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April #InkRipples: 5 Tips for Revising that Manuscript

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on April 12, 2017 in Black Butterfly, Books, Creativity, Elixir Bound, Ink Ripples, Language, WIP, Writing |

Now that you all know from my earlier April #InkRipples post that revision isn’t my favorite part of the writing process, I’ll share some tips on how I try to make it easier on myself. Some of these work for my particular process and some are more general, but I hope you find them helpful. And as with so many things in writing, if they don’t resonate with you, then feel free to ignore them!

Take Time Away (But Not Too Long)

So you’ve finished that first draft and celebrated (and, yes, you should always celebrate such a milestone). Now what? File said manuscript away and take a break from it. Get outside and enjoy some fresh air, take a shower, go on vacation, start a new project…do something other than think about that newly finished draft.

I’m not going to give a set timeline for how long to stay away, but I’d say at least two weeks. Do set a deadline, though, for coming back to it; otherwise you might just find yourself in a perpetual state of procrastination (this from the girl who procrastinates so well on revision that she procrastinated on writing her blog posts about revisions!). The key is to come back to it with fresh eyes so you can have some semblance of objectivity but not wait so long that it feels like old news.

Have a Plan (But Be Flexible)

I find starting revisions to be incredibly overwhelming and having a plan is one way to make it feel more manageable. It breaks down the process of revision into measurable tasks that can be checked off, so you can see you’re actually making progress.

I have actually started creating my revision plan while I’m drafting. I keep a document in my project folder (or take notes in my notebook and transfer them to the document) with a list of things to tackle in revisions. This helps keep me from going back and revising while I’m still drafting (more on this in the next tip). Some notes are as simple as filling in a detail I didn’t want to stop and research in the moment. Others are big, like fix that giant plot hole you’ve written yourself into. One task that inevitably shows up is to do a search for that manuscripts crutch words and eliminate as many as possible (for one recent manuscript “just” and “even” were among the offenders).

Also, recognize that your plan may change as you go along and may even expand at times as you notice new things that need to be addressed during revision. Things on your list may need to be thrown out all together. (Yup, I’m talking about revising your revision plan!) That’s where the flexibility part comes in.

Start Big (Then Move to Small)

Once I have a good working plan, I like to break it down into big revisions and small revisions. Big revisions are things like fixing plot holes, adding or getting rid of scenes, fleshing out characters, changing point of views. Basically getting the story in shape and not necessarily about the words used to tell it.

Small revisions are when you start to look at the language, grammar, and the nitpicky parts of writing. Does the writing have good flow, interesting language, strong verbs, sparse adverbs, action tags instead of a ton of dialogue tags, varied sentence structure? These are a few examples, but basically small revisions are more about the words you are using and the way they are put together and less about the story.

I recommend starting with big revisions and then moving to the small ones because it’ll probably end up saving you time in the long run. Why bother making the language of a scene shine only to later end up deleting it all because of a plot change? I used to spend so much effort going back to older pages and revising while I was in the process of drafting a novel. I know some writers who do this and do it with success, but I don’t revise while drafting anymore. It’s helped me to be a faster drafter, even if it feels like the drafts are messier. In the long run I save a lot of time and hassle by moving forward while drafting (and jotting down those revision notes as I go along) and saving the revisions for later.

Know Your Strengths (and Weaknesses)

This bit of advice applies both to your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and the strengths and weaknesses of the particular manuscript you’re working on. I know I’m a very plot driven writer, so I’m always pushing myself to be better when it comes to character and voice. But I try not to worry about those things too much while drafting. I let the plot drive my first drafts and then tackle my weaker areas in revision. It gives me a certain confidence to know at least that one area will be strong as I go into revisions.

Aside from my strengths and weaknesses as a writer in general, I find each manuscript has its own set of them as well, somewhat independent of mine as a writer. The first novel I ever wrote (ELIXIR BOUND) was full of repetitive over-written descriptions. I often said the same thing in three different ways, so one major part of my revisions for it was to pick the best description and delete the others (or rework them into a single, stronger one). It also was a hot mess when it came to point of view. Another manuscript (BLACK BUTTERFLY) was drafted one scene at a time and they weren’t written in any particular order. This story has flashbacks that could have been worked into the story in a lot of different ways and other scenes that could have been moved around chronologically. A big revision point was not only figuring out the best sequence of events but also how the flashbacks would fit in.

