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Welcome to the official site of Lindsay Emory, author of books with kisses and sass including the Sorority Sisters Mysteries, The Last Plus One, and the forthcoming The Royal Runaway.

Filtering by Tag: editing

Everything You Need To Learn About Writing & Publishing You Can Learn From Project Runway

I normally don't watch competition reality shows for longer than a season or two. The twists and challenges get repetitive. The contestants are unlikeable. Project Runway, however, is the exception.  Maybe it's all the pretty. Maybe it's the inherent wonderfulness of mentor Tim Gunn, but I've been devoted to PR since it premiered on Bravo, many years ago.
In recent years, as I've pursued my own creative dreams, I've come to see that everything one needs to know about writing/ publishing you can learn from Project Runway. Don't believe me?
Preparation
Every episode starts with some sort of fashion challenge and the way the designers approach the challenge is an individual combination of market/ materials/ inspiration that mirrors the way writers start books.

Some people sketch and make a detailed list of fabrics, notions. (If they were writers, they'd be 'plotters.')

Some people go to Mood and find the perfect bolt of lime green crushed velvet and go off on a lime green cloud of inspiration. (Or 'pantsers' as we call them in Writer World.)

Everyone has their own style and methods but one thing you see from the contestants who make it to the top is they are confident in their craft. They are expert enough that they can be flexible and nimble when all of a sudden they have to make a day-to-night outfit for Heidi Klum's chihuahua. If they were a sketcher/ plotter,  they can still come up with a new plan on the fly. If they were winging it on a cloud of lime green velvet, they don't melt down when their yardage is insufficient.
In other words... no matter how they start their book, they are resourceful and talented enough to finish it, despite the challenges that arise.
Feedback 
Whether it is  Tim's feedback in the workroom or the judges' critiques on the runway, feedback on Project Runway is EVERYTHING, as it is in publishing too.
Think of the workroom feedback as what you receive from your critique group, or your agent. This is your opportunity to revamp,
pr-tim-3
...trash...
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...or back in their adoration.
pr-tim-4

You don't have to respond to their feedback (which I'll get into more, later) but you have to listen to it. And consider it. Because Tim Gunn isn't trying to screw anyone over. He wants the designers to succeed. As a mentor, that's his job.

The Runway critique is also super important. Think of Nina, Heidi and Zac as your editors and publishing professionals. If you watch Project Runway you'll see the difference between professionals and the amateurs (and it has nothing to do with how much money they make.) The professionals thank the judges for this:
pr-nina-2
and this..
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And even this...
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The Amateurs argue, get defensive, cry. The amateurs don't understand that Nina Garcia wants to find the next great designer to feature in Marie Claire. Zac Posen wants to see talent and innovation.  Heidi Klum wants to wear something edgy and sexy.
In other words, they want the best on the runway, just like publishing professionals want to be swept away, inspired by and make a lot of money off your book.
But they don't want to settle. And they don't want you to settle. And if you're arguing and pouting and crying about their critique, you're not grabbing the chance to learn how to be the best.
So learn the value in a professional critique and then blow them all away.
Editing
I've written an amazing blog post about editing here. But to really see how to work with an editor, watch when Tim comes into the workroom to give the designers his (always constructive) feedback. When Tim says, "rethink that" "needs editing" or even, "start over" the professionals do what he says. They rip seams apart, shred sleeves, chop hems. And the non-sewing people at home (like me) are shocked at the destruction - how could they? How will they ever make another dress?
But professional designers - and professional writers - know that there's nothing that can't be fixed. Your darlings may need to be sacrificed at the altar of Saggy Middles. You may have to start fresh. For non-fiction authors, I imagine that editing must be even harder - what do you mean, you don't think my story about my tenth birthday party is fascinating? That was the day I didn't get a pony!  How could anyone not want to learn about this rare Peruvian fern I researched for five months?
Designers and writers (heck, all creatives) must ask themselves what their goal is - a professional, cohesive, finished product?  Or that stray (yet beautiful) sub-plot about a meandering butterfly that's a metaphor for lost innocence?

I think you know what Tim Gunn would say.

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Voice/ Brand
These are two inter-related concepts that some writers really have a hard time understanding but I think if any writer watches Project Runway, they will eventually get it.
As the season goes on, you'll invariably hear the judges discuss a designer's point of view. Or their aesthetic.  Or whether "they have something to say as a designer."  By the time the final four are developing their collections, viewers have strong visuals of what a designer's voice or brand would look like.
Let's play a game with these three examples. Pretend each look in each photo is a book, written by the designer. Which writer would have a consistent voice and which wouldn't?

Yes.

 

Yes.

Er... maybe?

