The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘revision

I’m now in the second week of a twelve-week online Book-Writing Workshop ( with Kathie Giorgio, author of The Home for Wayward Clocks (Mainstreet Rag Publishing, 2010). I’m using the course to revise my novel-in-progress, with the working title of “Sisters of Aguamiel.”

Each student (so far, six are participating this session) may submit up to 15 double-spaced pages per week for critique from the other students, and also receives a line-by-line edit from Ms. Giorgio.

We gathered for our first online chat last Monday to discuss each student’s work. I must admit, my heart was pumping nervous adrenaline; would it be a shark fest? Or worse, a rose-colored glasses yawn? But I’m delighted to report the chat was a satisfying blend of on-point critique and positive strokes. The cherry on top was Ms. Giorgio’s thoughtful edit and critique.

Of course, I was thrilled to pieces with every crumb of “nicely done.” But I was also depending on input as to what isn’t working. So, when Ms. Giorgio wielded her POV (point of view) paddle, I got my fair share of whacks. What of my blog post title, you ask? Did I promptly treat myself to a new pair of Nikes to soothe the pain? Not a bad idea, but no.

I’m following my sage instructor’s advice and stepping into my main character Agave’s shoes. In order to nail POV, the reader has to feel like she’s right with your character, inside her skin, seeing and experiencing what she experiences, walking in her shoes. This sounds obvious, but for me, easier said than done. I’m writing in third person, but from Agave’s perspective. So the challenge is not to feel removed from Agave’s experience, while using the third person throughout.

To help get into her shoes, Ms. Giorgio suggested I try a section in first person, as Agave. I can switch it back to third person once I feel more in sync with her. I’ve achieved glimpses of resonant Agave-ness, but chunks of my first section lack the immediacy I’m striving for. So, my task is set: put on Agave’s shoes for POV immersion.

Have you struggled with point of view issues? Have you written a story or novel in first-person perspective? Perhaps since this is my first novel, the thought of that feels overwhelming to me, but I’m about to try rewriting my third 15-page section that way, as an exercise- I didn’t have time to completely rework my second class submission.

I’m looking forward to the class chat tonight, when we’ll discuss our second submission. More adventures in revision to come!

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka


Lorin Oberwerger, writer, independent editor

Recently returned from the Writers’ Retreat Workshop in Kentucky, I came home with lots of new writing tools and polished some old ones. My favorite shiny new wrench came from Lorin Oberwerger, a successful writer and  fabulous freelance editor. She clarified the difference between high temperature and low temperature scenes. Then she asked writers to choose a low temperature scene from our novels or short stories and turn up the heat. We returned to our rooms to revise and turn in “before” and “after” versions for Lorin to critique. Wow. Lorin’s list of elements made such a difference in the scenes I chose!

Some of the items may seem obvious, but they have so much power printed in one spot.  I keep this list next to my computer. For me, it saves time by aligning and tightening the screws when writing a new scene or revising an old one. 

According to Lorin, High Temperature Scenes Include:

  • CONFLICT between two or more characters–physical, emotional, or psychological
  • OBSERVABLE, INTERESTING behavior on the part of characters/protagonist–characters ACTING so that we can see/experience it in our minds/guts/heart
  • TENSION in the form of unanswered questions
  • POWER taken away from the protagonist
  • POWER absent from the protagonist
  • ELEMENTS acting against characters
  • SURPRISING revelations, reversals of fortune, the unanticipated moment or response
  • EMOTIONAL challenge of the protagonist–heightened feeling, loss of control, self-revelation, reckoning with things previouswly kept hidden in the emotional realm

Lorin says that Low Temperature Scenes include:

  • AGREEMENT between two or more characters
  • Characters in ISOLATION, REFLECTING on their actions, their lives, the decisions they face
  • IMPARTING of information, answering of questions
  • EXPOSITION–summarizing of events, telling instead of showing 
  • POWER GIVEN to the protagonist
  • Protagonist ENTERING  the scene in the POWER position
  • ELEMENTS acting in the protagonist’s favor (coincidences, luck, etc.)
  • Events unfolding as EXPECTED–by both readers and characters
  • Protagonist feeling CALM/COLLECTED/UNFLAPPABLE

I challenge you to go through your short story or novel and use the checklists to determine the temperature of each scene. You will be amazed at the clarity and direction you will experience in the revision process.

Here’s to sizzling scenes!

Thanks, Lorin! You rock! 

Happy writing!