Ask for Help (If You Get Stuck)

Despite you’re best efforts at having a plan and executing it to better your manuscript, there may come a time in the revision process where you simply get stuck. You’re not sure what you’re doing anymore or if what you’re doing is making the manuscript better or worse. Or maybe everything just feels like it belongs on a heaping pile of dung. Like when you first finish that draft, it’s a good time to take a break. It’s probably more a matter that you’ve lost all objectivity on your own work and not so much that it sucks!

This is a good time to have one or two trusted beta readers. It can be incredibly scary share your work with others when you’re feeling bad about it, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. In a moment of insecurity, it’s best not to share work with people you haven’t worked with before, but it can be a lifesaver to share it with someone who you trust to put you back on track.

If you don’t have someone like this in your writing life yet, try reaching out to different writing communities and connecting with a new critique partner. Offer to do a few chapter swap and share with them something more polished than the work that’s giving you trouble. If it feels like a good match, go ahead and send them the hot mess and see what they make of it (and if it doesn’t feel like a good match, try again with someone new). Hopefully you’ll get some great feedback (and then you’ll have to start the whole revision process all over again!).

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now! What are your best revision tips?

#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. Carroll, Mary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (April is about revision), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs or on your social media page. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.

 

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Sign Up for the PIRATE ISLAND Cover Reveal

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on April 7, 2017 in Art, Books, Cover Reveal, Events, Middle Grade, News, Pirate Island |

Sign ups are ready for the cover reveal of my middle grade adventure PIRATE ISLAND. It was created by Susan Tait Porcaro and is awesome! I’m so excited about sharing it with the world soon. The big reveal will take place on April 17, 2017, and you can share it on that date or anytime after.

To sign up, simply fill out the PIRATE ISLAND cover reveal form. Thanks so much for helping to spread the word about my latest novel! Here’s a little teaser for you.

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April #InkRipples: Revision is Hard

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on April 3, 2017 in Books, Creativity, Ink Ripples, WIP, Writing |

Join Kai Strand, Mary Waibel, and Katie L. Carroll (that’s me!) for April #InkRipples, which is all about revision.

There is more to writing a novel than simply putting words on a page and calling it a book. It’s a process. A major part of that process is revision. And it’s not my favorite part. I much prefer the excitement of drafting when I’m adding words and feeling the story come together. Once the first draft is done, it’s always such a letdown to think about the story I conceptualized and realize the rudimentary version I have is nothing close to that.

Not all writers feel this way. I’ve known some who go as far as to say they love revising! Sadly that is just not the case for me. Revision often feels overwhelming to the point that I am inclined to avoid it. Of course I want my work to be the best it can be, but I find it’s hard to know how  to specifically make it better and to be objective about my work (one day I can love what I’ve written, and the next hate that very same piece of writing). I actually think I’m much better at having insights into other people’s work and helping them on a path to revision.

Another obstacle is that I’ve found each manuscript ends up having different needs in revision. It’s hard to come up with a foolproof method of revising when the same thing never works on two different stories. But through trial-and-error and becoming more knowledgeable about the process (from writing workshops and reading about what other writers do) I have managed to come up with some techniques to help with the daunting process of revision. Stay tuned next week for when I share some of those tips!

#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. Carroll, Mary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (April is about revision), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs or on your social media page. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.

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Why Is It Taking Me So Long To Write The Second Elixir Book?

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on March 24, 2017 in Anecdote, Books, Creativity, Elixir Bound, Elixir Saved, Family, Kylene, WIP, Writing, Young Adult |

It’s been over four years since the ebook version of ELIXIR BOUND came out and over three years since the paperback version released (so forever in terms of publishing a companion novel). I’m sad to report that I’m only about 2/3 finished with the draft of the companion novel ELIXIR SAVED. And even once the draft is done, I’ll still need to revise and such. So why exactly is it taking me so long to write the second Elixir book?

Well, it’s complicated (isn’t everything!?). For starters, there are the less-than-stellar sales stats of BOUND. I wasn’t expecting a best-seller or anything, but it’s been hard to press on with a second book when the first has low sales. So, yeah, I’ve worked on other projects in between. And, no, I don’t write for the sales or the money, but the validation of selling books doesn’t suck.

