Saturday, August 25, 2012

Writing is Revising (Except When It's Not)

So, we thought we’d give you our take on revising today. Only, revising is hard to talk about. There are websites and blogs that’ll tell you that there’s only one way to revise/draft/write, and personally, those irritate the fudgesicles out of me. Writing is different for everyone, so I can’t tell you how to revise. I can’t tell you what will work for you.

That said, I’ve just spent the majority of the last year revising. I can tell you what worked for me and what didn’t. The first draft of my novel on subs, WILDFLOWER, was started when I was fourteen. I began querying it on the day before I turned fifteen. And it went out on subs in the middle of this past July. There are some serious time lapses between those three dates. Guess what I was doing. Your choices are:

a)      Procrastinating
b)      Revising
c)      Forgetting to do homework
d)     All of the above

If you guessed answer D, you are one smarticle particle. Have a cookie.

I tried using index cards. I tried using sticky notes. I tried making notes on my mirror with Expo markers. I tried typing out my ideas. I tried writing longhand. I tried eating ice cream. I tried lying on the floor and shooting Nerf guns at the ceiling. I tried Sharpie’ing trash cans. And then I figured out that there were really only three things I needed to revise.

1. Admit that my book wasn’t perfect. Consciously, I knew this. But there was always that one scene that I knew was rather pointless, but didn’t want to cut because it was cute. Or that one character I know wasn’t quite developed, but managed to give myself an excuse as to why. Or that one plot hole that’s small enough that most people won’t notice, but would cause a lot of trouble to patch up. Basically, I had to stop being lazy; I knew that the book had problems, but that didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t willing to face them.
2. A critique partner. I can’t stress this enough. The first eight or so revision of my novel were done without a single second opinion. Your novel can only grow to a certain point if you are the only one looking over it. A critique partner is an invaluable resource, something I learned the hard way.
3. Time to think. Not about the way Jill Johnson’s hair looked like today. Not about what to wear to that party this weekend. Not about Boy X’s cute freckle. About your book. About what it’s problems are. About the notes your critique partners have sent you. About which suggestions are right on the spot, and which ones don’t align with your vision of your book. A lot of people suggest physical activity at this point, something I’ve never found to help (mostly because I would tell myself to think through a plot knot, and then get on the tennis courts and only think about how to hit aces. And then, of course, fail at both of my intentions). But maybe it’ll work for you. Maybe it won’t. Experiment a bit until you figure out what works for you, and then stick with it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

In Which Mark and Amy Travel to Victorian England and Spew Banter

A: So, Mr. O'Brien. If you had one superpower, what would it be? And more importantly, what would your superhero name be? Serious questions. Could change the world, you know

M: The power to believe it's not butter, my dearest Amelia Bedelia. My superhero name would be Maury. So, Ms. Zhang, I understand you are a pedophile. There's no question here; I'm just letting the public know.

A: Mr. O'Brien. We have an audience consisting of innocent children. As we are both likely to be roped into this category, perhaps we should discuss something loosely G-rated.

M: Indeed. Options include:

•Hot Pockets
•Capri Sun
•Easy-Bake Ovens

It's your choice, Ms. Zhang.

A: Our EasyBake oven had a cockroach infestation. So we threw it out. I still have nightmares.

M: I always wanted one (an Easy-Bake Oven, not a cockroach infestation) but was too afraid to ask. It's a mad world, Ms. Zhang.

A: Let me assure you, Mr. O'Brien, that they ain't all that. Of course, this opinion could be due to my lack of cooking skills. Oh. I've just realized that was probably supposed to pick "writing."

M: All That was my favorite '90s Nickelodeon show. Not that the '90s have happened yet! We are in Victorian England, my dear Ms. Zhang. (I think.) Indubitably, we probably should've picked writing. Seems to be the wiser choice.

A: Of course. Writing is always the correct answer.

M: Yeah. Writing. No. Writing. Focus, Mark. Focus.

A: Right. Writing. I'm doing it right now. And reading. I'm doing that now, too.

M: Oh, me too! And, y'know, feeding homeless hospitalized orphans. *dares you to challenge that*

A: Yeah? Well I'm assisting the elderly. Well, I'm helping my parents move things. Gosh, I hope they don't read this. They're not like, OLD, really. Not really.

M: I am UNkicking puppies. Beat that one, twin.

A: I am traveling to Antarctica to save the endangered ice caps. SO THERE.

M: I petted a chinchilla. Your argument is invalid.

A: I HELD a chinchilla. His name was Carlos and I was in constant terror that he would pee on my hands. But we were speaking of writing, Mr. O'Brien.

M: ...oh. Yes. Writing. Ms. Zhang, I plan on participating in NaNoWriMo. You simply must join me.

