Saturday, August 21, 2010

Featured Guest Maggie Jamison

RM: Today's featured guest is Maggie Jaimeson. Maggie took the Immersion Master Class with me (and five others). We had a wonderful time and I asked my fellow IMCers if they would visit my blog over the next few weeks. So, my first guest is Maggie Jaimeson. Maggie is a superb writer - author of both contemporary romance and YA. Her YA novel that we had the privilege of  critiquing during the IMC week is dark, tension-filled and a sure keeper. She paints a picture with her words that will draw you into her paranormal world.
Please help me welcome Maggie. Tell her what you think of her post and be entered to win a Margie Lawson lecture packet. Contest details in separate post.
Welcome Maggie, fire away! (And I am so there for your launch party ).

Maggie: Margie Lawson.  She is a force of nature when it comes to deep editing power but she is also a funny, caring, positive person.  That combination makes all the hard work of deep editing easier to swallow, and pushes me to be better even when I'm tired. I posted my initial experiences with the Immersion Master Class on my August 17th blog.  Everything still holds true five days later.  Today I want to talk about the daily implementation of what I've learned at the workshop and the decisions I'm making on how much time to expend on previously completed manuscripts.
Let's face it, most of us want to get our novels written, sold, and published as quickly as possible.  We want that validation that we can make money writing--both for ourselves and for our families who wonder if we are following (and spending money on) an impossible dream. Even though I LOVE the editing process, because I can see how much better my writing becomes, it takes time--lots of time.  And its hard. And its emotional because it involves cutting scenes and words I love. And there comes a point that I'm sick of thinking about it and just want the book sold..
I must admit, when I first left the class my excitement was also tempered by fear. Fear that the deep editing level required for me to be my best would require time I don't have. With a more than full time day job, my writing time is limited to a few hours each night.  I was afraid that would mean my ability to turn out a manuscript would be years in the making instead of the one to two novels I have been producing each year. As much as I loved knowing that I could craft sentences and paragraphs like a NYT bestselling author, I wasn't sure I could afford the time to do so. I also had to decide whether to spend time deep editing the four manuscripts I have been marketing or put most of what I learned into my current WIP.  It is NOT an easy decision for someone who wants every manuscript to be perfect.
In the past five days I've been re-editing a manuscript on contract with a short turn-around time.  Because of Margie's class I've learned something new about my writing.  First, I did a lot of things right before I took Margie's class.  Now I can actually recognize them and name them.  Second, I am able to more quickly pick up on places where my manuscript can be improved with a single line or a single word (this is beyond grammar).  Some of those are small edits like adding a dialogue cue on voice tone and quality, or shifting the order of words to place the power at the end of sentences or paragraphs.  Others edits are a bit more difficult like creating a fresh simile to heighten description, or adding a clear visceral response to heighten the emotion.  The most difficult ones are deleting paragraphs or (hyperventilation here) several pages because a deflated the tension. As of today I'm 104 pages into a 353 page novel. I've made changes on EVERY SINGLE PAGE I'm feeling really good about the changes I've made, even though this is not a complete deep editing pass.  That would take about 20 more passes, time I don't have right now.
After this editing pass, will this novel be the quality of a NYT bestselling author? Probably not.  But I didn't sell it to a press that is known for turning out NYT bestsellers. If I had a couple months instead of a couple weeks would it make a difference? Definitely. But NYT? Probably not because the story isn't transcendant. It's solid. It's good. It provides a great read. But, here's the thing. Even with this quick pass this novel is significantly better than it was when the editor offered a contract.  Before Margie's workshop I thought this novel was the best writing I was capable of producing. My critique group thought it was the best novel I'd written.  It was. It got me a contract with a small press. But I can do better. I will do better, even with my next novel for this small press.
I suspect that even a NYT author knows her writing can be better.  That's one of the battles writers face every time they look at the page.  When to stop editing. When to let it go.  For some of us, deadlines make that decision.  For others, it is an internal one. For me, I recognize that sometimes it is better to write the next novel instead obsessing over the last one. There is also something to be learned in starting again and crafting better from the beginning.  Yes, the words are important.  They are what makes the story sing.  The choice of words and placement and pacing may also change the story.  That is when you need to decide is it better to go backward and fix all of your past manuscripts? Or is it better to move foreward and take all the lessons learned, putting it into th next novel?
My decision is to do quick editing passes of my already completed novels.  I do want them to be better. I want all of them to sell and for readers to enjoy them.  But, I've decided my limited time on deep editing is best spent on my work in progress and on future novels. Why? Because I am a career author. I will produce many more novels, not just the ones I've already completed. I have limited time for writing. I can't do it all.  It's a tough decision but, for me, the right one.
During the master class I started deep editing my WIP from the first page. Because of this it will be stronger from the beginning to the end. I will take the time for those 14+ passes of each page. I will let the editing impact the story and the story impact the editing because I know it will make it the best novel I can produce over the next few months. Will it sell to New York at auction? It could.  Will it become a NYT bestseller?  It could.  That status certainly starts with great writing and a great story, but is also dependent on timing, trends, and tenacity of promotion. Will this novel be the best novel I'll ever right? No. I expect I will get better.  But it will be the best novel I've written to date.
Even if my WIP doesn't sell at auction, or doesn't make the bestseller list, I've learned writing techniques that will move me in that direction.  I've learned techniques that I can incorporate in every new novel moving forward. I've learned techniques that will help me become a better writer with each new book.  I'm convinced that there will come a point when it will payoff with better contracts and more opportunities.  When it does, ya'll come to my party. You hear?


