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Today, I thought I’d reblog something from 2010 back when I was fumbling with The Six Train to Wisconsin first draft.
Working on the end of my third book this week, I swore this was the only book where I didn’t quite know what I was doing. Glad I reread this post and realized that’s actually the norm.
“…When I have a headache, inspiration has fled the house. I look at my outline and gulp. I have to figure out the scenes needed to get from point A to point B. And shit, I didn’t work out how certain things feel/work. Holy Hell. This is gonna suck…”
You can read the entire post here:
This is what I thought my draft looked like before I started revising. I thought every work counted. That every scene was as streamlined as it could be. That the manuscript couldn’t be tightened.
This is what it actually looked like. Way too many words. Some did very little. Some nothing. Throw away words and sentences. Even scenes. Gasp. I’ve cut 2000 words and I’m only on p.140.
You are only as good as your critiquers, your writing classes and your self-editing classes. If your critiquers all say your work is good. Maybe it is. Maybe it is ready. You can query it.
But after several rejections, maybe you might want to find someone with more experience to weigh in. I’m not saying hire an editor, but maybe ask a pubbed friend to look at the first chapter. Because whatever mistakes you made there, you made throughout the whole book. And the fat you didn’t trim away there is everywhere else.
I’m guilty of it. Every time I come back to a manuscript I thought was amazing, I am slammed by new issues. *Doink* I thought this was good? *Gasps and blushes* How did I miss this?
I’ve heard people say writers never finish books, they abandon them. But I’m wondering when will I know to let it go.
How do you ever know that a manuscript is ready?
This is some of the best New England Clam Chowder around. Found at Sam the Clam’s in CT. Delish.
But no two clam chowders are made with exactly the same process. Everyone has their own way of getting to that perfect chowder.
I’ve found the same thing with novel writing. My first manuscript, I had a page of character outlines and a 12-page plot outline. And then I just dove into writing. At each chapter, I’d stop and outline the things that needed to happen and the scenes necessary for this to occur.
A very stop and start writing process. But it worked and I completed a draft.
A very very very bad draft that required many many rounds of revisions.
So next book. I wrote a 40 page outline. Um yeah, very detailed. But it made the writing easier because I had a GPS navigating my way to the end point.
Next book I tried a different approach. I spent weeks just daydreaming and imagining everything. Then I wrote a 4 page outline of the first 50 pages. Once I got those 50 pages written, I wrote a 5 page synopsis of the whole book. Then the query letter. Then I wrote the rest of the book in fits of 15-20k words.
The first draft turned out better than my others. Still needed edits and revisions. But the bones were laid out in the right order.
And as I wrote, I did light edits on the previous 2-3 days’ worth of writing. Some people frown on this.
For me, it helped me move forward. I can’t if there’s a fly buzzing around my head saying “Fix it!” Plus, when I’d get stuck on inspiration, I’d edit the previous day and as I came to the end, I’d know what came next.
I don’t know that any of these ways is universally the best. One might be best for me or for that book. But the point is each time I ended up with a delicious bowl of clam chowder.
So how I got there doesn’t seem as important as the fact that the method got me there.
What about you? Do you have a tried and true method for writing? Are you an outliner? A pantser? An edit-as-you-go or a strict-no-editing-until-the-end writer?
This is my parent’s dog, Reagan. Reagan found a pail full of tennis balls that Dad tirelessly gathered out of the woods a few weekends ago. Reagan spent 10 minutes staring into that pail full of balls. Hesitant to pick the wrong one. Afraid she’d miss out on the best one.
I watched her. I picked one and tossed it in the yard. She can trotting back 5 minutes later and began her gazing routine again. Just mesmerized by all the choices. It was like a kid bobbing for apples. And she took her time before actually making a decision.
That’s what happens when there are too many options. Which ties into my writing goals.
See, when I got back from Italy, I set a goal of 1ooo words a day to finish my adult novel. I was at 62,412 words the first week of March. I’m now at 78,111. I think the book ends around 80K words. Maybe 83K.
Each week, I was proud of meeting my word count goal. 5k a week. It sounds hard, but 1k a day is 1-2 hours of writing. And about 3-4 of thinking and imagining.
