Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's my Process and I'll Cry if I want To

Did you miss me? I've been... 'defining my process' - don't want to have to burn the book. I've heard the term for years but only recently have I discovered how it applies to me. How did I suddenly wind up with so many manuscripts in need of revision? You know how you set wips aside to work on much later (or bury them in your neighbor's backyard) then you have some epiphany that causes you to start thinking of ways to resurrect it?

I just finished the first pass through TR, my paranormal/romance/ mystery/ psychological crime thriller. Just kidding! Though it does have all those elements. Last week I mentioned that I've been listening to some great workshops on re-writing, revising, replotting, by any name, you get the gist.

Having arrived at a certain point in my writing - a few finished manuscripts under my belt, a couple contests entered, some submissions, (and um, rjs) I was looking for the next step. How to make those stories stronger before resubmitting to another publisher or agent. With the Moonlight and Magnolias conference coming up in October, I want to make the best of my opportunities. Some process besides just reading it and re-reading, doing line-edits, hoping for some inspiration to hit.

Writers have different ideas about rewriting the rough draft or revising stale manuscripts. Some go right at the plot, tweaking the story, scene by scene, looking at Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Some think the gramatics (is that a word?) or the prose is the key. But no matter the genre - romantic suspense, fantasy, screenwriting, inspirational - or the writer, Anna DeStefano, Michael Hauge, Jim Butcher, Lisa Gardner, Linda Hall, or Bill Kirton, I found threads of wisdom running through each of their processes and advice.

Characterization makes the plot sing. My words but that's essentially it. Anna DeStefano calls the re-working of the rough draft re-CRAFTING. 'Planning the characters in advance allows the writer to know how the characters will live the plot'. She says the secret to re-crafting the rough draft lies in understanding the characters better. 'Re-craft the heroine.' She suggests going through the manuscript for one or two features at a time like POV of the Protagonist. Read just those scenes. Do you understand the entire story through the Protag's viewpoint? She should either be in a scene or reacting to another character's scene.

Bill Kirton said 'stories rely on credible characters'. Donald Maass' book The Fire in Fiction is a study of character motivation.
Hauge talks about the Desire of the character driving the story forward and the five stages of the plot. Lisa Gardner looks at turning points, making sure the story is progressing at each point. Linda Hall says 'the story boils down to one line - The Heroine (Protagonist) has a problem.' ( CREATE MORE OBSTACLES. Know your characters' internal conflict.)

This all reflects my own gut feeling about my manuscripts - I need to know my characters better. So I'm delving back into the character work via the little Snowflake program which has a great character questionaire. Then I'll re-readn to see what other paths they take with my new understanding of their desires and motives.

One of the most encouraging things Ms. DeStefano said was, "It's all part of the process. Even a cruddy first draft. Get used to it." She said if you don't love your baby, you won't want to spend the time with it required to make it great. Again, the re-writing should be creative and not a chore - you are still in the imagination phase of the project. I like that.




One of the things I've found to be true for me (and it may not apply to you or anyone else!), is that if I put a book away and move on to something else, it's usually because the book is flawed in a major way.

And yes, I agree that the characters make the story. Even with a crappy plot, an excellent character will keep tugging at me. Plotting is my weakness, so I have a tendency to rely upon other people to help me wade through the crap and flush it.

On the other hand, I have thumbed through old WIPs and extracted excellent secondary characters, or scenes, or other such stuff that works better in another book--one that I've actually managed to finish.

I'm also one of those people who tends to move on if the curernt work isn't grabbing me by the throat. I figure the more new stuff I write, the more I'll grow and develop as a writer. I've known writers who have written 1-3 books and they're still rewriting (or recrafting or de-crapping)them 20 years later - with no publishing credits.

Advice from other people is terrific, but you still need to do what feels right for you, inside your own heart.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

That's true, Linda. I may find these two weren't worth taking another look, like so many that I've set aside, but my gut feeling is that I out of fear or lack of knowledge, I gave up on them too soon. I'm enthused about them again. Stay tuned to see if the re-crafting can keep them out of the crapper, ;)