Yes, It’s Revision… But Is It DELICIOUS?

By Holly Lisle

Like other folks, lots of writers have pets.

And while it had been a whole lot of years since I had pets, for Christmas my guys got me a cat.


Very cool cat.

Likes to help. Really likes to help with revision, which is generally not an area where I welcome help.

Here. Let me show you…

Sheldon Helping 01

Here, have a tissue.

Sheldon Helping 02

No, don’t have a tissue. I want it.

Sheldon Helping 03

Wonderful tissue smells delicious.

Sheldon Helping 04

Tissue is chewy but not tasty.

Sheldon Helping 05

I claim the pen in the name of ME!

Sheldon Helping 07

Why does the pen not leap to the floor?

Sheldon Helping 08

Something is wrong with this pen.

Sheldon Helping 09

My pen.  Mine.  Leap?  No?  Betrayed by technology…

Sheldon Helping 10


Sheldon Helping 11

Also pinned down.

Sheldon Helping 12

Could be tasty.

Sheldon Helping 13

Is definitely chewy.

Sheldon Helping 14

Is NOT delicious.

Sheldon Helping 15

If you’re going to yell at me for chewing, I’m going to sulk.

Sheldon Helping 16

I’m not looking at your stupid revision.

Sheldon Helping 17

Not looking…

Sheldon Helping 18

Definitely not looking… (But flicky tail says thinking about looking…)

Sheldon Helping 19

Oh, GAWD, yummy revision!

Sheldon Helping 20

That did not happen. See me not looking?

How about you? Have a picture or two of the “help” you get while you’re working?

If you have a photo-sharing service like Flickr (or whatever else is out there — I don’t keep up), post one or two images of your helper helping below.

I’d love to see. 😀

No more than two. My blog is set to mark as spam any replies that have more than two links in them, and I don’t want to accidentally lose your post.

Contents © Holly Lisle. All Rights Reserved

Oops — a brief tale of Social Media fail

By Holly Lisle

So I’m working on the TalysMana revision. And because of the way I did the first draft of that story, I was looking for someone online.

By name. Had the WHOLE name. And the one place that name came up was in Linkedin.

Okay, I thought. I have a Linkedin account. I don’t use the damn thing, but I have one.

So I logged in. (Three cheers for 1Password, or my 600+ unique passwords, some of which I haven’t used in about a decade, would be impossible.)

And discovered that there was no more information on the person I was searching for when I logged in than there was from outside.

Which means I’m going to have to change the name and the character in TalysMana.

That’s fine. That character wasn’t fitting the story anyway.

But the other thing that I discovered, much to my horror, was that people I DID know had been trying to reach me on Linkedin — there are about a dozen post in there from 2012.

And those requests for help are in there now because?

Because I haven’t been in there since…no clue. But I now have proof it was sometime before 2012.

So if you were asking me for help promoting you through Linkedin back in 2012, I’m very sorry I didn’t.

I wasn’t there, didn’t know you asked.

And I don’t see myself becoming a Linkedin user now. I don’t have time for the stuff I’m doing as it is.

On the bright side, I might be overworked, but I don’t suffer from all those new stresses and anxieties psychologists and psychiatrists are attributing to the overuse of social media.


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The Tale of the Tail in the TalysMana Revision

By Holly Lisle

Last Friday, I printed out my manuscript and my revision worksheets, located my  pens, and set everything aside. Saturday was to be my first day of revision.

And Saturday with the the big table cleared for writing, I started into revising my badly wrecked fantasy novel TalysMana, written back in 2010.

The manuscript

I was planning on doing the way I always do it — manuscript loose and on the left, notebook and notes top and right.

You figure, I’ve been refining this system since 1995, and I knew I had it pretty well nailed down.

So I had everything neatly laid out — this time with more papers than usual, because instead of using my advanced streamlined system, I’m going through and treating TalysMana exactly as if it were the first revision I’d ever done. I’m using my first-time-through system from How to Revise Your Novel, and saving all my work to add to the class as a demonstration walk-through.

The Full HTRYN Layout

So here’s what that looks like…

Neat, organized, simple to get through. Time-consuming if it’s your first time, but this ISN’T My first time, and I anticipated making pretty decent progress the first day. Unlike most of my books, I pantsed this one, so the part at the beginning is the part I got closest to right, and I while knew it ran off the tracks more and more the deeper into the story I went, Saturday was supposed to be easy sailing.

I know things are going to get worse and messier the deeper in I get. But hey, I’m a professional. I got this. Right?

Turns out, not so much.

What I wasn’t prepared for was help.

Enter "help," stage left

Enter “help,” stage left.

Sheldon levitated onto the table with his usual gravity-free grace. (I’ll note that no one eats on this table, in spite of the fact that it’s in the dining room, which is why no one cringes when the cat goes there.)

