Monday, March 22, 2010

SUBLIMINAL MONDAY: Recipe for a Great Story

I got my editorial letter and line edits from AA on Draft #3. Have I mentioned she's brilliant? [No less than a million times.] Well, here's why. According to her letter, the things I need to pay special attention to heading into Draft #4 are:

1) Tension - More!

2) Believability - Keep it real - bring reader into mc's thoughts.

3) Dialogue - Less dialogue, more narrative.

4) Active Voice - Stay in the moment. Passive voice is a turn-off.

Hmm, sounds like a recipe for a great story!

TENSION
It's the drive that keeps the readers turning the pages. What are the conflicts? How will they be resolved? Will they be resolved? What are other challenges facing the main characters? Romance. Angst. Jealousy. Conflict. TENSION. [His rippled muscles made her feel safe, even as his ex gave her the evil eye.]

BELIEVABILITY
This is a biggie in any form of writing, and especially in fantasy and paranormal. Do the rules make sense? Are they clear? Consistent? Are the characters acting in ways that are in line with their powers and backgrounds? ARE THE CHARACTERS AND THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES BELIEVABLE? [Vampires wear only blue clothes, crawl on all fours and survive on chips and salsa, right? If that's how it is in your story, MAKE US BELIEVE IT!]

DIALOGUE
Do your characters speak like they should? Is the dialogue age-appropriate? Do they have a southern twang? Do you have too much or too little dialogue in your story? Does the dialogue reveal plot points or character traits/flaws? Is the dialogue consistent with how the characters would truly speak? DOES YOUR DIALOGUE SERVE A DISTINCT PURPOSE AND MOVE YOUR STORY FORWARD? [If not, put your fingers in the shape of an "L" and raise them to your forehead.]

ACTIVE VOICE
Are your characters using passive rather than active voices? Do you use words such as "was" "had" "were" "been" too much? Put your characters in the present. USE ACTIVE VOICE TO MAKE THEM COME ALIVE. [I AM drinking a sweet, chocolate shake and WILL continue doing so all the days of my life!]

I finished reading, "hush, hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick last night and loved it. [Go buy it. NOW!] Afterward, I read through AA's edits in my ms and realized something: my book may be a whole lot more powerful in 1st person POV. [Just shoot me now. I'll buy the bullets.] It's currently in 3rd person POV, so that's a whole lot of work. I also remembered something AA said to me a while back, "You might want to try writing the book over now that you know the story, and see what happens." [Yeah, right, and maybe I'll join the Tea Party and campaign for Sarah Palin in 2012.]

So, guess what I'm doing? Rewriting my book in 1st person POV. Apparently, my mom is right, I'm a glutton for punishment. [She also thinks I'm "all that," but every parent is slightly delusional.] I promise to keep you posted on this exciting [tedious, heart-wrenching, nutso] endeavor. It may be nothing more than an exercise [in futility], but I'm giving it a whirl. Wish me luck! [Good luck, crazy person.]

So, tell me, have you changed your manuscript's POV or rewritten an entire ms? If so, how did it go? Do you have trouble with tension, believability, dialogue, or active voice? What are things you do to overcome these potential pitfalls?

44 comments:

Eternity's End? said...

I am currently re-writing my MS and actually I am adding some drama in while taking some of the tension out. Trust me you will believe the girl has gold hair :P

Debra L. Schubert said...

EE, AWESOME! I think I'm in some pretty good company. I've just started the rewrite, but I'm almost giddy about it. [Never thought I'd use "giddy" in an actual sentence.] And I love "gold" hair. ;-)

Summer said...

Oh yes, I've changed POV and tense before. It's a lot of work, but it's amazing how much different it can make. Best of luck to you. Keep the chocolate flowing!

kristina said...

Hey there hotstuff! I received a writing book that suggested that for a 1st MS to write in 3 POV as it is easier. But, then had this revelation that 1 POV was what I was "really" hearing, so I rewrote.

