Thursday, December 15, 2016

Having Fun With Revisions

with guest Jan Drexler.

We all know the feeling. 

You wake up early, refreshed and ready to head into the next scene of your Work In Progress. You grab your caffeine of choice (mine happens to be tea) and sit down in front of your computer. 

Everything is fine until about an hour later. You read through what you’ve written and you’re ready to tear your hair out! What happened to those beautiful words that flowed through your mind during your shower? Why are your characters so…so…cardboard? Yes, cardboard!

You bang your forehead on your keyboard, sobbing. “I’ll never be a real writer!!!”

Okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic. Or maybe not. First drafts are – yes, we can say it – awful. But that’s okay! Look at that scene again….

I wrote 700 words this morning. It was the beginning of a scene for my next Love Inspired book that I had labeled “action leading to Twist 1.”

The problem? 

Here, let me give you a sample:

“blah blah blah pigs blah blah blah mud blah blah blah father blah blah blah money…”

Do you see what I see? No action! No movement – unless you count the pigs wallowing in the mud (and I don’t). It’s just my hero, Samuel, and the pigs. There isn’t even any dialogue.

Seven hundred words of boredom. Blah blah blah.

Unless you like pigs.

But I’m not giving up. The first draft – no matter how horrible it might be – is necessary. I’ve dumped what I want the scene to look like onto my computer screen. I’ve given my ideas shape. There is something there…which is much better than nothing.

I can’t revise words I haven’t written, and revising is what makes the writing sing. 




So how do I fix this scene?

First of all, the biggest problem is that Samuel is alone. The whole scene is introspection, with a few buckets of pig slops thrown in.

When our characters are alone, nothing happens. Think of the last time you had a moment to yourself and write it out as if it’s a scene in your book.

Jan swished the tea bag in the cup of hot water, hoping that would make it brew faster. She flipped the newspaper open with one hand and read the headline. “Mayor Urges More Spending on City Center.”

Exciting, right? Unless someone walks into the kitchen at that moment and starts a conversation. Then we have some spark. Some interest.

There is a time for our characters to be by themselves, deep in introspection, but this scene isn’t it. Remember that this is an action scene. And it’s a lead-in scene. 

What is it leading into? The first plot twist. So in order to write the lead-in, I need to know where I’m going. 

What is the plot twist? I have that planned already – Samuel tells the heroine, Mary, that she should stop worrying about money. “Find some fellow to marry and let him worry about it.”

 Yeah. Right. She responds to that suggestion about as well as you think.

So now I know what I need to do to fix this scene. Since Mary is going to be key in the next scene, I need to bring her in here. Something she says or does will prompt Samuel to make that suggestion in the next scene that sends her off.

So instead of introspection, I need dialogue between Samuel and Mary. They can talk about the pigs, the mud, and his father. But they need to talk to each other.

Okay, I can hear some of you already: “Plot twist?” “Lead-in?” “Action scene?” What is she talking about?



It’s time for a quick lesson in scene building 101. This is not a rabbit trail, I promise! I’ll come back to revisions in a minute.

How to build a scene:

1. Give it a purpose. Scenes aren’t just fluff and filler. Each scene has a role to play to move your story forward from the beginning, through the middle and on to the end. You, as the author, need to know what each scene’s purpose is. That will help you determine how the scene will play out. 

2. Give it a beginning, middle and an end. Think of each scene as a mini-story within your book. Start by showing your reader who is in the scene, where they are and what they’re doing. Ramp up some tension that’s appropriate for this scene’s purpose.  And then end with a hook…make your reader go on to the next scene with no thought of putting your book down.

3. Give it a main character. Each scene needs to have a main POV character, and your job is to show the scene through the character who is best able to convey the message of the scene to your reader. 




Now back to revising my scene’s first draft. As I revise, I need to keep asking myself those all-important questions.

Another point to consider as I revise this scene is balance.



I tend to write scenes with a word count between 1200 and 1500 words. In my novels for Revell, the scenes tend to be longer, around 2200 words. Why is this an important detail to know? Because I want to build my scenes in proportions the same way I do my novel.

Most novels are in three acts, with Act One in the first 25% of the book, Act Two in the next 50%, and Act Three in the remaining 25%. I want my scenes to have that same kind of proportion.

So my balanced scene would be around 300 words for the beginning, 600 words for the middle, and 300 words for the end. Do you see the symmetry?



