Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creating an Editing Notebook

While we've shifted our primary focus to getting published, we're still going to occasionally talk about the craft of writing for several reasons:

  • Not everyone hanging around here is ready to pursue publication, and I hate to bore them every day.
  • Even when you're querying agents, you can use your "waiting time" to be working on other projects.
But the biggest reason is - I like to talking about writing best of all, and I might go crazy if I don't allow myself to do so.

So, I'm in the "editing the big stuff" part of the writing process with my current WIP, Playing Kitchen. (Do we like that title? Any thoughts?) I knew my manuscript was in need of serious work. Not just the normal my-first-draft-sucks work, but some-characters-disappear-halfway-through-the-book type work. And some-plot-lines-never-get-resolved kind of stuff.

So when I sat down for my read through, I kept a notebook next to me. Here she is:

On the first page, I kept a list of what to research. There were two columns, one for general questions I need answered (a list of wine country publications, does E! pay for photos and how much?) but also a list of things I need to research on location (high school, grocery store, main strip) because in October I'll have the privilege of doing my first ever research trip. (Insert me squealing like I once did at New Kids on the Block concerts.)

Next, I started a list of plot lines in each chapter. Again, I needed 2 columns. One for the way the chapter is currently written, and one for plot lines I think need to be added. So my first column might read:

Chapter one:
Desire to be liked

And my other chapter one column would look like:

To add:
Memories of playing kitchen
Hint of strained relationship with Macy

But then I realized, to my great frustration, that I often foreshadowed things but then forgot to follow-through. Grr. So I took a Post-It note and started listing the plot lines I completely dropped. Like my poor guy who broke his arm halfway through the book, yet there's never another mention of it...

One more list I kept was of potential themes. There were four times that I was struck by a sentence in the manuscript. It seemed weightier than the others around it, like it might come to mean something later. Or like it was part of a greater theme.

Like in chapter two my main character, Madeline says to her friend, Jack, "Meddling in people's relationships can really mess things up." And he answers, "So can minding your own business when you should speak up."

When I read it, it seemed like that was an idea I'd intended to explore later. I made note of it, wondering how it could work into other plot lines, and how can I draw out times that Madeline is right and that Jack is right?

At the moment, glancing at my notebook reminds me how much work needs to be done. It's overwhelming. Yet making my lists gave me a glimpse of the big picture and makes me hopeful that this book can become everything I wanted it to be when the first lines popped into my head: I’ve never minded being in the bright lights. That’s the reason I’m here instead of Dad.

If you're up for sharing, what's the first line of your current manuscript?


  1. Ooooh Stephanie, I absolutely love your title and first line!

    Oh, and I meant to tell you that I finally picked up "Me, Just Different" from the library (thinking that since I read your blog and did your writing prompts, I should probably read your book too :D). I loved it and thought it was excellently written! :)

    I do the "foreshadow-and-then-forget" thing too, and it's really frustrating.

  2. I like that first line!

    First line of "Can't We Just Be Friends" (my last WIP)

    I didn't want to be there in the first place. Anne's nagging was driving me crazy, so I finally gave in that night.

  3. Hi Stephanie!
    The title "Playing Kitchen" sounds really cool and interesting!
    My first line isn't polished enough to share, but I love yours! :D

  4. I love that title.And now I'm really curious about it to :)
    It would definitely help me to have a list of stuff that I needed to work on, change, research etc.Plus I love making lists :P
    I think the first line of another book that was kinda born from reading What Happened To Goodbye was something like "I dug my hands into the refried beans and pulled out what I needed." Or something like that my other one was "I blink as I wake up from my tired sleep, then I sit up quickly. " Not to exciting :/
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  5. Thank you for that information. It's a good suggestion, and will allow me to use all those notebooks that I purchased (but don't want to use, because the cover is way too pretty, and I may want to use it later, but I never do). Haha. The first line to my manuscript is actually the tail end of a joke!

  6. I love the title as well. I just started using an editing notebook in the second or third revision of my work in progress. It helped, but I've been trying to find ways to make it more organized... this post helped with that :)

  7. Hi Stephanie,
    Very interesting post! I've got a notebook buddy by my side but not so neat as yours. It's full of scribbles and sketches!
    And the first line of Shan......

    The dining table of the shack was fully packed with eleven hungry heads and Mr.Bagster.

