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.