Revise it first

Ed. Note — I sure wish I’d read this advice for authors when I was writing my own first novel. Alas, Lily hadn’t written it yet. Here it is now, though — some hardheaded writing advice from fellow author Lily Bishop, author of No Strings Attached. I, for one, am paying attention.

Revise it First
by Lily Bishop

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These days, everyone wants new content. Indie authors are pushed to get more titles out there, and to follow up on those sequels. But how can you produce novel-length works faster without sacrificing quality?

My big tip: Don’t Edit Until you Revise

You’ve finished the first draft of your book. Congratulations! Now put it away. Yes, I’m serious. Put it away for a few weeks. Ruminate on the ending. Think about your character’s goals. Give it to your spouse to read.

Revising Tips

After at least a week (some people say longer), sit down and read it cover to end without doing any edits. If you must, highlight parts that you stumbled over, but don’t rewrite them yet. Try to read it in as uninterrupted stretch as possible, over one or two days.

Ask yourself these questions:
• Are you starting at the beginning of the action?
• If you have flashbacks, are they short and absolutely important?
• Are your character’s goals clear?
• If you are writing a romance, does your male character have his own story arc?
• Did you raise the stakes enough?
• If you are writing in the romance genre, is your ending happy or at least happy for now? If it’s not, and you’re committed to that ending, please don’t classify it as romance – you’ll have some very dissatisfied readers.
• Does the ending resonate with you now that you’ve read the book straight through?
• If the ending is a twist, were the seeds planted early in the story? Or is an unknown god or character rushing in to save the day (Deus ex machina)?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s not time to edit. You need to look for key scenes where you can flesh out the characters’ goals or elevate the stakes. If you still feel it’s done, now you can tackle editing.

Editing Tips
Edit for flow:
Where do your chapters end? Does each chapter end with a question, something to keep the reader turning the (virtual) page?

Are your chapters roughly the same word count? Sometimes during the revision process, chapters expand and shrink as words are added or deleted.

Do you balance heavy action scenes with times for the characters to reflect? You don’t have to, but sometimes that can help with the pacing if the story feels rushed. Make sure each scene moves the story.

If it doesn’t, cut it.

Edit dialog:
Do you have pages with long strings of one-line dialog that is unbroken with any narrative? This type of dialog can look a bit like a tennis match. Break it up with dialog beats, little actions that let the reader picture the speakers.

Do you have buried dialog? Buried dialog is spoken words in the middle of a large paragraph. Try to start or end the paragraph with dialog, or have it stand alone. Don’t stick it in the middle of exposition.

Strengthen your verbs:
Search for “was” and “is”, and gerunds (walking, running, speaking, etc). These are weaker verbs. See what you can do to strengthen them.

Strengthen description:
Do you have huge paragraphs consisting of nothing but description? Look for ways to break it up or focus on only a few key details.

Show don’t tell, and don’t do both. (A character can have an angry reaction (slamming a door) but you don’t need to add angrily. The same is true for restating dialog in the narrative.

Bottom Line:
Don’t start editing (working on language) until you are completely happy with the story (revisions).

A Hard Lesson
I learned this lesson the hard way. No Strings Attached took four years to write, with massive time breaks in between because I couldn’t decide what to do with it.

I wrote a version for the Golden Heart Competition for Romance Writers’ Association (RWA) that I was fairly satisfied with, but I never liked the ending. There was also a really long flashback that completely disrupted the flow. The flashback was almost a third of the book. When I rewrote it, I moved the flashback to flow sequentially, and I completely changed the ending. Again, I was fairly happy with it, and I edited and polished to my hearts’ content.

But then, when I read it again, the ending still didn’t resonate. My main character had slipped into a passive rut, and she was sitting around not advancing her goals or her story. She was letting everything happen to her, and a good bit of the final action was “off camera,” meaning she found out what had happened third-hand.

The last rewrite had her in the thick of the action, and read much stronger. I was finally satisfied with the ending, but I wasted a ton of time in the process.

How I fixed the process with my current book, Under His Protection, the sequel to No Strings:
When I finished the first draft, I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. My husband read it, and he wasn’t either. So I rewrote the last chapter, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

Now I’m on the third attempt at an ending, and this one resonates, but my editor in her initial read-through said that it felt rushed. So I’m in the process of slowing down the last chapter, pacing it out, making sure I’m not introducing new elements that haven’t been explained before.