But then when I hit 68K, I got scared. What was my next writing goal?
Sure I had to edit the entire manuscript. Send it to beta readers and get feedback, but what was my next story?
I got really nervous. What if there wasn’t one. What if the two books I’d written were all the story in me? And I didn’t want to write the next in the series. Since I don’t have the first book agented or sold yet.
So I went through my idea file. Where I write kernels of ideas. Flowers of characters. Sometimes a sentence. Once in a while a page or two.
And I found my next story. So I wrote the first 3 pages. Just enough to have a beginning. A place to go next. And now I have no anxiety about finishing the adult novel. Because I know where I go next.
As I finish the other novel, backstory flies around my head for the next story. Things I need to know to write it, even if the reader doesn’t find out. The characters are talking to me. Telling me what I need to know. Making me want to outline. To get it all down.
For me, goals have always steadied my hand. Given me a focal point. A purpose. So I tend to set them. I tend to adhere to them. And I value them. For the security they provide.
What are your writing goals? What sort of personal timetable do you set for yourself? Or do you just let things flow without expectations?
This is me. Intent upon decorating the tree. So focused on the tree I forget about anything else. Except making the tree gorgeous.
Which is my way of explaining why the word count on my new book hasn’t been reported in 2 weeks. I stopped working on the 1K words a day.
Gasp! *Look of horror*
Not because of chores or daily life. No. I am revising my YA manuscript using techniques acquired in recent workshops. I’m spending hours a day on it.
Which means the next book is stuck at 62K. But I wrote 20 K words in a month. So I know I can. And all I need is another month to finish it. I’m hoping that month is January. Or maybe mid December-mid January. Or March at the latest.
It’s hard. Because I love that story and want to get it drafted, but the YA is finished and needs more polishing. So I reprioritize. The YA has to be my focus.
Can I tell you a secret? Everyday in my list of tasks, I still put write the adult manuscript. I printed out the last 30 pages to edit. If I can get to it.
Have you ever had to stop a WIP (work in progress) to polish up a finished manuscript? Did you do both at once? How’d it work out for you?
This week, I’ve been plagued with nasty sinus headaches. The past two days my head has throbbed and throbbed. With no end in sight. Only when I sleep do I escape it. Not exactly the best situation to be drafting new scenes.
When I have a headache, inspiration has fled the house. I look at my outline and gulp. I have to figure out the scenes needed to get from point A to point B. And shit, I didn’t work out how certain things feel/work. Holy Hell. This is gonna suck.
But I have my 1K word count rule/day. Doesn’t matter if the ideas are flowing or the waterfall is bone dry. I have to write. Damn. Damn. Triple Damn. So the past 2 days. My scenes suck. I’m fumbling through them, knowing they are rough rough drafts and serious rewrites will be needed. But I’m putting words down. Go me!
I can edit words. I cannot revise a blank page. I cannot build off of a blank page. I cannot decide what isn’t working on a blank page. So I throw down sentences. And once I hit 1K I stop. Write notes on what the next scene may be. But I stop. Because it’s not going well but at least it’s going.
I think of this as writer’s pause, not block. I’ve got a few ways I can take the story to get to the next main plot point, but I’m trying to figure out which is best. Then I end up writing one and possibly rewriting it later.
What do you do when inspiration has fled the house? Do you take a few days off? Keep writing? Do chores? How do you cope?
I set a goal to write 5K words for my new novel each week. Last week I wrote 6K, bringing my word count to 48,702! It sounded so hard when I started on Monday but by then end of the week it was easier. I also decided to revise on Friday and added 1000 words in revisions for everything I drafted Monday-thursday.
Sat is my day off to spend time with the family. Sunday, I went back to editing and revising of my first novel The Radcliffe Curse for the Minotaur Books Contest, where I have to submit the entire manuscript.
I joined a writing critique group that is just starting up. So that should be fun and painful. Feedback always hurts on some level. It has to because it tells you where you disconnected with the reader. But it gives you the opportunity to fix it and make things better.
I finally finished unpacking the boxes from my move. Those last 3 lingered. Now I am all moved in.
