Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Once More into the Breach!

Well, the excitement is dying down. "Little Man" is home from the hospital. He's taking his formula, crying and fussy around four to six in the afternoons, and sleeping in four to five hour stretches at night. That leaves Nana time to work on her writing, and work it is, my friend.

I started the way I always start, from the beginning. I re-read what I'd done so far. Not bad, but I did give a little tweak here and there. Now I'm moving into the bulk of the work, attacking the main problem as I see it: transitioning time. I find that my section headings, those lovely dates at the top of one page or the other, aren't quite enough. As Big Dawg said, "The reader gets lost as to which year it is."

As the writer, I've created this community, these characters, and their living conditions. I've given them jobs, and I understand their motivations. My omnipotence when it comes to the story is unquestionable. I know the outcome from the beginning. I stand God-like above the words. No so for the reader.

The reader stumbles on the story cold, as if meeting a few people at a bar. The characters are introduced slowly, their life stories are a mystery yet to unfold, and their families, connections, and attitudes yet to be discovered. As the writer, I must forget my prior knowledge and magically become the reader. As I re-read my work, my goal is to see through the eyes of a hypothetical reader. If I come across an event, a time frame, a character that doesn't quite hit the mark, something or someone that might give the reader pause, it's time to do some word addition and subtraction.

The 'be-the-reader' segment of editing and revising is the most difficult. Wearing two hats, that reader/writer thing, causes problems because one hat often drops off without notice and it's usually the 'reader hat' that slips onto the floor. I keep picking it up and putting it back on, but alas, I look down and there it is again.

Beta readers, writing groups, crit partners: they're all important, no doubt about it. However, before a manuscript reaches those wonderful people, the writer should do their level best to eliminate as much of the interference as possible. I'm getting better at it, I hope, but after a beta reads a novel for the hundreth time, they tire of it. I'd prefer not to tire my betas, wouldn't you?

1 comment:

. said...

It gets easier. But it takes time and effort and also distance. Hence the adage (so very often ignored) to put it away for a while (I say a year when it's the first 5 novels, but I've heard as little as 3 months) and work on something else, then come back and re-read and spot all the errors.

Or what you THINK are all the errors. You'll find that many times, you fix all that up and think it's done, only to discover it's better -- but it's not ready yet. And so the process begins again.

That's why it's important to have more than one WIP and more than one story idea, and be willing to finish one and set it aside while working on another.

Thus, the great circle of writing life goes on...;-D