Thursday, January 17, 2008
Continuing with my themed blog days, Thursdays will be devoted to my thoughts. And since I've been pretty much thinking about the same thing for the last couple weeks, I'm recycling this blog post from my RWA chapter's blog:
Bwahahaaha! Yep, that's me, spelunking through the cave, laptop strapped to my back as I dodge the stalactites and stalagmites of my first draft. It's dark in here, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel.
I think everyone approaches revision of a first draft in a different way. I know there are books on how to do it, and online workshops abound, plus plenty of articles on websites and in writers magazines. I've never taken a class, but I do own a book on revision that I haven't read yet, and I've revised off a few revision letters received from agents and editors on past projects. I'm currently in the middle of the "the first read through" phase and it's an eye-opening, but also exciting, experience.
I enjoy making revisions because it's like putting those finishing touches on a painting, adding that extra detail and dimension that will bring it to life. Or defining the features of a sculpture or carving or ceramic. It's that phase of a creative project that brings you closer to your work and makes you become one with it. It's the point when the book feels real.
As I'm writing a book, I don't blast through it in the white heat of creative frenzy. I'm a methodical pantser with a fairly good idea about my beginning, middle and end when I start. But as I write, there are some spots I know I'll have to fix later, and I make a mental note or a place holder of some kind that will tip me off when I reach that spot during revisions. Good grief, but I had a lot of those in this book. And some of them were kind of hidden. Note to self: In future books, remember to use different colored type in placeholders.
Though I revise as I go, I've been writing long enough to know that when I reach the end, it's not really the end for me. More work needs to be done. One of my favorite types of placeholders is narrative summary, which I use for two reasons: 1. To get me from point A to point B quickly so that I don't lose my creative rhythm, and I know I can expand on it later; 2. If the book ends up really long (rare for me), I can leave it as is with just minor tweaking.
Something else that happens as I write, since I have very little planned out beforehand, is that I experiment with new characters and plot points knowing I may or may not keep them. So when I go back through to revise, the character introduced in chapter eight started out duplicitous but ended up being a saint. Or in chapter five I revealed a secret that I decided to reveal in chapter thirteen instead. What I wanted a character to know in chapter two I'd forgotten about by chapter ten and have to fix. This kind of stuff is everywhere! But it's great fun because as I read through and flesh out and tweak and expand, my story is becoming a cohesive treasure for me. I can only hope the agents I query share the same view. 8^)
I've heard many of you lament over the revision process, and some of you dive into it with the same relish I do. If you don't share my enthusiasm for this phase of writing a novel, why not? And if you do, please share your reasons and offer tips if you have some. Hey, I'm in the middle of my revisions. Tips are most appreciated.