Finding My Way Out Of The Eternal Revision Roundabout

Did you ever get the feeling that you were NEVER going to finish your revisions?

I’m definitely feeling that way these days, as you might be able to tell from my runner-up titles for this post, including:

  • Another Bloody Round Of Revisions?
  • Fighting Past A Bad Case Of The I-Don’t-Wannas
  • Holy BLEEP, When Will My Revisions End?

My novel has been written and polished for years. I queried it. I got rejected. Lots of form rejections and a couple requests that turned into nothing. So, I’ve revised and queried, and revised again.

You know I’ve talked about the editing spiral before. I’ve been here and wrestled with this time and time again.

Every time I finish a draft, I think I’m done. (Well, every draft since the third draft. You don’t want to be too hasty.)

This is my eighth round of revisions, and seeing as how I applied for a mentor in January, it’s only fitting that I should be revising again with her help.

I’ve been working with Leona Wisoker since February. And with her help, I’m adding a lot of sensory details and working on tightening my plot. My main character can get stuck in her own head pretty easily, and — for the sake of both the characters and the readers — it’s best to have her look up once in awhile.

I feel pretty confident in my characters, my world building, and my story. I just need help to take my second-world fantasy from a light read to something that will linger in the minds of the reader.

And Leona’s help is wonderful. I’m THRILLED to be working with her. (If you’re interested, she’s currently open to clients at editor@leonawisoker.com)

BUT.

It means I’m doing another round of revisions when all I want to do is query and pitch and dream of The Call.

I wanted my story to be ready so badly. I’ve been working on this story since 2013, with a full draft in hand for nearly five YEARS.

You always hear about how most writers first novels are practice books that deserve to be in a drawer. I’m scared that the reason I’m still working this novel is because I won’t give up, when there’s no chance for this story to succeed.

The market is too crowded. Everyone has a book these days.

Yet, then I think back to those who have read it. My beta readers enjoyed it, my critique partners cheered for the story. The worst anyone’s ever said is “it’s clear this is an early draft” when I thought I was done. Back around draft five. (You thought I’d forgotten that, didn’t you. You know who you are.)

Everytime I want to throw in the towel on this round of revisions, I read my latest chapter and find myself filled with something warm and exuberant. Something that feels a lot like pride.

If I didn’t feel that sense of improvement, of rightness, after a round of revisions on a chapter, I would stop. But this is why I write.

As long as I feel at the end of the day that what I have after the effort is better than what I had before, I’m going to keep revising. Where I can take a chapter from merely telling a story to bringing the reader along for the ride.

That’s what I want.

And I’m getting closer, every day.

The Reward For A Job Well Done…

In my day job, I’d been working hard on a project for nearly a year, but turned the last of my work in back in December. Then, all I could do for that project was wait for everyone else to be done with their part. Tuesday, we had a big, milestone test, and it passed. But? It’s far from done.

But, my day job isn’t the only place where that happens, my writing works the same way.

I work hard, polish it up so it passes my own tests, and then I send it off to beta readers, or critique partners, or agents. I wait… maybe not-so-patiently for my writing to pass their ‘tests’, and then I hear back (or pass the no-answer-means-no-thank-you deadline).

So far, my responses have been positive — or at least neutral.

No one has told me my writing sucks and I should stick to reading. But? They all have ideas for improvement. Ways for my work to get better, for the plot to flow more naturally, to give the emotional core of the story a greater impact, to make the setting and main character something that an agent can connect with and draw them in.

Both of my projects already have a form, a function, and a shape. Now, it’s time to really see what I can turn them into.

This coming year is a year of revision for me. Taking rough manuscripts and turning them into a polished form. Rough stone to elegant statues.


Where are you with your projects? Are they still ideas and raw material?

Or are you ready to polish them ’til they shine?

When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter

When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter

Warning: Rant Coming

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 It seems so innocuous, especially when you’re first starting out. You’ve managed to write something, you’re trying to decide if it’s worth pursuing, and you want to reach out. So, you log onto a writers forum and ask the question.

(It’s okay. Everyone does it.)

You log and you ask someone to read your first chapter.

I have to confess, when I see that plea, I just sigh. I sigh because I know the truth.

When a beginner writer asks someone to read their first chapter, I know what they’re really asking for.

What Beginner Writers Want

Well, they want what EVERY writer wants, really.

  1. – They want to be told their story sounds interesting
  2. – They want to be told they can write
  3. – They want to be told their characters are fascinating
  4. – They want to be told they’re writing something marketable
  5. – They want to be asked for the next chapter
  • BONUS: SOMETIMES, they want even want suggestions to make it better or a collaborator to bounce ideas off.

Most of all, though? They’re looking for validation.

