Day 237 – Am I in revising hell?

Day two hundred thirty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Am I in revising hell? Some days it feels like I am because in all honesty, I’d rather be writing. Writing is an exercise that allows one to stretch her legs and push herself to her limits, pulse a-ticking and mind a-blaze. Revising is…well, to me revising feels like the equivalent of the timer watching the clock on the sidelines, starting and stopping play.

It’s no wonder, then, that I have not been inclined to blog as often while in this revision phase. Motivation has been waning and I have not been spending as much daily time on my book like I was when I was writing. Is there something I can do to make this revision phase better? Does anyone have tips on how to make it more enjoyable than it actually is?

Day 233 – Narrowing the revision lens

Day two hundred thirty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Revising and rewriting is much more difficult than I anticipated. I’m too often squabbling over minor things, reluctant to take out parts that probably should be removed, and unsure of ways to make a chapter better. It has been overwhelming, really, so I have been searching for ways to improve the process. Finally, I think I found a solution.

Instead of revising by chapter, I have narrowed my focus to revise by paragraph. I ask myself several questions with each paragraph, picking my way through in small bites. It is no longer overwhelming. Bringing my lens closer has also allowed me to not get bogged down in trying to create a perfect 2nd draft. I have to remind myself: Make a pass and remember that you will need to make more passes before it is done. Just make a pass, one paragraph at a time.

These are the questions I have come up with to work on each paragraph:

  1. Is the paragraph necessary to move the story forward? If it isn’t, get rid of it.
  2. Does the paragraph serve its purpose to convey information to the reader in a clear way? If it doesn’t, revise it.
  3. Is the information in the paragraph consistent with the plot? If it isn’t, get rid of it or rewrite it to fit the plot.
  4. Does the paragraph keep the readers attention? If not, rewrite it.
  5. Does the writing in the paragraph keep a smooth flow and rhythm, connecting well with the previous paragraph? If not, revise it.

Whether this method works for everyone is doubtful, but so far, it works for me. In fact, it may be just what I need to get to a finished manuscript.

Day 230 – Back into the rewrite

Day two hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m back. Back into the rewrite. I did some other writing for a bit, but began to again feel that niggling urge to get up to my elbows in revising my first draft. And I must say, it feels good to get back at it.

I’m revisiting the second half of Chapter 3 with purpose in mind to make changes to the plot. So far, so good. It’s even a little exciting. I have discovered that plot changes have that effect on me. With renewed creative energy, I look forward to working on it some more tomorrow.

Day 224 – It turns out, it’s boring

Day two hundred twenty-two of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Since I completed my first draft and have been in the rewriting/revising mode, I haven’t been posting here as much. Revising just isn’t interesting to blog about. When there were daily word counts to report and I was going through the process of writing my book chapter by chapter, I had more to discuss. The struggles, the excitement, the challenges I never even anticipated. It was more interesting, at least it was for me. But now, not so much. I’m merely tweaking and reworking what’s already done. It isn’t sexy, not that this blog ever was.

It turns out, revising is downright boring, really. So it’s only natural that I have been pulled away from the rewrite to write other things. Because I have been doing other writing, keeping steady progress of the rewrite has been difficult. Like I posted here last week, it’s okay to get sidetracked. Especially if there is enjoyment in writing to be had. And there is! The new piece I have started is totally different from the first. I’m writing it in the first person instead of the third, which I have always found to be a fun experience. Plus, this new piece is a much more raw and emotional story. Although I am still getting in some sporadic time on the first book, it feels much less fulfilling than writing the new piece. At the moment, anyway. So I’m just going to go with it for a while. I’m still writing, and still happy to be doing so.

Day 219 – It’s a love-hate relationship

Day two hundred nineteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

As I continue to rewrite and revise my first draft, I sometimes feel like I’m in some kind of bipolar existence. One moment I’m reading it thinking, “Who wrote this garbage?” and then another moment I’m caught up in the story and a single sentence leads me to breathe a deep sigh and forms a smile on my face. Can I really love and hate my own book at the same time?