Trish Wilkinson

Oh. My. Gosh. I had to look up how to spell commitment. Did it have two m’s or two t’s? Scary that. Anyway, recently a writer friend of mine told me she just wanted to see if she had what it takes to write a publishable novel. Here’s the thing: what it takes it c-o-m-m-i-t-m-e-n-t. How much are we willing to put into our craft? How many hours? Can we put our egos on hold long enough to hear feedback that includes necessary changes we need to make in our writing? Can we stick it out long enough to get competent, even clever in communicating stories to our readers?

I recently interviewed Robyn Benincasa, extreme racer and founder of the Athena Foundation, an organization that offers athletic training to women recovering from chronic or serious illnesses.  The group also finances participants’ first athletic goal event, such as a 15K or a marathon.

Robyn says, “Commitment is what happens after the fun is gone.”

She was talking about athletic training and what happens to people in the midst of an Iron Man or even a 10K run. Who can push past what is comfortable? Which ones can have fear, be sore, feel like they have hit the wall and finish the race anyway? Who can keep going when the fun takes a hike?

But this applies to writing, too. In the beginning, the idea for a new story courts, then scoops me up and enthralls me. I can’t wait to get my butt in the chair. My 6 mile morning runs, my waking fantasies, and particularly my sleeping dreams when I get to play one of my characters, keep me absorbed and excited through the entire rough draft.

It’s quite a different feeling in the middle of that umpteenth revision needed to get a tricky scene to really work, the next query or queries that must go out in spite of the sting from the latest rejection, or the annoying doubt poking at my chest that a novel or a parenting book I’ve invested a gazillion hours into will never see anything but the inside of a file drawer.

Somewhere I know that if Robyn can compete in these grueling extreme races with resurfaced hip bones and osteoarthritis, and the “goddesses” that work with the Athena Project can coach cancer survivors to finishing a marathon, I can go the distance in my writer’s world and get my work published.

And that’s that.

Happy (and sometimes not so happy, but so what?) writing!

Trish Wilkinson

“In writing, you must kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner.  As writers, we’ve heard this advice when it comes to editing our work.  We have to be willing to “get rid of” the prettiest of writing if it doesn’t move our stories forward.

But if you’re not into slaying, there may be other ways to beat your writing into submission through some editing advice by John Dufresne.  Dufresne is a funny, wonderful writer of  novels  such as Requiem, Mass. and Love Warps the Mind a Little.  He also wrote The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction.

In Dufresne’s guide to writing (and I’d like to argue not just for fiction but all creative writing), “Doing It Again (And Again [And Again]),  he gives practical tips on revision, which he points out means “seeing again.”  Here they are:

  1. Challenge every adverb.
  2. Challenge every adjective.
  3. Challenge every verb with an auxillary. Say “I kissed her” instead of “She was kissed by me.”
  4. Challenge the first paragraph.  Usually the first paragraph is an introduction to the action that happens in the second or third paragraph.  If this is the case, then start where the action is.
  5. Challenge the last paragraph.  Does the last paragraph merely summarize?  If so, say goodbye.
  6. Challenge every line you love (See “Kill your darlings.).
  7. Challenge every exclamation point.
  8. Challenge every use of the verb “to be.”
  9. Be alert for your pet words (or phrases).
  10. Be alert to your narrative weaknesses.  Are you spending too much time in your narrator’s head and ignoring the scene and place? Then recognize this and do something about it.
  11. Be alert to every cliche.
  12. Cut every nonessential dialogue tag.
  13. Eliminate everything you’re not sure of.
  14. Read the draft aloud.
  15. Proofread. For clarity, grammar, spelling, etc. and then do proofread again.

This is a start.  Dufresne points out that “Revision continues (in fact, we should probably say revisions-plural) until you feel you have done all you can to make the story as compelling and honest as possible. ”  So if that’s the case, go to the work of rewriting again and again and again and again…


Michelle Zive

Seven days ago I finished the latest draft of my memoir. There is something extraordinary about these seven days.  I haven’t touched the memoir since.  Why?  I’m on vacation.  No, I’m not lying in a chaise lounge eating frozen grapes and sipping a margarita under a palm tree.  I’m not surfing in eighty degree water.  I’m not watching a spectacular sunset from the veranda of the house where I’m staying.  I’m on vacation from my memoir.

“Put it away for a month,” Kirsten said.  “Don’t pick it up until a certain date.”

“What a WHOLE month?” I said.  “That’s thirty days I could be using to find an agent.  That’s thirty days  I could be doing something.”

“Go on vacation,” Kirsten said.  “Give yourself a break.  Replenish yourself.”

This concept of doing nothing, at least related to the memoir, is foreign.  I’m a doer, a goer.  But like an addict, it’s one day a time, and I’m on day seven.  So don’t bother me, I’m on vacation.


Michelle Zive

Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!