    Is it too short? Perhaps I should have given more. May be not. Anyway, I think I'll change it too soon!

  8. Ellyn, THANK YOU! So glad you liked both the book and my first line :)

    Heavenly Princess - definitely raises questions in my mind about that fateful night!

    Anonymous, thank you for the feedback :)

    Sierra, thank you! Did you like Whatever Happened to Goodbye? I had a really tough time getting into that book.

    Becki, I'm addicted to buying notebooks too!

    Morgan, so glad it helped AND that you like the title.

    Faseeha, a "notebook buddy." Love it! I think the length of your sentence is just fine. It's hard for me to tell who the point of view character is, but that's an easy fix.

  9. Great idea. I'm going to have to do that :)

    The first line of WIP no.2 : Once upon a time, if that is really how stories begin, there was a certain young man in a certain village, who was certain that he would never do anything important.

    The first line of WIP no.1: Freedom is dreadfully overrated.


  10. I'm okay with making lists, but my biggest problem is just not getting so overwhelmed by the amount of work that I see needs to get done in those lists. :)

    I looove getting new, collge-ruled notebooks. There is just something so exciting about having a new notebook to jot your thoughts down and scribble all over to your heart's content. :)

    To be honest, I'm having trouble with my first line in my WIP. Here's what I got, but I'm not sure if I totally like it.
    "If life could be classified in stories, mine would still have an unfinished ending."

  11. I absolutely love plotting right now, its amazing. And I am totally in love with buying neat little notebooks with cool covers. :)
    And my first line to one of my books...

    My breath wafts out of my mouth hovering in my face hitting the cold night air, floating away and swirling like a puff of smoke. As the darkness wraps its frozen clutches around me I listen, and hope, that anyone would find me.

    Its one of my newer WIP. :) The title is "Full Moon", its exciting to write because its kind of a modern-fantasy fiction novel with a little romance sprinkled for taste. I don't know about anybody else, but there is nothing more I like writing about than two people falling in love.

    By the way... does anybody have any feedback for me about my first line(s)??

  12. Hi, great post!:)

    When are the winners of the writing prompt going to be put up on the website?

  13. Faye, I adore that line from your first WIP. It has a lot of voice!

    Clarebear, I think you're on the right track with yours. "Unfinished ending" is a little confusing because, unless we're dead, all of us have an unfinished ending. And it sends up a flag in my mind that this book might not have a satisfying conclusion. BUT I love the voice in it (makes me think you have a witty main character!) and I think if you could find the right literary term, it could work really well. Like, "If life could be classified like stories, mine would be shelved under Family Drama." Or whatever actually applies. Just my thoughts.

    Jazmine, I love the emotion you're conveying in your line and how it brings a question to mind that must be answered (where is she?!?! how did she get there?!?!)I think it's a little wordy, but that's easy to fix. Maybe, "The darkness wraps its frozen clutches around me. There's nothing to do but watch my breath swirl in the night air and listen - hope - that someone will find me."

  14. I loved this post because I'm right at that place right now! I've finished my second WIP...

    {We now interrupt this comment to scream "Yahoo!"}

    and now I'm ready to plunge into editing "the big stuff." Thanks for talking about an editing notebook...definitely will help me organize my own!! :)

    I like the title "Playing Kitchen" except that it sounds a little young. But I would pick it up in a bookstore if the cover seemed mature.

    Okay, current first line of WIP I just finished drafting:

    "Her mind wandered everywhere but where it should have been, as usual."

  15. Thank you for the feedback, Rachelle. And congratulations on finishing! Yahoo, indeed!

    Additional tip about the editing notebook. Use something bound on the side (not on top, like I did.) Flipping is annoying and confusing. Unless you don't write on the back of the paper, I guess, but that just felt wasteful.

    I would adjust so there aren't two "wheres" but otherwise I think it's great!

  16. Stephanie:
    No I really liked it! It ties with The Truth About Forever for me.I was glad it didn't have a bunch of "stuff" in it :)
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  17. I love Go Teen Writers! Here is the first line of my current book:
    A knock sounded from Flagria's door. She looked up from her book, quite startled.

  18. The first line in the book I'm currently writing is this:
    "This is a story of survival; a survival of those in a land not too far from your own imagination."