Thursday, June 14, 2012

Walk a Mile

Throughout the process of writing my novel, I stopped in my tracks and tried walking in another direction. At other times, I slipped off my main character’s shoes and walked a mile or two in the shoes of other characters, which helped me think outside of the first person perspective. To achieve all of this, I opened up a new ‘experimental’ document.

This technique worked on two levels. First, when something felt a little ‘off’ in the direction a character decided to take in my original document, I could still move forward knowing in the back of my mind that I could experiment later. Sometimes the ‘off’ feeling was smoothed over once I wrote a little more and realized why my character needed to do/say what he or she did. Having that ‘experimental document’ just sitting on my desktop, waiting to be opened, allowed me to move forward with a possibly iffy decision.

But then if that off feeling only worsened, that’s when I’d turn to the experimental document. Writing in the openness of the new document, allowed my character the freedom to feel out or test other trails, stumble upon new things she hadn’t known about herself.

Having the safety net of the original just sitting there for me to go back to allowed for risk-taking.  I challenged myself to explore other turns or possibilities in the plot or in the choices of a character. Most of the time, my ‘experimental’ scenes and chapters ended up being inserted into the original document, and older scenes deleted.

If I didn’t use the experimental document, I still gained new insights about a minor character, for example, who had become more fleshed out in my mind, having walked in her shoes.

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if your character had made a different choice than the one s/he did? Or if your novel is in first person, do you ever experiment with the perspectives of other characters in separate documents?

Monday, June 4, 2012

WIP Update

Writing my novel has been a process of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ because I was not able to take the advice of some writers and just plunge forward without looking back. I did turn around and ponder. I sometimes second-guessed the motives or choices of my characters. I challenged them to take risks. I tried different approaches to scenes. 

As I wrote and I changed something about a character, or about the plot, I couldn’t help myself from going back and making related changes throughout the novel as I wrote the first draft. I revised as I went along. I took breaks. I set the manuscript aside often to gain perspective. After two years of working this way, I finally finished a first draft of my YA novel.

At first, I was in shock. My reaction? No reaction. Again, I put the manuscript to the side and took a deep breath. I exhaled. And then, a few days later, came a great sense of satisfaction. Not that my novel is anywhere near perfect or ready for submission but this first draft is complete. It is currently 68, 696 words and 242 pages in length.

Now, as I wait for feedback from a few people, I am hoping to develop some emotional distance from the novel so that I can be as open as possible to critiques.
In a week or so, after absorbing feedback, I’ll move on to another round of revisions.

When you finish a first draft of a piece of writing, how do you prepare yourself for the next stage of revision?