Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Out of the Slough of Despond

I recently fell into the Slough of Despond. Or maybe it was the Pit of Despair. In any case, it was a dark, cold place with no up. I fell in suddenly and unexpectedly. The cause? I found out that when I wrote my novel, I hadn't followed any of the rules. Everyone else seemed to know the rules. I hadn't even realized that there were rules. Therefore, my novel must be crap. (And here I had been so satisfied with my first draft, so certain that the next step was simply to put some time into the manuscript revisions and I would have a substantial work.) There was no light anywhere.

Suspended there, motionless, directionless, and quite grumpy, I had my first insight. Perhaps one reason that I had not been proceeding with revising my novel in a timely way was that I was unsure of how to go about doing so. So, as much as I am always tempted to thumb my nose at "the rules" (I don't like rules), I reasoned (in the murky kind of way that one thinks in dark hopeless places) that I should take a closer look at some of those rules that other people follow to see if I could find some tools or strategies that might help me with my revisions.

Hmm, a faint sickly sort of light above me; I clawed my way upward. I inspected tools and rewriting advice: character grids, plot and subplot structure, archetypes, core stories. I began to analyze my manuscript in a structural way, similar to how I might approach a literary analysis of any other writer's work. Rather than "crap," I discovered interesting complexities of plot, character relationships, symbols, and social commentary there in the manuscript already, along with some flaws that had been invisible to me previously.

And now I'm out of the hole, back in the light, working through additional steps of analysis. I'm almost ready to start a beginning-to-end reread/manuscript markup. I'm not following anyone's exact prescription, but taking bits and pieces that fit my revision needs. And the next step after that, I think, will be to actually start rewriting the thing, with all my new ideas about character arcs and motives, plot points, etc. to guide me and my battered ego.

1 comment:

  1. Aw, I'm sorry about the hard hit to your inner writer--but I'm glad to hear you found the light at the end of the tunnel. Your rewrite plan/strategies sound very good!

    All the best with it.