Revising Using the Three-Act Structure

unnamed-2            This past week I’ve gone back into the 4th draft of my manuscript and, using the notecard outline from that draft, plotted it onto the three-act structure.

I did this because I knew the plot was lacking, and going back to the basics of planning a novel was the only way I could see to figure out what still needed fixing. What I learned? My story was stopping before certain major plot points happened. Namely, I was essentially finishing the story at what would only be the end of Act Two.

Last week I mentioned how short I thought the word count for draft four was, and considering it was missing an entire act that makes much more sense now. It also explains why after draft three I realized I’d never written a climax scene into my novel and had to go back and build up to that in draft 4.

I’ve been writing the new scenes I mapped out suing the three-act structure, and I have a few tips that go along with this.

1)    It’s never too late to replot.

Whether you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser during the planning stage, no novel will be at its best until revisions include outlining. More than that, you’ll outline before, during, and after every single round you do. That’s just the way it is. Sound stressful? It can be, unless you consider that replotting gives you permission to never really stick to that plot. In the six scenes I’ve been writing this week, I’ve already deviated during the drafting.

The 2,000 words I wrote today I know involve a voice unlike what I’ve already used for that POV character in the chapters that I’ve already revised. Oh, well. I kind of like this new voice, at least elements of it. And I Know more revisions have to take place in the rest of the novel, as I’m far from done. So, better to realize where the plot holes are and replot than let it turn to trash.

2)    Don’t worry about the length of each act.

If you were using the three-act structure before the first draft, then I’d say make a word-count goal for each scene or chapter. But in the case of a manuscript already mostly drafted, just let it happen. In my first two acts, I have multiple chapters/scenes that belong to the same plot point. I also have scenes that I wrote because I like them in the story. These scenes build character, world build, or move along the plot in some way not directly explained by the plot points in the three-act structure.

On the opposite hand, the scenes I’ve plotted now that I realized they were missing? One scene per plot point, and often less than 2,000 words (I’m aiming for between 2000-3000 words per chapter). I think for the second half of the second and the third act this is okay because the action should be speeding up anyway.

3)    Understand that you will have to make major changes

If you feel the need to plot your already revised manuscript (or not revised if this is between the first and second drafts) then odds are you’re already aware it’s missing something. This means when you’re done plotting it out, you’re going to have to write scenes from scratch all over again, which for me is proving the hardest part.

After almost a year on this project, (and a failed Nano project in November) it’s been a while since I’ve gotten into writing from scratch. I’ve been revising several drafts and can get pretty creative doing that. But staring at a blank page? It’s like I’ve forgotten how to write altogether. I’ve been combatting this with writing sprints on MyWriteClub.

If you, like me, wish you could just be done with revisions and letting someone else read it, take a deep breath and remember why it matters to you that this story be amazing. It’s tempting to send your MS off to a critique partner, beta reader or even start querying, in the hope your revisions will become easier and clearer with someone else’s feedback.

But like I said, if you’re reading this post or you’ve already been thinking about replotting your project in any capacity, then you know something’s missing. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by sending something off that you already know isn’t complete. Sit down, breath, and make the changes. It’ll be worth it when the next time you look at it you can see how much better that draft is.

            This is technically the fourth tip, but important enough that I want to wrap up with it rather than include it in that chunky text above.

Don’t get discouraged. I’m facing this issue myself, where all the revisions and feeling of incompleteness that surrounds my MS makes me just want to move on to the next project. It’s extra tempting because starting March 1st I’ll be beginning to research and outline a different book for camp nanowrimo in April. But even if this MS never sees the light of day, going through every step of revisions until I’m absolutely positive it’s the best it will ever be, is a learning experience I can’t pass up.

When you’re looking at your MS and only seeing it’s problems, consider the passion and idea that originally sparked you to write that first draft. Don’t give up on the experience that seeing this project through will give you, even if when you finally reach that summit you just put the project in a drawer and move on.


Revising by Hand

unnamedFor the last several weeks I’ve been revising the fourth draft of my manuscript by hand. It’s a method I’m familiar with in theory, but one I’ve never done this extensively.

