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How to Revise your Manuscript Using a Reverse Outline – Review of Jeni Chappelle’s webinar.

Hello my fellow writers and welcome! This week I’ve completed my fourth manuscript; a speculative fiction called Entangled of around 90’000 words. Finishing the first draft is a fantastic moment, but it’s also only the beginning of a novels journey to completion. I’m currently in an odd position where I have three novels all at different phases of the revision process. I must admit the task of tackling a first revision is still as daunting as it was the first time. I recently attended a webinar by editor Jeni Chappelle who has a wealth of experience, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The first part of editing may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s vital: Put the MS down and forget about it. Leave it on the hard-drive or locked in a draw and focus on something else. When the time comes, you’ll want to be as objective as possible. You’ll want to forget about the subplots and character arcs. You’ll need to switch your brain from being a creative writer, to an analytical observer. Time and distance from your WIP will help.

Jeni talk us through the three phases of revision, the first one is to look at the structural elements of your story. The plot and character arcs are the foundations of your novel. It’s fundamental to do this type of revision first; the set up if you like, to see if the novel works.

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While I’ve always started my process by reading through the whole manuscript, making notes on the things I want to change or clarify – Jeni opens up a whole list of vital question to ask during this process. Jeni gets us thinking about the internal goals and conflicts of the characters. The webinar gives the key to unlocking all of the hidden workings behind a successful story.

I found Jeni’s friendly approach not only welcoming but also easy to understand, despite the in-depth scope of the lesson. During the half an hour webinar, Jeni helps distinguish the importance of identifying the plot and pacing, and much, much more.

Jeni teaches writers how to Create a reverse outline. If you’re having heart palpitations at the thought of this, trust me, you’re not alone. A reverse outline is an overview of your novel, enabling the writer to structure their novel. Stories should follow a novel structure, their are many to choose from, but I prefer to model my stories on the three act structure.

Infographic-writing tips-three act structure

Once we’ve identified the gaps in our manuscript its time to start editing. Perhaps your MC needs clearer defined goals, or the pacing is too slow to start. Maybe some of the scenes need to be switched around to enable the story structure to flow.

The process will be different for everyone, the important part is trying. That’s where you’ll learn and grow as a writer. Once you’ve finished the first round of revision, you may choose to ask a critique partner to help out. They will be able to point out any areas you may have overlooked.

Send your work out to beta readers and return the favour by critiquing their work. This is the stage I’m at with my third MS Crown of Lies. It’s a valuable chance to put into practice the knowledge you’ve gleaned from revising your own work. While it can be daunting, it is undoubtedly the most valuable skill you’ll learn as a writer.

If you’re stuck and you’re searching for professional feedback, you may want to work with a developmental editor, or simply get feedback of your submission package. (This is the stage I’m at with my second novel, before I query again.) Today’s post has been influenced by one of Jeni Chappelle webinars. She is a co-founder of #RevPit over at Twitter. Check her out – subscribe to her newsletter. Not only does she have great content and she’s also a fantastic editor too.

What resources do you use when editing? Do you like to use the reverse outline method, or do you tackle the issue in a different way. I’d love to hear all about your process, please share your experiences with me.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk Beta Readers

Working with Beta Readers

Getting our writing critiqued is a vital learning process for writers. Through feedback, authors can mould their novel into a piece of work that’s coherent and has marketable appeal. Beta Reader’s response can help to judge which part of your book will work for your audience and those that may not.

I’ve wanted a Beta Reader for quite some time, but had no idea of how to go about it. Can we rely on our family and friends to be honest? Probably not, I tend to sugar coat things for those I care about.

How do we find Beta Readers?

Blogger Ari Meghlem recently asked this question on Facebook. Reaching out on social media is a great way of finding Beta Readers. It’s daunting. It requires bravery and a little common sense.

Finding the right reader is a vital first step. There’s no point in asking someone to read your genre if they don’t like it. Their feedback will be less than helpful. Ask questions and build a relationship. Your ideal reader should be similar to your target audience.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

Here are my 3 tips for working with your Beta Reader.

 

Give Guidance

Develop a list of questions that you’d like answered. These might be about plot, pacing, strength of character, or the organisation of the stories concept. Your checklist should meet the specific needs of each book you write. As a great starting point for question inspiration, go check out some of my ideas on these Pinterest boards.

