So recently, I finished the first draft of my WIP Chloe. I’ve sent it off to a few betas, and am now making revisions because they were super fast. I also had the first 120 pages critiqued by Gabriela Lessa through our WIP coaching session. If you want more information on what we did, slide over to the right and hit WIP Coaching under my tag menu for all my posts. The critique was the last part of our coaching session.
Two things I learned. (Okay, more than that, but I’m talking bigger things.)
-I sometimes under-develop important scenes. So I need to give some more internalization by Chloe during and after the scene.
-My other problem is having a hard time recognizing when I’m telling. This is so much harder to do in your own work, and I know I’m not the only one with this problem.
One funny thing. When Gabriela read my first 50 pages (before I’d revised and submitted the 120), she found 2 problems. Murphy, the best friend, and Sasha, the girlfriend, weren’t developed well enough. Gabriela didn’t have any big reason to like them. No connection there.
When I resubmitted the 120, I knew what I’d done with Sasha wasn’t enough, but I still sent it off. And she called me on that. I should’ve trusted my instincts. So that’s another thing I need to fix.
My last big change also came due to her comments. I needed to move a few scenes back—something she had suggested earlier. But when I sent this ms off to her, the end wasn’t finished, and I didn’t know exactly where my first turning point would fall. Well, it fell too late, at about 40% in. So now I’m working on that too. It doesn’t affect things drastically, but I have to revise some scenes and do some other small additions. Luckily, it’s falling into place easily.
I’ve got some work to do, with everything from Gabriela and the other betas. The coaching session was a great help. It was great to get help from someone in the publishing industry, and she kept me on track and showed me many thing I hadn’t known. I learned a lot, and hopefully those things will carry over to my next WIP too.
If you haven’t been to Gabriela’s site, go check her out.
FYI: I’ve been working with Gabriela Lessa on my newest WIP Chloe, so that’s what this is about. Check out her site to learn more about WIP coaching.
I had my final WIP coaching Skype session with Gabi where she reviewed my first 50 pages. Now it’s time to purge and merge because apparently I have a few unnecessary characters, which muddle up the story.
So I’m sorry, but Gia, Dirk and Byron… you’re all gone.
So why are they gone?
Just to give you background, Chloe is an 18 year old freshman in college. Murphy becomes her best friend. Sasha becomes her girlfriend. Devyn is Chloe’s suitemate at the dorms.
Gia. She is Chloe’s suitemate in the dorms, roommate to Devyn. She’s not as important overall because Chloe has more of a connection to Devyn. And I haven’t really gotten their characters down, so Devyn and Gia are not that different. So I am merging Gia into Devyn and making her Chloe’s roommate. (Why didn’t I just do that in the first place?) This will take a little work as Gia’s name pops up a lot and I’ll have to adjust a few minor scenes, but no big issues with that.
Dirk: He is a friend of Murphy’s who doesn’t make a physical appearance in the story and is only referenced every now and again. Now Murphy has 2 other friends who are more important, who I don’t want to get rid of. Buy why have Dirk (who is mentioned early on) if I’m not using him? He’s not important really, so Dirk got the ax.
Byron: He is Sasha’s fiancé. He also does not make an appearance but is only there for backstory on Sasha. But the problem is that this backstory sort of creates little mysteries about Sasha that I don’t really want or need. Gabi explained that because I referenced him enough, the readers might expect something of him in the story—those little mysteries I mentioned. I think when I first starting thinking this story over, I considered bringing the ex-fiancé in, a bad guy who shows up to cause trouble. But the story didn’t go that way and he never shows. So Byron gets the ax too, as I will take out some of this Sasha backstory and he will be referred to as her fiancé.
So goodbye to Gia, Dirk and Byron—we won’t miss you.
Obviously not all characters have a starring role, but I’m learning that I need to figure out who is important and who isn’t. Then get rid of the ones I don’t need.
So do you ever have too many unnecessary characters in your WIPs?
And is it easy to remove them?
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.
WIP Coaching Update: I don’t have much to say about WIP Coaching because now I’m putting Gabi to work. We spoke this week about my ‘homework’ and went over some questions I had. Now she is going to critique my first fifty and let me know what some of my big problems are. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.
So onto selling yourself.
