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  • David Schwertner, He of Many Waistcoats <3


  • I have a short story out today!

    "Unfriended" is a new adult contemporary fiction about a queer, neurodivergent twentysomething dealing with the aftermath of a friendship breakup. Writing this story was extremely hard, and I give myself psychic damage every time I reread it, but if you like to cry then be sure to check it out at the link above!

    TWs: anxiety/panic attacks, unexpected friendship breakup

    alliyah Just read and loved it!
    Sep 11, 2023

    BluesClues Thank you so much! <333
    Sep 11, 2023

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  • @Snoink and @alliyah asked about revision plans yesterday, so let's talk revision!

    First, some disclaimers:

      - YMMV
      - Every project is different and may require a different approach
      - I'm hoping to start a revision plan for a mystery, which is completely new territory for me and therefore may need a different approach than anything I've done before wooooo

    With all that in mind, let's talk about how I generally build a revision plan.

    Reading the first draft

    Spoiler! :
    First things first: TAKE A BREAK.

    It's tempting to dive straight into revision or even straight into a readthrough the second you finish your first draft. But it's better to give yourself at least one full calendar week between finishing your first draft and reading through it—and better to do a full readthrough before you make any changes.

    Why take a break? Two reasons:

      - Breaks are good and necessary to creativity and to avoid creative burnout
      - Time away from a project gives you the necessary emotional distance to willingly make changes

    So! Take a break. It can be as long or short as you want (although I do recommend at least a week), but take one.

    Then, read through your first draft in its entirety. I do not make changes at this time. The point is for me to see what the manuscript is like now so I can plan for later.

    If possible (via your school, library, workplace, whatever), I recommend printing the whole manuscript. Reading in print after writing on a computer or other device makes you think about the story in a different way, because you're literally seeing it in a different way! I like to print the whole thing and treat myself to a fancy binder to keep it in.

    (One story has a denim binder with gold foil polka dots. Another is the color of goldenrod. My newest one is black with a floral print and foil details. All of them have nice fabric or pleather covers instead of the usual plastic. More expensive? Unfortunately, yes. But also deeply satisfying to use.)

    Taking notes

    Spoiler! :
    As I read my print-out, I take notes in a separate document or on a separate sheet of paper. At this stage, I focus on big-picture issues rather than line or even scene-level issues. If I have ideas for the next draft, I write them down. If I have questions, I ask them. If I notice plot holes, self-indulgent scenes that don't do much, or subplots that don't work, I make note of them.

    For example, when I revised Buried Things, I had to revisit my worldbuilding. I had reasonably solid worldbuilding, but I left myself lots of questions about ghosts on my readthrough, such as the following:

    How are ghosts formed? Does everyone who dies become a ghost? If NOT everyone who dies becomes a ghost...why? What keeps a spirit here rather than allowing it to move on?

    Once someone becomes a ghost, how do things work? What parameters are there on ghostly activity? Where do ghosts hang out/where are they bound? How far can they go from wherever they’re bound?

    What notes you take and what questions you ask depend on you and your story. My first draft is often structurally messy, so many of my notes are ideas about how to rearrange the events of the story and what can be cut or combined. If you're an underwriter, you may take more notes on what to add or better develop; if you're an overwriter, you may take more notes on what to get rid of or trim down. A fantasy writer might need to focus on clarifying their worldbuilding, while a romance writer might need to more clearly develop the budding relationship between their characters. It all depends on the story and what it needs to become what you want it to be.

    It can also be helpful to write an outline or synopsis of the first draft as you read. Something as simple as "chapter 1: MC breaks out of the horrible nursing home" is fine. A simple summary like this lets you see the overaching plot and character arc of the first draft, which can help you later on as you rearrange, condense, and expand things.


    Spoiler! :
    Now I have a pile of notes, but I'm still not ready to make changes.

    First, I look at all the questions I asked myself while reading and try to answer them. The more overaching and plot-relevant, the more important! If a question has a smaller scope, I may not bother about it for now.

    For example, going back to the questions about ghosts I asked in the previous section:

    How are ghosts formed? Does everyone who dies become a ghost? If NOT everyone who dies becomes a ghost...why? What keeps a spirit here rather than allowing it to move on?

    Once someone becomes a ghost, how do things work? What parameters are there on ghostly activity? Where do ghosts hang out/where are they bound? How far can they go from wherever they’re bound?