But, unless you are an amazing writer who somehow excels, right out of the box, at this one particular skill that eludes even most professional writers, there’s a problem.

Which is?

The Problem With First Chapters?

  1. Rough Drafts Suck
  2. Stories Change
  3. Opening Chapters Are Usually Trash

Even for plotters, things can shift, the emotional core of the story might change, or you might find a plot-hole you’d missed 20 chapters down the road.

As a reader, without more story to go on, there is no way I can tell you if your first chapter is any good. You don’t even know what your story is going to look like, how can I know if it sets up your story well?

And, there’s a belief in certain writer circles (and editor circles) that the first 20 pages can usually be thrown away.

I’ve found this particular belief to be true for me, and most of the writers I know, no matter their caliber.

Don’t get me wrong, you HAVE to write your first chapter. Even if you intend to cut it, first chapters are very useful.

The Benefits of First Chapters

  1. You have to start somewhere
  2. You’re exploring the setting
  3. You’re learning how to write the characters – you’re learning their voices

But the first chapter is for YOU, not for your readers.


This goes out to a special subset of writers, usually fantasy or romance writers…

If you’re a first time writer, who’s managed to write almost 20 pages and you tell me it’s the first chapter of a planned 7 book series?

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My sigh is going to be extra heavy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to set your sights high.

But for many writers, including me, the energy and motivation for a new story idea will take you about 5,000 words in–right about where you’re at.

You’ve just written 1% of your proposed story.

Plus, there’s another problem–especially if you don’t have an agent.

You should only sell ONE book at a time. And that book?  It needs to stand alone. Yes, overarching storylines are great, but each story needs to have its own natural stopping point.

Prove to me you can write and plot for ONE book and I might take a chance on its sequel.


Do you have this reaction? Have you asked for feedback before?

 

A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 6

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Bonus  | Part 6

Part 6: Videos – YouTube+

Note: I know I’m talking about YouTube, just days after the San Bruno attacks. My heart goes out to those affected by the attacks.

I’ve talked about a LOT of social media forms. You might have wondered what could POSSIBLY be next?

Google+ or LinkedIn (Nah, although, I do cross-post my blog over there, for people who prefer those social media forms, they don’t seem active enough)

Goodreads? No, although, I’m there and in a few book clubs.I mostly use it to keep a presence, and stay accountable for my book-reading goals.

I’m pretty sure you’re all thinking “Um, Morgan, I think you’ve gone seriously overboard on this social media thing…” and you’re COMPLETELY right.

Today, though? Today, I’m going to be talking about VIDEOS. Both at Youtube and in other social media forms.


 

YouTube

YouTube is second only to Netflicks in using up bandwidth on the internet. It’s huge.

What’s more? Videos go viral all the time. New ones, old ones, quirky ones, it’s hard to know what’s going to be popular.

So, how do you get that to work for you as a writer?

I have a YouTube channel [Subscribe Here!] and, as I say in my episodes, it’s “my online blog, in video format.” So, if you’d rather listen to me ramble while doing other things, you totally can.

How To Start A YouTube Channel

A video channel should be approached like a website.

  • Pick a theme and stick with it
  • Pick an update schedule and stick with it
  • Pick a format and stick with it

(noticing a trend here?)

Step One – Check out the other Writer Vloggers

See what else is out there, see what other writers are doing, see if there’s a niche you can fill or a format you prefer for getting the information.

It’s hard to establish quality content if you don’t know what sort of options there are and what formats appeal to you.

Here’s a list of the top 15 from The Write Life.

Step Two – Set-up To Film A Vlog

Necessary equipment:

  • camera
  • microphone
  • a youtube account
  • preferably some WiFi to upload this thing, cause videos are large

Beyond that, all I use is a Logitech HD 1080p USB camera and 2 umbrella lights – all birthday presents from family – pictured above. Oh, and MS Paint.

Equipment to up your game:

  • umbrella lights
  • a webcam that isn’t built into your computer
  • a quiet space
  • video editing software
  • a microphone (maybe with pop filters!)
  • interesting-yet-not-distracting background (clean up trash, dirty clothes)
  • makeup – maybe even some if you’re not femme presenting. Minimalist suggestions are:
    • foundation to even out skin tone and get rid of shine
    • mascara to make the eyes pop
    • a touch of lip color, to define lips

Step Three – Filming

If you’re using a phone, TURN IT SIDEWAYS. No, really. Please.

I made that mistake my first time and now, for eternity, (or until I rerecord it) I’ll have those stupid black bars to my left and right–or worse, that double-image, zoomed in blur beside me.

