Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Revisions Using Wordle


One of great things about Twitter is finding out about cool things. And one of those cool things is Wordle.

Wordle turned my manuscript into a visual representation of the most used words. The more often a word is used, the bigger it is. I chose the layout (horizontal), the colors (Chilled Summer), and the font (Teen, of course). I can also look at a full word count list so I know exactly how many times I used the word just (an edit-worthy 82 times!)

My characters' names are the largest, which is to be expected. But other words become easy to see that they're over-used and unnecessary. In addition to just, there's:

  • really-55
  • seems-33
  • yeah-33
  • actually-32
  • finally-26
  • probably-26
I'm beginning Draft #6, the draft where I'm going through every chapter, scene, and word until it's as perfect as it can be. I've blogged about stop-words that kill the flow of fiction, and when they pop out at me on Wordle, it's worth hitting the Find Next button 26 or 55 or 82 times.

I also like Wordle because it shows me words that can be better. Going, go, know, see, and want are words that may need to be changed because there are more active, vibrant words to use.

After I've finished Draft #6, I'll post my Wordle poster again to let you know how much it has changed. (FYI, Wordle is a Java application, so it doesn't save as a jpeg. But you can save it as a pdf or as a screenshot.)

And if you try Wordle, let me know what words you're working on to eliminate!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Goals (not Resolutions)

It's the middle of the first week of the year and high time that I declare to the world (or at least myself) what I plan to do in 2011.

Like most sane people, I've realized that resolutions are created to be broken. Which is why I'm focusing on goals, not resolutions. Because I'm human, I can control and revise my goals as necessary. But first I have to set them ...

My first goal is to complete the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. I posted about this before and I'm excited to read more YA. I read maybe 20 books last year, which is a low number for some but way above what the average American reads in a year. I'd like to read at least 25 books in 2011, with 12 of them guaranteed to be YA.

My second goal is to finish my WIP. I'm almost done with Draft #5. I've already had a group of beta readers take a look at it and will probably have fresh eyes look at Draft #6. And then it will be time for the next goal ...

Goal Three is to query agents. I've been doing research and have a growing list of potential agents. I can't say that my goal will be get an agent in 2011 because I have no control over that. What I do have control over is the quality of my work, my query, and my researched list of agents.

These are the three biggies that I'm concentrating for 2011. Additional mini-goals are:

*Start a YA critique group. I have a regular crit group that I meet with, but I'm the only one writing YA. I think a group concentrated on YA will give me more good feedback.

*Once I start querying, it's time to move on to the next project! I plan on doing additional research on a non-fiction book I have in mind. It's completely different from my WIP and maybe I shouldn't cross genres, but I have a lot of passion for this topic.

*Keep up with social media. Twitter has been much more fun that I thought it would be (you can follow me @YAWriterNews). But my attention span must be limited to 140 characters because I've been lax in blogging. In 2011, I want to write regular (semi-regular?) blog posts. It's part of the plan of keeping myself accountable.

I know I will adjust these goals as necessary throughout the year, but I believe that they are achievable. I've done ambitious goals in the past that just didn't happen (mostly because they were not clearly defined and measurable). Thank you, library school, for teaching me how to set SMART goals:

S is for Specific: The more specific my goal is, the better chance I'll be able to achieve it.
M is for Measurable: What are the benchmarks that let me know I've reached my goal?
A is for Attainable: Focus on what I can do. What's under my control?
R is for Realistic: What are my other commitments and how do they affect my goals?
T is for Time-limited: Give myself a deadline.

What are you goals for 2011?

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