Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Which Maggie Unleashes the Shiver Micro-site

Just a quick one to say that I'm revoltingly pleased that the site for the Shiver books is finally up and running. It makes it a thousand times easier to find the extras and what editions are out and all that good stuff.

Also, the tune from the Linger soundtrack is now available there to download. :)

Lemme know what you think! 

Here it is.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Revision: The Failure Post

I'm afraid today's going to be a blog about failure. First of all, over the weekend, my hard drive failed on my Mac after a brief skirmish of wits that started the middle of last week. Yes, I am steamed. Yes, it is slowing me down. Yes, my computer is going to Florida to hopefully have its brain picked. Yes, I'm beginning to wonder why I went to a Mac instead of my lifelong PCs as at least when my last hard drive failed, I could just take it out of my computer instead of shipping the whole darn thing. Yes, I'm bitter. Can you tell?

Secondly, I know I promised a revision post where I actually demonstrated my revising in action. And I promised it a long time ago. And I'm here to tell you that I have failed utterly to produce such a thing. The reason why is this: I can't show you. Not because it is classified knowledge guarded closely by an order of monks who perform nightly secrecy rituals involving bats and cheerios. But because I can't demonstrate the global changes I make to a manuscript. I could show you some of my editing, but it would be my line-editing, which happens at the very end, when I skim back over and check out word choice and paragraph order. In other words, the least important and useful part of revision, and the part that I try to really, really deemphasize to unpublished authors.

Then I thought I would possibly just describe changes I made to the original Lament manuscript, as they were very sweeping, but I think that without showing huge chunks of the original text, it wouldn't be effective. One day I shall run a giant writer's workshop called RIPPING THE GUTS OUT OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT: A TWO DAY COURSE and I will wave examples and wield red pens. But, that's really hard to do in a blog post.

So . . . I fail. I'm sorry to have promised something that I couldn't deliver, but the choice was between a 50 page long blog post or no blog post, and I think for everyone's sanity, we'll have to go with the latter. The only thing I could think of to make it up to you guys was to post this video of a lamb.


Friday, June 25, 2010

LINGER Music & Williamsburg Launch Party Details

So, amazingly, it is now three-ish weeks until Linger's release date, which means it's time to a) post more music from the Linger playlists and b) post the e-vite to the Colonial Williamsburg release party, so that the bookstore can get a feel for how many folks will be there and order food and copies of Linger accordingly. If you think you may come, here is the link to RSVP. It is July 20th, 5-8:30 p.m., at the college bookstore right in Colonial Williamsburg. Five minutes from the candy shop that inspired the one in Shiver.

Again, here's the link.

Aside from the unmistakable draw of the candy shop and Colonial Williamsburg itself, we'll also be raffling prizes like:
- The Sharpie guitar! with Maggie-done art inspired by Shiver on it. See it larger here.
- Shiver totes and shirts.
- Barnes & Noble gift cards
- French, Hungarian, and Bulgarian editions of Shiver
- Linger poster
- Music!
- other fun surprises that may be wolf themed and will no doubt be thrilling and worthwhile.

There's also a lot of mingle-time built in there too, so you can listen to me tell bad jokes and relate Anecdotes until you're quite bored with me. I will also sign old books of mine that you have so long as you buy a new one of mine from that store.

Anyway. If you're coming (please do!) PLEASE RSVP. Thanks!

Now. Linger music.

First one from one of my favorite bands, Snow Patrol. This is a Sam and Grace one. I have to admit that when I first heard it, the clappies drove me to distraction. But then I got into the lyrics and ooh they are so eerie and sad and pretty.

"The Golden Floor" - Snow Patrol



And then for Cole, who was originally an electronica artist instead of a rock star, is "Radioman" by State of the Union. I still listen to this one all the time while I'm cruising at highway speeds. (and above). (shhh).



 
Which one do you guys prefer? Oh, and that cover of Linger I've posted -- that's the actual color of the finished book.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ten Things on a Tuesday

1. I got distracted by writing over the weekend and Monday and didn't get to do my final revision post with samples. I will do that this week, I promise.


2. Canadians! Shiver has been nominated for the Teen Read Awards, hosted by Indigo. It's sort of a big deal, so if you loved Shiver, if you would vote for me (you can win prizes, or so they tell me) would you vote for it? Here.


My car's nice butt3. Ever since I got Loki, my '73 Camaro, I've had the idea that I wanted to convert it to electric when technology could make a bad-a$$ electric car. Now, I know with the Tesla (0-60 in 4 seconds) that it's totally possible. Even though I'll miss the fantastic growl, this makes me think it's time for us to change. I'm looking for places that do high-performance conversions now because begging Tesla for help seems slightly excessive. if any of y'all have any leads -- lemme know, would you?


4. Folks kept asking me to design Shiver shirts and swag. I finally buckled down and here they are.


5. Booksellers: if you are doing an event for Linger's release, please let me know! I'm sending bookmarks and totes to bookstores who are doing Linger release events of all sorts. 