So Monday night, I watch DWTS (Dancing With The Stars) with mom. It’s become a ritual since she helped me move out of NYC. For 2 hours you watch these people compete and then Tuesday they get the results. Monday, I felt like Kyle was robbed. Lacey and Kyle’s number rocked. They had charisma, energy, and the steps were sharp. I also Love Kurt and Anna, who did well and I want to see them continue.
I’m not one to vote in contests, but I broke down Monday night and logged into abc.com. I had to give Kyle and Lacey some votes, a couple to Kurt and Anna and one to Jennifer and Derek and one for Brandy and Max. They only got one because I didn’t think they needed it because they were scored well by the judges.
Who do I think will win..tough call. Right now I think Jennifer Grey is likely. Though Brandy did bring it this week. And Audrina has had moments of stunning technique.
But there’s something about Kyle and Kurt. They’ve both made huge improvements over the weeks. And I always root for the underdogs.
Who are you rooting for?
And what a sad night…I can’t believe Florence Henderson went home. I so thought she was safe since the judges loved her dance. She did awesome. But on the upside, Kurt and Kyle are still in it!!!
BTW word count hit: 45,442 today.
So Monday morning, I sat down and faced a blank page. I wanted to write 1000 words, but *gasp!* faced a new scene. What to do?
I played the what if game. What if x came over? And 500 words flew onto the page. It was crappy dialogue but it was dialogue. And then I thought but what if y came over first? And 1ooo words filled the page. I am now going over it and tweaking it. But I’m amazed that in 2-3 hours I could get that much wordage down. Of course, it’s rough and needs oodles of editing. But word count is growing.
That was my biggest worry–that I’d get sidetracked my other stuff and not get back to my work in progress. So I think I will set my goal to 5K a week, with a minimum of 1000 words a day. And if I happen to write more so be it. Then I can take a day to edit it instead of only writing forward.
So yesterday’s wordcount went from 42,400 to 44,360.
I’ve also decided to get the dog a 1/2 hour walk everyday. And happy news I’ve been on my low carb diet for a week and am starting to look like my old self. Or the beginnings of it!
I’m also delighted to meet up with a friend from CTRWA (M.) this evening and swap pages. I think my YA needs more feedback on the later chapters so this is a godsend.
Ever had a moment like that? Where everything is blurry and you have no clue how you let it slip by? Well, I got hit in the face with that on Friday and Saturday. I thought my YA manuscript was in great shape. I had gotten feedback on the first 3 chapters from several published writers and agents via auctions. I had my shit together.
Wrong. The first 3 chapters rocked. Then chapter 4 things got a little boring. Then chapter 5 and 6 required extensive reworking of dialogue. And chapter 7 sucked until the second half.
I was horrified. How did I miss this?
Truth? My writing improves with each revision. The more I write the better it gets. And I had the entire book at the same level. Then I got feedback and brought the first 1-3 chapters up and up and up. I made my way through the rest of the novel, thinking I caught my mistakes. Bad dialogue tags, too much telling, long scenes that weren’t needed were cut.
But the simple fact was I didn’t do a good enough job. Once someone else pointed out what was wrong–I went through the normal stages, denial, anger and finally acceptance. Once I accepted it, I could suddenly see so much that needed work. Ouch. So I spent the past couple days revising ch. 5-7. It’s a 16 chapter book. But I’m over 1/3 of the way there. I just have to step it up a notch.
Meanwhile this post from Upstart Crow Literary Agency has got me setting a new goal. I want to write 1000 words a day in my paranormal romance novel. Right now I’m at 42,320 words. I think I can finish it in 75,000-80,000 words. So that is 32,000-37,800 more words to write. Thanks to CTRWA’s awesome plotting session, I have the synopsis plotted out. I just need to sit down and write it.
So starting today, I will clock 1000 words a day 5 days a week. And each blog post will include a daily word count–to keep me on track. I want to have this story polished and ready to shop around at the RWA conference in June. So I need it finished by end of January so I can take it through 2-3 rounds of revisions before the conference. Ambitious? Of course. Would you expect otherwise from me?