Category Archives: Revision

Rewriting Stories – It’s about the 12 Disciples BUT they are Skirt Chasing Zombie Hunters

Writer’s Note: This is Thursday’s article…yes I am behind…

Admittedly, I enjoyed the recent movie that made Abe Lincoln a zombie hunter. I also thought the Jane Austin books melding historical fiction and zombies were hilarious. But now….it’s going too far. Writers everywhere are taking historically good fiction and mucking it up with zombies, aliens and the like.

There are all kinds of writers and I bow to each and every one of them except for one particular kind…the lazy writer. In my humble opinion, (and it is my opinion) if you are thinking of rewriting a loved piece of fiction only throwing in a zombie or a vampire…unless you have a very different spin on it…DON’T DO IT! You are just being lazy.

I have a friend (and I use that term loosely in this case) who wants to rewrite the “To Kill a Mockingbird” making the main character a wizard. When he told me that over coffee one afternoon all I could think to say was, “That’s retarded”. He went away mad that I couldn’t see his vision and I went home to mull over the fact that, as writers, we have gotten lazy about finding the story.

While it can be tough finding a new way to spin a subject, if you discover yourself looking for an easy way out…you need to rethink your career choices. Writing is tough but coming up with new ideas for stories can be even tougher over time. The true meddle of a writer is sometimes found in the fact that they can see story where ever they go. I never look at an already written piece and say, how can I muck that up with something bizarre. We have to, at some point, have more respect for the original piece.

So take those old standards and throw in a demon or vampire if you must but know that we all realize that this isn’t your story. It’s the same as sewing a cuff on a shirt and calling it your design….ummmm…not really.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on December 2, 2022 in Plot, Revision, Writing


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My Writing is driving me Crazy!

Ever have one of those books that just drive you nuts? You know the story…you had an idea, it was a great idea, but once you started writing the idea got further and further away from you until the idea is a tiny little speck on the universe that is your writing mind? I’m there right now and it sucks.

I started the story I am currently working on in 1987….yep, 25 years ago. I never finished it, so it never published. I figured I’d haul it out and revisit it. Problem is, times have changed and for me to make this a viable, sellable story, I’d have to practically rewrite the entire thing. The core of the story is still good, the characters are still fresh, but the storyline details would need a lot of tweaking. Still, I want to finish it. Why? Because I am a writer and writers, by nature, are gluttons for punishment in the worse way.

There is another reason why I need to finish this book too….I need to finish it. For me, this story is a loose end in my writing world. The characters in the story are standing around, waiting for something to happen, waiting for me…I have to show up, otherwise they have no closure and frankly, neither do I. Every writer has one or two stories that they spend their writing lives chasing down…my current work is one of mine. I know I will finish it, but right now I am trying to force myself to finish it and that isn’t working. So what is a writer to do…with a runaway story…that demands an ending…but won’t get up and go there? Here are a couple of ideas that other writers have offered;

Put it back away – One of my writer friends told me the other day to just put the book back in the drawer. While some times that is a good idea, this story has already been “away” for 25 years. I’m not sure this will work for me but, maybe it will for those who have less drawer time on a story.

Change the main character – I like this idea but it is a lot harder than it sounds. As a writer, you invest a great deal in your main character…to change mine now, changes the entire story. I won’t do this but, it might work for a newer story.

Update the story – This one I may go with. The original story takes place in 1987….if I bring my characters into 2012; it might help put a cap on it. It will take a lot of rewrite but perhaps this is what I need.

Throw the whole damn thing away – This is out of the question for me. I have invested too much in the story to let it go and I know that it is a good piece. But if you have a newer story…this could be an option for you.

These are all good pieces of advice and I may use one or even two of them, however, in the end, it has to be my decision because it is, after all, my story and that can be very personal. One thing is for sure, I put this story down for far too long and if there is a lesson to be learned from my frustration…that’s it…don’t wait 25 years to revisit a story. If too much time flies by it is hard to recover.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Plot, Revision, Writing


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Revision – Doing it Wrong the First Time or Making it Better

Revision. Most writers hate having to revise. They figure they have slaved away at the first draft, the second draft and even, at times, a third draft; why should they then have to revise anything else? The thing is, if your novel gets accepted by a publisher…any publisher…there is gonna be some revising. So deal with it.

