On Saturday July 23rd, I drove down to Birmingham, AL so I could attend the Margie Lawson EMPOWERING CHARACTERS' EMOTIONS daylong workshop which was hosted by the Southern Magic Romance Writing Chapter.
I'd read Margie's lecture packet with the 8 lectures in it prior to going to the workshop so my brain would be ready for her lessons. And I'd completed a "clean" first draft as well. I didn't want to bring something I'd worked on and sent out before because I intuitively knew that would make me feel like my writing sucked. Bringing a new, clean, SHORT first draft that I knew needed revision seemed like the way to go.
And it was. I learned so much that my brain went insane with a desire to head home and apply everything she'd taught to me as I revised my MS. The first assignment Margie gave us was to work on 50-75 pages. I have about 100 pages in the short first draft, so I am tackling the entire mess. My instructions were basic:
1) Take out the five highlighters and apply the EDITS system to my MS. Look for patterns in my writing. Do I have too much green, not enough yellow, a bit too much blue?
2) Take out my handy, dandy red pen and apply the DABS system to my MS. Look for action, dialogue cues, senses, and more.
3) Circle tired, worn out cliches and pump them out. Delete them, or twist them into a new, fresh sentence.
Sounds easy, right? Highlighting the MS and looking for what is and isn't there is easy. That's easy peasy. That's so easy anyone could do it. After all, it's just analyzing the work. But fixing the work? Not so easy.
As I highlighted I realized I had a lot of all blue and a lot of all yellow scenes. I had very little pink and green in the scenes. I didn't even bother to drag out the orange highlighter because first I have to fix the other four colors. And the red pen? Well, I have boxes around paragraphs that I know I will shift around and move. Boxes that indicate where the paragraphs will go. I have notes and circled words. I have a lot of work to do.
I learned that in a clean first draft I tend to write all yellow, then all blue scenes. Usually the yellow stuff has to be woven into the blue scenes that are before or after the yellow scenes. But I had a feeling that would be the case. I am a revisionist style writer. I have to get the story down, my way, even if it is the wrong way and then I fix it. I've been intuitively weaving yellow into blue for 5 years! I knew I'd be low in green. What I didn't know is how low I'd be in pink. And that is where the fun starts. Adding powerful pink to key scenes will punch up my writing and take it to the next level.
Oh, I am excited. I can't wait to braid together the yellow and blue. I can't wait to add more green and pink where necessary. I can't wait to apply the orange pen to the pages after I print and go again. This kind of editing is right up my alley ("cliche alert!").
I've learned more than a better way to edit and revise my work. I've validated my process, my natural writing process, with this workshop and Margie's lecture packet by applying her lessons to my manuscript.
Now some of you may be wondering what the colors mean. Others may already know because they've graduated from one or more of Margie Lawson's workshops or online classes. A select few may have even gone to her total immersion class. Wow, I'm green with envy ("cliche alert!").
If you already know what the colors and DABS system mean, then you've given yourself a great gift and are probably an NYT published writer or on your way to becoming one. If you don't know what the colors and the DABS system mean, then I highly recommend taking one of Margie's classes.
And here's a challenge to all of you. Take my two cliches and rewrite them in a fresh way. I can't wait to read the results!!