Thursday, June 24, 2010

Author Lynne Murray

 Lynne Murray, author of the romantic comedy, Bride of the Living Dead, has had six mysteries published. Larger Than Death, the first book featuring Josephine Fuller, sleuth of size who doesn't apologize, won the Distinguished Achievement Award from NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance).  She has written three ebooks of encouragement for writers as well as essays, interviews and reviews on subjects that rouse her passions, many of those can be found under "Rants and Raves" on her web site.

She’s here today to talk about Revisions. Whether you love the writing stage where you revise your work or hate that part, you’ll like her take on Revisions.

Welcome Lynne Murray.

Revisions are my favorite part of novel writing.

The “dominoes falling” at the end of the first draft is a close second, but that can be so exhausting. I usually don’t sleep well during the last stages of writing the first draft of a novel, waking up in the middle of the night to add things that just won’t wait. Scribbling a cryptic note on my bedside notebook is not an option at that point. I do love how the plot all comes together. I’m not one who outlines much—I try but end up dropping through a trap door into writing the scene. One of the results of this weird process is that I’m always surprised to find that the action naturally gets faster and faster toward the end of the first draft as it speeds toward the conclusion. 

Once all the drama has unfolded and the shape of the book is in place, revisions allow me to dig deeper into the characters, the setting and the story.

Some writing teachers suggest compiling bios and even mug shots for the book’s characters as a method of getting to know them. This doesn’t work for me, perhaps because summaries of facts about people don’t spark my imagination. I learn much more about the people in the book by seeing them in action, particularly during revisions. It’s like discovering new facets of someone you thought you knew.

 Revisions can dig up important aspects of the book and characters. Daria, the heroine of Bride of the Living Dead, loves T-shirts that feature classic horror movies.  I knew that, but it became more and more important with each revision to defining Daria’s view of how both movies and clothes make statements about who she is and what matters to her.  If she’s going to please both families with a formal wedding she won’t be able to get married wearing a T-shirt depicting the poster from the 1958 classic “I Married a Monster from Outer Space.”

Daria’s not about to become a Stepford Bride. So how can she stay true to herself and still go through with the wedding?

As I dig up more questions about each character’s needs, the events of the book change too. For me it’s like driving around looking for something you didn’t know you were looking for. Once you find it, the surprise makes the reward even greater.

Too bad life doesn’t offer the same opportunities for revisions that we find in fiction.

Thank you Lynne!

Personally, I have love/hate feelings about revising. I dread it, but once I get into the process, I love the new material and the deeper understanding of my characters.

Lynne lives in San Francisco and when not writing she enjoys reading, watching DVD film directors' commentaries and spoiling her cats, all of whom are rescued or formerly feral felines. She also tweets and has two blogs, one under her name and one called Bride of the Dead (love that title!).

She’s also doing a blog tour. If you’d like to follow her on her stops, check out her schedule. And now, the Comment section is open for comments or questions about her books, her Revision process or even her cats! And be sure to keep an eye out for Daria in Bride of the Living Dead.


  1. I can't begin to guess all the hard work that goes into revisions of a book. There's enough trouble for me just revising an article or a blog post. :) I love the title and the description of the sleuth. This sounds like a very good read. I'll be on the lookout for it. Best of luck Lynne.

    Helen, thanks for introducing me to another great author.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I love the revision process. When I step away and come back, I love the little nuggets that appear in my brain that make the piece I'm working on better. Thanks for a terrific interview.

  3. I love editing & revising! I equate writing the first draft to starting a puzzle - all the pieces must be turned over and sorted. That's never fun and I just want to get everything set so I can begin to work.
    However, I do rely on character sheets and visuals. I need to see my characters clearly before I begin to write.

  4. Thanks Helen and Lynne for the interview. I like revising, too. It's my way of really finetuning, tweaking the plot, finding new subplots within the manuscript, really getting to know the characters. I also build the layers with more research giving the work authenticity at this time.