6. Over on Merry Sisters of Fate, we did a roundtable on revision.


7. Insert numbers 8-10 here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Linger Playlist: Four Weeks to Go!?

Okay, so I sort of got distracted and didn't get to post my Linger playlist tunes yesterday. I took a break and went to see Ironman 2 with Lover and my brother, and we didn't get back until late. (thoughts on Ironman2: could they have fit any more subplots into that movie without it busting at the seams? No. No, I don't think they could have.)

So it is now four weeks until Linger comes out and it's starting to feel very close and ulcer-ish and I'm trying to ignore that and carry on as normal. I mean, people seem to like it so far. I will further distract myself by posting two songs from the Linger playlists. One from the Sam/ Grace and one from Cole/ Isabel. Both of these have very specific scene associations with me and I still regard the first one fondly (yes, I know I've posted that one on the blog before, but you'll just have to suffer through it again.)


"Her Morning Elegance" - Oren Lavie


"Get Out Alive" - Three Days Grace

Friday, June 18, 2010

REVISION: The Neverending Hamster Wheel of Revising Doom (Reader Questions)

So, as promised, my penultimate post about revision is going to be answering questions that I didn’t get to in the previous posts. I’ve taken the liberty of combining similar ones. I have also taken the liberty of translating the question “are you going to ever write a third faerie book?” into Welsh, using google translate.

peanut's strawberries

Ydych yn mynd i erioed ysgrifennu llyfr trydydd Faerie?

and I’m going to answer it in Lithuanian using google translate. Because I have to tell you, one of my favorite pastimes these days is reading foreign articles on Shiver using google translate. I never knew pronouns could be so hilarious. 

Yra dar vienas, mano galva, tačiau jis yra už kitų, eilutė turi būti rašytinis. Sullivan yra karšta, nors, tiesa?

Now that that’s taken care of, we can handle the revision questions.


1. When do you revise? Can you start revisions/editing before you even finish the novel? Do you change things as you go along or do you mark them down and change them after you have finished reading through?

The great overarching wisdom out there is that you should wait until the end to revise, but I’m afraid these are all lies. Well-meaning lies, but lies nonetheless. The reason this wisdom is out there is because 95% of all people who start novels never finish them. Some of the times, this is because they go back and begin to work on the first part and enter the Endless Hamster Wheel of Revising Doom and never escape.

Personally, I revise as I go along, but not at a line-editing level. This, however, doesn’t really register on my revision radar, because I will revise it again completely once it’s all done. I write like this: write a chapter. Reread that chapter, write the next. Reread that chapter, write the next. When I get stuck, I will reread from the beginning and see where I went wrong, because stuck for me means that I took a wrong turn. And then I’ll revise wherever it is I misstepped. Then back to write a chapter, reread for pacing, write again . . .

I don’t mark down changes. If they’re big enough to make me stuck, I’ll change them before I go on. Otherwise, I’ll assume if it was bad enough to stand out when I was reading it this time, it’ll stand out again when I reread and revise at the very end.


2. And how long does it take you to revise a novel?

This varies widely, like how long it can take to write a novel -- it depends on how sweeping my changes need to be. I fully expect to spend two months working on FOREVER. At least. With SHIVER, we went back and forth for over six months. For LINGER, it wasn’t even a month. It’s done when it’s done.


3. How many drafts do you do? And do you keep copies of all of them, or just go over the original document? Do you only do one thing per revision? i.e. adding back story in your 1st run-through, filling plot holes in your 2nd, grammar in your 3rd, etc.?


I don’t think I have a tremendously precise answer for this. The most streamlined revision process I ever did was for Linger, and it was three passes. Once to write the book. Once to go over about seven very big picture items. And a final to tweak nuances and motivations in a line edit stage. That’s pretty much my basic model, but sometimes it will take another pass if you shift something majorly in one of those passes. I don’t like doing a bunch of little passes; it makes me lose the pacing of the thing and my objectivity.

A word about grammar. Typos, word choice, and grammar are indeed looked at once you get published, but we have a specific set of edits that we do for them, called copy edits. Copy editors are not the same as your actual editor, and they look at grammar, make sure that you don’t have a historical fact wrong, verify that you meant for the high school in your book to let out in May instead of June.

Why am I telling you this? Because the most important thing a writer can figure out about revision is that these copy edit things are not important to the overall story. They’re crucial, but they come absolutely last after you are ready to send that puppy to agents or to print. They do not belong in any other stage of revision. To get caught up in them is, again, to take up residence in the NeverEnding Hamster Wheel of Revising Doom. Also, if your critique partners are sending you only suggestions of that variety, they need to be replaced.


4. Have you ever edited something out that you wish you would have left in? Like... Not only at the current moment, but even looking back on your other four books?

I can’t think of anything, actually. Well, no, I take that back. There was originally an epilogue to Lament and I miss that ever so slightly. It wouldn’t work now, because of what I wrote in Ballad, but I do wish Lament had an epilogue. I think after writing 5 and a half books and going through edits five times, that’s a pretty good average. 


