Writing It In, Writing It Out

It’s been quiet on the blog for a couple days. I’m thick into revisions now, and it’s a whole other place to be. A place not conducive to writing something new, like a blog entry. My brain is in critical mode, cutting, pasting, and rewriting mode, and it has no time for the passion and excitement of creating something fresh. Maybe that’s why there’s so little information from authors and others about the process of revision, how to do it–because when you’re in it, it’s hard to write about. And when you’re done, maybe you’re just glad to be done. There is this, though, and it’s pretty good:

The best bit starts at 5:15 to about 6:20.

It’s funny to me how people who are accomplished in something tend to think that whatever method they use is THE way to do it. Even though a hundred other accomplished people do it differently. There’s a lot of “This is how you must” and “You really have to” in that clip, but whatever. I don’t do it the way those authors do, except that I do cut quite a lot on the first rewrite. Here’s what I’ve done so  far:

  • I dove right into revisions within hours of finishing the final scene of the first draft. No setting it aside for me. I get the point of setting it aside, and I also don’t think it’s necessary for everyone right away. I will probably get some distance from it after the first set of rewrites, or when I send it out for beta, but for now I’m making progress and it’s working, so I’m going with it.
  • I revised five chapters in quick succession, within a few days.
  • I handed them to my sons and my husband to read.
  • They loved them. Carey compared the chapters favorably to several published authors and said “It’s riveting” and “I want more.”
  • Encouraged, I plowed forward on a couple more chapters and handed them off.
  • Carey said, “Hm.” I said, “What.” He said, “Not AS good.” I said, “Crap.”
  • We spent three hours talking through what was wrong and why, and what it needs. I love my husband. We figured out that the main problem is that I didn’t have any idea what one of the main characters was even doing in the book, why she was even there. She was just a place holder with a cardboard personality. Amazing that Carey could already see that, from that one chapter, when I didn’t even realize it. Hm.
  • I spent two days figuring out where the major plot points are, and what that character is doing, who she is and why she belongs in the story (I seriously considered cutting her out, or subsuming her under another character, but in the end she earned her way back in). Fleshed out another supporting but important character.
  • Began a re-write of the chapter that was most “hm”-worthy. Didn’t get far, but at least I know where it’s going.
And that’s where I am now.

It’s not exactly fun. There’s no growing word count. No “Look how much progress I made” chart. No: Look, I wrote 1200 words today go me! Also, I totally don’t identify with Sinead Moriarty. She talks as though her revision process involves a series of minor tweaks and occasionally she has to rewrite something. There is nothing minor, nor tweakish, about my revision process.

You must begin in confidence and revise in persistence.

(I don’t remember where I read that, sorry–ping me if you know the citation.) Today I only wrote 300 words. Yesterday, none at all, unless you count penciled notes on plot points. And I’ve deleted more than I’ve put in. My draft is shrinking.

I have created copious amounts of supporting materials, however. There’s now a pencil-written outline, with a list of scenes. A “character sheet” (HP, Constitution, armor class, etc.–no, not really) for each of four characters (more are coming). And a separate pull-out document containing the first part of a re-write on that really sucky scene.

I guess that’s why Carlo Gebler’s comments on Hemingway, in that clip above, hit me today. It’s comforting to think the reader will just know. 

Are you in revisions on anything right now? How do you approach it? Any words of wisdom to help me through?