Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Pulling Weeds, Including the Ones in My Manuscript
My work in progress was full of weeds, too. I started it during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November but stopped after 25,000 words when I realized I liked my characters and my plot too much to push through to the challenge goal of 50,000 without doing a little more planning. The story was too complicated, I had too many names to keep track of without a cast of characters, and my timeline was already screwed up.
So I dropped the NaNoWriMo challenge and went back to the beginning. After submitting a few of the chapters to my critique group and enjoying a brainstorming sessions with my creative compadres, I developed a new vision for the novel.
And was still able to keep my basic story idea intact.
When I rearranged chapters and scenes and began to read analytically against comments made in my group's critiques, I saw old patterns emerging. Bad habits are hard to break.
These are the sloppy things I always do in my first draft, so as a committed pantser, I wasn't very surprised. I usually charge through that first draft to the end and wait until a revision and self-editing cycle to "fix" the problems. Because I need to rewrite and expand that first 25,000 into about 50,000 before writing the rest of the story, I'm reading each page carefully...and fixing things as I go.
Cut and paste a section here. Add a scene there. Cross out unnecessary words. Search for "shrugging" and "nodding" and "thinking for a moment." Catching those sections where I've revealed information too soon or too late, and moving those passages to their proper location. Turn narrative scenes into dialog and action scenes. And, believe it or not, I'm preparing a chapter outline of important scenes for the whole novel before I write the third act.
Can this method work for me in the long term, or is this a one-time treatment because of the need to rework those first pages? I'm not sure yet.
But I know one thing for sure. If I waited until the first growing cycle was over in my garden before I started pulling weeds, I'd have a much bigger job on my hands, and the weeds would have stunted the growth of some good plants.
Maybe that's why I have the full first draft manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2011 still sitting on my desk, along with all of my group's critiques, and haven't done a thing with it. I'll get back to it eventually, but I may have finally learned my lesson about plotting versus pantsing because that revision is going to be a big job.
It's never to late to learn new tricks, never too late to try a new process. We'll see how it goes.