Tags: conflict

The Emotional Stages of Revision

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: October 20, 2015
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As I’m revising my middle grade novel, I feel distracted. I feel alone. I feel like no one has ever felt this lousy and distracted and unproductive while revising a novel ever before in the history of literature.

So what do I do? I google my problem. I type in “revising a novel sucks.” I think I want to tell someone (the google search box?) how much it sucks. And I think maybe someone has blogged about it and I can read it so I won’t feel so alone. (Also, this googling mean I’m not working on revising my novel for the moment, which is good cause REVISING SUCKS.)

Anyway, I found this: The Ten Emotional Stages of Revising a Novel, by Farrah Penn on Bustle.com.

I have been in all of these stages! Resentment. Second guessing. Fear. Distraction. Maybe not always in this order but I have BEEN IN ALL OF THEM!

And I’ve come out on the other side before. So maybe I will again.

And maybe if you’re stuck in one of these stages, you will too.

Feel free to tell me all about. Turns out we are not alone…

Elizabeth Rusch

Some Yoga/Writing Principles

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: January 20, 2015
Categories: Challenges, Inspiration
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The new year is a time to take stock and a time to try to do things differently than we have before. When life gives us a lesson, we can respond as we always do –and then life will give us that same lesson over and over again. But what if life gives us a lesson and instead of responding the same way we always do, we respond differently? Perhaps life will be done giving us that lesson and we can move on to something else.

Take a rejection letter, or a harsh critique, or a writing project gone south for some reason out of our control. What if, instead of responding with our same old anger, frustration, and depression we respond with genuine gratitude.

I have found this is EXTREMELY hard to do. Though I can’t do it fully yet, I have discovered some principals that help me head in that direction. These are yogic principles that I try to adapt to my writing life. They are drawn from Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat. I hope you find them helpful, inspiring, or at least intriguing:

“We already have everything we need.”

“The surest way to get what you want is to let go of wanting.”

“What is required is a radical, absolute, living trust in the universe.”

“Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.”

“Pride and ambition will get you hurt; humility will get you well.”

“There is wisdom within us that is more powerful than our despair.”

“Make a commitment to focus on the nature of our efforts and not the nature the result.”

It’s at least worth a try!


Critique gone wrong, personal baggage, and how to make the most of writing workshops

by Amber Keyser
Published on: May 13, 2013
Categories: Critique Process
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I want to draw your attention to an incredibly helpful post by Randy Susan Meyers at Beyond the Margins.  I think it hits many of the key areas where critique groups can go off the rails and how to respond to these issues.



“No child could possibly be happy about her father moving out!”

The above was said to me at a writing workshop, in a discussion about my then unpublished novel (it eventually became The Murderer’s Daughters.) The ‘child’ in question lived with a selfish, sarcastic, angry mother and an oft-drunk “mooning around” father. In the questioned scene this 10-year-old protagonist voices guilty relief at finding a less troubling atmosphere after her father moved out.  A workshop member, adamant in his belief that no child would ever feel relief at her father leaving the house, expressed insistence bordering on disbelief (that I would write such an emotion!) bordering on disdain (that I would be able to dredge up such an emotion!)


Precious minutes slipped away as the group debated this point. The workshop operated under the “in-the-box” silenced writer rule (which most of the time I agree with) so I could only listen as time ticked by as the debate raged.

Should this point have been up for grabs? (And should anyone wag their finger when giving critique?) This is problem I’ve found in writing workshops. Let’s call it the ‘scrim’ factor. Aside from the craft of the work, the plotting, the plausibility, believable motives, and the ability of the writer to engender suspension-of-disbelief, when (if ever) is a character’s ‘belief system’ up for judgment—especially if the judgment is made based on the belief system of a fellow workshop member?




Ack! My group members disagree about my mss. What do I do?

by Amber Keyser
Published on: September 16, 2011
Categories: Craft
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Often the Scrivas are unanimous in their feedback.  If they all suggest killing characters, then I oil up the guillotine and start hacking off heads.  That’s a no-brainer.

Then there are the “other” times when conflict reigns supreme.  Confession: we have actually called votes.

“Who likes it in first person?”
“First person it is.  Get on that revision, Scriva!”

For Angel Punk, my YA novel-in-progress, consensus has been a fleeting thing.  There was an even split between love and hate on the first prologue.  I ditched it and tried again.  Half the Scrivas missed the old prologue.  The new had one “aye” vote.  That one’s going in the crapper too.  Point of view (POV) is also an area of contention.  Some lobby for 1st person, others for close-in 3rd person.  I was hoping for 3rd person omniscient but it looks like that is making me lose the voice.  Ack!

So what do you do when you get contradictory feedback?

First, I try to understand the feedback behind the feedback.  Do they hate the prologue because they miss the main character’s voice or because it seems to offer superfluous information or because it distracts from the main themes that I’m trying to address? I need to find out what I’m actually trying to say.

One approach I sometimes use is to write it in plain language so I’m not distracted by fancy-pants words or attempts at subtlety.  For example, “Mara acts tough but she’s on shaky ground because she doesn’t really know who or what she is.”  I know I can’t use that verbage in the book but it might give me clarity to know that the prologue should show Mara’s confusion without her losing face by being too weepy or confessional.

Second, I check out books that have succeeded in areas where I struggle.  Again thinking about Mara, she has personality qualities that are similar to Katniss in The Hunger Games, Katsa in Graceling, and Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  What was the POV for those characters?  Can that help me figure out which POV will work best for Mara?

Third, I have to accept that the Scriva majority may be most representative of my readers. In my first draft of Angel Punk, I tried to use short, fast-paced scenes – each of which shifted POV – to give a comic book, action-adventure feel to the story.  One Scriva loved it.  The others were lost.  I loved it too and was tempted to stick with my experimental style, but I want people to read my book.  If a handful of brilliant Scrivas were lost, then chances are many of my readers would be too.  I went back to more traditional approach.

The take-home from this (at least for me) is that sometimes contradictory feedback is the best feedback because it forces me to go deep, analyze more, and find absolute clarity on what I’m trying to achieve with the work.

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