Learning Curve

I am discovering that revision of a long piece is an entirely different creature than revising a short story or writing new words. And I have to give myself time to learn this and make mistakes and try again. So I’m throwing the idea of time schedules out the window for now. My goal is to work on this regularly, interspersed with days of doing writing practice so that I feel like I’m still getting writing done. Because this revision thing, while necessary for writing,does not feel to me like getting writing done.

I picked up a new book yesterday to help me learn this revision thing: The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield. My first impression is that the first section of the book, which is more than half the book, is more educational and less specific to working on a particular manuscript. Skimming through it at the bookstore I saw a lot in there that I think I can make use of, so I’m looking forward to digging in further.

That’s about it for the moment. I’m still plugging away at this revision and am determined to figure out how to do this with a long story. Looking forward to seeing what I learn from my new book–I’ll keep you posted.

Steps

Photo by Nic Low on Unsplash

I feel like I’m moving a bit. I’ve been doing a lot of writing practice and a lot of contemplating about my revisions, and I think I’m starting to see some story shapes. I still don’t quite know what I’m doing, but I don’t feel like I’m going to be stuck forever, so something must be shifting. I am going to proceed as I have been, although I’m going to make a push to read and review some of my resources this week to stir my ideas.

I’m also thinking of something possibly a little goofy. When I revise a short story, I just start retyping it. What if, when I finish marking off the scenes in the story, I just start retyping each one? I don’t know if that will make any of the deeper changes that I need, though. That might just tighten up the language and make it prettier. And while that’s not awful, that’s not all I need. Still, I’m thinking about this and wondering if it would be useful. We’ll see.

Molasses

Lately things seem to be moving slowly, and sometimes not at all. Everything seems to be having glitches and setbacks and oddities. This post, for instance…this is take three because when I add the photo it messes up the alignment and puts all of the text above the image no matter what I do.

I almost didn’t write a post to check in for ROW80. I thought about just checking in on the Facebook page, but I haven’t posted here in a bit, so I really thought I should. And way past the time when the post should have been done, I am still fighting with my layout.

Writing is mostly writing practice and reading through downloads and things from classes I’ve taken, looking at books I have, stuff like that. I’m still trying to get a feel for how to approach a novel-length revision.

This is a lot different than a short story. I can hold an entire short story in my mind. Revisions involve making notes on the printed text and then retyping the story making changes as I go. Sometimes it just involves retyping because I can’t retype without changing things.

I’m not pushing myself to work on a schedule right now. I feel like I’m in a learning phase, so I’m just moseying along. I wish I didn’t keep hitting these weird sticky spots, though. I’d love it if things would just go smoothly, thank you very much and I hope there’s someone/thing out there listening!

Getting Started

Image

A messy first draft

Starting the revision process in earnest. I have my manuscript (it sounds so official that way!), index cards, sticky notes, and pens. I’ve started by marking the beginning and end of each scene (an idea I had that was then reinforced by something I read from Martha Alderson). Next, completely from an idea from Martha Alderson, I’m going to give each scene a title and write each one on its own index card. After that, I’ll figure out my next best steps.

Last night I met with my writing group. They had really great ideas for resources to help me make my traps in the story scarier and more dangerous. Now as I’m going through the story I’ll be figuring out where I can use some of my new ideas. I think it’s progress. I think I have to remember to focus on the tasks at hand and wait until I’m there to start fretting about the next things.

Schedule Thoughts

Time for another ROW80 check-in already! This week has been a little slow for writing work because I had a lot of other things going on, but I’ve done some character journals and really feel like I finally know these people in my story. I’m trying not to be dismayed at how much I’m going to need to change to make them show up on the page now. At least I have solid characters to do that work with, right?

I’ve been reading the plotting book, too. One of the things I have always liked about Holly Lisle’s writing about writing is how it makes me feel like I can do this thing. She doesn’t act like if you follow certain steps things will be easy. She acknowledges that there will be plenty of hard parts, but she still makes it all sound so doable. I love that!

This week I’m going to finish at least reading through the rest of the character course. I want to see if anything else pops up for me from reading it. Right now I feel like I know enough about my characters to do a better job of telling their story. So I’m going to get my index cards and sticky notes ready, print out “Haunt” as it stands right now, and get ready for some revisions. Feeling almost ready for that now.

Almost Time

I’m still working through the Holly Lisle character book/class. I’ve started reading the plotting class, too. I am really liking the new ideas that are springing up!

