How Ugly is Ugly?

Let’s forget burning bunnies for a moment, let’s talk about ugly ducklings.  Ugly ducklings are my first rough drafts.  Most times they look pretty good, and they go swimming after mama duck and grow up to be, uh, Christmas dinner.  (grin)  Today, after finishing Madison’s rough draft, I find I’ve got the ugly duckling of all ducklings sitting on my desk.   Honking for attention.

Okay, it’s not that bad.  But let me tell you my first thoughts so that the unpublished writers out there can get a better feel for how good their stuff actually is, and how often the difference between published and unpublished is just a heavy rewrite or two.

First, Madison III came in a little light, which is good.  I’m about ten pages off my goal of 190 manuscript pages.  Hollows hits 525, so that tells you just how short they wanted this one, but I like the brevity.  The fix: Nothing.  Those ten pages will just show up.  Trust me. 

Another thing I noticed right off is that I have Ron in the last chapter, and nowhere else.  Not a good idea to have a character show up last moment.  Not satisfying to the reader.  The fix: I’m going to work him into a scene, either one that is slow with talk (maybe) but more likely one that is already busy with action. (to ratchet up the tension.)

My love interest sort of disappeared.  Not emotionally, but physically.  I had too many characters on the page to work with comfortably, so he got cut.  The fix: give him a new job where he is still important and a reason why he can’t be putting toe-of-boot to reaper hind end.  This does double duty of increasing the relationship between Madison and him as well.

Madison’s personal goal is kind of nebulous as it’s written right now.  I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to end, so I left it open.  The fix: Now that I know how it ends for sure, I can go back in the rewrite and shore it up.  Does she get her body back and keep the amulet, or does she have to give her body up to keep it.  Or does she give the amulet up completely?  Now I know. 

Someone had a name change.  No biggie.  At least all my characters kept their original sex.  And yes, I’ve had it change once or twice right in the middle of the rough draft.

These are just the big things, the mismatched feathers sticking out at odd angles and the oversize beak.  All I have to do is help it grow into its potential, because now that I’m looking at it, it is deceptively simple, elegant, and with a lot of work, should give the astute reader something to think about, be they YA or adult.

I guess what I’m saying is that don’t be afraid to write ugly.  Leave stuff out.  Don’t be afraid to change things as you go along.  But don’t go back and fix anything until you’ve reached the end.  Otherwise, you might be trying to put a swan’s wings on an ugly ducking that just needs some time to . . . grow.


Tomorrow I’ll be the guest interviewer for Vicki Pettersson on Romance Radio/The Beyond.  It’s at 2:00 pm, EST.  More info at Kim Interviews Vicki Pettersson.


Filed under Drama Box

33 responses to “How Ugly is Ugly?

  1. Lora

    Ahh! I forgot to check your page for a few days!!! >.<

    Anyway. Hi Kim. *waves*
    Heh. I have had that happen to me too- characters' names changing, even the gender. o_o I remember one that changed in the middle of the first rough draft. I changed the now-male character to my lovable buffoon Lyson Smith. (Recently, I changed the spelling, too. Used to be Laison, but that looked too much like liaison.)

    Just wondering, which character did you change? Was it in the Hollows? o.O

  2. Hey Kim, I went on vacation for 2wks and you changed everything over here in the Drama Box. LOOKS GREAT! I will be starting Madison today, I wouldn’t allow myself to take it on my NC vacation:-) ….had to spend time with the family and all! Can’t wait to dig into the Madison book tonight after the little ones go to sleep.

    • Hi, Jerica.

      Ooooh, cool! I hope that you like Madison! It’s a really quick read, but the next is already on the way.

      Thanks! I’m glad you like the new Drama Box. I think it’s going to work just fine!


  3. Gothar

    You even write about writing well and it’s captivating. I wish I could of pulled off stuff like that in high school instead of having my brother ghost write everything but my short stories for english class 🙂 Your ugly duckling sound like the reverse of my herb garden, at least yours has a happy ending. All my herbs died.

    • Gothar! Your herbs died? That’s awful! Did you overwater them? Most herbs like dry soil that isn’t too rich or black.

      Hey, don’t fret over your writing. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years (grin) I practice everyday. (bigger grin)


    • Gothar

      Sniff, all dead. I think it was the gloomy spring that killed the seedlings. We would get one or 2 nice days puncuated by lots of rainy feeling like winter days.

  4. Hi, Tina.

    Oh, wow. How cool is that? Unfortunately you’re right that Columbia is a chunk of driving time from where I live. I don’t get there often at all. Thanks for the heads up, though. I bet they make my local paper.


  5. Tina

    Hey Mz Kim

    I was wondering if you know what Drum Corps is? There will be a Drum Corps competition in Columbia SC on July 9th. My kid will be marching with Teal Sound (the only Florida Corps) and I thought you might be interested. But, I see its a bit of a drive from your area.

