Saturday, August 16, 2008

Notes from Lisa Yee's Revision Session

Wow, what a boring title for such an inspiring session. (And Lisa Yee is nothing if not inspiring.)

But the class was anything but boring. In fact, she made a few people cry with her essay twists.

Ok, so here's a very down and dirty version of what she recommended for effective revision (also with an eye toward a direction you can gain in the beginning of the novel-writing process.)
  • Take a character and write a 5 minute essay involving 3 specific items from a child's room.

  • Write in the 1st person as the child.

  • Then write the same passage, same details, but from 3rd person.

  • Then, after that's gelled, rewrite the passage again from the point of view of a mother who has lost that same child. (yes, this is what got more than one attenddee cry.)
What was great about this was the exercise of it. I know that sounds obvious, but despite all the reading that you can do about writing, it's not as effective as literally writing as a form of exercise. It changes synaptic connections, and makes you experience things from new and different perspectives.

I took this same idea and combined it with the Career Strategy session that Steven Malk gave. Taking several ideas I have for upcoming projects, I put the titles in columns according the genre and whether the idea was appropriate for kids, YA, or mabye even adult. Just the exercise of putting things on one page made me look at them with a revisioneering (yes, I just made that up) eye. What books would be the most interesting to work on? Which ones would be most marketable? Which ones crossed genres? I would have asked myself none of these questions if it weren't for Lisa and Steven's talks.

The second part of Lisa's talk had to do with simple techniques for revision that aren't so much about exercising the writing muscle as they are about shaking yourself out of your comfort zone. After you finish a draft, try the following when you're revising:

  • Revise the font and the margins, then re-read it like it's brand new.

  • Read a hard copy in different location from where you write.

  • Read it aloud.

  • Circle the great stuff with your goal being to bring everything up to that level.

My addition to that is to change your music playlist, or edit without music.

Lisa also recommended reading:

  • The Lovely Bones, and Bird by Bird.

  • listening to and the KCRW Tobias Wolf episode on podcast on Bookworm, he wrote This Boy’s Life

Last. Talk to the writer's you know about how they revise. You never know where the next best idea will come from. I ran into Jacqui Robbins who recommends: Writing the Breakout Novel: The Workbook, by Donald Maas. Again, exercise is the operative word. You can talk and blog and pontifiate about writing all you want. But the writing itself is the only way to get to a finished manuscript.

Now get to work!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

To Age or Not To Age

Ok, so I'm FaceBooking now (is it a verb yet? If only all this electronic activity burned calories), and I'm wondering how everyone feels about birth YEAR in addition to the date. Some people have their full date, which gives their age, others discretely have the date tucked away like a quarter under a pillow.

Does anyone really care how old I am? My LA-inspired nightmare is of course that a publisher will see my hideous Dorian-Gray-esque age and run screaming from the website. Or worse, the Plastic Surgery Commission of Beverly Hills wills end in agents or robots to perform an emergency procedure while I sleep.

But seriously, I'm not an actor (but I play one on TV), who what's to fear. And maybe I'll get some responses exactly because I'm a certain age. Please, chime in.

Now, Get back to work!