After obsessively reading through author blogs and advice I realized I needed to try something new. I’d already done roughly two and a half rounds of revision and still felt I wasn’t diving deep enough.

So, I read through Susan Dennard’s revision process and decided to print out the entire manuscript for the second time (the first being the rough draft). A few things came from this, 1) I was reminded how immensely proud I am of myself for writing that many words, even if they’re bad ones. And 2) my usual routine of becoming distracted by the internet was taken out of play.

I worked by hand with my laptop far away and my phone on do not disturb. Then in the last week I typed in all those changes. My third draft word count was close to 75,000 and by the end of deleting, adding and more deleting, the finished fourth draft came out to barely 66,000. That’s a lot shorter than what I want it to be, but those are 66k words that (hopefully) all add something to the story.

It was easier to cut the fluff and realize what wasn’t working when I couldn’t see the word count shrinking. Doing it by hand made it a million times easier to cut through those words without trying to maintain a specific word count. With this in mind, I hid the word count feature as I typed in the changes.

Now I’ve got the first 12 chapters in someone else’s hands for the first time. I only handed off the first 12 instead of all 38 because of another Susan Dennard tip. Why give someone more of the same problems? When I have feedback from the first 12, I’ll use it to adjust the next 13, and so on, before getting feedback on it. This’ll make sure each part is tighter than the last, ideally forcing the person reading it to go deeper.

I’ll be spending the time now that it’s out of my hands focused on doing some general brainstorming and outlining for what I want to happen in the rest of the series. I won’t be writing any sequels for a long time, (more writerly advice, this time an overlap from both Susan Dennard and Ava Jae). But when I make the next round of revisions, I want to be working not just with feedback from my reader but also a better understanding of the story’s long term goals.

Overall, I’m glad I revised by hand, and I feel so much more connected to my story, especially since over the last few drafts it’s drastically changed from what I initially planned and wrote almost a year ago. I suggest, whether it’s the first or thousandth round of revisions, that you try hand revising at least once for your manuscript. You’d be surprised the things you notice.

For comparison, here’s the visual of tracked changes after I typed in all the revisions I’d marked by hand. It’s a lot of red, and to be honest, it’s pretty fun to see.


Setting a (Moderately) High 2017 Reading Goal

I’ve seen several posts already this year of people setting low or no reading goals for 2017 as a way of keeping the pressure off. I think that’s a great idea, but one I’ll be saving for personal use in future years.


My TBR shelf as of December 2016

Right now, I have close to 50 or 60 unread books on my bookshelf, and while that’s low for some people it’s pretty high for me. In an effort to resist spending money I don’t have, as I’ve just graduated college and don’t have a job yet, I’m setting my reading goal in an effort to force myself to read the books on my shelf.

If you check out my goodreads you’ll see my reading goal is actually only 40 books, because I’m not at my own apartment right now and haven’t counted the exact number of TBR books I have recently. So I went low, but the idea is that I’ll knock out the majority of that reading goal with books I already own, as well as some books I’ve borrowed from my sister and haven’t returned for more than a year (oops).

I will definitely end up buying more books. In fact, since setting that reading goal I’ve already used a gift card I got for Christmas to buy four books, and I have a lot of 2017 releases I’m looking forward to. I’m trying to keep blinders on though, and I’m having to remind myself that I can’t just walk into a Barnes and Noble “for fun” if I’m trying to save money.

As for the 40 book goal itself, it’s the highest reading goal I’ve ever set on goodreads, though I’m sure back in my middle school/high school days before I was keeping track I was reading a lot more than that in a year.


Books I’ve read each year (according to Goodreads), if you’re interested.

But I’ve also been making sure to remind myself that there’s no requirement for the number of books I read in a year. I want to read what I enjoy, whether that’s a popular book I’ve seen all over Youtube and Tumblr or a random book that’s already been on my shelves for years.

