The Ripple Effect

It’s been a while since I started a blog chain and what more appropriate post than this one about the ripple effect to start one. I’m kicking off this chain with the following question:

Has your manuscript (WIP or completed) experienced a ripple effect, where one change affected the manuscript from beginning to end? If so, how?

The premise behind the blog chain idea is for you to write this question at the top of a post, link it back to the person whose blog you read it on, answer the question, and invite others (consider this your formal invitation) to participate. Last, post a link to participant(s) who link back to your blog to complete the chain.

Photo Credit: jeuxsansfrontieres

The other day during my critique group, we discussed how making changes to a story can have ripple effects. Sometimes, those ripples are small. For example, during one of many revisions to my YA dark paranormal EDGE OF TRUTH, where I’ve created a futuristic, dystopian world I realized my characters spent a lot of time outside without eye protection from their too bright sun. Everyone running around with sunglasses was too Agent Smith from the Matrix so instead, I added something more durable and literally flexible: sun hats. OMG, Rena’s (the MC) love interest Nevan looks so hot in a his hat.

As I moved through the manuscript finding scenes where hats were needed, I discovered how much something so simple enriched the world building. It gave my characters something to hide their face behind when embarrassed or angry, it gave them something to hold for comfort, it gave them something to wring in worry. Plus, something so normal helped make them feel real.

I’ve had stronger ripples as well, especially when I brought in a new character who I had to seamlessly work throughout the entire manuscript.

The movie Butterfly Effect is an extreme example of how one change can affect the future.

I’m interested in hearing whether you’ve experienced the ripple effect in your work and if so, how? If you decide to participate in this blog chain, please let me know so I can include a link. If you just want to leave your comments below, that works for me, too. Note: There’s no timeline on this, so link whenever you want.

Please visit these blogger(s) too to see how they answered the question:

∞ Dawn Allen at Write On
Consider yourself linked:

Committing to Manuscript Improvement

(Source)Recently, Rach Writes posted a quote from a post written by Mary Kole titled Big Revision on One line (two, for those of you who want to get technical) in particular, clarified the difference between sort of being committed to revising a manuscript and complete commitment to manuscript improvement.

“Let me say it here once and for all: unless you make big changes, a revision isn’t worth doing. If you go out on a submission round and get roundly rejected, you’re not going to solve your problem by going back to the page to tweak a few words here and there.” – Mary Kole

During the first rounds of the editing process, writers:

  • fix typos
  • correct grammar errors
  • correct punctuation errors
  • ensure characters are believable and consistent from beginning to end
  • double-check for plot holes
  • make sure readers are well-oriented with the setting
  • include the senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch [and where applicable sixth sense]) into each scene
  • etc.

This process yields a polished manuscript ready to submit to agents, editors, or publishers depending on the authors career goals. Sometimes, even after the daunting task of revisions, fundamental changes to the manuscript are necessary.

This is where Mary Kole’s advice comes into play. It takes total commitment to improve a manuscript. Writers have to be willing to let go of carefully selected words, beautiful prose, even entire pages for the good of the manuscript. When something in the story isn’t working, we can’t just change a few words in hopes of making it better. We must put in the effort and do the hard word to fix it, even if that means throughout portions of the story and starting fresh.

This week, is hosting a Revision Week where eight prolific, bestselling, award-winning authors give insight to their revision process. One of my favorite questions the Editor asks is about the most drastic thing an authors have done. Some major thinking outside of the box. I’ve learned much through their interviews.

Has your work ever needed major revisions? Care to summarize why and how you fixed it? How do you know when to put down the proverbial red pen?

Balancing Critique Feedback

I have multiple critique partners. Four I meet with in person, one via Skype, and three online. They have varying backgrounds and critique methods. Getting feedback from so many people can get overwhelming. For me, the best way to digest input is to search for common denominators. Chances are if multiple people say the same thing doesn’t work for them, it needs revision. Sometimes, the critiques contradict one another. In those cases, I ask clarifying questions of my partners to figure out why they made a certain comment and weigh their answer against what I was trying to accomplish in the scene.

