Removing the Scaffolding

Hi all, Today I welcome C.M. Keller. She’s here to write about Removing the Scaffolding and to market her new book, Screwing Up Time.





Mark Montgomery is a slacker content with his life. He’s a senior at New Haven Prep, has a great friend, and after graduation he’ll get a brand new sports car from his parents, assuming he stays out of trouble. Then, she comes into his life—Miranda with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn’t. She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda’s marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents. The sports car is definitely in trouble.

Screwing Up Time is available on Kindle and Nook

Now, without further ado, here’s C.M. Keller on Removing the Scaffolding:



First of all, I’d like to thank Misha for allowing me to guest blog for her today. I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in my years of writing—just because I had to bang my head against the wall of writing ignorance doesn’t mean you have to.


Every writer knows that after we finish the first draft, we need to edit. We have to fill the landslide-sized plot holes, rid our manuscript of characters whose original purpose we’ve forgotten, and murder our darlings. But this post addresses the editing that comes after that. The editing that we sometimes avoid because it’s tedious and because the next novel is already seducing us. (Resist your lust for new plot lines a bit longer.)

These secondary edits are an opportunity to take your writing to the next level. I call this stage “removing the scaffolding.” Think of it this way, when art restorers finish repairing a frescoed ceiling, they have to take down the scaffolding. Otherwise, no one can see the fresco. Similarly, writers need to remove their scaffolding—the words and phrases that supported the first draft. For example, when I’m writing a first draft and can’t think of the perfect word/phrase, I substitute an adequate one. This isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a good thing because it keeps me from getting bogged down and I can get the story on paper while the passion and energy are hot. (If you struggle with this, I’d recommend Stephen King’s book On Writing.) But once the story’s on paper, those supports have to go.

Every writer has his/her own structural supports, but here are some that writers, myself included, often use. For example, to provide the “beats” the dialogue needs, I often have a character make a physical movement. However, by the end of the first draft I have so many shook his/her heads that the characters’ necks should’ve snapped and their skulls ought to be rolling on the ground. I also end up with more look/looked/looking than you’d believe possible. Not to mention the myriads of he/she ran a hand through his/her hair—they do this so often, you’d think every character must have a serious case of eczema or lice. 

If you’re nodding your head and thinking “I do that too,” don’t be discouraged. Remember those supports were important—they were the scaffolding that held the story together as you wrote it. But now, they must be removed. So how do you go about it? One way I’ve seen writers deal with word repetitions is to use synonyms. And “looked” becomes glanced, perused, spied, peeked, peeped, etc., etc. Do NOT do this. All it does is tell the reader that you have a really good thesaurus. The way to a beautiful novel is to replace the adequate beats and repetitions with texture. In other words, the beat must advance the plot or teach the reader more about the character. If not, it’s called a “cheap beat” and says “I’m An Amateur” in blinking neon lights. 

Good beats read like this:

            “You mean you’ve—” Martin swallowed and his necktie climbed his swollen gorge.  

From Beyond the Bedroom Wall by Larry Woiwode, National Book Award finalist. Here we know that not only is Martin surprised and upset, he’s so straight-laced that with a big swallow, his too-tight tie climbs his neck.

            “…He decided one day to join the black horses in the mountains. One night during a terrible storm he was struck by lightning. The lightning burned him all black. He was killed. That is the end of the story.”

            There was silence. Through my open windows came the murmurous sounds of the surf.
            “I don’t like that story,” I said finally.

From Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. Here the silence and the sounds give us the melancholy mood and foreshadow the boy’s response.

(Emerson and Amelia are discussing how to preserve a painting.)

            “A solution is precisely what it is. A mixture of weak tapioca and water, brushed on the painting—”

             “You said brushing marred the paint.”

            “I brush it on with my finger.”

             I starred at him with reluctant admiration.

             “You are determined, I’ll say that for you.”

From Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, New York Times bestselling author. Here we see the repartee both spoken and unspoken between the characters—and we get the sense that they have a unique but happy relationship.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to write like that. Yeah, it is. But you can do it. After all, if you’ve completed a novel, the hardest part is already behind you. Do it. You know you can.

For more information on “scaffold editing,” I highly recommend the book Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden, a former independent book editor for authors published by St. Martin’s, Midnight Ink, Viking, Intrigue, Rodale, and others. 



Thanks so much for the great post, Connie! Good luck with your sales!

I know that I can sometimes overuse some of my beats. I really have to pay attention to them when I edit. Which beats do you overuse?

My Honorary 250th post: The Lessons I’ve Learnt.

Wow. Time passes fast.

