Monday I finished a major rewrite of my latest YA novel–yay! This rewrite was primarily switching the POV from third-person past tense to first-person present tense. I’m no stranger to rewrites, but I have to say, changing the POV was probably the most frustrating and tedious rewrite I have done so far. Line editing is not my strong suit or something I look forward to, so once I got this whole MS in first-person I felt like throwing a party!
However, the book is not done. Nope. Not even close.
The POV is changed, but so are other elements in the book. While I’ve been editing this book off and on for over a year, I’ve decided to treat this new POV version like a rough draft. I have a “new” character voice to strengthen, character relationships that are changing, and plot elements to eliminate. I’ve spent SO much time with this book I need a break from before tackling the next step.
I have several novel projects that all need attention, but since there are only 24 hours in every day, I need to decide what to focus on. Do I work on the half-finished project or research for the new idea I came up with last week? Should I keep editing and work on that first draft I never went back to? The possibilities are endless, but my well of motivation is starting to run dry. Writing takes a lot of concentration and is a very isolating past time. There are stretches of time when I’m a font of ideas and write like the wind, but between those times I battle a lull of mental energy and the encroaching feeling that nothing is progressing fast enough no matter how hard I’m working.
Today’s goal is to see if I can find a project that interests me enough to close the internet and keep writing a little until it’s time to return to my YA novel. My goal is to keep working on something, even if I’m taking more breaks than usual. I don’t want to lose my writing routine, but I also understand that taking breaks is necessary if the work becomes frustrating and unproductive. I’m hoping to keep doing a little every day to keep my creative juices flowing. Maybe enjoying different worlds and characters for a while will help keep me excited to write.
How do you stay motivated after finishing a major rewrite, draft, or other milestone in your work?
Filed under Editing, ideas, inspiration, on writing, rewrite, rough draft, struggling, to do, Uncategorized, work in progress, writing, writing novels, writing styles
A much delayed post, so apologies for that, but here we are!
A month ago I decided to return to one of my middle grade (MG) manuscripts (MS) to give it a read through after letting it sit untouched for three months. As I mentioned before, I often can’t help myself when it comes to fixing things right away. The proper exercise is to read the book in one-two sittings to take in the MS as a whole and not edit anything. Well…I modified that to help my compulsive need to tinker with everything. Here’s how it went.
First of all, I couldn’t get through the book in one sitting. I work long hours and so I didn’t have the focus or energy to read it all in one day. Reading it all the way through is exhausting, but it’s also the best way to see the book as a whole. In the future, I’d like to accomplish this, but at least I finished my MS in three days, so that’s a win for me!
Second, I gave myself permission to fix grammar issues and odd sentence structure as needed. This also makes sense since I’m usually bad at catching spelling errors (#SpellCheckIsMyBFF) so if I saw one it’s taken care of! I also limited myself to fixing occasional sentence structure so I could get the need to edit out of my system without making too many changes. As I said, this exercise is for the Big Picture. There are months of small picture edits ahead of me!
Third, and most helpful, I made notes in the margins. This was very helpful since there were chapters and paragraphs I thought would work better in a different section, but I didn’t want to take time away from reading the book as a whole to fix these issues. (On the flip side, some edits I made a note of to change, I realized a paragraph later that my original writing made more sense. I should trust my past-writer self, even if I think my present-writer self is more competent.) Now I have a blueprint of what order I want the events in, AND other comments of what to add/delete to keep the story moving. I highly recommend doing this if you’re waiting to come back to an old MS.
All in all, I considered my editing venture a success. I’m sure my method isn’t perfect, but for me it’s a step in the right direction. The writing process is long and tedious, and I’m always looking for ways to fine-tune my process to make it more efficient. The next time I let a MS sit and come back to it, I’m planning to continue applying what I used in my MG MS and hope to continue to develop a great editing rhythm that works for my writing style.
Finished another first draft of a new MS! I’m really excited about this one. I think the overall idea is strong and I like my characters. Of course, there are chapters I wrote thinking “This sucks,” but hey, it’s a first draft.
It’s become a habit of mine to read Stephen King’s On Writing once every couple of years or so. I finished it again a couple weeks ago and there were many things I had forgotten. While I do not agree with EVERYTHING in that book, there are many core ideas that have stuck with me. Regardless of where you are in your writing journey (just started, seven MS in Word, successful and published) I suggest reading this book.
When it comes to first drafts, there are a few things King suggests that I’ve heard other places and that I, through experience, have found to be true. Here’s a basic breakdown of how I handle first-drafts:
- Don’t. Edit.
- If you’re about to go back and check for spelling from the day before, stop. Just, stop. The most important thing right now is the story and your ideas. Get them out on paper before they fly away! It happens, they will run away if you don’t pay enough attention, like a toddler or an off-leash dog. Get those ideas on paper. You can spell check, edit, rearrange, etc. once the draft is done.
- Be Selfish
- Don’t share your book with anyone until after you have finished 2 drafts. It doesn’t need to be Publisher-Ready, but when a book is raw and unfinished, so are your ideas. As writers, no matter what we tell ourselves, we do want people to read our stuff and like it. Don’t let someone else’s ideas get in your head before your book is done! There is plenty of time for critique once the drafts are finished and all YOUR ideas are fleshed out.
- Murder Your Darlings
- (King’s words, can you tell?) Once the rough draft is done, let it sit for several weeks and don’t look at it. I know it hurts, but let it simmer. Come back when you’ve forgotten some of it. It makes it easier to trim the fat.
- The delete key is both satisfying and painful, but it’s incredibly important. Less than 1% of any writers’ first drafts are ready to be published. They need to be cut, re-formed, cut, smashed, molded, and written again. It’s a long process, and it’s an important one. Even if you really like that one chapter no one else does, if it really holds no value to the story, that delete key is your new bestie.
In my opinion, no matter how many drafts a book goes through, it is never done. Would I change some things in my published work The Healing Pool. Yes. Yes. YES. I don’t think I will ever feel finished with any of my books. There will always be something you will want to tinker with and change, but when those changes become smaller and smaller, it is time to get that work out into the world.