There’s also life. I have kids and do freelance work (and blog). I like reading books and watching TV and getting out every once in awhile to do grown-up things. Writing novels is an important part of my life and I’ve gotten more consistent with actually, ya know, writing, but it doesn’t always take top priority.

Then there’s the fact that I’m not a very fast writer. Even when I’m in a good flow and I’ve been writing consistently, my word counts are just not that high. I’ve done a lot of things with the drafting of SAVED to try and speed up the process. I mapped out all the scenes I still need to write. I’ve set timers in order to write without editing myself for that set amount of time. I did a modified NaNoWriMo in November to try and finish this draft.

And now I’m here on the blog writing about how I’m not writing the book. Blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah! I know…but all those reasons I mentioned above are not the main reason why it’s taking me so long to write ELIXIR SAVED.

The real reason why it’s taking me so long to write the second Elixir book is because one of the main characters is based on my sister Kylene, who passed away at the age of 16. My intention when I wrote BOUND was to give Kylene a fantasy adventure of her own. I started the book in her POV (point of view), but it was too damn hard to write, so it ended up in the POV of her sister. It’s been almost 15 years since she passed away and it’s still hard to write this story, her story. It feels so presumptuous and impossible to do her justice in what are ultimately my words. It’s emotionally draining and terrifying.

But it’s a story I know I have to tell…eventually. It would be far worse for me to never tell it than to have a hard time doing it.

So I keep reminding myself that I’m not writing from Kylene’s POV. That’s impossible. Only she could do that. Instead, I’m writing from the POV of a character that’s inspired by Kylene. It may seem like a small distinction, but it makes all the difference in be being able to persist in drafting this novel. Though it doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

It’s a process that refuses to be rushed. I do my best to push myself to continue the task, but I’ve come to realize it’s just gonna take time. I’ll keep slowly working on it (while I also work more efficiently on other novels) and one day it will be done. Well, as done as any book ever is.

Thank you to anyone who’s read ELIXIR BOUND and/or inquired about a follow up book. It coming…one of these years!

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An Open Letter To Congress On Family Planning And Healthcare

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on March 14, 2017 in Anecdote, Family, Parenting, Politics |

Dear Congress (and those of you reading my blog),

I have grave concerns about the message you are sending to women about our ability to control our reproductive futures and our capacity for family planning. Each woman has her own reproductive journey, many with far more obstacles than I have had, but I think it’s important for all of us to share what we face when trying to make reproductive choices for ourselves and our families.

My family planning has been very successful to date. When I first started birth control, I went to Planned Parenthood for my ob-gyn services. They provide affordable, convenient healthcare for women, and it was a good option for me. In addition to birth control and preventative care (like yearly pap smears), they provide life-saving services. I had an abnormal pap-smear and had to have a cervical biopsy done (which turns out is way more common than I realized). Luckily, I was given a clean bill of health after the biopsy and only had to follow up with more frequent pap-smears for a few years.

Oral contraceptives worked for me for many years. I had to be on a more expensive, low-hormone version because the higher-hormone ones caused me to pass out. This was before birth control was covered under the ACA. So even though I had decent insurance through my employer, I was paying around $600 out of pocket for birth control each year. Again, I was lucky because I was able to afford that for the 10 or so years I was on it.

Then when I decided to start trying to have children, I went off the pill and used condoms for several months in order to give my system time to regulate itself. After that I got pregnant with my first child pretty quickly. I nursed my oldest child for 20 months, so I opted not to have any hormone-related birth control and relied on condoms. When it was time to try for child number two, once again, I got pregnant pretty much immediately after not using any form of birth control. Similar circumstances of nursing, condoms, and conception occurred for baby number three, who is due to arrive this summer.

That is a very brief account of 15+ years of active family planning. I could tell you about the time I was on vacation and forgot condoms, and the only ones I could find to purchase were less-than-ideal. Or about the first pregnancy test I took when the line was so faint, I wasn’t sure if it was positive or not and ended rereading the instructions and searching the Internet in order to determine that it was, in fact, a positive result. Or about how my first child was born 17 days early during a hurricane and how my second was born within a few hours of my water breaking and I barely made it to the hospital in time.

I also haven’t mentioned my marital status thus far. I don’t believe it’s Congress’s business what my marital status is. I will tell you that my partner has been an active part of our family planning and has supported my decisions, and that has been very important to me. Nor have I mentioned my education, which should also be irrelevant when talking about adequate healthcare.