A: Mr. O'Brien, you are very well aware that I have just completed a novel that is in desperate need of revising. Also, my parents are cracking down on my SAT studying habits (or lack thereof), so I must decline with the greatest of regrets.

M: Ms. Zhang, I don't seem to recall there being a question in there. "You simply must join me" is polite British talk for "You're joining me, $!(@."

A: I think you forgot a letter, Mr. O'Brien. Unless you were insinuating something even more malicious than I previously understood, in which case I require at least five minutes to think of a sharp and witty comeback.

M: I'll give you your five minutes while eating these marvelous biscuits, fish & chips, tea, crisps, and other stereotypical and/or British-name-ified snack foods. Go on.

A:'re...a qualified BUTTHEADPINETREE. So there.

M: You know what?


Yeah. Taylor Swift. YEAH.

A: You're MEAN.

M: I may be MEAN, but at least I'm not COLD AS YOU.

A: Well, *comebacks are not Amy's forte, so she'll make a hasty subject change* Sometimes I eat all around a cheeseball so it looks like an apple core.

M: I've never eaten, had, or come into contact with a large cheeseball. Is that strange?

A: Our church feeds them to us because they're cheap and holey. HA.

M: George are you making ear jokes again 8|

A: Yeah I is. *puffs out chest proudly*

M: *refrains from the obvious joke that would objectify you because I'M NICE OKAY*

A: Dear world, Mark O'Brien secretly carries around a pair of fake D-cups in his man-purse. So there.


A: If you insist....

Oh, wait. Writing. Um. Would you like to share some tips, Mr. O'Brien?

M: Well, Ms. Zhang, the best tip I've received is to just sit down, shut up, and write. Don't procrastinate; don't spend hours online searching writing advice (unless it is on For Love of YA, of course, because we are awesome). Just WRITE.

And what advice would you like to share, Ms. Zhang?

A: Let's see. The best piece of writing advice I ever got was--


Mark! Can you hear me? Can you--

*more static*


Okay STOP I have dug up my old telegraph machine tappy thingy because my house has shut down all twenty-first century communication so we will have to deal STOP What was I saying STOP


A: I have an umpa lumpa tapping this out in Morse Code for me right now STOP Sorry, peeps STOP Me and my lack of technical skills STOP Well, y'all know STOP STOP STOP That was supposed to be an ellipsis STOP

M: You better not feed that oompa loompa after midnight or else time will stop STOP

A: It's okay I'm paying it in golden eggs and glass slippers STOP Maybe I should ask it to revise my novel, too STOP Because I'm not doing so hot at the moment STOP

M: Actually that's not too bad of an idea STOP Can I get an oompa loompa too UPWARD INFLECTION

A: And here Amy cracks up in an appropriate manner STOP So, revising STOP What are your thoughts on it, Mister O'Brien STOP

M: I STOP Hate STOP It STOP I'm a much bigger fan of drafting STOP I'd ask you PAUSE Ms STOP Zhang PAUSE but I already know you hate it STOP

A: Actually, for me, it differs from manuscript to manuacript STOP I LOVED revising my last WIP, WILDFLOWER STOP I LOVED drafting this WIP, but I'm not so taken with revisions this time STOP

M: Which is your polite way of saying "They make me want to stab my own eyeballs out with a fork STOP"


M: Ms STOP Zhang PAUSE there's no need to lie to our readers STOP

A: No, really, Mister O'Brien STOP I am not a revision hater STOP Editing and I, however, are not friends STOP Mostly because it demands a small thing known as patience STOP

M: Sure, Ms. Zhang. I'll just glance at you warily from over here, with my tea and crumpets and parasol.


M: *twirls with parasol*

A: Charter has fixed my email. So, Mr. O'Brien. Let's talk editing and the benefits of it. Such as, you probably won't have to study for the Writing section on your SATs.

M: Very true, Ms. Zhang! And your English papers will all be wonderful because everyone else will only do one draft and you'll do, like, seven.

A: Well, yes! Your teachers will kick you out of exams because you're taking too long on your essay!

M: Yeah! And... chicken turtlenecks!

A: Mr. O'Brien, shall we discuss the correct plural of platypus?

M: Platypus. Right?

A: I thought it was platypi...

M: I think it's like "hair" and "sheep" wherein the plural is the singular.

A: Are you certain it isn't platypossum, Mr. O'Brien?

M: Perhaps it's platyp***y?

A: G-rated, Mr. O'Brien.

M: Believe me, that's as G-rated as I can get.

A: *sighs* *mutters about teenage boys* All right, Mark Flinn O'Brien. Shall we conclude?

M: Right ho! Live from New York, I'm Mark O'Brien, she's a carefully disguised giraffe, and we'll see you here next week! Or something. Well, we won't really SEE you, but... y'know what we mean. Do you? Ugh. Bad analogy. Do you want me to draw it out? I have a pen and paper right here; it's no problem—