Sunday, February 7, 2016

Yes. I'm Still Here.

And still writing. Just not on the same project.

Unfortunately, I became overwhelmed and once again, decided to put that particular project on the back burner. It's one that I've played around with since 1995, has gone through several plot changes and at this point, I'm afraid it's just too big of a hot mess to ever see the light of day. I still love the characters as well as the basic story behind them but I just don't have the energy to work on it any longer with no perceivable progress toward publication.

Instead, I picked up a smaller project that's only gone through a couple of drafts and very few plot changes. My writer's group has read this one and given it a thorough critique so I have some good feedback to work with. Plus, after an extended conversation about a particular plot point that wasn't working, I have come up with a better plot point and am now writing some new scenes. Not many new scenes. Just enough to get the story back on track and eliminate that one, troublesome area. 

Since I've never actually been in this part of the writing process, I'm also reading some books and articles on revising to help me determine whether or not I'm doing it right. Even as I write that, the question comes to mind, "Is there a right way to revise a draft?"

As it turns out, there might be.

When writing a first draft, there are many ways to accomplish the same task. A writer can fully outline the story before ever beginning to write. Or a writer can just sit down and start writing and let the story dictate how it will go. A writer can also do a little of both, which is where I tend to fall, I think. 

With revisions, from what I'm reading, there actually is a best practices process. 

A first read through, just to find possible plot issues and where continuity isn't all it could be. Not to fix those problems right then and there but to note them so that they can be addressed in the next step, which is going through the notes and actually fixing the problems. A manuscript can go through a cycle of drafting and revising several times before it goes on to the next step.

Then you have editing, which is more the process of looking for misspellings, punctuation issues, and grammar. Then a final read through looking for anything else that might need to be fixed, that final polish. Of course, there may be other steps in the process that a writer can take to make sure the manuscript is in the best possible shape. These are just the basics that I've come across in my reading.

Now, whether that first read through is done by the writer or by an editor or a writer's group, that's up to the writer, I guess. For me, I haven't actually done the first read through. That was done by my writer's group since I don't have an editor. They took turns reading the same copy so that I had both of their notes in the same place without having to shuffle papers around. 

I had used this particular project to take some writing courses and had written extra material, mostly backstory, which I really liked and thought I might be able to incorporate somehow. My thought was to use the backstory as the opening scenes. After reading through the draft with the backstory included, the decision was made to not do that. They liked the original opening scene more. Of course, as of this writing, that opening scene needed to change in order to resolve that troublesome plot point I mentioned earlier. 

I can still incorporate backstory and have done so but in a way that, I hope, doesn't feel too much like an info dump. I'll be reading these opening scenes to the group today so I'll have some immediate feedback to work with. I like the opening scenes. I like the way they now flow together but I'd still like the feedback, even if it's negative.

So revision hell is still my world right now. It's just not as hellish as it has been. 

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