Friday, August 22, 2008

This Is Painful

I'm working on the seventh draft of the book I wrote last year. I believe I only have to make major changes in the early portions of the book, but those early portions go on and on. I'm having big problems linking bits and getting from A to B. I'm sometimes only able to struggle through a page a day, or even less.

And I've only had one reader for this manuscript. With this draft, I'm responding to a couple of her suggestions that I felt were very appropriate. So, seven drafts with only one reader. If this ever gets picked up by a publisher, we could easily end up with a total of ten drafts or more.

I've always felt that writing becomes more and more difficult the more drafts you do because after a while the well runs dry. Where will the new material come from? After the experience of writing this book, I'm beginning to think that there are limitless things you can do with plot and character. You may have to dig them out of your own internal organs, but they're there.

In fact, it's a little frightening to think that a person could go on writing the same book forever.

4 comments:

TadMack said...

Shriek! Don't say that!!

I'm on version six of my current WIP, and have just had the bright idea to re-gender everyone... If I keep making the story different, I'm not writing the same thing forever, right?

....RIGHT!?

gail said...

Re-gendering everyone. What a fascinating idea.

I think continuing to make the story different is like that episode of Star Trek TNG in which Worf leads variations of his own life. Each life is his life, but with differences.

Bruce Black said...

One of the dangers of revisions, I've found, is letting the first draft dry or set too quickly.

Just because the words are set down on paper doesn't mean that they're the words that will appear in the final draft, whether it's the seventh draft or the twenty-seventh.

But it's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that each draft--simply by virtue of reaching the end--flows in the direction the story's meant to follow.

That's a trap to watch for, especially when you start to feel as if your well is running dry, an indication (sometimes) that you've missed an important turn-off in the plot or in a character's development.

To extricate myself from these kinds of ruts (which I fall into often), I find it helpful to stop looking at the draft chronologically, one event flowing into the next. Instead, I try to look at it through the filter of my emotions.

I look at the scenes, the events of the story, and try to determine (by noticing when the hair stands up on the back of my neck, or the way my gut tightens when I re-read certain passages) which are the "hot" passages--the passages that cause my stomach to start churning, that make me excited again.

Rather than continue trying to write out the story chronologically as I think it's supposed to flow... I write the "hot" spots first without regard to chronology... and only then, after assembling a number of hot spots, do I step back to see how they might connect.

I didn't come up with this method. Jack Gantos shared it a few years ago, and I've found it amazingly helpful. Hope you do too.

Good luck on re-filling the well and finding the life-blood of your story again.

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