Okay. We have our three building blocks and our scene is balanced. How does it look now?

In the first 25%, I describe the physical setting: Samuel is in the barn feeding his pigs, the morning is pleasant, and he is happy to see Mary stop by the farm.

In the middle 50% of the scene, we have the conversation between Samuel and Mary. 

They talk about the pigs, his farm, and her idea to raise money to support herself, her sister and their elderly aunt.

Then in the final 25%, we see Samuel’s reaction to the conversation and his lack of understanding of why Mary feels the need to support herself. She should just find a husband, right?

And the groundwork is laid for the next scene.

I have an assignment for you. Don’t worry, it’s a fun one!

Find your favorite book and read it again. This time, pay attention to the scenes as they unfold. Do they have the three building blocks of a good scene? Do they end with a hook? 

Now, what can you do to make your writing sing like that?


The prize vault is open and one commeter will win a Christmas prize pack that includes, Hannah's Choice and Mattie's Pledge!  

Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!

Mattie's Pledge

When she feels the pull of both home and the horizon, which will she choose?

Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community—friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart.

Since Mattie last saw Jacob, they’ve both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can’t help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?

Tender, poignant, and gentle, Mattie’s Pledge offers you a glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s—and into the yearning heart of a character you’ll not soon forget.



Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of more than thirty years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their four adult children and new son-in-law.

Find her here:
Website: www.JanDrexler.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JanDrexlerAuthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/JanDrexler
And on Mondays at the Yankee-Belle Café: http://yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com




117 comments :

  1. Jan, Jan, Jan! So much good stuff and right on the heels of NaNo! Thank you and welcome. Your post makes me feel like I'm back in snowy Colorado. We need hot chocolate, home made marshmallows and chocolate chip cookies (warm)!

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    1. Good morning, Tina! Thank you for inviting me. I always love being here. :)

      And hot chocolate! I'm going to have to make myself a cup of the real stuff - we're at 10° this morning with an inch of new snow. Perfect weather!

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    2. Yikes!!!! Your description of the weather up there makes me want to hurry and pack for Tahiti!!!

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    3. And miss the snow? But that's the best part! :)

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  2. I don't know how you writers make your novels sing, but this sure gave me some great insight! Jan, I also like where you say "make your reader go on to the next scene with no thought of putting your book down", yep I've read my fair share of books where I am loathe to put them down :-) That there is an author who knows their stuff and can even make pigs in the mud sound interesting...lol!

    I always learn something new when I read posts like this :-) Please toss my name in the prize vault, thanks so much!

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    1. I love books that make me turn the page. I've learned not to read them at night, though!

      The last book that kept me up until I finished it in the wee hours was Ruthy's "Home on the Range." I can't wait for the next one in the series!

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    2. Oh I'm with you on that one Jan!! I literally devored both Double S Ranch books myself....May is too long away, lol!!

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  3. As a reader I do appreciate a book that resonates with me and sings.

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    1. And as a writer, I'm always pushing myself to write that way. Thanks for stopping by, Mary!

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  4. Hi Jan! This post is a keeper, such great stuff here. My favorite part of the writing process is revising because the hardest part is behind me. Once the words are on the page, then the fun begins. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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    1. Revising is my favorite part, too, Jill!

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  5. Great post, Jan! I was going over a chapter this morning trying to make sure the scenes had purpose. I never thought about balance though. Thanks so much!

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    1. You're welcome, Jackie. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Good Morning Jan, You really explained well how to write the lead in scene to capture the reader's interest. My blah, blah, blahs are boring too. Cutting out the fat and adding in the juice the people really like to read is the hard part. To continue it in every scene following helps with a slow, but layered build. Great column today. Bless you for sharing.

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    1. Hi, Suzanne! A slow, layered build is exactly what I want in my books, too. It isn't easy, but what part of writing is?

      Blessings on your writing!

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  7. Seekers: I am bringing apple fritters to the table today. I am craving them like crazy. Just got off a seven day Caribbean cruise. Food was everywhere. Sigh, I hate the scale right now. Leaving for a four mile walk.

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    1. A cruise? I am so jealous, Suzanne. What fun!

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    2. Apple fritters sound yummy! And the cruise sounds delightful, but I'll skip the 4 miles walk! :)

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  8. Great post, Jan! Do you mentally plot each scene, along with its pacing, before you write or do you write it intuitively?

