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Revision Week

Revision Week: Winner and Week Off

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Dear Readers…

I hope you enjoyed the 4th annual Revision Week. I created this event to inform and inspire your own revision and am honored by the authors who’ve helped. Want more? Visit Revision Week Archive. Want to dig deeper into craft? Check out the advice from myself and 20+ author, editor, agent, and industry contributors including Revision Week guest Jane Yolen in Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies and Writing New Adult Fiction. DearEditor.com will return June 13 with answers to YOUR craft and industry questions.

Happy writing!
The Editor

Thank you…

PAM MUNOZ RYAN. Check out her recent Newbery Honor book Echo. pammunozryan.com

SALINA YOON. Check out her new book Duck, Duck, Porcupine! salinayoon.com

CHANEL CLEETON. Look for her Wild Aces: Into the Blue July 5. chanelcleeton.com

JANE YOLEN. Look for her How Do Dinosaurs Write their ABCs with Chalk? June 28. janeyolen.com

MARIE FORCE. Look for her Fatal Identity July 26.  marieforce.com

Revision Week: Marie Force

in Creative Process/General fiction/Revision Week/Romance Novels by

Dear Readers…

Revision Week ends with a flourish thanks to the fabulous Marie Force, author of some of our favorite contemporary romance series. Marie has sold more than five million copies of her books worldwide, some self-published, others traditionally published. She is talented, prolific, and here to give us a glimpse into her process. Today also brings us to the grand finale giveaway: a Free Full Manuscript Edit by the Editor. Read the full post for giveaway details and Marie’s interview.

Marie ForceMarie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of over 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 2.3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold more than 1.2 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Green Mountain Series as well as the new erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force. For more intriguing insights, pop over to Marie’s website and read her full bio to learn about her experiences as an author who works with traditional publishers while also self-publishing to great success. The tenth book in Marie’s Fatal Series, Fatal Identity, comes out July 26.

Marie’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s Free Full Edit by the Editor giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You’ve told me you work toward a publishable first draft. How does being a “pantser” affect your efforts to reach “publishable” in a one draft? I write from the beginning and go straight through, going back repeatedly to the beginning to edit, tweak, refresh, update, and remind myself of what I need to get done in the remaining pages. Re-reading is a huge part of my process and usually sparks new plot ideas. I just did a re-read on my work in progress today to get back in the writing groove after the weekend.
FatalAffair
At what point will you typically stop to re-read? I stop to re-read whenever I feel the need to remind myself of where I started. Sometimes I do it frequently during the writing of a book and other times I only do it once or twice. It’s always a good reminder of where I’ve been and where I’m intending to go with the story.

MaidforLoveWhat role do critique partners, beta readers, or professional editors play in your process? I’ve never had critique partners. I don’t want another writer’s voice inside my head when I’m writing. I have three longtime beta readers and one of my team members acts as a front-line reader, too. They are helpful in identifying missing words (my specialty), questions that need to be answered, and any plot holes that might need to be addressed. I have a copy editor and proofreader for my indie books. My traditionally edited books get some minor developmental edits and line edits, but they are never much.

Treading WaterYour first book took you three years to write. Can you share a key insight or change in your process that have contributed to your current ability to write books in weeks and months? I learned all the biggest and hardest lessons with my first book, Treading Water, which I massively overwrote. I ended the first draft with a bloated 155,000-word manuscript in which I was highly indulgent of my muse. I’ve roped her into submission since then, and that’s never happened again. My second book, the follow-on to the first one, was written in 90 days and came in at 90,000 words. I’ve hardly touched a single word of it in the nearly ten years since I finished it. Whereas I continued to tweak and fine-tune the first one until I published it six years after writing The End. By then, it was a much leaner, meaner 92,000 words, and it was the same exact story. Those are the kind of lessons I didn’t need to learn twice. Now if a scene I want to write doesn’t move character X’s story forward in a meaningful way, it doesn’t get written. I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to getting rid of the bloat and keeping my story zipping forward.

VirtuousNewHow do you know you’ve got the final draft? The last thing I do is read the manuscript on my Kindle, the way a reader would. By the time I get to The End, I’ve already edited the first half numerous times, so final edits tend to focus on the second half. Once I am able to read the book all the way through without stopping for any reason, it’s done. That usually happens fairly close to actually finishing the writing, because I’ve been fine-tuning all along. That’s how my first draft becomes a finished book.

Thank you, Marie!

You can follow Marie on Facebook, Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram, join one of her many reader groups, and get on her mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Contact Marie at marie@marieforce.com.

FatalIdentity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revision Week: Jane Yolen

in Creative Process/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

What a pleasure to share with you, on Day 4 of Revision Week, insights from the amazing Jane Yolen, celebrated author of over 300 books for young people. Jane has written picture books, novels, and poetry collections, in genres including fantasy, science fantasy, and fairy tales. She’s a master at craft with an endless imagination, a work ethic that staggers, and a deep respect for her young readers. Please join Jane and The Editor for Day 4 of Revision Week, and enter to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.30.48 PMJane Yolen has written over 300 books, won numerous awards, and been given six honorary doctorates in literature. A poet, a fairy tale teller, a writer of fiction across genres and for all ages, Jane has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Some of her best known books are the Caldecott Award winner Owl Moonthe National Jewish Book Award Winner The Devil’s Arithmetic, and the beloved How Do Dinosaurs… picture books. Jane is also well known for teaching writing to young people and adults. She honored me by writing an essay about crafting distinct voices for my book Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, and today she shares insights regarding the revising process with all of us.

Jane’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s “Free Partial Edit by The Editor” Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As prolific as you are, will you work on multiple WIPs in a single day or do you prefer to stay in one fictional realm per day? I work on multiple things as well as on my students’ pieces/revisions. I find that such literary multitasking keeps me on my toes and keeps me from getting stale.

Would your ideal writing day begin with original drafting or with revision? Why? It all depends on 1) deadline, 2) a revision request sailing in from an editor, and 3) what else is on my plate at the time.

Devils ArithmeticFor novels, how many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? I am not a planner and plotter, so my novels come together in the latter stages of revisions. But they feel fresher to me for that. I call it “flying into the mist.” Others call it pantser (seat of the pants) writing, which has a pejorative and hectoring tone to me.

Owl moonHow much revising typically happens after you involve your editor? Depends on the editors. I had one who told me my novel needed nothing. And I said, every piece of writing needs something. She said, “Take out the exclamation marks.” Since I hate them in formal writing (though not to friends!!!) I went through the novel again. Made a number of small but important revisions and took out the one exclamation point. Most editors are much more hands-on.

Sarah BarkerCan you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? I had an historical novel called The Gift of Sarah Barker, which takes place during three days in the 1840s in a Shaker community. In the end, I thought I was going to have the young woman, Sarah, and her new husband, Abel (Shakers are not supposed to marry but be as sexless as angels), going out into the world. He was to join the Union Army and be killed. She would take their new little daughter and go—as her mother did with her—to live again with the Shakers. But when I got to the end, I loved Sarah (who was smart and sassy) and Able (who was kind and giving) too much to have that be their (un)happy ending. And while the editor loved the book, she questioned why it took place in three days. As I tried to explain it to her face-to-face in a meeting, I suddenly realized that I—as a fairy tale teller—was trying to impose the Rule of Three on a historical novel. And when I told her that, she smiled enigmatically and said, “You must trust your audience. They will reward that trust by following you wherever you go.” It ended up one of the most satisfying re-writing experiences I have ever had in a novel AND simply made the book work.

How do dinosaursYou’ve said, “If I ever write the perfect book, I’ll stop writing.” With perfection off the table, how do you know when you’re looking at your best and final draft? Geeze—I wish I had someone who could tell me that! Sometimes an editor simply takes it out of my hands.

Thank you, Jane!

You can follow Jane on Facebook and Twitter @JaneYolen.

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revision Week: Chanel Cleeton

in Creative Process/New Adult Fiction/Revision Week by

Dear Readers… Day 3 of DearEditor.com’s Revision Week brings us Chanel Cleeton, author of four popular thriller and romance series, including the brand new Wild Aces. Please join Chanel and The Editor for Day 3 of Revision Week, and enter to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Chanel CleetonChanel Cleeton writes contemporary romances, women’s fiction, and thrillers. She is the author of the International School series and the Capital Confessions, both contemporary romance, as well as the New Adult thriller series Assassins. Her newest novel, Fly with Me, is the first in the new Wild Aces contemporary romance series and pubs next month, with the second book, Into the Blue, following in July. Chanel is published by Harlequin HQN, Penguin/InterMix, and Penguin/Berkley.

Chanel’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s Free Partial Edit by the Editor Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Each manuscript varies for me, but I typically feel pretty good about major arcs fairly early on and then I go through many, many drafts cleaning up the manuscript until I can read though it without finding anything I want to fix. I’m a pantser, but I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and developing them and the story threads in my head, so by the time I start writing I’m familiar with the world I’m building and am able to follow the threads as they unspool. I spend a lot of time tweaking my manuscripts for things like dialogue, sentence construction, etc., but big picture items usually don’t change very much from first draft to final.

Fly with MeDo you use critique partners or beta readers? I typically don’t. I tend to work best in my head so I like to finish the draft and then send it off to my agent and editor to get their thoughts. My traditional publishing schedule often makes it tough to get feedback from critique partners or beta readers if I’m on a tight turnaround for a book.

I+SEE+LONDON+COVERWhich draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? This varies by book, but I would say at an absolute minimum, I go through four drafts before I send a book to my editor. Sometimes the number is higher. Once I’m through with the first draft, I ALWAYS edit once on my computer, once on a printed draft, and once on an e-reader because changing formats always helps me to catch new things. Sometimes I’ll go through this process a few more times if I’m still catching things. My editor can see anywhere from my fourth to twelfth draft. When I get edits back, I typically like to go through each stage of edits (developmental, copy, and proofreading) three times to make sure I’ve caught everything.

Flirting with ScandalCan you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? I find a lot of writing solutions when I step away from my computer so I’ll often find that some of my best ideas come when I’m doing something else. For some reason, I seem to be super productive when washing my hair. 🙂 I think about my characters and story all the time when drafting and often letting the story live in my head a bit helps me to think outside the box and come up with a solution for whatever might be stumping me.

Between ShadowsWould your ideal writing day consist of original drafting or revising? Why? That’s a great question! It definitely depends on my mood. I LOVE revising because there’s something rewarding about polishing your manuscript and whipping it into shape. At the same time, I love the magic of drafting and watching my story unfold and take me in unexpected directions.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft? I try to read through my manuscript as a reader would and flag anything that pulls me out of the story or doesn’t flow properly. When I can read through the manuscript without flagging anything and I’m happy with it, I consider it my final draft. From the first moment I sit down at my computer to the moment a reader has my book in their hands, I’ve typically gone through about fifteen drafts of the story.

Thank you, Chanel!

 Fly with Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revision Week: Salina Yoon

in Creative Process/Picture Books/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Revision Week continues with Salina Yoon, author/illustrator of more than 160 books for kids. Salina’s characters Penguin and Bear are adored by young children around the world, and it’s an honor to have her here talking about the revision process with picture books, both the text and visual storylines. Please join Salina and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and enter to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.24.33 PMSalina Yoon is an award-winning and bestselling author/illustrator of over 160 books for children, including her popular picture book series with the adventurous Penguin and the lovable Bear. Other titles include Be a Friend, and Duck, Duck, Porcupine!, the first book of a brand new early reader series. Learn more about Salina and her books at salinayoon.com. Also, enter to winsigned a copy of Duck, Duck, Porcupine! (a book that made me laugh out loud), which just pubbed last week!

Salina’s interview follows the Rafflecopter forms/entry links for the signed copy of Duck, Duck, Porcupine! and today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For your books, you’re both author and illustrator. Do your stories start their development as words or pictures? Stories begin for me with an idea or a concept. Once I feel like there’s an idea to explore, I come up with a specific character that would best execute this idea. When the character is imagined, it helps to develop the story with more authenticity.

DUck Duck PorcupineHow many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Usually, it’s around the third draft of storyboarding (sketches and text) where I feel like it’s either there or it isn’t. That doesn’t sound like much, but most drafts are being thought out in my mind before it’s even written. I mull ideas over and let them stay in my head until they feel worthy enough to be put on paper.

Be a friendWhich draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? This depends on which editor it is going to. The editors I work with regularly for on-going series projects will get much looser, earlier storyboard drafts. For new editors on a new project submission, I would dummy out the entire book with tighter sketches and lots of finished art samples to have a clear representation of the final book. For Be a Friend, I dummied up nearly half the 40-page picture book with finished illustrations. After it was acquired, I ended up re-doing the artwork for the entire book because I was unsatisfied with my own quality of the illustrations. So doing the final artwork in the submission stage does not necessarily mean you will have less work to do once it is acquired. After the book was sold, I did two minor revisions with my editor, though the first revision required a new ending! But the ending did not require the beginning or middle to change in this case. thumbnails[Editor’s note: Over the years I’ve witnessed Salina’s personal encouragement of writers and illustrators­, so it’s no surprise to me that she’s gone the extra step of providing sketch drafts for us. Click on this pdf to see her original third draft of the Duck, Duck, Porcupine! storyboard, the version she shared with her editor. The coin in the scan shows how small those sketches actually are—roughly 3″x2″. That’s as big as she works until going to final art. She enlarges the thumbnails digitally then sends them to her editor to comments upon. thumbnails2You’ll see her editor’s notes in green; the other notes surrounding the spread are Salina’s as she begins the revision process.]

Do you use critique partners? I do not have critique partners, but I have a couple of trusted writer friends that I like to share my ideas with.  Or sometimes, I just go straight to my agent to hear what she thinks. For sequel ideas, I go straight to my editor.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? I approach writing a story like solving a puzzle. Each piece is critical in telling the story. I cut out the pieces of my thumbnails so that each spread is loose. I arrange them in page order and see which scenes are weak, or not progressing the story. Then I simply replace the weak link with a revised piece, or simply delete it and move on. There is always lots of cutting, swapping, and taping in my crafty hands-on approach to revising.

