After taking a couple of weeks away from my manuscript, I’m ready to move into the ‘polishing’ phase. Taking that rough nugget I created in a flurry of typing and turning it into something sparkly enough to attract an agent or editor’s attention.
The main difference between this and revision for publication (in my humble opinion) is that I’m on my own. I’m responsible for finding the places where my setting is weak, noting the gaping plot holes before unsuspecting readers tumble head first into them, discerning where my writerly desires have conflicted with my character’s motivations and values. In other words, time to look past the stunning story I’ve imagined and SEE what I’ve actually placed on the page.
This may not seem like a huge task, but let me tell you, recognizing the difference between what I’ve dreamed and what I’ve written can be incredibly difficult.
To support myself in this task I’ve sought words of wisdom from other writers who have successfully traveled this path. Here are a few of the most interesting:
Okay. Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Wish me luck!
Recently a WIP had me stymied. I loved my characters, was intrigued by the premise, and had a pre-draft synopsis to give me direction. So why was I not making any progress?
I sent out an SOS to a NY pubbed friend asking about her process. How does she start a new project? I thought I might get a tip or two that would propel my muse and me in a new direction. I got that and more! Wow! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!
Her example and comments simmered for a few days and my muse took notes. When she was ready, I experrimented with a few new tools.
Believe it or not, the main tool I played with was using pen and paper.
“Oooo,” you say with a sarcastic tone. “You actually set your computer aside and wrote with a pen? How…radical!”
For me, it was radical. I hate to write by hand. I have a nervous condition that causes my hands to shake. Writing by hand neatly (which is strangely important to me) requires a lot of energy. BUT my friend had commented that writing by hand in the early stages slowed her down, forced her to inhabit the characters longer, to get to know them on a deeper basis.
Considering that writing by hand is irritating and hard work for me, I avoid it like the plague, but something in her words struck a chord. I decided to play with that particular tool, reasoning that if I’m uncomfortable, I might actually discover why my character is uncomfortable. A very good thing for me to know considering I tend to want everyone to be happy, and happy characters don’t provide the tension needed for good reads.
The experiment went well. I discovered things about my characters in those hand written notes that had never occurred to me before. I learned that my hero’s motivations were nearly 180 degrees off of the standard ones I’d assigned him in earlier character studies, and…wait for it!…my muse revealed that I had the wrong character being killed and refusing the Light in order to save “the world” from an unexpected evil.
No wonder I hadn’t been making progress. My muse needed to stall me until she could tell me I had everything backwards! Since we’re still learning to play well together, it took slowing down with the hated pen and paper to allow her to speak.
Note to self: Slow down at the keyboard. Relax. Don’t be so focused on where you think you’re supposed to go that you drown your muse’s voice.
Note to muse (who is also myself!): Learn to shout!!