The Radical Rewrites Panel at ReaderCon

I was going through the notes I took at a ReaderCon panel entitled, “Radical Rewrites”. Panelists included: Catherine Asaro, Beth Bernobich, Victoria Blake, Barry B. Longyear, Eugene Mirabelli, and Sarah Smith.

Some of the things that I took away were:

Editorial Processes:

  • For some authors, the editing process is pretty constant. Everything from little grammatical changes to massive plot and character tuning.
  • Find a trusted writing group. Most writing workshops continue to support you after they are over, by providing forums or email contacts.
  • Having your mom do all of your critiquing is usually not as helpful as those dedicated to the process themselves.
  • Step away from your story. Let your writing group do their critiques and only then allow yourself to reengage. A little time off from the worlds you create can open objectivity.
  • One of the most difficult things a writer can face is massive change.
    • For example, your finished story goes out to your trusted reading group. The majority return with a suggestion to change or remove a character or plot device that doesn’t seem to work.
    • If you find yourself in that situation, you need to carefully weigh the suggestion versus trusting your gut. Sometimes our emotional attachments to our characters are too difficult to destroy and it may just be the best thing for your novel or short story.
  • Reading out loud is invaluable for feedback. Not only will you catch little things you may have missed by eyeballing, but you’ll understand what multiple aspects of your story sound like to other people. If your dialogue sounds weird when spoken, it probably is.

Regarding Outlines:

  • Have you launched the story in the right direction? Sometimes your ideas will take on a completely different path than what you first envisioned.
  • Do you have a rough outline? For some authors, it’s better to know your beginning and your ending — allowing for the creativity to flow in the middle of the work.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit the outline as you go along. If your book keeps changing, you need to keep up with your changes instead of letting the changes confuse you.
  • One panelist compared it to taking a trip. You have to know where you are going in order to get there. Being aimless will result in nothing but mess.

Miscellaneous:

  • Some panellists have found that stories and novels written in the 1st person/present tense are harder to sell.
  • Sometimes a title will make you or break you.
  • Know your characters. Sit down and have “conferences” with them. You’ll know if you’re heading in the right direction and more importantly, if they want to go forward with the story.
  • Go back and reread.
  • Know your weaknesses and try through whatever method to work on strengthening them. If your dialogue is weak, point it out to your groups. Ask for suggestions.
  • The greatest difficulty is knowing when a project is not worth completing.
  • Introducing a vampire usually does not work.
  • Be careful with what you throw away. Keep it and come back to it at a later date. You never know, sometimes trash can evolve into a story of it’s own. If it doesn’t, and you become instantly famous, deleted passages can be used as “special content” to entice your readers.
  • Most importantly, if you’re not having fun with your story, you’re doing it wrong.

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