Penguin and PineconeWhat’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising? I’ve changed the goal of the character, which of course changed the plot, and of course changed the ending! And another time, I changed the ending… which required me to change the beginning… and revise the middle. It’s hard to change one part without impacting everything else in the story.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft? I have many false finals before it gets to the real final! This is a tough thing to know for certain, but it’s when it goes to press that I feel confident that this is it!

Thank you, Salina!

You can follow Salina on Facebook and Twitter @salinayoon.

Penguin and Pinecone on Vacation

Revision Week: Pam Munoz Ryan

in Creative Process/Revision Week by

Dear Readers… Revision Week kicks off with Newbery Honor author Pam Munoz Ryan. She’s written picture books, beginning readers series, and middle grade novels, many of which are taught in schools nationwide, including one of The Editor’s favorites, Esperanza Rising. Please enjoy Pam’s interview, and enter to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

 

Pam Munoz RyanPam Munoz Ryan is the author of more than 30 books for young readers, including four beloved novels, Riding Freedom, Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, and Paint the Wind, which collectively have garnered, among countless accolades, the Pura Belpré Medal, the Jane Addams Award, and the Schneider Family Award. Pam’s latest novel, Echo, is a Newbery Honor Book. Pam has written picture books and beginning readers, but for this discussion of revision we focus on her novel writing. www.PamMunozRyan.com

Pam’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Does this vary substantially for picture books versus novels?  I don’t know, exactly, how many drafts it takes before I feel confident about the character and the story. I think I work on both until the last rewrite. Since I work on a computer, I don’t print every draft, so it’s hard to determine a number. Also, I’m a recursive writer. I begin a novel in an opening scene. The next time I sit down to work, I read what I had written previously, rewriting a bit as I go along, and then I continue writing to build the story. The next day, I start at the beginning again, reading and rewriting, and inching the story forward. There does come a point in novel writing that I don’t go all the way back to the beginning, but start, for example, several chapters back from the point I had stopped. For me, writing is an evolution, more than a process.

Do you use critique partners? No. I’m not in a critique group. It’s just me and my editor, Tracy Mack. I don’t have anyone who reads my work before she sees it.

Esperana-Rising-Cover-660x1024Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?  I’ve been working with Tracy at Scholastic for almost twenty years. There’s no one procedure for how we work. Every book has had its own idiosyncratic order of things. I usually discuss the story idea with her very early on, before I’ve ever written a word. When I know she’s on board and loves the idea, I start moving forward with the writing. I might write a treatment of the story to get a feel for the overarching plot. I might share that with her. Or, I might just start writing. Sometimes I’ve waited to show her a completed rough draft. Other times, I’ve shown her the first few chapters and given her a synopsis of the rest of the book. Different books have required different approaches. I would say though, that by the time she sees a complete first draft, I’ve rewritten over a dozen times. But as I mentioned before, it’s hard to gauge that. For me, rewriting is a constant and I can’t seem to separate it from the writing, or give it a number.

ECHO-medal-693x1024Echo, your latest novel, required you to balance storylines for several protagonists across several time periods and countries as well as an original fairy tale that opens and closes the book. I saw the white board in your office that you used to track the different storylines and main threads. Impressive! Did these extra efforts to harness the story during the original drafting reduce revision for this book compared to your other novels? Unfortunately, no, it did not reduce revision. But it helped me keep a lot of information straight. I tried using the computer program, Scribner, but it wasn’t a good fit for me and this book. So I tried the giant (7′ x 4′) freestanding white board. The revision on Echo, was very long. It’s almost a 600 pages! My editor and I knew the overarching organization of the book—three main stories and a transition story, framed by an original fairytale. All of the stories had to be woven with common threads. That’s where the white board came in. I could track, in one large visual, the leitmotifs, the recurring themes, words, phrases. I could see each character’s challenges and fears. Later in the editing process, after the big picture and the big themes were established, we broke it into sections. I would rewrite and fine-tune the first section, send it to her, and while she was editing it, I would work on the next section. We had many discussions and passed many notes back and forth.

Becoming-Naomi-Leon-Cover-650x1024How do you know you’ve got the final draft? Book manuscripts always want more. Putting them to bed is like putting a toddler to bed. You tuck them in and think that’s it, yet they want one more kiss, a drink of water, a song, the blanket fluffed, a night light. . . . Once I receive typeset pages, I know I won’t be making dramatic changes. After it goes to copyedit, I feel I’m almost done.

Thank you, Pam!

You can follow Pam on Twitter @pammunozryan. 

 

Welcome to DearEditor.com’s 2016 Revision Week!

in Creative Process/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

I’m thrilled to announce DearEditor.com’s fourth annual Revision Week! Five best-selling and award-winning authors with 598 books among them sharing revision tips, insights, and been-there/done-that tales. Starting tomorrow, stop by each day for a new author interview and daily ‘Free Partial Edit by the Editor’ giveaways and one grand finale ‘Free Full Manuscript Edit by the Editor’ giveaway. Read the rest of today’s post to learn to learn about the authors participating…

Welcome to five days of free edit giveaways and revision advice and insights like these…


Pam Munoz RyanPam Munoz Ryan
, Newbery Honor-winning, bestselling author of 30 books for young readers: “Manuscripts always want more. Putting them to bed is like putting a toddler to bed. You tuck them in and think that’s it, yet they want one more kiss, a drink of water, a song, the blanket fluffed, a night light. . . .”

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.24.33 PMSalina Yoon, award-winning and bestselling author/illustrator of over 160 books for children: “I approach writing a story like solving a puzzle. Each piece is critical in telling the story.”

Chanel CleetonChanel Cleeton, popular author of four New Adult thriller and contemporary romance series: “I ALWAYS edit once on my computer, once on a printed draft, and once on an e-reader because changing formats always helps me to catch new things.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.30.48 PMJane Yolen, celebrated author of over 300 picture books, novels, and poetry collections for young people: “Literary multitasking keeps me on my toes and keeps me from getting stale.”

Marie ForceMarie Force, New York Times bestselling author of 50 contemporary romances: “I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to getting rid of the bloat and keeping my story zipping forward.”

 

Newsflash: 4th Annual DearEditor.com Revision Week May 30-June 3

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Dear Readers…

Next week is the 4th Annual DearEditor.com Revision Week! Five best-selling and award-winning authors with 598 books among them will share their revision tips, insights, and tales from the trenches. There’s a new author interview each day, plus daily Free Partial Edit by The Editor giveaways and one grand finale Free Full Manuscript Edit by The Editor giveaway. Please read the rest of today’s post to see who these amazing authors will be.

The Editor

Every spring, DearEditor.com hosts celebrated, prolific authors for a week of inspirational interviews focused on their revision processes. Sharing their hard-earned wisdom about developing early drafts into polished finals this year:

  • Chanel Cleetonpopular author of New Adult thriller and contemporary romance series
  • Marie Force, New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romances
  • Pam Munoz Ryan, Newbery Honor-winning, bestselling author of books for young readers
  • Jane Yolen, heralded award-winning author of picture books, novels, and poetry collections for young people
  • Salina Yoonaward-winning and bestselling author/illustrator of books for children

Check out previous Revision Weeks at the Revision Week Archive.

Revision Week: Winner and Week Off

in Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

I hope you enjoyed DearEditor.com’s third annual Revision Week. I created this event to bring you insights and inspiration as you work through the ups and downs of revision, and. I’m honored that five talented authors helped me do that. Thanks to them and to you for joining in with your comments, and congrats to the giveaway winners, including Rachel Stones, winner of yesterday’s Free Full Manuscript Edit giveaway. If you haven’t had your fill of revision insights, click here for the Revision Week Archive. And now I shall take a breather for a week, returning on May 19 to the usual format, with answers to the craft and industry questions you wonder about. Until then…

Happy revising!
The Editor

The Editor is grateful for the authors who made Revision Week 2014 informative, inspiring, and fun. In case you missed any of the interviews, here are the direct links:

Marla Frazee, two-time Caldecott Honor-winning picture book author/illustrator. http://deareditor.com/?p=6117

Jean Ferris, award-winning author of nineteen young adult novels. http://deareditor.com/?p=6174

Joni Rodgers, best-selling novelist and ghostwriter. http://deareditor.com/?p=6202

Warren Fahy, best-selling author of science-based thrillers. http://deareditor.com/?p=6227

Denise Grover Swank, best-selling author of YA, NA, and novels for adults. http://deareditor.com/?p=6244

More fabulous interviews in the Revision Week Archive.

Revision Week: Denise Grover Swank

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Dear Readers…

We put the exclamation point on Revision Week with prolific Denise Grover Swank, the bestselling author of mysteries, paranormal, romance, and thrillers for young adults, new adults, and regular ol’ grown-up adults.

Today also brings us to the grand finale giveaway: the Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Read the full post for giveaway details and Denise’s interview.

 

Denise Grover SwankDenise Grover Swank is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly twenty novels, including mysteries, paranormal and urban fantasies, rom-coms, and thrillers for young adults, new adults, and adults, and various short stories. Denise’s two newest books—Business as Usual, the third book in the bestselling Off the Subject series, and The Curse Breakers, the second book in the Curse Keepers series, just released last month. Her Thirty-Two and a Half Complications, the fifth book in her popular Rose Gardner Mysteries series, comes out next month. And if that’s not enough to impress you, how about this: Denise does all this writing while raising six amazing children.

*Denise’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form for today’s Free Full Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
500x750_28Wishes-200x300I’m never one hundred percent happy with a first draft, but I’ve had a couple among my seventeen books that I felt really good about and made only a few changes in revision. I finished a book last month that took about five passes with significant changes before I was happy with it. It’s not unusual for me to write a first draft and then cut one-third to half the book out and start over again. I usually know what’s wrong with the book when I’m finished, and when I send it to my awesome developmental editor—Angela Polidoro—I send her a list of my perceived issues, and she always agrees and then adds her own. But when I chop the book up and add to it, I’m usually pretty happy with the changes and only make minor changes in a third pass.

the-curse-breakers-cover-200x300Do you use critique partners?
I used to use critique partners when I first started writing and into the second year after I started publishing, but I’m too prolific for my partners to keep up. At this point, I only use a developmental editor along with three to five beta readers between developmental edits and line edits. But when I first started, I had three trusted critique partners and we made developmental suggestions along with line edits. My last remaining crit partner and I are too busy to give a full critique—and we pay people to do it—so we now beta read for each other when we have the time.

sacrifice-600x900-72dpi-200x300Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?
I send my first draft to my developmental editor. I hired a developmental editor with my fifth book—Sacrifice—and when she suggested I send the first draft, I was beyond horrified. SEND HER MY FIRST DRAFT??? But she said there was no sense editing words I was only going to cut, and she was right.

So when my first editor took a job that made her unavailable, I worked with new developmental editor and was again HORRIFIED. I’m more comfortable with it now because she knows I can take a very crappy first draft and pull a fantastic book out before it’s done.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
I send my first draft to Angela. She takes a week to go through it a couple of times and sends her notes. Then I do my major revision—chopping out major portions and rewriting or adding—and also clean up the writing—sentence structure. I usually budget three to four weeks for this. And then I send it back to her for line edits.

New-BAU_Small-193x300Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
Wow. You know, when you’re in the middle of a block, you wonder how in the world you’ll get out of it, but at this point—seventeen books later—I trust it will come. I usually binge-watch Netflix and an idea/solution will come to me out of nowhere. I think the key—for me anyway—is to think about something else for a while.

My last book—The Curse Defiers—is the hardest book I’ve written to date. [Editor’s note: Pubbing September 2014.] It’s the one that took five major revision passes to complete. I sold the book to my publisher as a series but they chose to call it a trilogy after I had written the second book. I honestly had no idea how to wrap everything up in one book without making a complete mess of it. I still plan to continue the series with at least three more books, but obviously I had to wrap up some major issues for readers to be satisfied with a “trilogy.” Several plot lines stumped me and I wrote it only to decide it sucked and so rewrote it, then changed it completely and rewrote it again.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?
Other than The Curse Defiers, I cut off the entire first half of my book Sacrifice and rewrote it in three weeks and blended and smoothed it into the second half, which took major changes.

Here_normal1-213x300How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
With my deadlines, I know when it’s time to send it to my editor. LOL. That being said, I won’t publish it if I don’t think it’s ready. Beta readers help determine that, along with a gut feeling that it’s right.

Thanks so much, Denise! I was fascinated to hear the nuts and bolts of your process.

Revision Week: Warren Fahy

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Dear Readers…

We’ve reached the penultimate day of Revision Week. Today I talk revision with Warren Fahy, bestselling author of thriller fiction. Of Warren’s international bestseller Fragment, author James Rollins says, “Think Jurassic Park on steroids.”

Please join Warren and The Editor for Day 4 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Warren_FahyxWarren Fahy has been a bookseller, editor, and a lead writer for Rockstar Games’s Red Dead Revolver and WowWee Robotics. His bestselling thriller Fragment, nominated for a BSFA and an International Thriller Award, was the subject of a bidding war at the London Book Fair and has been published in eighteen countries and optioned for film. Fragment has been widely compared to the works of Michael Crichton and James Rollins. His thrillers include The Kor and Pandemonium, the sequel to Fragment. Warren and I met many years ago, when we both worked as editors for an information publisher. At the time, he was writing his first manuscripts on the side and I was months away from my first job in trade publishing, with Harcourt Children’s Books. It is with complete delight that I share Warren’s insights on revision with you today.

*Warren’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form for today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for his full interview.

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How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
fragment_usa_pbxxI take care of character and story choices in the outline stage so I know and have that worked out in advance before I begin drafting the actual novel. Then I like to take at least 12 passes at the manuscript itself before I feel it’s road-tested enough.

You do a lot of research for your fiction, which heavily incorporates real science. How does researching fit into your writing and revising process?
I generally start with some idea that has in part been inspired by research, then research that idea to see what precedents exist for it in nature, science, or technology. At that point it becomes a back and forth, and often new research pops up along the way that either causes a problem (in which case I have to make adjustments) or supports the story, in which case I find a place suitable to mention it. Also, I run the manuscript past some science consultants to get their input, which is often invaluable.