    I'll be reflecting on your post as I work today. Wonderful advice for making our writing tight and compelling!

    Merry Christmas! I brought cranberry coffee cake to share. Cutting a slice and ready to pour my second cup of coffee.

    Love your stories.

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    1. Good morning, Debby! Warm hugs!

      I tend to write the scene, and then go back the next day to tighten it up a bit before starting my writing for the day.

      The pacing tends to be intuitive, unless the scene just isn't working. Then I go back and dissect it to see where the problem is. Quite often, it's pacing.

      *helping myself to a piece of cranberry coffee cake*

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    2. Great tip to look at the balance/pacing if the scene isn't working! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I loved this post and printed it off for a reminder as I revise. My first drafts all are so stilted but I keep writing to the end knowing that the revising will be next. Thank you.

    I've been on a forced break to allow my body to heal. Some how pain meds, muscle relaxants and pain are not conducive to writing unless you want to write horror. I go back to the chiropractor this afternoon and I am hoping he says I can go off these medicines.

    Plus Christmas baking time is here. I have not had a full kitchen for seven years and I have a long list of things I have been wanting to try and bake so I am having a time of my life when I am not falling asleep at the drop of a hat.

    Last night it was a blessing to be back at church with my 4 year old class. When told I had a job for them to do, they looked at me kind of funny. Then when they learned they were to wake me up if I fell asleep. One of the little girls thought for a minute then said,"I know, I'll tickle your legs!" At prayer tie as the children prayed on their own such awesome prayers of their hearts toward God including being thankful God had answered prayer and I was back in class. I wiped tears from my eyes at their precious words.

    I can't wait to jump back into my writing and revising as soon as Christmas is over.

    Have a great day everyone.

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    1. I hope you're feeling better soon, Walani.

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    2. I can't imagine writing while on pain meds. Hope you feel better soon, Wilani!

      And Merry Christmas!

      I had to laugh at your story! I teach 3's and 4's (such a blessing!), and I love their spontaneity and funny ideas. :) They keep us young, don't they? But oh! The sweet prayers of children! What a wonderful thing!

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    3. Those children sound so precious, Wilani, and it's evident how much they care for you. Get better soon so you can bake and enjoy your Christmas!

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  10. Thank you, Jan! This couldn't come at a better time as yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity. I'm back at it today, revising YET AGAIN and will certainly keep your advice in mind. I've got tender orange-almond cake and chai lattes!


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    1. Go for it, Josee! You have no need to wallow, just get to work. :)

      And yes, revising YET AGAIN is my theme song! (As I think of the revision letter from my agent...)

      Thanks for the Christmas goodies!

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  11. Thank you Jan! I am hitting the pin for this post as I have to keep this wonderful reference! Revision guidance and explanations of the plot structure down to the chapter was so clear!

    I am in a reading frenzy right now and will definitely take some time to pay attention to these details you have mentioned. I am definitely going to put your instruction into practice.

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    1. You're welcome, Kelly!

      Reading is the best way to grasp the nuances of good writing! I'm binge reading Debbie Macomber's Cabot Cove series right now. I want to know what makes her writing resonate with so many people.

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  12. Jan, what a great teaching post! I'm afraid to look too closely at some of my scenes to break them down. haha

    I love how you broke this down even to the beginning, middle, and end word counts on a scene. That's a fantastic way to build a scene when you're stuck like that. I'll try this soon!

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    1. Thank you, Missy!

      I hadn't thought of using this to help write a scene that I'm having trouble with - I've always used it in the revision process. But every once in a while...you know the kind of scene I mean... You have to get from point A to point B, but have no idea how to get there. Applying these points just might help.

      Thanks, Missy!

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  13. Jan, you make me not feel so bad about my horrific first draft. The one I'm working on now has a lot of problems, but I just keep writing. I know I can fix them later. A beginning, middle, and end to each scene? I'm afraid to look.

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    1. I think it must be a rule that first drafts have to be horrific...at least compared to the finished product! LOL!

      I just keep writing, too, unless I'm writing myself into a hole. That happens some days!

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  14. JAN, Welcome back! Thanks for the excellent advice for revising our scenes. I never considered the proportions of my scenes, but it's a great tip.

