The ‘Hardest Thing in Writing’
Through all the podcasts I’ve listened to on writing, all the reference books on outlining and structure I’ve read, one this is a common theme. Revision’s suck. There are several “the hardest thing in writing is…” that pop up frequently. The ‘hardest thing in writing’ is:
- Starting to write
- Turning off your internal editor
- Finishing the first draft
- Finishing a second draft
- Getting traditionally published.
All those things, at least the ones that I have experiences (the first 3) have been difficult, but doable. Even if it did take a decade or so. I’ve been writing since before I can remember, but the dropping the internal editor is a recent revelation for me and it’s been so critical in my ability to get words down. It’s important because even with a significant outline, it’s so easy to get ten chapters in and realize what a bad idea the outlined plan was. Or alternatively, you meet new characters and new, interesting challenges and that changes the story completely. So fighting off the internal editor is important, and really disinhibited my word count enough to finish two first drafts in 2019. But it seems unanimous that revisions are the truly hardest part, or at least the part that’s most painful. So now that’s where I sit. I have a $50, spiral bound copy of my first draft, colored pens, highlighters and a head full of fresh ideas on how to improve the draft.
Common Wisdom in Revisions
My manuscript first draft is about 70,000 words. The common wisdom is that as much as a third of that is fluff and needs to be cut out. That leaves me with a much shorter novel. I intend to add a lot of description I overlooked on the first draft as I raced to get to 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo last November. The easiest thing for me to write is plot, so it may be 70k words, but it’s bare bones when it comes to character depth and world building.
The other common wisdom is that you need to step away from your manuscript for at least about a month to six weeks in order to get enough distance from it to be honest with yourself about it’s quality. Hence, a writing blog intended to help me keep the momentum rolling and the words flowing. I’m approaching the month mark this coming Monday (Feb 17,2020) and I am feeling antsy to get going.
I already have so many changes I want to make, particularly in the first act of the book. My main character Por (short for Porwether; the book started on the frame of the Lewis and Clark expedition) needs a motivation for getting out of his city. I had a motivation I liked but as time goes on it bothers me as something the character wouldn’t actually do. Which is a good thing, I suppose. It means I’m getting to know my characters. Part of the revising process if continuing to get to know my characters better and better, and conducting interviews with them.
One thing that’s clear is that I have a lot to learn. I am still kicking myself for never taking creative writing classes in college, and Coursera is great but only gets you so far. All these books are super helpful though, and as I go through this process it makes it easier and easier to do it again. Draft two will be leaps and bounds better than Draft one just by simple experience I have under my belt.
Cheers to Draft 2, may it be less painful than expected!
PS. I will be posting some of my thoughts about Norse Mythology in Fantasy this coming weekend. If that’s something that interests you, keep an eye out Sunday afternoon!