Thursday, December 17, 2009

Worse Before It’s Better

Tverskoi Boulevard 1917-Aristarkh Lentulov-1882-194 Wednesday afternoon, my daughter finished her math homework, started her spelling, then completely lost her focus. I decided she could take a one hour play break (she’s only eight) before picking it back up again.

Halfway through her allotted hour of play, she came downstairs. “I decided to reorganize my bookcase, instead.” I’m thinking that she must be Type A like me.

Since I’d just that afternoon done housework for an hour to clear my head, I totally understood. When her hour was up, she completed her spelling happily and then worked on memorizing her multiplication tables.

Her room? It was a disaster. Half of her bookcase was stacked neatly by size and half of it was on the floor of her room.

The same thing happens for me when I try cleaning out a closet. It always looks worse before it looks better.

First drafts? They’re like that for me, too. They’re disasters. I have Post-It notes all over the house and car with bits of ideas on them.

I have 15 or 20 different Word files in my WIPs folder. They’ll have random ideas, character names, plot sketches, and what-if scenarios on them.

I also have out of order chapters that I wrote when I couldn’t move in a linear fashion through my first draft.

It’s a mess.

Then it gets even worse.

Then, with the second draft, it’s finally better—both aesthetically and content-wise.

I put in chapter breaks. I don’t do that when I write a first draft.

I do “find” search for any asterisks. *** marks spots where I couldn’t think of the appropriate word, needed to research a particular point, or felt like I’d written something that needed a rewrite later.

I put a header on each page with my name, the project name, and the word count. It looks official then and a bit more professional. It freaks me out when I do it for a first draft, though.

I review all my random ideas from the Post-It notes and Word files. Which ones didn’t I incorporate? Why didn’t I? Are they any good? If they are, I’ll work them in. If they work better than the current text, I’ll delete the old and paste in the new.

I look at the big picture. Did I tie up loose ends? Can I sum the plot up in a couple of sentences? Does the story itself make sense?

I work on some no-brainer edits. I look at “to be” verbs (is, are, was, etc.) and slash most of them. I look for modifiers like “very” and “really” and “almost.” I look for my favorite words “just” and “sighed.” I look for “thats.” I remove many of them.

Then I’m ready for the serious revising: looking at individual scenes. Reading each page through a dozen or more times.

I can handle the serious revising because it looks better already. It’s the point when you’re still cleaning out the closet…but you’ve gone ahead and taken a load of old clothes to the Good Will. You’ve gotten some of the clutter out of the way and can move on with the project.

It's Thursday! Pop over to the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen if you'd like a piece of cranberry cake. I'm Riley there.