Fuzzy Lines

If it’s completely different from the ‘first’ draft can you still call it the ‘second’ draft? I’ve come to realize when this novel is finished I won’t have a clear answer to the question ‘How many drafts did it take?’ The lines between drafts are already becoming fuzzy.

I’m nowhere near finished the second draft of my novel—of course it’s taking longer than planned—but I can already tell it will be very different from the first. On the bright side, it’s much more coherent thus far. There’s a good chance I’ll let other people see this one so I can get some feedback. Then between the feedback and my own fickle mind it will be interesting to see what draft three looks like.

I’m not entirely surprised by the amount of changes considering how dishevelled the first draft was. It would seem I can’t count on ideas coming to me in any kind of proper order. There have been a few short stories that I’ve written start to finish in an afternoon that remained more or less intact after revisions. Usually though, it seems I have to dump all the piece out of my brain then step back and examine them to find the story’s chronology. This is probably why serial publishing turned out to be a mistake for me. Well, mistake isn’t the right word. It was a learning experience.

Not that I didn’t reread and revise every chapter before publishing, but by the time I got to chapter ten of Dosterra, I already wanted to make serious changes to chapters one through nine. I haven’t discounted the idea of eventually finishing this story, but I think I will have to actually finish it, and rewrite it, then maybe it will be ready to send out to the world. (The novel I’m working on now is an entirely different one.)

This has been the latest musing of a short story writer/wannabe novelist. And yeah, I’m procrastinating. Back to the novel now I swear.

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Draft One of ??? Complete

I actually have a complete first draft of a novel! I wasn’t sure it would ever happen. Hang on while I savour it for a moment…

…Ok. About the draft:

1) Title TBD. The story has the same main character and universe that I created in one of my short stories, but I may or may not keep the original title. I’m currently thinking not, the story has changed a lot, but I am yet to think of a good alternative so we’ll see. 2) It’s a mess. It is a first draft as Joanne Fedler describes here: The first draft and the rewriteVomit in a bucket. An apt, if gross, metaphor. But, all the pieces to the puzzle are there. What remains is for me to go back and decide which pieces to keep, which to throw away, and what needs reshaping for a better fit.   Continue reading

The Edit Loop

Aside from Dosterra, I am also working on a novel that I actually plan to complete, edit and refine before subjecting anyone else to it.

I started it over the summer, got about halfway through, didn’t like where it was going and started again. I did make some progress. This time, I made it a little farther than halfway before getting stuck. As I discussed the other day being unsure what to write next tempted me to get into the editing process. Bad idea.

I resisted the urge for a little while and actually think I know now where I want things to go next. Unfortunately, in the meantime I read How Not to Write a Novel  and now I know how many mistakes I’ve been making.

Tug-of-war over, I’ve tipped over the edge. I’m going through it from the beginning…again. Though I’m hardly starting from scratch, it feels like I am. Still, I just can’t leave what I’ve written as is. I’m trapped in the edit loop, and it may take a miracle for me to  get out and finish this thing—the danger of working without a deadline I guess.

Buddhists say it is impossible to love and hate something at the same time. I beg to differ. Maybe tomorrow I’ll work on a short story instead.

More Lessons Learned

This week in my writing world, I’ve had a good opportunity to examine how I write. I heard back from the latest On The Premises contest, which I entered a few weeks ago. I didn’t win—no shock there—but I did take them up on the offer to critique my story.

Of course a big (BIG) part of me didn’t want to look at what they had to say, but I mustered up the guts to open the file. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. It seemed they at least liked it and they said my creativity rated above average (compared to other entries). They did have some things to say about the structure of my story, however.

That’s actually good news. Better “this passage isn’t long enough” than “this idea is boring and unoriginal”. The former is much easier to work with.

There were some places where more detail was required. I was basically attempting to create an entire universe in a few thousand words and fell short in a few places, leaving the reader confused about the big picture. They were able to give me some specific examples as to where I made this mistake. Precisely the kind of feedback I needed.

Also, in this particular story, I alternated between the points of view of two different characters rather quickly. I’m not entirely sure why I did this. It’s something I have actually found annoying in stories I’ve read by others.

Not that changing POV is bad (except when it’s done mid paragraph or something) but doing it too rapidly, or at the wrong time, can keep the reader from getting drawn into the characters. I’ve read stories where I found that just as I was getting interested in someone I had to shift gears to someone else. Exactly the effect I unwittingly created here. I have no reason other than: it’s how the story came to me and I didn’t give it much thought after the fact. I should have.

Most embarrassingly, I interchanged the word I intended with a homonym. I do this often—my husband often catches them if I ask him to proofread. In this case I had written ‘allowed’ for ‘aloud’. Twice. Seriously.

Yes I know the difference between the two. So why did I screw it up… and miss it again while editing? Who knows? For one thing I’m noticing that I hear the rhythm of the sentences and paragraphs in my head more than I actually look at the words I’m typing. Funny what we learn about ourselves. This is not what I would have expected. I’m generally a more visual than auditory person. In school I was always horrible at learning from lectures, but show me an example and I’m good to go. I wouldn’t have thought my visual perception of the words could be so easily foiled by my impression of their sound. It appears the workings of the brain aren’t so easily defined one way or the other. Surprise, surprise.

This error also highlights the downside of doing most of my own editing. Someone once told me that, no matter how careful we are, we only catch about sixty percent of our own mistakes on average. I am convinced that this is true–and at this I am not ‘above average’.

To solve this problem, the site recommended reading aloud (there’s that word again). Would this work where homonym mistakes are concerned? I’ve actually tried it before and found it often does. Perhaps because doing so forces me to pay closer attention, to look at the words as I read them. I realised the when I read the critique that I hadn’t used this technique for this piece, despite knowing about it. So, not only do I have to learn these lessons, I have to stick to applying them.

Final lesson of the day: It’s easy to get lazy.

I fully intend to enter the next contest by On The Premises and go through this process again. Maybe it will keep me honest.