Hopefully y’all keep that in mind, too. A lot of what I’ve seen is that people feel the pressure of reading a lot and reading specific books, and I almost fell into that for a few months too, but I have to remind myself that I was a reader before I was ever aware of YouTube or Tumblr, and reading is a personal experience and is allowed to be treated as such. So, whether you’ve set your goal to 1 book or 100, I hope you’ll keep the focus on enjoying the reading experience, and remember you don’t have to meet any expectations other than your own.

NanoWrimo Week 1!

            fifi-and-outline    NanoWrimo has been off to a disappointing start. It only took me two days to realize I’d started my story in the wrong spot and the first four chapters I was working on were going to have to be cut as soon as revisions start. However, in the spirit of fast drafting and not revising as I go, I decided to keep writing those chapters even if I know they won’t be there later. They provide valuable background information for me as the writer, and allow me to get used to my characters before the action really starts.

I’ve also already begun reworking my outline but I consider that a natural progression of my writing process. There are parts of any story that don’t become clear until I begin writing, and updating my outline and reworking plot points is better to do now than following the outline and having to rewrite essentially the entire draft later.

I’m a little behind on my word count goals, I’m supposed to be to 10,000 at the end of today (day 6). I’ve just finished two word sprints, (using the MyWriteClub sprint feature), and I’ve caught up from yesterday. It’s only 10:30 in the morning so I’m confident I’ll get above and beyond where I need to be before the day is over. I have some homework to do for school and some cleaning to do in my apartment today too, so I have to keep reminding myself to stay productive.

In other news, being in the midst of a new first draft has led to a breakthrough in the revisions of a different story that I’d all but given up on. I’d thought I was sick of it and that the revisions I’d made while working on the second draft had essentially put me in a corner. I’ve been getting sudden inspiration though, with ideas for new scenes coming to me, and a newfound motivation to at least finish the second draft, even if that novel is never seen by anyone but me. I think it’ll be good for me to go through the entire revision process, if for nothing more than learning to push through it.

While that inspiration is a good thing, I can’t work on it now. Part of fast drafting is ignoring distractions, so I’ve been writing down any ideas that come to me for that revision while also keeping a separate document for revision ideas related to the first draft I’m doing for NanoWrimo. I’m going to look at the revisions for my other project when November is over, but for now its first draft time. And with that being said, it’s time to get back to writing!


Antique Mall and Bonding with Cows

     Antique mall and cows (3)

     The other day I was hanging out with Autumn and my best friend, Jordan for one of my last days in Stillwater until the New Year. We were eating at Boomerang Diner when I mentioned that I wanted to go window shopping. Turns out Jordan’s favorite store is the Antique Mall, which was maybe a hundred feet from where we were eating, so we went to look around. Antique mall and cows (1)

     May I just say, that I’m one of those snobby people who feels weird shopping at a thrift store, and honestly even after our visit I still wouldn’t be tempted to go clothes shopping there. However, I had so much fun exploring the two floors of nick knacks and old records. After seeing the record section, I was actually reminded to text my brother and ask which vinyls he wants for Christmas.

     There was also a section for books, which I stopped myself from actually going into. I got up the landing and was staring at the first shelf, and I felt overwhelmed and just knew I’d have to come back and devote an entire day to searching the shelves. As it was, Jordan and Autumn had already moved on to a different section and I didn’t want to end up lost.

  Antique mall and cows (2)   We spent probably an hour searching through the store, and one of my favorite things I found was a box full of old post cards. Some were blank, but there were a few that had been written on and sent, and it was fascinating getting to read the dates and information on them. A lot of the cards were from the 40s and I instantly felt the need to go somewhere and send a postcard to my family, who knows, maybe in seventy years someone will come across it.

     The Antique Mall wasn’t our only adventure that day. I wasn’t ready to go home so Autumn suggested we just drive around for a while. The last time we did that we ended up in Ponca City on a random Sunday, so this time Autumn made sure to let me know we weren’t going that far. However in her quest to avoid Ponca City, we ended up cutting down a road marked “Cemetery” and got semi-lost on a backwoods dirt road. Antique mall and cows (4)

     Good news though! Jordan insisted we pull over and take pictures with all the cows we kept driving by. I hopped out and ran for the fence, only to sadly be told by Autumn that cows are skittish, as was proven when they all made a run for it. Jordan and I still stopped to take pictures in the road, all the while listening to Autumn honk at us. We did eventually get back in the car and head home, but not before stopping for some Cinnabon. After all, adventures always leave a girl hungry.


