Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preparing to Revise

Revising: Not all fun
To prepare for the revision of my first draft, I’ve been following these steps, from the blog Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers. The steps are from PlotWriMo -  Martha's answer to the question, what the hell do I do with my NaNoWriMo manuscript? I found the blog via Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers (which you have to sign up to their newsletter to access).

Anyway, I've been following the steps, and they've forced me to work through the structure of my story’s plot and complete an analysis. Fun, right?

I can’t say this is the easiest, least painful part of the novel writing process thus far (even for someone with an inner-planning-freak-Virgo-who-likes-charts), but there have been some exciting moments. Following the daily tasks from last December’s posts, I’ve come to a better understanding of my characters and their motivations and found better scene ideas to reinforce theme. I even have a color-coded plot diagram (with subplots and themes). The diagram gives me the high-level view of my novel’s inner workings, tells me if it the story energy is rising and falling as it should, and points out where the big rewrites need to happen. For example, I now know that I have to write an entirely different beginning.

I thought I’d share a few bits of the process with you. This is part of an exercise in character development. (I probably should have started off with stuff like this figured out.)

Character Emotional Development Plot-line
    Flaw:    Rejects who and what she is.
    Strength:    Compassion.
    Hates:    That she is not human.
    Loves:    Her friends. 
    Fears:    Her power & her inability to control it. Her true self. Being discovered.
    Dream:    To be reunited with her human father and live as a human.
    Secret:    She is the last of her kind. She has been secretly searching for her father.

This is just part of the exercise, and I completed one for each of the major characters (MC), including the antagonist. I think I made it more difficult than it was supposed to be. I really struggled with her flaw, trying to make it something grand. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the story around the flaw that should be bold, and that the flaw itself was just the vehicle for one of the themes in my story.

I’m still not happy 100% happy with her character profile, but I’m getting close. I’ve been reading The Character Therapist’s blog to give me ideas about fleshing out my character’s mental inner-workings, and one post that resonated with me was the one on survival guilt. My MC is the last of her kind, the survivor of a genocide of sorts, and I’m interested in how survival guilt will play out in her decisions.
So, yeah, lots to work on still.

The PlotWriMo steps gave me a process for analyzing the structure of my novel. Once I've started the rewrite, I can better answer the question how does this process improve the writing (in every way, being the probable answer, but I'll give a full accounting at the end).

Sometimes the structured process calms the constant, low-level panic that threatens to make me run from this novel; sometimes it doesn’t. Robert Frost said “the only way out is through.” Not a comforting thought for me, but it does help still my instinct to avoid the scary bits.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  


  1. I'll have to take a look at some of these things and see if they can help me out. I feel like I've got some gaping holes to deal with, and I'm not sure how to fix them. It may also just be time to let some people read my book (scary!).

    By the way, I thought I'd let you know, I have enjoyed your blog quite a bit. Consider yourself Liebstered.

  2. Thank you, JeffO. You really made my day with your comment! (and my first blog tag)

    Letting someone read the book - it seems a little like letting someone go through your underwear drawer. Eegads. Still - I guess that is the point of this whole writing thing, so might as well do it.