I hit a milestone today. My baby book reached its 4th full revision, and I decided it’s mature enough to hit paper! I printed the whole thing out and had it spiral bound. Now I’m going to sit with a pen in hand and read it, start to finish, making notations but not actually editing anything until I get to the end.
This is the next step in my general revision strategy. One thing cognitive science teaches us is that we don’t ever actually perceive the world. Everything is filtered through our expectations and the mental context we bring to the situation, and this makes things like proofreading or reading critically very hard. I know what I intended to say throughout my story, and that’s going to color my view of what’s there. One way to help fight that is to slow myself down. Switching from screen and keyboard to paper and pen does this, along with changing the fonts and spacing, and reading it in a different room from where my computer is. Once I work my way through the paper version I’ll make the edits electronically, and then Book Baby will reach its 5th version.
The other way to defeat the mental context, of course, is to be a different person. After I’ve gone through it on paper and fixed all the things I mark along the way, I’ll hand it all over to my critique group for their comments, and that will move Book Baby to version 6. After that I’ll broaden the audience, looking for critique partners online who don’t know me. Version 7, version 8 —– One day I’ll reach a version that’s as good as I and a village of partners can make it. Then it’ll be off to the query process.
But for now, I have to confess to a sincerely giddy feeling, holding my baby book in my hands for the first time. I can’t even imagine what I’ll feel like if it becomes an actual book people can buy, one that’s published and on shelves. I’ll probably have to be sedated.
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.
Two years ago I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, and it worked for me – I hit the 50,000 word goal by the end of July and pushed on to complete the first draft of my novel in August. Since then? I’ve been working with a critique group to revise the draft, making it better all the time. I’ve almost gotten all the way through the draft with them, and expect them to be reading the last chapter for the first time in a couple of weeks.
So now I’m going to try camping again. This time it doesn’t make sense to set a word-count goal. Instead I’m setting a time-on-task goal: 30 hours (almost, but not quite, an hour a day in July). I’m also thinking of it as a chapter a day, since I think my book will have 25-30 chapters when I’m done putting it all back together.
If it all works out as I hope, I’ll have a completely revised version to share with my critique buddies in August. Wouldn’t that be something?
Wish me luck.
I looked back at the first draft of Chapter 1 of my WIP, written last April during Camp NaNoWriMo, and compared it with the same chapter in my current, twice-revised draft, and noted one consistent change to talk about in today’s Wednesday Words: Helping Verbs. Sometimes they help, but sometimes they don’t. Continue reading
I’m digging into the revision process now, wielding my shears with abandon as I rip out words and lines and paragraphs to let new light into the living, growing core of my story.What’s surprising me is how much fun it is. Continue reading
Yesterday I said that when readers tell us something is wrong in what we write, then by definition something is wrong and we have to listen. However, not everything readers say about our writing is true. How do we tell the difference? Continue reading
Now that I’ve got some people actually reading my words, I’m thinking about what readers can do for writers (besides buying our books, of course!). Back in grad school I took a course on professional writing. This is the first of two posts on what I learned about how to use readers’ advice. Continue reading