Posts Tagged ‘revision’

I promised I would report back when I’d gone through the second quarter of my manuscript, so here I am.

The good news is that the writing improves as I move through the book.  This makes sense.  Although I didn’t write the first draft in a strictly linear fashion, I did move generally from beginning to end, with lots of jumping around.  I’d expect that my writing would improve with practice, and that appears to have happened.

This is especially good for me to know, because it means there is a high likelihood that whatever I write next will be better than this first manuscript.  And the thing I write after that will be better still.  This is what is keeping me sane right now, where my writing is concerned.  If I had no hope of improvement, I would be listing all my writing books on ebay right now.

But it’s not all good news, folks.  The manuscript stinks.   I’m not being hard on myself–I realize that there are a few lovely, redeeming passages. But as a whole, it needs a tremendous amount of work.

Some of the problems would be funny if they didn’t make me want to cry.  Repetitive gestures, for example. The people in my novel are very keen on lifting, raising and arching their eyebrows.  They also do a lot of deep breathing when they get stressed, and when they’re thinking, they do a lot of things “in silence.”  (Ok,  I’m about to choke, it’s so embarrassing.  At least I can see it, though, right?)

All of those things, pitiful as they are, probably wouldn’t be that hard to fix.  I can change gestures.  I can find other ways to demonstrate that my characters are stressed or thinking hard before answering a question. But there are bigger problems.

Point of view — I’m not a big head-hopper, so that’s good.  But I have a more subtle and devious problem.  A large part of my manuscript is written in a very distant third person.  What I mean is that while I only enter the thoughts of one character in any given scene, the writing doesn’t focus deeply on that one character’s perspective.  A lot of it is like watching things play out from no one’s point of view.  A distant POV makes it hard for a reader to identify strongly with a character.  And this particular problem will take a lot of work to fix.  So there’s that.

I also need to put more into characterization.  I know these people very well–I know who they are and what makes them tick.  But a lot more needs to be done to let the reader know them as well as I do–more characterization through action.

There are other things, people who need to be introduced sooner, little technical or logical problems that would be fairly easy to fix.

I feel like I have a better grasp now on what needs to be done.

Now I just have to decide what I’m going to do — Set this one aside?  Start something new?  Buckle down and fix it?  I’m actually considering taking a vacation from writing.  I’ll make a post about that next time.


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I have a little list of blog topics, a few drafts saved to polish up.  But this post was completely unplanned. It arose last night as I went through the first fifty pages of my 200+ page manuscript.

I’ve already done one major revision — I rearanged the scenes to get the main conflict started sooner, and I’ve cut out some scenes that didn’t advance the plot. Then I went through from beginning to end trying to clean up the prose.

So why all of a sudden the urge to trash it?  Part of the problem is that I’ve worked on it so slowly, looking at only a tiny chunk at a time — usually less than a chapter at any one sitting. I wrote it that way, and I’ve been editing it that way. I’ve been working on it like that for about five years. I’m a mommy — I’ve been squeezing it in where I could.

Now that I’m sitting down to read through a big section at one time, I see so many things that need to be fixed!  There are characterization issues, POV issues, plot issues — the story doesn’t propel itself forward like it should.

Part of the problem, no doubt, is that I’ve learned a lot about craft since I started on this story.  But I really think the biggest problem is the way I wrote it.

When I started crafting the story, I had a list of scenes that I knew had to happen. (Or at least, I wanted them to happen — several of those are gone now.) But I didn’t work from beginning to end, creating a logical sequence of one event that fed into another.  I wrote whatever scene I felt like writing at the time.  I thought it was a good strategy, and in truth the book probably still wouldn’t be finished if I didn’t let myself jump around in the first draft.

But what I’ve ended up with is a bunch of disconnected scenes — not one smooth story.

Can it be fixed? Probably.  But I’m not nearly as close to being finished with it as I thought. I think that’s the main source of discouragement at this point.  I thought I was closer to being done.  I’m about to tackle batch number two — pages 51-104.  (I thought I’d try to end the second batch at a chapter break.)

I’ll let you know If it looks any more salvageable after I finish this batch.

What do you do when you look at something you’ve written, and it’s awful?  Ok — maybe not totally awful, but in need of major surgery?

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