Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prose from the Pros #4: Revisions


The first draft of my novel has carefully climbed out of my filing cabinet, breathing fresh air from atop my writing desk. Reading through the story, it’s become painfully apparent my novel-writing skills are lacking.

As a novice writer, I’m faced with an opening without an inciting incident and a contrived ending. I’m tossing around the idea of telling the story from a different POV, and the villain is changing.  I should invest in a wig now while all my hair is still attached to my head.  

What’s known at this point is that the novel is crap. My job, now, is to turn this steaming pile into a coherent and suspenseful mystery novel. I just hope I have to strength to see this to the end.  I’m lost on where to start or what to do, so I’m turning to some inspirational words of wisdom.     

The following quotes are taken from the article "Rev Up Your Revision With 4 Simple Strategies" in the January 2010 issue of Writer's Digest. I hope they provide the same guidance they did for me while you revise your WIP.  

1.  Ask yourself at the opening of every chapter or scene:    

"What exactly happens here, and how does it surprise my character or offer some new perception to the reader?"

-       Every fight, conversation, or silent moment of reflection should move the story to a new place.

2.  “Be on the alert in your own work for long paragraphs consisting of backstory, physical description and character analysis. The information in such passages may be necessary, but unless you sprinkle in memorable scenic elements—snippets of dialogue, little clips of movement—your readers might lose patience.”

What advice do you turn to when you revise?


Michael Offutt said...

I think you may be too close to your manuscript. You need another pair of eyes to take a look at it because there's only so much that you can rip apart a shirt and sew it back together again before all the threads disintegrate into dust.

D U Okonkwo said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. First drafts. second drafts, third and fourth drafts are notoriously aweful It can take months t edit a novel. It sounds like you put it away for a while after writing it, which is the best thing to do.

The editing stage is what makes a novel. It's where the real writing begins. The fact that yo can see things that you need to improve tells me that you have the key skills needed to be a great writer. If you were happy with your first draft that would be cause for concern!

Take it one day at a time and your manuscript will shine. As the famous quote goes, 'writing is like hair, it shines with combing :)

Michael Offutt said...

It disturbs me that D U Okonkwo rolled fourth draft off the end of the keyboard so easily. I think I've done maybe three drafts...that's it. Ahh well. I sent in a query letter today. We'll see how that goes (done by email).

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