Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Into my process - A Sawmill's Hope

My work consumes my thoughts. And by 'work' I don't mean what I'm currently doing for a living. I mean life work. So I figured I'd share it with you. After all, my blog is nothing if not a personal challenge to write until I'm out of secrets.
If that involves including reference materials (ie. map, synopsis) that are spoilers to my current work in progress, let's just call them appetizers, shall we?

After all, we're told our whole life not to spoil our appetites by eating before dinner, only to find out that grown ups do it so frequently there's an entire section of menus dedicated to it!



 Darke and the Parandrus
I finished the 6th draft of this one year after starting it. Then I queried it to eighteen agents. This isn't a lot by any means. But I was too excited about my next book to keep up the grueling querying. Just because a man would make a great lumberjack doesn't necessarily mean he likes to dress in a tie and sit in an interview. He just wants to cut down trees!

So I left Darke on the shelf, assuming I'd come back someday. Then several things happened. The going got tough in book #2 (poor excuse to put it down but we're being honest), I read the First Law trilogy (which, in case I haven't mentioned, changed the way I look at literature), and an up-and-coming publishing house opened their doors for unsolicited book submissions (through October of this year unless I'm mistaken).

These three details turned out to be exactly what I needed to crack the dusty cover of Darke's story. And after six months on the shelf, it was dusty indeed. I read an excerpt, slack jawed, flabbergasted I'd ever asked anyone to test read it, ashamed I'd ever been proud to call it my own. The weakness was the story's voice, or lack thereof. It was all telling. I had no grasp of emotion save what was spelled out for me. If this had been someone else's book, I'd have thrown it.

Please understand I'm not being negative or pessimistic. It's absolutely healthy that I felt this way. I'd grown in those six months, as a reader and a writer. My standards were higher. And if I'm lucky, they'll only continue to ascend. Our personal best is only limited by the amount time and work we're willing to put into something.

So I decided to rewrite it. And this is how:

I took the five point of view characters and singled out their parts. Then I began to rewrite them one at a time. Completed are Aedron (whose viewpoint makes up 8% of total book) and Tahkaan (11%). In the works are Brandal (27%) and Darke (44%).
Lastly, of course, will be Recher.

(let's just say pink = spoilers)

The advantage of this is that I'm able to get deep into one character's head and follow his personal journey the entire trip through the Unwithering Woods. For each character to have a unique voice, I had no choice but to do this. And it's working so well, it's a technique I'll resort to again, for sure.

My friend Volker asked if I'd look back at the story a year after the rewrite and consider it garbage once more. In a way, I hope so. It'll only make it better.

Are you your own best critique? What are you doing right now to grow better at your craft? And I don't mean maintaining your craft, I mean taking it higher. Because if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.

27 comments:

  1. That's a unique way to write a story. It would help in maintaining a consistent voice though.
    Sometimes we just have to rewrite from scratch, especially if we've grown as a writer.

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    1. I'm hoping this is the final rewrite. But if not, again, it will be because my writing's grown stronger. (Or stranger, which is equally good)

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  2. I love the map! Good for you for completing another draft:)I like your analytical style, and I used to lean this direction myself. But so many agents got scared off from multiple POV novels that I started writing from a single perspective each time. Obviously, I still write what I want, but I find using one POV does help focus a skeptical reader and bring them around:)

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    1. Interesting (if not scary!) observation. I love having multiple views. To me it's the best way to learn the world, the issue and the characters... to see them in different ways.
      And yes, I put the tical in analytical! (that could've gone dark)

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  3. Even if you write it and look back realizing it could be much better, you'll have a foundation and unique character voices on which to build.

    After writing two non-fiction books, I realized I'm better at that than fiction. Then again, maybe those two books have now helped my fiction writing?

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    1. I'm sure they helped. I think every word we write builds us as writers... if nothing more than practicing pushing buttons on a keyboard!
      And you're right; with each draft and rewrite I'm getting deeper into the characters' motives.

