I am really enjoying reading Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft. It feels positive and warm and makes me think I can really do this thing. And it led me to a lightbulb moment. While reading, I realized that I am always trying to rush through the new things I try. I try to grab the highlights and put them to use because I feel like I don’t have time to take things slowly and do them thoroughly.
This is something I’ve known, at least semi-consciously. But today for some reason it became clear and was suddenly right in my face. I need to slow down. I need to do this work with attention and awareness and no rushing. I need to do it like a nice slow stretch in the morning. I need to commit.
So, new goals for the next while. I’m going to actually do the exercises–all of the exercises–in The Last Draft. A little at a time. Actually writing them down in my novel notebook. I’m going to do this as fully as I can and see what I can do for my story. No more rushing. No more feeling like I don’t have enough time–all of these time limits and constraints are things I’ve put on myself. I will take the time it needs. I will see the experiment through to the end. Then I will take the parts that work best for me and move forward. But first I’m going to try all the parts.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m still working on reading through my story and making notes on where more info is needed. I’m trying to get through it quickly so it doesn’t fade too much. I’m hoping doing it fast will help me remember which sections I thought were going to need more info or added scenes while I was writing.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been thinking about how to proceed after this read-through. I plan to have that done by the end of December 31, and then the story is going to need some time to rest before I start revisions. I’m planning to let it rest through January.
While it’s resting (okay, I’ve already started this), I’m going to read up on good ways of revising a novel. Since this is the first time I’ve actually gotten to the end of a long work, this is going to be my first try at revising one. I’m thinking the first pass will be to go through and add in the scenes and info from the notes I’m making right now. That should give me a more complete first draft to work with. After that part, though, I’m not sure how to proceed. So, research time!
I’m also trying to figure out how to do revisions and write at the same time. Are you really supposed to stop writing while you’re revising something? That doesn’t feel right to me.
I’d love to hear about any methods (books, workshops, anything) that other writers use for their revisions. And I’d really love to hear how you balance writing and revising.
I hope everyone’s having a great writing week!
Stage two. STAGE TWO! Can you believe it? I wrote a book. A whole book, all the way to the conclusion!
I think I’m more excited now than I was last week. It’s finally really sinking in, and my excitement has grown. This thing is finished! It is complete enough to be doing revisions. I had actually given up on getting here. I have had so many attempts that I never finished. I kind of thought that was my thing–think of a story, do some planning, write some of it, move on to the next. But now I have actually completed a novel (okay, novella for now).
I gave myself a couple of days off, and now I am following my plan and reading at least four pages a day and making notes. I’m trying to not think about how I will fix the things I’m making notes on. It’s working some of the time.
I was a little worried that I would have a hard time keeping on the four-page schedule, but so far I’m finding it pretty easy. I even did six pages yesterday. I think I really will be finished with this part by the end of the year. And I’m going to wait until this part is finished before I plan for what comes next. Small steps, small steps!