PrintDo you use critique partners or advance readers?
I do. I have four or five people I run a manuscript by a few times before the process is done. Wherever they stop reading a manuscript, I fix it so that nobody wants to stop there again. I pay attention to what they don’t say as much as to what they do say.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? I submit the final draft and there is relatively little editing done by the editor. It is always best to deliver a final product and not a work in progress to an editor. In the case of Pandemonium, my editor, Bob Gleason at Tor, said, “it’s good to go” and so it skipped the editorial and went straight to the copy-editing/proofing stage.

Pandemonium_hardbackxCan you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? Well, it’s all problem-solving, of course. You design the story from the beginning to avoid insoluble problems, ideally. But one interesting problem I had with Pandemonium was that the male protagonist, I felt, was getting too much of the action sequences, leaving the female protagonist to do nothing. At first, I decided to give one action sequence that she could logically do instead of the male. Then I realized that one of his means of escaping from a subterranean octopus-like creature was to peel off his shirt, on which the suction cups of the monster had fixed. What should I do? I finally decided to play the scene exactly as it had been with the male lead, and let the other characters deal with it. It gave me a chance to make the other characters rise to the occasion and treat her with dignity, and the same admiration for getting out of the situation, that I gave the male protagonist. I felt that in times of duress, such things wouldn’t matter. My editor at HarperCollins in England suspected that I had added it for prurient reasons even though it wasn’t handled in a prurient way at all. She insisted that it go. I thought she was wrong on many levels, including the one that prompted her negative reaction. So I kept it. And it actually elevates the reader’s opinion of all the characters involved more than it would have with the male character in the scene.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
Hmm. I guess, when it’s printed and you can’t do anything more to it!

Revision Week: Joni Rodgers

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Dear Readers…

Day 3 of Revision Week brings us memoirs and ghostwriting with Joni Rodgers, who is known for her beautifully crafted, impeccably researched memoirs. Joni is also a bestselling, critically-praised novelist in her own right.

Please join Joni and The Editor for Day 3 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Joni Rodgers croppedJoni Rodgers is the bestselling author of the memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair, and five novels, including Crazy for Trying and Sugar Land. She has also ghostwritten, collaborated on, and doctored multiple New York Times bestsellers (nonfiction, novels, and memoirs) and numerous op eds, magazine articles, book proposals, speeches, and screenplays. She has collaborated with notable figures in entertainment, politics, and sports and with ordinary people living extraordinary lives, including actresses Swoosie Kurtz, Kristin Chenowith, and Rue McClanahan, and U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and Susan G. Komen founder/CEO Nancy Brinker.

*Joni’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form for today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

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Part Swan Part GooseHow many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the voice and story choices you’ve made?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as “typical”; every book has its own journey, and it takes as many drafts as it takes to get it right. In any worthwhile archeological dig, you’re going to shovel through a lot of sand. As a ghostwriter, my job is easier when I have a client like Swoosie Kurtz [whose memoir comes out in April]. She’s extremely smart, naturally funny, and very hands-on throughout the process. She has a strong point of view and unique voice, and throughout the interview process, she was forthcoming and full of great ideas. The story choices were mostly hers, but they really resonated for me, and I ran with them. Her generosity with her time during the first eight or ten weeks made a dramatic difference in the amount of revision needed later on because I was able to sit with her and learn her voice—and the voice of her 98-year-old mom, Margo, who speaks with a beautifully poetic sort of dementia. The resulting book, Part Swan, Part Goose, is the most extraordinary artistic collaboration I’ve ever been part of. I’m thrilled to see it getting critical accolades.

How does revision work in ghostwriting? How do you strike a balance between your judgment as a writer and the preferences of the person you’re writing for?
It depends on the client. I adjust the process to be what they need: a co-pilot, a chauffeur, or something in between. If something I write doesn’t sit well with my client, then it’s not right. I might explain why I made a certain choice when I was writing, but I never ask them to go against their gut, even when it means scrapping a piece of writing I’m proud of. It’s the ultimate test of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I listen, ask questions, and revamp until we find what feels right.

049b3c_69573add3b6b4310aa73f4398130ef23.jpg_srz_p_198_300_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Were there different challenges in writing your own story for your memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair, as opposed to crafting someone else’s memoirs as a ghostwriter?
Oh, of course! Writing a memoir can be (and should be, at its best) a deeply emotional journey. Many of my clients tell me it’s like therapy. Every ghostwriter has his or her own unique skillset, and part of mine is that I have experienced that emotional journey and learned firsthand how much work it is and also how healing and liberating it can be. The end goal is always a great book, but I also have the hippie mama goal that I want the writing of the book to be a soul-feeding experience for my client.

049b3c_b89a0dd95a21026387663da9aa44d29e.jpg_srz_p_199_299_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Do you use critique partners for either your novels or your ghostwriting projects?
Absolutely. For the past eight years or so, I’ve been richly blessed to be part of an amazing critique group called the Midwives—all well-published professional authors, women of a certain age, voracious readers, and jolly good pals. One of our founding members, Colleen Thompson, is a bestselling RITA-nominated romantic suspense author who’s blogged and given workshops on the dynamics of a great critique group. Anyone who has a chance to take an online class from her should jump on it. Finding the Midwives was one the greatest gifts in my life, personally and professionally.

049b3c_22baab97827382903081dba505b9a5d8.jpg_srz_p_198_306_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
It varies, but in general, I try to minimize the revisions by doing three things during the writing process: First, as early as possible, I get the editor’s feedback on the chapter outline and opening chapters so we’re all in agreement about the structure, content and voice of the book. Second, I’ve learned from experience to anticipate issues that raise red flags in the legal review, and I try to bulletproof the manuscript in advance. Third, I run the finished draft past a consulting editor or critique partner before I hand off to the publisher. No matter how good you are, there’s a point where you can’t see it anymore. I’m not completely joking when I say, “Good freelance editors are so hard to find, I had to grow one of my own.” I’m so lucky to have my daughter, Jerusha Rodgers (Rabid Badger Editing), on my speed dial. It’s worth the money, because it saves a lot of time and makes me look good in front of people I hope to work with again. Clients, agents, and editors are consistently wowed. Her eagle eye has also been incredibly valuable to me in the fiction arena since I decided to go indie with my own books.

Can you share an experience of having a writing problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
Writing presents challenges; publishing presents problems. It feels like an important distinction to me, because challenges make work a joy, while problems are just a (hopefully educational) pain in the ass. I wrote a novel about seven years ago, and because the publisher of my previous novel had an option on it, I was persuaded to make some pretty big changes—including changing a main character from a lesbian to a man. But the story never felt right to me, even after several drafts with extensive input from my editor and agent. Even though the plot remained the pretty much the same, the nuances and thematic payoff just didn’t ring true to my intention in telling the story. So I set the book aside, thinking it was dead. As years went by, however, my confidence grew, and I knew I had to trust my gut. I went back for another extensive rewrite, restoring my original character, who totally deserves to be in the driver’s seat of her story and definitely grew with the benefit of seven additional years of craft skill. I’ll be releasing the novel as an indie later this year, and if it goes down in flames, so be it. I’m willing to go down in flames for something I believe in. What I’m no longer willing to do is compromise on creative control of my fiction, so the indie publishing revolution has been great for me. I’m able to remain a player in the corporate publishing world as a ghostwriter while spreading my artistic wings as an indie novelist.

049b3c_78c1c6dbbf90fa29deb6f98a0652164d.jpg_srz_p_202_307_75_22_0.50_1.20_0How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
If I ever feel I’ve gotten there, I’ll let you know!

Thank so much, Joni, for sharing insights that extend beyond fiction-writing. Collaborations present unique challenges, and it’s fascinating to get a peek at how you wend your way through them to a successful final book.

Revision Week: Jean Ferris

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Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with Jean Ferris, author of more than ninetineen award-winning novels for young readers—some quirky fun, others intensely serious, all packed with thoughts well worth mulling.

Please join Jean and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and enter to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Jean FerrisJean Ferris has garnered awards and fans with her nineteen novels for young readers, including the beloved off-beat fairy-tale adventure trilogy beginning with Once Upon a Marigoldthe delightfully quirky Love Among the Walnuts and Much Ado About Grubstake, and the riveting Eight Seconds and Bad. Flip to the back covers of Jean’s books and you’ll find lists of awards, like ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild Selection, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, ALA Notable Children’s Book, New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children. I had the pleasure of working with Jean during my time with Harcourt Children’s Books and was privileged to witness this master storyteller’s process first-hand. I’m happy to share a glimpse with you today.

*Jean’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form for today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

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How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
I know John Steinbeck supposedly wrote only one draft…because he had written the story over and over in his mind before he put anything on paper. And I have heard about stories writing themselves. Unfortunately, neither of these things has happened to me. Different books need different numbers of drafts, and there are parts of each book that need more drafts than others, so it’s hard to nail down a typical number of drafts…but always at least five. I tend to write what amounts to an expanded outline for the first draft, and each draft gets longer as I understand more and more what the book and its characters are about.

Once Upon a MarigoldYou write your initial drafts longhand, then type them into a computer. Does putting your story through two different media impact your creative process?
I know it is very antiquated…I might as well be writing with a quill pen…but every book begins as a hand-written draft on yellow legal pads. I believe it has been proven by neurologists that a different section of the brain lights up when writing by hand than when typing on the computer. And if it hasn’t been proven yet, I think it will be! All I know is, I feel that I have a different kind of access to my imagination when I am writing by hand than when I’m at the computer…a more thorough, deeper access. Also, I like to see the mess…the strike-outs, the rewrites on top of old work. It makes it seem more like mine alone. When I see a typed draft, it looks as if it could have been done by anybody. Hand-writing just seems more personal and gets me started in an easier way. But I do put the first, hand-written draft into the computer and revise from that.

BadDo you use critique partners or advance readers?
I never use advance readers or critique groups. Not anymore, that is. I have belonged to several such groups and, while I enjoyed the other members of the group, I got too confused by the critiques…which were seldom in agreement. And I discovered that, as I learned the preferences of the group members, I began trying to write things that I knew would please them, whether or not it was something congruent with what I’d originally had in mind. I also learned that, in critiquing the work of others, I would start adapting their ideas to how I would write it…until it became my work and not theirs. Apparently I’m not a good collaborator, so I sit and stew over my work by myself. I do, however, welcome title suggestions. I am terrible at titles. [Editor’s Note: Ah, but brainstorming titles with Jean is super fun. I think the results of our COLLABORATIVE efforts with titles speak for themselves, Jean!]

Grubstake 2Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
I would say the fourth or fifth draft gets shown to an editor. And I always know that there will be more revising ahead, though I always hope there won’t be! I usually think I’m pretty well finished by the time I show the work to an editor but there is usually a lot more to be done. I have taken out or added characters, added or subtracted subplots, scenes, whole chapters…and these revisions have always improved something I thought was just fine the way it was. Editing and writing are completely different skills. Some people are lucky enough to be good at both, but I need a good editor who isn’t me.

Eight Seconds2Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
I can’t think of a particular incident but, while I know I often have trouble with transitions and with the reactions of characters to incidents, I still keep making the same mistakes. Almost every editor I’ve had has pointed this out to me, but I still need it pointed with each new project. Slow learner, I guess.

Love Among the WalnutsHow do you know you’ve got the final draft?
I think I’ve got the final draft when I’m just sick of the story, and any changes I’m making to it seem to be making it different without making it better. I let it sit for a while and look at it again, and if I can then see ways to make it different AND better, I do that. If I can’t, I (mistakenly) think I’m finished.

Thank you so much, Jean. Talking to you about writing led me to talking about your stories with my nine-year-old sons. They’ve all enjoyed the Marigold books, and one now has Much Ado About Grubstake in his backpack to start at school tomorrow. There’s a dog on the cover, of course, and what little boy can resist that? I know he’ll love the story as much as I do.

Revision Week: Marla Frazee

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Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week kicks off with Marla Frazee, bestselling author and illustrator of more than nineteen picture books as well as the winner of numerous awards, including two Caldecott Honors. Marla wields both words and pictures, and her insights into the revision process are a wonderful way to start the week.

Please join Marla and The Editor for Day 1 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

MarlaFrazee-225x300Marla Frazee was awarded a Caldecott Honor for All the World and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. She is the author-illustrator of Roller Coaster, Walk On!, The Boss Baby, Boot & Shoe, and the upcoming The Farmer and the Clown, as well as the illustrator of many other books including The Seven Silly Eaters, Stars, and the NYT bestselling Clementine series. She most recently illustrated God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant. For 20 years, Marla has “paid it forward” by teaching children’s book illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I’m a huge Marla fan. In fact, Christmas isn’t Christmas for my family without multiple readings of her Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert.

*Marla’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form for today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.

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When you are both the author and illustrator for a book, does the story start its development as words or pictures? For me, it usually starts almost by accident with a doodle of a character. Or two. Once a character has my attention, I spin out possible stories and scenarios. For a while, this all plays out in my head –– like a small movie. If I start to get bored with it all, it fades away. But if I remain intrigued, I keep at it. Once I’ve got my teeth in some storyline, I will draw a little and/or write a little until something starts to take root. This can take a few days or weeks or years.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Countless. I mean it. I have NO clue. A lot. Over 10? Yes. Over 25? Maybe. Over 50? Sometimes. I don’t ever save them all because I get a lot of satisfaction out of trashing things.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? god-got-a-dog-coverAt this point I’ve written and illustrated seven picture books, and they’ve all been edited by Allyn Johnston, who for the past five years has been the VP/Publisher of Beach Lane Books [an imprint of Simon & Schuster]. Allyn and I work very closely together at every stage of the book’s development. I don’t think of revising as revising. It’s more a question of, “Are we getting somewhere?” If we aren’t, I may decide to hibernate with the project for a while until I know where I’m trying to go. I can’t expect Allyn or anyone else to help me get where I’m going if I don’t even know where I want to go. Once that becomes clearer, then it is very helpful to collaborate. Are we getting there? Are we heading some other direction? Do we need to turn around and try again? [Editor’s note: Readers, click over to Marla’s web page for God Got a Dog for the background on that project, which gives fascinating insight into Allyn and Marla’s working relationship.]

