Write Hot, Revise Kool!

I promised I would let everyone know about the awesome things I learned at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC).

For all you NaNoWriMo people the last thing you want to hear about is revising (am I right?!) given that you’re trying to get your word count up.

But this is good stuff and will come  in handy.

I took a master class from James Scott Bell which was awesome and a workshop on 'Revising a Novel They Can’t Put Down' (not sure who 'they' refers to - sounds like a conspiracy theory if you ask me, and why can't they put it down? is there crazy glue on the cover ... I digress). 

James Scott Bell has written scads of thrillers and three books on craft including The Art of War for Writers

Here’s his advice (aka the JSB rules for drafting):

Write Hot:

passionately and quickly; 
write from the subconscious (very NaNoWriMo ;-j); and,
push the limits in the first draft.

Revise Cool:

revise the previous day’s pages;
take a 20,000 word step back; and,
do a rolling outline – what will be in the next three chapters?

On the first read through (after a 2 week cooling period – don’t make your manuscript take out a restraining order on you!) read like a reader. Resist the temptation to take notes or edit and read as fast as possible.

James Scott Bell uses four main symbols for revising:

√ - for when the story is dragging

( ) - incomprehensible

O - material needs to be added or expanded

? - when you don’t know what’s going on – why did I write that? Why does my character eat nothing but sushi and sour ju jubes? 

Then once you've read it through - cry,  take a shot of scotch, or make some chia tea and pop a few sour ju jubes. Do all three if you have to – but at the end of the day (is that a cliche I see behind me?) you’re a writer and you know you will have to begin what JSB calls the Systematic Revision Process.  

Ask yourself: does the story make sense? Do the characters act like real people? Look at every juncture from the pov of each character. Don’t let a coincidence help your lead character – no deus ex machina! Are the stakes high enough?

Here are some gems from JSB:

- originality is not in the plot, but in the characters!
- inner conflict is the key.
- is there enough of a worry factor?
- banish slow openings: no happy people in happy land.
- dialogue is the fastest way to improve a manuscript.  

P.S.: he's a big fan of death in a novel - physical, professional and psychological (or better yet, all three types of death). So of course I had to show him a copy of my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch which not only has death in the title, but in the opening scene and the twin protags are motivated by that death to save the rest of the frog kingdom ... just saying! 


James Scott Bell is awesome, isn't he? Such good advice! Sounds like the conference was well worth it.
Jan Markley said…
Yes, Jennifer, he rocked! I really got a lot out of his workshops. I have to get one of his books.
Anonymous said…
Wow, Jan! Thanks for sharing this...really like the idea of a rolling outline. Just happened to get his WD book on Plot and Structure a couple of weeks ago, moving it to top of my read list. Lucky you!!
Richard Mabry said…
Jim Bell has taught so many people so much--myself included--that he should get a byline on hundreds of novels other than his own.
Thanks for sharing this info.
Dawn said…
Great recap, Jan!
Jan Markley said…
Deb, yes, definitely read it sooner! I wish I'd gotten a copy - they sold out quickly at the conference.

Richard, I agree - he's very helpful, practical and funny to boot!

Thanks Dawn!
It sounds like you had an awesome time at the conference! I think it's always inspiring to be in a room full of like minded people...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)
Jan Markley said…
No problem Sharon. Yes it's great to be around writers talking about writing all weekend!
Angela Cerrito said…
Now I'm wondering...is there really such a thing as sour ju jubes?

I'm adding this post to my favorites so I can re-read it before my next round of revisions.

My favorite line: originality is not in the plot, but in the characters!
Jan Markley said…
There really is Angela and they are fabulously sweet and sour! I love that line as well b/c people complain that there are no new plots, but if you want to find new characters, just take a sniff around when you're on the bus!
Lola Sharp said…
First...awwwwww, poor Fluffy. She needs some opposable thumbs, for starters. (I love tortie kittens)

Also, I have all of JSB's books on writing. He's terrific. And, you're right, he IS funny. (even in his books) Def go buy a couple.

But, I've never seen him do his talks. I love this advice. Thanks for sharing. :)

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself at the conference.

Jan Markley said…
Lola: I love Torties too and have one now. If you get a chance to see JSB present I'd take it.
Really great advice. Thanks for sharing! Oh yeah, Fluffy might need a laptop.
Talli Roland said…
This is great, Jan - thank you so much for sharing. I love the 'write hot, revise cool' advice.
Jan Markley said…
Hi Samantha and Talli - you're welcome! It is good advice!
LOVE this post (and the kitty pic)!!
Thnx for taking the time to share =)
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Jennifer - the kitty could have some crazy mad editing skillz for all we know!

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