Thursday, March 28, 2013
The End of the Race
We’re coming to the end of March and the end of the Speedbo race. Some of us have almost reached our goal, some of us are lagging far behind, often due to circumstances beyond our control. Life interfered with our plans. But that’s often the case. Distractions are something we have to deal with as best we can.
As soon as you’ve finished with your manuscript you can let it rest for a while. Take a two or three week break from your thousands of words per day. You’ve earned it! It’s hard to get perspective on what needs to be fixed if your brain is still in a creative mode. Before you start your second draft you’ll need to see the whole picture, not just pieces of it. Time away from the manuscript will help with the process. Take a walk, read a book. Better yet, take a vacation!
I’ve noticed a lot of writers fall into one of two distinctive categories – those who love everything they write and those who hate everything they write. Neither group sees their work objectively. Of course it’s probably impossible to view our story as others see it. But to make our novel the best it can be we have to try to be as objective as possible.
Just don’t let your brilliant words blind you to poor story structure. On the other hand, don’t allow a great story to blind you to sloppy or amateurish writing. Everything can be fixed by revising. According to James Scott Bell, “Good writing is rewriting with know-how.”
Don’t be discouraged if you find lots of plot holes, shallow characters, and terrible writing after reading your first draft. First drafts are supposed to be messy. Remember that.
Are you ready to start reviewing your SpeedBo creation?
Print out your manuscript instead of reading it on the computer. You’ll want to feel like a reader reading it for the first time. Read it with ‘fresh eyes.’ At this point you need to get the overall impression of the book without getting down in the weeds. Jot down a few notes if you want, but don’t make changes in the manuscript yet.
Some writers use outside readers to read their drafts. You can ask what they think about the overall plot, what they like or dislike about the characters, if and when they got bored, if they have any suggestions. Personally, I don’t let my friends look at my story until it’s in half way decent shape, but that’s up to you.
Analyze. Start to take notes after the first read-through. Bell suggests we ask these questions:
Does the story make sense?
Is the plot compelling?
Does the story flow or is it disjointed?
Are the lead characters memorable?
Are the stakes high enough?
Will the reader ‘worry enough’ over the plot and characters to want to keep reading?
When you finish answering the questions you can start to fix the problems. But first I do something else. I start a start with a chapter-by-chapter outline. Do I hear a few groans? This is to help you, not to submit to an editor. Pat yourself on the back if you’ve already scribbled some sort of outline as you were writing your SpeedBo manuscript. In the long run it’s less work if you jot down a few lines as you go along.
If you want you can use a spreadsheet to keep track of the plot. It’s fine to keep it simple. Include the chapter number, setting, characters, summary and outcome. Another way would be to list the goal, motivation, and conflict. I also take more notes about what I think needs fixing.
If an outline seems too tedious then try writing a 2,000 to 3,000 word summary. Dare I say write it like a synopsis? But it’s only for you so don’t worry about including all the parts an editor would like to see. This should help you find dropped plot threads and unnecessary sub-plots or characters etc.
From here you might find you’re ready to start on your revisions. Have fun and remember to enjoy the process!
What did you learn about your writing during SpeedBo? Did anything surprise you?
I’ll be giving away an assortment of Love Inspired romances so if you’d like to win please leave your e-mail address with your comments.