Tag Archives: Revision

Breakthrough or Bust

Whoa, friends.

I may be jumping ahead of myself, considering I’m still riding a holy-shit-I-think-I-figured-out-this-plot writer’s high after spending the past two hours outlining, but friends, I really do think I might have figured out the plot for my rewrite.

If you know me, I bet it’s come to no surprise that my standalone sci-fi tragedy has now expanded into a tragic trilogy, with the first two books completely mapped out–not half bad, considering what I had this morning, which was filled with holes, lacking in conflict and making me want to bang my head against the wall. Now, I have a steady base to go forward, a clear understanding of what’s happening, a closeness with my characters that makes me confident I can write them and make their motives clear, plus a revised plot that threads throughout the trilogy that makes my heart accelerate with giddy anticipation and excitement.

Sure, I still have no idea how to wrap up this trilogy, which might seem like a red flag to everyone, because yeah, usually the writer knows the end goal before she’s going to get there. And yep, I have no idea how this one is going to end. It’s set up so there is a lot of opportunity, but at the moment, I couldn’t tell you what will happen. Sure, there is still a lot that might change and maybe I’ll talk to my man about it and he’ll be like, “Babe, that’s actually worse than what you started with originally.” Or maybe I’ll write it and realize that it is complete shit and I’m in over my head and, even though it felt like a breakthrough, it actually was a bust.


This afternoon, I pulled up my outline and then closed it half a dozen times, at a loss of where this story needed to go next or what I was meant to do with it. I went and did some other things, but I hated wasting so much time I had available to write and I wanted to figure this shit out. So I opened it again and kept trying. Half an hour went by without anything to show for it, but I kept going. I kept pushing, challenging myself and writing any idea that came to mind, erasing most of it by the end.

Until I had it.

It’s the closest feeling to an epiphany moment I can describe personally experiencing. One moment, I  was banging my head against the wall and the next, I had a plot twist that suddenly, helped everything else make sense. Reorder a few events in the first book and there the tension I was missing was; there, the opportunity to heighten it and make the first book feel like a real story, even if that cliffhanger ending might want to make readers, if I pull this off right, want to bang their own heads into a wall.

It may amount to nothing, but at the moment, hot damn, it’s a start. And a start is exactly what I’ll take, right now. Because I can run with this. I can create a story around this and, through a shit-ton of work, make this story work. 

So let’s get started, shall we?



Two Steps Back, A Million Steps Forward

Oh boy, do I have work ahead of me.

Remember reading this post, where I described my revelation of recognizing when you send a manuscript out too early to be read, because it’s still at the “this-book-is-shit” stage? Yeah, so I read through all of that beta feedback referenced in that post this afternoon and that status still stands.

As it sits right now, as a draft, THE RESISTANCE is, indeed, shit.

When I wrote that post, I felt really disheartened about that fact (and also embarrassed that I sent out such an shoddy example of my work). Knowing that mindset, I purposefully didn’t read through any of the feedback in-depth, because I knew it would either a) tear me apart or b) I’d feel really defensive and want to argue every criticism they made, becoming irrational and doing my betas a disservice.

Reading it today, in a much better mindset, having already accepted that my story is in its earliest stage and what my betas are claiming is most likely the truth, I could actually see the merit of my betas insight without taking it as a personal attack. I also realized another important thing.


I have a two page document filled with notes of things that I need to focus on. Namely plot, character and exposition. My main character was so passive, it drove my readers crazy and made them not care about him or his struggles in the slightest. They had no idea about his motivations or his drives and got tired of him being dragged around and forced to do things by other characters, instead of initiating anything himself. And there was no character arc, no growth, so by the ending, readers were left unsatisfied–not to mention that this was a straight-up tragedy, with no happy ending in sight.

Speaking of the ending, the dissatisfaction with the ending was also tied into my second main flaw: the plot. While I had the basic idea and conflict, the execution and finer details were desperately lacking. And the questions that my beta readers brought up, I couldn’t answer (hint: that’s a warning flag if I’ve ever seen one). Not to mention the specifics of the science and the magic system within it were…not present. A lot of plot holes. A lot.

Finally, there was the writing itself, which reflected my uncertainty of the plot and my unfamiliarity with the main character because it was overrun with exposition, constantly barraging my readers with info dumps and explanations instead of showing them what I wanted them to know and putting them in-scene. Not to mention I had two betas out of four who thought switching from third person to first person might be the better option.

I have so much to fix, so much to understand and so much to heighten that I got overwhelmed and wrote this blog post instead of getting started. However, I think writing this helped me get a better sense of direction.

First, I need to understand the plot. I need to understand the world, the mechanics, the conflict, the rationale, the stakes. I need to understand every angle and figure out what I’m trying to say with this book. Because that ending that everyone hated? I want that to stay. I really want to write a book where the ending that I have fits. But in order to do that, I need to make it still feel complete and rewarding while also heartbreaking.

But once I understand the plot, I can figure out the character that’s stuck within it. Figure out their past, their history, their quirks, their attitudes, their beliefs, their situation and then I’ll understand what they’ll do when I throw them into an apocalypse where 5% of the population is all that remains of the human race.

