Saturday, November 24, 2007

Only the Name Has Been Changed...

You may notice the name change of this blog. After much thought, and at the advice of a few friends, I've changed the name. Bluntly stated by one person--the former name (Linda Rettstatt-Author) was "boring and lacked imagination." Well, what can I say? Only your best friends will be honest. When someone's right, they're right. Do you have any idea how many writing blogs and websites are out there? Finding a name that hasn't been used multiple times was a challenge. And, so, I welcome you to One Woman's Write.

If you're looking for that "boring" blog (lol), it's still here. Hopefully you'll find the writing-related entries more exciting than the former title. Only the name is changed. The link remains the same.

Thanks for dropping by.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Plotter, Pantser or Planner?

If you're a writer, you've undoubtedly been asked, "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" And if you're new to the profession, you may have scrunched up your brain in search of a definition--pantser?

You soon learn about two approaches to writing: plotting or flying by the seat of your pants. Hence, pantser. I'm a pantser. I get an idea and run with it, never giving thought to an outline, working synopsis, or character profiles. And I have gleefully embraced the title since I first set my fingers to a keyboard and wrote my very first line.

Many of my writer friends are plotters. I admire them for their ability to write out detailed character profiles, develop a story outline, create a detailed synopsis and display all of these as handy references for keeping their story on track. I am in awe of the cork boards filled with index cards and sticky notes or the dry erase boards proudly displaying a scene-by-scene sketch of the book. I admire them in the same way I admire Michelle Kwan. The beauty and grace of her skating is the result of talent coupled with intense discipline.

There's my problem. I lack discipline. I'd rather write an entire novel, than develop a detailed outline and synopsis of my story. But, lately, I've realized I lose time because I don't have a road map to follow. I write much the way I travel--"Oh, that looks like an interesting road. Let's see where it'll take us." I get from start to finish, but I don't always get there efficiently.

I've decided to create a new writing approach for myself: Planner. I'm sure I've not stumbled upon some grand revelation, and that many of you already plan your work without doing detailed plotting. But, it's a new approach for me. It will, I'm sure, test my discipline and my patience.

I recently drove from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Camden, Maine. I don't have a GPS system (in my car or in my head--lol), so I mapped out the trip and printed out the directions. Then my travel companion and I altered those along the way, depending upon where we wanted to stop and take in scenery. I know I have the ability to do this. I can plan, and I can follow the plan.

How does a planner differ from a plotter and a pantser? Well, here's my interpretation. As a planner, I'll write a brief story summary--where does it start? where does it end? what key turn of events has to happen in the middle?

Of course, my new approach calls for different supplies. I purchased a pack of 3x5 index cards and, as luck would have it, Walgreens also had little plastic index card cases--with dividers. (I'm an office supply junkie! I drool while browsing at Office Depot.) On these cards, I will write out character descriptions, settings, and key scenes. I can carry this handy little case with me and, when a scathingly brilliant idea comes to mind, I'll be able to jot it down. (Oops. Note to self: buy a pen.)

I'll see how this works so that, the next time I need to remember my character's hair or eye color, or her profession, or her mother's name (well, you get the idea), I won't have to skim through the whole darned manuscript to find it.

I know. I risk losing my true pantser status. So, what are the writing police going to do? Pants me?

Believe it or not, there's a point to this blog. And if I'd outlined it first, I'd have been there by now.

My point: There's more than one way to get to Camden from Pittsburgh. There's more than one way to develop a cast of characters, give them each a unique voice and physical features and history, create a story line, and take your reader on a wonderful journey through struggle, love, mystery, suspense, fantasy or humor.

As writers, we each have to find our own voice. We also have to find our own style, the approach to writing that frees us to fly. Find what works best for you, what comes naturally, and go with it. Fill your tool box only with the tools that will help you. If you're just not a plumber, don't pack a pipe wrench. It'll just weigh you down.

Happy writing.


Monday, November 5, 2007

You Want Me to What?: Working With An Editor

Writing a book is one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had. But, as with most things, there are aspects of completing the work that are less enjoyable. For example, I enjoy my work as a therapist. The paperwork, however, makes me want to scream at times.

As writers, getting the story onto paper (or into the computer) is only the beginning. We then begin the process of editing, rewriting, editing, rewriting.... Eventually, if we're fortunate enough, we get to send our manuscript off to a real, live editor.

When my first book was published, I looked forward to the editing process with anticipation. It was one more step toward becoming a 'real' writer (one of the benchmarks I'd set for myself.) I received my manuscript with a note from the editor--she liked my story, but... Then I scanned all the red notations in my book. Now, she'd noted that these were 'suggestions' and that it was up to me to decide what I wanted to change and what I left as I'd originally written.

I did the math on this one. I was a first-time author--green. She was a seasoned editor. I seriously considered every suggestion and accepted all but one. And it paid off.

An editor gives your manuscript a fresh, first look. She or he has not been immersed in your story for months ad nauseum. The editor can give your book a completely objective review and not only find the little nits you've missed, but will view your story in its entirety, assess its readability and your characters' likability.

A good editor will improve your already perfect (in your mind, at least) manuscript. Now, a bad editor will let things slip through and allow you to look like the amateur you may or may not be. A seasoned, talented, professional editor is worth his or her weight in gold. She will oft times save you from yourself.

I just finished the second edit of my soon to be published novel, PIECES. It's due for publication on January 1--Happy New Year to me! My editor caught not only some of the more minor, but important, errors in wording and made suggestions to punch up the dialogue. She also picked up on two major mistakes that would have made readers go, "Huh?"

My advice: When you have a good editor who makes suggestions, give them serious consideration. Read the text from her perspective. And if you feel the editor assigned to your masterpiece is not being helpful, request that your book is reassigned. Now, give good reason for this. Don't put yourself in the position of being 'difficult' to work with. Perhaps the editor isn't as familiar with your genre and it shows (e.g., insisting upon heating up the romance, when your book is not a romance novel). Perhaps when you get your first edits, things now jump off the page at you--things an editor should have caught, but did not. (Although a copy editor will clean this up even further.)

And don't be defensive. If you don't like a particular suggestion or choose not to change something, simply say so and, perhaps, clarify your reason for leaving things as they are. An editor is a valuable tool, but she's also a human being. Treat her as such and nurture the relationship. If she's good at what she does, she will make your manuscript shine!

Happy writing!