Definition of a writer

“The definition of a writing career is:
Write a book. Write another book. Write another book.
—Holly Lisle

Holly Lisle writes books. She also writes articles and courses on how to write books. And they’re awesome. Her step by step instructions and no-bullshit approach offer a much needed kick in the pants and make you think, “I can do this.”

I’m almost done with my first draft, which means it’s almost time to revise. Enter Lisle’s One Pass Manuscript Revision:

“My first drafts suffer from the same little shop of horrors as everyone else’s: poor plotting, crappy characterization, logic leaps, redundancy, aimless wandering, bad writing, worse writing, and utterly execrable writing.
But my first revision is my last revision. If you’d like to cut years off the process of revising, I’ll be happy to show you how.”

Yes, please!

Lisle busts the myth that you need to labor over your WIP for years. She smacks the dilettante pout off your misunderstood-artist face, then with the other hand offers a system for revising that makes total sense and actually gets the job done.

Steps include writing a micro-summary and list of themes; reviewing scenes, conflicts, chronology; how to take notes to remind yourself of threads, character arcs and plot lines you’ve changed or killed off; and offering yourself suggestions on story and theme evolution.

She acknowledges that revision is a slog, but manages to make tearing your baby apart sound fun and doable. “Think of your novel as “A Life: The Good Parts Version.” All the sex and violence, passion and struggle. None of the teeth-brushing.”

“Doing a seventeenth revision on a project does not make a writer an artist
or move him above the writer hoi polloi any more than
dressing entirely in black or wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow patches
or big, black drover coats. These are all affectations, 
and smack of dilettantism.
Real writers, and real artists, finish 
books and move on to the next project.

Without this smart advice, I think I’d wallow in an unpublished novelesque pigsty forever. The One Pass approach gives me hope.

(Note: I’ve never met Holly and no one paid me to tell you she rocks.)

6 thoughts on “Definition of a writer”

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