Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Polishing that Manuscript

Here I am, sharing the cover of book two of The Outcast Chronicles. And here I am, plunging into the clean up of book three, so I can hand the books in to my publisher at the end of May. Which brings me around to polishng that manuscript.

Here Kate Elliot talks about revision, part one. She says: 'When I think about what I have learned and how I have improved in skill and experience as a writer, most of that improvement revolves not around coming up with ideas or characters or even necessarily interactions between characters. While I hope I have the experience of age in being able to see more nuance and layers in human behavior, I do not think I am “better at” coming up with “ideas” (depending on how you define what an “idea” is in the context of fiction).

What I know, however, is that I have a better grasp of the revisions process.

I know how to look at a scene, or a conversation, or some element or detail within a book, and identify that it needs work or, at the least, that something about it makes me twitchy and uncomfortable, which means it needs work. Then, I can often pick it apart to the point where I can sort how it isn’t working and, through trial and error or in a single flash of authorial brilliance, figure out how to fix it.'

I would have to say that this is what I've discovered. It's partly experience from editing my own work over the years, but it is also all the hours I've put into marking treatments for UNI (What's wrong with this? What isn't working?) and the hours I've put in reading my fellow ROR writers' manuscripts to give feedback at one of our weekends away.

I will generally have a feel for what is wrong. Sometimes I have to go off and clean something or mow the yard for the core problem to percolate up from my subconscious mind, along with the answer. That's the thing about being creative. It's not like accountancy, where the sums always add up to the same answers (if you're lucky).

Kate talks about accepting imperfection and moving on, because none of us write brilliantly the first time we put the story down on paper. Here Kate Elliot talks about revisions part two and how she tackles them. She divides them into large scale, medium scale and small scale.

And here is a post I did over at the ROR blog where I talk about revisions and editing (and I quote the inimitable Sarah Hoyt from the Mad Genius Club. LOL).

I like the editing process. It's when I add the layers and the extra nuances. By the time I come around to editing I know the characters so much better and I know what they are trying to hide. I like to plant clues for the reader. With King Rolen's Kin I'd had plenty of time to clean up the manuscript. I was able to print it off and give it to my husband and son who both read fantasy, to look for plot holes and inconsistencies. I won't get a chance to go to that length with the new trilogy.

Which do you prefer first drafts, or the revisions?

8 comments:

C Kelsey said...

First drafts are what I favour. I prefer the feeling of things just flowing as opposed to the headache inducing process of editing, editing some more, and re-editing.

MataPam said...

First drafts, definitely.

But I think I'm starting to get good enough at revision to see where it can, as you put so well, add layers and nuances. A bit more improvement, and I might even start having fun doing it.

Brendan said...

First drafts. At least with my initial writing I know where to end. Everytime I look at it after that there is always something that can be fixed.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

C Kelsey I LOVE first drafs when they do flow. It's so exciting.

But then, when they jam up I feel terrible.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

MataPam, the first draft are great for that visceral feel of being taken on a ride with the character.

But I've come around to loving the second drafts. I think there's a bit of leftbraing/rightbrain going on.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Brendan, I know what you mean. I'm always seeing ways I can improve my revisions.

Kate Paulk said...

Um. For me revisions are usually when I discover the nuance and layering that I put in without realizing it when I was writing the draft (I tend to write on auto-Kate, which turns off the censor protecting the rest of the world from my sense of humor among other things). Revisions are when I clean up the oopsies and adjust things to so it all fits together better and the subtleties are brought out enough that they might actually get noticed instead of being so subtle you miss them if you blink in the wrong place.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Yes, Kate, I tend to be too subtle, if I'm not careful. Then I worry that the clues are too obvious. Sigh.