Of course, that MS is on the shelf and I'm working on Sara's story. Which is in 1 POV. :)

Thanks for the reminder of the "good stuff" that needs to be in a good read - we can never be reminded too many times.

:)

Ruthanne Reid said...

A remarkably helpful post!

Yes, I have changed POV through for an entire manuscript. I've never regretted it. It automatically fixed pacing issues I was having, as well as characterization. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just take that plunge and see how it goes.

Of course, keep the original manuscript just in case. ;)

Kimberly Franklin said...

Re-writing in first person POV, huh?! That sounds like [a giant pain in the a$$] FUN! LOL.

Good luck! Oh, and by the way, I thought your post was brilliant today. It seems I'm craving writing tip today, so ti hit the spot! [Now, if I only had some chocolate...]

Happy Monday!

Kristi Faith said...

Okay, okay. I'm about to re-write my manuscript for the uhm...7th time. Darn it. Mine is also in third person POV and I've been wondering about changing it, but keep beating that instinct out with a stick (due to the amount of work it will take to do this. *sigh*) I'm right with you now. :0)

Julie said...

As you know, I often do a complete rewrite after writing the first draft, after I really understand the story. And recently, on my work in progress (after two edits), I decided that it was time to start again. I know it can be daunting, but I'm so much happier after doing it. I know you'll do great! :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Summer, Thanks I'll need it! [Luck and chocolate.]

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kristina, Don't thank me, thank AA - she's the brains (and the beauty) behind the operation! [Can't wait to see you!!]

Debra L. Schubert said...

Ruthanne, Draft #3 is in its own safe file. I'm really having fun with this - can't wait to see how it turns out!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kim, I've got chocolate. Oh, wait - you know [are responsible for] that! *grinning*

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kristi, Look at it this way - if your ultimate goal is to write the best book you can, you owe it to yourself to do that. If you're thinking a change of POV might help, you're instincts are probably right. [Stop trying to hurt them!] ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Julie, Thanks - I'm only at the beginning, but am really enjoying it. It's flowing more naturally. It felt somewhat forced in third person POV. [Hugs as always.]

Kimberly Franklin said...

It appears that I'm having chocolate withdraws. At least that's my excuse for my typos in my previous comment. Lol.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Great recap on the elements of a solid story. Thanks also for sharing your rewrite in progress -- it's always great to suspect I'm not the only nutso who thinks eight drafts might not be enough.

Debra L. Schubert said...

ACP, What is the correct number of drafts to get the story right? However many it takes. [You're not any crazier than the rest of us!!] Keep at it until you can honestly say, "The End." ;-)

Kristin Conroy said...

I love your post, Debra! (And love practicing active 1st person too!) I've just begun my first novel and short story--yes both at the same time, I too am a glutton for punishment!--and these "great story" ingredients are already a challenge. I will be referencing your tips when I find myself in danger of crossing over into la-la land...it'll keep me in check and on a coherent path!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kristin, I'm so glad you found this post helpful. And best of luck with your dual projects! If you get a chance, keep me posted on your progress. ;-)

Karen Walker said...

Oy vay. Good luck, Debra. Perhaps you'll know before you complete a complete re-write whether the POV switch is working better. Yes, I've had difficulty with the other issues. I don't even remember how many drafts my memoir went thru before publication--but it's oh so worth it.
karen

Jemi Fraser said...

In my last ms, I needed to move a scene from the middle to the beginning. It required me to change the entire timeline and rewrite the first half of the book. Crazy.

Barbara said...

