Oh, my blog is so reflecting the writing life. If only writing would flow forward like a smooth river to the sea. For me, writing is a lock system on a canal. Think Panama, Suez, or my local favorite, the "Lake Washington Ship Canal." To move the boat forward you have to wait for water to fill compartments. It's a battle to a high place from a low place. You start at the sea of ideas and back track to the source, the eternal spring of highly original work.
The first draft is that sea of ideas. The canal back to your original work has certain steps. Here are some steps that I've learned to trust on my writing journey to my well-spring.
1. A rough draft must rest for at least one month before you start digging into it.
2. Read your novel from cover to cover and mark the major problems. Understand that you are going to journey by here again and again. Don't worry if you can't fix everything on your first pass. Open your soul to the current changes.
3. Try some chapters in a different person. Is there anything cool or interesting about that? Consider flipping the book if you are intrigued by what is happening.
4. Ask your book to speak to you. This may seem strange, but sometimes your book will speak to and it might have something very useful to say. I usually ask every day for a few weeks. And then one day, I wake up and it has things to say.
5. Always change the font when you make a new draft. This is going to help you read with fresh eyes. I also single space most drafts and sometimes I print them out paperback size because I want to see if it reads like a real book.
6. Try rewriting the end of your book. Just toss the last 5 chapters and give it another go. Does anything interesting happen?
7. Give those side characters some love. Often on first chapters I don't give the side characters any life or verve. I often draft for secondary characters and focus on who they are what they want.
8. Pull out the loose threads. Hey, we all wander. You need to cut out every chapter that doesn't really move your story forward. Lose the unnecessary characters too. Believe me your manuscript will thank me.
9. Go all crazy about the words. Yes, I do a draft that scrubs out any repetitive words, boring words, lazy words, awkward words. Make the language sing!
10. Print the manuscript out teeny-tiny. Put like 20 pages on each page. You can really get your mind around the pacing of your novel this way. Do you have an errant 20 page chapter that needs to be chopped in two? Are all your chapters the exact same length? Highlight the climax, the turning point, the call to action, the tent pole middle, the denouement, introduction of each character, the points of complexity, etc. Is this a well-crafted novel or a mess?
Well, that should keep you thinking for a few weeks. I wish you the best on your journey to a super-polished gem. I will be back next week with more first draft wisdom. I hope to see you here. I had a sign this week, and it has left me jazzed, more to come...
Here is a doodle from one of sketchbooks. I call it, "Fishing."
My playlist hit of the week is "Apples and Pairs" from Slow Club.
Last, the quote of the week:
When the world says, "Give up," hope whispers, "Try it one more time. ~Author Unknown.