Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The value in the bad bits

I'm currently in the "typing all the words" stage of the revision. I handwrite, so that means that I'm converting scribbles in two different notebooks to computer file. Sometimes I type as I go, but this time, I was writing through an incredibly busy semester and I decided my time was better used to generate new words than to type ones that already existed. (Also, my internal editor gets a lot meaner when I'm stressed, and I was worried if I took the time to type - thus looking back over what I had written - I'd talk myself out of continuing.) And yes, by the end of things this did mean that sometimes I tucked my notebook in my purse and brought it to the grocery store with me because it's not like I had a back up copy somewhere in the cloud. There was also the time I brought my novel instead of my lecture notes to my graduate seminar. 


Er, moving on.


At this point, I have about seven pages worth of handwritten notes on what I need to think about for the revision. This ranges from things I need to put in or take out, history I need to research, thoughts on characters, notes on soundtrack (I make fairly specific writing playlists) to more serious notes on things like theme and what the book needs to be doing at any given time.


The notes mean that in some cases I have a good idea of the changes I'm making, and some of these changes are big - big enough that I know that certain scenes that I have written aren't going to make it in the next version. And the thing about typing with some distance from the initial writing, is that it also means that there are some scenes that, when I read them, I can tell aren't going in the next version because they're just wrong.


In both of these instances, I'm glad I wrote them. They weren't wasted words, even though they are getting cut. Sometimes you need to write the wrong words to know why they are the wrong ones - you think your character will react a certain way until she does, for example. Sometimes writing a wrong scene helps you think about why the scene is wrong, and then you understand your story more clearly afterward.


And sometimes I just needed to give myself permission to write something - anything! - that would get the words moving that day. Sometimes I recognize those places as I type, but sometimes I don't - there are bits of story there now, bits that actually matter, or I hit the right emotion, even if the event that got me there was wrong. Not always, of course. There are those moments when I shake my head, and draw a line through the page, and feel very glad that the finished version won't include bonus material with deleted scenes.



8 comments:

  1. Some years ago I worked in a sports newspaper and one day I was talking to a co-worker about soccer. About how a 90-minutes match can't be reduced to the few seconds in which a player scores a goal. Abot how that goal is often the result of several "failed" attempts which are not actually failures, since they help develop and fine-tune a strategy, undermine the adversary's defense, build self-confidence in the team, and so many other things. (Hey, that applies to fencing too, right?)

    And I told her how I believed that worked the same way for love. How ending relationships were not failures but learnings.

    The way you put it, I guess writing works that way too.

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  2. Process nerd question: do you try to draft your novels in order or do you write scenes as they come and sort it out during revision? I know there's no one-size-fits-all approach, but I'm curious how draft order fits into your overall writing process.

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    1. At least so far, I generally write the scenes in the order in which they'll appear in the book.

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  3. How many completed novels have you written? I am excited to buy a Kat Howard book!

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    1. You are incredibly kind to say so! Thank you. I am excited for you to be able to do this, too, and promise to let you know as soon as it is possible.

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  4. Reading this post makes me feel like our process is similar - as much as it's possible, every writer is a world of her own in this. But I, too, accomplish a lot more in revision stage than I do in the first draft - I make heavy changes every time, no matter how I think that "this time I got it right". Nope, never happens. It gets kind of funny, thinking that and then finding out you'll actually cut the entire scene you thought was so perfect upon writing it. (Uhm. Maybe "funny" isn't the word I was looking for?)
    Sometimes it's hard, killing off all those bits and pieces (or, more often, chunks), but I usually enjoy rewriting more than I do jotting down the first draft. I guess it's because I feel like I actually know what I'm aiming for.
    I'm currently trudging throw a Draft Zero... I keep wishing I got to rewriting already, but not yet.
    Keep up the good work! (and sorry for the longhish comment!)

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    1. Thank you! And no need to apologize. :)

      Good luck with your own Draft Zero, and then happy revising to you.

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