Finals Week and Visiting Knoblock & Co.


Jars at Knoblock & Co. in Stillwater, Okla.

Hey guys! This week is finals week at my college, which means a lot of stress, tears and caffeine. Luckily for me, those things are actually being kept to a minimum, because I only have three tests, and after tomorrow I’ll be done with my semester.


Hand soap at Knoblock & Co. in Stillwater, Okla.

After my American Literature exam this morning, I met up with my co-campus correspondent for Her Campus , and we passed out some goodies around campus. After taking a food break, we decided to do some shopping around Stillwater. I visited some places here in my quant little college town that I’ve never been into before. Like Knoblock & Co. which smelled amazing the second we stepped inside.

Knoblock is essentially candle heaven, and they had the cutest little hand soaps and wooden postcards. The layout of the store was beautiful and I couldn’t help but take pictures. I’ll definitely need to go back next time I’m looking for a candle or cute trinket. Especially when it comes time to decorate my apartment for next semester.


Books and soap at Knoblock & Co. in Stillwater, Okla.

The building is also and amazing green color that Hannah insisted on having her picture taken in front of. If you want to check out the OOTD pictures I took for her you can visit her blog, Fe Fi Fo FHannah.

Overall it was an exciting day exploring some of the shops in Stilly that I haven’t been to in the last two years of living here. I’ve definitely been inspired to go window shopping and exploring more often.


Identical but Still Individual

Recently I met a new friend. He thinks me and my identical twin sister are the same person. I can tell that most of what he says is made in jest, but it got me thinking about how people view twins. They see us as copies of one another with nothing separate to offer. I’ve often heard, “If you know one, you know both”. But that is far from true. Both my sister and I, as well as every set of twins I’ve met, has been different.

Autumn (left) and Savannah (right) in September 2014.

Autumn (left) and Savannah (right) in September 2014.

My sister has never won a spelling bee, or a science fair. I’ve never sang a song I wrote in front of a room full of people. I’ve never been asked to Homecoming with the whole school watching and she’s never dislocated her kneecap at a high school football game. We may be identical, but we are far from the same.

It’s a long list, the things we don’t have in common. We played different instruments in school, her oboe and me trombone. Her favorite color growing up was pink and mine was yellow. But the real difference, what makes us individuals, is in the way we view the world. She is a realist, I’m a dreamer. She’s believes in the practical, I’d rather cast it aside and figure it out as I go. She has never felt the overwhelming need to take a picture of her friends as they laugh at some small thing, I’ve never been without that need. She walks around the house singing at all hours, I can’t hold a tune and reserve singing for the shower. Our differences lie in the tiny things we do every day without even thinking of them. They are the things our friends make fun of us for, and our parents constantly complain about.

We may be identical twins, but we have completely different perspectives to offer the world. We have vastly differing hopes, and we dream in vivid colors that don’t match. Two people are not as simple as their physical appearance. Just as we are told not to judge a book by its cover, and to see every one we meet as a special person with something unique to offer, twins go deeper than matching faces.

I know most people don’t think twice about this. They see twins and see two of the same person. Or they make a game out of learning how to tell twins apart. I’ve often had new friends take turns guessing which twin I was, and they get excited when they finally get it right on the first try. I’ve also had people see that we’re identical and never go beyond that. They assume everything about us is a copy of the other. Even though we speak differently, both the sound of voices, and the words we choose to use. We say pecan differently, and differ on food in almost every other aspect too. She loves mushrooms and black olives, while I hate them. She doesn’t eat spinach but I’ll eat a bowl in under a minute.

It’s these seemingly unimportant things that make us who we are, just like they do with every other person on the planet. So as an identical twin, I beg you the reader to see twins less as an oddity and to instead see us for the individuals we are. We are identical, but we are also individual.