5. When you revise, based on the helpful advice from your crit partners, do you ever worry about losing your individual'voice' along the way? Do your editors and crit partners and other WHOs always understand your core before they start the slaughter? And if they do understand the core, do they target their suggestions at highlighting that core?

I hit upon this in the core post, so I won’t belabor it, but this: you need to know what you’re trying to say, the most basic point of the book, and then you need to check your ego at the door. Don’t fight with your crit partners over their suggestions. Don’t defend your book. Just look at their suggestion and if you don’t like what they are suggestion, ask yourself WHY they are suggesting it. Think of it like this. Manuscript --> Problem --> Solution. When you get an edit, they are telling you the third thing. Your job is to use their solution to diagnose your actual problem, and then come up with your own solution. I won’t lose my voice because I come up with my own solutions based upon the information I’ve gotten from my inferred diagnosis.

And no, my critique partners don’t’ always know what my core is. I sometimes have to say: this is what I’m trying to do. How do I get there?


6. What kind of reasons did they give you for needing to cut something from the book? And how difficult is it for you to accept these requests? Do you ever have the ability to say no, this must stay? Or is a -change it or forget it- kind of scenario?


I don’t think that this can really be tackled in this post, because it’s not actually about revisions, its about the editorial relationship -- which is a great question, but also way too broad to answer in a para. The short answer is, yes, you can always negotiate. Editors are fully aware that what they are suggesting is only one solution to a problem and if you see the problem, you can suggest another solution for it. If people really want to know more about this, I can do another post about this in the future.


7. Just curious...Do you revise your Merry Fates stories? Or they sort of first drafts?


They are definitely first drafts. I usually set my timer for an hour and post them. The last one I wrote on my lap top while in the passenger seat of my husband’s truck, on a two hour drive on the way back from Busch Gardens.


8. You talked earlier about the core: How do you know what that is? I'm revising a young adult urban fantasy and the one thing I wanted most from it is that it is a young adult version of the quick-paced urban fantasy series for adults I like that are typically mysteries.

That’s a good goal, but it’s not a core -- genre doesn’t count as core. You need something more specific than that to hold onto, something that lit that particular story’s fire under your butt. It would be like me saying that my core for SHIVER was the paranormal romance. That’s way too broad to be useful.

Your core is what made you sit down to write that first line. It’s what keeps you up at night thinking about it. It’s the theme you wanted to talk about, the point you wanted to make, the character arc you wanted to explore, the mood you wanted to paint, the folktale you wanted to explore, the metaphor you needed to write.


9. How do you know when enough is enough?  Does it ever end?

It sure as skippy better, because revising doesn’t pay the bills. I think it’s about goals for me. I read through the entire manuscript after I’m done and, along with my editor and crit partners, I get a sort of list together of the big points I need to tackle. Like with LINGER, with that broad spectrum pass. I got seven main to-do items from Editor MixTape, and I went down the list and began to tackle them. They all made ripples that affected other scenes, so it was an all-over affair for each point, but still, when I got to the end of the list, I was done and ready for nit-pickier stuff. So if I’m revising on my own, I’d do it the same way. I’d go through and read the whole thing and maybe get a list that looks like this:

    - first third lags in pacing
    - make Bucko more sympathetic
    - chapter with tractor accident needs to be streamlined
    - cut whipped cream episode
    - make Stuffy’s motivations more obvious
    -  increase sense of dread up to salon scene
    - cut Fendi from final chapter
    - combine Rocky & Bullwinkle into one character

And then when I got through that whole list, I’d go back and reread it and see if that fixed all my issues. Usually it’ll take me 1-3 passes like this. Then it’s time to hand it off to objective parties and see if they have any outstanding issues.

The thing is, don’t nitpick. Don’t get stuck on line editing. A good editor can see through those things, but a good editor can’t see through wild story problems. And hold onto your manuscript for the right reasons, not just because you’re afraid to send it out. Fear is not a good reason to keep revising.
 

10. I just want to say that each time I see your icon it makes me happy. Did you paint that? Is there a way to see the full res/get a print? It doesn't get much cuter than a dog trying to eat strawberries with a spoon.

Um, yes, this is one of my drawings. It was back in my I-want-to-be-a-book-illustrator stage. That’s my dog Peanut, and those are my strawberries. No print, though, sorry -- I just don’t have a big enough file to make them available. And thanks. :)



I think that’s all of them -- let me know if I missed you. And the final post tomorrow will be a revision example. So . . . stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

REVISION: Trouble-shooting Your Novel

Okay, so after being pretty relentlessly abstract in my ramblings about my revision process so far (post one here) (post two here), I think it’s time for me to start talking about nuts and bolts. It’s strange to talk about it as a predictable process, because it’s not really. It varies wildly from book to book and some books will need a lot of a certain sort of attention and then other books will need a totally different plan of attack.