I have a confession to make, (for those of you keeping track that’s confession # 5) I love to revise. I know, you are now screaming at the computer screen again, “you freak! What is wrong with you?” There’s nothing wrong with me, I have just chosen to look at revising in a different way. You can take revising as a way for someone to say that your work is crap OR you can take it as a way someone has said it has even more potential. I have really low self-esteem so I choose to go with the potential. (every little thing helps)

Revising is that point where your basics are all done, you’ve edited it to the point of insanity and now there’s room for some enhancement. I enjoy revising because it gives me a chance to really flesh out my story. I can add the three legged dog that lives next door because I want to, not because he fits into the story. I can add the quirks that we all love so much. Revision is the time to add in those little things that make your story real. Recently I was working on a piece where the main character was damn near perfect…I had to fix that…no one is perfect, so I gave him a tick…he now tends to clear his throat at inopportune moments. Is this key to the story? Nope, it’s just another way for me to add some life in. I wouldn’t have done that at the editing stage but I have full reign at the revising stage.

I do understand how having a total stranger ask you to go over your story one-more-time can be annoying but try and see it from an optimistic point of view. It’s a chance to make the story even better and it is a chance to breathe real life into your novel by adding all those things that make us human. Revision shouldn’t be something that makes you go all chainsaw massacre but instead grab a carving knife and delicately trim and enhance your novel until it is truly something people will read and say, wow, I felt like I was in a whole other world while reading that.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on April 7, 2023 in Revision, Writing


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You are a Great Writer until You Are a Bad Speller

There are more than a few ways you can say, “I’m a writer” and then get laughed out of the room. Perhaps the best ways is to ignore spell check.

I’ve been a writer in one form or another for most of my life. I had my first piece published when I was nine years old and now (at way over 9 years old) I am still pecking away at the keys. When I was nine, Highlights Magazine published my short story and my mom spell checked it before I turned it in. (Thanks Mom) Now, my mom has had right about enough of my writing and I have spell check to fill in the space. And I use it….every, single day.

You might note that I claim to be a writer, but I have to tell you one thing I don’t claim to be is a speller; cause I’m not. One of the most annoying things in my life as a writer is to have someone turn to me and ask me how to spell a word that the average person would have no clue how to spell. They assume that because I am a writer, I must be an excellent speller…well…I’m not. In fact, I give spell check quite the run for its money most days. The thing is…I KNOW I am not a great spelling prodigy. I can tell a good story. I have all these voices in my head that I can listen to and then sort out until I have a mystery thriller that will curl your toes. What I am NOT is a person who can tell you how to spell words out of the medical dictionary. (raise your hand if you think most of those words are just made up any ways…) I’m a writer. You want a speller…Google “spelling bees”.

Here’s the thing though, you have to USE the spell checker if you are a writer. It is because of these very stereotypical ideas about what a writer is that you must use it. If you don’t, you’ll just look downright stupid. You might be a great writer but if your readers catch a spelling mistake every fifteen sentences, they will not see your story…they will see your spelling mistakes. True story…when I first started out as a reporter (I was 18 and still in college) I would write these great stories for the local newspaper and people will rave about how great I was covering the crime beat. Everyone, except a little 89 year old retired school teacher named Mrs. Burchum. She took my stories, cut them out of the newspaper and red-lined each one, highlighting every mistake. And then she would mail them back to me…I was crushed at first. Then one day she came into the office and asked for me. She told me that she loved my reporting and she loved my stories but, she hated my spelling. She told me that my editor was horrible and that if I wanted to be considered a good writer, I needed a better editor. I had to learn to spell, or she said, cheat, use a dictionary. Mrs. Burchum made sure that I understood that I was a good writer but that my spelling mistakes were hiding my talent. When she passed away four years later she left word that I was to write her obit. You can be sure that every word was spelled correctly.

Use your spell checker folks so that people will not be blinded by your spelling mistakes and see you for the really great writer that you are.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Editing – I’d rather have a Cup of Tea

I hate the editing process. There I said it. It’s out in the open now…I…hate…editing! There should be a club of writers who get together for tea and gripe about the editing process. For me editing is like getting a really short haircut…I don’t want to cut anything out…what if it doesn’t grow back?

