Replotting Ohio 2… The Experiment that Went BOOM!

By Holly Lisle

Book 2 has a lot of salvageable material. A lot of awesome world stuff, some wonderfully funny scenes, some pretty scary scenes.

It was fun for me to read, and I made myself laugh a bunch of times, got a little teary-eyed, did a light revision and passed it off to my Editor.

Matt, however, is really, really good at what he does.

And he discovered that while the story is a lot of fun, what it doesn’t have is a strong story through-line.

Here’s the thing…

I had a line-for scene plot for the book built out.

It, however, lacked the sort of epic sense of wonder that made my heart beat faster while I was writing it. 

So… when Epic Sense of Wonder crept past me while I was being a good girl and following the plot, my hunting brain caught the scent… 

…And chased.

I got some great stuff out of the chase. The plot, however, got eaten by volemarines and vile scunners in the process. 

So now, I’m going back and figuring out how to keep all the epic stuff, the sensawunda stuff, the glorious terrifying magic and the really creepy evil…


Today… plotting worksheet and tight focus.

There are folks saying, “But you teach classes on how to write novels.”

Yup. I also invent and test new processes, because if you do the same thing every time, you get the same results every time. And to get BETTER results, and consequently better novels, you have to experiment.

Many experiments… um… explode.

And the person looking at the new processes, and experimenting, is the one upon whom they explode.


THIS process is not going to be in any new class coming your way from me. You can thank me later.

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Still replotting, still restructuring on Ohio 3

By Holly Lisle

There’s damn little I’m going to be able to save. Ohio 3 is lost in the weeds.

So at this point, I’m barely even looking for things to save. I’m just looking for the story I wanted to tell but didn’t, and if I can use any of what I already wrote, great. If not… well, that’s okay, too. 

This. THIS is what happens when, instead of using my system, I go chasing after that alluring “ooh, awesome” better idea.

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Here’s that Wrong Left Turn In Albuquerque… and it’s as bad as I dreaded.

By Holly Lisle

The first sixty pages of Ohio 3 held up fine.

Starting on manuscript page 61, I went in exactly the wrong direction, dropped the really good local character I had in place for one who broke my otherwise tight worldbuilding through two novels and the start of this one all to shit, threw in a bunch of stuff that widens the scope of one small, tightly bordered town by five… count ‘em… FIVE whole planets.

And while it doesn’t QUITE go as far as “anything can happen, so nothing matters”, it sure a shit doesn’t stay inside the original premise of the series, which is that the things that happen in this one small town can affect the universe… BUT they can only EVER happen inside the physical boundaries of this one small town.

So now I’m going to read the rest of what I’ve written in this book with an eye toward finding anything I can save.

I’m going to assume there will be nothing. But I’m going to do a complete read through, just in case.

And then… oh, yippee… I’m going to pick up the plot I started on page one, and broke on page 60, and I’m going to replot.

And then rewrite.

And then be grateful that I did not pursue any of the new characters or worldbuilding in the latter part of this novel in either Book Four or Book Five.

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Catching up on the updates: Starting at page 291 on the Ohio 2 revision

By Holly Lisle

The last couple days have been hectic, and I’ve managed to miss blogging twice.

But I’ve gotten my revision pages every day. This morning, I’m starting the write-in revision on page 291. The last page in the novel is 431. I won’t get there today, but I’ll make good headway toward getting there, and might be able to wrap up the Book 2 revision tomorrow.

Yesterday’s revision was a lot of fun — I hit a scene I’d forgotten writing, and laughed my ass while working my way through it. My poor main character is under attack by enemies both hidden and right out in the open, and yesterday the bad guys tried to pull a bait-and-switch on her.

This was stuff I’d forgotten having written, so it was all fresh to me, and reading through it, I had a fair amount of stuff to fix.

BUT the scenes I worked on took me by surprise in multiple places, and made me laugh out loud once.

Today I’m onto the next section, and I’m pretty sure stuff gets darker. But when you write in flow — that is, when your brain is making up the story as you go and your fingers are pretty much taking dictation — you don’t labor over words, so when you come back to them, you’re as surprised as readers will be by what happens next.

Therefore… <evil grin> I’m looking forward to discovering what else my writing brain did while I wasn’t looking.

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OHIO 2 REVISION: Made it to manuscript page 134 of the Ohio 2 type-in.

By Holly Lisle

And in this particular set of chapters, I’ve managed to make myself cry a couple of times.

The fixes in this section have been mostly small (typos, spellos, extra spaces), and the couple of bigger changes let me add a bit more emotion to the terrible thing that my main character is discovering.

It was a very, very good writing day — and I LOVE this world and the bits of story I got to work on today.

But now… forums, and then off to do the Live In The Real World stuff.

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So today I start the type-in of the Ohio 2 Revision

By Holly Lisle

I was up at six, (when you’re fasting, it’s weirdly easy to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn and be through the shower, done with the first cup of coffee, before seven AM… and at my desk and finished with necessary work emails and the one help desk ticket only I could do not long after that. 

So now I’m on to Ohio Two… The TYPE IN.

I open the manuscript, I drag the big-ass pile of paper over to my right, look at my three big URGENT!!! sticky notes tacked to the right side of my computer screen (the one about Derovi, the one about the absolutely necessary weapons change, and the one about the Hosho) and I get ready to write.