Do you use critique partners? I am the flake member of an awesome critique group. We’ve been meeting once a month for over 20 years. Or they have. I love the friendship, the camaraderie, and the trust that has developed between us. I mean, they tolerate my inability to be a consistent attendee and never, ever make me feel bad about it. Sometimes, when I go, I go to talk about work.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? boot-and-shoe-coverWhen I was working on the initial thumbnails and sketch dummies for Boot & Shoe, I felt the story could’ve been more easily told as an animated cartoon. There were two almost identical dogs who hung out on different sides of a house, chased a squirrel around the house, got confused and turned around, and then couldn’t figure out where the other dog was. It was a story that required a lot of action in the pictures and needed a lot of directional clarification, but I was trying to tell it in a form where pictures are still and the action moves primarily from left to right. I puzzled it out for many weeks. I almost gave up a number of times.

boss-baby-coverI’m so glad for that insight into Boot & Shoe, one of my favorite picture books. What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising? The most drastic thing? I got the idea for The Boss Baby and it seemed really workable. I thought it was going to write and illustrate itself, honestly. It felt as if the idea arrived fully formed. But the more I worked on it, the less excited Allyn was about it. I couldn’t figure it out. It seemed as if the project was going to die a slow, anguished death. But the character still kept cracking me up, so I knew there was something there. I renamed the character and book “The Little F***er” and started over again. I worked on a tiny sketch dummy in the corner of a local coffee house, hoping that no one would ask to see what I was doing. Recasting it helped give the project the edge it needed, ultimately. I still have “The Little F***er” artifact, in case anyone would like to check it out.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft? It isn’t ever completely final. Eventually we run out of time. The trick is to allow enough time in the schedule so that we can catch as much as possible before we’ve got to wrap.

Thank you so much, Marla, for sharing your revision process!

Welcome to DearEditor.com’s 2014 Revision Week!

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Dear Readers…

It’s here: DearEditor.com’s third annual Revision Week! Five days, five best-selling and award-winning authors with 80 books among them sharing revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches. Stop by each day for a new author interview and to enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand finale Free Full Manuscript Edit giveaway.

Read the rest of today’s post to learn about the authors participating…

Welcome to five days of free edit giveaways and revision advice and insights like these…

MarlaFrazee-225x300 croppedMarla Frazee, two-time Caldecott Honor-winning picture book author/illustrator: “I don’t think of revising as revising. It’s more a question of, Are we getting somewhere?”

 

Jean FerrisJean Ferris, award-winning author of nineteen young adult novels: I tend to write what amounts to an expanded outline for the first draft, and each draft gets longer as I understand more and more what the book and its characters are about.” 

Joni Rodgers croppedJoni Rodgers, best-selling novelist and ghostwriter: “[Ghostwriting] is the ultimate test of ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ I listen, ask questions, and revamp until we find what feels right.” 

Warren_FahyxWarren Fahy, best-selling author of science-based thrillers: Wherever [my advance readers] stop reading a manuscript, I fix it so that nobody wants to stop there again. I pay attention to what they don’t say as much as to what they do say.”

Denise Grover SwankDenise Grover Swank, best-selling author of YA, NA, and novels for adults. “It’s not unusual for me to write a first draft and then cut one-third to half the book out and start over again.”

Revision Week: Winner and Week Off

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Dear Readers…

I hope you enjoyed DearEditor.com’s second annual Revision Week. I created this event to bring you insights and inspiration as you work through the ups and downs of revision, and I’m honored that six amazing authors helped me do that. Thanks to them and to you all for joining in with your comments, and congrats to the giveaway winners, including Fiona Ivey, winner of yesterday’s Free Full Manuscript Edit giveaway. If you haven’t had your fill of revision insights, click here for last year’s interviews. And now I shall take a breather for a week, returning on April 8 to the usual format, with answers to the craft and industry questions you wonder about. Until then…

Happy revising!
The Editor

The Editor is grateful for the authors who made this year’s Revision Week informative, inspiring, and fun. In case you missed any of the interviews, here are the direct links:

Larry Dane Brimner, author of 150 books for readers of all ages. http://deareditor.com/?p=4875

Laura Griffin, New York Times bestselling author of 11 romantic suspense novels. http://deareditor.com/?p=4931

Bruce Hale, author/illustrator of nearly 30 books for kids. http://deareditor.com/?p=4958

Matthew J. Kirby, breakout author of two popular novels for young adults, with two more anticipated novels. http://deareditor.com/?p=4983

Susan Stevens Crummel, author and co-author of nearly twenty popular picture books for children. http://deareditor.com/?p=5008

Peter Economy, bestselling author and ghostwriter of more than 6o books. http://deareditor.com/?p=5039

Revision Week: Peter Economy

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Dear Readers…

We end Revision Week with a master of nonfiction and ghostwriting, Peter Economy. Peter is the bestselling author and ghostwriter of more than 6o books. He’s collaborated with thought leaders in a variety of different industries and organizations – from Fortune 100 businesses to universities to non-profits with national reach. The Editor is thrilled to wrap up this great week with Peter’s sage advise.

Today also brings us to the grand finale giveaway: the Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Read the full post for details for entering the giveaway.

peter_economyPeter Economy’s 60+ books include Managing For Dummies, The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company, and Giving Back: Connecting You, Business, and Community. Peter has also served as Associate Editor for the New York City-based Leader to Leader magazine since 2001, recently served as a lecturer at San Diego State University (teaching MGT 453: Creativity and Innovation), is a member of the National Advisory Council of The Art of Science Learning, and is a founding member of the board of SPORTS for Exceptional Athletes.

*After Peter’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How does revision work within a collaboration?
WCBFD EconomyWhen collaborating with someone else (most of my books are collaborations), I usually revise their work, and they revise mine. In the case of Writing Children’s Books For Dummies, for example, my coauthor/collaborator Lisa Rojany Buccieri and I split the chapters we were each responsible for—she prepared initial drafts of some chapters and I prepared initial drafts of others. We then traded chapters and edited each other’s work.

How does working with a new collaborator for a new project and each new audience affect your approach to shaping the book?
Every collaborator has his or her own approach and style, so it takes a little bit of time at the beginning of a new project to mesh that with my own approach and style. Most of the time it all works out and the collaboration goes smoothly. In some rare cases it doesn’t, and if we can’t get on the same page we part ways.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
Giving BackI only send final drafts to my editors—my very best work. Sometimes the editors do very little revising after I submit this final draft, and sometimes they do a lot—it depends on the project and the editor’s own approach. But I would never send an editor anything less than my very best.

How does revision work in ghostwriting? How do you strike a balance between your judgment as a writer and the preferences of the person you’re writing for?
The balance is that I am the writing expert and my client is the content expert. Sometimes I need to strongly express my opinions and provide my advice about making revisions, based on my many years of experience as a professional writer. This (in addition to the actual writing) is what my clients pay me for. Regardless, it is extremely important that I capture my client’s voice and that he or she is comfortable with the style and happy with the book that results. If I haven’t accomplished that, then I have failed.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a project while revising?
saicIn a few cases I have had to throw out an entire table of contents—the approach that a collaborator and I were going to take to write the book—and start over from scratch. Fortunately we did this before we wrote the manuscript and not after.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
When the deadline arrives and I know the manuscript is good enough. Absolute perfection is not necessary, but it better be damn close.

TODAY’S GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away a FREE FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT of your manuscript. The edit will be a “Substantive Edit,” in which the author receives general feedback about the manuscript’s overall pacing, organization, narrative voice, plot development/narrative arc, characterization, point of view, setting, delivery of background information, adult sensibility (children’s books only), and the synchronicity of age-appropriate subject matter with target audience, as The Editor determines appropriate and necessary after reviewing the entire manuscript. It is not a word-by-word, line-by-line “Line Edit.” Note that the manuscript can be fiction, nonfiction, or picture books.

Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or nonfiction), including picture books.
  2. Your manuscript must be COMPLETE and SHALL NOT EXCEED 90,000 WORDS. In the case of a picture book entry, the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 30, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 31, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Full MS Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript, YOUR FULL NAME, and the CATEGORY/GENRE of your project. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this Revision Week giveaway to get additional entries today. Send an email to DearEditor.com with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title, full name, and the category/genre in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Susan Stevens Crummel

in Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Four authors and four Free Partial Edit Giveaway winners later, we’ve reached the penultimate day of Revision Week. It’s been fascinating to see the varied revision processes of these talented, prolific writers. Today and tomorrow bring us two more generous authors, another Free Partial Edit Giveaway, and the grand finale Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

Today, a glimpse into picture book revision and author/illustrator collaboration with Susan Stevens Crummel, who has authored and co-authored nearly twenty popular picture books for children. Please join Susan and The Editor and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Susan Stevens CrummelSusan Stevens Crummel‘s books with her most frequent collaborator, author/illustrator (and sister!) Janet Stevens, include Help Me, Mr. Mutt!, one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Children’s Books of 2008 and winner of the 2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award and the 2010 Florida Children’s Book Award, The Great Fuzz Frenzy, winner of the Bill Martin, Jr. Picture Book Award and 10 state book awards, Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!, winner of the 2001 Texas Bluebonnet Award, and And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, winner of the 2004 California Young Reader Medal. Their newest book, The Little Red Pen, was inspired by their longtime editor, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Editorial Director Jeannette Larson. The Editor is honored to have assisted in the editing of several of those books. Unlike Jeannette, however, The Editor did not get a really cool nickname. (A-hem, Susie.)

*After Susan’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

When you write a new picture book manuscript, how many drafts does it typically take before you’ll show it to an editor?
We write and rewrite for several months. I’m not sure of the number of drafts–maybe 20?

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
More than before.

You sometimes collaborate with your sister, illustrator Janet Stevens. How does that collaboration work?
dishbigWe start with an idea, usually Janet’s idea, we talk about it, then she starts to draw and I start to write. Janet e-mails me her sketches and I e-mail her a draft of the story. Janet prints out my e-mail, writes all over it, and faxes it back to me. I incorporate her handwritten notes, craft the next draft, and e-mail it back to her. She prints it out, writes all over it, and faxes it back to me, and so on.

red_pen_cover betterMany phone calls, faxes, and e-mails later, we share the manuscript and storyboard with Jeannette Larson. She gets out her little red pen (the title of our latest book, by the way) and sticky notes and goes to work! Many conference calls, faxes, and e-mails later, the manuscript is set (we think) and Janet creates a dummy. As the art and the story begin to come together, the manuscript changes again. We feel that this is what makes our collaboration successful–it’s an organic process where the story and art evolve together, meshing to create a more cohesive product.

Icookbig can think of only positives with regard to our collaboration. The phrase “two heads are better than one” seems cliche, but it’s true. And we are a “fit” because we share the same sense of humor! Yes, we bug each other sometimes–we’re very different. I’m organized, detail oriented, neat, and a little INSIDE THE BOX. She is creative, artistic, messy, and totally OUTSIDE THE BOX. I call her Miss Messy and she calls me Miss Prissy Pants. But it’s the balance of these two opposites that makes it work. Plug in Jeannette as the referee, and VOILA! The perfect collaboration.

Here is a funny recipe for collaboration that I wrote several years ago:

Recipe for Collaborating
Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

1 older sister, well-seasoned
1 much, much younger sister (wash thoroughly to remove paint)
1 far-fetched idea
Numerous communication devices – fax machines, cell phones, regular phones, computers with Internet access
1 editor: Jeannette – the Little Red Pen
(1)   Put far-fetched idea in same container with two sisters. Set in warm place to rise (like Hawaii).
(2)   Separate sisters. May need crowbar.
(3)   Use communication devices to link. Allow creative juices to flow back and forth until mixture begins to bubble. Turn up the heat until it is well done.
(4)   Sprinkle with laughter.
(5)   Add corn.
(6)   Send mixture to Jeannette.
(7)   Take out corn.
(8)   Repeat steps 3 – 7 until Jeannette is exhausted or the deadline passes, whichever comes first.
SERVES THOUSANDS.

Do you use Janet or other critique partners for the books you write solo?
Bart cover with shadowI use Janet and Dorothy Donohue, my other illustrator.

Do you share your manuscripts with kids to test them out?
Yes, when possible.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?
plaid coverI wrote Plaidypus Lost for Holiday House and it was completely in rhyme. After many revisions I met with Regina in New York, our editor at the time. She said, “Take it out of rhyme and no sappy ending.” I nearly fainted. The entire project changed from that point on.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
When the deadline arrives. We still try to change things after that . . . sometimes we can, sometime we can’t.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 29, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 30, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Matthew J. Kirby

in Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Day 4 of Revision Week brings us to middle grade novels and the delightful Matthew J. Kirby, Edgar Award-winning author of two popular novels for young readers, with two more novels releasing this year, including the fifth book in Scholastic’s mega-hit, multi-platform Infinity Ring series.

Please join Matthew and The Editor as they compare revising a novel within a multi-author series to revising a solo novel, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

 

Matthew_s_Portrait_-30__30Matthew J. Kirby is the breakout author of two popular novels for middle grade readers—the critically acclaimed The Clockwork Three, which has published in seven countries, and Icefall, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery and the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature. (Scholastic’s stunning trailer for The Clockwork Three can be viewed here.) Matthew is currently finishing up revisions for TWO novels: The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders, Book 5 of the hit multi-platform Infinity Ring series. Both new novels will hit stores September 2013.

*After Matthew’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
0-545-20337-6To begin with, I don’t have typical drafts in the way many people think of them. I’m a very linear writer, and I revise very heavily as I go along. If a scene isn’t working, I can’t move on until it does. If a character isn’t working, I have to sort that out before I can write further. If I suddenly realize that I’ve neglected to lay the groundwork for a particular plot development, I stop what I’m writing and go back to take care of that. It’s just the way I’m wired. The result is that any given scene in a book might have gone through several revisions, or it might remain the way I wrote it down the first time through. My confidence in how the characters and scenes are working doesn’t seem tied in any way to the number of times I’ve revised them, but to my general awareness of the story as a whole. I just have to trust my instincts about whether something is working, or something isn’t.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
Icefall CvrMy editor sees the book pretty much as soon as I’m satisfied with the final scene. Because of the way I write, everything preceding it is as good as I can get it, and now I need her outside perspective to help me look at the book from new angles, to spot the problems I’ve missed. There’s quite a bit of revision that takes place after she looks at it. Some of it is thematic, some of it structural, some of it rooted in the character dynamics. (For example, I switched one of the characters in Icefall from a girl to a boy during that process.) Some of it is cosmetic. (Awkward phrasing, redundancy, and that sort of thing.) All of it makes the book better, and I’m grateful to her for that.

