Welcome Wednesday guests for November:
11/05 Maya Corrigan's Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or By Crook.
11/12 Death by Blue Water, a scuba-diving adventure-mystery by scuba-diving author, Kait Carson.
11/19 Susan Van Kirk--Three May Keep A Secret.
11/26 Tagged for Death, a garage sale mystery by Sherry Harris.

Gloria Alden has released the fourth book, The Body in the Goldenrod, in her Catherine Jewel series. It's available in print and in eformat. Here are two links to the book: Amazon and Kobo. Put it on your "TBR" or Christmas list!

Carla Damron's latest project, THE STONE NECKLACE, a literary novel about five lives that intersect, and are forever changed, by a senseless accident, has been picked up by Story River Books for publication in 2016. Story River is an arm of the University of South Carolina Press and is under the leadership of editor-in-chief author Pat Conroy. Congratulations, Carla!


A great stocking stuffer, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays is available at Wildside Press or Amazon. This anthology includes short stories by WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances").

KM Rockwood's short stories will appear in two anthologies. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, (great cover, KM!) and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology released by Intrigue Publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trudging Through Revisions


I've grown very frustrated with the amount of time it's taking me to get through this round of revisions on my current WIP. It took me less than a year to write the first version of the story, and yet it's taken me over two years to get through the revisions; this round of them taking the largest chunk of that time.

Granted, there have been other things that have cropped up in my life that have added distractions I didn't have when I wrote the original.  I've become engaged, and spent much of last year planning the wedding.  I was invited to take part in a gallery showcase of photos taken around Alameda (where I live).  And then there have been the trials and joys that come with daily life.  But those aren't even the real issues keeping me from finishing this round of revisions.

The biggest problem is that I have to rewrite much of the story, which is making it very hard for me to keep my mind focused on where I'm going with it.

I recently got a copy of Scrivener and broke my book down into separate scenes within the software, thinking that would help make the revision process easier and quicker, but I'm beginning to feel that's not the case.  I need to add a few scenes to make the story less procedural and give it more red herrings, so that readers won't know who the villain is halfway through the book (a suggestion that a critique partner gave me last year).  Hers was a valid point, which is why I've been making the changes, but that also means that there are so many scenes I now have to decide whether to keep, revise, or simply toss.

Since this is the first full-length book I've ever finished, there's much I don't want to toss; this is my baby.  And while I have no illusions that it's Pulitzer material, I'm quite proud of it.  However, I also realize that there aren't many writers whose first attempts are free from tossable scenes.  Heck, I'm sure Stephen King still tosses things out here and there.  That's why some people have said we're not "writers," we're "revisers."

I've also heard of many writers who simply put their first attempt in a drawer somewhere and start on story #2, which usually winds up being much better.  Maybe that's what I should do with this one.  Part of me doesn't want to, but I'm feeling so stuck here in the mire that is Revision Land, that I am starting to wonder whether it would be the better choice. But I also don't want to give up on anything.  Even if this book never makes it to the publication stage, I don't want to leave it sitting in some folder, unfinished.  That just seems so disheartening.

So I'm asking for your guidance, dear readers.  When is it time to throw in the towel?  Is there a moment when you just KNOW that it's time to put the book away until some future version of you can come back to it and turn it into a masterpiece?  Or should I keep trudging through until I've made all the necessary revisions?

HELP!

15 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

Alyx,

Ellen Hart writes a VA wine vineyard series that is popular. She's a member of the SinC Chessies, and I am also. I wanted her to blog here about her revision process, but she is fighting a deadline and begged off. The reason I asked her?

She writes her first draft. Puts it up on the screen, and then puts up a second blank Word document. Then, she rewrites the entire story. She thinks that her work is much better the second time.

My suggestion. Put down the script, think about the story in its entirety and determine the changes you need to make. Earmark where they must go. Then, cut and weave the changes in throughout the script. Reread the whole thing, and adjust. It won't be easy, but if you're determined, you can do it.

No matter what happens with the script, remember, you haven't wasted your time. This script has taught you well. Good luck! We've all gone through it.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Alyx,

I feel your pain. I took my first two novels through 10 rewrites for two reasons. 1) it was the process by which I was learning to write better and (2) I was doing it wrong.

First, this confession: I am a pantster, not a strict plotter. Those who spend a lot of time making sure their plot is just right before writing a word won't have the issues I have.

My problem was I was doing self-editing wrong.

On each draft I tried to correct everything from major story problems to removing extra commas. Even after multiple drafts, I still had major problems with my story.

When I addressed story problems, scenes (and sometimes whole chapters) would disappear and others needed to be added. Sometimes characters needed to be excised.

All the time I had spent on those scenes and characters were wasted (other than as an exercise in self-improvement).

Now, rather than trying to make draft 2 and 3 perfect in all regards, I make the major changes and only when I am satisfied with them do I go to fixing other things.

Working on fixing the story first has worked on my third novel. (I'm a slow learner?) After three drafts I asked my alpha reader to read it and tell me globally what worked and what did not. She was to ignore all clunky language.

From her comments, I have some slight story modifications to make and can concentrate on language.
After I make those changes, I will get input from my beta readers, and unless I am mistaken, their suggestions will be primarily about my writing, not the story.

With novel #4, I stopped after 30,000 words, because I realized the story needed a different structure. I am spending the time plotting that one -- a new experiment for me.

If you are a plotter and your story is as you want it, my other suggestion comes from a published writer friend who goes through his works a number of times, but each time only looking for one thing: so once he'll concentrate on all dialogue (making sure each character is consistent and different from each other one). The next time will be descriptive paragraphs, etc.