    Best wishes for Bride of the Living Dead!

  5. I love the revision and self-editing stage of a novel when I finally get into it. Getting started seems to be a problem for me. My mind is already working on the next story idea, so I have to rein it in.

  6. I think it's fun to find out so many of you love the revision process.

  7. I relate to Lynne Murray. During a first draft, I'll toss and turn with a scene idea, forcing me to get up and type it before I forget. And I don't do character sketches, but I think about my characters a lot so they become real to me.

    I love hearing about published writers' processes. Great post!

  8. What great comments--

    Thanks Mason, I'm honored to be among the authors Helen invites to visit!

    Liza, I know what you mean about picking up nuggets during revisions, it's like having the plot down allows freedom to pan for gold.

    Diane, those character sheets and visuals can really spark the imagination, I think in my case my contrarian nature sparks it in the opposite direction and pulls me back to the book. But I confess I've used things like the great questions in Writing the Breakout Novel to motivate me to think more deeply about the characters!

    Joanne you make a good point about research during revisions. For me that's the best time for research because it can be focused on "need to know for this piece of the story" and there's less chance to follow research down the rabbit hole (particularly on the internet-hey, where did that day go?)

    Patricia, I can totally relate to the resistance thing, it's like wanting to prolong the magical honeymoon phase of a story when it will do and be everything you want it to do and be (as opposed to the imperfect thing it always is when it's written).

    Helen, I'm such a revision nut that I'm always surprised to find writers I love, such as the late, great Dick Francis, who never revise and don't seem to need to revise.

    Theresa, isn't it cool to live with all these imaginary characters and yet how different we writers all are in how we do it!

  9. It’s always interesting to read how other authors approach the revision process. Do you jump right into revising or do you let your first draft sit for a while?

    I like the premise of your book and look forward to reading it.

  10. Thanks, Jane, for the encouraging words! We do all have different processes. As far as waiting before revising to let a first draft cool down (or maybe to let thoughts about it rise up like yeasty bread), I think it helps. Sometimes when I've been on a deadline, that resting time is only a week or two, but it always amazes me when I can let some months go by how much room for improvement I can find when I pick up a manuscript again!

  11. This is a great post Lynne, very thorough and I admire the hard work!! Can't wait


  12. It's fascinating to me to hear from successful authors and learn their process and methods.

  13. Thanks, Val, fortunately the hard work allows us to escape into the world of the book being revised, which makes it fun as well! Cool blog title by the way!

    Helen, isn't it amazing how many different ways there are to commit fiction?

  14. I couldn't agree with you more, Lynne. The first draft is hard work, the second pure pleasure because characters really come to life. That's when revising and research is most enjoyable.


  15. Hi Jean. It's also, for me, a time when the book really takes shape.

  16. I love this. It's somewhat like how I write. My first draft bears little resemblance to the final one except for the events that occur. I learn much more about the characters as I write about them.

  17. I do, as well, Carol. I love it when the characters seem to have minds of their own and I discover new things about them.

  18. This is a great post, as I'm in heart of the revisions! I love writing the first draft, though. For me, it's the second draft where the really hard work begins!

  19. I love the revision and editing process as well. I find it so much easier than getting that first draft down, which is more like letting the story find itself. Then once it's found, I can craft it.

  20. I makes notes to myself as I work through my first draft. It gives me some ideas where to start working when I begin the need stage.

    I found your posting really interesting to know how others tackle the same problem

  21. Jean, Helen and Carol, my process is similar in that the big plotting dramas have been resolved in the first draft and I can see the shape of the story. But questions arise about how to best tell the story and it's time to try different ways to see what works.

    Hey Talli, it sounds like you're in the thick of it. Maybe you enjoy the thrill of discovery in the first draft, pulling it all together. The second draft can be brutal because sometimes we have to cut things we like just to make the story move. Some of the best advice I got was during revisions for Larger Than Death from John A. Miller, founder of Orloff Press (an indie press in Georgia now no longer active). He suggested initially going through the MS looking for anything that did not move the story and putting a red flag on it for possible cutting or reworking. That alone helped me tighten the book up, and the first line of the book emerged. It had been buried in Chapter 3 and it became not only a line that grabbed people, but a quote I memorized and used to pitch the book.