Do you use critique partners?
Yes, I have a writer’s group that I’ve been a part of for seven or eight years now. Until I moved, I met with them weekly, in person. They are all very dedicated and talented people. I’ve learned so much from them over the years, and gained so much from our work together (one of them actually suggested the character switch I made in Icefall). Now, when I can, I meet with them over skype. I also send stuff to a few trusted readers and friends occasionally.

You’ve said that your upcoming middle-grade adventure The Lost Kingdom (Sept 2013), which first attracted the attention of your agent, went through a major overhaul. How did you know it wasn’t working? What was the key to the revision success?
The Lost Kingdom cvrThe book that would become The Lost Kingdom was the first piece of novel-length fiction I’d ever attempted. I didn’t know what I was doing, really, and I couldn’t see what or if anything was wrong with it. But Stephen Fraser (now my agent) saw through those mistakes. I think in retrospect he recognized it as a first novel, because his advice was to put it aside and write something new. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted him to help me fix whatever was wrong with the thing. But I took his suggestion, and wrote The Clockwork Three. Then I wrote Icefall, and after that I started to think maybe I could go back to that first attempt with fresh eyes. When I did, I saw that it wasn’t working at a pretty fundamental level. So fundamental, I deleted the file and started from scratch. I think it was just the time and distance from the story that allowed me to see it, and now the book is completely different from that first attempt.

Infinity Ring Cave of Wonders cvrYou’re writing an installment in the Infinity Ring series: Infinity Ring, Book 5: Cave of Wonders (Sept 2013). How does the revision process work in a multi-author, multi-platform series?
Working on the Infinity Ring series has been a blast. We’ve all had a lot of freedom to go where we want to go with our individual books, while also contributing to the overarching story. The process has been a bit like passing a baton. In the beginning, we had some conference calls and a meeting with all of us in New York, just kicking ideas around. I had some long conversations with Matt de la Pena, whose book comes right before mine, because I wanted to pick the characters up where he’d left them off, emotionally. I think all of us have relied heavily on the amazing editors of the series at Scholastic, who have had the unenviable job of keeping us all on target, and making sure the books gel together

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
When my editor tells me it’s the final draft!

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 28, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 29, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Bruce Hale

in Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Day 3 of Revision Week brings us the prolifically funny Bruce Hale, whose three chapter book series keep kids (and The Editor) laughing. When The Editor interviewed him for Revision Week, Bruce was in the thick of revising his second book in the SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. series: Thicker Than Water. “Revision is in the air!” he declared.

Please join Bruce and The Editor as they explore revising series, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

BHbySonyaBruce Hale is the Edgar Award-nominated author-illustrator of nearly 30 funny books for young readers, including the popular Chet Gecko Mysteries, the Underwhere series, and the picture book Snoring Beauty, one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids. You can find Bruce online at www.brucehale.com or sign up for his fun and insightful e-newsletter of writing tips at www.brucehalewritingtips.com.

*After Bruce’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about character and story choices you made for a new story concept?
School for SpiesFor me, coming up with the first book in a new series is typically a revision-intensive process. I’ve sometimes done as many as five or six drafts before the voice and characters really start to gel. In my newest series, SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S., for example, I did five drafts before I even felt comfortable showing it to author friends and agent for feedback.

When you’re writing a series, you know your characters well. How many drafts are needed once you get a series established? What kinds of things are you refining at that level?
Once the series is established, things get much easier. I know the characters and I know the voice, so these books take a lot less revision — typically only three or four drafts before I deliver the manuscript (depending on the complexity of the book). At this stage of a series, my revisions focus on different matters: making sure the characters and voice are consistent from book to book; ensuring plenty of variety in the jokes, plot twists, and so forth; and finding ways to keep things familiar but fresh.

How early does your editor come into each new book?
Chameleon Wore ChartreuseThis varies pretty widely, depending on the book, series, and editor. With CHET GECKO, I would sometimes toss around plot ideas with my editor before I even started the book. With most other series, however, my editor doesn’t come into the process until I have a draft I’m pretty satisfied with — usually #3 or 4.

The Underwhere series is your second series. Did the first manuscript fall into place quickly, or did it take a few rounds to settle into the new characters and voices?
prince_of_underwhereThe UNDERWHERE series was tricky to write, the first book requiring about a year of revision. My first challenge was keeping the series’ voice distinct from my CHET GECKO books. Then I had to create characters that were different enough from the ones I’d been writing in my previous series. And finally, I had to learn how to write the comic-book chapters of the story, which required an approach much closer to screenwriting than novel writing. LOTS of revision was involved in that first book, PRINCE OF UNDERWHERE.

Do you use critique partners?
Although I was part of a critique group years ago, I haven’t been for quite some time. However, I do have writer friends who are kind enough to read and comment on story drafts on an ad-hoc basis, and I do the same for them.

Do you share your manuscripts with kids to test them out?
My first SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. book was the first time I’d done that. I gave it to a friend’s daughter who was just slightly older than my target readers, and she gave me some great feedback.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?
I’ve changed the voice from omniscient to first-person, and finally settled on third-person POV. That was pretty drastic, and required TONS of extra revision. But it was worth it, for finding the POV that best suited that story.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
When I can’t find anything else to tinker with, and I have that general feeling that if I mess with it much more, the entire souffle will collapse in a soggy heap — that’s when I know it’s the final draft.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 27, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 28, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Laura Griffin

in Revision Week/Romance Novels by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin. Laura has written eleven award-winning novels, six of them in the popular Tracers series. She’s just put the finishing touches on the seventh book in the series, Exposed, which will release on June 25.

Please join Laura and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Laura GriffinLaura Griffin’s background as a journalist serves her well as a novelist—she’s constantly interviewing experts and researching facts for her novels in an effort to ground her fictional adventures in enough reality to give them a sense of possibility. For her bestselling Tracers series, which features a forensic photographer and an FBI agent who form an uneasy partnership to find a vicious criminal, Laura interviewed FBI agents, private investigators, crime scene investigators, and forensic artists. Her hard work is recognized by readers and reviewers and has earned her various awards, including both a RITA Award for Whisper of Warning and a Daphne du Maurier Award for Untraceable in 2010. Her debut novel, One Last Breath, won the Booksellers Best Award in the Romantic Suspense category, and her novels Snapped, Unspeakable, and Untraceable were all nominated for Reviewers’ Choice Awards by RT Book Reviews magazine. The Editor is honored to have Laura with us for Revision Week.

*After Laura’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
Thanks for inviting me to be part of Revision Week! Every author I know has a different process and it’s interesting to hear how people do it.

For me, I become more and more confident about my character and story choices as I near the end of the first draft. Sometimes after the book is finished and the story is “percolating” I will realize some aspect of the plot isn’t true to character, so I’ll go back and make changes.

exposed_225How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
My editor will send me a revision letter with lots of ideas about what is working and what needs more focus. Sometimes I will overhaul an element of the suspense plot or develop a character more fully. Sometimes I will cut a character or subplot altogether if it’s distracting too much from the main story. I try to get all of my major changes into that round of revisions so that I don’t drive everyone crazy at the line-editing and copy-editing phase.

Do you use critique partners?
Nope, never have.

whisper_225 Your romantic storylines are as prominent in your books as your thriller plotlines. How does this dual prominence affect your revision strategy?
I think it’s important to have a balance, but I always try to remember that no matter how compelling a plot is, the reader is really in it for the characters. So I try to make sure I focus plenty of attention on character arc so that the story will have an emotional punch.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
I write suspense stories, so sometimes the logistics get complicated and I feel like I’ve hit a wall. But I have learned to tap into the experts I know for help. For example, I had a plot problem once involving an airplane flight, so I called up a pilot friend and explained that I needed my characters to be crossing a border at a certain time and place and he came up with a plausible way to make it work.

Sometimes you just need to get some distance from your story and a plot solution will come to you.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising? lastbreath_225
Cutting scenes always feels drastic to me. I try not to get hung up on all the time I spent creating something that ends up on the cutting room floor, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
I don’t ever really feel like the story is final. I certainly never feel like it’s perfect. But you pour your heart and soul into it and then eventually let go and hope what you’ve written will touch someone.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 26, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 27, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Picture Book Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Larry Dane Brimner

in Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week kicks off with Larry Dane Brimner, the award-winning author of more than 150 books for readers of all ages. His nonfiction books for children and young adults include Birmingham Sunday, an Orbis Pictus Honor Book for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, and We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin, a Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award winner.

Please join Larry and The Editor for Day 1 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Larry Dane BrimnerLarry Dane Brimner began to focus on writing for young people during his twenty-year teaching career. His books have garnered awards and the praise of reviewers, teachers, and readers. The Editor is privileged to talk researching, writing, and revising with Larry over tacos every few months and is thrilled to be able to share his revision process with DearEditor.com readers.

*After Larry’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

When you write a picture book, how many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?
I’ve found that the number of drafts it takes to get any manuscript “right” is directly related to the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about a project before I stand in front of my computer station to compose. On one occasion, it took me one draft, or about 45 minutes, to write an early reader; such an experience hasn’t duplicated itself. Looking back over my manuscripts, I’d say it usually takes at least a dozen drafts and, often, as many as thirty. These aren’t full revisions, however, since I always begin a writing session—whether writing a picture book, a chapter book, or nonfiction—by reading the manuscript aloud from the top. As I go along, I tweak words and phrases, I eliminate sentences or passages that don’t seem to work after sleeping on the story for a night, I add words and passages that I think are missing. I number and save each writing session/draft at the end of the day so if I need to retrieve something I’ll still have it. This “process” isn’t the one writing teachers typically teach; that is, I don’t rush to get words on the page so I’ll have a draft to revise. I plod. There’s no other way to describe it because some days I only get a sentence or two written. And I revise as I go, knowing full well that there will come a time when the entire finished manuscript—“finished” in my eyes, at least—will come under the microscope. Perhaps this is the result of a slightly OCD personality that won’t allow me to comfortably move forward until what’s already on the page (or screen) is at least satisfactory for the moment. What it does allow is for me to become familiar with my characters and their quirks; it allows me to “find” the story I think I’m telling.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?
My editors see nothing until I’m satisfied that I can’t do anything else with the story being told. Quite honestly, sometimes I’ve been in such a rush to get something out to an editor that I haven’t allowed enough time between that final review and the post office (or send key). Many times I’ll sit down to look at a story a week after it has been sent to an editor, and I think, Oh, cripes! Of course, then it’s too late. So I now force myself to put a project away for at least a week and often longer before sharing it with an editor. birmingham sundayIf you’re looking for a number, I can point out that my nonfiction editor didn’t see Birmingham Sunday until the forty-ninth draft/version (and then there were edits and revisions after that—too many to count).

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?
I touched on this above. I recall that with my picture bookMerry Christmas old Armadillo Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo, I wasn’t as specific and detailed as I thought I’d been. My editor asked me what kind of wreath was on the door and what kind of door it was. Details. This was conveyed to me in an editorial letter that was as long as the manuscript itself (or longer). After giving thought to my editor’s suggestions, questions, and comments, I came up with the following: “Roadrunner shook his head and helped Peccary hang her piney wreath on the ancient door.” This conveys everything I thought had been evident but wasn’t. I mean, in my mind, wreaths are always piney but, of course, they’re not, and doors on old adobe casitas are always ancient. With my picture book The Littlest Wolf, that editor (who did not write editorial letters) and I spent three or four marathon sessions on the phone revising line by line. It was truly the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had. (I can say this because the editor is no longer in the business. I like to mull things over, consider options, look at it on the page before I commit to something.) Having been in this business for thirty years, I can say that editors today expect things to come to them in a more or less finished state; many don’t have the time to work with a writer to refine and polish a story. And I understand this, but it sure was nice when an editor would see a glimmer of an idea in a story and work with the author to uncover it. To answer your question, though, I would say that after an editor sees my work, I can look forward to three or four more complete drafts of a text before it is ready for publication. (With nonfiction, it may be more!)

How does your revision process change when you write nonfiction?
Gosh, that’s a good question. I would say that with fiction, I want to make sure the story has been completely told and that I’ve wrapped up all the loose ends. If there was an event in chapter three or four, I want to make sure that if it needs a conclusion that conclusion has been provided. In a picture book, I want to make sure that the single concept I’m addressing in the story is conveyed as simply and with as few words as possible, yet that it is done in an artful way. I tend to write longer nonfiction, so when I revise my nonfiction I want to make sure that factual information has been included about each concept I’ve touched on. Sometimes I can do this with a simple in-line explanation, but other times I feel that a sidebar is more appropriate.black and white In Black & White, for example I made reference to Autherine Lucy and her attempt to integrate the University of Alabama. I knew kids/readers wouldn’t know who she was or how she came to the university, so I expanded on her story in a sidebar. At other times, something doesn’t work in the main text because it would tend to pull a reader away from the story I’m telling and yet, it’s interesting enough (to me, at least) to be included somewhere. So I’ll use a sidebar just to give the reader a bit more information. I did this again in Black & White when I provided a sidebar about the South’s “Declaration of Constitutional Principals,” which has been in the news recently with regard to state’s rights.

Do you use critique partners?
No. I read everything aloud. Over and over and over. Having said that, I sometimes will use an editorial service, but I’ve only done that twice when I’ve been uncertain about a project. (Neither of those projects was ever placed, by the way.) I tend to trust my own judgment and, of course, I work with some amazing editors whose guidance I trust implicitly. One of the reasons I don’t rely on critique partners is because early on in my career when I was focusing on early readers and picture books, I went to one (the only one I could find) and the advice I got was to “use more contractions.” Well, the publishers whose doors I was trying to break down didn’t allow contractions. So that was my last visit to a critique group. I know many successful writers who do use their critique partners to refine their work, but it’s not for me.

