Mission Accomplished

This is the face of satisfaction:


Computer shut

mission accomplished


But it’s really like this:


258 free verse poems roughed

it’s an ugly baby right now

but it’s complete!

And it doesn’t take long to feel like this:


What’s next?

Reading Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

while revising older stories

and researching people and places to submit to.

Marinating on the two ideas

I’m contemplating for my next projects

before cataloguing

the research I need to complete

to round out the rough draft

before going through the



OOH! Now I can get that haircut I told myself had to wait until rough was done.

Rough is done!

Hello, Salon!



I have a confession to make.

I broke the cardinal rule of writing a rough draft.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had to do it.

I read my entire MS.

I know, I know.

Full steam ahead.

No looking back.

But I had to do it.

Another confession.

I haven’t written in a week.

Yes, I gasped too.

So, you see,

I had to read it.

I’d lost the flow,

was loosing my MC,

ran out of steam,

while my daughter was sick.

So, you see,

I had to read it.

And I’m glad I did.

It was pretty good,

I’m on the right track.

And I’ve found the fuel

to keep writing.

on the right track

My kids love to listen to the soundtrack I made for my next WIP.  It conjures up thoughts of mischief, playfulness, sneakiness.  It makes them smile and act silly.  Now to just write the darn thing so it lives up to their expectations.  Two chapters down about eight to go.  Can’t wait to knock out this rough draft and see what becomes of this story! boy reading to snake

Show, Don’t Tell, using Body Language

Non-verbal communication makes up the majority of how we express ourselves.  So easy in person.  Such a different beast when trying to make a story come to life on two dimensional pages. 

Body language is intended to communicate emotion in the story without TELLING the emotion.  During my reading of my rough draft and in my first rewrite, I find myself relying on some of the same body language over and over.  I am not sure how many times my characters shrug, nod, furrow their brow, and purse their lips.  SOMEBODY HELP ME!

Learning to write is certainly a steep curve!

Where to turn to first? Well, body language is about the body.  So let’s begin by thinking about body parts and what they can do.  Hair: bounces, falls in the eyes.  Eyebrows: lift, squeeze together, arch.  Lips: purse, curl, press, whistle, pucker.  Shoulders: sag, shrug, raise up to the ear.  Hands: clench, fidget, fold, tap.  Feet: stomp, tap, stand on tippy-toe, shuffle.  What about knees? ears? chest? arms? nose? neck? eyes? stomach? toes?

What else? Well, bodies move.  What are some common movements?  (Stories need to keep the action, so how can we keep our characters moving in non-redundant ways?) walk, sit, look, run.  A thesaurus is a good place to start, right?  But what about what movement implies?  A lean in – we are engaged, a step back – we are considering the big picture when making a decision, doodling – we are thinking, a hand to the forehead – we have forgotten something, annoyed with ourselves.

Writers are said to be voracious readers, keen observers, and compulsive writers.  So, alas, I must assign homework because I am surely not the expert on body language.  Ah! Dang! I said homework!

1.  Take your favorite book down from the shelf.  Skim for use of body language.  Record the author’s words and your incites in your journal.

  • “Papa suddenly crossed the room and put his arms around them both. He kissed the top of each head. . .” – nurturing, reassuring, parental, security
  • “The street soldiers were often young, sometimes ill at ease, and Annemarie remembered how the Giraffe had, for a moment let his harsh pose slip and had smiled at Kirsti.” – a pose can slip, someone can momentarily reveal their true self before wearing their mask once again.
  • “Mama put a hand on Papa’s arm.”  – concern, protective
  • “Annemarie relaxed her clenched fingers of her right hand, which still clutched Ellen’s necklace.  She looked down, and saw that she had imprinted the Star of David into her palm.”  Yes!  SO GOOD!  The picture is painted and I can sense how completely petrified Annemarie was and the relief she now feels.  Bonus- GREAT VERBS: clench, clutch, imprint!

2.  Go on a field trip.  Hooray!  Go to your favorite coffee house, mall, or to be really effective, somewhere similar to a scene in your book.  OBSERVE and RECORD body language.  What is it telling you?  If you can hear the dialogue, how does the body language extend the meaning of the words?

3.  Watch TV! (Didn’t you love it when the teacher said you could watch tv for homework, but then the let down, “Watch the State of the Union.”) Here I am telling you to watch “Lie to Me.”  It is a show that specializes on analyzing body language, especially facial.  Or watch a movie.  I am thinking about watching “Pursuit of Happiness” because my MC is always on the go.  Record the body language that stands out to you and what it communicates.

Sorry to have to give homework, but I have to do it too!  Think about how much our writing will improve if we actually do these things!

So Read! Observe! and Write!

Next time: Effective Dialogue

Til then, Enjoy Playing With Words

Bonus: Three websites I found (though there are certainly more out there).

Revision Step Two: Read through Rough Draft

Read Through   Relatively painless.  But I know its the calm before the storm.

What I did:

1. Treated it like a book.  I sat somewhere comfy, usually on my couch after my whirlwinds were in bed.  Sometimes with a glass of wine.  But unlike reading for leisure, I had highlighter,  red pen, post-it tags, and notepad ready to go. Oh and a very critical attitude!

2.  Made a list of notes/symbols I would use.  My goal is not to do  major notes or writing scenes at this point.  I want to get through this bad boy in a few sittings.  The tags I used:

  • <—> reorder
  • zzzzz dragging
  • (  ) confusing
  • ?? cut/change
  • highlight – awkward/take another look at
  • + add details
  • – make concise
  • BL add body language
  • VIS visualize/add sensory details
  • 🙂 keep

3. Get reading.  The goal of this read through is big picture kind of stuff.  There is no point to line edit now, it would actually be a big waste of time.  I need to be merciless nonetheless.   I am not married to these words.  These characters work for me!  (Ever get evaluated on the job? Nothing like having a surprise observation by the principal when you’re having an off day!)