    I first tried to answer these questions based on what the first draft actually established. Then, I brainstormed until I had a new answer for any questions that were not answered in the first draft. Here's my eventual answer to the first set of questions:

    Not everyone becomes a ghost. Spirits may cling to their own emotions—wrongs done to them in life, fear of death, etc—or concern for the living, e.g. a loved one they feared would have difficulty dealing with their death. The likelihood of becoming a spirit is roughly proportional to the strength of the person’s attachment to earthly emotions and things. It’s also generally stronger where the attachment involves fear or anger, although ghosts absolutely can form from an excess of affection and concern for their loved ones.

    Ghosts born of anger are the most likely to be harmful, while those born from affection are unlikely to be harmful unless they perceive a threat to the object of their affection. Those born of fear may be harmful as well, depending on the source of their fear and how they interact with the living world.

    With time, all ghosts eventually fade away. The stronger they are, the longer this takes. However, ghosts will also move on if their business is concluded or their emotional situation is resolved, e.g. if someone is concerned about their child being alone but then their child gets married or finds a good group of friends or something, the spirit will move on.

    Having clear answers to these questions helped me solidify the worldbuilding in subsequent drafts.

    After answering major questions, I take all my notes and start brainstorming based on what I think needs to change. For example, if I think there are structural issues, I consider how to most effectively shuffle around the events of the story. If the pacing feels off, I try to figure out why and then brainstorm ways to fix it. If the characters feel flat or their relationships appear out of nowhere, I think about how to better develop them. If a scene drags or doesn't do much but contains an important nugget, I look over the story to see where else that nugget could go.

    Sometimes, during this process, you end up with multiple ideas for the direction the story could go and multiple solutions for different problems. Make note of all the ideas you have, even if you're not sure they'll work! You never know when one idea will spark another or work in an unexpected part of the story

    Putting it all together

    Spoiler! :
    While I don't typically outline before drafting, I do like to use something like an outline for revisions! As mentioned above, I like to keep a running summary of the first draft as I read through it.

    However, I also like to outline or synopsize the next draft before I write it. A good outline or synopsis can help you find plot holes without writing a whole 50-100k novel first. I prefer synopses, because they feel more flexible and also feel more like storytelling to me than outlines do—although I often start with a simple bullet-point outline that I later turn into a synopsis.

    (Keep in mind that this synopsis is for you, so it doesn't have to be one page like when you're querying. It can also be as silly or serious as you want. The point is to provide a short version of the story so you can see whether your plan for its new direction might work.)

    I try to complete a whole synopsis before I start revising. However, sometimes I hit a point where I simply have to start writing instead.

    For example, after drafting Buried Things, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out when a particular character should get injured. It needed to come earlier in the story to raise the stakes, but if it came too early, this character wouldn't have bonded enough with the MC to make an impact.

    I couldn't figure out the best placement—I had multiple options and wasn't sure which would make the most sense or how each would affect the story. Eventually, I threw myself into the new draft without making a decision, because the only way I could figure out what worked was by trying it out.

    (Luckily, in this case, the direction I chose as I revised did more or less work. If it hadn't, I would've had to rip the whole thing apart again and try something new. That's revision, baby.)

    Rewrites and revisions

    Spoiler! :
    Once I have a synopsis ready to go, I start revising. For me, from the first draft to the second, that often means rewriting—if not the whole story, at least major chunks of it.

    (I do a lot of restructuring between the first and second draft, so that's mostly why.)

    Whether I rewrite the story from scratch or move scenes around and do minor rewrites as needed to make everything fit, I always, always, always start in a brand-new document. I do not overwrite my previous draft, ever.

    Some people apparently do overwrite their previous draft, and I guess that works for them. If you're determined to do this, I strongly recommend making a separate document and saving any deleted scenes there so you have them for future reference. You never know when you might change your mind about something you deleted! You never know when you might need a bit of dialogue or description from a cut scene to put somewhere else! Save your stuff, darn it.

    (And also back it up! Frequently! In multiple places!)

    As with drafting, don't be afraid to nix your synopsis or outline! If you find the story going in an unexpected direction, or if you have new ideas mid-revision, it's okay to go with your gut instead of your outline.

    Building a schedule (or not)

    Spoiler! :
    alliyah asked whether I plan a schedule, i.e. whether I set daily or weekly revision goals in advance. I know some people who do this, but for me it's pretty rare. Rather than building a whole schedule ahead of time, I'm more likely to set a goal for each day as I get there: "today I will get this chapter done" or "today I will get these three chapters done" or "today I will brainstorm until I come up with a solution for this plot hole I just accidentally created while fixing a different plot hole."

    This allows me more flexibility, as I can account for how much time and energy I have each day. Some days I may get a lot done, while other days I may get nothing done at all. Additionally, I find it harder to set advance revision goals. Word count goals work for drafting, because the point is for words to exist. But in revision, I want those words to be good, or at least better than they were before. And I probably have a combination of major rewrites and minor tweaks. With all that in mind, it's difficult to set an advance schedule that will see forward progress and fit my time and energy levels.