While the actual reproduction part of having or not having children has been relatively easy, the childcare part is where things got a little trickier. I worked full-time for a year after my first child was born. I was lucky (again, notice how much I’m using that word) to have a flexible schedule where I could work from home several days a week and I had family to help out with childcare. Then there came a time when that arrangement was not working anymore. The responsibilities of working full-time, doing freelance work, and caring for my child became too hard.

When I looked into daycare, it would have taken somewhere in the range of 70-90% of my income to pay for it, depending on where and how often I sent my child. Though I had never anticipated leaving my full-time job to be full-time caregiver, that was the best option for my family.Living solely on my partner’s income has proven to be challenging both financially (though we’re certainly not destitute) and emotionally. I do not like having to depend on someone else for financial stability, and that feeling has nothing to do with my trust or confidence in my partner. It has to do with being a grown women and not being financially independent. I’ve had a job since I was 9 years old (my first job was delivering newspapers), and while I still do freelance work and write, the tiny amount of money I take in is almost negligible.

Back before the 2016 election (when we decided to try for baby number three), I was hopeful for better and more affordable healthcare coverage for me and my family. I was hopeful for a chance–or at least a discussion–at universal preschool.  I was hopeful about sending my children to college in the future with none of us having to go into huge amounts of debt. I was hopeful for the country.

Throughout my working life, the cost of healthcare–first under my own policy when I worked full-time and now under my partner’s–has continued to rise. The ACA has certainly not been a perfect solution, but we were at least guaranteed no out-of-pocket costs for preventative care (and there are a lot of well-visits the first few years of a child’s life), maternity coverage, birth control (it sure would have saved me a lot of money had this been the case when I was on birth control), and coverage for pre-existing conditions (as pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition). And there was the hope that the country would continue to move in a direction of more affordable healthcare for all.

Now there’s a new Republican healthcare bill on the table, one that doesn’t guarantee all of what I mentioned above. It’s a step in the opposite direction. It cuts services and raises premiums for those who are the most needy (of which I am not). Some Republicans have made it clear, they don’t think men should have to contribute to prenatal care. Some also think that maternity coverage should not be a given under healthcare. What happens to the women and their unborn children who will no longer be able to afford proper prenatal and delivery services? What about babies that end up in neonatal care? How are families going to pay for that?

All this from a political party that stands on a pro-life platform. A party that has continued to chip away at funding for Planned Parenthood, even though it’s well-established that ZERO federal funding goes toward abortions. And what happens when access to women’s healthcare services provided by places like Planned Parenthood is eliminated? Women die. In Texas, where resources for women’s healthcare have been under attack for years, the maternal death rate has skyrocketed.

The message I am getting from the Republican Congress is that they are pro-birth, but they are against giving women options for family planning and they are leaving families out to dry when it comes to actually having to raise those children. Some of them probably even use religion to justify the belief that it’s not a woman’s right to abstain from having sex with her husband, yet they have no desire to offer birth control options or even care for a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Pro-life is a misnomer.

My partner’s insurance is up for renewal in June, a month before our third child is due to be born. What happens to us if our new insurance doesn’t cover maternity care? Delivering a baby in a hospital is expensive without health insurance (and sometimes not so cheap depending on what kind of insurance you have), expensive enough to put this middle-class family in debt if we have to pay out-of-pocket for it all. I’ve never felt so anxious about the expense of birthing a child, and I didn’t expect this when we planned for this baby.

The message I’m getting from the Republican Congress is that they don’t care about my ability to family plan or to raise my family. They want to make the insurance companies more profitable. They want to control what I do with my body under their terms, but they don’t want to give me the tools to do that in a healthy, affordable way. They want to provide tax assistance for the wealthy to get healthcare, but they don’t care if poor people can afford to be healthy. (And I’m not even getting into other anti-family policies here, like barring same-sex couples from adopting.)

Is that the message they want to send? If it’s not, I hope they get their act together and start sending a better one with their words, actions, and proposed laws. If it is the message they want to send, then I hope we all (women and men both) vote them out of office in the next elections. Because I believe in a country where the health and well-being of women and children are some of the most important values we can support. I think our lawmakers should believe that and make laws accordingly.

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