I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.
As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.
Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!
- Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
- On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
- Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
- Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
- Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).
Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?
Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!
So this weekend I did something that I never thought I would do.
I printed the entire draft of my novel.
Well, I didn’t print it. I had it printed at Fedex. I got it 3-hole-punched and then I purchased a binder for it to live in. I also double-spaced the draft so I had room for notes and line-editing.
And y’all. Y’all.
I will never not print my first draft of anything ever again.
It’s so satisfying. And not because of any sort of aesthetic, like the feel of the paper or the scratch of the pen, although those things are very nice. No, it’s because I’m not seeing it the way I see every single other part of my day: on the other side of a screen. I don’t find myself going cross-eyed at walls of text. I’m not terrified of cutting and pasting chapters because I think that at that moment my computer is going to crash or Internet demons will steal my words away into an oblivion of deletion.
If I want to move a chapter, I literally pick it up and rearrange it.
If I like a passage, I can draw a giant smiley face.
If I hate something, I can punch it without replacing my monitor.
Try it. Print out a short story or a poem or a blog post. Look at it with a pen in your hand. Really read it. Write on it. Cross shit out. Underline words. Doodle in the margins.
It’s a completely different experience.
So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.
Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.
Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.
Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.
Holy guacamole, y’all.
So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.
- Taking notes: right now, I’m just reading. Not editing, not proofing. Just reading. I’m keeping a notebook and pen and taking notes of names, things that are happening, names of places and major plot points.
- Highlight: I can tell there are some things that are not staying or working at all, or that changed drastically in the NaNo draft. They are getting highlighted. Again, I am not deleting anything. I’m just making sure I can see them when I return to this wall of text.
- No judging: this is a hard one. I am trying very, very hard not to judge myself as I work through this. I’m trying to look at this book the way I might a friend’s piece of writing or even a complete stranger’s. It’s helping me be objective, even if it is a huge hurdle.
Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”
A friend told me today that he is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo. He asked if I had any advice. I would like to share this advice with you too, dear reader, dear writer.
Don’t do it for any reason other than to write and have fun doing it. Don’t do it for anyone else or because you feel like you ‘have’ to. It has to be the marriage of challenge and joy.
Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. The devil is in the details, and analysis paralysis will be your enemy. Think over the next week the type of book you want to write, the type of characters you want to give birth to. If you can create a book jacket summary of the overall arc, cool. If not, also cool.
Small chunks of writing will work better than marathon writing. Squeeze it into your schedule. If you don’t already love to write for five hours, you aren’t going to start now.
Don’t give up. Don’t get to the 20th and go, “I only have x words, there’s no way I’m going to get to 50k, I’m done.” Fight to the end. See what happens. Miracles have happened in mere hours.
Just by wanting to do it, you are ahead of the millions of people who say “someday I’ll…” Celebrate that, but just not too much.
If you want to share your creature as it awakens, do it. But tell people to hand over the roses and leave the thorns until 12/1. Because you will want to edit. Every writer does. You will hear yourself say, “Oh wait, this should be this” or “that should have not happened.” Leave the casualties and save yourself.
You can do it. I believe in you.
So I don’t do these very often, but there are a few things that have been going on that I want to tell all my lovely new followers, readers, and fans about!
1. 2nd edition of Cape and Dagger is available on Amazon AND at Rickert & Beagle Books. You can also get it on Kindle if that’s your jam.
2. My poetry collection Pickled Miracles is also available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.
3. Did you know you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under bohemianonrye? It’s true. Ask all the cool kids who are doing it.
4. I’m shooting for 100 follows on Facebook. So tell your friends. Tell your enemies too. I’m not picky.
5. You all are super awesome and I love you.
Light, then dark, then light again.
The first line in the rough draft of “Working the Dead.”
I met my Day 1 goal. Want to see more? Head over to my page!
Hi, everybody! My novel, “Cape and Dagger,” is now available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle!
If you like “The Hunger Games,” “Watchmen” or “The Incredibles”…or, hell, if you’re just a geek who likes comics, I think this is up your alley!
Check it out! Tell your friends!
You all rock!
The mock-up for the cover of my novel, “Cape and Dagger,” slated for release October 2012.