I am in the throes of editing my first novel. I’ve never done this before. I’ve written a first draft…numerous times. But I have never gone back through and cleaned it up to make it spit-shined, polished, and ready for the world.
My thoughts on the process? Editing sucks.
I finished my draft, read through the whole thing from beginning to end, and focused on the high-level changes that thought I needed to make. And about ¼ of the way into my first chapter, I was so overwhelmed by my perceived flaws that I didn’t think they were surmountable. I was ready to toss the whole story and start over. At a minimum, I wanted to play the avoidance game, doing such things as scrubbing tile grout or watching repeat episodes of The Queen while eating lots of chocolate.
It was bad. Continue reading
This past week, I’ve been struggling with a side project, which is actually yet another revision of an old project, the Women’s Fiction manuscript I wrote during our McDaniel classes. The book is complete. It’s been through beta readers and revisions. It even made the rounds to a few agents and was roundly rejected. There was a lot of positive feedback in those rejections, but some negative comments as well. And the kicker was that story aspects some readers saw as positives and even loved, others saw as negatives.
Over the months of those rejections, I slowly (and painfully) made peace with the possibility that this book just wasn’t going to connect with publishing gatekeepers. Maybe someday I’d self-publish it, maybe not, but either way, other projects and deadlines and career choices called.
While I was finally ready to pack that old story into a drawer, my brain had other plans. I’d be happily immersed in 1870’s London with my new cast of characters when the three modern women from a rural Virginia town would take over my mind’s limited bandwidth. I’d be catching up with writing friends and discussing current projects, and my conversation would drift back to that old manuscript and we’d ponder what its fatal flaw might be.
The final straw came when I dreamed about the book. I spend a lot of time thinking and daydreaming about my characters and plot lines. I also tend to have vivid dreams. But rarely do these two things intertwine. I almost never dream about my writing projects. This story was different. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t quit it.
To end the constant interruptions, I decided to carve out a few hours of each day’s writing time to reread that old story in an attempt to figure out where it went wrong and whether I could rescue it. What better place to start than at the beginning? Continue reading
‘Choose your battles’ isn’t only advice for the parents of teenagers. It can also be useful for writers. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know I’m a big fan of Robert McKee’s Story. In Story, McKee writes, “Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.”
McKee and many other writers contend that scenes are, by definition, units of conflict. Approaching scenes with this in mind has helped me cut through a lot of crap in my own WIP. When I did the first revision, I marked every scene where there was no conflict, defining conflict as one character having a goal and another (either intentionally or unintentionally) blocking that goal. My litmus test for every scene was whether it moved the story or one or more characters forward. And hearkening back to McKee, without conflict, there was no forward momentum. So no conflict, no dice – the scene was cut.
If the idea of putting conflict into Every. Single. Scene. freaks you out, try thinking about conflict differently. Continue reading
A pretty heaving editing job on one of my scenes.
Take a look at that image to the left. Go ahead…click on it. Make it BIG. I’ll wait.
Done looking? Tell me, does it look familiar? Well, not familiar in that you wrote it or anything, but familiar with all the scratch-ups, rewrites, highlights, arrows, lines, numbers, and copy editing symbols? I’m going to assume, even if you don’t edit on paper like I do, that your answer is Continue reading
Several weeks ago I told you about my color-coded approach to revising my WIP, working title My Girls. I also promised to share that revised first scene with you, but then there were technical difficulties and malware issues and corrupt files and…and…and…you get the picture. Like the plucky heroines we love in our stories, I doggedly remained upbeat and hopeful that I’d recover my file with all those beautiful revisions, until the sad day when that all went to hell. Then there were self-pity parties which may or may not have included binge eating ice cream while standing over the kitchen sink.
But all that’s behind me now as I finally bit the bullet and rewrote the revisions. As previously promised, you get to share in the joy. Continue reading