Last week I attended the North Dakota Society of Professional Engineers annual engineering conference. I rode up early with my dad, who had a meeting to attend. I had one full day to myself with nothing to do and no kids around. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing writing stuff. (Stuff being writing, editing, blogging…) Then I met with a college friend and her kids and had a great afternoon. I wish I had more days like that.
The annual conference was a day and a half and consists of a business meeting, a banquet and lots of seminars. Licensed professional engineers renew their license every two years (at least where I live) and one of the requirements is 30 hours of continuing ed.
At one of the seminars, I had to write a pitch… for myself. Or a personal branding statement as the speaker from Dale Carnegie Business group called it.
And she only gave us five minutes.
That’s not long enough and I struggled. I don’t do much engineering work so how could I put into words a way to sell myself? There were some questions to help you develop your statement.
*What qualities or characteristics do you have that cause you to stand out from others in your field? Umm, I’m a woman. That’s all I came up with. And by the way, there were only three women attending this conference out of fifty people, so I think that qualifies. But since I haven’t worked full time since my son was born 7 years ago, I don’t have a specialty I’ve developed.
*What would your colleagues or clients say if your greatest strength? You mean my kids; I suppose they’re my only colleagues. I make a good mac and cheese, maybe.
*What do you do that adds or brings remarkable, measurable, distinctive value to other people and organizations? I’m a good listener. (But how does that relate to engineering?) Most of my projects have been fairly standard and unremarkable, so once again, I had nothing.
What I came up with was pathetic. And luckily, I got to read it to a total stranger because the DC session was very interactive. I’m not a fan of interactive sessions, especially when the speaker can call on you. The other guy’s was very good and he admitted he’d done this all before, but it made mine look all the more sad.
So what I already knew was that I’m no good at selling myself. This will have to change when I become published because writers need to promote themselves and their books. But for some reason, selling my book doesn’t seem as hard as selling my engineering skills. Maybe it is, I guess I’ll find out when I get there.
Are you good at selling yourself or your writing?
This is the kind of homework I did in college. I found this picture and though cool, I could’ve done this exact problem. This problem is easy because there’s only one right answer.
But with writing, it’s more complicated. I have to figure out the question. Then the answer. Then go back and figure out how to get to the answer.
So my homework will help me focus on how to get everything in between. Here are the things I need to determine.
-Chloe’s long-term goals
-Chloe’s short-term goals
-Chloe’s character flaws, which keep her from getting those goals
-Who Chloe is at the beginning and at the end (and for all the other important characters)
Additionally, I need to look at my plotting, by determining:
-the inciting incident that puts everything in motion
-the turning points, the crucial moments that change the direction of the story
-the black moment, when everything has fallen apart
-the ah-ha moment, when Chloe figures it out
Plus I needed to re-write things because I will be sending her my first 40-50 pages instead of 20. It’s a good thing I had two weeks this time, because I never would’ve finished this by the week after Easter.
I’ve got my first 50 pages. I re-arranged and added a new scene. I have most of the goals and now I need to decide how a few of the supporting characters change.
So for other writers out there, do you do things like these? Does it help you?
I had my second coaching Skype sessions with Gabriela Lessa. In preparation, I sent her my list of characters, list of scenes (the end not quite figured out), and my story calendar.
Wow. Lots of stuff to think about. Too many things flew through my head after we finished. (Shoulda’ taken more notes.) I’m still wondering… did I get this all right? Am I mixing stuff up in my head?
Information overload! (Thank goodness I can e-mail her any time I have a question) And I hope she doesn’t read this just in case I messed up something that she said!
I had another decision to make. What were the long-term goals for my main character Chloe? I had thought it was for Chloe to become comfortable with her sexuality and to repair the broken relationship with her mother.
Then Gabi also asked me what relationship I wanted to concentrate on. The relationship of: Chloe/mother or Chloe/love interest or Chloe/brother?
I thought it was for Chloe and her mother, but as I looked through what I had written, I realized that the Chloe/love interest relationship was most important. Chloe still needs to repair the relationship with her mother, but it’s not the main core of my story. If I wanted it to be Chloe/mother, I would have to make some major changes. But that’s not what I wanted.