    Your snowmen memes are delightful! And appropriate. The sunshine and snow outside our windows is beautiful, but it's scary cold. If you're experiencing the same, stay warm!

    Janet

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    1. Hi, Janet!

      Yes, we're experiencing the same cold that you are. Then a winter storm is coming in tomorrow, giving us an additional 6"-8" of snow, and our high temperature on Saturday is supposed to be -2°.

      When the high temp is below zero, then we know it's really cold!

      Keep warm!

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    2. I love snow, up to a point! We don't have more predicted. In fact it'll warm up by the weekend and maybe rain. Of course those weather reports aren't written in stone.

      Janet

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  15. JAN!!! Always love to see you in Seekerville, my friend, so WELCOME BACK!

    You said: "You bang your forehead on your keyboard, sobbing. “I’ll never be a real writer!!!” Okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic."

    LOL ... no, you're pretty dead on, at least for this CDQ! ;)

    You also said: "So my balanced scene would be around 300 words for the beginning, 600 words for the middle, and 300 words for the end. Do you see the symmetry?"

    Oh my goodness, YES!! AND for the very first time, so WOW!!

    I honestly struggle with keeping my scene word counts down (I know, big surprise, right?), and I kind of think according to your above-stated concept subliminally, but I have never put it into words or actually thought it through in concrete terms like you have. That is absolutely BRILLIANT, my friend, and I intend to use it, so THANK YOU!!

    HUGS,
    Julie

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    1. Yes, Julie, I can see you banging your head on the keyboard! LOL!

      And I might have put it into words, but I think every writer instinctively makes their scenes symmetrical. When they are, the writing just *feels* right. The writers recognize it, and so do the readers. It's this built-in desire for order that we have. :)

      I have to tell you, too, that I met one of your fans. A new girl at church found out that I was a writer, and asked if I knew you. (You should have seen her when I said yes!). Her name is Charity, and she identified with your Charity in your Daughters of Boston series. We had a lot of fun chatting about you and your books!

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    2. Oh my gosh, how fun is that??? Thanks for telling me because I have YET to meet one of my "reader friends" (I'm not partial to the word "fan") like that, but it would be SO fun for that to happen. Sorry that happened to you with me, but I'll probably meet several people who ask me if I know YOU!! :)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  16. Good points, Jan, and thanks for boiling it down for us. SO important, and the underpinning of all good writing.
    Kathy Bailey

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  17. Welcome to Seekerville, Jan. I've read too many books that don't sing...I prefer to stick to Seekerville authors because they do!
    I'd love to have my name in the dish. Thank you

    And I'm bringing cinnamon rolls for breakfast

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    1. You can always count on Seekerville authors for a good story, can't you?

      And thanks for the cinnamon rolls! Yum!

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  18. Good stuff here, Jan! Straightforward, easy-to-understand instruction on the development of an effective scene.

    My problem? Thinking in numbers and percentages just fries my brain! I've been called an instinctual writer, so I tend to go by what feels right in how a scene progresses.

    But yes, the points you stressed are always in the back of my mind. Do I have the right POV character? Is there enough action and/or dialogue to move the story forward? What is my goal for this scene?

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    1. Oh, Myra, I'm right there with you. That's why I wait until the scene is finished before I start analyzing it. As I'm writing, numbers and percentages are the farthest thing from my mind!

      Going by what feels right is the key.

      I think I learned that on Seekerville.... :)

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  19. I'll be walking more than four miles with all the food everyone brought.

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  20. Good morning, Jan!

    Thank you for revealing your word count for scenes. That little detail helped assure me that I'm on the right track with my target word counts.

    Beginning, middle, end... beginning, middle, end. It's amazing how a scene can wander. The percentages 25/50/25 also help me visualize proportions of my scenes. I've used that three act structure for years, but I sometimes forget to apply it to scenes. Good to know when you're analyzing the blah, blah, blahs you've written the day before.

    Thanks again for your wisdom! Have a beautiful Black Hills Christmas!

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    1. I think every writer ends up with a scene word count that is comfortable for them. I went back and looked at my first book, and the word counts for the scenes were all over the place.

      By the time I wrote my second book, I was getting into a rhythm, and the scene word counts started stabilizing.

      Now I use the word count as a guide. If a scene is too short, I know I've skimmed through too quickly. When I go back to look, sure enough, I've skimped on some element and the scene is flat.