Yes I do edit and yes I do whine every step of the way. You will talk to some writers who will tell you that they love editing. They’re lying. No one who spends hours and hours creating a novel wants to have to go back over it and decide to give it a haircut. It’s a little like pruning your child; you’d be really afraid of what he/she will look like with only one arm. So how does a writer get through this part of the process? Personally I wait until a manuscript is finished before I start hacking away at it. If you try and edit before you are finished you may find yourself spending more time editing than writing or you may discover that you have over edited in the end…both bad things. So here are some rules that I have found helpful in the process:

  • Write first, edit later – Get the story onto the page first and foremost.
  • Start with the excess words – You know these words. Every writer has to hack out a couple hundred “that’s” and incidences of “although”. Go through your story and read it out loud taking out the unnecessary words.
  • Spot check your characters – Go through your manuscript and when each character is introduced check and see if your building of that character is strong enough. The characters are your support beams, if they aren’t strong enough the whole structure will fall down.
  • Adjectives and Description – Don’t over paint. We have all read those stories where the writer has so much description you need an antacid to get through the story. Writing instructors will tell you to show your reader, don’t tell them and while this is great advice be sure and not whack them over and over again with description. “Lily’s hand was the color of alabaster with the lines of a google map and the softness of a kitten’s butt but just warm enough to convey a feeling of motherly concern shown by a mother whose been bipolar but is now back….” You get the idea….
  • Put the manuscript down and back away – That’s right, put it in a drawer and forget about it. Now that you have finished the story and done the basic editing, put the manuscript away for about 2 weeks. After your sabbatical from it, you will see it with fresh eyes. Once again read it out loud.

These are just a few suggestions and what works for me. You will find throughout these blogs that I don’t believe in telling anyone that there are certain ways of writing….I hate being told what to do; but I will tell you what works for me. Editing is never easy but you have to do it; it’s a necessary evil if you want to actually see your name on a jacket cover some day. Let me throw in here that you can hire an editor. If you can afford it, go for it, but the more personal editing you do, the less the final edits with a professional editor will cost. (Unless you want to pay an editor $80 an hour to take out all the overused “that’s”)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Meet Mr. Deadline………

Deadlines…the bane of a writer’s existence. We all set them and we all live by them. To be honest, deadlines are the only true way to accomplish anything as a writer. Let’s face it, writing is one of those jobs where you must police yourself as far as time devoted to the craft and in this regard, the deadline is your friend.

The politically correct word these days is “goal” but how many of you are really buying the new pretty dress put on the good ol’ deadlines subtle frame? I’m not. I set “goals” when I want to race myself to the finish of a page but the deadline…well, he’s the guy who sits up with me at night while I’m stressing. He’s the guy who reminds me that I have to finish the book I’m working on instead of “setting a goal” to finish it. When you set a goal, you have a sort of choice. A goal is something you are working at. A deadline is just that, dead, not interchangeable, final, no more second chances.

If you are going to be a writer you have to make nice with Mr. Deadline and welcome him to the table. It is wildly easy to do other things instead of write. Yesterday was a good example of a day without deadline looking over my shoulder.  I did laundry, I swept the kitchen, I watched a rerun of Supernatural. I rearranged my desk. It was 3:30 p.m. before I realized that Mr. Procrastination had come to visit and I was avoiding writing all together. Then something happened…at 3:35 one of the magazine publishers I work with called to tell me he needs some of my stuff by Monday. Bam! Just like that, deadline was back, and the clock was ticking once more. I was suddenly back at my desk, and although I whined for the first half hour, I started writing again. Mr. Deadline gets me back on track every time.

So whether you set your own deadlines or you have a publisher, agent, editor, or even a spouse who sets them for you, make nice with them…you need those deadlines to be a writer. It’s the Universe’s way of setting you up for success and it’s a necessary evil in the whole writing process. Set goals if you feel you need to but in order to get the real work done, stamp deadline across the box holding your manuscript and set a date. It’s a necessary step in finishing AND…it’ll get you out of doing the laundry!


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



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Permission to Write the Worse Stuff EVER!

You now officially have my permission to write really bad copy. No, I am not narrowing my competition in the field of writing by encouraging you to write crap. I am simply giving you permission to explore your own writing.

Writing is a process and throughout that process there will be a lot of material that you will look back on and ask yourself, “what the heck was I thinking”…that’s okay. While it may feel like a waste of time to write really crappy stuff, it’s not. The really crappy stuff has to come out onto the page so that you, the writer, can mine for the really good stuff.

Many writers tend to attempt to get their manuscript “right” the first time. On one hand, no one really enjoys rewriting and on the other, what writer wouldn’t want to confess in a later interview, “no really Oprah, I only wrote one draft and now here we are”. Truth be told, I would love to make that statement but it is never going to happen and here’s why. I tend to cut out about ¼ of the material I write in any given project. Sometimes I cut it because I meandered somewhere along the way and a dragon showed up in my crime novel set in 2010. (don’t ask) Sometimes I cut because one of my characters went rogue and has done some things that make no sense at all. And sometimes I cut because a night of drunken writing has suddenly given my manuscript an MA rating. (for mature audiences due to violence, nudity and excessive use of scary bunnies) There are a lot of reasons to cut but most times I cut because the writing is really bad.

