 Oct

Writing AND Revising Your Novel

Writing and revising a novel is such a big job! It helps to break it into stages.

Writing AND Revising Your Novel

Nanowrimo is catching the excitement of more and more writers as they try to dash off 50,000 words during the busy, busy month of November. Getting the first draft down on paper is a very, very good thing.

Then, it’s time to see what you have. Novel Metamorphosis has several ways of evaluating that first draft to see what you actually did, as opposed to what you thought you did.

Then, it’s time to put on the thinking cap. Some would say it’s time for the left brain to make a few decisions after the right brain got to play so much in that first draft. What needs to be strengthened, changed, omitted (yes, omitted!), added?

The next stage is one of taking it day by day, chipping away at the tasks you’ve identified. This is where Katherine Paterson’s sign-above-the-desk is appropriate: Before the Gates of Excellence, the Gods have placed sweat.

Unexpected Steps

filing cabinetOften, though, there are some unexpected steps in the process. For example, there’s the Stick-it-in-a-Drawer-and-Forget-it-phase. Many of us have experienced this discouraging phase, often triggered by a small well-meaning comment by someone, a class that points out deficiencies, or just a sudden boredom with the character, plot, setting, etc. You just can’t face it another day.

Another unexpected step is the sudden insight. Maybe we should expect this step, if we’re slogging away at the thing, but I’m always surprised by the sudden light that tells me just where to go next in the story.

Unexpected, but delightful, is the sale of the mss, which sends us into both despair at the revision letters from the editor, but exaltation that the story will reach readers – finally.


If November is NaNoWriMo, then shouldn’t January be NaNoRevisoMo, the month for revisions? And what month is the NaNoResurrectoMo, the month to pull things out of the drawer, resurrect the story and revise? Would that be March?

Here’s your challenge: If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, then do this:
November — Nanowrimo
January — NaNoRevisoMo
March — NaNoResurecctoMo

What other Nano—Mos do we need?

28 Oct

Surprise Yourself in the First Draft

I’m working on the first draft of a novel and I’m about 2/3 of the way through the plot, when something interesting happened.

Embrace Exploration

I’m at a point where the E, the main character, is house bound for a couple days and suddenly M, his friend, becomes the legs of the story, the only character who is moving around. I’ve been telling the story in E’s POV, 3rd person. But this section seemed to need M’s POV and to my surprise, it came out 1st person.

But then, I’m teaching in Seattle in two weeks on the topic of voice. I decided to try to rewrite M’s chapter with an edgier voice. In other words, I gave myself permission to explore the story in new ways. Wow, I like this new voice.

First drafts v. revision

First drafts are for 1) finding out what story you want to tell, and 2) exploring the story in various ways.

Revisions are for finding out what is the best way to tell that story.

First drafts should be full of surprises and serendipity.

Revisions should be full of satisfaction as all the elements start to fit into a whole.

First drafts are for roaming around and defining boundaries of the story.

Revisions are for reinforcing those boundaries and building within them.

14 Jan

5 Questions about Characters’ Desires

What does your character want more than anything else? Sharpen and deepen the desires of your major characters, and your story will be richer.

5 Questions to Ask Your Characters

I want to win a race!

I want to win a race!

  1. Character Goal
    What do you want? Or not want? Need? Or not Need?
    This question lays out the character’s goal for the entire story. What is the character trying to achieve as s/he faces the challenges of this story?
  2. Changing Goals
    Does the character’s desires change as the story progresses?
    One paradigm for stories says that the character’s goal should change halfway through a story. Think of the “Lion King,” where Simba’s goal at first is to have a good time, and later, to take his place as leader of the pride. Changing goals represent character growth. It could also represent a changing from External Goals (can I win the trophy for this race) to Internal Goals (can I run with integrity, no doping, no cheating, etc.).
  3. Obstacles to Goal
    What prevents the character from obtaining his/her desire?
    Strong obstacles, including strong villains, makes for a more exciting plot. Create a series of increasingly difficult obstacles.
  4. Sacrifices for Goal
    What must the character give up to obtain his/her desire?
    This isn’t present in every story, but it’s something to consider. What must a character give up, in order to obtain this thing. Freedom, some privelege, money, integrity?
  5. Satisfied or Disappointed
    What will the character feel when they obtain his/her desire?
    Ultimately, will the character be satisfied if s/he obtains his/her desire? There are 4 options:

    • Character achieves Goal/Goal satisfies (happiest ending);
    • Character achieves goal/Goal does not satisfy (tragedy);
    • Character fails to achieve Goal/Failure satisfies (still a happy ending, possible character growth because character now understands why it was a bad goal to begin with);
    • Character does not achieve Goal/ Failure does not satisfy (tragedy)

Think hard about your character’s goals because it affects the plot, the outcome, and the overall tone of your story.

Read more in 15 Days to a Stronger Character

18 Jun

Hattie Big Sky

Newbery Honor for Kirby Larson

Our guest today is Kirby Larson, author of Hattie Big Sky, (Delacorte) which has received *starred reviews* in School Library Journal and Booklist; it was chosen as a December Borders Original Voice Pick and is on the Barnes & Noble Teen Discover list. It was recently named a School Library Journal Best Books of 2006, as well as being named as a Book Links Lasting Connections title. Best of all, this book won the 2007 Newbery Honor Medal.

Kirby has written about her experiences with this story in her blog. (Originally posted on December 6, 2006 on Revision Notes that was hosted on Live Journal. )

Q: What was your writing experience before Hattie Big Sky?

A: I had been writing for nearly 20 years and had 4 published chapter books and a picture book to my credit.

Q: What did you learn about revision while working on Hattie Big Sky?

A: I didn’t realize I didn’t know the first thing about revising until I took Darcy’s Novel Revision Retreat. I finally “got it” that reworking a manuscript is not revising. To revise something means to re-vision it, to see it through a new lens. The workshop moved me from wordsmith to novel writer and, one short summer after taking it, I had my young adult historical completely revised. Re-visioned.

Q:What exercise was the most helpful?

A: Though I was irritated as heck at her request — demand! — that we bring our manuscripts formatted in this very particular and seemingly crazy manner, I cooperated. And was I glad I did! The Shrunken Mss exercise worked.

Q: Specifically, what did the exercise help you to do while revising?

A: I restructured scenes so they contributed more to the story certainly, but what I carry away most is that the workshop gave me a way to take that huge novel and make it manageable. I could really get a big picture view of the work, rather than remain stuck on individual scenes, chapters, etc.

Q: How long did it take for Hattie Big Sky to sell?

A: The manuscript spent ten days on an editor’s desk before I got that wonderful phone call!

Kirby Larson Writes Foreword to Writing Workbook

The workbook for the Novel Revision Retreat includes a foreword by Kirby, in which she talks about her experience with Hattie Big Sky. Read more about the retreats and see a video of one in action.

Novel Metamorphosis: UnCommon Ways to Revise is the workbook for the retreat, the next best thing to being there. Order from Amazon.

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