      And I wish you a Merry Christmas, too!

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    2. I don't check the word count for each scene. Perhaps I should. Thanks!

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  21. I've never analyzed my scene as beginning middle and end. I'll have to see how I fare. I usually analyze goal, conflict and disaster. But this is another excellent way to evaluate if I am hitting my scene target. Thank you.

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    1. Hmmm. Now I'm wondering where I picked that up? I thought I learned it on Seekerville.

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  22. Good morning Jan!! I'm a caffeine two timer. I love coffee and tea. SHHHHH I'm sure that's sacrilege somewhere. Giggle.

    I loved this! The Type A person in me appreciates the way you've broken it down into percentages. Thank you, thank you! :)

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    1. Good morning, Sharee!

      I'm sure there's no law about drinking both coffee and tea. I've just never learned to like coffee.

      But I love my tea (as I sip on my Lady Grey).

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  23. Hi Jan What a great post. I love, love, love revising. I am so left brain and find the revising much more fun than the creating. That first draft is so tough for me, but then I have the fun of revising.

    Thanks for giving us such great points to consider. Love your graphics too.

    Thanks for being here today with us in Seekerville. Have fun and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  24. PS I do word count for scenes also. However I must admit I had no idea why. I wasn't all scientific or logical like you are. ha ha. Just what I did. I guess that's a good thing.

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    1. Good morning, Sandra!

      I've often told my husband that I'd rather clean toilets than write my first draft, LOL!

      But the revising! That's when I really love writing. I can take a step back and look at the story as a whole, then zero in on the problem areas.

      Merry Christmas!

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  25. Jan!!! I love this post! Like everyone else, I love the detail about balancing the scene word count the way you balance your three acts. Now I'm curious how my scenes break down. Hmmm....

    I read this post a while ago while putting Solly down for a nap and had time to mull it over. As an introvert perfectly comfortable on my own, it's easy for me to write/imagine my characters all alone and deep in thought. My gut reaction to have them with someone else all the time (or most of the time) was extreme discomfort. It's exhausting to be around someone all the time!

    BUT. This might become my version of Mary's "shoot someone." If my scene is flat, I might start asking myself "Who does my character least want to see right now?" --or-- "Who does my character most want to see, and what would be the most disappointing/hurtful/surprising thing that person would do?"

    Oh the potential!!

    Finally, please *don't* put my name in for the drawing. I already have and love both Hannah's and Mattie's stories and want to make sure someone else gets a chance to meet them!

    :)

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    1. Yes! As introverts, we assume that our characters are introverts, too. Right? Why would they talk through anything with anyone else???

      But our characters can't be as introverted as we are (LOL!). They need to connect to the reader, and the way they can do that is to open up to someone else. It's a good idea for your main character to have a BFF or sister or someone they can confide in. As a reader, don't you always feel like you're actually the one they're confiding in?

      And I love that - "Who does my character least want to see right now?" What a great way to ramp up the tension in your scene!

      Enjoy your Solly and Joey time! I'm not going to make it to tonight's dinner - I'll miss seeing you there!

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    2. But...but... Lily is confiding in me! ;)
      Wait... does that make me sound crazy?

      I'll miss you tonight!

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    3. There's a fine line between being a writer and being crazy. But that doesn't mean we have to cross it! LOL!

      Have fun at the dinner!

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  26. Such an interesting post, JAN! I've written too many scenes of my characters alone. Although they need some "deep thought" moments, I'm bad about using those moments for backstory dumps, which result in unbalanced scenes. Thanks for sharing your tips, experience and insights! I'm ready to tackle some rewriting now!

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    1. Thanks, Laura! And like Meg and I were saying above, we writers are more comfortable in those introspective scenes. Sometimes it takes a crowbar to get me thinking in a different direction!

      Blessings on your rewriting!

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    2. Laura! I just saw the list of First Impressions winners! Congratulations!!!

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  27. "You Can't Revise Words You Haven't Written."

    I wish!


    Hi Jan:

    I'm from the age of White-Out. I revise what I'm going to write five times before it gets on paper!

    This is why my real joy is writing during NaNo month! But what is the use of writing a book in a month if the revisions are going to take a painful three years!

    You see, I view the word 'revision' to be code for 'rewrite'.

    BTW: Here is one of my all time favorite writing quotes that you might like:

    "The first six drafts anyone could have written but the seventh, that's Anatole France."

