Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pattern Recognition

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!!


Linsey Lanier said...

"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." That's just how I felt after a Margie Lawson workshop at GRW several years ago. She remains one of my go-to sources when revising manuscripts. I still hear her saying “Fresh writing!” Btw, I needed to work on my pink, too.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Christine. Here’s my stab at a rewrite of your cliché:

This kind of editing makes me feel like I’m watching a 3-D movie.

Heather said...

Christine, I loved this post. I've been trying to work on cliches as well. I went to Laura Hayden's website and used her cliche list ( to practice.

I'll be back later with an attempt at your two cliches :)

Christine said...

Hi Linsey: I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't have enough pink in my first clean draft. I probably don't have enough in the "polished" drafts either. LOL. I LOVE your cliche twist. Excellent. And very true! She does make editing feel 3D.

Hi Heather: I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I will have to check out the website Laura has shared with us as well. Fun!! Can't wait to read your cliche busters!


Suzanne Johnson said...

Pink? I needed pink in my draft? LOL. I came home and got some extra colored markers--what a great workshop!

Hm. Gonna have to think about those cliches. Haven't had my coffee yet!

Pam Asberry said...

What a great experience Margie's workshop was! I am more excited than ever about my writing. And to heck with nationals; I'm saving my penny for a week with Margie!

Pam Asberry said...

What a great experience Margie's workshop was! I am more excited than ever about my writing. And to heck with nationals; I'm saving my penny for a week with Margie!

Christine said...

Hi Suzanne: I'm so glad you enjoyed the workshop, too! And get that coffee coming. Notice I haven't done mine yet? I'm still waking up. I'm so glad we met via the workshop.

Hi Pam: You're right! I'm going to save my pennies for her immersion class. I want to take all the lecture packets during the next 12 months. Then I plan to sign up for the class. I'm so glad you're jazzed about writing!

Chris Bailey said...

I agree, editing with colored markers fits my personality. (Right up my alley.)

Before I recognized you, I was simply staring, my stomach churning, barely suppressing the urge to rip that lovely pink pashmina from your shoulders and claim it as mine. (You could say I was green with envy.)

So great to connect again at Margie's awesome workshop!

Sandy Elzie said...

Yes, yes, yes! It was a fabulous day and I was reminded of so much that I already knew (plus learned some new things) and also got inspired to hurry home and apply the learning.

Sadly, I still had to drive 3 1/2 hours home and it was late, so it was the next afternoon before I got to my computer, but it was a great class.

Christine said...

Hi Chris: It was so good meeting you again. How cool that we met at my very first "big girl writing retreat" just a few years after I started this crazy journey into writing romance novels. I've enjoyed every moment. And that pashima came from the streets of NYC several years ago. It cost me $5!!!

Hi Sandy: I am glad your writing batteries were recharged by the class. And I bet you wrote a lot of fabulous words this week!!

Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn said...

Margie's classes are always worth every penny spent. I've taken 4, though always online. I sat through one of her live wkshops and my head spun.

I am a visual learner and don't comprehend as much if I'm having to take notes, so I prefer the online courses with numerous examples.

Christine said...

Hi Carol: I am so glad Margie's class works for you, too. She's impacted my writing in many ways. I'm a whole brain girl so I need a hodge podge of info in various mediums. Sigh. This explains my hodge podge WIP for the moment :-)

I do clean up really well, tho'!


Anonymous said...

I like Margie's way of doing things. It makes sence. Aything I can see makes it easier to understand. Glad you're on the road to greatness.

Christine said...

Thanks Anonymous for popping in and saying hi. I love Margie Lawson as an instructor and as a genuine human. She is the real deal! "cliche alert!"