So I think the best way for me to take this basket of snakes and lay them straight is to pull out individual revision snakes that I look for in any given book and talk about what I do to fix it. These are in no particular order, no particular facet more universal than others. There is no cobra macdaddy of revisions snakes. We all have our own little foibles and bad habits and so what’s a huge problem for one writer might not even be a blip for another.


PACING. For me, pacing is the first thing I tackle, only because it’s the first thing I notice with my particular revision process, which is to start rereading from the beginning. Pacing is how well scenes flow together. It’s how fast or slow a novel or a section of a novel reads. It should be intentional. If your book is not a page turner, you sure as gravy better have planned it that way.

Pacing is something that you definitely need objectivity for. I have three things I’ll do to revise pacing.

1. A spreadsheet with each scene listed in a table. I’ll have the page number it starts on and I will color code it for what day it takes place on. That way I can see right away if I have just dedicated ten scenes to one day and one scene to the Tuesday after that day.

2. Format. I reread from beginning to end, no distractions, to check pacing. Different font or page size will often help job my brain into objectivity, and if I have time with my deadlines, I will always pay the $6 to have lulu.com bind the manuscript in paperback book form (always marked to private, of course). Seeing the paragraphs on an actual book page is very helpful for judging how long a scene “feels” since often a scene will feel long to me just because it took me a long time to write it.

3. Index cards. Oh, index cards, how I love thee. I found an old one last year that said “kill grandma.” Yes, they’d love me on Criminal Minds. Anyway, I will often write all the scenes on index cards and lay them out in order. Sometimes a pacing or plot problem can be solved as easily as bumping the mattress fire from Chapter 12 to Chapter 4.





CHARACTER.
This is such a broad one that I could do an entire week’s posts on it. There are a bunch of different things I’m looking for when I revise at character level.

1. Perception. If a character is meant to be a sexy bad boy, is he coming off that way or are readers perceiving him as a constipated bastard with in Hilfiger attire? This is really why you need more than a week off and why no novel can come out of the faucet perfect. You can’t see how a character really comes off without distance (this is where crit partners and editors help, too).

2. Consistency. Does the character always behave according to her personality and background? Is she being motivated by his desires and fears, or is she going into the cave because there is a plot point there waiting for her and Amazing Coincidences have led her there? Do you know what kind of shoes she wears? You don’t have to know everything about your main characters, but you should be able to fill in the holes easily if prompted, based upon the rules you’ve set up for their personalities. This is the reason why I was able to tweet with confidence that Sam doesn’t wear skinny jeans. Sorry, skater-boy fans.

3. Voice. This is consistency’s prettier twin sister. Especially since I write largely in first person, the voice of each character has to work. That means word choice has to be stared at (a copyeditor noted, for instance, that Sam was the only one allowed to say ‘amongst’) and all events have to be seen through that character’s lens. I shouldn’t be able to pick up any given paragraph and put it in another character’s mouth, for instance, and have it still work. If a box of nails falls on the ground, the way one character views it should be wildly different than another. And if it’s not, either I wrote it wrong, or I need to think about making my characters more opposite to each other.

4. Arc. Every narrating character has to have an arc. They need to end the book a different person than when they started. If I’m doing it right, they should also exit every scene a different person than they entered. I’m not talking about them learning to be Great People or tucking Life Lessons under their belt. I’m talking about consequences. The old James Bond is a great example of a character that never changes (well, in the movies. In the books he grew). Every James Bond movie started with the exact same James, emotionally unchanged by what came before. You can write a book like that but your plot better be first class and your prose amazing and be prepared for it to be popcorn, because that’s what the James Bond movies were. If you want to stick with your reader, you need consequences and a changed main character.

PLOT. Tessa, my crit partner, calls this “story” and I think I like that better, because plot sounds like it can be divorced from character arcs, and I don’t think that is a good idea, unless you are into inhumane experimentation and global warming. It’s just unethical and ill-advised. Don’t do it. Anyway, when I’m revising plot, I want logic and I want inevitability without predictability. Each scene should feel like “oh, of course this had to happen next” without the reader saying “oh, right, I knew that was going to happen.”

This is also where I start deciding whether scenes are pulling their weight. They need to be either furthering the plot or furthering the character arc, and preferably both. If they aren’t -- for instance, if they’re just funny? They’re outta there. Needs to be funny and useful. Or beautiful and useful. But if it’s not serving a purpose, be cruel. Better to err on the side of merciless hacking. (brief aside: when I reread this for typo search, I thought that said merciless baking, which is also a good revision tip to remember).

Plot also goes hand in hand with pacing. When I’m deciding if a scene has to die, I often pull out those index cards from my pacing days and see if it is not wrong in general but just wrong where it is.