    I read this quote in a bio piece and I have never been able to find it since but I never forgot it. France was born in 1844 during the life time of your Mattie. Which makes me wonder about the uniqueness of the Amish in those times. There were no electric appliances to not use, no cars to not drive, no modern world to shun and nothing unusual about riding a horse drawn buggy onthe roads.

    Why Amish?

    I know I need to read your Mattie books to experience why but as a writer, why not write about the contemporary Amish? And is writing a contemporary Amish novel in the works?

    Great to have you here for the Holidays!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Vince

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    1. Good morning, Vince!

      I grew up in the time of white-out, too! I remember how freeing it was the first time I used a "self-correcting" typewriter. Ha! The delete key has both of them beat. ;)

      The reason why I never do NaNo is that I constantly revise as I write. Every day I revise what I wrote the day before. Those are minor revisions, but it means that my final draft is fairly clean.

      Why historical Amish?

      Even in the 1800's, the Amish were a unique group. The differences go far deeper than buggies, bonnets and using modern appliances. And, when you think of it, there has always been a "modern world" to shun. :)

      The difference lies in the desire to live "in the world, but not of it." There have been exceptions through the centuries, but most often the Amish have refused to run for political office, to serve in the military, to let their children be taught by the public (government) education system, and to participate in other activities that would cause them to be "part of the world."

      Finding the nuances of those differences in times when the Amish don't look any different from their neighbors fascinates me.

      And why don't I write contemporary Amish? Frankly, it would take too much research!

      The Amish are in the midst of a huge cultural upheaval right now. Dealing with the popularity of Amish novels and "reality" TV shows has caused a lot of technology to be thrust into Amish life faster than the leaders can deal with it.

      Each community makes their own decisions about what kinds of technological advances to adopt and which to pass by, so you end up seeing huge differences from one g'may (church district) to another. One g'may might allow cell phones, while the one in the next community won't allow any phones, including the phone booth at the end of the farm lane. One might allow ten-speed bicycles, while another allows roller blades.

      The biggest change facing the Amish, though, is the father working away from home. There just isn't enough farm land in the largest Amish communities, so the father will take a factory job. That changes the entire cultural structure of the community.

      It makes my head spin!

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Vince! And Merry Christmas!

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    2. Hi Jan:

      Thanks, you've given me a whole new insight into the Amish lifestyle which I did not pickup on in the few historical Amish books I've read. Almost all have been contemporary. I can't wait to jump into Mattie's Amish world now that I have a new frame of reference is which to understand it. Thanks again for your very detailed answer. We have Amish not far from Tulsa and I noticed one of the farmers uses a tractor. However, maybe a man with a tractor was hired to do the work. I agree about the many changes the Amish face. I thought a title to a book I'd love to read would be: "Will Success Spoil the Amish Lifestyle?" I'm affraid it will. :(

      Vince

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  28. Oh, I love this so much, Jan! And the snowman captions are awesomesauce. It makes so much sense! And it's fun to read! And there are snowmen. :-) No need to enter me in the draw -- I've read both books -- they are awesomesauce too!!!

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    1. Kav! I thought you'd love the snowmen! :)

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  29. I'm pretty anal about my scene word count. I know exactly what I need per scene x # of scenes to make the book come in at the proper word count. I am usually under the required amount.

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    1. On my last book, I was worrying about the word count going over...but no problems. I just combined a couple scenes and came within 10%. Not too shabby!

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  30. hi Jan
    This is a great post. I can feel my creative muse waking up as I read it. You'd think it'd be a no-brainer for people to realize you can't edit what hasn't been written. I don't think you can really edit the book that is in your head - it's gotta get down on paper/computer document.
    Your reminder on how to build a scene is awesome. Thanks for sharing. Please put my name in the draw.

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    1. A lot of writers can't get over that hurdle of putting down words that aren't perfect. But you're right - you can't edit the words when they're in your head. It can be excruciating, but those words have to get out there so you can do something with them!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  31. What a great post! It's fascinating how authors build their scenes. I've definitely noticed that books I can't put down are ones that end their scenes with a hook :)

    Please enter me for the Christmas prize pack!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Heidi! Don't you love the books you can't put down?

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  32. OOOOH wawzah.

    GREAT lesson, Jan. Another printer-offer for the files.