The key to writing a good novel is to give yourself permission to write the bad stuff. The bad stuff is a good sign. Every writer explores while they create; the bad stuff is just a byproduct of the writing process. So for the purpose of writing well, sometimes…write badly and be okay with it. Look at it this way, if you didn’t write the bad stuff once in a while, you would have no idea what the really good stuff looked like.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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What Do All Writers Have In Comma….ummm….Common when it Comes to Commas

Today’s post is a very personal one for me. I have to confess…”My name is Jai, and I am comma dysfunctional”. That’s right, I’m admitting it; I have a comma problem.

To be honest I am not alone. The use of commas is a pet peeve for some and the monster under the bed for others. It’s tough sometimes, to know when to use them, and if we are honest, the rules are constantly changing. There is nothing more frustrating for me than to write a piece of work that my editor then goes over planting little red commas all over the place. Admittedly I do have a problem but sometimes, I really do mean to leave them out too.

I have a writer friend who writes very conversationally. Her books are first person almost diary type works so her comma usage doesn’t fit the norm. She too has an editor that doesn’t “get it” when it comes to how she is meaning to write. The reason we-who-use-commas-in-odd-ways are so misunderstood is because those who edit are usually die-hard fans of “the rules” and frankly, the rules are sometimes made to be broken. (Can you hear that, somewhere, far off in the distance, an editor is screaming at this blog…it’s kind of funny…)

So what do you do if, (a) you know you have a regular comma issue and (b) you write in such a way that your comma usage is constantly called into questions? Well, for those of us who massacre comma usage on a regular basis, buy a book or take a class but pound it into your head until you get it. Commas are important and no matter how long you avoid it, eventually you have to get better at using them. Case in point:

Let’s eat, Grandpa.


Let’s eat Grandpa.

In one of the above sentences Grandpa isn’t going to be very happy, so let me say it again, commas are important. If your comma usage is a matter of the way you write, explain it to those who are editing your work and come to some happy compromise on when to place commas. Commas really are important and you need to understand how to use them, but don’t feel bad…you aren’t alone if you have a comma dysfunction. Now go buy a book so you don’t end up eating grandpa.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on February 28, 2023 in Revision, Structure, Writing


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Revision - A Little Like Take Pruning Shears to You Kid

Ok, let’s talk revision. This is the hardest part of the process of writing for most of us. Personally it really is a little like pruning my kid; it’s horrifying, especially when it’s one of your favorite kids. (Not that I have a favorite…ahem…)

Revision has to take place. When we write a first draft it is all about getting the story on the page, internal editor be darned.  We open the vein and pour everything we have out without thinking about the final project. What happens if you finish your first draft and you are absolutely positive it is the Great American novel? Do you then go back through it and hack it to pieces? Yep…there’s no way around it.

If you are like me, when my first draft is on the page there is no regard for the little things like spelling, commas or even structure to some degree. It comes out of my head in the same way I hear it and, trust me; no one wants to hear what actually comes straight out of my head at times. The revision process allows the writer to correct the basics, redirect the story in weak places and ensure that they are not running off somewhere they never intended the story to go. It is a chance to take out all those extra words too. Come on, you all know what I’m talking about…writers are the teenagers of the literary world but instead of using words  such as “like”, “you know” and “for sure” we just tend to throw ALL the words onto the page. When you write a first draft of 100,000 words you can bet that during the revision process you will discover that you don’t actually need about 20,000 of them.

I subscribe to the idea that you need at least three revisions. Revision 1 is to read through and take out all those extra words. Revision 2 takes place so that you can rework the weak parts of your story after having just tightened it. Revision 3 is where you have put the draft in a drawer for a couple of weeks and then come back and re-read it. Sure there will be times when even after three revisions a publisher will come back with their unyielding red sword and cut even further. It’s all a part of the process and if you want to be a writer who sales books…deal with it. Let’s face it, most of us will never hear the words, “No Mr. King, its perfect…no need for editing here….”

The bottom line is that revision is a necessary part of the process. Think of it as cutting the old growth so that your flowers can actually bloom better…..or…think of it as cutting the mean family members out of your will so that your money goes for the greater good…whatever makes it easier.  Revision is the second most important thing you can do as a writer. So get that first draft onto the page and then get out those pruning shears….it’s really for your story’s own good.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on February 25, 2023 in Inspiration, Revision, Structure, Writing


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