A bit of a dreary Sunday.
The good news: This morning, I finished a re-write of an old Nanowrimo novel. This does not mean that I actually finished re-writing it, but that I finished another complete round of revisions.
The bad news: I haven’t done my laundry yet and the laundry room here gets really crowded Sundays.
The good news: This afternoon, I started another round of revisions on this same old Nanowrimo novel, going through it one more time. For a while, the whole thing just seemed to work.
The bad news: Then, I ran into a chapter that I seem to have over-edited my last time through, trying to break up the scene. Now I think I have to seek out some of that old deleted material.
The good news: I have a bunch of laundry to do.
As I’ve mentioned before in posts on writer’s block, my block does not arise in my initial writing, but in the editing and revising.
Part of my problem is that I sometimes want to make the manuscript to take a shape it doesn’t want. I will try a major restructuring, hoping that certain kinds of manipulation–flashbacks, changes of view–can supply the momentum and drama that the plot is lacking.
This type of re-organization may work for some writers. I’m not sure I’m not one of them.
Please understand that I am not saying here: “first thought best thought.” I strongly believe in revision and editing. (Except perhaps on this blog–sorry!)
But, for me, the editing sometimes works best on a sentence to sentence basis. Or, even better, through cuts. (One can get very enamored of sections that don’t move a story forward, especially when you’ve heavily re-written these sections on a sentence to sentence basis.)
But changes that involve fitting the manuscript into a different framework, or inserting a… device… tend to be less successful for me.
A good test of whether structural changes are useful is whether you can actually carry them out. If, as you go through the manuscript, the changes feel increasingly hard to write, they are probably not helping you.
Again, I’m not saying that re-envisioning of a manuscript is not sometimes important. Filling in blanks or making blanks can help you find your voice and your audience; it can feel both creative and compelling.
The key word is “compelling”.
Good writing does not re-write itself, but if it becomes too much of a tussle, you might consider a return to your initial, rawer, vision. This at least will have a certain energy and drive.
Here’s the point: be realistic about the true nature of your first draft. If you have made an amuse-bouche, don’t try to stretch it into a full course meal. If you keep trying to inject further substance into it, you may end up with something that can hardly be chewed (much less digested).
Now, about that laundry….