Friday, January 28, 2011

Revision: Beyond Procrastination

Revision, dreaded revision.

Writing the first draft of my novel was fun. I cannot say that it was hard to write it at all. That is not to say that the story just flowed onto the screen. I struggled over sections and got stuck in plot dead-ends. Certain parts didn't work quite right; I wasn't happy with them and not sure how to fix them. But I was happy to sit down to the story and write. Finding enough time to commit to writing was the only hard part (busy life, blah, blah, blah).

But for a year now, I have been in limbo, avoiding getting started on revising. (Moreover, I haven't let myself start writing something else either, knowing that is one of the tricky strategies my procrastinator self uses to get out of things -- like REVISING.)

In November, I began to recognize that some aspects of the manuscript needed work, thanks to a brief but helpful critique from Robert Ray. Although I have read many inspirational books on writing in the past, I began to seek out nuts-and-bolts writing books and websites. I have been reading about plot, subplots, character arcs, back story, building suspense, and so on. And I am finally getting down to working on the revisions.

Here is the good news.
  • I have a complex, layered story.
  • I have a good character arc for my protagonist that starts on page one and runs through to the last sentence.
  • My main antagonist is well-rounded with a good character arc (although his exit still needs a bit of work).
  • I have tension-building secrets and multiple subplots.
  • I have a three act structure (with a twist).
  • I have made good use of different character POVs and differentiated the characters' voices.
But here is the bad news.
  • Much of the first half of Act 1 takes place inside the main protagonist's head.
  • By having my protagonist recount, remember, and think about things, I am telling rather than showing, and it is sloooowwww.
  • I need action, dialogue, and conflict (not just angst)
  • In many sections (e.g., the opening), the ms. lacks vivid word pictures to place the characters in the setting and show what they look like and what they are doing.
  • My protagonist's core motivation is not clear.
  • I have far too many flashbacks and have fallen prey to the dreaded info-dump
That means that I have a lot of rewriting to do.

But at least now I have a better grasp of the task that I face, my revision objectives, and some tools to work with.

Ah, revision. It actually feels better to have finally started revising (even though there are way more troubles than I initially thought, which is as depressing as hell) than it felt to be: a) fooling myself that hardly any revisions were needed (blush); b) realizing that some revisions were needed but avoiding getting started on them; c) in despair that the entire manuscript was unsalvageable; and then d) wanting to revise but having no idea what to do and how.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gust of Wind

This oil painting by Melanie Rocan was published in Room Magazine, a wonderful literary and art magazine published by a women's publishing collective in Vancouver, British Columbia. Check out the artist and the journal.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mildew Writing Exercise

Today I did a writing exercise. The goal was to write a story of 100 words or less that included the words mildew, snooze, scandal, jasper, and flare. My effort is below:

Eileen groped for the snooze button. Her eyes popped open. Silver dust motes danced in light from the uncurtained window. She hurried to shower, noticing again the chipped sink, running toilet, and mildew around the tiles. The landlord’s rate for these shabby digs was a scandal. She dressed in thrift store duds: short cream blazer with a back flare, chocolate brown wool pants, knotted beige scarf, and some dead woman’s low-heeled pumps. Finally, she placed her grandmother’s jasper ring on her left ring finger where the wedding ring wasn’t. She planned to ace the interview; she needed the job.

It was useful, I suppose, to stretch my mind around incongruous words that do not belong together -- an enjoyable diversion. I also had fun last night reading through my old poems. Next goal -- those revisions!