I wanted to make a special post about writing my 250th… This is my 257th.

Anyway, this is my honorary 250th post.

If memory serves, the last celebratory post involved lots of stats. This time I thought I’d do a list of things I’ve learnt since I started blogging.

1) The world is bigger than you think. Stretch your mind.
2) There is more than one right way.
3) Platform is good. Hundreds of friends all over the globe is better.
4) Things might look pretty bleak right now, but if you write it down, odds are you’ll read it later and wonder what the fuss was about.
5) People love being special. So make a point of making them special.
6) Everyone’s connected. If in doubt, find an obscure (to your mind) writing blog and see who’s reading it in a week.
7) Reciprocity. Reciprocity. Reciprocity.
8) If you want to get something done. Make it as public as possible that you’re doing it. If you don’t want to, make the goal impossible.
9) The more of a hill you climb, the less there’s left to climb.
10) Keep looking for hills.

So those are my lessons. Wonder what I’ll do for my 500th post….

What lessons has blogging taught you?

So close I can feel it.

I took a weekend off from my studies, as I was fluey and unable to concentrate on anything. By Sunday, I felt an old familiar tug, pulling me to Doorways.

Even though I’d already been waking up early every morning, by two o’clock I felt as if I’d go mad if I didn’t just look at what I still needed to do. Looking turned into revision of one part, which turned into eight almost straight hours of it.

By 10 PM I’d reached the end. Yay me!

I’m still not quite done, though, because I need to go over it one more time before sending it to my first Crit Partner. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some bits toward the end that will need a lot more work, because my germ ridden mind can only focus for so long. The only reason why I kept going was because I was going into the story’s climax. It kept feeling wrong to stop.

I really want to get to the end, though. I’d rewritten the close to one I really loved, but as I woke up I got this niggling suspicion that became an all consuming thought: It didn’t fit the story. It would have been gorgeous if it had, but the entire story sets the characters up in a certain way. One that clashed with the ending I’d written. Sigh…

So now I’m still trying to work out how to close Doorways that makes everyone happy while bringing the point across that this wouldn’t be the end…

Anyone else writing writing a series? How did you manage to end the book without ending the story?

A Rude Awakening

Hi all! I just want to apologize for being so neglectful this week. I feel terrible about it, but this was just one of those weeks, ya know? 

Anyway, today I welcome Don Britt to My First Book. For those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to bump into him on the blogosphere, he’s the insane writer behind 24Novels.com. That’s right… He’s writing 24 novels. In. One. Year. Please go check out his blog to find out how he’s doing. 

In the mean time, here’s his post. 

A RUDE AWAKENING

I’ve been writing for more years than I care to remember. Sometimes it feels like I was born with a pen in my hand. Writing has never been a problem for me. Pitching what I’ve written, on the other hand, has been nothing less than a living nightmare. I’ve been rejected with bludgeoning repetition by more agents and publishers than I care to admit. Oh, alright, darn you. You’ve torn one statistic out of me. One summer saw me garner six hundred rejections. 600 big fat ‘R’s. In less than three months.  

That summer coincided with a milestone in my life. I was 40. I stared long and hard into my coffee on my birthday. I fancied it a portal into an abyss. The abyss has a habit of staring back at you, if you can believe what Nietzsche says. It’s a cocky bastard too. It hasn’t lost a staring contest yet. 

Not long after I crashed and burned in that existential stare down I sat down with a piece of paper and a pencil. I drew a line down the middle of the page, forming two columns. At the top of the first column I wrote ‘Overall Quality Of My Work’. Above the second column I wrote ‘Success In Pitching My Work’. I decided to give myself a grade, see, in each of these two essential categories for any aspiring writer.   

I left the page on my desk for a time. For a few days in fact. I took the time to read through a sizeable sample of my work. A couple of novels. A few shorts. Some essays which I thought just splendid when I wrote them. I thought everything was great when I wrote it. Now, with some distance, I realized a hard truth. The stuff wasn’t as good as I thought it was. There was a lot that I liked. But there were also pointless scenes, flat dialogue, and some painfully crafted passages that, on fresh reading, were just that – painful. I put myself in the role of English teacher, and asked myself what grade I would give this work if I didn’t know the writer from Adam. I came up with a B.  

I returned to my piece of paper. Under ‘Overall Quality’ I put down my B. The second column required no reflection at all. At the age of 40 I had yet to earn a single, solitary dollar from anything I had ever written. So under success rate I wrote down the only grade possible. F. I thought about what those two grades combined meant, in terms of my hopes of getting published. Then I wrote an equation on the top of the page: B + F = F 

There’s an old definition of insanity, one you may well know. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. I had a wake up call when I turned forty. I realized that even the best of my work wasn’t as good as I thought it was. An even harsher truth hit home. If I were working in an agency or publishing house, and was confronted with the material I had just finished reading, I would have responded with one of those big fat Rs too.  