  1. Thanks for inviting me, Rayka! I hope you get lots of comments. Those lecture packets are worth their weight in gold (cliche alert). And they are thick, so that's a lot of gold.


  2. Maggie,
    In addition to being talented, you are modest.
    I've had the pleasure of hearing the first chapter of your WIP and have to say, reaching the NYT is a matter of when, not if. As in, when you finish.
    You nailed it. And so beautifully too. What makes Margie amazingly special is that she gives us the tools to make our writing better. And the reasons behind the rules, so we can re-create the magic on our own.

  3. Angela, made an excellent point. The Margie Lawson classes give us the tools - we still get to create magic ourselves. So while I am editing, its still ME - MY voice that is being revised.

  4. Wow, reading your comments makes me want to take the class. I'm like you. Time is my enemy so I feel your pain when it comes to edits. I'm working on one now in which I knew the ending was wrong and I finally convinced my self to rewrite it. Ugh.

    Best of luck getting through the rest of your ms.

  5. I want to take a Margie Lawson class, too. *pouting lip* Luckily, I just got back a short story that was critiqued by two of my great friends, and the editor found one missing comma and a "no" where there should have been a "yes". I was stoked. That had to be the easiest edit I've had to date. :) Looking forward to more as White Heart, Lakota Spirit and Odessa are scheduled for release in December and January. Wish me luck. :)

    I'm not above competing for the prize either, so here's me email addy so you don't have to look for me when I win. *positive thinker*
    mizging at gmail dot com.

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  7. Maggie, because of you I bought three of Margie's lecture series. I thought I'd just read the first one, then go back to re-read with a WIP. Only I found that I'm too anxious to get to work. Of course, I'm also scared. What if I can't implement what I read? What if when I find a sentence or paragraph to tweak, I can't think of any way to tweak it.

    Being equally excited and scared...well, this is why I've never done a sky-jump or bungeed or ridden the Superman coaster at Six Flags in DC. I feel like puking.

  8. Angie--you are too kind, but I'll take the strokes anyway. :)

    Rayka--your voice is excellent and your story is amazing. Keep at it.

    Gina--I hope by now you have started implementing some of what you are reading in the lecture packets. It is a bit like bungee jumping (what I imagine bungee jumping is like because I will NEVER do it). To take on this kind of work, to push yourself to the deep editing edge is scary. But you CAN do it. You are already a great writer. I've read some of your work.

    Just remember, you can't change everything overnight. But taking even one or two things and applying them throughout the manuscript will make a big difference. The hard work is the 14 or 15 passes we end up making to do all this deep editing.

    The reward is a book that you know is significantly better, a book that once someone starts they will thank you for writing it, a book that has the potential to really hit.