Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thank your friends...and do the work

All of the critiques of the rough draft of FJR have been returned to me from the saints that reviewed it. Here is what I have to say about that:

Deb, Ali, Nicole, and John--you guys so rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Look, the truth of the matter is, as writers, we jump into something hoping to God that what we're doing will work. We hope also, of course, that we will be able to recognize what goes wrong--if anything--in a manuscript by ourselves. But we just can't. That's where having a good writers group comes in so damn handy.

The good news is, after all their notes and all their hard reading-work, they all pretty much came to the same conclusion. There are two specific scenes that bug everyone.

Here's the news that a lot writers don't recognize:
When only two scenes are off, that's great.
But, that still means you have to adjust the entire manuscript.

I was reading a book called Making a Story (or something along those lines, I'll double check the title later and let y'all know...) and I was in the "Revision" chapter. Basically, the discussion was about writers going on to the second draft...and then to the third, etc....The conclusion was that the first draft is messy but the second draft may be even messier.

Why's that? you ask. It's because a lot of times writers just try to fix the scenes that are messed up, thinking that will fix all of the problems. Generally, it just adds confusion because those couple scenes are not reflecting all of what's in the manuscript now. So the result is this cut-and-pasty thingy but not really a strong draft.

So, I have to thank my friends for saving me a step or two. First, they pointed out the scenes that weren't working and then another thanks to John specifically for pointing what the main issue with those scenes was--and I bet he is not even aware that he did that.

The main issue is the main character. Every other character has pretty defined arcs. My main character, A., is moving around all these people, moving around the situation, but I don't really root her in the conflict while I move her through all these other, layered interactions. The reason everyone nailed me for two specific scenes is because those are the scenes where A. is supposed to come into her own. The reader is supposed to connect with her at those moments...but there is a decided lack of conflict and a lack of her history in those scenes.

What happens if I fix just those scenes?

The story will be off-balance because the history and the conflicts that are presented in the revised scenes will inform the scenes that already 'work'...so the good scenes may or may not work when it's all said and done. Luckily, after brainstorming and reading my buddies' comments, I know I have to re-do the entire thing...but only to make it seamless. Now I know where the problems are. I have a couple ideas on how to fix them and am going through the whole manuscript right now looking for where the stitches have to go.

Drudgery, you say. Nah. If you've put that much effort into a manuscript already, the chance to make it shine shouldn't overwhelm you...it should motivate you, drive you. I'm thinking, in the end, that's what seperates the pros from the amateurs.

5 comments:

  1. Now I'm curious as to what it was I said that I didn't know I said. Hopefully I can be smart on command one day.

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  2. You mean John's actually good for something other than reaching stuff on the top shelf?

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  3. SHHHHHH! John's head is big enough as it is! Have you ever heard his hat shopping horror stories? I thought not. Don't ever tell him he's doing a good job.

    I got to go revise something. And write a blog.

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  4. See? I said you probably weren't aware. And I practically quoted you as far as the main character thing went...

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  5. ...OH!!!

    Yeah, totally knew what I was talking about then, not that anyone's apt to believe that NOW...

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