    As long as the story comes together the way I want it to in the end, that's okay.

    What questions do you have about making a revision plan? Ask me!

  • Might be shifting gears lol, I printed out my first draft of NettieWIP last night in the hopes of reading it soon, taking notes, and coming up with a revision plan, even though currently I'm like "but what if I can't effectively revise a mystery." As much as I love FakeDeathgagement, NettieWIP might be what I need right now.

    So here's to hopefully coming up with a solid revision plan over the next several months and probably fast-drafting Book 2 in November so I can find out whether there's anything I need to add to Book 1 as I revise to prepare for Book 2!

    Snoink What is a revision plan anyway? *curious*
    Aug 23, 2023

    BluesClues I honestly cannot tell whether or not you're joking or if you're looking for tips XD If you're looking for tips I'll write a post and if you're joking we'll pretend I understood that immediately and didn't write this long and awkward comment
    Aug 23, 2023

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  • me finishing the first draft of NettieWIP: AHA! I CAN finish a first draft! I'm totally gonna finish the first draft of FakeDeathgagement!
    narrator: but they could not in fact finish the first draft of FakeDeathgagement

    BluesClues I mean I probably can at some point but dang right now I'm just so not feeling it for unclear reasons. Might actually dust off the first draft of NettieWIP and revise it sooner than planned lol.
    Aug 22, 2023

  • Heading to the Columbus Book Festival this weekend! I'll be in their Indie Author Alley, selling copies of Remarkable Retirement as well as some book-themed stickers and (free) bookmarks. Fingers crossed I sell plenty lol, because (a) the less I have to bring home, the better, and (b) I need to at least make back what I spent on table space and a hotel :,)


    Mageheart Good luck and have fun! If I was there, I would definitely swing by the table. :)
    Jul 14, 2023

    IcyFlame I. Want. Stickers.

    Also does the top left say Te.m? Can I call you Tem now?

    Jul 14, 2023

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  • Snoink Mood.

    (And congrats!)

    Jun 27, 2023

    Mageheart that's great !!! good luck <3
    Jun 28, 2023

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  • Got my agent's very minor edits back, sent them off, she's already looked them over, so now Buried Things is going to faer second reader to check for any inconsistencies we may have missed! If they don't find anything, then once they're done reading, off to sub we go :eyes:

    Mageheart !!!!!!

    that's awesome !!!!! what draft is buried things on rn, btw?

    Jun 22, 2023

    BluesClues So that's sort of a weird question only because I started a third draft, hated how it was going which prompted me to enter AMM to get additional feedback, and started my third draft over before finishing it BUT did keep some of the things I had liked from the original third draft. And then I revised it again with my AMM mentor. And then I revised with my agent BUT it was like entirely line edits. So at least four but possibly as many as six depending on how you define drafts??
    Jun 22, 2023

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  • My author copies are here!! Click here for the unboxing video on Facebook (since I had to post a shortened version to Twitter because Twitter is dumb >:[ )

    Snoink Ahhhh I started crying when you did, so you are not alone!!!
    May 10, 2023

    IcyFlame I also teared up! This is so cool <33
    May 11, 2023

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  • I love seeing pictures of Edna as people get their copies! This one is my favorite:

  • I live! On the heels of Edna - actually 10 days before, but I didn't find out until the same day Edna released - comes Wyldblood Press's anthology From the Depths, which features stories about the briny deep, including one of mine!

    "Sea Change" is the story of a salty lesbian ex-sea captain, the boy who simps for her, & the sea-goddess she never got over.

    Links are on my Linktree. Scroll down to "Read My Short Stories," click the first link, and then click "see all."

    (Or you can google, but if you do, google "From the Depths Mark Bilsborough" to make sure you get the right one.)


  • What an exhausting but delightful event! I had such a lovely time talking about the book, and it seems like people enjoyed it. If you joined me at tonight's virtual launch party, thank you!

  • Mageheart That looks so fancy and official!

    (And so convenient for sending to friends!)

    Apr 23, 2023

    BluesClues Heh, goals!! <333
    Apr 23, 2023

  • Today's the dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    Mageheart IM SO EXCITED
    Apr 21, 2023

    Apr 21, 2023

  • is there a place to talk about the book because I'm at /that point/ and AHHHH

    Mageheart i vote blue makes a thread in here-
    Apr 20, 2023

    BluesClues There is now
    Apr 20, 2023

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There's a Brazilian things you could write about. You just gotta pick Juan.
— Hattable