Do you ever read your picture book manuscripts (fiction or nonfiction) to kids to test them out?
Never. Kids typically will like almost anything an adult writes simply because they’re happy that someone is spending time with them.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?
Absolutely. WithTrick or treat old armadillo Trick or Treat, Old Armadillo, I needed to figure out how an established character (established in Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo) could turn the tables on his friends and actually surprise them when he is historically the one surprised. I also needed to do it in a way that would not reveal the surprise too soon because I didn’t want readers/listeners to know the surprise before the story characters. I noodled with this one section—near the end of the story—for two solid months. Finally, one night at two a.m. (which is when I do a lot of thinking) I figured out what the surprise, or trick, would be. Then all I had to do was noodle with the language or telling of the story (another month or so) so kids (and the illustrator) would understand what just happened. I wrote:

Outside . . . feet scuffed upon flagstones.

Inside . . . Old Armadillo slowly pulled a blanket over his head.

Outside . . . (page turn) A paw pounded thrice against the door.

Inside . . . Old Armadillo shifted and squirmed beneath the blanket.

Outside . . . a chilling voice called, “It is time!”

Inside . . . under the blanket, Old Armadillo grew as still and silent as stone.

So what I’ve accomplished with this passage is to (I hope) put the scare into what is about to happen when the characters outside Old Armadillo’s casita finally enter. I’ve also accomplished Old Armadillo’s change of costume without revealing what he’s doing under the blanket to the reader/listener. Then, after another brief passage to further set the tone/mood of the story and another page turn, Old Armadillo reveals himself when, “Suddenly, Old Armadillo flung the blanket aside,” and his voice thunders out from a jack-o’-lantern, “Quiero Halloween!” It is a very simple passage that took months to settle on and get right.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a text while revising?
The most drastic thing I’ve ever done is to lose an entire finished manuscript when my disk crashed. (Who knew that thumb drives weren’t forever!) It could not be recovered and all I had were bits and pieces of notes on my computer and a deadline one month away. Literally, after crying for half an hour, I told myself to buck up and start over. It turned out that the new, revised-from-scratch manuscript was much tighter than the original and I delivered it on time. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done was to hear an editor say, “The revision should be easy. It’s just a little thing in the last chapter. Can you have it to me by the end of the month?” I waited until a week before the revision was due to even look at the editorial comments and when I did, it hit me: If you make a little change in the last chapter, it has to be set up in each preceding chapter. I’ve made that mistake only once. This was a chapter book, but it applies to picture books as well: If you make a change to the last scene, chances are good that you’re going to have to set it up in each preceding scene. As I think about it, though, perhaps the most drastic thing I’ve done is to put a text away in my “Stinky Story Drawer” and give up on it.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
This is difficult for me to answer because I don’t think I ever really know. But there’s usually a gut feeling or instinct I get that tells me that this is the final draft and I can’t do anything to make it any better. It tells me that this draft is worthy of publication (even when I can’t find an editor who agrees with me). And this brings to mind a note of encouragement. I once had a picture book rejected. The editor sent a letter pointing out all the story’s flaws and wished me better luck next time. I filed that story in my Stinky Story Drawer for two years. Then one day when I was looking for something to revise (rather than start), I pulled that story out, read it, and said to myself. “You know, this is good.” I sent the story to the very same editor with a note that said, “I’ve had two years to consider your comments. Will you look at it again?” This time she called and said, “The changes you made are brilliant. It sparkles now. I want to offer a contract.” Of course, I’d made no changes; I didn’t even print out a fresh copy. So there is always hope for a story, even one that has been rejected and landed in the Stinky Story Drawer.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is celebrating Revision Week by giving away a FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST TEN PAGES of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 25, 2013, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 26, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Picture Book Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this giveaway to get additional entries. Send an email to DearEditor.com with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title and full name in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Welcome to DearEditor.com’s 2013 Revision Week!

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Dear Readers…

This week DearEditor.com brings together six prolific, bestselling, award-winning authors for a week of revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches. Learn from writers who turn first drafts into lauded books every day—and enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand prize Full Manuscript Edit giveaway.

*Giveaway directions will be posted each with the interviews, starting tomorrow.

Welcome to a week of free edit giveaways (directions to be posted each day starting tomorrow) and revision advice and insights like these…

Larry Dane BrimnerLarry Dane Brimner, author of 150 books for readers of all ages. “The number of drafts it takes to get any manuscript “right” is directly related to the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about a project before I stand in front of my computer station to compose.”

Laura GriffinLaura Griffin,New York Times bestselling romance writer, with 11 acclaimed novels. “I always try to remember that no matter how compelling a plot is, the reader is really in it for the characters. So I try to make sure I focus plenty of attention on character arc so that the story will have an emotional punch.”

BHbySonyaBruce Hale, award-winning author/illustrator of nearly 30 books for kids. “When I can’t find anything else to tinker with, and I have that general feeling that if I mess with it much more, the entire souffle will collapse in a soggy heap — that’s when I know it’s the final draft.”

Matthew_s_Portrait_-30__30Matthew J. Kirby, breakout author of two novels for young adults, with two more anticipated novels. “My confidence in how the characters and scenes are working doesn’t seem tied in anyway to the number of times I’ve revised them, but to my general awareness of the story as a whole.”

Susan Stevens CrummelSusan Stevens Crummel,author and co-author of nearly 20 picture books. “We feel that this is what makes our collaboration successful–it’s an organic process where the story and art evolve together, meshing to create a more cohesive product.”

peter_economyPeter Economy, bestselling author and ghostwriter of more than 6o books. “It is extremely important that I capture my client’s voice and that he or she is comfortable with the style and happy with the book that results. If I haven’t accomplished that, then I have failed.”

Thank you for joining us. Tomorrow, Larry Dane Brimner pulls back the curtain on the revision process.

NEWSFLASH: Revision Week Just Got Bigger!

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Dear Readers…

The Editor is thrilled to announce that award-winning picture book author Susan Stevens Crummel will be joining the Revision Week lineup! Loved for her solo books as well as her collaborations with author/illustrator (and sister!) Janet Stevens, Susan will shed light on the ins and outs of working through a highly collaborative revision process.

Read the rest of the post to learn about Susan…

Join us for seven days of free edit giveaways and revision talk here on DearEditor.com, starting March 24!

Susan Stevens CrummelSusan Stevens Crummel has authored and co-authored nearly twenty popular picture books for children. Her books with her most frequent collaborator, author/illustrator (and sister!) Janet Stevens, include Help Me, Mr. Mutt!, one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Children’s Books of 2008 and winner of the 2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award and the 2010 Florida Children’s Book Award, The Great Fuzz Frenzy, winner of the Bill Martin, Jr. Picture Book Award and 10 state book awards, Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!, winner of the 2001 Texas Bluebonnet Award, and And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, winner of the 2004 California Young Reader Medal.

Announcing DearEditor.com’s Revision Week 2013, March 24-30!

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Dear Readers…

Heads up! It’s almost time for DearEditor.com’s second annual Revision Week. The Editor is honored to host five authors—who have published a combined 270 best-selling and award-winning books—for a week of revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches. Learn from writers who turn first drafts into lauded books every day—and enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand prize Full Manuscript Edit giveaway.

Read the rest of the post to learn about the authors participating…

Mark your calendar for a week of free edit giveaways and revision talk with these talented and generous authors:

Larry Dane BrimnerLarry Dane Brimner has published 150 books for readers of all ages. His award-winning picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and nonfiction for children and young adults include Birmingham Sunday, an Orbis Pictus Honor Book for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.

 

Laura GriffinLaura Griffin is a New York Times bestselling romance writer. Her eleven acclaimed novels have won various awards, including both a RITA Award for Whisper of Warning and a Daphne du Maurier Award for Untraceable.

 

BHbySonyaBruce Hale is the author/illustrator of nearly 30 books for kids, including the popular Chet Gecko Mysteries (one of which was an Edgar Award Finalist), the comics-novel hybrid Underwhere series, and Snoring Beauty, one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids. Currently, he’s hard at work revising the second book in his SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. series.

Matthew_s_Portrait_-30__30 Matthew J. Kirby is the breakout author of two popular novels for young adults, including Icefall, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery and the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature, and two more anticipated novels: The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders, Book 5 of the hit multi-platform Infinity Ring series.

peter_economy Peter Economy is the bestselling author and ghostwriter of more than 6o books, including  Managing For Dummies, The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company, Giving Back: Connecting You, Business, and Community, and many others. He’s collaborated with thought leaders in a variety of different industries and organizations – from Fortune 100 businesses to universities to non-profits with national reach.

Photo credits: Bruce Hale author photo © Sonya Sones, Laura Griffin author photo © Laura Griffin

re: Winner, Wonder, and Week Off

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Three months ago, many of you made this New Year Resolution: “Finish my manuscript!” It’s likely time for your follow-up resolution: “Revise my manucript!” Revision Week was designed to bring you tips, insights, and inspiration for that very task. Thank you many times over to the fab authors who pulled back the curtains on their revision processes, thank you all for joining in, and congrats to the week’s final giveaway winner, Patti J. Kurtz. Next week DearEditor.com will return to the usual format, with answers to the craft and industry questions you wonder about. Until then…

Happy revising!
The Editor

The Editor is indebted to the authors who made Revision Week such an informative and inspiring event that it will now be an annual event. If you missed any of their posts,click directly on the links below to jump to their insightful interviews…

Cynthia Leitich Smith, bestselling YA gothic novelist, picture book writer, short story writer, and popular children’s lit blogger. http://deareditor.com/?p=3459

Kathleen Krull, author of more than 60 books, especially picture books and biographies for young readers. http://deareditor.com/?p=3570

 R.L. LaFevers, author of the 13 novels for young people, including the popular middle grade series Theodosia Throckmorton and Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist, and now the forthcoming His Fair Assassin YA trilogy.  http://deareditor.com/?p=3517

Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and Theo Baker, popular, bestselling chapter book collaborators. http://deareditor.com/?p=3599

Mark A. Clements, horror/suspense author, screenwriter, and prolific ghostwriter. http://deareditor.com/?p=3552

Nathan Bransford, top blogger and former literary agent-turned-author of the Jacob Wonderbar middle grade books. http://deareditor.com/?p=3531

Rachel Caine, bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the popular series The Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden, the Outcast Season, and  The Revivalist. http://deareditor.com/?p=3696

Revision Week BONUS Interview: Rachel Caine

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Dear Readers…

The Editor is thrilled to present a BONUS Revision Week interview . . . with Rachel Caine! Rachel is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the YA series The Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series. Rachel’s newest series, The Revivalist, launched in 2011 with Working Stiff, and her stand-alone YA novel The Great and Lamentable Tragedie releases this year.

Please join Rachel and The Editor for the Revision Week finale, and find out how to win the final “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Rachel Caine has been honored with a Paranormal Pearl Award and an RT Booklovers Award, and was recently awarded a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times. She has appeared as a guest at over 100 science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance conventions and conferences over the past 20 years, including Dragon*Con, San Diego ComicCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and the World Science Fiction Convention. Rachel has been featured in several national publications including People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Vanity Fair, and on international, national, and local television and radio. Today Rachel talks about revising when you’re under the gun.

*After Rachel’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

I’m in a very odd position. With a book due every three months, I don’t have a lot of luxury to rework things—they need to be close to the target (very close!) on the first draft. With the schedule I and my editors have, I have to be (somewhat foolishly) confident of my first draft. (Watch Rachel talk about The Morganville Vampires series here.)

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Generally, Version 1.5 gets sent in—I may have time for a fast read-through and tweak, but that’s pretty much it.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

None, until I get her notes; a LOT, after I receive those. I generally do a page one rewrite once I know what she sees as the strengths and weaknesses and problems, and comb through very thoroughly as I make those changes. Then, there are usually smaller questions that arise during copyedits that need solving. (Watch the Last Breath trailer here.)

Do you use critique partners?

Honestly, under my schedule, there’s no room for them. I’d love to have them, and when I have something that *isn’t* under that fierce spotlight of deadline, I do it. Generally, my agent (fellow author Lucienne Diver) also reads my manuscripts and gives me feedback while the editor is reviewing it as well, so I have additional input. I have nothing against critique partners, and have been a member of several groups, but it’s a timing issue now.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

Oh, yes. I just finished copyedits for that book, Two Weeks’ Notice (Book 2 in the Revivalist series). My original first draft was solid, but it had a huge plot hole—I specifically said that a certain virus took a month to incubate and become active, and then I had it happening almost immediately to a second character. That seems like an easy fix, but what the second character did under the influence of the virus was critical … and it seemed like a dead end, because I needed that one-month incubation period for story purposes. I solved it by realizing that what the second character did could be transferred to a third, unrelated character who could plausibly have been infected a month before. And it worked!

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

I once cut out half the book. HALF. Just took everything that happened after the “broken” scene and started over from scratch, because that scene was pivotal and everything after followed the wrong trail. It was difficult, but it worked in the end.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

There’s never a final draft for me, only the one you have to turn in because you’re out of time. But I guess if I had the luxury of having all the time in the world to do it, I think it would be the point at which I was bored with the story, where I didn’t want to play in that world anymore. There’s a certain fatigue that sets in, and I think if you’re reworking past that point, you’re not helping the story.

REVISION WEEK’S FINAL GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away one last FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 11, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 12, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck . . . and thank you for a fun week!

Revision Week: Nathan Bransford

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Readers…

Today was scheduled to be the grand finale of Revision Week, but the event has been so fun that The Editor can’t resist posting a bonus author interview tomorrow. Stop by for that surprise guest, along with a bonus edit giveaway.

For today, we’ve got the wonderful Nathan Bransford, author of the Jacob Wonderbar middle grade series and former literary agent with Curtis Brown. Nathan offers a unique view of the revision process thanks to his experience both as an author and as an agent ushering writers to book deals with publishers.

We’ve also got the promised “FREE Full Manuscript Edit” Giveaway from The Editor!

Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow and Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, the first two novels in a middle grade series about three kids and their planet-hopping adventures. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010, but is now a social media director and the writer of the popular blog about writing and publishing, www.nathanbransford.com.

*After Nathan’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you’ve made?

This is a tricky question for me actually because I tend to edit as I go and don’t typically go through discreet drafts. But the novel is usually done for me after the third or fourth major overhaul.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Whatever draft it is where I can’t bear to look at it anymore and have exhausted every possible idea.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

It depends on the book, but usually two major rounds of revision.

