Revision Report

Once again, Camp NaNoWriMo provided the structure for me to complete a writing task. Two years after I wrote the first draft of my novel through Camp, this year I spent those 31 days on a complete, top-to-bottom revision, turning Draft 2 into Draft 3. This isn’t the finished draft by any means, but it’s closer. In addition to the day-by-day pressure to finish that I got from Camp NaNo, I also relied on the 31-Day Revision Workshop posted in Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog. Both forms of structure were important to keeping me going.

I learned some interesting things about my book and myself as a writer in this process:

  • There was so much excess that I needed to prune away! I probably took out a hundred examples of “that” and another hundred of “just.” I cut out dozens and dozens of unnecessary dialogue tags and bits of stage direction (he nodded, she shrugged…). I converted a ton of “he was X-ing” to “he X-ed.” I insisted my characters stop saying the same thing over again in slightly different words. I rooted out extra adjectives draped all over the place. There was so much that had to go, the book was about 1000 words shorter when I finished than when I began.
  • Yes, I tend to overwrite. But this doesn’t scare me any more, because I know it and I can find and eliminate it in revision.
  • I still like my book. There have been days when I didn’t, and nights when I can’t imagine what made me think I could be a writer, but when I come back to it I find there’s still something there that speaks to me. Kay’s story is important, at least here inside my head, and I’m going to keep pressing to tell it the best way I can.

So what’s next?

  • Running the whole thing through a computer system to get word frequency counts, so I can find and eliminate some more of the things I say too often
  • Revisiting the chapter breaks, since I have a nagging feeling that some chapters should be combined and others broken up
  • Putting it away for at least a couple of weeks, probably a month before looking at it again!

In the meantime, I’m pleased to be able to hang the Camp NaNoWriMo WINNER badge on the site. One small step forward in this very, very long process.

 

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The First Draft Scare: A Halloween Tale of Terror

TreeGhostIt’s been a long time since I’ve been scared on Halloween, the American holiday that repackages fright and death into fun and games. But today, I got my heart pounding. Today was the day I hauled out the NaNoWriMo draft of my novel and looked at it for the first time since August.

It’s been almost a month since I promised to do this, and only three days before the day I’m committed to reading my opening to the good people at R-SPEC (Rochester Speculative Literature Association). I have been actively avoiding reading what I wrote, or even thinking about it very much. At first it was because, really, you should let your draft sit for a bit before you start editing. Everyone knows that, right? And then the school year started and I had a ton to do to get my classes off and running. And I keep finding other things to work on (this blog, for example). But I made a promise, and today I finally took that deep breath, squared my shoulders, and opened that scary folder, the one labeled Draft 1. And what did I see?

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Thinking About Creativity: Two Grids and a Sign #photochallenge

HardHat

This week’s photo challenge was to put the grid, the rectilinear structure in a photo, front and center. In this photo of a construction site there are two different grids, plus a sign, that resonated with my writing life and with creativity in general, so I decided to use this image for the challenge this week.

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Shoveling Sand: In the First Draft Trenches #IWSG

SandcastlesTime for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, dedicated to helping out insecure writers around the world. This month the event is hosted by Alex Cavanaugh, Nancy Gideon, Bob R Milne, Doreen McGettigan, Chrys Fey, Bish Denham, and Pat Garcia. Many thanks to the awesome cohosts.

I’m most of the way through my first draft now (about 55K words into what I’m estimating will be around 70K when done), and I find myself reciting this quote from Shannon Hale every day: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box to that later I can build castles.”

I sit down and carve some words out of my head with a melon baller. Slap them on the keyboard, gore and all. Read them squirming on the screen. They’re embarrassed to be there, but I DON”T CARE. I need to reach my word count for today. Keep going. Remember, I’m just shoveling sand. This quote lets me just wipe down the keyboard (with tears, if need be) and move on.

I still believe in my story. Right now, though, I’m coming to the Dark Moment when my protagonist realizes that there’s absolutely no hope, no possible way forward, and gives up. It’s hard. It hurts. Don’t worry, she’ll get through it, and so will I. She doesn’t see the shining moment when she steps forward and saves the day, but I do. That’s the castle, waiting for me, and for her.

Once I get done shoveling all this sand.

 

Consistency: The Key to Success

USPSEnsignThis flag is the ensign of the United States Power Squadrons, a national organization dedicated to education, safety, and enjoyment of recreational boating, both power and sail. My husband, an avid sailor, is an active member, and this past weekend participated in a regional rendezvous. One of the events, the Predicted Log Contest, inspired this message.

In a Predicted Log Contest, teams work one at a time to row a dinghy over a course that has a known length as many times as they want, timing themselves and figuring out how fast they go. When they’re ready they are given a new course, told how long the new course is, and predict how long it will take them to row the new course. They don’t have access to any timing equipment at this stage. The team that comes closest to their predicted time is the winner. This weekend the winning team finished only 33 seconds off from their predicted time.

I love this contest, because it’s not about how fast or how strong you are. It’s about how consistent you are. It’s about setting a pace and sticking to it. That’s what makes you a winner.

The message is obvious, isn’t it? In many aspects of life the main thing is not to be outstanding or exceptional, but to be consistent and reliable. As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Some days it’s easier, some days it’s harder, but you just keep showing up.

I’ve learned to apply this to my writing through the Camp NaNoWriMo experience last month. I set a goal for words each day and I stuck with it. Now that camp is over I’m still writing, albeit with a lower word-count goal each day, but I have learned to really appreciate the discipline of writing every single day, without fail. The point is to show up. The point is to be consistent. I don’t need to do marathons and have huge word counts in any given day. I just need to know what my own particular pace is, and stick with it.

That’s life, after all.