By writing the five novels back-to-back-to-back without going back to re-read the previous books, I’ve done some interesting things.

  • I changed both world and story physics as I got a better feel for how to set hard limitations on the magic
  • I had better ideas that I leapt into the middle of that now must have some antecedents built up front
  • I created some characters at the end who now need to be worked into the beginning (or at least into books two and three)
  • And, working my way through from the beginning now, I did one thing at the end of Book Five that I’m probably going to have to smash with a hammer. Or at least give a MUCH better reason for its existence.

All of this is standard shit for any revision. It’s just that I’ve never revised five novels back to back before with none yet in print (meaning I have the FREEDOM to change stuff at the beginning, and am not stuck with worldbuilding that I regret locking me into story physics that was too unlimited and too open).

The best thing any novelist can do to get good, tight stories is to build good, tight limitations into the worldbuilding. 

If anything can happen, nothing matters.

If just about everything is impossible, you can get your character embedded deeply in the swamp with the quicksand, the alligators, the poisonous snakes, and the half-starved, injured panther with a taste for human flesh, and have helluva lot of fun making your character work for his escape.

THAT’s what I’m doing today. (None of the stuff includes South Florida swamps or wildlife, though. This is all Pure Ohio™.)

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Today I hit a messy part of the manuscript…

By Holly Lisle

I had a small fight with myself over whether to keep two short-term characters and the scene that included them, and after some struggle and bouncing my arguments around with myself, I let them stay.

They tie into an earlier incident, and my conclusion with them in this book does offer some promise that today’s incident can offer some spiffy repercussions in books down the road.

Lot of handwriting in today’s work. Am now down to the BOTTOM of page 287 on the manuscript, with 431 total in the book. 

I am very, very happy with Book 2 to this point. But now…

On to the rest of the day’s work. 😀

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Character Paranoia, and the State of Revision

By Holly Lisle

I’m past the halfway mark on the read-through-note-taking process on Ohio 2.

I have a lot of the first draft that I’ll be able to use as is.

That’s good. I have written novels where I discovered the first draft was The Story I Don’t Want To Tell (and could still run into that in Books 3, 4, or 5. It happens. Isn’t fun when it does, but at least I know how to fix it.)

About sixty percent of the first draft so far is going to take middling rework (rethinking, taking out wrong directions, adding in the better direction I’ve come up with). About ten percent is just wrong, because what I discovered in books three, four, and five while I wrote them changed some of my understanding of my world.

And there’s one story thread that I discovered while reading that gets expanded, because it’s funny, it’s scary, and I love it like bunnies.

The image is an unrelated keeper quote from the current Chapter 13, which is here because it happens to be on the page I’m starting with this morning.

But about Character Paranoia… (also related to the gray squirrel)…

My MC is suffering a bad case of it right now, because home looks like she remembered, but it doesn’t work like she remembered… and she’s discovering that the stakes attached to the house her grandma left her are a lot higher than… well… than a woman coming home to the small town she loved would hope.

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Revelation Struck!!!

By Holly Lisle

You grind. You dig. You read with increasing despair through a manuscript that seemed while you were writing it like a thing of wonder.

You wonder how you could have gone so far off the mark. And you think, “How did I think this was going to work?” and consider the possibility that you’re going to have to ditch all of Book Two, and write a completely different second novel.

And then, while hanging out with your guy while he’s shaving, you suddenly have this damned lightning-bolt-out-of-blue-holy-crap-why-didn’t-see-this-before revelation.

You were asking the wrong primary question about the second book.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to eliminate the details, and just state that, looking at the story I’d told and where it went off the rails, I was asking a WHY question.

The SECOND I rephrased the core novel conflict question to make it a HOW question, the book worked. 

Yeah, I’ll still need to do some revision. But my shifting the focus from WHY to HOW, this becomes a light, relatively friendly fix, where most of Book 2 is okay as written.

Revision is a bitch.

It screws with your head at the best of times and tells you the story is utter unsalvageable crap  (or your head lies to you and tells you the damn thing is perfect, which is actually worse for your outcome in the long run). Either way, you believe, and when you believe, you embrace the risk of putting crap out into the universe with your name (or pseudonym) on it.

And then you walk away, let your brain wander off to do other things… and your mind relaxes, and lets go of all the stress and anxiety.

And an answer appears.

Very, very sideways thinking, this process. And it still feels like magic every time it happens.

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Read-through write-in revision of Ohio 2 now done through page 233 of 431

By Holly Lisle

Read-through/write-in notes today flew, with Book 2 being a remarkably clean first draft (not even a lot of typos)…

…Right up to the point where it wasn’t. 

In the last three novels, I changed some of the worldbuilding that I did in Two to something much better. And when I ran into the spot where I’d used OLD worldbuilding on page 221, I ended up doing a hard re-think on how I could save most of what I’d written in the next few chapters while still removing one BIG change that could have cost me about three to four chapters.

Got it, managed to do it while only killing about 250 words, and tomorrow I’ll get to write a nifty bit of new stuff that makes the world a little weirder… but while NOT BREAKING later worldbuilding essential to the rest of the five novels. (And, if the first five find their readership, more books beyond them.)

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