  • 5-12 minutes is a standard video length. People have short attention spans.
    • If you have more, cut it into 2 parts! (Or more!)
  • Keep to the same format
  • Look the camera in the eye when you can try not to look like you’re reading your blog post. *looks around innocently*

I like to do 2-5 takes and just roll with the last take. I’m planning on experimenting with video editing software after I move at the end of the month.

A lot of the quality vloggers you see will have done several takes and will clip them together. BUT. They’ll change the camera angle between takes, so you get the feel of ‘time passing’ or something. It’s a format that seems to be popular, plus, it allows you the ability to cut out any dead-air time.

Step Four – Post-Processing

The easiest bit of post-processing I do is take a couple trial photos before I start my video.

Trial pictures let me

  • checks the lighting
  • check the umbrellas aren’t in the camera
  • check I don’t have food on my shirt
  • And? Allows me a couple photos to add my Vlog title to.

I literally open them in MSPaint, Impact size 48 or whatever the title on one side of me, and roll.

Yes, YouTube will give you freeze frames as the preview image, but usually, they’re the most awkward poses I’ve ever seen. Luckily, there’s a handy-dandy “upload preview” button so you can toss your new image in there.

This is when you’d cut together all those different takes from step 3. Maybe add some background music if you like that feel. Maybe just an intro bar or two of notes.

youtubeUploadButton

Step 5 – Uploading To YouTube

youtubeScheduleWhen I upload my videos, I make sure to click the drop-down and select ‘Schedule’. Once you start uploading, you can’t switch and the default goes live as soon as you hit publish.

I don’t want my videos to upload the second I’m done prepping them, I want them to post in the mornings, not somewhere between 10:30pm and 1am the night before the blog post goes live.

This is where you can add that title-added preview image.

Things I like to do with my videos:

  • Schedule them
  • Add preview image with my title on it
  • Add Tags
  • Add the video to my playlist, so people can subscribe to that [like here!]
    • You can have different playlists on the same channel
      • book reviews
      • writer tips
      • guitar playing
      • life updates
      • etc
  • Type up a short twitter-worthy shout-out to draw people in (with hashtags)
  • Give links to my other social media and the original blog post in the ‘about’ field

Things I’ve been testing recently.

  • I found the ‘default settings’ for uploads last week, where you can pre-load all your tags, all your repeated ‘about’ information, etc, so you don’t have to remember what tags you used last week.
  • How do you find out what tags you should use?
    • check out a popular vlogger who shares a lot of the same subject matter
    • in your browser settings, have ‘developer options’ turned on
    • hit F12 to view the page’s source code
    • hit ‘ctrl-F’ to open up search
    • type “tags”
    • copy-paste the list after the word [ make sure it seems to be a list of usable tags, the word may be in the source code more than once. If it’s not what you’re looking for, hit enter to move to the next entry.]

SnapChat and Instagram and Facebook

I’ve already talked about Instagram, but why is SnapChat even on this list?

For those who don’t know, SnapChat lets people message each other and the message immediately is deleted after they view it. It warns you if the other person screen-shots the message.

So, how does this grow your social media presence?

I personally don’t do it, and it may be more useful for artists, but you can upload STORIES. These are images, text, or VIDEOS that are shown to anyone OR everyone on your list–and they stay visible for a day.

If you have a following, uploading a ‘story’ or two a day can be a good way to interact and form a more personal feeling connection.

Instagram also allows stories to be shared and these are promoted posts.

And Facebook? Facebook LOVES videos. Unlike blog links, or worse PATREON links, Facebook doesn’t try to hide these as much.


YouTube and Facebook Live Video

These intimidate me, but they are growing in popularity and are given priority viewing on Facebook. If you find a time that’s good for a lot of your followers (plus, it can be viewed after the fact), it’s a great way to re-engage with your followers and be given priority viewing on both social media sites.

If you’re brave enough.


Putting yourself out there, creating content, and recording your image, voice, and thoughts for all of posterity is intimidating.

Every week, I strive to do a little better (or at least not worse) than the week before.


And that’s it.

The introduction to social media types. ALL OF THEM. (Or at least a good, wide-spectrum of them.)

If there’s any I skipped that you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask in the comments.

If there are any tips you’d like to share, feel free to reach out!

A Starter’s Guide For Fiction Writers Trying To “Establish A Social Media Presence” Part 5

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 5: Tumblr and Reddit (The Dark Side?)

Four weeks ago, I shared my descent into social media and my guiding philosophies for interacting on the internet. Three weeks ago, I discussed the generals about creating a website and starting a blog. Two weeks ago, I discussed Facebook, Twitter, and hashtags. Last week was all about the visual social medias, Pinterest and Instagram.

Today? I’ll be discussing DARK SIDE OF THE INTERNET: Tumblr and Reddit

Or are they?