Once I understand the plot and the character and how they interact, I’ll map out the story. The beats. How we get from start to finish.

And then I’ll write it, which will be an interesting process, because I’ll mostly be starting out with a new draft–especially since I’m considering not only changing the POV, but also the gender of the protagonist–but I’ll also be salvaging scenes from the old one.

Plot. Character. Beats. Words.

A lot of revision ahead and lessons learned from this story, friends. Let’s hope I stay up to the task, hm?


Respect the Stages

I entered into Pitch Wars. Since, I’ve been trying (<— read, failing) not to just stalk all my potential mentors’ feeds and see if they say anything that resembles my book at all; trying (<— read, still failing) not to refresh my email every ten seconds in hopes that a request for a partial or a full might come through; trying (<— read, forever failing) not to get lost in the feed while glancing at my calendar and wondering why it isn’t August 25th yet. Those nervous, contest butterflies fueled by fragile threads and hope and anxiety are in full swing and it’s only been two days.

So, this morning, I thought, Hey. Instead of obsessing over a book you can’t do anything with at the moment, perhaps you should work on polishing up another novel? Hmm? 

When I made a call for beta readers for ARTEMIS last year, I also asked for betas for the only science fiction novel I’ve written, THE RESISTANCE, so that when I was done editing one, I could go straight into editing the other. I hadn’t looked at that feedback yet (because I wanted to look at it when I actually had time to implement it), so I figured that was as good a place to start as any. Look at the feedback, see how people felt about the novel, make an editing game plan, maybe start getting into the actual manuscript next week.

And then I read the feedback.

The consensus was clear.

The book sucked.

That was…hard to swallow, especially right now, when I’m pillaging through the teasers from the contest and that nefarious doubt is in the back of my mind, whispering lies like, You know your book isn’t good enough, why even hope at all? I didn’t read through the feedback in-depth, yet, just glanced through the general summations they gave, but the trend was the same: my main character was annoying and didn’t have enough to work for, the pacing was slow/off, the world-building was confusing, none of the characters had enough depth and the ending was disappointing, if not downright depressing.

Image result for hiccup you just gestured to all of me

Cool premise, though.

Seeing that kind of response, I immediately felt deflated. My stomach twisted in knots, an overwhelming wave of disappointment washing over me. My mind panicked, thinking about the other manuscript I’d just entered into Pitch Wars, one of the most prestigious and well-known Twitter contests you can enter. Had I just made a huge mistake? Is ARTEMIS truly as bad as RESISTANCE? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Before I let myself completely give into despair and woeful lies, I had to pause and recognize another emotion in the mix, buried beneath all of those questions and sick feelings of shame.

Non-surprised expectation.

Though I hadn’t glanced at that feedback before today, in the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to be positive, in the sense that there would be a lot more constructive criticism than there would be praise. It’s not that the feedback itself is negative or that receiving only criticism is a negative thing (quite the opposite, in fact; how can we improve if we only experience praise?). It’s just that I knew RESISTANCE was not going to receive glowing reviews from my beta readers.

I knew without admitting it that book wasn’t ready for the eyes of others yet. That was only the first draft I’d written. Hell, haven’t even read it more than once. I hadn’t edited anything yet, hadn’t done anything to it beside try and get the ideas I had in my head down on paper in some sort of comprehensible fashion. In every sense, what I sent out to my beta readers was the worst possible draft I could have sent them. Yet I was putting out a call for my other book, so in my brain, I was like, Hey, why not get feedback on two books at once? 

That was a mistake.

Because both of those books were at different stages.

With ARTEMIS, I had written a draft and then went back through and edited it once myself. I know that may not seem like a lot, but trust me, that second read through makes a huge difference. I’d already worked out a lot of kinks that typically result from a first draft attempt before I sent it out to betas, whereas with RESISTANCE, all of those problems were still present. I hadn’t given RESISTANCE the time it needed and deserved to make it at least resemble a story, not just being the bare, confusing bones of one like all my first drafts are.

So of course my betas had tons of problems with every aspect of the book.

Similar to how I wasn’t surprised when there were more aspects betas liked about ARTEMIS than they found to critique about it.* And what they did critique was exactly what I needed, locating the places I was blind to, things I hadn’t even considered would need improving because I was at a loss as to how to make the story better, hence looking for an outside opinion.

With RESISTANCE, if I would have paused to really think, I could point out many of the same weaknesses my betas did. I was just so excited about the idea of someone else reading my work and offering feedback that I didn’t stop to consider whether my novel was ready for that kind of attention.

And for that mistake, my RESISTANCE betas, I apologize profusely. It was not my intention to waste your time and your feedback is valued to me. I will read through everything, thoroughly, and incorporate your thoughts into my next round of edits.

I learned a couple different things this morning, I think. The most important lesson was figuring out how to know when my book is ready for beta feedback–not only so I never waste anyone else’s time again, but also so that my book has the chance to benefit the most from another pair of eyes, i.e., if the obvious, glaring issues that I would have caught aren’t there, my betas can actually look for more complex, complicated issues to help elevate the story.

