revision

How to Get Back Into Writing Your Manuscript!

I write for my job, so when I work on my book on the weekends, it can start to feel like I’m never away from my laptop. So when I new I was going to miss my weekly writing group for a Chieftains concert, I decided to take the weekend off.

I reaped benefits from this, of course. I get to take a step back and look at what I’ve accomplished. I feel rejuvenated. My brain isn’t so distracted by all of the plans and characters in my universe.

But there are also down sides. I’m apart from the story, and it’s easy to feel like maybe I’d rather watch a movie or take a nap or read a book — anything besides working through my weekend again. 

Good tactic: Although I talked about how revising can bog down your forward momentum in the draft stage, revising can be a great tool to use when you’re trying to write new material. When I sat down to write the next submission for my writing group, I decided to look at my 60+ pages and implement the changes they suggested. This allowed me to revisit my story and become involved again. So on Sunday, by 5pm, I was able to submit a revised section to my group.

By 7pm that night, I had three more pages of new material already crafted. In fact, I’ve had trouble focusing on my day job because I’m so darned excited to keep going forward! (It also helps that this is Vespera’s section; she is the easiest POV for me to write, for some reason.)

In any case, that’s how I’ve gotten back into my schedule. How do you tackle taking a break and then returning to your manuscript?

~ S.

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Let’s Examine “Moving Ahead” Versus “Revising” a First Manuscript

After I turned in Helain the White’s first section to my regular writing group, I laughed at their response. What did they say? “This is SO well written … but I have no idea what’s going on.” Of course I took no offense. This actually seemed to echo what I was feeling, which was that this particular scene was a beast to write. This happened before with The Ormonde’s section, and there too I had to significantly rewrite the scene.

When you’re working on a first manuscript, sometimes it’s difficult to keep up the forward momentum — especially when you run into problems. However, I’m learning that when I myself have problems, that most likely means it isn’t right.

Kerry gave such great feedback. She said, “How did he find Jered?” And I said, “He learned from interrogating someone that he visits this tomb.” Then she said, “That’s interesting. Why not show him DOING THAT?” Ummmm … right. Helain is one of those characters who benefits from actions. I constantly have to stop myself from explaining why he’s doing the things he’s doing. I want the reader to draw their own conclusions. As my favorite creative writing instructor in Dublin said, the writer’s job is to say “2+2” and the reader’s is to say “=4.”

So I went back and reimagined this scene, and I think this works so much better. However, this begs the question: “Should I stop to revise, or should I keep going?”

Sometimes I think new writers get bogged down in perfecting a piece of the whole. Sometimes you need to press onward and worry about the hardcore revisions later. Do I still consider my revised scene a draft? Absolutely. However, the plot particulars are so vastly different that I would have gone off on the wrong tangent had I not reimagined the scene. That’s when I think it does work to stop and rework something.

I’ve still got my writing group’s previous weeks’ edits sitting in my inbox and in my computer bag. I haven’t applied them yet, even though that’s like an itch I want to scratch. Instead, I want to focus on getting out pages. There are a lot of future Book 2 scenes I am SO looking forward to writing, so here’s hoping I can keep moving forward!

PS The draft is now at 54 pages!

S.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2011

The National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I participated the last two years. Admittedly, I dropped off the first year due to work/family constraints but last year, I participated and succeeded. Those words for a YA Southern goth novel might’ve been utter drivel, but I produced them. But here’s the best part: I met other writers at the write-ins.

Writing challenges: For me, writing 50,000 words is going to be ambitious:

  • In my regular job, I have to produce a fair amount of content. Add to that the nightly writing I do with my buddies (not for publication), I probably already write over 50k easily.
  • I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and doing a fair amount of the cooking. That means I’ll be busy doing prep things, cooking, spending time with family, and so on.
  • I’m leaving to go on a trip the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which cuts off about 4 possible writing days.

Writing strategy: This year, I have a tactic. I’m going to be working on Book 2, which is my favorite book in the three part series I have in my head. Back in my Trinity College Dublin days, I created an elaborate outline and wrote about 60 pages, which I will most likely expand. This means that I’m not starting from scratch. I’ll have a clear starting point, and a clear destination. That definitely helps when you’re staring at the blank screen.

Writing pitfall: I’ve already workshopped Book 2, Scene 1 with my weekly writing group, and I’ve already encountered the #1 hang-up that can trap a writer. They gave me some spot-on ideas, so I started revising it. I had to pull the reins, saying whoa-whoa-whoa. That’s not what I want to do at this point! My focus should be producing content (or at least a fair amount of it), so that I can revise a large chunk and not chapter-by-chapter later on. My mission is to send my writing group a different section for next week — a brand new one. So that’s forward progression.

Take-away: The following week — and I think this is great idea for anyone tackling a big project (thanks, Kerry!) — we’ve all agreed to send in brief outlines. We’re only going to be discussing the structure of our works-in-progress. Sometimes you can get bogged down in the details of line edits and not see the big picture. Seeing the big picture is what will get you to complete a project, including a NaNoWriMo project.

In any case, this is my plan for November. Check back here to see how I’m doing!