Blog Archives

Be the Expert

As a writer, I’m often asked a question that is immensely difficult for me to answer:

What is your story about?

When I hear this question, my brain rifles through many answers, but can never settle on just one. I often find myself starting my answer with details about the story’s premise, but end up switching gears somewhere. It’s not because I’m a scatterbrain (though some might argue against this), but because I feel that I have so much to say.

Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s like asking Henry Ford, “tell me some things about an automobile.” Would he respond with “oh, well, it has an engine, some doors, and four wheels?” No! He’d likely go into laborious detail about it, because of his intimate knowledge on the subject. Much to the chagrin of the questioner, no doubt.

As writers, we are experts in the field of our stories. No one knows them better than we do. So, it’s only natural to have the urge to over answer on such a question. So what if your cousin obviously stops listening to you 20 seconds later, they asked!

But what happens when the question is posed by someone other than your cousin? An agent or editor, perhaps? Is it necessary (or appropriate) to give a long, drawn-out explanation of your story?

As soon as possible, a writer should develop a short hook about the story that can be delivered in 15 seconds or less. Think of it as the description that will go on the back of your book someday.

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post to help you do this that can be found here.

Remember, you’re the expert here, you’ve got plenty of material/ideas/thoughts to pull from to put your pitch together. It’s important that you give just the right amount of detail to grab your listener’s (or reader’s) attention, then end with a statement that will make them ask for more.

When has your pitch worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Making Your Revisions Count

My wife and I have a family friend staying over tomorrow evening and we decided to rearrange some things, put up some new shelves, and just generally tidy up the house. We went as far as switching our office and guest bedrooms, which took up a good chunk of the weekend.When we finished, the house had a fresh, new look. It was still the same familiar house, but was jazzed up a bit with the rearranged rooms and new shelves. And overall, we both agreed that it looked better than when we’d started.

This “revision” of our home is a lot like the revision process in writing. After completing a first draft, there are often one or many revisions that may be needed, whether it be of your own doing or that of your editor or critique group.

You may need to move whole sections of your work (rearrange rooms), add new elements (shelves), or just tidy up a bit. Whatever the revisions may be, your ultimately going for a fresh, improved story.

It may be that you have no issues with your work when you complete the first draft. You may be perfectly fine with how the chapters fit together, and thus don’t see a need for changes. Or, maybe you revise each chapter as you go along (this is why my first drafts always take me forever to write) to lessen the blow for later revisions.

Whatever the case may be, if you want your writing to shine with the fresh coat of wax a revision can offer, you can’t be afraid of change. You should expect change at the onset of your writing, knowing that things will be different at the end of the road.

When I set out to tearing down my desk and prepping our home office for relocation, I wasn’t sure what the end result would be, or how I would like it. I was fine with the status quo. But it turns out that I prefer things the way they are now.

Here are a few things to consider when making revisions:

  • Begin with the end in mind – You are revising because you have the need to improve your last draft. Set goals around the changes you want to make, and stick to them.
  • When in doubt, throw it out – You’re the boss of your writing, so don’t be afraid to “fire” any part of your story that you feel is not a good fit. Even if that particular part is your favorite, be honest with yourself about what your story needs.
  • Say it loud and proud – As you revise, read your writing aloud to yourself. You may find parts that need rewording or don’t fit altogether. This will also help you actually hear your writing voice, which is an important part of what makes your writing unique.

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post on the revision process, which he wrote for those completing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWroMo). Larry’s blog is a great resource for writers, if you’re not already familiar with it.

So let me know…How do you revise? Do you blast through the first draft and make many changes at the end, or do you revise as you go?

%d bloggers like this: