Tag Archives: revisions

Validation, Plot Lines and A Goal (Of Sorts)

I’ve started working on my fantasy WIP, ELEMENTAL, again. It’s the one I started a while back, and found myself writing not only from two viewpoints, first person and third person, but, somewhat to my horror, in two different tenses, too.

I had put the five scenes I’d written on the backburner, because in my worry about the two different tenses, I felt so much resistance to working on the story anymore.

But last week, I decided to send the scenes to my friend Jules. Jules is a writer and a reader, too; she reads voraciously, and has the same eclectic taste in fiction that I have. She had also recently read a book which had a narrative structure very similar to the one I’ve been playing with – the novel used both first person, present tense and third person, past tense – and she found the narrative structure very uncomfortable to read.

Which made her an ideal reader for the scenes I’d written. So I sent the pages off to her and waited for her critique.

In the meantime, I also had lunch with my daughter, Hayley. Hayley is not much of a reader, which I find somewhat astonishing as she’s a very good writer. I mentioned my WIP to her, she was interested, and I decided to give her my five scenes to read, too.

The results? Jules found the scenes worked well; the switches between the two very different viewpoints worked for her. She didn’t find them jarring the way she’d found the novel she’d read a while back to be jarring.

And Hayley read through my scenes in her thorough, methodical way, and when I asked her about the switch in viewpoint and tense, she said she hadn’t noticed.

Both of them were eager to read more, find out where all my little plot points would take the characters.

Validation! Now that I know the narrative structure isn’t a problem, at least not for two very different readers, my resistance to tackling this WIP has lifted. I tell you, it’s hard to write when in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “yes, but I’ll probably have to rewrite this in a totally different tense sometime down the road.”

So yes, I needed this information, this acceptance.

And ever since then, I’ve been inundated with plot lines. It’s all boiling together in a really epic way, and while I have no clue how all the twists will come together in the end, I want to find out what happens.

Every quiet moment I have, my storylines pop into my head and I learn even more.

It’s the best situation to be in, from a writing perspective.

Which brings me to my sort of goal. The fact is, I’m getting really tired of always being in the same position writing-wise. I’m tired of always wanting to write, but never having written. Of dreaming of writing, but never seriously doing it.

The first draft of NANTUCKET is still sitting there, waiting for me to work on it. And now ELEMENTAL is seriously calling to me, too. It feels like I’ve been in this situation forever, almost.

And so I’ve decided that I will just plunge in and get going. According to a friend of mine who does Chinese face reading and astrology, this year is my year for accomplishing the stuff I want to do. It’s my stellar year – and it ends this coming February, when I’m in for a year of relaxation, ease and delight.

I’m also knee deep in my busy period work-wise; ironically, it’s always when I’m most busy that I get my most serious urges to sit down and write. So I’m going to do that, make the writing a priority and make full use of all this writing energy that deadlines always provoke in me.

By the end of this year? I would love to have the first draft of this current WIP finished and yes, Nantucket finalized and ready to send forth into queryland. That’s my sort-of goal.

“Snip” – And There Go 33,000 Words …

Ouch.

I did my readthrough of WAVERLEY yesterday. I wasn’t entranced by the opening chapter, which will need a thorough re-write and in-depth trimming.

The rest of the beginning chapters were good for a first draft. I even had some nice character building going on. It was all a fairly good match to the movie that’s been playing in my head.

And then the tale began to go wonky. The vision I had then just doesn’t match the vision I have now.

The result? I kept 20,300 words. And there are three chapters which I will rewrite, so some of it will be salvaged. But the rest of the novel?

Ziiiiip. 33,000 words pitched into the Deleted Scenes file (for “just in case”).

The good thing is, I can start working on it again now. I know why I felt so stymied and unable to get back to the writing. Now everything is a whole lot clearer.

Now to see if I can pull this one off. WAVERLEY is a story that’s been near and dear to my imagination for quite a while now. When it went off track, it went majorly off track. But it’s back on track now.

I think. I hope!

This Is NANTUCKET

First draft of Nantucket

This is the first draft of NANTUCKET.

The manuscript weighs in at a hefty 123,336 words.

It’s also missing the last two scenes.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided that the best thing to do is to set the manuscript aside for 6 to 8 weeks; it will age and mature while I’m not looking, and then when I do my readthrough and cut out all the things that need to be cut, I will write the final two scenes.

As it stands, there are a lot of things that will need to be cut. For one thing, my end goal is a nice, trim 85,000 words. Also, I hadn’t wanted to revise as I wrote, so I made changes by writing subsequent scenes as if changes had already been written into the previous scenes. The result was a more enjoyable writing experience for me on the one hand, but on the other hand, because this is a mystery, there’s a lot still to be done during the revision process. I know there are several plot threads that aren’t followed as tightly as they should have been. Some of these threads might need to be dropped, as well.

And so I realized that my resistance to writing the final two scenes wasn’t some sort of psychological self-sabotage, but really just practical sense.

I didn’t want to sit down to write scenes that I knew would most likely have to undergo substantial changes. While I know the important things about the final two scenes – who the murderer is, how the murderer is caught, what happens to my main character as a result – there are a lot of things that I won’t be sure about until I’ve had a chance to read everything I’ve written up to that point, and cut what needs to be cut.

So I can safely say, this is definitely the first draft of NANTUCKET.

Yes, I’m finished!

On Writing: Writing Fast, Writing Slower

Today’s word count: 1,819 words

NANTUCKET total word count: 55,733 words

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words

I didn’t quite make my word count goal today, but it’s very late and I did finish two scenes. I also spent far longer than normal pulling these 1,819 words out of me, so I figured it was fine to stop since my daily one-hour goal was met.

Usually, it takes me about 40 minutes to write my 2000 words. I write very fast, and I don’t take any sort of special care with the words that spill out. I just type them out as I feel them in my mind, so no time is spent searching for the right words or the perfect turn of phrase. The words that tumble out tend to be utilitarian, fulfilling one basic need: getting the story down on paper.

I was glad, actually, to come across this post written by author Jay Lake for the Tor Books blog. I must admit, sometimes I think about how fast I write, and I worry a little about that, worry that it reflects badly on the quality of the words. But Jay Lake is also a fast writer, and he notes that “It’s just that I’m not writing fast, I’m drafting fast.” And that’s what I’m dong too. I’m drafting fast. I’m laying down a lot of words so I’ll have something to work with when I do all the shaping up that needs to be done during the revision stage.

I also caught this post today at Fran Caldwell’s Notebook, about writing speeds. It’s funny how things show up online when you’ve got something on your mind. Fran works differently than I do, in that she also revises as she goes, but just the same, while she’s drafting, it’s fast: “If my writing isn’t moving like a torrent, I become irritable. For me, revision can only come after those exuberant words have been poured out onto the pages en masse.”

I’ve decided the best thing to do when I start thinking about my writing speed is to keep in mind Anne Lamott’s words in Bird by Bird about shitty first drafts:

Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

As to why today was a lot slower (it took me an hour and seven minutes today to get those 1,819 words out): I decided today that I absolutely had to go back and write some of the missing scenes. There was, in particular, one quite pivotal one involving a major discovery, and it just needed to be written. But like I discussed in this post about writing chronologically, I’m not as comfortable going back and writing scenes out of chronological sequence, and this discomfort slowed me down a bit.

Either way, whether I write fast, and doubt the value of the words because I’m writing so fast, or I write slower, and doubt the value of the words because of the discomfort of pulling each one out, I’m working on that shitty first draft.

I’m okay with that, I think.

On Writing: My “Writing Baggage”

Today’s word count: 2,437 words

NANTUCKET total word count: 51,398 words

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words (no movement there)

I must admit, seeing NANTUCKET creep over 50,000 words feels very good! I’m feeling very into the story right now, and setting down the first two chapters of HARPER seems to have satisfied my need there for now.

Today I’ve been thinking about revisions. Mainly, about how I’m so glad I have the revision process still waiting for me.

I think there are a lot of places in NANTUCKET so far where I have people talking to each other just for the sake of talking. In most cases, after they do all their yammering with each other, I’m able to get them to where they need to be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

They might not have shown up in the right place at the right time otherwise. So on the one hand, I’m very grateful that all that talking helped me to get them there. And I have found out some pretty interesting things that I didn’t know about before they started their chats with each other.

But on the other hand, I don’t even want to think about how much of that dialogue is so meaningless – with no point, except that my characters obviously love to hear the sound of their own voices.

Even though I’m just laying down this story as it comes to me, too much dialogue seems to my own particular “writing baggage”. I feel much better knowing that I will be able to get rid of that baggage come revision time.

Do you have any “writing baggage”? I haven’t finished a first draft of a novel before, so I’m assuming I’ll be just fine cutting away big chunks of unwanted baggage. Am I dreaming here? Have you found it easy or hard to hack away at your first drafts?

On Writing: The Urge to Revise

Today’s word count: 1924 words

NANTUCKET total word count: 44,497 words

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words

I didn’t work on HARPER today. But I’m just 76 words short of my 2,000 word target, so I’m happy enough with that.

I’ve been fighting the urge to go back and revise both of my current writing projects. With NANTUCKET, I keep writing down new things that necessitate changing previously written sections.

Examples: I realize a character whom I had slotted to play a minor role is actually going to play a much larger role. Certain conversations don’t make sense anymore because of new directions that emerge as I’m writing. My two main police characters have changed their personalities somewhat, right down to a new nickname that other cops apply to both of them. None of these changes are reflected in the earlier scenes.

I think this must be one of the pitfalls of just going with the flow and not having a detailed outline. As I type and the story continues to emerge, the entire thing is incredibly fluid and flexible. What I write today has a profound effect on how the past needs to be.

I’m satisfying myself by scribbling down all the things I will need to change, and trusting that when it comes time to revise, I’ll catch all of the changes that need to be made.

With HARPER, I’ve been having an annoying time with the tense of some of the chapters. The story is told in alternating first person and then third person narrative. I started with the first person narrative in past tense, but I find I have to consciously keep it there, or I lapse almost immediately into present tense.

So of course, I decided yesterday that this was a sign that the first person narrative is better told in present tense. And now I’m itching to go back and fix up what I’ve written, and make the tense consistent.

I’m not letting myself do that either.

I’ve heard of authors who write a page a day, and spend the rest of the day polishing that page until it’s perfect. The next day, they write the next page, and revise it until it’s perfect. Other authors just aim to get the entire story down, and then revise the story from beginning to end.

When you’re writing, do you stop and revise as you go? Or do you get the whole story down first, and then go back to revise?