Do you use critique partners?

No, I don’t show it to anyone before I send it to my editor. I’m fortunate to have a really fantastic editor, Kate Harrison, who helps me mold the book into a much better form once I’ve gotten as far as I can go on my own.

As an agent, did you ever work through revisions with authors before submitting them to publishers?

Definitely, I was a very hands-on agent. I always thought it was important to make sure the manuscript was as good as possible before going out to editors.

Do agents work through revisions with writers before agreeing to represent them?

It depends on the agent. When I was an agent I preferred to work with authors on an exclusive basis but without an offer of representation in place. That way we could both see if we were happy with how the revision process was going and our working relationship and formalize the relationship once we were confident in the manuscript. But situations vary.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

When I started Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe I had this particular opening that was how I had always envisioned beginning the novel. But when I wrote it out and sent it to my agent and editor… it just didn’t work. I had to completely re-imagine the opening and start over from scratch. It was daunting at the time and I had to kind of take a deep breath and regain my confidence, but it was definitely the right choice. The revised opening is much stronger and I’m so fortunate I had an opportunity to take a new approach. (Watch the Jacob Wonderbar trailer here.)

What’s the most drastic revising experience you’ve been part of?

I had one client where I advised her to completely change the genre of her novel and revise the plot to match. It was a ton of work for the author but it worked! The new version of the novel ended up selling and doing really well. Sometimes at the heart of a draft there’s a great novel that needs to be brought to the surface and polished. (Hear Nathan’s thoughts about “pitching,” videoed at the 2010 San Miguel Writer’s Workshop here.)

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When my editor says it’s done.

TODAY’S GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away a FREE FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT of your manuscript. The edit will be a “Substantive Edit,” in which the author receives general feedback about the manuscript’s overall pacing, organization, narrative voice, plot development/narrative arc, characterization, point of view, setting, delivery of background information, adult sensibility (children’s books only), and the synchronicity of age-appropriate subject matter with target audience, as The Editor determines appropriate and necessary after reviewing the entire manuscript. It is not a word-by-word, line-by-line “Line Edit.”

Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. Your manuscript must be COMPLETE and SHALL NOT EXCEED 90,000 WORDS. In the case of a picture book entry, the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 10, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 11, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Full MS Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this Revision Week giveaway to get additional entries today. Send an email to DearEditor.com with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title and full name in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Mark A. Clements

in Creative Process/General fiction/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with award-winning author Mark A. Clements. In addition to being a horror and suspense novelist, Mark has ghostwritten numerous books, giving him a distinct view of the revision process.

Please join Mark and The Editor for Day 5 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Mark A. Clements’ first horror novel, 6:02, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. It was followed by the horror mystery Children of the End and the mystery thriller Lorelei, both of which received multiple nominations and awards. Mark’s The Land of Nod earned the Theodore S. Geisel “Best of the Best” award. All of Marks books have been optioned for film, and he also wrote the script for an original short, Dreamweavers. Mark is widely loved for his tireless work running critique sessions at writers conferences—often staying up to the wee hours to make sure every writer gets the chance to read and field full feedback.

*After Mark’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

For me at least, the use of word processors pretty much destroyed the meaning of the word “draft.” Back in typewriter days I did about four drafts of each novel…now I write 30 or more versions of some portions, and five or six versions of other portions. I insist that there’s a correlation between quality and all the extra dinking around. I insist, I tell you!

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

The one I’m satisfied with. I always prefer to give an editor as little work (i.e., interfering) to do as possible.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

Typically not much.

Do you use critique partners?

“Partners?” No, no, no. I belong to a read and critique group with which I share portions of the work to see if it’s doing what I want, but I never share even slightly rough material and I don’t seek out advice on how to “fix” something. I don’t believe in writing by committee.

How does revision work in ghostwriting? How do you strike a balance between your judgment as a writer and the preferences of the person you’re writing for?

I never did strike that balance; I usually wanted to strike the person I was writing for. So I don’t ghostwrite anymore.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

My current novel features an organism that is alive but does not become conscious or self-aware until a third of the way through the story. I shuffled through two dozen openings before I realized that conscious or not, the organism needed its own point of view in order for the book to work. Getting there was a difficult but in the end very satisfying process.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

Thrown out 75 pages of stuff I originally thought was essential. Big lesson there….

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

There’s no other way to put it: the story feels done.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away one more FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 9, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 10, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Co-Authors Lin Oliver, Henry Winkler, & Theo Baker

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with co-authors Lin Oliver, Henry Winkler, and Theo Baker. All three authors team up today to discuss the part collaboration plays in the revision of series and chapter books for young readers.

Please join Lin, Henry, Theo, and The Editor for Day 4 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Lin Oliver has written several series with her co-authors—17 best-selling “Hank Zipzer” books and now three best-selling “Ghost Buddy” books with Henry Winkler, and the brand new “Sound Bender” series with Theo Baker—plus a series of her own, the “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?” series. These prolific co-authors have learned a thing or two about revision. They’ve joined forces once again in an insightful tag-team interview for Revision Week.

*After the interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How does revision work within a collaboration?

LIN:  The first step in revising with a collaborator is to agree on what you want to revise. Even when working with someone with whom you’re very attuned, you will always have differences of opinion, or differences in ear—how you hear the words. A lot of back and forth conversation is involved in deciding what changes you want to make in your manuscript, and often, one of the two partners has to compromise. It helps to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can fairly adjudicate your differences of opinion. Working with Theo on Sound Bender, he thinks I tend to go for the funny rather than the dramatic. He’s right, and knowing that helps us realize my limitations. I think he’s sometimes too long-winded, so I always want to trim his material. (He calls me Dr. Scissorhands.) You have to be very flexible in your negotiations so both parties come away feeling ownership of the final draft, and also very sensitive not to make it a critique of your partner’s talents but a decision of what works best at any given moment in the manuscript.

THEO: It’s completely different than working alone. For one thing, you always have a nominally sympathetic reader waiting for pages—so there’s no need to put drafts in a drawer to try to forget about them before revising. But while revision is sometimes much more difficult flying solo, revising with a collaborator can often be much more painful! If something doesn’t work for your partner—even if it’s something you love—it skips the drawer and goes directly into the garbage can.

When you’re writing a series, you know your characters well. How many drafts are needed once you get a series established? What kinds of things are you refining at that level?

LIN:  The first book in a series is always the most difficult because you are discovering your characters’ voices, peculiarities, habits, backstory. Many drafts are necessary to deepen your understanding and portrayal of your characters. I find that several books into the series, the voices come very naturally and require less conscious effort. However, plot is always a sticky point for me, and that always requires revision and tweaking to keep the tension going and the scenes relevant. I also find that in series, you have to be a strict cutter, because when you know the characters so well, it’s easy to let them ramble on a bit, and those digressions—although interesting—can really stall the story.

THEO: Though I’ve only written two books about the same characters, writing one book is enough to get to know your characters well. Too well, in fact. In writing Sound Bender 2, I just plodded along with my boys (and girls), and then after the fact, we went back and established most of the major characters so our readers wouldn’t be quite so lost! Readers may read books in a series continually, or they may space out the books by years. I think most readers, even very good ones, are mostly confused most of the time. So we try to help them as much we can with character info early and often. Makes the reading experience a little less tense.

How early does your editor come into each new book?

HENRY and LIN: Our editors are always involved in the concept phase—both formulating the concept for the series and in a conversation about the plot line in general. Usually, we have to submit a title early on in the process, for marketing purposes, so the title often helps define the concept. Then we go away and write the book, and the editor comes back to us with notes after we submit the first draft. Often there is a second set of notes, usually much more specific in nature, and we make those adjustments. That pass allows us to do a line polish of our own, having had some time and distance from the manuscript. That’s when we go through and take out a weak joke, an unnecessary adjective, a flabby verb, an unnecessary line of dialogue.

THEO: The editors come in at the very earliest stages—and are usually the ones who remind you that you owe them another book, and for the love of coffee, you should probably get started on it. They usually want a brief outline or synopsis up front—just to know that you’ve got a sound map to follow, so they can sleep at night. Editors are great at this stage; they read so much and in such a particular way that they can see problems way down the road. Once they’ve helped you with your map, then they leave you alone for several months—ostensibly so you can write.

Henry, the Ghost Buddy series is a new one for you and Lin. Did the first manuscript fall into place quickly, or did it take a few rounds to settle into the new characters and voices?

HENRY: As I remember, because we are now happily on our third Ghost Buddy, it did take a little longer than usual to do the first book in the series. Billy Broccoli and The Hoove, our main characters, were pretty clear. It was the supporting characters that needed to become fully alive to us. We also worked really hard on the rules of having a ghost in the story—to set a clear and consistent set of rules and hold ourselves to them. This is not an easy task. (Watch Henry and Lin talk about writing the Ghost Buddy series here.)

Lin, your new supernatural series “Sound Bender” (with Theo) is for older readers and has an edgier, more adventurous tone than your books with Henry. How has working with a new collaborator on a new project for a new audience affected your approach to shaping a story?

LIN: Well, it’s important to note that my new collaborator is also my son, which complicates the interaction in both blissful and complex ways. We have to work hard not to make this a mother-son relationship, but an interaction between two colleagues of equal ability. Theo has a great sense of adventure and is always very close to what our key readers … tween boys … are interested in. I always defer to him in those areas. I am a bear about staying on story, keeping the tension high, making sure each scene serves a purpose in advancing the story, keeping things pacey. Theo, I think, is willing to tolerate a more meditative pace. We bump into each other a lot on that spectrum…how fast to move the story, how much digression to include, how much scientific and historical fact to highlight. The happy news is that I believe both Sound Bender books have benefitted from our collaboration and specifically from our having to work out this very issue. They are deeper than they would have been if I had written them alone, and quicker than they might have been had Theo written them alone. I think this is one instance when compromise resulted in a better all around book.

Do you share your manuscripts with kids to test them out?

HENRY: No, we don’t. If we laugh in the room, it goes in the book. If the rhythms we come up with in telling the story land easily on the ear, it goes in the book. If the theme moves us emotionally, it becomes the book.

THEO: I share them with my inner child, but no actual kids. I was a tough and discerning eleven-year-old—most of them are; they can spot lies and phoniness a mile away. My inner child will respond right away to anything fake with a devastating eye-roll and a sarcastic, “Yeah right, that’s so stupid.” He’s tough, and it hurts every time.

Lin, do you use critique partners when you write your “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?” series, which is not a collaboration?

LIN: I don’t use critique partners, but I have several first readers who are central to me. I always talk through the plot with Steve Mooser, my SCBWI partner of the last 40 years. He is invaluable when it comes to hearing a story and foretelling whether it will work. Plot is always the area where I need the most help. When it comes to actually writing the scenes, I’m pretty sure-footed with my particular comedic voice. However, I’m about to begin doing research on a new kind of novel for me, a multi-generational historical saga, and I’m hoping to use critique partners there. It’s a brand new tone for me, and I’m sure I’ll need smart feedback.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

LIN: My story problems are always in the Second Act. I usually know the First Act, establishing the problem. And I usually know the Third Act, solving the problem. Where I stumble is in the middle, trying to create complications that are relevant to the story and build tension. In the second Sound Bender, which Theo and I just finished, we really struggled with the middle. Our hero, Leo, has to find the other half of a mysterious Siamese twin mask from Borneo. He uses his sound bending powers to do so. The middle of the story involves a trip to Borneo, and a journey down the river into the jungle (an homage to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness). What was really tough was how to make all the adventures on the river build tension and not be just exciting episodic events. In the end, we had to cut that act by at least half, to get rid of those scenes that were temporarily exciting but did not really contribute to the building of tension. It was miserable work, getting through that Second Act. We got lost on that damn river so many times before we could paddle our way out.

THEO: There’re so few rules in writing that I’ll latch onto anything that seems wise or helpful. One aphorism I like (and have no clue to its origin) is: If the narrative seems slow, that means you’re not focusing on the right things. (paraphrased)

If a story isn’t working, it seems flat, lifeless. And the reason why it feels lifeless is almost always because the main character is so overwhelmed with story and narrative beats that he can’t be himself, and can’t respond like a living person.

When I’m staring at a lifeless scene, one thing I like to do is what I call an “emotional draft.” When revising, it’s easy to get so bogged down in the weeds of language, story development, the “way it should be” that it can feel suffocating—both for you and the character. So the “emotional draft” is a blank page draft, where I just focus solely on what the characters are actually feeling in the moment, while momentarily forgetting about all the other work on that scene I’ve already done. It’s a very safe and playful exercise, and a great way to add life into empty words.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

HENRY and LIN: We usually have a very concise and clear outline before we start writing. What amazes us each time we write a book is that the story itself has a mind of its own and when we’re trying to go right, it often goes to the left. We have learned to faithfully follow, even if the result is a drastic change from the original plan.

LIN’s additional note: I often find I have to cut a character completely. I love to build in supporting roles, and on many occasions, have fallen in love with a character who doesn’t really have a vital role to play. I let myself write that character in the first draft, and then have to examine whether or not they’re just taking up space, no matter how charming I think they might be. I have an imaginary room in my house where those characters live. They’re all banging on the door trying to get into the next book. Some of them make it.

THEO: Short of incinerating entire drafts while sobbing, we’ve cut whole characters, whole finished chapters, whole subplots, etc. In our latest book, Sound Bender 2, we took a 140-page section and crunched it down into twenty-five compact pages. Lin says there’s nothing wasted in writing, but I think she’s full of it.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

HENRY and LIN: We know it’s done when we literally have come to the end of the story. Then we send it to our editors and get their thoughts. We carefully go over every thought and decide which ones resonate intellectually and emotionally. In the nineteen novels we have written together, we have never really had a major disagreement with our publishers that required us to change anything about what the book is that we imagined it to be.

LIN’s additional note: I have never read a published book of mine where I didn’t wince from wanting to go back and change it. I think this supports my belief that a book isn’t really done, it’s due. And thank goodness for that, or we’d just go on revising and tinkering forever.