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Tumblr and Reddit are given a lot of grief about being breeding grounds for social justice mobs, trolls, and dank memes (in which dank means something between dark, cynical, and cool).

For older web denizens: they’re where the teens are, and honestly? Where 90% of the Facebook content comes from. Look at where all those reshared thought experiments, story inspiration, and other screen-shots come from. A LOT of them are screenshots from Tumblr. Or made popular on Reddit. Or both.

If you wait for them to come to Facebook, you’re gonna miss a lot of content and it’s gonna be old before you see it.


Tumblr

So what IS Tumblr? Is it a blog? Is it a quote sharing site? Or is it for reblogging memes?

The quick answer is… yes.

For the longest time, I didn’t really know what I was doing with it. I reposted stuff from my Instagram since Tumblr seems to like pictures, and I reshared my blog posts from here over there. (Or over here, if you’re reading on Tumblr…)

But, it’s just as much for resharing your favorite webcomics or your not-character-count-limited mental contemplations. And GIFs are super popular.

NOTE: It’s also very popular for…um… archives of adult imagery. Luckily, safe-search is a thing. I’ve yet to end up somewhere I didn’t intend. A big advantage to its compartmentalized set-up.

It’s a social media network, like Facebook, that’s not geared towards a specific media (unlike Instagram or Twitter), which can make it more visual, but it supports anonymity–which can make it more attractive to teens (or Russian troll farms).

There’s definitely a part of it that’s socially progressive. Tumblr’s the sort of place that encourages defining your pronouns and can be very accepting of any sort of identity that doesn’t espouse hate.  That said, the admins are struggling with censorship issues around LGBT tags as well as antagonistic alt-right groups gaining a presence on the site.

Tags are important here if you want people to find you. And if you look around, you can find Tumblrs groups to join (sort of like the ‘blog hops’ of olde…). The communities are like islands, but they share resources.

If you like something, heart it. Reblogging stuff is VERY encouraged, and shows support for the original poster — and also means that the original poster gets credit — very awesome for the artists and writers and singers on here.

Note: If you add a comment to a reblog, it’s now permanently attached to that reblog.

Like most social medias, you can follow people and their posts/reblogs show up on your feed. Don’t be intimidated, most people are quite welcoming on Tumblr.


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Reddit

Here, everything is a popularity contest. It’s like middle school.

No. Really.

Getting Started

You create an account, you join forums called ‘reddits’ and ‘subreddits’ (or ‘subs’), named /[whatever] that are organized by areas of interest, and then you either share text or links to content.

On your feed, you’re only shown links to reddits and subreddits that you subscribe to.

Then, as people read posts, they ‘upvote, ‘downvote’, or [do nothing]. Every upvote and downvote affects your karma.

The more upvotes you get, the more likely you’ll show up in the feed. You can check tabs of ‘Hot’, ‘Rising’, and ‘New’. And karma means a lot.

What is Karma

You earn karma for:

  • posting
  • commenting
  • getting upvotes

Posting new content or sharing external links are typically seen as more valuable contributions, but it depends on the quality of your comments.

NOTE: When you comment, you can reply to other comments — otherwise known as nested comments.

You lose more karma for every downvote. It’s a way of trying to keep people from being jerk-faces.

Unless the forum is about being a jerk-face. Then, friendly people get downvoted.

Although there is an overlying sense of ‘Reddiquette’, each forum has its own admins, moderators, and set of acceptable behaviors.

Overall, someone with higher karma is seen as being more of a contributor and potentially someone to watch for new, quality content. The best of them have been given Reddit Gold.

Reddit Gold

You can literally buy virtual gold that is only intended for rewarding, or ‘gilding’, OTHER people with posts you find valuable.

Being gilded (or buying that status) temporarily unlocks:

  • comment highlighting
  • ad-blocking
  • exclusive subreddits
  • a personalized Snoo (known as a “snoovatar”)

WARNING: Reddit values anonymity, tends to be hands-off, and doesn’t censor. There can be really dark reddits, and subreddits with a lot of either off-color or outright offensive content.

The communities are typically well-described though, so you know what you’re getting into before you click the links.

Like most social medias, you can follow people and keep an eye on their content.

So far, I’ve shared a little in /writing, /writing-tips, and /nosleep. /AMA (Ask Me Anything) is one you’ll see on the news on occasion, with scheduled visits for politicians or celebrities, as well as normal people with unusual experiences offering to talk about them.

Feel free to explore and I find it best to wade into a Reddit, watching the expected behavior before trying to contribute.

But I’m still learning my way around.


So… that doesn’t really sound that scary, does it? A little different, but not completely unfamiliar organizational structures.

Long form, images, links, these are the sites where content is created.