Learnt to love negative feedback

Not everyone will like your work. So you shouldn’t revise your book based entirely on one person’s perspective. Gaining different points of views can help pinpoint the areas that need working on. And as hard as it can be, ask yourself: Will addressing the issues make your book better? Sometimes accepting the truth hurts, but that’s how we grow and learn. So remember to thank your beta readers, and embrace their feedback.

Return the Favour

Offer to work in tandem with your BETA reader. Or consider returning the favour at a later date. By reading someone else’s work you can gain experience at reading with a critical eye. This will be invaluable when editing your own WIP.

I want to say a huge warm thanks to Ari for agreeing to beta read my first novel, her feedback so far has been fantastic. You can read Ari’s previous guest blog post Here.

Thanks for reading my post. Do you have any tips on working with beta readers? If so, please share.

Author Lorraine Ambers Web-Banner YA fantasy book review romance

 © Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.

 

The Eternal Scribbler Guest post

Guest Post – The Eternal Scribbler.

As writers we have to a pretty hefty job of carrying all those characters, worlds, ideas around in our heads desperate to come out and be added to the blank page.

Today I want to talk about the first few pages of your book.

The first pages of a book are what sell it. You can have a fancy cover, great blurb and a dazzling plot – but if you fail in the first few pages, you could have lost your chance to shine.book writer author Lorraine Ambers fantasy romance YA

This is one of the reasons I usually write my first chapter last or at least after much more of the book is written. This allows me to move the scenes around and sometimes find a mid-scene that works better for the first chapter.

From publishers to readers, those few pages have to be gripping (not talking suspenseful, unless…you know…you’re writing a suspense novel!) but they need to draw the reader in and make them want to keep reading.

No point having the best action scene, romance or climatic ending ever if nobody is able to actually get to it.

So take those first few pages extremely seriously.

writer author Lorraine Ambers desk fantasy romance YA

Here are some thoughts on what you should have in your first chapter (preferably in the first few pages)

• Voice – Don’t wait until you are further into the book before you show your voice, get it right out onto the page at the start. If I’m reading a book I want to know the author has a strong command of writing, a voice that can clearly be heard through the words.

• Senses – Engage the reader immediately with sensory detail. If you get to chapter 3 before we even have a plethora of sensory information, then you’ve missed something. Be aware of getting caught just using sight and sound. Use all five of the main senses to fill out your world. Whether it’s the sharp smell of horse manure in the street, or the bitter taste of fruit on the turn. Let’s get some details!!

• Location, location, location – No we don’t need to know the longitude and latitude, but we need some detail about where this story is set. Character and dialogue can often place a story, but don’t forget to set the scene. Are we storming a castle? Trudging through a muddy field? Maybe even just listening to a grieving mother in the kitchen of her small apartment. Give the reader some direction as to where they are when they start reading.

• Characters – Now, some writers state they want to meet the protagonist or antagonist in the first chapter. Since my manuscript doesn’t actually start with meeting my protagonist but in dealing with the aftermath of her going missing, I ignore what “some writers” suggest. You don’t have to have your MC right in the thick of it, but make sure whoever you have on stage first has an important role in the plot, even if they just throw in a set of magic beans and vanish. Those magic beans better be pretty important! book pen artist writer author Lorraine Ambers fantasy romance novel YA

 

But these characters need to be interesting or likeable. While characters we hate are fun too, it’s recommended we don’t add them at the beginning as it can drive a reader from continuing – so keep your obnoxious, love-to-hate-them characters for later on.

Make sure there is some depth to these characters. That means they react, they emote, they live the scene. Let’s not just follow them around with a camcorder seeing what they might do. Give them a voice, give them a purpose, give them a mental state!

• Plot – your first few pages should touch on the plot. It should hint or whisper or build on something that is coming up. We don’t want to see characters going through daily routines and ending with nothing. If you haven’t even hinted on what the plot is about then you’ll be boring your reader.

Readers want to get a sense of something happening. Not sure what, so they will want to read more. Nobody…and I mean NOBODY wants to read about your character brushing their teeth, picking out clothes and then leaving for work. Unless all that banality ended with you exposing that this mild-mannered, mousy gentleman is actually an assassin off to execute a government official – you should probably skip it.

So think carefully on what you are putting in your first pages. Think about the books you love and re-read their first pages. See what those authors did to catch your attention.

Happy Writing!

For more great content, find Ari over on her blog: http://www.theeternalscribbler.wordpress.com/

Author Lorraine Ambers writing novel

©Lorraine Ambers 2017