Monday, January 25, 2016
Tick, Tock, Countdown...
It's almost time! Although the 'official' start of our NaNoRevMo is next Monday, let's go through a few last minute things.
-You'll need to revise/reread your manuscript several times- but don't expect to do it multiple times in this month (only if you're on deadline, are stuck with nothing else to do, you have plans after the revision or you're quite adept at editing).
- When you sit down, do it in a workspace that encourages you to work hard: no too soft couches, no distracting noises (I can't work with music because I tend to sing along, and then the lyrics suggest other books, etc.) Make sure it's well lit, a comfortable temperature (but not too warm, it'll make you sleepy), you have space for all your resources like your theasaurus, coffee cup, etc.
-If you don't have to, don't answer the phone. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a great thought and the phone rings for someone who wants to sell you something you don't need/want, or a friend/relative calling to chit chat. If it's your kid from school or someone else who you know most likely needs to talk to you, answer it- but jot down your thought first! It helps if you can tell your loved ones/friends that you'll be busy and could they call you after dinner or whatever hours you plan to work.
-Plan a schedule. Some of you have kids, like me. Some, jobs. Some, a sick relative. Whatever else you need time for, plan your editing around it- even if it's an hour while the kid is at sports practice as you sit in the car, or first thing in the morning before everyone is up. Find at least 1-2 golden hours total a day.
-There may be some days that you can't get any editing done. Like NaNoWriMo, don't beat yourself up! It took many writers years to write and perfect their drafts (and there still were changes), so unless you know aliens are coming next month to take you away and you want to leave the draft for your family to inherit, don't sweat it. It will get done in your good time. (But don't be a slacker! Don't give in to excuses like, 'I'm a little tired. I'll do twice as much tomorrow.' You don't want to get caught in the I'll-catch-up-eventually loop. A real writer can't rest until the job is done. Be one of those.
-You're going to have to cut up your baby. Be brave, be swift. Even when you have to lose scenes that you just love. (I'm still struggling with this- it's okay to cry and swear and throw a few pillows at the wall if it'll make you feel better. Usually it doesn't.) The goal is a polished novel, and like a gemologist, sometimes you have to sacrifice perfect bits so that the whole gem sparkles. And no, it never gets easier, but you somehow learn to do it and live with it.
-Take a break! Long periods of time sitting in a chair whether it's at Starbucks, your dining room table, the car, where ever, can make you stiff and drowsy. When you're pondering whether to kill a character, change settings, or even throw out a bunch of chapters, get up, get a drink, a snack, walk around. It may help you think, give your body an adrenalive boost. Never have everything at your fingertips.
-How do you work- on your laptop or the old fashioned way of pen and paper? I've done both, although for the first time through, I like the laptop. I fix the obvious- misspellings, format (centering of chapter titles and numbers, starting chapters halfway down page, etc.), obvious inconsistencies like when a character's name changes, and a general global search for those words I know I overuse, like 'just.' Then I move onto the paper and pen because it's slower, more deliberate (and I can take it anywhere- I can edit standing in line.) I find the mix of the two forces me to be more thorough.
-Stuck? Don't panic. Discuss it with someone (unless your relative/friend is an editor, agent, or fellow writer, find someone more neutral. No matter what, anyone with a close connection is probably going to like it. Trust me on this.). This is where a critique group helps (they can/should be brutally honest.) Or, make a list of possible solutions and see which one jumps out at you. Realize though, that you can't simply hopscotch over the problem and come back to it later because it's a domino effect- the problem gets bigger as your novel progresses. Fix it asap and let the rest of the manuscript fall into place.
-If the fat lady's singing... or simply if the book is not working- the characters are flat (fixable), the plot plods (fixable) or the dialogue is stilted (fixable) or the point of view jumps all over the place (fixable)- you can save the manuscript. But if you have a combination, most, or all of these problems, it might be the death knell for this book. There is not one successful author that doesn't have several novels sitting in a drawer or lighting the logs in the fireplace. It happens. Don't give up too easy- try to work through it by listing all the problems and then solutions. Attempt a resurrection, but if it doesn't work, kiss it goodbye and move onto that other idea that's been intruding at inappropriate times, keeping you from sleep or work.
-Don't even think of a 'book doctor' until you've attempted to fix it yourself. It's like calling in a carpenter to tighten a loose screw. If you become accustomed to relying on someone else to correct the flaws in your manuscript, you won't get valuable practice and experience, and if you ever sell your book to a traditional publisher, you won't be able to make the edits yourself. Plus, it'll cost you a fortune.
So get everything into place, read those books, make some notes (I know you've noticed some things needed fixing as you wrote the novel...). Maybe a chapter outline (one or two sentences per chapter) is a good starting point, so that if you have to cut out/add scenes, you can see how it might affect the subsequent chapters.
I'll be working on my time-travel YA romance. I've done one pass but I know it has a major flaw so that it reads as a collection of short stories. I need a better connector (I'm not using a time machine so I have to be real creative). Now that my belove New England Patriots didn't make the Super Bowl I won't waste time preparing for a big party and watching the game. This week I will be finishing my middle grade and my NA sci fi edits (again) so that I can focus on the time travel while we all edit together.
See you Monday, February 1st!
All graphics courtesy of Microsoft, Inc.