These characters and scenes have a job to do and if they’re not making life more complicated for my MC (main character), contributing to or setting up conflict, and making me want to turn the page, then I need to go back to them and consider their value – do they get the pink slip or remediation?  Yes, there are characters and scenes that are absolutely delightful.  The picture was painted vividly and the characters sounded really real.  But if they’re not doing their job, I have to be tough.  And I will keep these scenes in a deleted scenes folder for me to go back to and enjoy the beauty of my thoughts some other time.

Through the course of the read through it became very clear the parts I enjoyed writing and the parts I forced myself to get through!

4.  After reading I took some time for an essential part – more reflection.  It’s a best practice in education for a reason.  People need time to process and absorb what they’ve learned.  This is true for revising as well.  I am learning things about my writing while I’m reading it.  I need to grant myself time to reflect on my writing and not just jump right into the rewrite.  My rewrite will hopefully be more thoughtful and accomplish more if I take time to formally think about it.

Reflection questions after the first read through:

  • What glaring issues stand out?
  • Are there any scenes that can be cut? What needs to be done in order to cut them?
  • How’s the MC? Do I like him? Do I cheer for him?  Is he relatable? What changes need to take place to make him more attractive as a MC?
  • Is my antagonist believable?  Do I really dislike him?  What more needs to be done to make him more undesirable?
  • What are the really weak scenes that need a lot of attention to be saved?  What do they need?
  • What research still needs to be done?
  • Is the climax/resolution all it should be? Did I feel tension? Does it wrap up the ongoing conflict from the story? Is my end in my beginning?

I am sure there is more I should be thinking about at this point, but what it is I haven’t figured out yet.  If you have any reflection questions you think should be added to the list, leave a comment.

One more thing, I found this blog by James Scott Bell on revision.  One of his suggestions: Consider what a critic would objectively say after reading your manuscript, write it in a short essay.

I would say: The bones of the story are good, but there’s a lot of flab!

Next time I will tackle one of my glaring issues: voice! making sure each character is identifiable without seeing the dialogue tag!

til then – Enjoy Playing with Words!

Time to Revise! Step one: Reflect

Stormy Day

Rainy days are designed for reading.  So today is a great day to get to reading my manuscript!   I took the recommended few weeks away from it and am ready to tackle it once again.

Where to start?  There are a lot of ideas out there.  So my revision process is certainly NOT mine but a compilation of many who have been there, done that.   There is no point to reinvent the wheel, right?

During my break from writing I took the time to read Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and I gathered a lot of ideas to pay attention to during the revision process that will certainly surface during future blogs.  But before I crack the spine of the “Working Manuscript” binder, I needed to reflect on my book and focus on its big picture.  When I started writing it, I did not do a lot of pre-writing (besides researching the history side of it).  So now that the rough is finished I need to narrow the lens and get a tighter focus.

This brought me to a blog by Holly Lisle titled: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle.  Ya, I won’t even attempt to revise in one pass, but  I will probably turn back to the steps she shares many times.   I appreciate her suggestion to start the revision process by discovering what my story is all about.

Her first five tasks are:

  • “Write down your theme in 15 words or less.”

This was easier than I thought.  You know when you are given a word limit it adds pressure.  But I did it, and I think it is about right.

Obligation to family versus following your own dream.  Yep – that’s what I came up with.

  • “If you have sub-themes and know what they are, write them down too.”

It turns out I have about six sub-themes that I was able to identify off the top, there are probably more subtle ones that will come to the surface later.

We all have a story – societal positions – feminism (even though my MC is male) – overcoming fears – dealing with the death of a loved one – influence of religion  This feels like I’m missing something, but that’s OK.

  • “Write down what the book is about in twenty-five words or less.”

Twenty-five words is not a lot! About my story that has more than 60,000 of them!  (Ya, it’s way too long for my target audience – but it will get there!) This went through a few versions.

Boy aspires for things beyond family tradition, battles fears, fire, and family in pursuit of his own dream.  18 words!

  • “Write down a one-line story arc for the book’s main character.”

It turned into the longest run-on sentence in the history of run-on sentences.  Well, maybe not.  I used to teach fifth grade and I have seen the use of “and” seventeen times in one sentence.  But, is running-on a bad habit of mine?  No, I am one of the most concise writers I know.  (ha ha – remember the 60,000 + words I have to chisel!)  And I certainly never drift off topic!  (Hey, when you have two little children, you are used to having three or four conversations at one time.  It just so happens that may brain continues to do this whether I am with my whirlwinds or not!)

Anyway, I procrastinate . . .

MC battles fears, foes, fire, prejudice (couldn’t think of an F words), and family during the Great Chicago Fire and saves a few lives along the way, but ultimately sacrifices his own dreams for the sake of his family.

Then the biggy:

  • “Write down the main characters, and a paragraph of no more than about 250 words describing the story, sort of like the blurb on the back of a paperback.”

THIS WAS HARD! All of these previous steps certainly helped, but it was not pretty.  Started off with black ink, went to orange, then red.  With arrows and line-throughs everywhere! It turned into less than 200 words (oh-ya! 172 actually!) but I don’t think I would want it on the back of my book just yet.  And therefore, I am not putting it out here either.

But what did all of this really do?  It gave me the narrowed focus I need for my read through.  It also brought to my attention plot and character adjustments I want to make.  It was well worth the hour and a half it took to do this.

Next week I will discuss what I do during my read through of my rough draft, the second step of my revision process.

Til then, enjoy playing with words!

BTW, What do you reflect on to help you steer your manuscript?

And one more thing – credit where credit is due – the link to Holly Lisle in case you would like to see what else she says.