Beth Bernobich: The Revision Monster

The moment you finish your first draft, you are filled with delight. (And often, exhaustion.)

But let’s focus on the delight. You did it! You finished this most amazing and wonderful novel and you hope everyone loves it as much as you do, which is lots and lots and lots and…

Eventually you stop squeeing and climb down from the clouds. Maybe you spend a week or so retrieving your house from chaos. You catch up on life and family and everything else you neglected, including sleep.

Finally, a week or a month later, you open up the document for your amazing, sparkling draft and…

And here, the reactions vary. Some writers revise as they go along. They end up with a first draft that’s really a final draft. But others (like me) stare at the screen with dismay.

How am I ever going to fix this? I wonder.

Same […]

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Beth Bernobich: The Time Roads

Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. It was tentative, as ideas sometimes are. All I had was an image of a young woman reciting prime numbers as her brother listened. The seed for that image was easy to identify—Oliver Sacks’s essay “The Twins,” which describes twin brothers, autistic savants, who recited prime numbers to each other. I chose to make my twins a brother and sister name Síomón and Gwen Madóc, both mathematical geniuses.

That initial scene came to me complete with setting and emotions and full-color video, but I wasn’t sure how the story would unfold. So I wrote as much as I knew, following the brother from the visitation room of the sanitarium (because Gwen is mad, suddenly and mysteriously mad from too many numbers), down to the lobby where a police detective introduces himself and…

…and all of a sudden, I had […]

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Beth Bernobich: Hello, Story

As I said in my last post, not all writing advice works for all writers. We each find the approach that works best for us, and for the project at hand. But! I do believe it’s useful to share our approaches with each other. Maybe we add a new technique to our writer toolkit. Maybe we try out this other technique and learn it doesn’t work for us.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is how I turn my ideas into stories.

Ideas. Those wispy scraps of “what if” that float through our brains. Most of my ideas are fragile things that never survive discovery. That death of the story can be quick, as quick as me noticing the idea, only to have it fade into nothing. Or I might jot down a few notes about a possible story, to find the story feels dead in my imagination. But […]

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Beth Bernobich: Writing Advice, the Meta Post

As you know, Bob, there is no shortage of writing advice in the world—advice about where to start your story, how to build a plausible world, or how to create compelling characters. There’s even advice about the process of writing itself. Should you write an outline first? Is it necessary to write the plot in sequence? When should you revise your work, and how, and how many times?

This is both a wonderful and a dangerous thing.

And yet, here I am, offering even more advice. What’s up with this?

Think of this as meta advice: how to approach the advice you come across. Here goes…

First rule: There are no rules, only guidelines.

Someone once told me you can’t set fantasy in the modern world. “Truefact!” they said. “Nonsense,” I replied.

Lots of rules are nothing more than preconceptions or misconceptions. Fantasy can take place in the past, present, […]

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