I was feeling pretty smug on Friday. I was going into the weekend with all my to-dos checked off and a little more than 2,500 words added to my novel, excluding revisions. But something wasn’t sitting right with me.
The narrative flowed. The dialogue was believable. There even was some dramatic tension.
Yet, something was off. I kept coming back to the conversation in the car. It was filler, 745 wasted words. The reader learned nothing new, and the information I restated was not important enough to mention twice. Earlier, I’d hinted that Janelle might gain additional insight by spending more than an hour in the car with Paul’s parents, but I hadn’t delivered. I was feeling less smug.
The car ride, the precursor to a dramatic scene, contained no drama, no heightened expectations, nothing that would make me (or you) want to turn the page and keep reading. Nearly a third of my week’s work was junk not worth salvaging.
I’ll be able to use a sentence or two, move them to an earlier section. As for the rest, I’ll highlight the words and hit delete. Today, I’ll rewrite that section, plus another 500 words or so.
For the past several months, I’ve been taking a new approach to writing. Members of my critique group suggested moving the story along and revising later. Previously, I’d revise as I wrote, which made for lovely prose, but stories that crept forward. In the write now-revise later model, I find that plot problems are more apparent. However, the prose stinks. So, I am trying a hybrid approach, revising my work of the previous days before I write new sections that get things going again.
Of course, there’s still the no-fail way to find problems: Step away from the computer. Let the plot percolate in the subconscious. After it’s steeped a while, ask do I care what’s happening, do the characters interest me and further the plot, why do they act as they do, and what needs to happen to keep me turning pages? When I know the answers, I go back to the keyboard. And maybe hit delete.
I enjoy reading your adventures in writing – good luck working through this part!
And an adventure it is!
I sometimes let essays sit in a file labeled “festering” for months before I try to make a story out of them. That works for short stories. It probably would’t work for a novel. I know that I would feel overwhelmed if I was looking at revising more than about 5,000 words. I’d be reaching for a bottle–and a gun.
Percolating, festering. It’s all of a piece that let’s us cut out the bad and rewrite. It works, doesn’t it?
I never consider them finished, just good enough, or the best I can do. I have to stay within 1200 words normally, so I throw away a lot. If I think something is good, I put it away and use it someplace else. It’s always during the rewrite that I figure out what it’s about.