    Oh well, if you want more info, please go to the DCI site. Its an org not a com. 🙂 Your garden look nice btw.

    in SFL

  6. Phil

    Hi Kim, thanks so much for the images of your creative process! I’ve always known just how much hard work goes into writing and how tempting it can be at times to just give up.. It’s our great fortune that your ugly ducklings turn into wonderful books in the end!!
    I hope the reader from NJ has better luck finding your books in the future. B&N here in NY had Madison prominently displayed the first week!
    Things are back to “normal” here today… The peanut butter worked!! but I feel really guilty bothering you about it!!
    Thanks so much for your help!!! ~Phil

    • Hey! That’s great that the peanutbutter worked! Nothing like a chipmunk free house. 😉

      I hope you never give up on your ugly duckling. (grin)


  7. Annie

    Hey Kim! Thanks for the honesty there, being a new writer I constantly flip out over what I need to change all the time. I think those like me think of great writers like you god-like lol, you just write and it’s gold! On that, I have a question about agents. I’m currently researching for one (I’m not even close to finishing my story, but I want to get a head start on my research) and I was wondering if your choosing of your agent came from purely your research of them, or just hoping for the best? I’m quite intimidated frankly of handing my baby over to someone, and I wanted your oppion.
    AL ROCKS! Thank you.

    • Hi, Annie.
      I just don’t want prepublished writers out there to think that published writers just have this stuff flow out. It’s a lot of work!

      You asked about agents? Phew. Research is good. It will save you a lot of grief, because agents specialize in genres just like writers, and to submit to one who doesn’t have the right contacts is kind of . . . useless. Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year that lists agents, what they bought, how much they got their writers, and terms sometimes. You might give that a try. But when it all comes down to it, sometimes you just feel lucky to have an agent say yes. It’s not so much you choosing the agent as the agent choosing you. Hope that helps. –Kim

  8. Sara

    Hey, Kim, thanks for sharing a little bit of your “ugly” today and your front garden yesterday! I recently heard a song that is totally a werewolf song if I’ve ever heard one and wanted to share. It’s “Wolf like Me” and by “TV on the Radio” (from the Return to Cookie Mountain CD). The lyric “when the moon is round and full/gonna teach you tricks that’ll blow your mongrel mind” always catches me and made me giggle the first time I deciphered it. Have a great day!

  9. Judi in NJ

    Ok – so I went into B&N to pick up COS – about 10:30 a.m. It wasn’t on the shelves yet so I asked for it. This has happened a few times – including when I went to buy Madison – the employees usually go in the back and take the books right out of the box. This time though the saleslady came back and said, “Sorry, it must still be in a box.” She asked if I could come back later or maybe tomorrow??? I just said that I would and went to another B&N and GOT IT!! I couldn’t help wondering though how the author would feel about this. Which leads me to ask something I’ve been confused about numbers-wise…(because I noticed you told me to get COS w/i the 1st week) why do some books have a “one-day laydown” and for others the first week of sales is what matters? Also, if COS had been a one-day laydown, do the booksellers know and would they HAVE to have it displayed in a timely manner?? Thanks! And p.s. your garden has me drooling.

    • Hi, Judi.

      Huh. Yeah. That doesn’t surprise me. Unless there is a street data, or drop date, they put them out when they feel like it. I’m glad you went somewhere else and purchased.

      Most books don’t get a drop date because it’s a hassle for the stores, but it does help if a book is expected to hit one of the big lists, and the publisher wants the biggest bang for that first week. With the drop date, it should be put out at the same time everywhere, without it, much of the pop is spread out in the week before and the week after. If COS has a laydown date, it should be out, and they can get in trouble if they don’t. In theory. –Kim


  10. Antonio Rich

    I’ve only read one of Vicki Pettersson’s shorts…Do you think i would still enjoy the interview? QUESTION: I was re-reading the beginning of The Good,The Bad and the Undead and Rachel was talking about how she had to pay for her own Witches License now that she had left the I.S. Now that she has been shunned, i was wondering what this means? Is it illegal for her to be unlicensed and still practicing?**I know you are focused on Madison right now…Is it still cool to talk Hallows? No one else is and i’m beginning to feel out of step…

    • Hi, Antonio. Gosh, yes! I think you’d enjoy the interview. Vicki is FUNNY!

      You asked about Rachel’s witch’s license? Now that she’s shunned, she is compleatly off the grid. No need for a license. No one expects her to stick around. Guess they don’t know Rachel very well, do they. 😉 –Kim

      P.S. Sure you can talk about the Hollows. Absolutely.

