Posts Tagged ‘Revision’

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.


Tucker: Opening Scene (2.0)

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Well… not exactly. In fact, the names and basic set up are the only things you’re likely to recognize in this new and (I dare hope) much improved version of Tucker’s opening scene. It’s rough – really rough – but overall I’m very excited about its potential. And the fact that it opens a big can of whoop-ass onto an unsuspecting Tucker, something Professor Lani insists is necessary. “Torture your protagonist,” she says. This is her call to arms. Who am I to disobey? So suit up! We’re going in.

“This year, your brother Jack will be two years from being twice as old as your sister Jen. The sum of Jack’s age and three times Jen’s age is sixty-six. How old is Jen?”

Tucker Smith spared a glance for her daughter as she pulled another pitcher of Coors for the trio of suits at table three. “You’re an only child, the question is moot.”

“Nice,” Emma said flatly. “I’m sure Mrs. Garcia-Shapiro will be totally impressed by that logic. When should I have her schedule your parent-teacher conference for?”

Tucker sighed. “Duckie, you know that I would do just about anything for you, but I draw the line at eighth grade math word problems.” On autopilot, she switched out the nearly empty salsa crock in front of Emma with a fresh one and a new basket of tortilla strips. “I did my time. You’re on your own.”

“Thirteen point six.” Continue reading

Tucker: Opening Scene (version 3-ish)

So, sometime last fall I decided to dust Tucker off and take another whack at it. 5 whacks, actually. The results are… not going to be shown here. 3 are incomplete and the 4th is an experiment I was attempting – a hybrid of prose and screenplay formatting. Not pretty. Though I’m not convinced it couldn’t work in a different setting… but I digress.

So, Tucker. Thing wasn’t working so I whined to JB who came back with something to the effect of, “Change your setting for the opening scene. Just because you want it set in the bar doesn’t mean that’s actually where it has to start.” In other words: kill your darlings. Oi.

New setting and POV (and the 5th whack), enter stage left:

Tucker Smith snapped rubber duck yellow latex gloves onto her hands and prepared to do battle. Hands fisted on hips, she surveyed her enemy – a precarious pile of crusted dishes and pots to the left, sink-full of hot soapy water in front of her, gravity defying stack of empty chinese take out containers and pizza boxes to the right above an overflowing trash can. Doable, she decided. With a hazmat suit and a flame thrower.

Continue reading

Tucker: Opening Scene (version 2)

Headline: September 2008 the DLD* draft of Tucker is DONE. (insert rain of confetti here!)

I was deliriously happy, but under no illusions as to the worthiness of my newly finished product. Almost immediately I began the beta draft for Tucker. Now any chef worth his santoku knows when you pull a steak off the grill, you set it aside for a few minutes to “rest”; it needs that chance for all the juices to get back to where they belong so that the steak doesn’t become a dried out lump of cow.

I should have followed this same path for Tucker. I got stuck, right off the bat, confused about how I wanted to fix the mess up front. As a result I wandered away to chase around the first shiny new story idea that caught my attention.

Here is the opening scene on that abandoned beta draft:

It wasn’t everyday a man found out he was cursed with a devastating weakness for a woman who smelled like beer and cinnamon.

Up to now he’d kept her at a necessary distance, a professional distance. For three months he’d been her shadow and she hadn’t made his tail. He was very good at what he did; it wasn’t by accident he could demand ludicrously high compensation for what boiled down to borderline illegally detailed back ground checks and discreet photo editorial surveillance.

But that had changed when he’d decided to play the hero, wandered into her gin joint and bellied up to the bar where he was now nursing an iced tea and trying to find the right moment to approach her.

Continue reading

Tucker: Opening Scene (version 1)

Here is the opening scene of the finished draft. I counted 8 other partial drafts, false starts on the road to revising this turkey Tucker.

So without further ado:

“Well, aren’t you just all shiny and new?”

Josh looked up from his iced tea and over his left shoulder, the direction the low smoke scarred voice had come from. It belonged to a heavily made up blonde who wiggled on to the stool next to him. Bottle platinum hair and too tight clothes didn’t effectively disguise the hard edges and tired eyes. Josh thought someone should send a snapshot of this woman to Brittany Spears with the inscription, “Stop now! You still have time!”

Continue reading

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.