Monday, January 11, 2016

A Long Awaited Entry... and What I Have Learned--

I have been away far too long, and for that I apologize. So, first, let me say: Happy New Year! Can you believe that the first full week of January is over? I can't believe it. Time surely does fly.

With that out of the way, let us move on to more important things.

So, top on the agenda is this: Revision. Roll up your sleeves; we're about to get our hands dirty.

As it was January, my time for a break and a breather away from my novel was over. It was time to dig in. So I did. I settled down in my chair with my cuppa joe, and a secret chocolate stash near at hand, and was prepared to start. I pulled up my PDF copy of my novel for the read-through, and began.

At first it was bad. And then it got worse.

Now, before you start cursing NaNoWriMo for forcing you into a writing rush, hear me out. It wasn't so much that my writing was awful (although, I'm not going to lie, I am no John Gardner or J.R.R. Tolkien, nor am I  J.K. Rowling, or any of those other "J's" I can't think of right now.); it was more that I felt so limited. There is only so much you can do when revising on a screen.

So I had to print it. That proved to be difficult. First there was the whole issue of, you know, needing ink and paper to print a full length novel. (What I learned: Ink cartridges are expensive.) So then I got the bright idea to go have it professionally printed. That would be cheaper than the ink cartridge, surely.


What I learned: printing full length novels is expensive one way or another, Whether you have it done or do it yourself, you still have to have both time and money. I mean, what's up with that??

Have no fear! I got it printed, finally, and started revising my novel on paper.

When first I held my book in my hands, and saw the large amount of paper, and it occurred to me that this was what I had worked on all November, what I wrote, that this was my literary concoction, a rush of giddiness filled me. I had done it! I wrote a book! And it was, more or less, intelligible, and conveyed meaning.

I mean, it's one thing to look at a screen and see all the words you typed. It's another thing completely to sit in bed with a manuscript under your red pen. It has been soooo great to have that. So encouraging to see it get better with each strike of the red pen.

I've been doing some reading since Christmas; I listed some of the books I got around that time. I want to share a quote with you from The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk, Jr. that has been shaping how I revise, at least for this first revision.

          "Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should
          contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences,
          for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines
          and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer
          make all his sentences short, or that he avoid detail and treat his
          subjects only as outline, but that every word tell."

Read that again.

The two phrases that I have been saying over and over to myself as I revise are: Omit Needless Words, and Every Word Must Tell. I mean, that's serious stuff. Cut the crap, write what is needed, and for goodnesses sake, take out all those extra words that you added just so you could reach you daily word count. Those two ideas are what changed the way I think, about revision. It's no longer painful to cut out words and strike through sentences. In fact, a wave of gladness and satisfaction washes over me every time that I do. It's wonderful.

So, what I have learned: It is good to get rid of the extras. It is, after all, making your story better. And isn't that what you are here for, to make better stories?

And who knows? Someday we may meet, you and I, as published authors.

So keep at it.

Happy Writing, folks.


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