First Lines

The dorm smelled of mothballs, and that was going to be a problem.

– first line of my work in progress Outbroken.



Pitch Slam… or not

I cannot believe how quickly April is whirring by. I am on page 217 of 520 of my red pen edits. After the first couple chapters it started going a lot faster, and now I feel like I’m breezing through it. The other night, my husband had to ask me three times to put it away and go to sleep because I was so into it.

I’m into my own book. That sounds sort of… weird. It’s true though. I’m really enjoying reading through it. I was hoping I’d find a lot of bits to take out–a paragraph here, a paragraph there–but I really haven’t. I’ve removed a couple sections, and I’ve decided my main character looks out windows too often, particularly at the beginnings of chapters, so I’ve deleted a bunch of those… but other than that, it’s not as easy to get rid of text as I’d hoped. Which is good because it means my writing is already pretty tight, but it also means I’m definitely going to end up with a manuscript longer than 100K.

Not ideal.

I’m also a little concerned that my writing style may have changed between the beginning of the book and the end of the book. Crossing my fingers that I’m wrong.

The end result of all this is that I will not be ready to participate in Friday’s PitchSlam.

Rivers of Red

This red pen round of edits is going a lot slower than I expected. I figured it would just be a matter of crossing out a sentence here, a word or two there, maybe fixing up some missed punctuation or grammar… but no. My mind doesn’t work like that. I’m reorganizing paragraphs, changing content and making such a huge red mess that I’m sticking looseleaf sheets between the pages to explain what’s going on. After hours, I’m still working on the first chapter. I’m not even entirely convinced that my red pen edits are better than what I had there originally.

I’m wondering if maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe I should have just put out to a beta reader… but maybe once I get past the first chapter it will go easier. The first chapter is tough because when you first write it you don’t really know that much about your story (at least, I didn’t). I’ll plug away at it a little more before deciding.

Progress in Editingland

I have now finished the rewrites of my last couple of scenes, and in preparation for a big word count cut, I’ve printed out the first 100 pages of my manuscript. There is something very satisfying about having it on paper. I intend to make heavy use of a red pen. Make it bleeeeeeeeeed. Mwahahaha!

So that was a couple days ago. I have carried my binder to work and back, to the grocery store and back. I have not yet opened it and started actually crossing stuff out. I think I’m subconsciously trying to give the ending rewrite a little bit of mental distance first. But I will do this, and when I do, I’m going to make some serious headway on this word count problem.

Writing Resources: Lisa Cron

I love Lisa Cron. Her writing series on is what finally made me understand why my first 2.5 years of working on this novel had me spinning my wheels. I had an interesting character in an interesting situation, I had stuff the character had to overcome, and an outline… but I was going nowhere.

Lisa Cron’s Lynda series is about how to make your protagonist an integral participant in the plot–which was what my story was missing. You can find that series here:

And if you’re not a Lynda member, Lisa Cron fortunately also writes articles for Writer Unboxed and has a book called Wired for Story (which I haven’t gotten a chance to try yet). Recently, at Writer Unboxed, she wrote an article on why pantsing and plotting both fall short, and what really drives a story.

What drives your protagonist forward is her internal agenda: she arrives on page one already wanting something very badly, and with an inner issue – a misbelief – that she has to overcome in order to have a chance of getting it. Overcoming this internal misbelief is what the story is about. The plot is constructed to force her to confront it — which is where the struggle comes in — ultimately causing her to change, internally. Otherwise, that thing she wants? Even if she gets it, it’ll taste like ashes.



Confession: I used to be an English teacher…

This time of year I always have awfully fond thoughts about reading Julius Caesar with my tenth graders. In them, I am laughing at how egotistical Caesar is, and how he talks about himself in the third person…

Caesar – …danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
We are two lions litter’d in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible:
And Caesar shall go forth.

So I’m snickering and the kids are all looking at me like, “Miss D? You’re weird.”

Also, shoemaker jokes!

Marellus – But what trade art thou? answer me directly.
Second Commoner – A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe
conscience; which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.

I’m giggling, and all my students are like, “I don’t understand? What did they say?”

Kids. Trust me, by the time you’ve read this play six times, it’s freaking hilarious.

WIP: Editing Update

I am still working on the last few scenes of my novel. I read somewhere that Hemingway–was it Hemingway? There was some famous author who wrote the last page of some famous book 33 times. This makes me feel better. So far that guy is about 20 rewrites ahead of me.

So, even though what I feel like I’m doing is blinking at an empty screen while inside my head I’m rushing through possibilities and thinking, “Nope, that doesn’t feel right” to each and every one and going back and removing scenes I already wrote… what I’m actually doing is making progress. I’m figuring out what I don’t want the ending to be.


Right. Nods.

Things are going great. I am almost there.