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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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The Joy of (re-)Writing

Trying to get my fiction off dead center, I've tried a couple of new techniques with Gutenberg's Other Book that have worked so well that I want to share them.

I decided last year that I'd gotten too heavily involved with NaNoWriMo and that overall I wasn't taking the time and care that I used to take with my writing. I've improved as a writer by forcing myself to focus all my writing energy on 30 days a year, certainly my productivity, but the projects were dying as quickly as they were created. I've been doing research and preparing to write GOB for two years and last January I decided that it was time to give it life. I filled a journal with pencil-written notes and according to the time-stamp started writing on January 4th. I wrote a little almost every day, letting the ideas germinate and following an evolving outline that I kept in the journal.

But by August 12th, I was in a stall. I had 43,000 words and just couldn't force myself to add the next chapter. So I put the project aside and in September I asked cloister27 and the DW to read and comment. (BTW, if you haven't read Cloister's "Show some character" blog, you are missing some of the best free advice on the Internet!) The comments I got back really shed light on the weaknesses in my story and in my characters. They also showed that there was the germ of a story that was worth following through with, but needed serious rethinking. For one thing, in the liesure of months instead of days to write I allowed myself to follow no less than five different story-arcs. Everyone had a secret agenda or organization or both. It had gotten so complex that I lost the main story and POV. So I closed the book and started over.

I did some outlining, culled my character list, and focused on the main event. I completely avoided thinking about the pseudo-historical backstory that was over a quarter of my current draft. November 1, I put pen to paper, literally, and started writing again. In 31 days, I had 54,000 pretty well-crafted words in a story with a single arc and minimal distractions to the limited POV. I was pretty happy with the result, but knew that there were other things that had to be exposed as well, so the book -- in spite of ending -- wasn't finished. I set it aside and came back to it after the first of the year, intending to write the bakstory arc.

As I read the new work, I was still aware that it wasn't quite right. There were inconsistencies and weaknesses that I could see right away. So I decided to take an entirely new approach. I began rewriting the story in first person. I've had pretty good success with a couple of books written in first person, but I wasn't sure I could expose enough of the storyline if I didn't have a narrator. The first revelation in rewriting the first four pages was that the book started in the wrong place. According to my MC, the story started a bit further in than I thought then looped back to catch people up. I let him tell it as he saw it.

Since my major goal in this rewrite is to have a solid 30 pages and synopsis for the PNWA Literary Competition in February, I'm focusing all my energy on the first chapter. So my next step was to rewrite the first four pages again, shifting to third person narration but maintaining the refocused limited POV.

Wow! What a difference. My first four pages are an order of magnitude better than the first four pages of the second draft and so far beyond the first that I can't believe that's where I started. You drop into my MC's head from the first paragraph and watch the story unfold from there.

Now, I'm continuing to do the double rewrite, continuing to narrate the story in first person from the MC's point of view and then recast it into third person. It's an interesting technique and involves a lot of actual re-writing. I think that is where I lost it with previous NaNo books because I thought all they needed was editing. It's simply not so. If you are writing something as complex as a novel, it deserves the kind of thought that comes from actually writing the sentence again and evaluating if it is the right sentence for the book. It makes a huge difference!


congrats! you should post the first few paragraphs of each revision sometime so that I can see the difference -- I'm a WEENIE when it comes to switching POV and rewriting. WEENIE, I tell you. You may have just given me some courage to try the same =)
That's fabulous!! And congratulations, both for sticking with a story so that eventually we'll get to read it, and for being willing to try new approaches!