Right now, my partners are reviewing my YA paranormal dystopia Edge of Truth. It’s new to some of them, others have seen many drafts already. I think the recent version below is fun and shows Rena’s (Main Character) personality.

The first page then:

With a grip on a gnarled stick, Rena Moon trampled across the rocky terrain. The mountain’s shadow offered no relief from the afternoon heat, nor did the slight breeze. Sweat dampened clothes clung to her back and frizz sprang up along her hairline.

“Maybe I should change my last name to Canyu. Rena can you get water? Rena can you help the twins…? Rena can you…can you…can you…” She spun to face her best friend, Blaze. “And if Anata thinks she’s going to make me go to Solstice after what happened last year?”

“I know, but can you slow down a little?” Blaze slipped on a rock, but caught her balance before she fell.

Rena slowed. “I told you to pick up a walking stick. It’s not breaking a Conservation Law if the branch is already dead on the ground.”

“Keep it down,” Blaze whispered. “It’s bad enough we already broke one law today. I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.”

“We’re at least eight miles from the cities. The Synbots don’t patrol here.” The thought of the synthetically created robots in the Badlands made Rena cringe. She needed a break from the confines of the stupid laws they enforced every minute of the day.

“I don’t want to miss curfew. How long will it take to get home?” Blaze asked.

“I’m never going back to Dumpden.”

Blaze staggered. “Well, there’s nowhere else for people like us to go. Are you sure they can’t track us here?”

After compiling feedback from my critique partners, I found a few common denominators. The first line is descriptive and not much of a hook and the MC’s BFF sounded a little whiny. Also, having so many critique partners gives me the opportunity to learn from them as well. Often times, we are able to identify issues with each other’s work which we can turn around and apply to our own.

For example, one of my partners was working on a YA paranormal, only nothing supernatural happened in the first chapter. Even though my main character demonstrates her power by page four, I wanted to work it in sooner. Plus, I had a long talk with myself about why I liked the second half of the book better than the first. The answer was simple: Nevan. So, I revised the opening to demonstrate Rena’s paranormal ability quicker, bring in her love interest sooner, and introduce her BFF in a more likable light.

The first page now:

Rena Moon wished she could swap places with the water bottle, held tight and pressed to Nevan’s lips. Or even the sunlight peeking through the trees, tracing the contours of his face.

“Come on,” she said to her best friend Blaze. “Let’s move closer.”

“Why are you whispering?  It’s not like he can hear us from here.”


“We’ll have a better vantage point from over there.” Blaze pointed to a shaded spot five trees to the left. “It’s just outside his peripheral vision, which means we can stand closer to him. Maybe even within hearing range.”

“Loving your attention to detail.” She tucked her fingers beneath her rucksack strap and strolled toward the tree, all the while stealing glances at Nevan.

“Sweet Mother Earth,” Blaze nudged Rena’s shoulder, nearly knocking her off balance in excitement. “They’re gonna do it again. He’s picking up the spoons.”

“Wha…?” Transfixed, she watched his biceps flex as he shifted and rested his forearms against the table edge.

After a quick glance down both sides of the bench, he nodded, once, twice, three times. Someone tapped a set of cups against the table, creating a deep, resonant beat. Nevan joined in, drumming the spoons and knocking his wrist in perfect rhythm to bring the music alive. The combined sounds pulsated through the ground. Rena honed her ability on the vibrations Nevan produced. Every tap thrummed through her, uniting her with his song on a level no one else knew about or could even understand. They tugged her toward him, as if he’d attached a melodic tether to her and was intent on reeling her in.

Reaching out to other writers for help and sharing knowledge about the craft can be an enriching experience. Our job as writers, is to examine the feedback we receive, decide what fits with our goals for our story, and put in the time to make the revisions.

Do you have more than one critique partner? How do you balance the feedback?