The difference? I didn’t edit the entire book three times. I’m focusing on the part that was giving me trouble, and once it’s set, I will go through the editing steps above. So I’ve intentionally stayed away from style issues until I’m done with the story.

The end result? Under His Protection will take about a year, instead of four. I’m also not taking six months off while I try to figure out what to do.

Revising and editing are hard work, and you can also edit the life out of a story. My hope is to go through one edit cycle with this one, and then send it to my editor for her polish. She did a quick read-through and already told me areas that I can work on to strengthen the story.

With those notes in hand, I’m moving forward.

The hardest thing to do is to push those baby birds out of the nest.

About Lily and No Strings Attached
Lily Bishop published her first novel No Strings Attached, in May 2013.

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It’s a contemporary romantic suspense set in exotic locations like Vegas, Miami, and then the Bahamas.

Laura Todd travels to Las Vegas to do a presentation for her company in the hopes of gaining a promised promotion from administrative assistant to consultant. While she’s in Vegas, she meets a consultant for the hotel industry, and they hit it off.

Fox Thornton is impressed by Laura’s presentation, and she’s not bad at the blackjack table either. They feel a connection, and the heat between them increases.

Unfortunately, like all weekend romances, everything ends too quickly and they both return to separate cities. Then Laura learns that the owner of her company has hired Fox to investigate why profits are down for their office, and unknown to her, she’s the primary suspect.

Can Fox trust the connection he feels for her, or has Laura been playing him like for a fool? Can Laura get past his suspicions and still move her career ahead? Or is her career, and her love life, dead in the water?

Available at Amazon

You can view the book trailer on YouTube

Here’s an excerpt

You can follow Lily at her blog, Don’t Call Me Sugar, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLilyBishop, and on Twitter.

Lily can also be found at GoodReads. Add No Strings Attached to your To-Be-Read list today.

She is currently polishing the sequel to No Strings Attached, Under His Protection.

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Why I Chose Telekinesis For My Protagonist: Powers for Personalities

Ed. Note ~ I read and reviewed at Honest Indie Book Reviews Jayme Beddingfield’s edgy, dark The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift in November. I loved how Jayme made main character Ruby Dawson — telekinetic bad girl with a conscience — equally powerful, frightening, sympathetic and vulnerable.

With the release of the sequel, The Death of Miss Mind Shift, Jayme explains why she gifted and afflicted her protagonist with telekinesis.

Why I Chose Telekinesis For My Protagonist: Powers for Personalities
by Jayme Beddingfield, author of The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift and The Death of Miss Mind Shift

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Emerald City Nights wasn’t always a story filled with superpowers. The supernatural elements joined the story when I was about halfway through my second draft of The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift which was originally titled Here In Emerald City.

All four volumes were outlined and I was already knee deep in the first book and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. I set it down and did some thinking. My thinking turned into a lot of comic book reading. During that time I read stacks of Spiderman and X-Men comics. One particular storyline I read several times during that time period was The Dark Phoenix Saga. Then, as you may have guessed I figured out what was missing — superpowers.

When writing a story, every aspect of the characters is worth exploring. When I discovered that the missing piece was in fact superpowers, I knew I had to choose my characters’ abilities carefully. Their personalities needed to be considered — I wanted to find them powers that complemented them — abilities that helped tell their stories.

The first power I set out to find was Ruby’s. Ruby already was dealing with the fact that the people she was closest to were terrible for her. The choices she made were far from good ones (including stealing to make a living). Ruby knew that. She was also already caught between drug-addicted and destructive Tristan and his friend Brody, who was, surprisingly enough, quite good for her.

That is what I started repeating in my head — good, bad — something everyone deals with. Decisions matter; who you surround yourself with matters. So what power could I give her that would emphasize this struggle between right versus wrong? I wrote down in one of my notebooks, “What power could pit Ruby’s mind against her body?”

Then I wrote down, “Telekinesis.”

