Monday, July 26, 2010

Pearls of Writing Wisdom

Last month I wrote a post over at Tabitha's blog about first drafts. The funny thing is, I've spent most of this month revising. I don't even know what draft I'm on because so many parts have changed as I go along. I've never been the type to finish one draft, edit and then do another draft. I'm jealous of people who can be that methodical. My drafts are far more messy. I change as I go, get feedback from my critique group and beta readers and constantly finesse the writing.

This draft is different. We're talking major overhaul here. Ever heard the story of the girl who queried too early? Yeah. That's me. I thought the book was done, queried it a bit and realized something wasn't working. So now I'm making huge changes and really thinking about the plot and what I want this book to say. Each chapter is going under the microscope to see if it moves the story forward or if it's just a nice distraction on the way to the good stuff.

Which means that beautiful scenes I crafted with so much care are finding their way into the dead file. Ugh. Writing new scenes is fun, but before they enter the book, I'm putting them through the test. If they don't illustrate the main character's motivation, goal or conflict, then they aren't doing their job. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. It's hard and it's painful and I find myself thinking about it ALL the time. As in, I'm sorry I burned your bacon, but I just thought of a sentence that I need to go write down before it's gone. Serve yourselves.

But it's working. I can see the story getting stronger and that makes it worthwhile. So maybe by the end of this draft number who knows what, that little grain of an idea will have emerged a pearl.

How's your summer writing going?


Laura Pauling said...

I've used summer to study and learn and plot. I'm going to start revisions in August and I'm going to try and do it right this time - starting with macro and then going micro!

Hardygirl said...

Whew! Good stuff.

I did this to one of my manuscripts several months ago (I actually used advice from the Plot Whisperer's blog to help me meticulously get through my manuscript).

I, like you, sent mine out too early. It's amazing what a little time, distance, and REVISION will do for a manuscript!

Good luck!


Kristan Hoffman said...

Hard as it may be to do, it sounds like you're on the right path.

My summer "writing" is going well, I suppose. I finished my proposal for St. Martin's Press and now I just have to wait and see what they say. In the meantime, I'll be started a new WIP. Squee for that! :)

Jean Michelle Miernik said...

I am coming back to my manuscript after taking a three-month break during the first trimester of my pregnancy. Like Laura, I'm trying to get the big picture right and then filling in details (and changing and changing them!). The long break gave me a great perspective on what I need to do with the piece.

storyqueen said...

I think everybody sends something out too early....I mean, you can't always be so objective about your own stuff early on.

But making the mistakes that only you can make are the ones that help you grow the most, I think.

So keep at it! It sounds like you are getting lots of good work done.

As for's first draft time....(because I am too afraid to open a file that needs revision....)


Unknown said...

Ever heard the story of the girl who queried too early?

Yep, that's definitely me. I recently received some amazing feedback that's resulting in big rewrites (due to the snowball effect). Fortunately my writing is now much stronger than when I started querying the book, so hopefully that's no longer an issue. Actually, I'm glad the book was rejected in the beginning. The story is much stronger for it. Plus, it went from being YA contemporary to YA romantic suspense due to the changes. :D

Can't wait to meet you later this week, Sherrie. :D

Kelly Polark said...

I've been reading mgs and close to finishing my mg manuscript. I've been revising as I go along. Have three chapters out to critique group. Made more changes. Will still make many more!

Anna Staniszewski said...

I've definitely been there! Sometimes taking a machete to your manuscript is necessary, but oh so painful. It will be worth it, though. You can do it! :-)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I understand the querying too early. All I can say is thank you people for not taking my ms. back when it was a piece of crap and truly not publishable but I in my overzealousness sent it out anyway. yikes!

Becky Levine said...

Yay for you-I love the idea of putting each chapter under the microscope. Honestly, I can't WAIT to get close to that point--right now, I'm trying to stay open to different ideas & possibilities in this first draft, which--frankly--can drive a slightly over-controlled person nutso. :)

Keep it up. This is what's really going to pay off for your story!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Oh my goodness, I know exactly how you feel. I've gone through this with Monarch, and that beast will be in my drafting files for years to come, it feels. I've rewritten it twice now, and I don't even know how many revisions and edits. I've lost track, like you.

Keep going. I KNOW you'll get there. And you know you always have an eager reader here if you need one. I owe you!

Anne Gallagher said...

I've had some amazing insights on my latest WIP and have blasted the painted letters off my keyboard. I'm trying to finish by August. I got stalled in June but then lack of sleep (believe it or not) has prompted this craziness.

Go you! Keep on keepin on.

Unknown said...

Good luck with the re-edit. You sound so excited about it.

I started querying before I realised there were any stages between the end of draft one and global domination ;)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Sadly, I have had NO TIME to write this summer. What little time I manage to carve out goes to my blog, and that has been sadly neglected lately as well. I'm hoping to find more time soon. :-)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I've definitely queried too early in the past--something I've had to learn from more than once.

My edits are usually not the same with every book I write but I'm trying to be more methodical, as you said. This time it's one draft at a time with a focus on each area I need to polish.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Laura: Macro to micro sounds like a brilliant plan.

SF: The Plot Whisperer has great tips, no? And yeah, every book needs some TDR :)

Kristan: Hooray for you on getting your proposal in!! And a new WIP is always exciting!

Genie: Time away does wonders for a story. Good luck with the pregnancy--I loved being pregnant.

Shelley: You are so wise :) Based on the number of mistakes I've made, I must be doing a lot of growing!

Stina: Sounds like we're in the same boat: feedback + rewrites = stronger story. Looking forward to meeting you too!!

Kelly: My husband just shakes his head every time I say I'm revising. I'm so glad to have writer friends who get it!

Anna: A machete - yes! That's what I've been doing! But I hope it's better.

KarenG: Haha! Yeah, I guess we writers can be a bit overzealous :)

Becky: The chapter-by-chapter microscope has been interesting. Stuff that I thoughthad to be in the story has fallen by the wayside, which can cause issues for the over-controlling as well...

Michelle: I know you understand the rewriting. And believe me, I'll be calling on you as a reader at some point!

Anne: My ability to function on extreme lack of sleep makes it all possible :) Good luck with finishing up your WIP!

Elaine: Let me know when you figure out the global domination part. I have a feeling that's info a lot of people would pay for :)

Shannon: I can tell you've had a busy summer. Good luck carving out more time.

Cindy: Ah yes, the learning more than once. Sadly, I can relate to that as well. I'm hoping I can learn to be more methodical.

Lori W. said...

We Who Query Too Early are apparently in some very good company. The comments here are really insightful. I think we (and even our crit. groups :) ) sometimes can't see the work clearly without time and distance.

I'm proud of your rework!

Unknown said...

I thought the story about the girl who queried too soon was about me...

*sigh* I so sympathize. Good luck!

Carolyn V. said...

I queried too soon too. I was just so excited to get my work out.

My summer writing is going slow. I think I may need to put extra time in the fall. =)

Matt said...

Good post. My summer is filled with day-job work, playing with my son and inching toward the end of my first draft.

The draft is going slow, but with so much else going on, I'm thrill to be making the progress that I am!

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