So anyways, the long-term goal for Chloe was to become comfortable with who she was. And the love interest was the main tool that helped her get there. That’s settled.
I had given Gabi a list of scenes, some I’ve written, some not and my first twenty pages. She pointed out a few things.
My first chapter included a scene with Chloe and her two college suitemates at a frat party. Gabi didn’t think that was a good idea because my first pages gave the wrong impression to the reader—that it was sort of a chick-litish story—which was not my intention.
Also I don’t want to have a scene just to introduce some characters. And really, that’s all it was. There was no goal for Chloe and it didn’t really move the story forward. It was just a way to introduce Chloe’s suitemates and the guy who becomes her friend. Taking it out won’t affect the story.
Additionally, starting with a frat party isn’t that interesting or unique and since the two suitemates don’t have that big of role in the story, why would I start with them?
So I will rearrange and probably take out the frat party chapter/scene.
Gabi pointed out another thing. I need to make sure I get my focus right. I was focusing too much on the action and not enough on how much it affects Chloe. How does it change her inside? What is her reaction to what happened? Not that I didn’t do this at all, but I concentrated more on the action than the results of that action.
As I said, it was information overload, and I’m trying to keep everything straight. We covered a lot in a short time.
Gabi gave me some “homework,” but I’ll write about that next week because otherwise this post will get too long. I won’t be talking to her this week because there’s no way I’ll get all my homework done since the kids have 3 days off of school and it’s Easter weekend.
I’m excited because since we last talked, I finally figured out how I want the story to end. I have these little itches to write, but I have other questions to consider and some backstory issues to work out first. Plus I need to re-write my early stuff. So I’ll try ignore those itches.
But it’s hard.
Now off to eat more of these.
First: Good luck to all those in the A-Z Challenge. I was a little overwhelmed about taking it on, so I didn’t. Now I’m thinking it’ll still be overwhelming because so many people on my reading list are participating and for April. Google Reader is going to fill up quick! How do I keep up?
I announced last week I won a Gabriela Lessa’s Best Future Manuscript Contest, which means I get the chance to have Gabi be my writing coach.
WIP Coaching. What is it?
A writing coach helps you finish your manuscript by making you stick to deadlines, helping with plotting and tightening your writing and anything else you might need during your writing process.
I had my first Skype session with Gabi this week to discuss CHLOE. AT that time, I was at 21,000 words, have the beginning and middle planned, but not the end. My big question/decision was, what direction did I want to take with CHLOE?
The issue was whether to add a mystery angle to my story, making a suicide into a murder that Chloe discovers? After talking with Gabi, I feel confident saying no to the mystery angle. This story is not a full-blown mystery and so throwing that in sort of complicates not only the genre, but might create too many other issues. I think just talking about it aloud helped figure out things, because I’d never been set on making into a mystery.
So now I know this story is about Chloe’s life and how she finds herself as she’s discovering the horrible things that lead to her brother’s suicide.
That settled. Whew-but I still don’t know the ending yet. I’m writing my ideas down, but not sure exactly what the climax will be.
The next thing Gabi suggested doing was an outline and learning about plotting, because that was one of my big writing issues: plotting and pacing. I can recognize my writing weaknesses, but plotting and pacing issues are not so easy for me to see.
Do you outline before you write?
I don’t, being more of a pantster. When I’ve finished a big chunk of writing, I’ll sort of outline, writing down the order of things. Then I might look at how to change the sequence, but half my ideas don’t come until after I’ve started writing.
These are my next things to accomplish. (Along with continuing to write)
*Outlining. I tried setting up an old-fashioned outline in Word. Why is it so darn hard? I’ve given up and decided to do it in Excel. I assume every author does thing differently, so my outline will be sparse—as in the general idea of a chapter/scene.
*Learning about plotting. I’m actually going to get some books and read about how you should plot novels. I found one book on the Marshall Plan—that is so not for me. But I’ll also look at the three-act structure too. Of course I won’t write according to these ideas, but I’ll probably get my story written and then see how it fits into these plot structure ideas. It may then help me see my problems and issues.
Anyways, I’m curious about other writers. For those planners out there, do you carefully follow a plotting style? And for the pantsters, after you’ve written your story, do you analyze your plot according to a certain plotting style?