Falling back in love with your novel
I mentioned in my last post that I was working on yet another draft of DEGENERATION. It’s my oldest story, the one that’s closest to my heart, and the one that I was seriously starting to hate. The plot seemed non-existent. The characters were boring and whiny. It seemed like a bunch of rambling that no one – not even me – wanted to read.
Suddenly every dream I had ever had of my becoming a published author came crashing down around me. I know this story better than any of my others. I’ve been working on it on and off for over seven years. If this novel was shit, surely everything else I had ever written was bound to be shit, too, and I was doomed to spend the rest of my life staring at binders full of abandoned stories that failed to live up to their potential.
And then I realized that Pitch Wars was coming up, and a tiny bit of hope flared up inside me. I knew what was was wrong with the previous drafts. I just hadn’t changed them because it seemed like a lot of work and I was half-hoping someone would read my novel and declare it perfect as-is, and I wouldn’t have to do any more work on it.
I realize now how stupid that was. Being a writer, at least a published one, is nothing but hard work, writing and rewriting until you’re sure you’ve made it the very best it can be. I thought I had already proven that I could do that, but I hadn’t. I was taking the easy way out. I needed to start over again.
Not completely over again. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m trying to rewrite an entire book from scratch in the two weeks before this contest starts. I’m keeping all the major plot points and even most of the actual content – I’m just tightening up the writing and showing more of Madison’s personality. It’s hard to write an entertaining book when your main character is afraid of speaking to people. If I have any chance of getting other people to read this, I have to make sure that Madison’s personality shines through in her thoughts, and I have to find ways for her to grow as a person.
That’s what this draft is all about. I’ve sent the first few chapters to a couple people for feedback, and so far everyone who’s read it has agreed that this version is so much better than any version that came before. To be fair, I’ve only shared one other draft with people, but still. I’m excited about my novel again because I finally faced the tough edits I knew I had to make.
Is this draft perfect? Of course not. I know I’m going to have to change other things down the road. And that’s fine with me. I’ve thrown out practically every draft I’ve ever written, but I’ve learned something from it each time. This time, I think I’ve finally figured out a way to make my character’s voice more apparent. I know I have a long way to go still, and I look forward to making more changes on this story, but so far I’m just so excited with what I have so far. I’m just over a third of the way through this most recent edit, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.
Some people might think that two weeks isn’t enough time to do a serious edit, but I think it is, at least for this novel. Like I’ve probably mentioned before, this is my fourth draft (not including the two times I wrote it as a screenplay), and I’m keeping most of it the same. I’m just adding a few scenes, removing others, and making sure to show more of Madison’s personality when I can.
Even if I don’t get chosen for Pitch Wars, I’m super happy with the novel I have now, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned while writing this one and applying it to all my other manuscripts (though those will take a lot longer to finish).
What about you guys? Anyone else entering Pitch Wars?