Tackling a Few Questions

Dame Rinda

Beth asked:

For any Dame moved to answer:

How do you approach revisions/second(+) drafts? Do you make them in the same document/file (i.e. edit the first draft so you still only have one file at the end), make a copy and edit that (so you end up with two documents at the end), open a brand new file and begin again with copy/pasting in pieces you’re keeping, other…?

When writing more than one series/project at a time, how do you keep momentum up on each? Do you do a bit on each project every time you sit down to write? Alternate days/projects?

First up-second drafts. This is actually something I struggled with for a time, but I finally developed a system. In short, I now have three major files with each book. I’ll get to the weird one in a minute but I tend to write a first draft, then open it and do the revisions inside the draft. Most of the time I’ll save the first draft and revisions under two document names with -Final going to my agent in the end.

I used to be SO much more disorganized–was all over the place. I’d have a first draft, a final, a final after my critique partner, a final after my agent… Before that,  I’d sometimes open a new document halfway through the book then save it under some form of the title. Sometimes I’d save a whole chapter in a new document. Was it some bizarre form of self-punishment? Who knows? It was definitely crazy business. There was absolutely no logic to it and one time when I needed a good final draft copy, I found I had three different files that could have been it. I had to open them on two monitors to check for differences.

Never again.

When I grew serious about making this my career, I worked on this organization problem and after a time, I realized something important. I have to be disorganized at first. There is something messy in the beginning stages of my creative process and if I don’t give it some quality time, it doesn’t put out. 😉

So now, I have what some might call an outline first draft or a scary schizophrenic collage–you pick. It’s actually a file with a beginning, important scenes, snippets of important moments in the book. It will have images I’ve found that inspire characters and scenes. Sometimes, there are even song lyrics in there to remind me of a feeling I got with a song. I will open this file on one monitor and constantly add notes–things I want to remember to put into this book, character traits and if it’s a sequel, worldbuilding from former books. Now that I’m filling out things like cover art forms, I found this file seriously comes in handy.

When working on more than one project? I do tend to try and focus on one project mostly in order to keep up momentum, but I’m usually working on another on the side. I load up the soundtrack I made for the piece to get in the right mood. But what I work on can also depend on that mood. Recently I was writing pretty angst-filled pieces, so to loosen up a bit, I worked on a funnier, lighter piece on the days my own mood needed a lift.  But a lot of this will really depend on deadlines. Once you have deadlines, you work on whichever piece is due first.

Carina asked:

-How do you spice up a little bit your main character? Without changing it completely, I mean. I’ve realized, while I was plotting, that a lot of my secondary characters have more “life” to them than my main character does. I like spending more time with them than I do with her.

I’ve tried “firing” the girl, but the story won’t go anywhere without her, so she’s def. the main character, the one the story and the conflict happens to. So I’ve got to find a way to make her more appealing to me or else, I won’t be able to do anything at all. Any ideas on how to do that?

This has happened to me. In fact, years ago in my first critique group, the members told me I had way more interesting secondary characters and could I just make them the protagonists. I’m not sure why it sometimes seems easier to give your secondaries more flair–maybe it’s because we want more people to identify with our main character, so we tend to keep them neutral.  Truth is, why would a reader keep reading about a character who has no edge?

And there’s the answer that worked for me. Give her (or him) an edge. Find something that pushes her hot button, something that scares her or something she desperately needs. Think about her childhood–did an experience change her? What is the one interesting thing that gives this character depth? If she has none, you won’t keep a reader.

When my imagination seems stuck, it helps me to visit art websites and look for an emotive image the defines something about my character. I will also load up a random shuffle of music and really listen. I usually find something in music. Most recently, I was having trouble with a main character and got frustrated. I loaded in a bunch of music, put on earphones and cleaned house. (I get a LOT of ideas while cleaning-not sure why.) But one small and powerful line in Florence and the Machine’s Cosmic Love made this character click for me. I suddenly knew her, knew what drove her to fight things that could be good for her. I found her edge. I literally left the shower half scrubbed, dropped my rubber gloves there and raced into my office to open up my weird file. I typed in a scene I may never use. It could end up being one just for me–but it breathed real life into her and that’s what I needed. The book has been flying out of me since.

Dont’ know if any of this will help. Hope so. Sometimes finding a system that works for you takes a bit of time, but don’t worry, you will. 😉

Cosmic Love


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