Yes. I absolutely can, and here is why: because it’s the first draft. It is a simple fact of a first draft that there are at least as many lousy parts as those that are good. The point of rewriting second, third, fourth and tenth drafts is to eliminate the junk and turn the rest into something great. I have faith that at some point in the revision of multiple drafts, my love-hate relationship with my book will evolve into love-love.

“(W)riters are often the worst judges of what they have written.” –Stephen King, Just After Sunset

Day 216 – It’s okay to get sidetracked

Day two hundred sixteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I haven’t posted here in several days. I got sidetracked with other writing but I have also been going to bed earlier than usual to try to shake this sickness I have had for three weeks. While I have managed to still work on my book, I have fallen off a bit from my usual progress. I actually started writing something else a few days ago. I feel like I’m just messing around at this point, but it was something that was screaming in my head and I just had to let it out.

Which leaves me wondering, do I have the ability to write two books at the same time? Many writers have more than one work in progress at a time. With my day job and life in general, I feel like I am maxed out most days. Working on more than one piece of writing strikes me as crazy right now but I guess I’ll see where things take me. If I feel compelled to work on this new piece of writing, I’ll go for it. But I want to keep focused on my book and continue the rewriting phase after the first draft. I have a lot of work to do and I want to continue moving forward. As long as I do that, even if progress slows down, getting sidetracked with other writing once in a while is okay.

Day 211 – Write compelling characters or suffer the consequences

Day two hundred eleven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I have been keen to work on the characters in my book. I’m making notes to more fully develop the characters and to not let them get watered down and lost in the plot. After reading the first draft, I realized that although the characters are compelling in my mind and I know them in and out, I wasn’t conveying enough about them to the reader. As I wrote, I imagined their involvement in the story, why they would have certain reactions to events and how they would interact with other characters based on their personalities and past histories. I see now that I wasn’t getting enough of that information on the page. Important aspects of my characters weren’t adequately coming through my writing.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I am able to recognize these flaws in my first draft. I know I have work to do. I want my characters to be as compelling as they deserve to be. To allow anything less would cheat the story and most definitely, the reader. Because if your characters aren’t compelling, your book won’t be either.

Day 210 – Progress is slow and ugly

Day two hundred ten of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m working on the first draft rewrite but I’m finding progress to be slow. I don’t suppose I should expect anything more than that. It’s a work in progress. And typically, I’m not able to work on it during the day. My writing time is at night, usually after the kids are in bed. Which happens to be when I am most tired. It isn’t easy, but little by little I’ll get there. I know I will.

But for now, it’s ugly. Slow and ugly. They say the first draft is always total crap. Now that I’m nitpicking through it, I see that I am no exception to the rule. I just hope my writing – and my book – evolve into something much better than they are at the moment.

“Writing is like sausage making in my view; you’ll all be happier in the end if you just eat the final product without knowing what’s gone into it.” – George R.R. Martin

Day 208 – Plot changes in the rewrite

Day two hundred eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

It happened to me again. I was in the shower this morning when I had an idea about the plot. An idea that will result in several significant changes to the story, actually. I haven’t totally vetted the details but I have taken a lot of notes, and I plan to break it all down into an outline over the next day or two. I think the changes could make the story stronger. They will also require me to develop certain character interactions differently. I don’t know how I feel about all of this yet, but I should once I have the outline figured out. And then there will be a lot to look forward to writing.

This is not the first time a big idea has come to me in the shower. I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m stuck. Maybe if I just hop in the shower it will get my creativity flowing. Whatever works, right?

Day 206 – First draft, first chapter rewrite

Day two hundred six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m in Chapter One of my first draft, revising and rewriting. And it’s going slow. I wrote an entirely new first paragraph – the opening paragraph of the book – which was a bold change. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it works. I read it over and over, tweaking it here and there, trying to decide. The best I could do was to just leave it alone. I could pass hours on that one paragraph which would be a monumental waste of time. I know I’ll probably end up changing it again later.

I can see how revising and rewriting is going to be a tough process for me. Although I love to do it, I tend to get obsessive about getting things just right. But I can’t let myself do this. I have to keep moving forward and working in stages so I don’t get stuck. The way to do that, I think, is to continue to remind myself that the second draft won’t be the last. There will be more time to get it right. For now, the goal is to simply make it better.