Revision or Work in Progress II

Photo shows two images: pile of rocks on the left and finished steps and patio on the right
Revision is like taking a pile of rocks and turning it into steps and a patio.

Following up on my “Work in Progress” post, I got back the notes for my next book. The good news is that I did not want to cry. And I don’t have to drastically rethink the story. And I do feel overwhelmed. But I’ve already buckled in for the revision ride. Which promptly came to a screeching halt.

Some of the stalling came from outside sources pressing on my ability to focus. That seems to be easing, and I find that when I stay away from a writing project, after a certain amount of time I find myself itching to get back. Take a fresh look. See if it’s as bad as I thought. I hope that is happening now.

It’s not quite as bad as having to take a pile of rocks and transform them into steps and a patio, but at least I don’t have to go to the quarry and blast out new rock. That was the first draft. You measure and cut and chip and place the stones only to find out the slope is wrong or … OK, enough with the rock metaphor. I hired someone to do that. I can’t hire someone to write for me!

I’ve said before that one of the things I hate about fiction is that there are so many options! You have to make up literally everything.

With revision, my options have narrowed since the story and characters are in place. It’s mostly connecting better with their motivations and getting the story out of them. There are several ways to handle this and many writing books and coaches to enumerate them. I’ve come down on the side of keeping my writing eyes on the prize. This largely comes from Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, but others say it well too. It’s all about the protagonist. Everything that happens has to move her arc—advance the external plot and also her internal journey. Sure, lots can happen, but unless it touches her “third rail” and advances her story then it can happen off-page.

Another tactic I like is to interview my characters. Get their side of the story. This often brings up new points that are both important and clever. Why didn’t I think of that? This technique might come from my background as a quasi-journalist. Having to report stories—interview the parties (aka characters) and research the events—feels familiar, so I’m treating this like it really happened. I only have to report what happened and how it affected my main character.

Looks great in theory, but when it comes time to press those keys into coherent scenes and story, I tend to panic. Cue the internal editor: I’m not good enough!

Oh, get over yourself.

That’s what I’ll say to myself and hope it works.

Check out Endurance here.

Lisa Cron’s Story Genius


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