I have been reminding myself (and seeing the reminder in the Pitch Wars feed) that so many writers who entered are in different stages of their career, so I should stop comparing myself to them. Similarly to how, if I don’t become a mentee or, if I did become a mentee and didn’t become agented afterwards, I can’t consider that a failure when I look at those who did win or did become agented; because every journey is different and we’re all at different stages. Yet I was also reminded that I’m at different stages across my own works. 

I know that probably seems obvious. One book that has been undergone twelve drafts is obviously different than a book that’s only been written once. Yet, for a moment, I assumed that because RESISTANCE is still in such a bad shape, that obviously that means ARTEMIS sucks just as much. And that’s simply not the case, because I’ve put so much more work into ARTEMIS. Multiple rounds of revision, including a round implementing beta feedback. Not to mention that I understand that story so much more and feel so much more confident about it. My writing reflects that, whereas my writing in RESISTANCE shows my hesitancy and uncertainty I have for that narrative.

This is a really long post to basically say this: recognize the various stages your writing and your career are in and then respect them. Take the time to work on a novel to get it ready for betas. Rewrite as many drafts as you need to, to make it work. Don’t forget that your first draft usually sucks and that’s okay. It’s also okay if your tenth draft sucks. Every book is different. Every career is different. Focus on yours and doing everything you can to make it the best of your ability. Recognize your mistakes, admit them and then keep pushing forward.

And never give up. Our world needs your stories.


* When I say this, I’m not trying to come off as conceited and say that I assumed my book was so great, all my betas would love it. What I meant was that my gut was telling me ARTEMIS was ready for their eyes, whereas RESISTANCE was not.

Patience is a…Reward?

Out of all the famous and clichéd phrases, one that I live the most by (or the one I think about most often) is “Patience is a Virtue.” My Aunt taught it to me when I was a young, impatient thing while we were at the bookstore and I just wanted the next book in the series she was buying me to be out (I think I was also impatient regarding the line wait time and how we had to wait at a restaurant later when my stomach was trying to eat my spleen and very vocal about it…) Needless to say, I’m not impatient now, thanks to her scolding (made more powerful by the fact that she never scolded). I actually like to think I’m a rather patient person. But sometimes, there are these cute little reminders that tell me I’m not always patient, even when I really need to be.

Particularly when I want to pitch my manuscript yet I know said manuscript needs more work. Being patient becomes especially hard after I’ve been editing it for ages and don’t particularly want to edit it any more.

I’ve edited the manuscript in question over a dozen times (and more often than not, the word count increased instead of decreased; weird how that happens). Looking at where the story is now versus where it started is such a mind-blowing transformation to me, on how much it has improved. And that isn’t me trying to be cocky or claiming I’ve written the next great American novel. That’s me recognizing where my story started and appreciating practically five years worth of work being put into it to improve it. Plus, I can’t imagine trying to get the first draft of the story published. It wasn’t near ready. I knew it then and I knew it now.

So that’s why, after trying to get the numerously-edited version represented and realizing that it still isn’t ready, makes me a bit impatient and makes me groan inside.

As I’ve started entering into more contests and queried more agents (thus, receiving more rejections), I’ve realized that despite the leaps and bounds my manuscript has taken, it still isn’t ready, for various reasons. I’m still learning about this manuscript and this story, which is both invigorating and insane, considering the work I’ve put into it. And as a recent contest popped up that I wanted to enter–and planned to–it took conscious effort to realize that I shouldn’t be entering it when I know my manuscript isn’t ready. I just didn’t want to do the work involved. So not only am I being impatient with my work, but I’m also being lazy.

Talk about a slap to the face to a project I’ve spent five years on–and I’ve slapped myself, no less!

Because here’s the thing: yeah, there are a lot of writing contests going on that I would love to enter, particularly for the communities that surround them and what I can learn from them. Yeah, I’m itching for an agent to love my story as many readers have (again, not trying to be cocky, but confident) so I can take the next step in making my dream come true. But rushing it not only hurts my manuscript and ruins a possible opportunity, but it is also disrespectful towards the work I’ve already put into it, as well as any work others have (and still are, bless them). This story is the first I’ve finished on such a scale (a trilogy!). Yes, editing is a never-ending progress, so eventually I will hit a point where it is ready “enough” and I’ll query again. But until then, I need to respect the story and respect myself enough to be patient and put in the work, to give my all to a story I love so much and to give it the best chance it can possibly have of being told. Because once it is ready–truly ready–it will get picked up. It will find representation and it will get published.

Respect yourself. Respect your work. Give it the time and attention it deserves. Listen to the feedback and the lessons and then actually incorporate them. Don’t just rush into the next set of queries or the next contest because that is more exciting or the thought of reading through that chapter again makes your head hurt. Your patience–and the work you put because of said patience–will reward you, in time. So take breaks. Let your manuscript breathe. Find critique partners to read it while you write something new, rejuvenate your mojo. And then get back to it, refreshed and energized–even if that means you spent six months doing so and will spend a few more editing, before you can enter the query trenches again. Don’t put a deadline on dreams. Instead, believe in them and believe in yourself enough to work for them, so one day, you can watch them come true.