  22. That's so interesting, Lynne. I tend to find my first lines during the rewrite and they're rarely what I thought the opening line would be.

  23. I enjoyed this look inside Lynne's head Helen, thanks for having Lynne visit!

    I laughed out loud at what Lynne said above:
    "Helen, isn't it amazing how many different ways there are to commit fiction?"
    That is so very true. I just followed Lynne on twitter and would just like to say that my first online experience was following Joe Konrath around on his blog tour last March. We had a BLAST. Blog tours can be a lot of fun. I hope yours is great for you Lynne.
    Karen :0)

  24. I have a love/hate relationship with revising. It's interesting that your revision process (and seeing your characters in action) helps you develop your characters.

  25. Thank you for this Lynne--I tend to write the same way--developing my characters deeper during revisions so it was nice to hear that someone like you does that too:))

  26. Jarmara, it's interesting about making notes as you first draft. I put notes (and other things that don't fit but may be useful) at the end of the document as I draft so I won't lose them!

    Helen, first lines are so crucial, it makes sense that they usually go through so many incarnations.

    Karen, I'll bet the Joe Konrath tour was fun, everyone says he's a powerhouse. Myself, this is my first virtual promotion experience and my blog tour hosts have gone out of their way to hold my hand (thanks, Helen!) and encourage me.

    Elizabeth, I don't exactly have a love/hate thing with revisions, but I have a love/resistance thing with all writing, what my father used to call pencil sharpening syndrome! I try to cope by putting my MS on a reading stand to look at with my morning coffee, that way I'm into it before I know where I am in the a.m.

    Terri, I hear you about being encouraged by other people's similar processes. I'm always happy to hear that the weird way I do stuff works for someone else. When I read that Tony Hillerman would only outline a few chapters ahead, I was over the moon because it always seemed to me like the "wrong way" to do it, but no, it was just one of many "right for the writer in question" ways!

  27. Lynne, I don't usually print out my manuscript, but I like the idea of putting it on reading stand to look at it as I have morning coffee.

  28. What great comments! I dread beginning revisions, and usually feel I'm not up to the task. But of course the work is so much better when the revisions done.

  29. The revisions I'm doing now are more of a tearing apart and rebuilding.

  30. I can relate to your dread, Julie, but you're right, the reward is ending up with a cleaner, tighter and more polished MS and hopefully one that keeps the reader turning pages!

    Helen, I don't print out so much anymore, partly because I do a lot of revisions and if I printed them out I'd be drowning in paper! I do print a single-space section or chapter that I'm concentrating on to make sure it gets done. Those tear the whole thing up and build it again often works best for me without printing out the whole MS.

  31. I'm in shock. At 5' 10" you're the shortest in your family? Now we know where all the height went! Thanks for stopping by.

  32. Julie, we range from me at 5-10 to my son who's a foot taller.

  33. I admire fiction writers. I know how much work its taken to write nonfiction about my life.

    Lynne, I love your process. For me, revision has been a way to improve my writing and discover my character. I found my voice. With every revision my voice evolved. The hardest part for me is the final 1% hurdle to say enough. Every time I think I'm done I find a way to improve it.

    Thanks for visiting, Simon.

  34. I love how everyone is different. I can only plot a little ahead but that can also mean I have a lot of extra work to do in the revision stage ;)

  35. Lynda, that's very true. We are all different. Even if we have a process similar to some other writer, the small things are different.

  36. Simon, Lynda and Helen, one of the things I love also about the diverse ways we get our writing done is the thrill of discovering what does work for oneself. It is very empowering. I have had a great visit here, wonderful dialog with your great commenters! Thanks for having me, Helen!


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