Posts Tagged ‘Lani Diane Rich’

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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Revision: Week Two

Yeah, yeah. I never posted about Week One.

Sue me.

Week One: reacquaint yourself with your ms. Get sticky notes or index cards or the office supply of your choice and break down your ms scene by scene. Let me tell you – easier said than done. My ms is a MESS. Also pretty much the whole thing has to be chucked because I’ve swapped out the east coast for the west coast and back story and front story. Tucker as it stands is the baby and boy howdy is she going out with the bathwater.

And this is a good thing.

Tucker is the very first thing I finished, but it is by no means the best thing I’ve written. In fact it’s really hard to read through it over the sound of my teeth gnashing in agony: “OMG did I really write that?? Really?”

But I had an epiphany during Monday’s class.

Week Two: get Jillian on your opening scene. Make it sweat, make it cry, make it puke but shed every unnecessary pound. That wasn’t the epiphany, by the way. The epiphany came while Lani was using Happy Gilmore to illustrate her concept of structure and she said: give your protagonist a positive goal. Happy needs money to save his grandma’s house from foreclosure. Positive goal.

Ok, I like totally know this isn’t news to the bulk of writers out there, and I myself have heard it tons of times. I honestly believed that Tucker, in fact, had a positive goal. I was sooooo wrong. Having just reread the thing (hello Week One homework!) it finally kicked me in the head that Tucker’s goal was far from positive and every action she takes is reactive rather than proactive. And in the time it took me to frantically write the notes long hand I had the skeleton of the first two scenes and the answer to Tucker’s broken plot.

So worth the price of admission.

As I said in an earlier post, I intend to put my money where my mouth is. I have 7 (yes SEVEN) opening scenes accumulated over the last year and half, give or take, for Tucker as I struggled to find the right word combination to unlock this !@#$%& story. And apparently the answer all along was an Adam Sandler movie and “Mercury [being] quincunx Mars retrograde in Leo on Monday“. Who knew?

So, stick around and watch the horror show. With any luck, by the time I get to the epiphany version y’all won’t have gouged out your eyes and can appreciate the true genius of words which I have yet to write. They’re due on Monday.

Oi.

Wile E. Coyote for the Win!

Hi there.

Wow. It’s been… a long time since last I last indulged in narcissism. Publicly, at any rate. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll begin this reentry into the blogosphere with a metaphor: Wile E. Coyote = my (attempted) writing career.

Wile E Coyote, Super Genius

Wile E. spends his days hungry and the only thing he wants a taste of is that damn Roadrunner. He devises ingenious schemes of ever escalating peril (to himself) in the hopes of one day catching that !@#$%&!@ bird. He very often finds himself so singlemindedly focused on his goal that he will race off the edge of a cliff and not notice until the Roadrunner (helpfully) directs Wile E.’s attention to the reality of his situation, forcing him to look down and find only several thousand feet of thin air between him and certain doom.

Many days, I feel akin to the broken Coyote.

And yet he has something that I seem to lack – determination. Wile E. Coyote always gets back up, dusts off and speed dials ACME. When I hit the bottom of my metaphorical canyon I tend to crawl my broken body to the nearest couch and park in front of the TV to convalesce. Oh sure, I call it “research”, thinking to absorb storytelling through osmosis. But we all know it for what it is: PROCRASTINATION.

I don’t generally do New Year’s resolutions because, well frankly, I can never stick to them (see above). So for 2010 I’m trying goals instead. Yeah, yeah. You’ve all seen the glory of my previous goals go down in flames (how many years now have I insisted I will have a manuscript to submit to the RWA Golden Heart contest? 2? 3? It’s embarrassing, really). But this one is at once more concrete and nebulous.

Be the Coyote.

And I’ve already started. I spun the ACME Wheel of Fortune and landed on the Revisions workshop taught by Lani Diane Rich. I plan to dust off Tucker, hoping against all hope it isn’t a dead horse I’m about to beat into jelly. Time and again I always end up back at this story so there has to be something there… right? With any luck the next six weeks will help me determine Tucker’s actual worth. Wish me luck.

Oh and if you see the Roadrunner, run that thing down with your car, m’kay? Thx!

off topic: blog rants

I’m not a fan of blog commenting. Weird, right, since I (occasionally) write my own blog you’d think I’d be all about the feedback of others. Eh. Mostly I write this blog to keep myself honest and to (occasionally) entertain my friends.

If I happen to find myself in the position of commenting on someone else’s blog, I try to keep it positive even if I don’t happen to agree with the opinion. We need less haters in this world, dammit! To be totally honest most of the comments I make are in the lemming vein of  “me too! LOL!”

Erudite stuff, folks.

However, there are times (occasionally) I’ll read a post and it will get me thinking and then I feel like maybe a more verbose comment is appropriate. This morning I found myself at such a crossroad.

I was rolling through my daily blogs and landed on this one from Lani Diane Rich. It apparently struck a chord with me. And so without further ado, here is the rant I posted in response to this article by Sarah Bilston:

It never fails to stun me how much vitriol is spewed when the subject of women’s fiction is introduced – and that the angriest spewers are women themselves. 

I read and write romance novels and I stand by the genre as a legitimate and profitable wing of the publishing industry. I find it sad and ridiculous that so little respect is given to – or demanded by – the writers, readers and publishers of this juggernaut of a genre. No other single genre – including the much vaunted “legitimate literature” – rakes in as much cash as romance/women’s fiction. So what does this tell us? 

People like to be entertained. 

People like to be entertained with fun and frivolity because it gives them a chance to step out of their own lives for a time, out of their responsibilities and wondering if the next paycheck is going to cover the mortgage, car insurance, daycare, whatever. I , personally, get enough of that stress in my daily life and I don’t need it to be the focus of my entertainment. 

But maybe that’s just me. 

Am I saying that if a story doesn’t come with a happy ending it’s worthless? Of course not. Because that would be *ridiculous* and erroneous. We need all types of stories because we are all types of people – and it never hurts for us to step out of our comfort zones and check out someone else’s flavor of entertainment. That’s how we grow. That’s how I have a library built on the collected works of Shakespeare, the Brontes, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Lani-Diane Rich, Anne Stuart, PJ Tracy, Dan Brown, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut – and those are just my keepers that I can rattle off the top of my head. I’ll pick up any book that sounds like it’s got the goods by way of story. Because the beauty is that I will likely learn *something* from the experience, even if that is simply this writer’s style is not my cuppa. 

As for Ms. Bilston’s “Americanization” of this particular novel, I have to say that that I’m actually more interested in this new altered version. I will be making the effort to find this and see if it lives up the hype. And if not, no harm no foul. I’m certainly no worse off for spending a few days reading a novel following one woman’s journey than I would be rereading Romeo & Juliet (the biggest, fattest anti-romance out there). 

Not all stories are created equal. Not all books released under the “literature” or the “romance” tags are worth the paper they’re printed on. In fact, the great majority of them are mediocre leaning into truly awful. Not all books released by renowned authors are of the same caliber. But if you don’t try, if you don’t open your eyes and mind to the endless possibilities available then you will miss the true gems that pop up. 

Closed minds are everyone’s loss.