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  4. I definitely felt the same way as you as I read my WIP after having let it simmer for a while. It was horrible! How could I have been proud of it? And you know what -- this is a good sign, as long as it motivates us to pick up the scalpel and get back to work on that manuscript.

    Good luck with your revision. I know it's a job even the toughest lumberjacks would run away from screaming.

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    1. Glad it's not just me. I'd read good books and bad while mine simmered. And when I picked mine up again, it fell toward the latter!
      Hahaha, pansy lumberjacks!

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  5. You're so organized! I love it. :)

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    1. I'd be lost without it! ... Not necessarily in my room, closet, truck, yard, pockets, etc. But inside my computer and notes and stories is impeccable order.

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    2. *the files anyway... inside the stories themselves? I've yet to see.

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  6. I had that same horrified feeling with my very first WIP. I'd made so many mistakes I hadn't been aware of at the time. Very, very luckily for me, I won a free edit from DearEditor.com, and the professional editorial letter I received helped me SO much. Another thing that helped was my critique group. We not only crit each others work, but share teaching-craft links.

    Your voice rewrite is exactly right - you need to concentrate on one at a time to bring the uniqueness of that voice out. Good luck! :-)

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    1. I would love to have a professional editor see my work. I bet it would do so much for my craft.
      I seriously need to get into a writing group. Just not sure how.

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  7. Hi, popping in from ISWG :) I took my first novella apart so many times and recently found a few of the original pages. I know exactly what you're talking about! Ironically I didn't think my writing was that bad, and I suppose for personal enjoyment it was fine, but to persuade others to read and enjoy ... well, just as well I rewrote it and didn't stick with the original!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes-Tribe

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    1. My writing nearly offended me on a molecular level. It was detestably abhorrent.
      Ok, possible exaggeration. :)

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  8. I've been doing this a long long time, but I think how you're handing your revision is awesome. Happy IWSG, David. You're inspiring.

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  9. David, you've described the natural writer's growth. We can't see our errors when we first start out--we just wanna tell our stories. Then as we grow, we realize what we need to change. I applaud you for making the effort of going back in and fixing. My first two novels were beyond repair--at least, more than i was willing to do.

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    1. The phrase "beyond repair" still scares me a bit. Just hoping my story isn't at that point. But again, if so, it offered me many lessons.

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  10. As someone who is just starting out on this writing journey, I can see that I have interesting destinations ahead. Who would have thought that rereading your work after setting it aside would bring about such a negative reaction (this is terrible)? Of course, that response was followed by a positive one (I know how to make it better). And now you hope that it is just as bad the next time you read it so that you can improve it again. This sounds a lot like The Hero's Journey? Do you feel like Dorothy in Oz????

    BTW, I found you via your Write Club comments. I always find your breakdown very interesting. You usually manage to say what I feel, but you put it into words better. I read your Write Club post from July. I wasn't judging last year, so I didn't read the "snark," but I think your comments are constructive and not remotely "snarky."

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    1. Robin, fear not! Some people are better first-drafters than me! And when I started writing, I had sort of fallen off reading books for a couple of years. Reading is the best way to improve your craft... next to writing
      That's right, try-fail cycles!
      I do think I've gotten more productive than last year. Anyone can point at the hole sinking the ship... What takes effort is offering a fix.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Wow man, first I love the map and second that is one of the cooler things I have seen on how to get order with these bigger epic books. I am not saying I will steal and use it...but I'm not saying I won't....

    Good luck on the rewrite...still waiting to graced with something to read of yours.

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    1. Thanks Brandon.
      I only share things here to help my fellows. Use it at your leisure!
      I'm so hesitant to share my work... Maybe because it's so subject to change at any time.

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    2. I totally understand that. I look at some of my writing and a month could go by and I think wow did I write that, I can do so much better, lol.

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  12. Yeah that's definitely the best way. I take a break from my project after every draft and every edit round. Otherwise, I'd never be able to see my own errors.

    Even then, I still don't see all of them, so I have four crit partners to read the edited drafts.

    That definitely keeps me improving.

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    1. I need crit partners!
      ...preferably that are into young adult gritty adventure stories!

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