EDGES. WARNING MORE ART METAPHORS AHEAD. One of the things that I learned while doing my painting-a-day thing was that it didn’t matter how great the colors were, how solid the contrast, how great the composition -- you were shooting blanks unless you nailed the edges of objects. It’s something that no one in their right mind would ever point out (“look at the fabulous way she lined the edge of that face. It really adds depth and dynamism to an otherwise ordinary painting! I <3 edges!!!11”) but it makes a huge subconscious difference. It’s the difference between good and finished. It makes things look On Purpose. END ART METAPHOR

I think of my books this way too. The beginning and ends of scenes are edges. The beginning and ending of chapters, too. And of course, the whole book. Zombie goddess Carrie Ryan wrote that she couldn’t start her book without the perfect line, and I know how she feels. That line is your thesis statement. The first line of every chapter sets the scene. The last line tells you the meaning of what you just read. Transitions will make your pacing works, sell your timetable, make it a book instead of a draft. They are your edges, and when you do them right, no one will notice them but they’ll be there, invisible, working hard to support your plot and character arcs.


I think this thing has gotten giant enough for one post, and it hits the big points. I’m going to be hitting up specific questions in the next one, I think, and then doing an example of revising in the last one. If I am glossing over anything you want unglossed, bring on the questions, as always!

ETA: Now with 100% more screenshot added, as per request! With blurring of spoilers!

Monday, June 14, 2010

REVISION: Nothing is Sacred (Except For The Stuff That Is)

Okay. Revision week. I got so many questions about revision last week that I decided to do a series of posts on it this week, culminating in me actually picking apart a piece of Real Maggie Writing as an example. The first post in the series, summarizing revision, is here.

As I was trying to figure out how to go from broad to narrow with this topic, I started scouring the questions for clues on what I ought to talk about next. And I found a bunch of questions that all sort of have the same answer.

“What kind of reasons did they give you for needing to cut something from the book? And how difficult is it for you to accept these requests? Do you ever have the ability to say no, this must stay? Or is a -change it or forget it- kind of scenario?”

“I teach my students to revise short pieces, but where do you even begin with a novel?”

“When you revise, based on the helpful advice from your crit partners, do you ever worry about losing your individual voice along the way? And if so, how do you not do that?”

“So my question...how much crit is too much crit?”


So. There are shades of difference to these questions, but I think they all have the same answer (well, partial answer). My number one ground rule for revision is this:

NOTHING IS SACRED IN YOUR NOVEL

(UM, EXCEPT YOUR CORE)

Core is what your novel is. It’s not what your novel is about. It’s the thing that made you want to tell this story and no other. It’s the theme, or the character, or the setting that made you love it. You have to know what the specific core of your novel is, because that’s all that you’re going to consider sacred. Everything else is negotiable. I am quite happy to tear down a novel to its bare roots if I think it’ll make the literary plant healthier. And quite often, that’s what you have to do. I don’t really consider such a revision a disaster either. Dumping nearly everything you have and starting anew is not really actually starting from scratch, anyway.

ART METAPHOR ALERT.

When painting with oils, especially transparencies, the old masters used to take incredible care with what layers of color they put down, even if they covered them all up with another color. Why? Because if you painted a canvas orange and then painted it black, the black will look different than if you painted that black over blue instead. Layers are subtly transparent and the eye will still see the nuances of the layers beneath it.

So your manuscript is like that. Even when you tear down to the ground, you’ll still be bringing the nuances of those scenes that you wrote before to your manuscript. Nothing’s ever truly lost. Especially once you make a new document and label it “outtakes” to put all your cut material in. No, you probably won’t use that stuff that you cut out. But your biographer will have it on hand later when they write the book about you.

END ART METAPHOR ALERT.

So when I start a revision, I need to know what matters, and it becomes untouchable. So no matter what crit partners say, editors say, my lurking evil devil self on my shoulder says, that core stays intact. For SHIVER, my core was the mood. It was to be a slow, slow build to a bittersweet end, no matter what else disappeared. I'd cut the werewolves before I cut that mood and pace. I got a lot of feedback during the editorial process that I had to sort through, and while it was great to have a chance to really hone and focus, it also meant I had to tie myself to the mast of what I wanted out of the book. I got a ton of great suggestions. And some of them would’ve changed the pace of the book considerably. Sometimes I had two editors and critique partner giving me the same advice and I had to stand on everything that I believed and wanted for the book and say, “No. I know that sounds like a great idea and it IS a great idea, but no, you have to trust me. It’s not that kind of book.”

But you only get to have one or two of those core things that cannot be stepped upon. Normally, when two readers both offer you the same advice and you disagree -- it means you’re wrong. This is where the nothing is sacred bit comes in. You have to be willing at every step of the game to ask yourself “is this wrong?” Because sometimes, when something isn’t working on page 326, it’s because you did something messily on page 12. And sometimes that something you did wrong on page 12 is buried in the most beautiful line of prose you’ve ever written. Or sometimes the reason why your pacing is  wonky is because you bantered too long in chapter four, even though that banter is the best banter ever written. You know that saying “kill your darlings”? Well, this is what it means. You don’t have to kill something because you love it too much. But you have to be willing to cut it even though you do. Nothing is sacred except the core. (Now chant that fourteen times while wearing a cloak and we'll get a proper cult going).

