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 200 – The two hundreds

Day two hundred of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I can hardly believe that I’ve made it to the two hundreds. Another milestone, another day working on my book. I’m on Chapter Seventeen now, continuing my read-through of the first draft. I don’t have much to report other than what I already have.

It is still an eye-opening experience: reading my writing as the reader not the writer, noting problems and errors in the plot, tripping on poor wording and dialogue, and appreciating some very good parts where I seemed to get it all right. It has been a ride, but I’m looking forward to finishing the read-through so I can get started on the next stage. It will be fun to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Just a few more chapters to go. I’m ready.

Day 198 – There is hope after a first draft

Day one hundred ninety-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I haven’t posted here in a few days, but I have been continuing to read my first draft. I’m about to start Chapter Fifteen. Moving right along. It is an interesting process; a roller coaster of emotions tossing me back and forth in a bi-polar mindset I don’t yet know how to reconcile. Sometimes I cringe at the writing or part of a scene in the story. Other times, I am pleased. Now that I’m two-thirds of the way through the draft, I am relieved (yes, relieved!) to say the latter instance is more prevalent than the former.

Which leads me to conclude that despite the large amount of work my first draft needs, there is hope I can turn it into something good. Maybe even great.

Day 193 – First draft errors and regrets

Day one hundred ninety-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Reading through a first draft is eye-opening. This is my first time doing so at this level and I must say, it isn’t for the weak. Or at least, it isn’t easy for the obsessive revisers/editors like me.

I stopped in the middle of Chapter 6 tonight. I stopped mid-chapter partly because I am tired and it’s late, but also because I needed a break from reading – and then having to leave untouched – an endless slew of factual errors, plot disconnects, grammar faux pas and non-descriptive, sub-par writing. I made notes about many of these issues as I went along so I can come back to them later, but that sure as hell didn’t make me feel better about them.

What does make me feel better is the promise of revising and rewriting. And, quotes like these which I am including here to return to again (and again) when the frustration returns:

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” – Justice Brandeis

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.” – C. J. Cherryh

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it…” – Michael Crichton

“I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.” – James A. Michener

Day 191 – Enjoying the read

Day one hundred ninety-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Well, that was fun. I read the rest of Chapter 1 and all of Chapter 2 tonight, and I really enjoyed the read. I wanted to get into Chapter 3 too, but decided to save it for tomorrow since it is so late.

I have to remind myself that the purpose of the first read-through is nothing more than that: a read-through. No revising. No re-writing. Just reading. I’m not going to lie. It isn’t easy. But it is necessary and should be worthwhile for when I get into it a second time.

As I was reading, there were plenty of moments when I wanted to make revisions. Even cringe-worthy ones when I couldn’t believe I used an adverb here, or used redundant language there. I had to work hard to scrape up some restraint during those moments. But after a while I got lost in the story and just read.

That’s a good sign.

Day 190 – First-read of the manuscript

Day one hundred ninety of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I began moving forward into new territory tonight: the first read-through. I finished the first draft of my manuscript last night and wasted no time to continue working on it. While it may be crazy to jump right into reading the draft the next day, I decided it was the right way to go for me. After all, I’m not going to read it in one sitting.

The general tip out there is that it is a good idea to let some time pass between finishing the first draft and reading it. Nat Russo gives great advice about the subject in his article Revising Your First Draft: The First Read-Through. He suggests putting your first draft on a shelf for at least a few weeks. Despite his solid recommendation, I decided to get right into it. I made that decision because I wrote the first chapter over six months ago and now I barely remember it. Which is just how it should be.

When you pick it up again, you need to feel as if the words are somewhat strange and alien…like you’re rediscovering something you had almost forgotten. You’ll recognize the work, vaguely, as something you wrote. But you will have achieved some degree of objectivity and distance. You’re in “the zone” now. – Nat Russo, Revising Your First Draft: The First Read-Through

I’m in the zone now. My first impression after reading a portion tonight is that I have a long, long way to go before anybody else is going to read it. Boy, it needs work! But it was good for me to see how much my writing has changed between then and now. Marked improvement. So while there will be a lot of revising and re-writing ahead of me, already seeing improvement from where I started gives me hope.

Day 155 – The closure that comes with ending a chapter

Day one hundred fifty-five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 900

I had planned to write at least 1,000 words tonight, but I reached the end of Chapter 17 at just over 900. There’s no better place to end a writing session than at the end of a chapter. I love those last moments of reflection about the state of a character or characters, foreshadowing of what is to come, and closure of what led up to that point. I finish a chapter feeling satisfied and eager to start the next one. And that is exactly how I hope the reader will feel in that same moment before turning the page.

What the reader won’t experience is the closure from finishing a part of the book that allows the writer to put it behind her for a period of time. I enjoy thinking about the story as I write it, but I also enjoy letting go of each scene, each chapter after it’s done. I have more writing to do, so to be able to set past chapters aside – to shelve them for a while to let them steep before I get into the reading, re-writing and editing process – is in many ways a relief. I have written seventeen chapters totaling 139,182 words. I still have more to go, but right about now this kind of closure feels pretty damn good.

Day 116 – Tying plot twists together

Day one hundred sixteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,000

The book I am currently writing is trying to be a legal thriller, which means there are some significant twists and turns in the plot. Now that I am nearing the end of the first draft (“near” being a few chapters away), I have reached a point when I am tying together plot twists. And man, is it fun.

How am I tying them together? I am revisiting some of the foreshadowing I wrote into earlier chapters, and I am now bringing those pieces to fruition. I’m also linking characters who had no apparent connection before and revealing that now, (surprise!) they have been connected all along. I have found that some new ideas have surfaced because of making connections between plot twists. Like I said, this is all a bunch of fun for me.

Interestingly, I have forgotten some of the facts written into the story earlier in the novel. I’m literally leaving blanks for words or partial sentences to be filled in later because my mind has failed me in remembering all of the details. I find this hilarious. I’m the one who wrote the facts, for crying out loud. How is it possible that I have forgotten them? Well, it’s a long book. I have been writing it over the course of almost four months. I’m not sure if it is normal to forget what you’ve written, but I can assure you – I have. Which brings me to my next realization: reading the manuscript once completed is going to be a huge eye-opener. You know, since I can’t remember some of it. It will be like I’m reading someone else’s book.

Geez, I hope I like it.

Day 68 – To read or to write, that is the question

Day sixty-eight of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 600

For my job, I read a lot. I mean, A LOT. And I write a lot too. I find it ironic that the two most important things to do to become a successful writer are to read and write as much as possible. It’s ironic because I don’t consider the reading and writing I do for my job to go hand-in-hand with my pursuit to be a professional writer. Since I am and want to be a writer of fiction, I need to read and write fiction as much as possible. Not contracts, legal memoranda, pleadings, motions and complex letters, among other things.

I enjoy reading fiction as much as I enjoy writing it. But I haven’t read any books since I started this project. I have no time to. I write late at night after I get the kids to bed. By the time I turn in, I’m too tired to open a book and I need to get some sleep before my alarm goes off early the next morning.

Currently, there is a book sitting on my nightstand that I would like to read. I swear it’s calling me. Read me. I read the first few pages but haven’t had a chance to read more. I really want to. So what should I do? Sacrifice some of my writing time to read? That may be the only way, but I hate to think of sacrificing my writing time. It is too important.

I need to find another way to get in some reading for fun. Writers, how do you manage to fit in time to both read and write?