THEO: There is no final draft. There are no endings, only countless beginnings. Just try to do your best work in the time you have, then beg and plead for another extension.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away yet another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 8, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 9, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Robin LaFevers

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues today with Robin LaFevers, the author of fourteen books for young readers, including the Theodosia series, the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series, and the much buzzed-about new His Fair Assassin series.

Please join Robin and The Editor for Day 3 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit”from The Editor.

Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry, so it’s not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She has also spent a large portion of her life being told she was making up things that weren’t there, which only proves she was destined to write fiction. Robin’s most recent book, Grave Mercy, is a YA romance about assassin nuns in medieval France and has received three starred reviews and is a 2012 Indie Next Spring Pick. Robin was writing the final words of Grave Mercy’s follow-up (Book Two in the His Fair Assassins series) when The Editor asked her to participate in Revision Week. Robin steadfastly refused to answer a single question until she’d typed “THE END” on the draft for her editor. How’s that for maintaining focus?! Thankfully, Robin made her deadline and is now free to share her hard-earned insights on the revision process.

*After Robin’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

You jokingly dubbed yourself the Queen of Multiple Drafts. How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

Oh gosh, that really depends on the book and how long it’s been percolating in my head! Since I tend to divide books into acts, my process usually involves working on act one for a number of drafts—four to five at the least, although sometimes it can be upward of seven. In those revisions, I really work on nailing down the character’s voice, the tone of the story, the world, and the major components of the character’s internal arc—what they think they want vs. what they need, the whys of all that, and then trying to understand and brainstorm what keeps them from achieving that. I can’t move on in the story until I get all that figured out. With the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist books, I did a lot of that in my head before I ever set pen to paper, so only needed a two or three drafts. With Grave Mercy, I worked all that out on the page in a daunting number of revisions.

When I do it that way, I find the rest of the book requires fewer revisions—maybe only three or four. And of course, once I reach The End and have the entire book complete, I have to go back and massage the first act so it all fits together, which is another revision or two.

Do you go through fewer drafts when you’re a few books into a series?  

Yes, thank goodness! And that is because so many of the elements are already established—the character’s voice, the essential personality, the players, the world. That and because those are written on contract with hard and fast deadlines.

Which draft gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?  

Which draft I show to my editor depends on whether it is part of a continuing series or not. I don’t like to write books on spec, so if it’s a new project, I will typically have as polished and perfect a version of the book as I can. Or as polished and perfect as I can make it at that point in time. A critical part of my process is letting the book lay fallow for a while between drafts. When I do that, I find my subconscious does a huge amount of the heavy lifting for me, which always makes things easier.

So, for new projects probably anywhere from the seventh or tenth draft gets shown to my editor. For continuing projects, probably the third or fourth draft.

Now, the upside to doing so many drafts myself is that I usually only have to do one revision for my editor, and usually a fairly light revision at that.

For my most current project, the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, I had to turn in a much earlier draft than I am used to and I have to say, it makes me hugely uncomfortable. Like showing up at a business meeting in my jammies. In fact, I was so twitchy about it that I sent along a copy of my revision notes—all the things I knew still needed work—to my editor, just to try and streamline the process and let her know I didn’t think all the manuscript’s bald spots were okay.

Do you use critique partners?  

I don’t use critique partners because it isn’t helpful to me to show my work while it’s in progress. I do use beta readers though (although that may be a matter of semantics) who read the entire manuscript and give me their thoughts. I find them to be enormously helpful. For me, beta readers are highly trusted readers (most often writers) who have similar reading tastes as I do and like/read in the genre that I’m writing. They are also, and perhaps most importantly, able to help me write the story I’m trying to write as opposed to giving suggestions on how to write it as if they were writing it—which of course would make it an entirely different book. That’s a really important distinction though, because oftentimes we can get too much feedback or feedback that is at crosspurposes to what we’re trying to accomplish. So I pick my first readers very carefully.

I usually hand off the entire manuscript to these readers after a few drafts but before the final draft—that way the manuscript is still malleable in my mind and hasn’t “set” yet. Sometimes, if I get it all polished up and think of it as “ready”, making big changes can be too hard!

Do you ever share your manuscripts with young readers to test them out?  

No, I haven’t really done that since my kids have grown up, but when they were little, I definitely used them for guinea pigs!

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?  

Oh, merde! I think I told you I have done countless drafts of Grave Mercy, mostly because there were so many story choices available, it took me forever to figure out which story I wanted to tell. Then once I did, I got to page 200 and realized that third person POV simply wasn’t working. So I had to change the entire book to first person, which is much, MUCH more than simply changing pronouns. There is an entirely different flow to language and narration when you change POV. The manuscript flowed much better, but I was still having problems. It wasn’t until page 350 (of a 420-page mss) that I realized the darn thing had to be in first person PRESENT tense. That was a giant scream heard round the world, let me tell you. And writing in first person present is like speaking an entirely different language, so I had to completely rewrite the whole damn thing. (View the Grave Mercy trailer here.)

Which taught me an important lesson: experiment with tenses and POVs in the early stages of a book—just don’t set your POV choice on default mode.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When it is sent to the printer.

Seriously. I could fiddle and tweak forever. In fact, I have been known to tweak and edit on a printed copy of the book before doing a reading. But there is a point where you aren’t necessarily making it better—just making it different. Or so I try to tell myself.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

Today The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 7, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 8, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Kathleen Krull

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Picture Books/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with award-winning author Kathleen Krull. In 2011 Kathleen was awarded the Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C. Nonfiction Award, an honor presented annually to “an author or illustrator whose total body of work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.”

Please join Kathleen and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Kathleen Krull has written some 60 books for young readers, most notably the award-winning series of “Lives of” books, now with new jackets and new titles forthcoming. The Editor had the honor of working with Kathleen on many of the “Lives of” books as well as other books at Harcourt Children’s Books.

*After Kathleen’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

When you write a new picture book manuscript, how many drafts does it typically take before you’ll show it to an editor?

From the days when every penny counted, I’m so cheap with paper that I don’t print out a draft after I make every little change, so it’s hard to say. I print at least 10 to 15 drafts, representing what seem like substantial changes, before I’m happy. When I get to the point of taking out commas and putting them back in again, I feel ready to send it off.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

A lot, as you know, Deborah, from sitting across the desk from me once upon a time. A good example is Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. True story: between what I thought was my final draft, and what emerged after the editorial process, only one sentence stood intact: “Grapes, when ripe, do not last long.” It’s not that I deliberately send in something unpolished, it’s that editors are indispensable. (Note from The Editor: Kathy gave me permission to take credit for coming up with the “Harvesting Hope” title. I credit Kathy’s other wonderful editor at Harcourt with the revision fun.) Watch the National Endowment for the Humanities book trailer for Harvesting Hope here.

You’ve started co-writing with your husband, author/illustrator Paul Brewer. How does that collaboration work?

It’s truly a collaboration. One of us will start with an idea (Fartiste, needless to say, was his), a paragraph, or a first page, and we’ll then pass drafts back and forth, endlessly tweaking. Paul specializes in research. With Lincoln Tells a Joke, he found all the jokes. Same thing with our upcoming funny book about the Beatles. My focus is the final fine-tuning of the words. He typically works at night and I work days, so I’ll hand things off to him at the end of the day and find it back on my desk the next morning.

Did you use Paul or other critique partners for the books you wrote solo in the past?

Paul is usually the only one I show manuscripts to, for the simple value of watching his face as he reads. I can tell when he gets hung up, confused, or amused, and I use those reactions as clues when I’m revising.

Do you ever read your picture book manuscripts to kids to test them out?

I’ve tried this, but haven’t found it that helpful. I lean toward the “too many cooks” theory, that my views and the editor’s (and sometimes Paul’s) are what matter. More input than that can be muddling.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

With my biography of Dr. Seuss (The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss), I found it flummoxing that his life, from all outward appearances, was pretty darn charmed. I like to write about obstacles overcome, battles fought and won, and with him the more I researched, the less conflict I found. After many many drafts, I was finally able to tease out the theme that fooling around with words and pictures was not considered appropriate for an adult—but he did it anyway.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

With Fartiste, Paul and I tried every which way to tell the story of Joseph Pujol, a real French performer whose entire act was farting on stage. Nothing clicked until I hit upon telling the story in rhyme. Paul thought this was a terrible idea—among other reasons, most editors hate stories in rhyme. But then I came up with a few funny verses, and we were off and running. I’d like to use this remedy again, but it would have to be the right subject.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When the editor and I have wrestled it into a story that seems to have written itself—that’s the goal anyway.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

Today The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 6, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 7, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.)

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Cynthia Leitich Smith

in Creative Process/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week kicks off with Cynthia Leitich Smith, the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, Diabolical, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story. Her award-winning books for younger children include Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, and Holler Loudly.

Please join Cynthia and The Editor for Day 1 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit”from The Editor.

In addition to the kudos Cynthia Leitich Smith gets for her many books for young readers, her website www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column. And she is a frequent speaker and writing instructor. Some serious multitasking going on here! In fact, Cynthia replied to DearEditor.com’s questions about revision as the final draft of her newest teen novel was rolling out of her desktop printer.

*After Cynthia’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

1. How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

It varies wildly from project to project and has changed over the course of my career. My latest picture book, Holler Loudly, was completed over six years and significantly re-imagined several times. However, there were countless “tweak” drafts along the way.

Back when every novel I wrote was wholly new, I used to write a “discovery draft” wherein, after some prewriting, I plunged in and wrote a full story (with a beginning, middle, and end—say, 35,000 to 60,000 words) to get to know my protagonists, their goals and their world. When I was done, I would print it. Read it. Toss it. And delete the file. It sounds harsh, I know. But the idea was to take some of the pressure off. Nobody but me would ever read that dreaded first draft. And I certainly wasn’t planning to build on such a shaky foundation.

With the Tantalize series and its new spin-off Smolder series, I’m largely revisiting previously featured characters—sometimes promoting a sidekick or ally to hero—so I don’t need to start as if from scratch.

Also, over the years, I’ve shifted from a writer shopping completed, polished manuscripts to one who sells on proposal. Even though the execution of those stories may vary from the original concept, that still requires me to do a lot of big-picture thinking up front. (Watch the Tantalize trailer here.)

2. Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Of late, I tend to send the third draft.

3. How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

Anywhere from one to three rounds of revision—typically two, plus copy edits and pass pages.

4. Do you use critique partners?

I used to be in a wonderful critique group, but then I started teaching MFA students and found that I could only read thoughtfully for so many writers. At the moment, my only critique partner is my husband and sometimes co-author, Greg Leitich Smith. We’re tougher and more frank with each other than we’d ever be with anyone else. A comment might read: “No way is this going out of the house with the family name on it.”

That said, I don’t generally recommend having a family member as key reader. I’ve seen it create conflict that goes beyond the page. Keep in mind that Greg is in the business—he’s well-published himself—and we met as first-year law students, so we’re long used to working together in a competitive context.

5. Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

Not really. I have this unshakable belief that the answers to every story are somewhere in those early drafts. We just have to read our own writing carefully enough to find them.

6. What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

Eternal, a love story between a vampire princess and her “slipped” (not fallen) guardian angel, was originally a love story between a vampire princess and the son of Santa Claus. He was an elf. A short elf named Topher. The working title was “Fangs and Mistletoe,” which I still think is adorable. Santa died in that original draft, and those of you who write for young readers should take special note of the following: You should probably not kill Santa Claus in a book. Especially a book for kids.

Trust me on that one.

It was my editor’s assistant who suggested substituting an angel, and we released Eternal a season before the angel trend hit. I’ve been asked how I knew vampires—and then angels—would be big in YA. I had no idea. I was just writing the kind of books I’d loved to read as a teenager. (Watch Eternal trailer here.)

7. How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When I have nothing left to give, and my editor starts making concerned noises about shuffling the manuscript off to the copy editor, which oddly, always seems to happen at about the same time.…

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is celebrating Revision Week by giving away a FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 5, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 6, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.)

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this Revision Week giveaway to get additional entries today. Send an email to DearEditor.com with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title and full name in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Welcome to DearEditor.com’s 2012 Revision Week!

in Creative Process/Giveaways/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

This week DearEditor.com brings together eight prolific, bestselling, award-winning authors for a week of revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches. Learn from writers who turn first drafts into lauded books every day—and enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand prize Full Manuscript Edit giveaway.

*Giveaway directions will be posted each with the interviews, starting tomorrow.

Welcome to a week of free edit giveaways (directions to be posted each day starting tomorrow) and revision advice and insights like these…

Cynthia Leitich Smith, bestselling YA gothic novelist, picture book writer, short story writer, and popular children’s lit blogger: “Back when every novel I wrote was wholly new, I used to write a “discovery draft” wherein, after some prewriting, I plunged in and wrote a full story (with a beginning, middle, and end—say, 35,000 to 60,000 words) to get to know my protagonists, their goals and their world. When I was done, I would print it. Read it. Toss it. And delete the file.”

Kathleen Krull, author of more than 60 books, especially picture books and biographies for young readers: “When I get to the point of taking out commas and putting them back in again, I feel ready to send it off.”

R.L. LaFevers, author of the 13 novels for young people, including the popular middle grade series Theodosia Throckmorton and Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist, and now the forthcoming His Fair Assassin YA trilogy: “There is a point where you aren’t necessarily making it better—just making it different. Or so I try to tell myself.”

Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and Theo Baker, popular chapter book collaborators: “[With collaborations] you have to be very flexible in your negotiations so both parties come away feeling ownership of the final draft, and also very sensitive not to make it a critique of your partner’s talents but a decision of what works best at any given moment in the manuscript.”

Mark A. Clements, horror/suspense author, screenwriter, and prolific ghostwriter: “I never share even slightly rough material and I don’t seek out advice on how to ‘fix’ something. I don’t believe in writing by committee.”

Nathan Bransford, top blogger and former literary agent-turned-author of the Jacob Wonderbar middle grade books: “I was a very hands-on agent. I always thought it was important to make sure the manuscript was as good as possible before going out to editors.”

rachel caineUPDATE: The Editor is honored to add a BONUS interview – Rachel Caine! Rachel is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the YA series The Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series.

 

Thank you for joining us. Tomorrow, Cynthia Leitich Smith pulls back the curtain on the revision process…

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