So. I’m off to go work cut things off the core of FOREVER. My next post is going to be more nuts and bolts of revision, so if you have any questions . . . keep ‘em coming.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

REVISION: Bring on the Clowns, or Revision, Part 1

So I have just begun the fun-filled process of revising FOREVER. When I mentioned the word on Facebook, I instantly had folks expressing puzzlement, fear, and distrust. Basically, it was the reaction most people have to clowns.

But revision is not clowns. Revision is not even a necessary evil. Revision is to drafting like finishing school is to pregnancy. After you carry that drafting literary baby for nine months and it pops out with snaggle teeth, bad hair, and the inability to carry a tune, you can take all the time in the world sending it to the dentist, finding a hair stylist, and getting music lessons.

In other words, revision is going to save your life, baby.

I solicited questions about revision a few posts ago and as they rolled in, I realized it’s waaaaay too much material for one blog post. So there for, I’m designating this whole week Revision Week on my blog and it’ll culminate in me showing how I would revise an actual piece of my writing.

To start it off, I’m going to do a really brief summary of revising, and I’m going to use the time tested method of 80s’ book reports. The Who/What/Where/When/Why. Oh yeah. You know you love it.

WHO: Who all’s involved in these revisions? Sometimes it’s your editor. Sometimes it’s your critique partners or beta readers. Sometimes it’s just you. There is nothing wrong with any of these methods. Surrounding yourself with good people will often keep you motivated, but surrounding yourself with people who are slightly out of sync with you is worse than having nobody at all. I have great crit partners and I blogged about how I got them here. The thing to emphasize here is that you don’t need to have anyone else. You can start your revisions with just yourself and ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

WHAT: What exactly are you trying to do with revisions?
Revision is like water, it’s good for everything. You’re looking to fix pacing, make characters consistent, make dialog natural, delete unnecessary scenes, tighten themes, eliminate extraneous characters, add connecting scenes. You know what I don’t care so much about? Fixing typos. Changing word choice line by line. Making sure that I don’t have two Mondays in a row. That stuff will not make or break a book and it’s the very last thing you do. Revisions, to me, mean gutting the pig. Big picture. Global. Not line by line.

WHERE: Where do you start? This will depend on you, dear reader. Sometimes you have a very specific idea of a problem area and you know right where to fix it. Sometimes you have scenes that you know need to be written and you can go right to them. But more often than not, you’ve lost total objectivity and the whole thing looks like the same word typed 60,000 times. So I start at the beginning, because that way I can judge pacing. I often have a document with a table of all the scenes in it. Who’s narrating, what happens in it, how many pages it is. Color-coded to say which day it takes place on. I’m visual so the more I can climb out of my novel and make it into a box I can hold in my hands, the closer I am to feeling in control.

WHEN: When do you start? You need a month, at least. I’ve revised two weeks after finishing a draft, but it is not ideal, and if you’re not on an insane deadline, why do anything less than ideal? What you’re trying to get back is your objectivity -- that super power that allows you to read other people’s books and instantly see the flaws? Yeah, you want that back again. So you’re going to need a month during which you don’t open that document even to peek. Hopefully you’ll be reading and thinking about entirely other things during that month. And possibly you’ll even have your manuscript cheaply bound by Lulu.com while you’re waiting, because something about seeing your book bound like a book will really help you with pacing and objectivity in general. One month. At least. NO PEEKING.

WHY: Why don’t you hate revisions, Maggie?
Because I don’t fart glitter and unicorns. My words don’t come out of the faucet perfect. Even when I can write line to line in a way that looks pretty darn good, the overall themes and characterization and pacing always need help to be their best. It is in no way, shape, or form optional. Everyone revises, from the newbie to the Pulitzer winner. And it’s not something that you get “better” at, so that you eventually don’t need it. My revision for FOREVER is more sweeping already than the one for LINGER. But not quite as dramatic as the one for LAMENT. Every book is different -- the only thing that stays the same is that they’re all going to need to be prodded with the red hot poker of revision at some point or another.

Like the clowns, you can keep finding them scary, or you can learn to live alongside them. I’ve made my peace with the smiling buggers.

So. Um. More to come on Monday. As before, if you have specific questions (I have many that I’ll be tackling) about revisions or about one of the five W’s here, leave ‘em in the comments. It's a bit like being asked how you tie your shoes. It's unwieldy to figure out how to describe just what I'm doing.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sometimes I laugh really loud really late at night

And sometimes, it's because my readers are awesome.




I think the last twenty seconds are my favorite. I'm chuckling like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. That deep, sort of evil laugh that sounds like she's got mashed potatoes in her mouth.

Linger Playlist, Texas Dates & Happy Germans

Okay, it's Friday, and it's before Linger's coming out, so more Linger music (are you guys tired of this yet?) It's now five-ish weeks until Linger's release and it's starting to feel really close. As such, I now have my full tour schedule for this summer. Here tis'.

