Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Revision Round Three – Revelations #amwriting #amrevising

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Last week I mused (heh, no, not that Muse šŸ™‚ ) about story structure, how I saw the structure in the book I finished reading, and how it made me think about the structure of my own project, creatively called “Book 2”.

I am “old fashioned” in the sense that I prefer to review/revise on paper (and no, I’m not THAT old, or fashionable). I think it has to do with screen time (a full-time job as a tech writer means 8 hrs a day in front of a computer screen to begin with), as well as the whole effect of writing “longhand”. Reading on paper is different than reading on a screen. So I printed out my draft and worked through it page by page, scene by scene, with the recent refresh of story structure in mind.

Of course, plot tweaks make their way into my notes, as do questions about motives and characters, all par for the course during revisions. Refining characters means making sure their goals and their obstacles make sense. Sometimes their motivations change. Case in point: my primary antagonist started out with greed as a motivation. Now, after two revisions and the question of “What’s in it for her?”, her motivation has shifted from greed to more of a public service. In other words, I remembered something I heard or read about antagonists, namely villians: they are the heroes of their own stories.

Wow.

That adds another dimension to that character. There were hints of it already in the story, but when my subconscious finally got around to shouting the reminder, things fell into place around that character. Switching over to the protagonist, the question shifts to: What does she have to lose? As we writers know, the more the protagonist has to lose, the more the reader will root for them, right? This resulted in more notes about her story goals and the “what ifs” that go into the things that prevent her from reaching those goals.

Then, since it’s a mystery, not only do there have to be clues, there have to be false clues and enough suspects so the reader doesn’t figure things out too quickly. We like to call these “red herrings”, even though herring is more gray and white and tastes really good pickled, especially with saltine crackers šŸ™‚ . After I listed my suspects, I realized I didn’t have enough red in my herring, so a note to add a false lead or three.

Getting back to the story structure itself, in the middle part of the story, there should be a black moment or an “all is lost” moment, where it looks like the obstacles in the character’s way seem too big to conquer. In the book I read, it was a point (and I realized this later, when my writer’s subconscious slapped me up the side of the head and yelled in my ear) when the main character stopped moving toward the resolution of the main mystery thread of the story.

As I went through my draft, I realized that even though there is moment where it looks like it’s going to be a LOT harder for the character to reach her goal, it wasn’t dark enough or difficult enough for her to continue. Note to self: figure out what would make her stop moving toward her goal.

And all these notes on how to make the story better were spawned, in part, by reading that book and seeing how the story was structured. It reminded me of all those things my writing teacher has been saying. I think sometimes it takes us a while (at least it takes me a while šŸ™‚ ) to see how the story should work.

Getting back to revising, fleshing things out, and refining the story. Sometimes, especially with this book, I wish I could skip all the false starts and get to the bare skeleton of the story sooner, so I can put that energy toward refining the story, but I’ve learned that for me, it’s the way my subconscious writer brain tells my conscious writer brain which direction to go. Either that, or my Muse is working some seriously-annoying Muse magic to try to teach me something. Or he’s just being annoying. I wouldn’t put either past him.

Now, back to revising!

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

11 thoughts on “Revision Round Three – Revelations #amwriting #amrevising

  1. Thanks for sharing your revision process, Julie. I sometimes think the way we revise is as unique as the way we write. I don’t use longhand for writing or revision, mostly because my handwriting is illegible. It’s much easier for me to use the computer. Plus you can adjust computer fonts! šŸ˜‰ I do know how you feel about adding richness to your story. That’s what revision is for, in my opinion. You look at the story and see what you want to add, what needs more explanation or doesn’t need to be there at all. It’s not an easy process, but it does hone a story.

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  2. I do the same kind of analysis, Julie. I plot the original draft using a defined structure and let the story develop naturally. But then there’s the point when I go back and analyze the strength of goals and obstacles. I ask the question for each chapter: Can I up the stakes, up the conflict, create impossible choices?

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  3. Hello Kitty-Kitty! Mreow!

    Great stuff here! Thanks for the mini writing crash course. Remind me what this magical enlightening book you read was? Maybe I should read it too! šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! The book was The Body Reader by Anne Fraiser. Really good. There are two more Jude Fontaine books, but I’m trying to read at least one book from each author in our Sisters in Crime chapter. However, I might have to read the other two Jude Fontaine books first …

      Have a wonderful writing weekend, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your posts about your process of writing. I find myself learning a lot, and have “aha!” moments. I also find myself thinking of ways to incorporate what your saying into my 3rd grade lessons plans. We’re talking about story structure right now! I use mentor books often, showing the kids how an author writes a certain something, and then they try their own story. My favorite project, which we’re doing right now, is a Corduroy story. Remember Corduroy – the teddy bear with an imagination? Corduroy sees a normal object and thinks it is something else. Writer’s Workshop is my favorite class of the day! Thanks for teaching me!

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    • Hi Cuz! So glad you found this helpful! Third grade? Have you heard of Bibi Belford? She’s written a few middle grade books you might be interested in, namely Canned and Crushed, and Another D for DeeDee. Bibi is a retired reading teacher in the Chicago area. (full disclosure: she’s a friend šŸ™‚ ) Her books feature friendship and acceptance (and they’re funny šŸ™‚ ) She also wrote a historical book, Crossing the Line, you might find interesting.

      Have a great week!

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  5. I love the idea of the villian being a hero of their story. I like your process of revision, Julie. I used to prefer doing my edits on paper until I couldn’t read my writing anymore šŸ™‚

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    • Paper rules for revisions in my book (heh šŸ™‚ ) I just find it easier to make notes and stuff. And that villian as the hero? That came to me (of course, I know I heard that at one point from my writing teacher) while making revision notes on my paper copy šŸ˜€

      Happy Writing, Denise!

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