Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Writing Changes

I wrote a contemporary inspirational romance novel a few years ago, for NaNo 2005. I promptly pushed it off to the side and proceeded on my merry way playing with fantasy novels and ideas again, but the story resurfaced about a year ago when I was chatting with my friend Jean. I snippeted her a few bits and then she read the whole thing. The first draft, scary thought. And said nice things. (Not ONLY nice things, mind, but included them).

Through that the idea of revising and shaping up this story took hold, though certainly not to the exclusion of anything else, lol. I played with it a bit at the time, but soon came to realize the problems were deeper than I'd thought at first and set it aside again.

So, the other day I printed out the whole thing and began to read through, making brief notes on every scene. Along about fifty pages in, the note for one scene was simply a large X and "delete." And for the next scene, I scrawled across the page, "Seriously?" I'd found a few really good bits (the ones I'd first shared with Jean!) but way more dross. A LOT of dross.

I sat back in my chair and thought about the characters, their kids, their issues. She's too nice, I thought. She takes monumental stuff totally in stride. Superwoman! Okay, so it's official. She needs a makeover. I began mulling over *logical* makeovers that would tweak things but not necessitate ALL new scenes!

After a few minutes, I turned my attention to the hero. Also a pretty good guy. Slightly less perfect than the heroine, but nothing that really qualifies as a character flaw. A little case of temper, perhaps, would go a long way. Or maybe...

In just over three years, my writing style has changed a lot. I've learned to characterize much better (even my stupid whiny hero from Tempest has more personal issues than these folks). And I've learned to get much deeper into point-of-view. Quite a bit I've done since then has been in first person, which helps with the deeper, but the potential markets for this romance novel want third.

Even in third, this main character thinks too much! So the first thing is to bring someone directly into that opening paragraph/scene so she can TALK about stuff instead of THINK about it. The meeting with the hero later in the scene is reasonably okay as is. She shouldn't tell him all this stuff yet. But she needs a new best friend to bounce issues off of.

I've set aside the month of February to hit this novel and bring it into line. I'd like to think I could do it all in one month--after all, I wrote the entire 52K in one November!--but I'm thinking it may take a little longer. Hopefully not a lot longer, though. Maybe six weeks? Two months tops.

I'm reworking character profiles as we speak, and I still need to mine the previous manuscript for more good stuff to carry over. It's in there. The bones are decent, and worth rebuilding from.

If you're wondering why I'm not writing either Tempest or Dottie these days, the answer simply is that I'm not. Though I've been poking at Dottie recently and getting good ideas of how things need to proceed. One thing her story does not suffer from is weak characterization. The novel is populated with true individuals and they agree on very little. Lots of fun sparks. I'm stopping short of calling Tempest dead. But she's on life support, which is sad as it is some of my strongest writing thus far. One day the answers to my questions about her will erupt in my mind and she'll hit the road running again. I hope.

1 comment:

lindaruth said...

Hi -- I've been away a while (at least not reading blogs much) but I came across this post of yours today and thought it was interesting. I've been noticing much the same things about my writing. A friend of mine here likes to try to do the equivalent of NaNo in February and I and a few others have joined in her effort this year. So I decided to do serious rewriting on the novel I wrote a few years ago. When I look at it now, I see some good stuff, but so much more is weak and rambling. I think my writing is stronger now, so I'm going to give this a shot. What you say about your characters could be said about mine, too -- too nice, not broken enough, not human enough, when you get right down to it.
So here's a productive February!