I started a historical fiction in first person, (just a an experiment, because I've written only in 3rd) but didn't love writing in it. It was to hard to get narration out without feeling expository. I had almost 150 pages to turn back into 3rd. It was totally worth it. The thing is,
1rst is a tougher voice because it's really limited. Think hard if you want to get rid of all of your points of view before doing it. If you really feel like you can lose his pov, in particular, then go for it. If not, or if you're not ready to tackle that yet, try to just strengthen what you've got.
Good luck!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Karen, I'm committed to the story being the best it can be, and I'm thinking first person POV may be a better way to achieve that. Fortunately, my agent agrees and is fully supportive. So, here I go...!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jemi, Wow, that sounds like a ton of work, but I bet it feels amazing knowing the story is so much stronger for it. I'm looking forward to the rewrite - it's fun trying something new. [Call me crazy and toss me in the bath w/the other quacks.]

Debra L. Schubert said...

Barbara, I'd think historical fiction would be difficult in 1st person. In YA, I think it's more common and, in this case, I think will be more effective. If not, I've got the story written in 3rd person and can always edit that. I'll keep you posted!

Jennifer Walkup said...

Good luck with your edits!!!

Kelly said...

Good luck with your revisions, and thanks for sharing the suggestions!! Very helpful!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jennifer, Thanks so much. Luck may be exactly what I need!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Kelly, Glad you liked the suggestions. I'll tell AA. ;-)))

Jewel/Pink Ink said...

I can relate! I am on my third rewrite of a historical novel and I am rewriting from 3rd to first POV. A lot of work but it's made a world of a difference. Good luck!

Thanks for such a helpful post. I am finding places in my ms to improve.

gael lynch said...

I've had to reinvent my whole ms many times both this one, and another middle grade one I was working on a while back. I love working in first person...and now reading it too! It's just so much more immediate. You gotta put those readers inside your characters' skins!
It'll be a breeze for you, oh awesome author!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jewel, It's so nice to see your beautiful face gracing my blog again! I'm so glad to hear others have done it and succeeded. I'm excited about it - something felt a bit off before, and I think it was the POV. So, here we go!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Gael, "You gotta put those readers inside your characters' skins!" Amen, sista! And thanks for your kind words. [I'm verklempt.]

Vivi said...

(Hey, Debra...long time no see!!! :>)

So funny that you're talking about changing POV. I did that about a year ago for my current WIP. Went from 1st person to 3rd. It was such an amazing change. My MC had just gone through a traumatic event, and I found the 3rd worked so much better in getting across her sorrow and detachment.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Vivi, SO GOOD TO SEE YOU!!!! It's so important to pick the right POV for the story you're telling. For me, I just start writing and assume I've picked the right one. I'm finding out, that's not always the case. So glad it worked out for you, and I'm thrilled to reconnect!

Angela Corbett said...

Wow! Good luck with the POV change! I can't wait to hear how it turns out! I have a problem with active vs. passive voice though I have a great beta editor who catches the passive voice problems that I don't.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Angela, It's easy to slip into passive voice. I notice myself doing it even when I'm doing my best not to! This writing gig is trickier than it seems... ;-)

Dorothy Dreyer said...

The first book I tried to pitch was written in third person. Needless to say it wasn't picked up, but that might not be because of the POV. The book I'm currently pitching is written in first person, and I've got three agents reading the full!
Okay, this might not prove anything but your post made me think of its relevance. :)
Good luck with re-writes!

Sybir St. John said...

I'm back in edit mode as well. It's making my eyes cross. Great reminders on what makes a Great Story.

Now, if I could just build a macro to run through the edit process for me on so many of the hiccups....*g*

Voidwalker said...

I like your blue clothed salsa eating vampire idea... can I use that? :P j/k

Nice post as always. Good info from your editing staff!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Dorothy, You're clearly moving in the right direction. Good for you! Figuring out which POV works best for your story is key. My ms was a bit sticky and now it feels smooth (if that makes sense!).

Best of luck w/your agent search. I hope to hear good news from you soon!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Stacia, When you develop that macro let me know! Can't wait to discuss this further in 1st person POV next month. [hee hee]

Debra L. Schubert said...

VW, You can definitely use it as long as I get some royalties. Glad you enjoyed the post. ;-))

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