Friday, May 27, 2011


I was *attempting* to organize my inboxes this week (*cue maniacal laughter*) (#impossibletasks) (#thingsthatwillpushShannonovertheedge) and I had one of those...WHOA moments.

I don't save every email I get--that would explode my storage space almost immediately--but I do keep some. And one of the ways I've been sorting them over the last couple of years was to separate some as "Bloggers/Writer Friends" and some as "Authors." (Yeah, I know it's not a brilliant system, hence the above maniacal laughter).

See, to me--writing/blogging is different than being an author. Being an author means you're published--or going to be. So I drew that distinction in my inboxes and sorted the emails accordingly. But as I was going through those folders this week--trying to make SOME sort of sense of them--I realized something:

A huge, HUGE number of people I'd previously sorted as "Bloggers/Writer Friends" have actually crossed over to being "Authors" now!  


I mean...I knew I'd had lots of friends sell books over the last year or so--but it never really hit me how many of them had, or how many ridiculously cool people I'm privileged to call "friend." And it just filled me with this tremendous sense of hope that I wanted to share with you guys.

Yes, this journey is long and filled with tons of ups and downs and twists and turns. And getting a book published is HARD. But...IT ALSO HAPPENS.

And it happens to regular people, like us. People with a simple dream and a simple blog, writing away and hoping for the best. It happens. And we celebrate with them, because it's this huge, amazing thing they did. But really, they're just normal people who didn't give up and refined their craft and worked their butts off and finally got there.

And that means we can too!

Who knows when or where or how it'll happen for us--but if we don't give up and keep refining our craft, it CAN happen. 

So don't let any bumps or discouragements along your journey get you down. Don't see others' success and think it'll never happen to you. Remember: the ones who've made it were just like you once upon a time. They're just a few steps ahead. But if you keep going, you'll get there. And then I'll be moving your emails to the "Authors" folder too!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Revision--Shannon Style (Part Five)

Okay, so if you missed part four last week (you can find it HERE), we're deep in the throes of "The Agent Stage" of my revision--which could basically be called: The-Really-In-Depth-Revision-Notes-Stage, so those of you without agents need not think this doesn't apply.

Laura is kind of famous for her LONG revision emails, so I do the bulk of my revising through her. But if you don't have an editorial agent, you should still have at least one CP who really puts your draft through the wringer (if you don't have one--find one. They will make you SUCH a better writer, even if they will *probably* give you an ulcer) this point...I have Laura's revision letter printed. And I've done a lot of STARING and WHIMPERING and STRESSING about the tremendous amount of work I have ahead of me.

Now it's time to pull myself from the depths of "I Sucktitude" and get started. And I do that by reminding myself that Laura wouldn't spend so much time giving me feedback if she didn't believe in the project--and if she didn't believe I was capable of nailing the revision. She's way too busy to waste her time on something she doesn't care about. So she knows I can do it. I just have to shove my self doubt away and dig in.

The same thing applies to you guys--even those of you without editorial agents. Thorough critiques take a LOT of time to give (believe me, I know. I spend 100s of hours on a draft for my CPs). So if a Crit Partner is giving you one, it's because they believe in you, and in your story, and are pushing you because they want to help you make the book as good as it can be. They KNOW you can do it. And they're there for you if you need help getting there.

Never doubt that. Never think: my book must suck. It DOESN'T suck. If it did, they'd probably give you only a few vague notes and something like: thanks for letting me read! Because who's going to spend tons of time on a project they hate?

Trust me, a thorough, intense critique from good, trusted CPs is never a bad thing. I know it's hard to believe sometimes (you're talking to a girl who's often tempted to email Laura back asking: why do you represent me when I need this much work?????) But remember, they believe in you. And they know you have the talent to pull it off.

So once I convince myself that I'm not the resident Queen of Hacksville, I'm to the point of: REREAD THE REVISION LETTER 10,000 TIMES THINKING HOW THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO THIS???


I know I CAN do it. I just need to figure out the HOW part.

In general, there are three main types of notes:

- Notes I completely agree with and know right away exactly what I need to do

- Notes I agree with, but don't know how to handle yet because I need to figure out a few things

- Notes I don't agree with at all

Now, you may be thinking that those last ones are notes I just cross off and put right out of my mind. To which I say, Ha--I wish. Because here's the thing: a note is more than just a note. Sure, there's the specific suggestion in the note, which may not work at ALL. But that doesn't mean I can ignore the underlying cause.

If I'm being told to cut a scene or a chapter, or to tweak a character's motivation or to have something different happen, THERE'S A REASON. Maybe my pacing is off. Maybe my character is reading inconsistent. Maybe I haven't made it clear enough why the scene is important. There could be any number of reasons I'm being given a note, and just because the suggestion doesn't work for me, doesn't mean I get to scratch that note off my list. There's always SOMETHING I need to tweak.

It may end up being a much smaller change than what the notes are suggesting. Or it may mean I make a big change, but it's completely different from what the notes recommended. Either way, it's okay--because I got to the root of the problem. 

And that's really what revision is all about. Problem solving. 

Good revision notes tear your book apart and make you ask yourself: is this what I wanted to do? Is this what I was trying to say? Is this really the way I see my story? And if it's not, you fix it. Clarify. Cut. Refine.