July 20th: Barnes & Noble, Williamsburg, VA, launch event where a Sharpie guitar will be given away.
July 23rd: Keplers, Menlo Park, CA.
July 24th: Copperfield's, Santa Rosa, CA
July 25th: Barnes & Noble, El Cerrito, CA
July 26th: Borders, Glendale, CA
July 27th: Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA
July 28th: Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands, TX
July 28th: Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX
July 29th: Book People, Austin, TX
(and not officially part of the tour, but August 13th: Williamsburg Public Library)
For full details, go here. (And yes, I will be in Florida and also the UK, Germany, and France and probably other countries this fall, details to come).

The Germans also sent me the website for the German edition of Shiver, Nach Dem Sommer, which has the names of the other two books in the series (and covers!) too. It's pretty darn gorgeous.

Tomorrow I'll be doing an epic post on revisions. But for now, I leave you with two more Linger songs, one from Sam/ Grace's playlist and one from Isabel/ Cole's. Once again, lemme know which one you like better -- I always seem to guess wrong. And also, once again AGAIN, if you love something, go buy a legal copy and do the artists proud. etc.

"Goodnight" by La Rocca. I'm sorry that the sound quality is pretty darn crappy.



and for Cole/ Isabel, "Brooklyn is Burning" by Head Automatica.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Three Things on a Thursday: The NYT Bestseller edition

1. Um, giant thanks are in order, as the Shiver paperback came out on June 1st . . . and promptly hit the NYT Bestseller list. Thank you, thank you -- it's word of mouth and fantastic readers that have been keeping it on the list for 33 weeks total now. UNBELIEVABLE. *faints*

2. Over on Facebook, folks have asked me if I would talk about revision and why it doesn't make me cry like an anemic vampire. I reckon this is a good blog post and I'll probably tackle it tomorrow or Saturday. If you have specific revision questions, would you leave 'em in the comments?

3. My critique partner Tessa Gratton is giving away something so awesome I can't even explain it. Well, I can. It's an ARC of LINGER. But there is something I've done to it that makes it totally one of a kind. Clicky clicky to find out what.


Visit her at tessagratton.com!

Also, did I say THANK YOU!? Because I probably haven't said it enough.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And Now, I Scream, Because That's What Girls Do

I’m afraid today’s gonna be a rant.

It all started because of a blog post I read yesterday, about stereo-typing gender in novels. And then got sort of nudged on its way by a book I was reading last night. And then my annoyance and rant was finally solidified this morning when I was hunting for Legos for my daughter’s birthday.

I’ll spare you the agony of my thought processes and instead sum up the thesis that all three of these things were putting forth: men and women are inherently different.  Different enough to want drastically different things out of life. Different enough that the same behaviors mean different things. Almost different enough to be two different species, according to the blog post and its comments.

harry_siriusAs an author, I write people who are not like me all the time. With any character, you have to ask yourself, “would this character really react this way?” It’s a question that gets harder the further away a character is from your own personal experience. Writing about a bookish girl who plays a lot of musical instruments, for instance, is going to be a different kettle of fish for me than writing about, say, a divorced astronaut with gout. One of them is a far longer jump for me than the other.

But I have to tell you, I don’t think that merely crossing the gender divide is enough to make me trade my writer pogo stick for a jet plane. A male version of me would not be as different as people seem to think. And this is what it comes down to: gender stereotypes are something that really toast my bread.

Bu they’re in reviews, in product placement, everywhere. On the Lego site, they had a ton of cool sections. Pirates, Star Wars, Castles, Fire Trucks . . . and then one section labeled “Recommended for girls.” Guess what was in it? Grocery store. House. A Lego heart. A Lego bunny. Shopping center. Post man. Garbage man. A marketplace. And pink things, of course. You know what Thing 1, my daughter, really wanted? A castle. With some swash-buckling guys and a princess. Such a thing was nearly impossible to find -- I had to get a castle and then track down a princess on eBay, because you just couldn’t get a castle with a chick in it. Because of course, girls don’t play with castles.

And then, the other day, Thing 2 (4 year old boy) came home from school and said that he didn’t want to watch a movie that he and Thing 1 used to love to watch, because it was “girly.” I said, “How do you figure?” He said that one of his friends at school had said so. He couldn’t watch it because it would somehow diminish his stature. I gotta tell you, that steamed my clams. (yes, there’s a lot of cooking going on in this post. It’s how you can tell I’m really hot around the collar)(oh! oh! the puns!)(I amuse myself).

angelina-jolie-daniel-craig-tomb-raiderThe thing is this: yes, there are some physiological differences between men and women. They were just talking on Mythbusters last night about how women have higher pain tolerance, for instance. But the vast psychological gap between men and women, the one that makes books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus possible, is created after we pop out of the womb. There are little subtle things that we do every day to reinforce stereotypes. We say, for instance, that we want a sensitive man who cries. (and guess what, little boys cry just as often as little girls). But when we’re watching a movie and the big burly man cries at the funeral and says “it’s so beautiful!” what does the audience do? We don’t say “awww.” We laugh, right? So what guy in his right mind is going to not suppress his tears or his sentimentality? And we say we want strong women who make up their minds. But a woman who shoots from the hip and says just what she wants? Well, then she’s a bitch -- where’s her sense of tact?