  11. Valerie

    Oohh, love the insight into the last Madison book, the third is the end right? Most of all, it does give me inspiration to what I refer to as “THE BOOK”. Right now it consists of notes and character descriptions as well as very sketchy notes about the setting, but that is it. So, talk about ugly… yeah, it sits in my word program, and sits, and sits. Ho hum, but thanks for the inspiration that if I ever get it going and it is till ugly, I might could rewrite it into something wonderful. Can’t wait for “Unbound”, for my next Hollows fix *smile*

    • Hi, Valerie. It was my pleasure! I just wanted to let the writers out there know that I do the same stuff they do. Write. Rewrite. Rewrite again. I hope you finish your book. It is a great feeling. It doesn’t have to be perfect to call it done. It just needs an ending. Then you fix it. 😉 Good luck! –Kim

  12. Antonija

    Hey Kim,
    Looks like you’re going to be busy the next days.
    The third is the last Madison book, right?:( I still hope that you’re going to write more, cause they’re really good.
    Oh and it’s too cool that you’ll interview Vicki!
    I love her books! They’re unique and I can’t wait to see how they’ll end.
    Have a great week!

    • Antonio Rich

      Hey Antonija. Last week Kim offered some reading suggestions and i thought it would be interesting to hear some reader suggestions…Have you read anything this year you would like to reccomend? It doesn’t have to be sci fi/Urban Fantasy. I got one for you(knowing your interest in handsome elves): TINKER by Wen Spencer. It’s the story of an elven kingdom colliding(literally) with Pittsburgh! An elflord falls in love with a human mechanic nicknamed Tinker. Be good.

    • Antonija

      Hey Antonio,
      Oh I’ve read a lot of good books this year that I would like to recommend.
      Have you ever read the Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith? They’re old but I just started to read the first and I’m glad that I have found them.
      Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs,Curse the dawn by Karen Chance,Deadly Desire by Keri Arthur,Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh,Dayhunter by Jocelynn Drake and Magic Strikes by Ilone Adrews are also wonderful choices.
      I hope you will enjoy some of them 🙂
      And thanks for your suggestion. I’ll try to find “Tinker”

    • Hi, Antonija. Yup, I’m going to be busy, but I’ll slow down some for the weekend. Next week is going to be insane. As it sits, this is the last Madison book, but I’ve left it open as well as having a nice bit of closure. I’m delighted you enjoyed the first. Thanks! I hope you can tune in today for the interview. It should be fun! –Kim

  13. Joy Greger

    I love the garden pictures from yesterday! Thank you for sharing them with us! I LOVE fountains outdoors. I find them relaxing. However, for some reason indoor fountains just make me feel the urge to visit the loo. Ok sorry for the TMI. I bought and read Vicki’s book yesterday. I know, no spoilers but I have to say HUNTER!! URG!! He is not my favorite literary person today. Unbound comes out next month!! I am so very excited to see the Hollows through Jenks’ eyes!!! Oh and you are extra evil today. Not only do you taunt us with Hollows’ spoilers but now you are dangling Madison spoilers just out of our reach too! If you are looking for something to do tonight Public Enemies comes out!! Have a good one!!

    • Hi, Joy.

      Anytime I can share my garden, I enjoy it. The pictures never do it justice. The peace doesn’t translate well . . . Dude, I’m going to be talking about Hunter today with Vicki. I’m not really happy, either.

      Mmmm. Movie. Sounds good to me!


  14. This is a wonderful post. I linked to a few struggling author friends I play with:)

    And thank goodness you’re blogging suggested reads. As I said, there is never enough mind candy. Hitting the big box, library and used book stores tonight. I am thrilled with the news of Madison!

    “Your” pixie bups are hatched. Growling, pouncing (and splatting) and playing tug of ear. Mom is spending more time looking at me and pleading for help. Glad I didn’t name them for Vamps…no bloodshed I hope. Pixie sparkles would be nice though. Mud

    • Antonio Rich

      Hello Mr or Ms Mud. Since this new format allows us to interact with each other i wanted to say Hi to someone i’ve been reading alot of this year. I’m not sure which one i’m introducing myself to…like the secret language some twins develope, i’m not sure I can tell who is who?(grin) Since Kim suggested some books/authors i was wondering what some of our well-read regulars here would reccomend? It doesn’t have to be sci fi. I would suggest this year’s YA classic The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Anyhoo – talk at ya later.

    • Just found an 1800’s herbal in a closet I’m cleaning at work. American Journal of Botany. Um, molecular genetics:) I need to do some shopping. Anyhow, this is Kim’s page:)

    • OMGosh, yes, it’s my page, but I love to hear you guys chat. I learn a lot that way. (evil laugh) –Kim

    • mudepoz

      The friend that drove with me to Kim’s Chicago signing and introduced me to the Hollows just refilled my TBR pile. So…Second Nature and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. A bunch of Terry Pratchett, which makes me a bit sad. And the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. So now I have to go visit a real bookstore to get some of Pettersson…payday today!

    • Hi, Mud.

      Wow, thanks! I am flattered! 😉 I hope that it helps light some fires under some keyboards. I truly love what I do, and if I can help spread that, It feels pretty good.

      Good to hear the pups are doing so well. (big smile)