One thing I’ve learned over the past several years of writing is that the way I write doesn’t stay the same, nor does the way I edit. Nor, fortunately, has my attitude about what I already know.
The first book I wrote was for NaNo 2003. I wrote down 50 sentences of plot, then wrote 1,000 words for each sentence. Bogged down a bit in the middle, and I discovered later that there were plot holes that I could pilot the QE2 through, but it got done.
Last year, I started a book at a page a day, making it up as I went along, no plotting ahead of time. I’m 30k in, and I don’t know what happens next. As soon as I decide what that next bit of plot is, I’ll start working on that again.
My latest idea? I’m jotting down everything that occurs to me as possibly belonging to the story. Later, I’ll brainstorm them, see what connects, where missing pieces might go, what kind of characters are needed. Eventually, I’ll worry about writing out paragraphs, sketches, maybe snowflaking to be sure I know how it all fits together. Then I’ll start writing. I might try to write as fast as I did that first NaNo; I might go even faster. The one thing I know is that I’ll know where I’m going.
Some of my earlier short stories have been through a dozen (or more) rounds of critting and revision, trying to make the story convey what I thought I’d already said. Now, I’m more likely to realize that I need to change something while I’m writing, and I’ll go back and add, delete, or rewrite so that by the time I get to “The End,” I’m doing a quick pass through to check for repetitions and misspellings, listening for glitches in the rhythm. Are the short stories perfect after that? No, but I don’t think any story is ever perfect.
I could be wrong, though.
That’s one of the important things I’ve learned: I can be wrong. When I first started out, I was more than willing to lay down my uneducated opinion as if it were law. I said some pretty stupid things, too (which I refrain from embarrassing myself with here). I’ve learned, though, that I don’t know everything, that superficial knowledge isn’t worth much, and that I’m better off not thinking I’m the font of all wisdom. (And I’m sure my brothers think it’s way past time I figured that out!)
I’m sure I’ve got lots of things to learn yet, lots of opinions and practices to revise. From simple things (like it being worthwhile to submit my cozy mystery) to something more complex (like the best way to pursue a career as an author — does it involve an agent? a big publisher? a small press? self publishing? all of the above?). I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in the revision pile of my life.
Today’s post was inspired by the topic “Revision”– October’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The next post in the tour will be on the 4th, by D. M. Bonanno. Be sure to check it out.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on crossing genre lines, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. You can find links to all of the posts on the tour by checking out the group site. Read and enjoy!