    Examples are so very helpful to me, and you've given some super ones... And good review too.

    Just excellent. Thank you, ma'am.

    Was thinking of you and Thatcher today as I walked a book order down to the mailbox. It's about 1/3 mile and today is 18 degrees with an icy wind. Cass and Hershey were certainly prancing their way with me. Brrrr! But nice to be in the sun too.

    Merrrrry Christmas!

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    1. And I hear that another storm is coming through, K.C. Brrr is right.

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    2. Brrr...that's close to our weather, Kc! But tomorrow's storm is supposed to be followed by c-c-c-cold weather! It's going to be a hunker down and enjoy the fire kind of weekend for us.

      I'm just hoping my husband doesn't get stuck at work! If they call "condition snow," he'll have to stay for the duration. He always keeps a camping mattress and change of clothes at work during the winter, just in case!

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  33. Jan, what are you working on now? With two publishers, what's your writing schedule like?

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    1. I'm busy, as always, and I love it that way!

      I'm working on a series for LIH. The first book (in the middle of revisions right now) is due out in August 2017. The second book is in the creation/pre-writing phase, and the third book is simmering on the back of the stove.

      My next Revell book is "Naomi's Hope," due out in June 2017. I just finished the galley edits, and I'll be revealing the cover after New Year's. (hint - you can go to Amazon for a sneak peak! and preorder!)

      I'm also waiting to hear about my next proposal with Revell. It's for a trilogy set during the Civil War...Amish historical, of course!

      And a writing schedule? I work for about six hours a day. What I do during those six hours depends on what needs to be done first. I find that I need to concentrate on one project at a time, so I'll pour all my energy into revisions for a few days. Or spend my time working up a proposal, or a synopsis.

      Writing time is first priority, though. When my plate is cleared, I spend all my time on the next book.

      Thanks for asking!

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    2. And I can't forget to mention that one of my previous LIH books, "A Mother for His Children," is being re-released in March in a two-in-one collection with Emma Miller's "Hannah's Courtship."

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    3. Congrats on having a two-in-one with Emma Miller! I'm sure she's thrilled too! :)

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    4. JAN, I'm intrigued with an Amish story that takes place during the Civil War. Can you tell us more? Is it about conscientious objectors?

      Janet

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    5. It explores various reactions the Amish had to the war, conscription, battles that were waged close to home, dealing with enemy prisoners of war, etc.

      So my different characters will represent the various reactions that real people had. I've been loving the research, and I've already fallen in love with the characters!

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  34. There's been lots of talk about the rough first draft today. I stopped by Starbucks for an hour of writing time. Right now my house is filled with Christmas prep that must get done so I tend to shove the writing to the side. Starbucks helps me focus, along with my AlphaSmart. As I was mulling over your excellent blog post, Jan, a gentleman approached my table and asked what kind of a devise I was using. I probably gave him too much info about the ability to type on an Alpha without being able to edit and how that could move a writer more quickly through her rough first draft.

    His eyes glazed over. He smiled, said thank-you, and quickly headed to the door! Evidently he wasn't a writer and he hadn't read your post! :)

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    1. Debby! That's cute, re that gentleman approaching you.

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    2. LOL! I can see a Woman's World story coming from your encounter!

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    3. Debby has a certain irresistible charm! Just ask Ted Dekker!!!

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    4. Hmmm..what did I miss here, Myra? Debby?

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    5. Yes, DEBBIE in no way instigates this but she is a magnet.

      Janet

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  35. Gosh, Jan! You are busy. And yes, busy is a wonderful blessing!

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  36. Ugh. Revisions. The first couple paragraphs of this post perfectly described my experience of writing first drafts- minus the caffeine part, of course, which a growing girl like me shouldn't drink, and since I shouldn't of course I don't drink any caffeine (ignore my shifty eyes). I'm just glad to see that I'm not the only one who suffers with first drafts.

    I know that the first drafts aren't perfect, but I think that part is the hardest for me (other than the initial getting the words down on the page). I guess I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. As I write I can feel the nagging at the back of my mind about how what I just wrote isn't perfect, and I didn't express everything that I wanted to and its so choppy and my characters are... GASP- cardboard. I try to ignore the nagging but it really just gets to the point where it is distracting me from even writing, until I just can't take it anymore and I go back and revise the scene. Then I go back and revise it more because I'm still not pleased with it, and then I don't want to go and write the rest of the story because I just want to stay at the area where I revised because it is so pretty and the rest of my first draft is so rough I get splinters from it.