He discovered an entire field of his favorite things: Stacks of paper, pens, plastic folder separators.

Sheldon spends a lot of time around office supplies, which he believes are named “No,” “No, dammit!” and, “Aargh!”

Taking the Pen I'm Using

Three quick sniffs and a joyful growl and he leapt into the middle of my work, chased my pens across the table, scattered my pages, and carried the pen I was using to the floor to eat.

I retrieved my pen, said “Office Supplies” to him a thousand times in under ten minutes, and watched him sulk off at last.

I restacked everything, got to work, and enjoyed maybe ten minutes of peace and cat-free quiet and stillness. Until the question, “Why is he being good?” flitted all paranoid-y and bug-eyed through the back of my mind.

Of course there was a reason he was being quiet.

It’s the same reason your two-year-old is being quiet.

He’d found something he knew he wasn’t allowed to touch, and because he wasn’t being supervised, he wreaked havoc upon it.

Zauberboll Crazy "Improved"

This is a skein of Zauberboll Crazy, lovely German yarn given to me by a friend also named Holly.

Sheldon, a name that I have just discovered translates as “the horns are hidden beneath the fur,” had somehow finagled this out of a bag from beneath the two folded sweaters that were supposed to make it impossible for him to reach, and was lying on the couch shoving his head as far into it as it would go and inhaling Smell O’ SheepTM from it like it was cocaine and he was some Wall Street dude from the eighties, then hanging onto it with his teeth while kicking it with his hind legs, causing the ball to both unravel and to tangle.

Thus ended Saturday revision.

Sunday I set myself the task of figuring out how to cat-proof my work. ‘Cause… still have to revise the novel, still have to revise many more to come, still going to keep Ol’ Horns-Beneath-The-Fur.

Cat-Proofed Revision

So I hole-punched the entire manuscript and put it by itself into the big D-Ring binder. Dug out one of the strap-type cardboard binders I use to hold print-outs of my shorter classes. Put all of the empty worksheets and their dividers into this. (Little-known fact: Holly translates into English as “addicted to office supplies.”)

Cut my pens down to a black one for the worksheets and a red one for the manuscript.

Today, I set out the revision, and this time, got all the way to page 48. The image at the very top of this tale of struggle and triumph is of Sheldon with TODAY’s work in front of him, stymied by my office-supply solution, and trying to take the pen I’m using, this time to have it taken away from him.

And this time… no yarn for him to wreak vengeance upon. That’s now in a zippered bag. Little bugger can fetch a ball (cat-style — he has to chase it, attack it, and pounce on it for twenty minutes before he finally brings it back to you), is trying to open doors by hanging on the doorknobs, likes to turn the touch lamp on and off, and took a flying leap at the light switch the other day. (Would have worked if it hadn’t already been down).

But he can’t (yet) work a zipper.

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Needed: One TALYSMANA traitor—talent, sense of humor, and backstabbing dagger required

By Holly Lisle

The revision of TALYSMANA is, has been, and will continue to be a bitch on wheels.

The problem I ran into 95% of the way through the first draft was the realization that my ending could not happen with the existing beginning. Like several other novels I’ve written, I stopped writing when I figured that out, so the first draft had no ending.

I left out something critical, only I couldn’t figure out what.

I was hoping it was something simple to fix, like a plot point.

It was, in fact, a whole entire character. This I discovered via a spiffy nightmare that tipped me in the direction of “This is what your story needs.”

Which means I’m going to have to create another character from the very start of the book (or perhaps turn one of the existing characters into the traitor).

I also realized (same spiffy nightmare) that I got half of my villain wrong. The part set in TalysMana is good. The part set in the What Is, however, is utterly wrong. Police would have been on him in three seconds. So that, too, is going to take heavy rewriting.

And oh, hell, not via nightmare but though the real-life pain of reading the manuscript, I’ve discovered the Kettan I’ve read through so far is whiny and weak, and both missed the opportunities in her past, and failed to utilize her present. There are sections where she’s okay, but overall, I loathe her.  The revised Ketten will be someone I can stand to be in the same room with.

Will Grey is good, though. I like him. Emerald is good. And Fred is awesome…but he’s based on my daughter’s basset hound, who is also awesome. Fred will come through this revision unscathed.

This is not going to be any quick, easy revision, though. This is going to be a Book Is Wrecked revision. My notebook is filling up already.


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Writing Projects Gone Weird: or, Saturday, I Knit A Cat

By Holly Lisle

The migraines and vertigo are back with a vengeance, and I’m stuck in horizontal mode (laptop propped on lap and lying down as I write this, in fact).

So Saturday, I dragged out some cotton string (a very nice German variegated yarn), and needles, and did one of the few things that doesn’t make me feel worse when this gets as bad as it is right now.

