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Step one – open shitty first draft.
2 print out in word draft mode, light colored ink. 3 put on extra
strong glasses and lamp. rewrite every single page until it looks
like it’s bleeding. Be aware that you might need a lot of physical
space for laying out the pages. clothespins are key. 5. type in
handwritten edits. 6. go back to step 2 and do it all again. lather
rinse repeat.

Step one – open shitty first draft.

Step two –  print out in word draft mode, light colored ink.

Step three – put on extra strong glasses and bright lamp. Rewrite every single page until it looks like it’s bleeding. Be aware that you might need a lot of physical space for laying out the pages. Clothespins are key. So are Post-It notes.

ugly stuff

ugly stuff

Step five – type in handwritten edits.

smells fishy to Barkis

smells fishy to Barkis

Step six – go back to step 2 and do it all again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

everyone's a critic

everyone’s a critic

Barkis is not too subtle when he wants to go for a walk….

The secret? See below:

My name is Susan and I’m a WordPerfect addict. It’s every bit as essential as my Clairefontaine notebooks and Shaefer Javelin fountain pen (peacock blue ink, please). WordPerfect is not perfect, but for writing a novel, it’s close.

And then there’s Word. The industry standard. Do not ask me why. The first time I saw “Clippie,” I thought I was hallucinating. C’mon, Clippie? Am I not enraged enough by the program itself?

But let’s be fair. Word has one huge virtue. I love the way it prints out a draft. A draft, I am forced to tell you, I created in WordPerfect. Word is too stupid to open it, so while In WordPerfect, I click “Save As” and select some version of MS Word.

(Side note–My nomination for dumbest upgrade ever? When New Word refused to recognize Old Word, thus creating the doc to docx confusion.)

But back to the draft. My early drafts are riddled with side notes or comments, the little hidden things that say “this is dreck–revise later” or “sheer genius,” (rare) or “then, a miracle occurred…” They also contain research material, continuity notes, deleted sentences I’m not ready to let go of, questions to ponder, you name it.

When you print out the draft in Word, it automatically prints those side notes oin a nice little column on the side. If a note is long, it continues it at the end of the document.



I love this feature! But I hate everything else about Word.

Are there Word-defenders out there? What do your drafts look like?

The ONLY thing I love about Word: is the way it prints out a draft.
It puts my side notes or comments in a nice little column on the
side. If a note is long, it continues it at the end of the document.
I love this feature! I hate everything else about word.

No, really, he did. There’s something about those little copy edit flags he can’t resist. (A copy edit is an almost-final once-over on the manuscript. The copy editor indicates her comments and queries with sticky flags that say things like “she walked through the door 3x on this pg.” or “this is the 13th month of her pregnancy.” Somehow, the CE resists adding, “moron.”) meaty meaty

So here’s why writers don’t get cocky no matter how well their books are selling. The actual work of writing never changes. This is Lakeshore Christmas. Or it will be if I get my revisions done and make my deadline. After I sent this baby off to my publisher, my editor and copy editor had their way with it, and suddenly the baby is ugly all over again. The blue tabs at the tops of the pages are the revisions I’ve accomplished so far. The ones down the side are sections I still need to rewrite. By next week.

weekend o fun

weekend o' fun

 Oh, and yes indeed, that is fresh snow you see in the background out the window. Thanks for asking!

over and over again

over and over again

It’s Groundhog Day, when we find out whether or not winter will ever end. It’s also the title of one of my favorite movies. Any writer can relate to the concept of doing something over and over again, until you finally get it right. Or at least close enough to right to declare in publishable.

So here’s what I was doing just before the phone rang:

revisions of JUST BREATHE

…and here’s what I did the rest of the day.


I did a salsa dance, too, but no way I’m showing you the photo.

My book is not done. Does the universe even care?

cell phone self portrait

“When you go to court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who couldn’t figure out how to get out of jury duty.”

–Norm Crosby

I’m nearly finished with a first draft of Snowfall at Willow Lake. The thing is a complete mess–but I love it. I love Sophie and Noah and their chemistry and their conflict. I love the way the plot unspools in this story of redemption. This story has good bones–a sturdy plotline, strong characters, an appealing milieu. But I’m looking at it and thinking, oy. Do you ever need a makeover. And not just a cosmetic surface buffing. This will have to be gutted, taken apart, reconstructed and polished.

chair - before

Today my chair came back from being reupholstered. Initially, the thing was a $5 Rotary Auction treasure that I brought home because there was something about it that I liked–the lines. The bone structure. Still, to be honest, it was not a thing of beauty. It was frayed and sagging and badly in need of a makeover.

chair - after

It was a lot of work. But worth the effort.

For me, “revision” is a literal act. I reimagine the story, even if it means dismantling it from the ground up. I think every writer has a horror of deleting and discarding changes. One way I get myself over it is by reminding myself that even the deletions have their purpose. The text that was cut had its uses at one time. It was written for a reason and led me somewhere. There, isn’t that soothing?

Elie Wiesel said, “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees.  Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.”

what’s on my mind right now:

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