And the thing is, so many teens I know don’t question these attitudes. They take it as fact, when in different eras, what was was seen as feminine and masculine was wildly different. Men were painters without any snickering. Women couldn’t play violin because the arm position was provocative. To be tanned was unbecoming for a woman. It was not seen as unmanly to be a patron of the arts. Society makes up a lot of rules for what it means to be a man or a woman. And society is us. That means we can unmake them too.

Okay, so I need to bring this back around to my writing philosophy. And it’s this: yes, I know there are women and men who are wildly different from one another, who fall classically along gender lines. But I also know that there are those who are not that different, the ones who have escaped or resisted a lot of the influences that makes us pink-clad shoppers versus muscle-bound Maxim readers. And when I write, my characters will often be plucked from that latter group. Boys who read poetry and girls who swear and guys who play music and chicks who love cars. I refuse to see the gender gap in YA fiction as a chasm of fixed proportions. I refuse to constantly make sure my girls are acting “girly” and my boys are acting “guyish.” That would mean letting current mores define gender and character for me.

Because when it comes down to it, a stereotype is only true now. An individual is true for ever.

Picture 4

Friday, June 4, 2010

Linger Music & California Events

Woof. Six weeks-ish away until Linger's release, and a Friday, so time for more music from the Linger playlists. I'm going to post one from the Sam/ Grace list and then one from the Cole/ Isabel one.

First of all, lemme post my California tour schedule. Scholastic is sending me on tour in California and Texas this year. Because I get (flatteringly) begged  by readers to come to so many places I have to say upfront that I have NO say where I get sent -- so if you are dying to see me in your town, it's Scholastic and your local bookstores you should tell.

This year it will be the Williamsburg, VA launch event, California, Texas, some Florida events near conferences, and then the overseas stuff.

July 20th at 5pm

B&N Williamsburg VA
College of William & Mary Bookstore
Duke of Gloucester Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185
Phone: 757-253-4900
Friday, July 23rd, 7pm

Kepler’s
1010 El Camino Real
San Francisco, CA 94025
Phone: 650-462-5506
Saturday, July 24th, 7pm

Petaluma Copperfield’s
701 Wilson Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: 707/579-8797
Sunday, July 25 4pm

B&N El Cerrito,
6050 El Cerrito Plaza
El Cerrito, CA 94530
Phone 510-524-0087
Monday July 26th at 7pm

Borders Glendale
100 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
Tuesday, July 27th at 6pm

Once Upon A Time Book Store
2207 Honolulu Ave.
Montrose, CA 91020

Now onto the music. First one is from Sam & Grace's list, then from Cole/ Isabel's. As usual, if you love it, buy it legally, make everybody happy.

Which do you guys prefer? (I always guess wrong).

"Color Bars" - Elliott Smith



"Duke" - Booka Shade

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Letter to Diana Wynne Jones

Dear Diana,

I found out yesterday that you'll be discontinuing the chemotherapy you'd been undergoing for your lung cancer and I realized it was time to write a letter. Past due time.

Again and again in interviews, I've listed your books and career as one of my main influences, but I never actually told you directly. So here goes. When I was a young, evil child, I read your books again and again. I'm pretty sure I stumbled on Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant first, during my years living in between the shelves of my public library. Then Archer's Goon and The Ogre Downstairs, checked out again and again. Then I hit on Fire and Hemlock, which I didn't like the first time, partially because I was too young and partially because my sister loved it, and there was no way I was going to be caught dead loving something that she loved. She must feel so vindicated now that I've finally agreed to love it.

All the while I was writing horrible books with overwrought characters and dreaming of being an author.

Then some summer I hit upon Dogsbody and I know I did other things that summer, but I don't remember any of them. Because I read Dogsbody back to back six times. I still remember laying on my bed -- on a hot, muggy, thunderstorming Virginia afternoon -- closing the last page of the book, sighing, and then flipping it back over to the front to read it again, not even getting up to stretch my legs.

And somewhere along the way, I decided, that was why I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be that author who changed someone's life. Not through deep and weight philosophical tomes, but merely by the sheer physical weight of the days spent lost in the pages and mood of the book. So much of my childhood was reading and so many of those books were yours. So even after hitting the bestseller list and getting lovely emails from around the globe, my favorite ones are still the ones that say: "I have reread Shiver or Ballad or Lament 14 times."

Thank you so much for being part of my childhood and adulthood and everything in between. I owe a debt more than any letter sent via e-mail or post could say, and I'm sorry that it took bad news for me to send it.

The other day, I pulled out Fire and Hemlock and reread it for the first time in years. And you know what I did when I got to the end? I flipped it back around and started reading it again.


Yours,


Maggie
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