I knitted.

I’m doing this odd secret project on my day off—a writing project so weird when I first explained why I was knitting sweaters for balls of yarn, my husband got this look in his eyes that asked “do I commit her, or grab the kid and run for the hills?”

And this project calls for a cat.

A tiny, agile, clever cat.

So I got out light-gauge florist wire and narrow green florist tape and built an armature. And then I knit around the armature, ripping back when anything happened that didn’t look like a cat, filling with yarn stuffing as I went.

No pattern, no picture, no guidelines—I remembered my various cats over the years and worked from that. It took me about ten hours over the course of the day to finish him.

When I was done, I showed him to my husband and son, who had seen me knitting around green armature all day, and who hadn’t seen anything particularly catlike in the blob I was making. Both of them were a little creeped out by how much of a cat he became when I started posing him.

I was a bit, too. I hadn’t expected scrap yarn and wire to turn out quite so well—and now that I see him, I’m getting a feel for his character and the role he’s going to play in my secret project.

So what’s this project? Well, it’s fiction, but it’s about writers and writing. And KnitCat is a good representative for what I’m doing. Beyond that, I’m not ready to say anything, except this project will be available for free—it’s my playtime—and should be a nice complement to other things I’ve created to help writers.

As for other things, even though I’m currently bedridden (well, couch-ridden) I did manage to get work done on both TalysMana and the HTTS Walkthrough. I’m doing the plot outline for The Emerald Sun.

And I’m hoping I’ll at least be able to sit up at some point this week, so that I’ll be able to do the Hotseat interview for the Walkthrough.

Anyway… have you ever done anything as weird as knitting a cat to get to the heart of a story?

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The Ghost Story, WABWM, and TALYSMANA

By Holly Lisle

I finished my ghost story. Title?


The title means a lot.

I got it to Trisha Telep in time, heard back that I’d made the deadline—and we are NOT going to talk about the morning-to-next-morning hours I worked for several days getting that revision done. What was supposed to have been a 6500-word story that might creep up to 7000 words became a 12,000 word PROJECT.

But I love the story. And when The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance comes out, it’ll be in there.

Meanwhile, with that done, I’m holding firm to my commitment to the Write A Book With Me project.

To that end…

TALYSMANA is live again. I finished chapter 26, posted chapter 26, and am prepped to do 10 minutes or 300 words a day on this from now until I wrap the first draft of the project.

What this means for Write A Book With Me folks is that we’re jumping BACK to the TalysMana blog, because that’s my WABWM project. You’ll note that Write A Book With Me now has its own tab at the top of the weblog, too.

Post your wordcounts and progress to the most recent post tagged Write A Book With Me. I can’t promise to post every day. I’ll do my best.

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Back To Fiction

By Holly Lisle

I’ve had to take a bunch of days off, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

However, when I’ve been up to it, I’ve been working. On Rebel Tales, on, and also on fiction.

I was doing pretty well with TalysMana, but my daughter has some scheduling problems right now, so we’re having to put that on hold until she gets her schedule worked out.

Meanwhile, I’m putting together some shortish serial fiction for Rebel Tales. The current piece is Help Wanted, introducing a new heroine in a new SF world. I also want to write some Cadence Drake shorts for Rebel Tales. And I’m considering what I could do in the way of Tonk short stories for Rebel Tales Fantasy–probably not Talyn, probably not Hawkspar.

You can watch the progress on the progress bars to the right.

ADDED LATER: Got 581 words on Help Wanted tonight.

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The novel is back on track

By Holly Lisle

I’m in my second week of getting words on TalysMana every night.

I’ve been tentative about saying anything here: the whole fiction-writing process felt so fragile after the unplanned five-month hiatus—family emergency, moving, family emergency, vertigo-and-migraines.

I’m just starting to feel mostly normal most of the time, and though I’ve been able to pick up where I’d left off with stories in the past, I’d never been away from one so long without doing any other fiction.

But I’ve been making steady progress, and just wanted to breathe my sigh of relief here.

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That surprise I promised? TWO surprises.

By Holly Lisle

That surprise I promised?

There are actually two, though I spent all night working to get everything up and running on both. (And for those who got the e-mail first and discovered you couldn’t post anything, please pretend you didn’t notice that I clearly should not be setting up anything complicated at 3 AM.)

The Rebel Tales community opens today. (And if this is old news to you, my reply is, “But now I’ve fixed the bugs!”)

And the TalysMana Be A Character Contest is finally back on track. You can vote for the character you most want to see in the book, but you only have a week to do it, because I want to get back to writing the story.

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If you’re reading TalysMana, please read this

By Holly Lisle

What Is A First Draft? I’ve added it to pages for new folks to find. It’s important. Please take a few minutes to read it.

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