It's a painful, frustrating, headache inducing process. But in the end, you'll wind up with the book you thought your wrote the first time.

I'm sure I could keep rambling about revision for several more posts, but I think 5 posts is enough for this series. I'll tackle some of the minutia of revision (plot, pacing, etc) in their own, separate Shannon-Style series to come. 

If you have any questions on anything, feel free to ask away in the comments. And if not, I'd love to know: how to you deal with intense revision notes? Any tricks you want to share?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Revision--Shannon Style (Part Four)

Okay, I know I TOTALLY dropped the ball on this series. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was supposed to wrap it up about 3 months ago. #Shannonfail

But hey--since I spent the greater part of the last 3 months in various forms of Revision Hell--I've actually found quite a few new tricks to share, so ALL THE SLACKING PAID OFF---HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!
:) case you missed the earlier posts (or have just forgotten them over the last three months *coughs*), here's links to PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE of my revision process. And now we're up to PART FOUR--which was *supposed* to be the last stage. But um...ha, it SO isn't.

Well...I guess it is, but I'm realizing I can't cover it all in one post. So there will definitely be a PART FIVE and maybe a PART SIX. I can ramble about revision for a long time. Especially this stage--The Agent Stage.

Now, all literary agents are different, and not all are hands on editorially. Laura happens to be VERY hands on editorially--one of the main reasons I wanted to work with her. But for some of you, this stage may not exist (though most of the things I will be covering apply whether you have an editorial agent or not. Just substitute the word "Agent" for "critique partner").

Okay, so to get to this stage I've written the draft, revising lightly as I go. I've gone through it myself, based on the "Things I need to Fix" file. I've revised again based on CP feedback. Reread the whole thing in one sitting to watch for consistency. And, finally decided: yes, it's ready to send to Laura! Which...usually means I write up the email and then spend 2 or 3 hours in the: AHHH I'M SCARED TO HIT SEND zone before I finally get brave enough to send off the bad boy.

We'll fast forward through the 2-3 weeks I then spend obsessively checking my email for feedback and whining to anything with ears (yes, that includes my cats) about how afraid I am that she'll hate it. (no need to give you THAT close of a glimpse into my neuroses).

And so we arrive at the moment a lovely email from Laura Rennert with a subject line that has my book's title and the words: "My comments" pops up in my inbox.

*cue MASSIVE stomach ache*

So...I've gotten several of these emails over the last year, and I've sort of developed a system for opening them--and it goes something like this.

*STARE at the screen*

*hubs walks by, sees pale wife. Asks, What's wrong?"*

*explain in shaky voice, "I got my Laura-notes"*

*husband hides*

*the cats flee with him*

*continue to STARE at screen*

*after many, many minutes of staring, click to open the email and immediately close eyes*

*sit there with closed eyes embarrassing amount of time*

*Finally open eyes, but refuse to look at the screen*

*click "command + P" to print the email*

*immediately close the window*

*hold breath while listening to the printer print*

*count the pages as they finish*

*at 3 pages: ask husband if we have any vodka and tonic*

*at 5 pages: suggest that the hubs might want to also hide the sharp objects*

*at 7 pages: begin seriously contemplating fleeing to Mexico and starting a new life as a maraca dancer*

*at 8 pages: decide that career description needs to be amended to "tequila-drinking maraca player"*

*at 9 pages: make a mental list of Spanish phrases still remembered from high school. Feel severely disappointed when most of them are actually remembered from Speedy Gonzalez cartoons*

*At 10 pages: curl up in the fetal position and whimper*

I *think* 10 is my record--so I'll stop there. And sadly I'm only SLIGHTLY exaggerating the process. 

Is it because Laura's notes are mean? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In fact, several of the pages are always praise. But the thing about really in depth intense revision notes (whether they're from an agent, an editor, or an especially thorough crit partner) is that no matter how much praise there is or how nice the person is in their comments, there's ALWAYS that punched-in-the-gut-man-I-must-really-suck-as-a-writer-feeling that comes with them. 

No matter HOW thick your skin is (and believe me--my skin is actually REALLY thick. I couldn't have survived film school without it). No matter how prepared you are for the inevitable. It ALWAYS happens. 

And that's the reason I'm revealing all this Shannon Shame for you guys--to make sure you know: that's normal. It's NORMAL to get a little shaken up by intense notes. It happens to us all. We all handle it our own ways--some of us probably less pathetically than others *coughs*--but it still happens. And my advice to you is: surrender to it.

But only briefly.

I really do print the email without reading it and count the pages as they print. And if it's long, you can bet I curl up in a little ball and wallow in the fear and I-Sucktitude for a few minutes. Okay, fine, more than a *few* minutes. And then? 

I shake it off. 

I force myself out of the fetal position.

I grab my Red-Pen-Of-Doom and a soda, extra heavy on the caffeine.

I take that stack of pages off the printer, plop down in bed, and read them. 

And if the punched-in-the-gut-panic starts to come back, I shove it away. I already had my moment for insecurity and self doubt. Now it's time to dig in.

And I'll talk next week about how I go about doing that.

What about you guys? Any of you gotten a particularly intense batch of revision notes? (oh mans, why am I afraid of what my CPs will say about my notes if they decide to weigh in). How did you deal?