As an old song says, waking up is hard to do. Still I woke up that day. If Misha would be so kind as to have me back sometime I’d be happy to talk about the results of my painful awakening. For now I’ll end with this truth, and with a confession I haven’t heard often in the writing world. I earned my rejections over all those years. I kept submitting material that didn’t demand to be published, stories that didn’t rise up to a standard that simply could not be ignored.  

How about you?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Don. You’re more than welcome to do another guest post some time. 😀

Have a great weekend everyone!

More about you…

Well… today I have nothing to say… so I thought I’d get to know you all a little better…

1) What made you want to write?
2) When did you start blogging?
3) Sweet or Savory?
4) What’s your big dream?
5) What does your best friend say is your best characteristic?
6) What do you say is your best characteristic?
7) If you know you have one hour left, what would you do in it?
8) Have you ever wanted to do something that you gave up on?
9) What do you want RIGHT NOW?
10) What are you planning for later today?

Have a great day! X

Pushing the Button and Falling Down

Hi all! Welcome to another installment of Guest Post Friday! Today I welcome Alexandra Villasante from Magpie Writes. This is also one of the blogs that I’ve been following for a long time, possibly even from last year. I just love seeing another writer’s journey through life and writing, which always makes Magpie Writes a nice stop.



Pushing the Button and Falling Down

I’ll tell you a secret. I may have made a mistake. I don’t know if my manuscript is perfect. I don’t even know if it’s the best it can be. I don’t know if, given a week, a month, a year, I could improve it to the point where it’s ready.

And even though I don’t know, I still pushed the button.

I emailed an agent who had requested the first 100 pages and hit send.

Was it the right thing to do? Should I have waited? Will I get rejected?

I don’t know. Well, OK, I do know the answer to that last one…

Here’s what I do know:

I worked on the revisions for three months. I worked with my crit group and beta readers. I thought and thought and thought until my puzzler was sore.

And then I felt like I came to a precipice, an edge that I had to confront. Jump off or go back. Stop living in the world of ‘maybe one day’ and walk into ‘today’.
The problem with taking that leap of faith is that you kill off every other potential outcome. You can sit at your desk, like I do, thinking of a million different outcomes to when you finally push the button and submit (yuck. Even the word ‘submit’ has humiliating connotations) your manuscript (or query letter). As long as you don’t hit send, all those outcomes are possible.

Once you hit ‘send’ the choice is entirely out of your hands. There will only be one outcome and you can’t do anything more to influence it. That’s what is so frightening and so exhilarating because you put it out there and there’s a chance.

Until you get slapped in the face with the large, implacable ‘R’ for rejection – like I did this morning.

It’s my first one and it stung. Have you ever gotten stung by a wasp or a bee? At first you’re like, “ow.” Then, once the little bastard’s venom spreads it’s like OWWWWWWW.
Then you’re crying into your cornflakes and vowing never to show another soul your work. Thankfully, that part doesn’t last too long.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster all day. I dealt with it by designating the Dark & Stormy (recipe here) as my official Rejection drink and by sending out another query. I also ate almost an entire box of Junior Mints.

I don’t regret pushing ‘send.’ I don’t regret jumping off that precipice. Even falling is better then never even trying to fly. Or did I read that in a fortune cookie?



Thanks again, Alex! I hope that your next jump will have you flying to the stars. 

I’m wondering about my bloggy friends that finished their books. Have you come to that precipice yet? What did you do and how did it work out?





And now, I’m in an interesting predicament…

Today is the only weekday that I have off, so today was the one I picked to start studying for the huge (and hugely important) semester test that’s coming up.

Despite not really feeling in the mood, I buckled up and started cruising through today’s set of essays. And while I was by no means rushing through, I’m now finished.

Great, yes. But I’m too exhausted to go on, because I didn’t let up untill I got through everything. I do this because I know that the moment I do something else, I’m not going to come back to the studies.

Hence, I am left with an entire afternoon stretching out in front of me.

And I don’t have a clue as to what I should do with it.

I have a dvd to watch (during which I can perhaps finish my knitted cape) or I can exercise a little, maybe while reading something. I can revise some more, even though I’ve already gone through four chapters today. Or… I can catch up on blog visits.

Choices…

What do you do when you’re suddenly offered a big block of time off?