Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 5: Sunday Session 2

This was one of my favorite sessions: Revision: Learn How to Love it by James Scott Bell. In this session, Bell explained his step-by-step method for editing a manuscript.

First: Write hot and revise cool. The only revision Bell does on his first draft is to edit his previous day's work for stylistic changes, fix things that don't make sense, and do a spell check. Then Bell goes right into today's work. As Bell said, "Don't get into big issues."

Bell likes to make a Rolling outline. He writes a scene, then outlines the next 2-3 chapters. He says it's "like driving ahead with headlights on!" You only look at what's right in front of you.

After your first draft is written, Bell recommends that you put it away for at least two weeks, a month is even better. He wants you to "come back as a reader picking it up for the first time." He even suggested making it into a book written by someone else. Print out a hard copy; create a cover with someone else's name on it and a blurb about the book. Then sit down and read it as a reader brand new to the book.

Read through with minimal notes the first time. Bell recommended four markings for this first read through:

1. Check mark for where story is dragging. So I can a come back and ask why this is dragging.
2. Parenthesis around sentences that don't work - clunky metaphors (He was as tall as a tree)
3. Circle in margin for material that needs to be added. An emotion that's not there or other putter inner
4. Question Mark - when I'm totally confused. Why did I write that?

Bell then shared a variety of exercises (too many to list) on how to look for problems in character, plot, scenes, etc.

After you finish the first read through, Bell advised that you write a new summary (2,000 words) of your novel. But not exactly as you wrote the first draft. "The summary should be tight and compelling, like a back cover on steroids." Write this summary 3 - 6 times. When you are finished, this will be the basis of your second draft without having to write a whole 2nd draft!

Another technique Bell suggested was: After the first draft, try throwing out the 1st chapter and then start with Chapter 2.

He spent some time on dialogue and how to improve it, but it's too much to go into here.

After the second draft and edits, repeat the process until it's ready for submission.

Look at:
1. Scene Openings - do it in different ways - immediately in the midst of action or start with the dialogue and set the scene
2. Look at Chapter endings - end with forward momentum
3. Look through dialogue and compress as much as possible (If you can, put a dialogue at beginning (editors want this).


If you want to know more, I highly recommend getting Bell's book! This was a 5+ star workshop!

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