Revision with Lani Diane Rich Or: How I Learned to Let Go of Useless Infodump and Find the Plot

Once upon a time in a suburb far, far away there lived a mid-level-peasant girl with delusions of grandeur (hi mom!). One day her BFF casually said, “You know all those trashy romances you read and then complain about how you would have done it differently? The ones that I can’t actually read because the plot holes are so, so… words fail me? You should totally write one. How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

And so the mid-level-peasant girl toiled day and night, hatching and abandoning stories like baby chicks the Monday after Easter, and she began to despair that she could ever do this very simple task. And then one day she found an idea that stuck. For eighteen(ish) months she slaved to get her story from point A to point C with the expected pit stop at point B along the way, when a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: she learned that her BFF was full of shite. This was, in fact, much harder than it looked.

One infamous day she typed “The End” into her manuscript, which was just shy of its 50,000 word goal. Birds sang and small woodland creatures cavorted in joy. She’d done it. Holy crap on a cracker, she’d actually done it! And there were celebrations throughout the land. And they were good. And the day and the night and the yadda.

Now, the mid-level-peasant girl with delusions of grandeur knew deep in her heart she hadn’t made it yet to the Royal Ride Share to Publication Castle. Her ms had some… wrinkles that needed ironing. What she did not expect upon reviewing her work was that the story she’d woven with golden strands of Pulitzer worthy prose would unravel before her eyes. In short, it sucked. She allowed herself one small moment of mourning (ok, more like a month long pity party) and then sighed and buried it deep on her hard drive to languish ignored in favor of other more sparkly ideas that would be better, stronger, faster and most assuredly work the first time out.

A year or so passed and while our peasant girl kept hacking away at ideas and slowly (oh so freaking slowly) but surely honing her craft. Not one of those stories ever got finished. She kept telling herself she hadn’t found the right story yet. But what if she had? What if the story she’d buried and left for dead was The One?

It could happen.

So she dug it out and attempted to resurrect it. Many times. With no discernable luck. Dr. Frankenstein had much better luck with his monster than she was having with hers. Maybe he had better funding? Who can know for sure, really? And then, from deep within the internets, a seductive whisper arose, “Got revision issues? I got the l33t skilz.”

Now our intrepid wannabe-published-princess had heard this promise before and had plunked down many (MANY) hard earned coins on guides and seminars to getting it right, none of which had actually worked for her. But there was something about this voice, something that told her this time it would be different. She experienced a strange flutter in her chest that was later identified as hope.  “What the hell,” she said. “It’s only credit.” She whipped out Lady Visa and charged full bore into the forest, her ms tucked tightly under her arm.

The End?

Not by a long shot. However perseverance, hope and debt are beginning to pay off.

Lani Diane Rich’s Revision workshop has been one of the best investments I’ve made so far in my quest to become a published author, if only for the single lesson of learning I ain’t alone out there in the woods. As of January 2010 there were at least 40-ish other people stomping around in the dark out there with me. And now we had a guide.

With students from all over the globe (literally, I had classmates tuning in from France and Australia), Lani uses a neat combination of a web-based classroom for the lecture itself and private forums for after class Q&A. Very accessible. So the basic set up is tune in once a week at a designated time for the lecture complete with slideshow, real-time chat and streaming video of our valiant instructor. Between classes, the real action is on the forums where Lani spends an inordinate amount of time answering questions, holding hands, wiping tears, or kicking asses. So awesome (drink!).

The lectures revolve around structure – how to identify it and how to bend your story to its will*. I’ve been through more than my fair share of “THIS structure will SAVE your story” books and seminars in my time, so a lot of what she was teaching wasn’t new to me. But something about the way she was teaching it, that was the trick and what finally clicked a lot of things into place for me. Let me explain.

During week two (or was it three?) the lecture focused on the overview basics – the points you need to hit and when you need to hit them – and she was using fairly well known movies as examples. It was during her breakdown of Happy Gilmore (yes, Happy freaking Gilmore) that I had my “ahaholycrap!” moment and I knew what I needed to do to fix the ms I’d brought to class. Just like that. I’d been banging my head against every wall I could find for two years and Lani pops up to offer me an epiphany on an Adam Sandler shaped platter. Who knew?

While the lectures were informative and a great deal of fun (live interaction with everyone was just too cool), the best part for me was/is the forums. Everyone tossed their plot breakdowns up then ducked for cover waiting for tomatoes to fly, which miraculously never happened. So much good feedback from not only Lani but from our peers who were in the same boat. And I’m not talking Pollyana-everyone-is-brilliant sunshine blowing, but really solid “this doesn’t work for me for these reasons” and “have you thought about trying X” feedback. Invaluable.

Would I recommend this workshop? In a heartbeat. You truly need a finished ms to get the most out of it, but you will not be sorry.

*I’m not going to go into specifics here and give away the store – the woman has mouths to feed. Take the class, it’s worth every penny.


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