What if Ruby’s body wasn’t strong enough to handle what her mind could do and what if her mind began to turn against her? What would the symptoms be? The story picks up after Ruby has been part of this crew of criminals (the closest thing she’s had to a family since she was a child) and has been using her powers to kill and steal for far too long. So I made Ruby unable to keep food down and gave her a drinking problem. Her body is also physically weak from using her powers, she feels drained and sick after she uses them, and as long as she keeps using her powers this will only get worse.

Ruby

I throw my thoughts across the room and wrap them around the dark, glass bottle. A cold sensation runs along my veins. My mind brings the bottle closer. A sharp pain tightens behind my ears. My stomach twists uncomfortably. My hand wraps around the bottle and my mind relaxes. Warm liquid drips onto my upper lip. I reach out and touch it with my weary fingertips. I look down and see blood. A hollow feeling swirls in my chest. My stomach jerks, sending a rush of warm fluid up my throat. I heave and hunch over. I slam my eyes shut. My surroundings shift. I struggle to stand. My knees give out. I hit the floor and open my eyes.

I also thought giving Ruby nightmares and hallucinations was necessary. Ruby’s body isn’t strong enough to handle her telekinesis and her mind works against her over time.

A heavy breath warms my neck. The breathing is so loud I can’t hear anything else. I look around me. People’s mouths are moving but I can’t hear what they are saying. Where is that breathing coming from? I peel my back off the wall. The wall is gone. An opening to a cave stares back at me. My head is spinning: my stomach clenches. A deep laugh booms out from the darkness. My heart is racing. I take a step back. Two large, green hands with sharp, yellow claws reach out and grab my waist. I am being pulled in.

One of my favorite comic book characters of all time is Jean Grey, without a doubt. I could watch Jean Grey move people around like chess pieces all day. I wanted to take advantage of the medium I was using and really get into what it felt like to use telekinesis every day which is why the story is in first person present tense — to really allow Ruby to show the readers what it feels like to physically move things with the mind —

I close my eyes, visualizing being inside of the dark safe. I imagine my hand fanning out in three directions, as thin as liquid and strong as an army of powerhouses. My mind slides into the tiny space between the safe wall and its heavy steel door. With all the strength of my thoughts, I press down on the locking mechanisms and push them back into the door itself. I hear the click. I feel the give. I open my eyes. The door is open.

Emerald City Nights Volume 2: The Death of Miss Mind Shift

After years of misery and evil-doing, Ruby is out of Madison’s crew. Ruby no longer makes a living out of others’ misfortune. Ruby, Brody, and Darcy try their best to live as a family unit. During the day they act as the rest, working regular jobs and attending school. At night they disguise themselves as Miss Mind Shift, Captain Matter, and Serpentine. Known to the city as The Seattle Supers.

It has been eight months since the night Madison and Julian disappeared behind the wall of fire. For eight months The Supers have spent that time defending the streets and stopping crime. Ruby continues to use her telekinesis, weakening her body every day. Her dreams and hallucinations are now much worse. Ruby knows she doesn’t have much longer if she keeps using her powers but how can she give up such a big part of who she is? When Madison returns with a bigger threat than could have ever been imagined can Ruby hang on long enough to defeat her?

Up Coming Book Tour Dates:
1/13/14 Indie Writers Review

Find Jayme’s books on her Amazon page and at Barnes and Noble.

Follow Jayme on Twitter @mebeddingfield
Friend her on Facebook
Visit Jayme’s blog: jaymebeddingfield.tumblr.com

And on Goodreads.

Jayme Beddingfield

Jayme Beddingfield

Jayme Beddingfield studied creative writing at Brigham Young University. Originally from Northern New Jersey she now lives in Seattle, the city that helped to inspire her series Emerald City Nights. She lives with her husband, two children, five cats and 2 dogs. Jayme has been writing stories since grade school and has been writing professionally for about four years. Having a broken laptop when writing The Adventures of Miss Mind Shift, Jayme wrote the entire book on her iPad. She uses Pathfinder character sheets as model for her character profiles and pathfinder style battle maps to build the battle scenes that are in the series. Her love for X-Men and Spiderman played a big part in inspiring the series. Her interests include reading (favorite genres are Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Superhero fiction, Dystopian, and Literary Fiction), comic books (mainly Marvel), video games with strong story lines (she will be forever obsessed with The Last of Us), tabletop games, post apocalyptic universes, and spending time with her family and pets.