Sunday, January 3, 2010

Struggling to Emerge from the Vortex

I know. I've been neglecting my blog. It missed me, I'm sure.

I've been super-focused. I wrote 32K in ten days. In fact, I handwrote 32K in ten days, and then I had to type it. (Typing took four days.) In the middle of that, I caught the flu bug and ran a little fever.

This is the vortex - a time of little sleep, little food, and much much writing (I got the phrase from a biography of Louisa May Alcott). Only now, I'm emerging from it slowly, remember that I have bills to pay, laundry to wash, thank you notes to pen, and holiday cookies to bake.

For days, I lay awake at night, imagining the next scene, and now, I lay awake at night, struck by revision ideas. I've even started keeping a notebook by my bed. If I think of something I'm worried about losing, then I'll go so far as to turn on the light and write it down. (If I'm not so worried about losing it, I don't turn on the light and take a chance on not being able to read my own handwriting in the morning.)

I've never written this much this fast in my life - I'm pretty sure. (I've also never really kept track of word counts like this before.) It's not my best work. I'm not saying that all of it is bad, but I changed parts of the plot midway without going back to fix what I've written before. Everything needs some revision before I show it even to my closest friends.

Realizing that I had roughly 70K of revision in front of me - ie. a whole manuscript to make coherent, funny, and meaningful - I started to feel a little overwhelmed.

So, I broke it into steps:
  1. Gather all my revision notes and type them up in order of plot chronology (I have nearly 1500 words of notes to myself alone).
  2. Tackle one chapter at a time, revising a hard copy and inputting the changes on a new digital copy.
  3. Aim for at least two chapters a day.
  4. Once Round 1 of revisions are finished, read it all the way through for coherency and consistency.
  5. Read competitive titles for comparison.
  6. Read the whole thing outloud.
Number 6 is a trick I was told sometime in high school. I never got the chance to test out this great advice, because I wrote all my papers and assignments either late or the study period before it was due - and thus barely had time for Spellcheck.

In college, my hardest class was actually a course on Fairy Tales. We did great things like have a skit every class and make our own magic carpets, but it was also my first class ever where my teacher/professor took off points for unnecessary words and handed back my papers with as much red marks as black ink.

I was furious, at first. I started writing my papers (gasp!) a week early, and I read them aloud to myself several times before the deadline. Then I did some of my best scholarly and creative work, and the course become one of my favorite classes ever.

(I'm sorry to say that I still wrote the rest of my papers a few hours before they were due with coffee and iTunes and my procrastinating friends for company.)

Okay. Off to revise Chapter 1...

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