See what I mean?  And if you watch the whole season, paying attention to design choices and designer reactions to challenges, you'll soon see how a creative person should stay true to their vision and voice even when faced with creative and practical challenges.
How to Ignore the Noise
Maybe this is the most important thing for writers to learn from Project Runway.
It goes against a lot of what I've said.
And yet it doesn't.
Any successful designer on Project Runway has to, at some point, ignore the haters, Tim Gunn and yes, the judges.
Note I said: Successful. Not winning.  Not best-sellers.
There are successful designers who don't win. Who are sent home. But they walk away from the runway feeling confident, knowing they did their best work and stayed true to themselves.
Most of the successful designers don't win, actually, Because there can only be one winner. But winning isn't the coolest part of Project Runway, anyway.
The best part of this show are designs like this:
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A dress inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge shouldn't work. On paper, Nina would have worried about the "taste level."

But damn, that's cool. It's a dress that looks sort of like a bridge... but it's a dress! And yeah, it's kind of weird, but I've never seen a dress that looks like a bridge that's also kind of... sexy. Huh. Sexy bridges. Who knew?
And a dress that changes color in the rain? Could really make up for a bad hair day.
pr-rain-dress
These kinds of things aren't created unless a designer says, 'you know what? I'm going for it. I have the skill, the imagination and the ovaries to make something that's never been made before."
So yeah, sometimes you get some iffy feedback.
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You consider it. And then you go... nah.
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You say, I'm going to make the baddest LBD ever. That looks like a MF'ing umbrella. And it shouldn't work, but damn, it does.
pr-kini-umbrella
And it's a hot dominatrix umbrella. Sexy umbrellas?? Huh. Is that a thing? Who knew?
Because at the end of the day you would rather have a fierce dominatrix umbrella dress that's a little slutty than
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Am I right?
We're here to create! We're here to have fun!  We should participate in this crazy creative process with the diligence and professionalism that maximizes our ability to, um, sell books. But we should never forget that we each have a divine, unique, kaleidoscopic pilot light inside of us that we have to let shine.
pr-unicorns
So go, learn your craft. Do you. Make something, but don't be afraid to tear it up. Be professional.  Design the best, sluttiest unicorn dress out of lime green velvet that you can.
Go shine.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Project Runway or other reality television that's inspired you on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments down below!

On Editing.

I just turned in the second pass of edits for the first of my Love & War in Dallas series.  When I finished, I realized that this is a very hard process to explain to people (husbands, children) who don't understand why other hypothetical writing people  can't focus on anything (e.g., laundry, personal hygiene) until edits are done. So I thought I'd try to illustrate the editing process from a writer's point of view, using the magic of a new technology that captures the fundamental nature of human experience (GIFs).

By the way, this story will be told in third person, deep POV.  If you don't know what that is, well, I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful writer, Regina Falange, just going about her daily life.
tina amy walking

Then she gets an email from her editor, which is very exciting!

life is happening

Or it could contain horrible news. So the beautiful writer is waylaid by some important procrastinating.

andy 5 cats

 

But finally, Regina finds the time to open the e-mail and remains completely calm even while faced with what looks like a Dexter Morgan crime scene.

 

andy crying

 

First, Regina texts her  writer friends to let them know the good news!  They know exactly what to say.

there there

 

 

Regina also lets everyone on Twitter know that she will be #editing. As always, Twitter is totally supportive.

tina dont cry

After clearing her schedule, Regina sits down and gets ready to review her editor's notes. As with every good critique, Editor starts off with all that is right in the book.

love it

 

Then she points out  more positives!

no bad ideas

Then she makes a few teeny tiny suggestions to "polish" the document and get rid of the "rough edges."

leslie percent

Regina was calm and professional,

amy poehler really

And decided to get started on the minor tweaks her editor suggested.

tina fey food

50,000 calories later, Regina was a little overwhelmed by the challenges presented by re-writing a jillion words.

tina fall down

But then... after some more of this:

rashida straw

 

And going down some wrong-way streets:

baby hooker

Things started clicking. Light bulbs started to, you know, shine and stuff.  And suddenly, Regina looked at her editor's suggestions with a fresh appreciation.

literally greatest

 

And while it was hard, grueling, difficult, challenging, backbreaking work to think of synonyms for every word in the document, Regina got excited by what was happening.

andy excited

 

Regina tells herself that she knew what she was doing all along.

tina high five

And all her writer friends agreed that they knew she could do it all along.

tina amy high five

 

When she couldn't edit the hell out of that book anymore, she hit "send."

bitches

 

Regina felt invigorated by the whole, life-affirming process that reminded her why she wanted to write Happily Ever After stories to share with the world.

tina sleeping

THE END.

Author's Note:

The above story is fictional and bears no resemblance to anyone, living or dead, and especially not me, Lindsay Emory, who is a competent, professional, chill writer chick who really, really loves editing especially because it makes her beloved novel 1000% better.

Also, if you caught it, the above verb tenses were switched on purpose. For art. And reasons, OK? Geez. Let it go, already.

 

 

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