    This nagging isn't so bad the farther I get into the story, but it especially gets me just when I am first starting a story which makes it hard to ever get to the point where I am in the middle of the story.

    At the present moment I don't have time to do your assignment (though I did take a peak at the end of the Hunger Games- sigh, Peeta). I just finished one book I had to read to write a review for my mom, now I've got another one I've got to read. But once that book is read I'll consider your assignment. I've got several books that I want to reread.

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    1. Ah, a perfectionist! Nicky, I think perfectionists have a harder time writing than anyone, and all because of that nagging voice in the back of their heads.

      I'm enough of a perfectionist to recognize the voice, but there's another part of me that has learned to keep that nagging voice in the background...until revision time. Then I let her have full rein! She's the one who enjoys examining the details until she's blue in the face!

      So don't worry about that nagging voice - just restrain her until it's her time to shine. Make her work for you instead of against you. :)

      Merry Christmas, and enjoy your reading!

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  37. I read this, Jan, and it was very insightful! I don't have time to say more than THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom! Off and running to pick boys up from school. :)

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  38. Thanks for such an educational post, Jan!

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  39. Jan, I apologize for stopping in late today...busy shopping and errand day.

    What a great help your post will be as I try to polish up my manuscript. Earlier this year, I found I really do have FUN with the revision process...but I had to hurry through the first draft revisions....only time to do rough polishing....to meet the contest deadline. Now I have time to go back to revise again, making my story sparkle (hopefully).

    Your tips will truly help. I'll keep in mind the 25-50-25 balance for each scene.....and keeping ACTION in every scene.

    I need to hear this EVERY DAY: You can't revise words you haven't written!

    Thanks so much, Jan! I'm looking forward to all the books you're working on. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, Sherida! And I'm so glad you stopped by. You know, it isn't really late for those of us who live in western time zones!

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  40. Thanks, Jan, for your terric post! I always make sure every scene has a purpose, but I'd never really considered applying the 3-act structure.

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  41. A super and encouraging post, Jan. A nice review in scene building. I need to pay a tad more attention to that when I do revisions/edits.

    I love revisions because it gives me the chance to pay more attention to the mood, descriptions, movements, etc. It's also when I sometimes find myself thinking, "Huh? What?" I figure if I -- the writer -- get confused, the reader probably will, too :-)

    Totally enjoyed the snowman illustrations.

    Nancy C

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    1. I use that test, too, Nancy. If I don't understand what I meant when I read it later, then I know I'm in trouble!

      I approach editor's revisions the same way. If an editor doesn't see something that I thought was clear, then my readers won't either.

      Merry Christmas!

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  42. "Having Fun With Revisions" is a title I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around. The pigs, on the other hand, remind me of Charlotte's Web and the line "and (so-and-so) is about to learn where bacon comes from." :-)

    What can I say? It's year end and I have sales goals to make. I have writing goals, too. And the biggest goal for next year is revision of one of my novels, so points much appreciated.

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    1. Best wishes on your sales goals, Walt! And your writing goals.

      Enjoy revising your novel next year! And yes, you CAN have fun doing it!

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  43. LOL, Walt. You have to love revising, I think. I do. It's those first drafts that KILL me.

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  44. Jan, thanks so much for this terrific post and for spending the day with us. Praying for continued writing success for you!

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    1. Thank you for inviting me, Tina! I always have fun here at Seekerville. :)

      And the prayers are very much appreciated!

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  45. Jan, Thank you for the post. I've always heard of breaking the novel down into parts, but never the scenes into percentages like that before as well.

    Problem is I'd like a scene where the hero is talking to the pigs! Lots of interesting things can happen in a farmyard.

    But you're right about the conflict in a scene having to be there as well as a purpose.

    Thanks for the post.

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    1. Hi Tanya!

      Actually, I thought about having my hero talk to the pigs, but he doesn't really like them. He does talk to his horse, though!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  46. Jan,

    What a great way to look at revisions! Thanks for sharing!

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  47. After reading your post, I am once again reminded that some people are destined to be authors!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  48. Jan, I'm a couple days late getting to your post but it has very helpful suggestions I will keep in mind.

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