I've tried that approach on short stories with some success, but not yet applied it to a novel.

The key is perseverance. Perhaps in the end you will consign novel #1 to a bottom drawer. (That's where mine is.) But maybe it is a great story and it just needs time, work and a good critique group to help point out your issues.

Best of luck.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Writing is different for each person, but we all feel the pain. You might read or re-read Steven King's book ON WRITING to get his perception. Both EB and James are correct. Writing is never wasted and persistence is essential. A third alternative is to reframe the question. I don't see this as an either or issue. You can put the novel in a drawer for about three months and let it simmer. Leave it completely alone. Then start writing something totally new; essays, memoirs, short stories, Hone your skills works of different scopes. Then return to your WIP with greater skills and a new perspective. I've done this frequently and it is always helpful.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Alyx, it may be that you are trying to do too many types of revision at one time. Even a short novel is a big, complicated piece of work. I tend to revise in passes.

1. I read through the whole thing in hard copy (preferably after letting it rest for several weeks). I have a notebook in hand, and I'm not looking for language/grammar issues or other such details. This read is for the big picture, the structure--how does the book fit together and work? Is the prep work laid in earlier scenes for this one? Does each scene contain some kind of conflict? Is each scene an integral part of the story? I fix nothing. I simply make notes w/ page numbers and keep reading until the end.

2. I take the list of large and small questions about structure and read the list over, asking myself how each can be fixed & looking to see if some can be grouped together as part of a larger issue.

3. I sit down with each question/issue, one at a time, and focus on only that and do what it requires. (toss a scene or two, add a scene or two, rewrite something and change all references to it throughout the book, even change point of view!)

This structural run-through is the most important stage of revision for me. I sometimes make an outline of the story AS WRITTEN, scene by scene, to check for conflict, rising tension, slack places in the action, subplots that don't really tie into the main plot, etc.)

It sounds to me as if this is the stage where you are. At this stage, ignore everything else and focus on whether the book effectively tells your story. All the rest--language, dialogue, keeping character's eye color consistent throughout--comes later.

As far as tossing scenes goes, I open a new document I call CUTS. Any thing more than a line that I have to take out, I put in this file. I've never reused a big chunk in another book yet, but when writing the 2nd in the series, I looked through these and came up with some helpful ideas to use in that book.

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks for the advice, EB. I definitely don't know that I could do it the way Ellen is, but I like your idea of earmarking where changes need to go.

Alyx Morgan said...

Wow, James. Thank you for such an in-depth example of things that worked for you & what didn't. I'm somewhere between a pantser & plotter. I know different major scenes I want in the book, but then I allow the writing to take me where it will.

I've heard about only tackling one portion per revision (i.e. character, story arc, punctuation, etc), but I think I need to take a class in that to understand how to do it properly.

Thanks again. Your comments really helped!

Maddy said...

I have no helpful advice as I'm in a similar boat. I also thought buying scrivener would 'solve' the problem, but it seems there are no easy fixes. {Linda's suggestions sound very helpful .....}

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks, Warren. Yes, I'm leaning toward putting it away (& not even thinking about it) for a few months. Craig (my fiance) has suggested working on the next book, which I started while this first one was out with my beta readers.

It would be good to just continue with the stories, since this is a YA series. & who knows, maybe the second book will be the first in the series (or the third or fourth will be), but it would be good to at least get myself back in that world, so it doesn't become too dusty.

Alyx Morgan said...

I have a document where I've stored any scene I've cut from the novel, too, Linda. Like you, I figured that those things might come in handy somewhere else, if for nothing more than to remind me of some facts of a character or setting.

The steps you described for going through the first round of revisions sound so daunting & involved, which is why I think I've fought against doing it that way, even though I've seen several others mention the merits of that method. So maybe I just need to put on my big girl pants, & just DO IT! :o)

Thanks for your advice, Linda.

Dana Fredsti said...

My first novel went through about five revisions and it did sit in a drawer for a couple of years in between because I burned out on it. If you do take a break because you just can't untangle the threads, it doesn't mean you abandoned your first baby. You're just letting it take a much needed nap!

Gloria Alden said...

You got some good ideas from others, Alyx. Personally, I would not get rid of that first book. Like others suggested, let it rest for a while. It actually may be better than you think. You could be burned out because you have too many other things to concentrate on right now, too. Are you in an active critque group? Do you trust their comments? Not all critique readers are the same. I had some once who didn't read or like cozies. Definitely not the ideal readers for me.

My first book has been revised soooo many times. I actually have the first draft stored in my garage so someday I can read through it and compare it the final published copy. I know it will be almost like a different book.

Polly said...

If you like your story--forget the writing for the moment--don't give up on it. My guess is you're psyched, and that's when you can't think clearly. Step away from the book for a while. Write something else. Something new and fresh. If you can write one book, you can write two. Write that second book. Then, and only then, go back to the first one. See it with a fresh eye. You'll be able to tell if it's still the story you want. If it is, write an outline and pust aside the book again. Write it fresh from the outline. See what happens. My bet is it will be looser, and so will you.

Polly said...

And please read your comments over before posting. Of course I meant put. Pust is such an ugly word. :-)

Alyx Morgan said...

I do actually like Scrivener so far, Maddy, but I think it might work better for me on a brand new book; not one that I've finished & am trying to revise. But yes, there doesn't appear to be an "easy" fix.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Alyx Morgan said...

Thanks, Dana, Gloria & Polly. I think I will put "her" down for a nice rest. I'll allow myself a break until the wedding, & then maybe get back to the second book in the series.

Thanks so much for visiting today, & for offering your sage advice! :o)