I am having to remind myself that slow is fine and I don’t need to know all the changes and additions I need for my revisions right now. And I don’t have to do it all this week. My impatience is trying to make me feel like I’m not doing enough, but I am.

I’m getting a better feel for my characters and my story world. I’m getting interested in it again. And I’m right on schedule to start the actual revisions the weekend of the 20th. It’s a little sooner than the six weeks I’ve seen recommended, but I’ve also seen just one month recommended, and this will be just over a month. I feel like I’ll have enough distance from the story at that point.

 

Kicking Things Off

We’re back to writing at ROW80. Right now, I’m not actually writing a lot, at least not story writing. I’m doing character building work right now, mostly from Holly Lisle’s character clinic, but also from a few other sources I’ve gathered over my years of obessively collecting articles and books on writing.

I’m about a third of the way through the book/class, and I’m really liking the work I’ve been doing. I like the questions she uses and the methods, but the best part has been that as I’m reading it’s been sparking ideas for my characters. I realized my characters are younger than I thought, and I know what’s important to them and why, and I know enough about their personalities to know where they’ll clash. And all of this has sparked ideas for additions and changes I want to make when I dive into my rewrites.

I’ve decided that I’m going to at least read Holly Lisle’s plot clinic before I start those rewrites. I’m getting so much out of the character work that I feel like the plot information might spark even more good ideas for the story.

I was kind of worried in December that my story was too shallow and really didn’t have anything to grab hold of and work with, but that’s starting to change. Looking forward to more ideas that will help me shape it into something readable.

Goals!

It’s time for 2018 Round 1 of ROW80–it starts tomorrow. That means it’s time for a goals post. Which is almost the same as goal post, which is very sportsy and makes me want to cheer. So, GOALS!

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what my goals are because I don’t know how long some of them are going to take. This round will take us into March. I know by then I’ll be working on revisions, but I don’t know exactly when I’ll be starting on that. I just know that it will be sometime this round, and that’s probably good enough, at least for the moment.

My first goal is to work through Holly Lisle’s Create a Character Clinic. I’ve been doing a little bit of character work during the break, but I want to get a clearer picture of my people and really get to know them so I can get their personalities to come out better in the story.  I’m going to work on this 4 or 5 days a week, at least 15 minutes or 300 words worth of work (depending on what the tasks are).

After I’ve worked through the characters clinic, I’m going to start revisions. I don’t know what steps I’m going to use for this yet. I have some articles to read through with tips on how to revise, so hopefully I’ll have a plan by the time I get there.

Those are my writing goals right now. I am reminding myself that I don’t need more. This is enough. This will move me forward, and that’s what I’m aiming for. So this is where I start.

Pause

Today I finished the read-through and note taking of “Haunt,” just in time for the final 2017 check-in for ROW80.

I’m planning to not do much of anything before the next round. Mostly some reading and playing with character sheets. It’s the end of the year, and I like to spend this time dreaming and writing and making lists, and I plan to do just that.

I am reining myself in and not doing plans or outlining or anything for the next 11 days. I can already tell this is going to be hard. I am really worried about losing my momentum, because that happens to me a lot. But I have a specific plan of what steps are coming next, and I know when I’m going to start them, so this time really is different. I will remind myself of that often and fill my time with other pursuits, and I am going to pick this story back up and do the next steps without months in between!

Meanwhile, while I let the story stew, I’m going to plan my 2018 year-long embroidery project. More about that later, though. More about all the plans after some time to pause.

Looking Ahead

I love this time of year. I love the planning bug that hits me every time the calendar is about to change. I love the possibilities of a brand new calendar. This time, though, my writing work is coinciding with the change of years, and it feels good. New year, new part of the work to do. I’m not just continuing writing an in-progress story. I’m starting a whole new part of the writing process.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the “Haunt” read-through, which feels like a wrap-up of the first draft more than an actual part of the revision process for some reason. I’m about 3/4 of the way finished with it. It’s kind of fitting that I’m hitting the end of this part of my plans just in time for the end of this round of ROW80. I just hope I’m going to be ready for something new when the next round starts.

To help with that, here are more plans for the ROW80 break:

  • Study revision techniques
  • Character building (my three characters are too similar)
  • Make a list in one place of next steps
  • Pick a date for starting revisions
  • Possibly do a loose narrative-style outline of the story as it stands to help find the holes and weak spots

Okay, now I feel a little more ready to tackle whatever’s coming next in this writing life.