Revising Novels: Cleaning Up My Garbage Draft

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Revision…

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time last November and actually reached the 50,000 word goal. I was very proud of myself for “winning” NaNo, but I was well aware that what I had written was a giant piece of trash-hole. I’m fine with that and actually count it as part of my process. My very first draft of anything, whether it be a script or a manuscript or an e-mail, is my .5 draft, or (more affectionately) my Garbage Draft. This draft does not see the light of day. I don’t show it to anyone for notes. I don’t even like to talk about it while it’s in this stage. I use my Garbage Draft as a way to write all the bad ideas out of my head and start to form a path to the right ones.

My NaNo manuscript was a Garbage Draft. I just wrote all the way through without getting hung up on consistency in plot or character and without backtracking to revise. I just vomited it out. I had an outline, but it only took me so far. I let the story take me the rest of the way, which is something I enjoy about writing a novel as opposed to a script — there is a lot more flexibility.

If you are someone who has never written a manuscript of over 100 pages (like myself), the idea of revising something so long and dense is incredibly overwhelming. But luckily for me, I found YA author Susan Dennard’s blog and clicked with her revision method. She really breaks it down into small manageable steps that actually make you excited to get started! The only thing is that it will be of better use to me after I rewrite my Garbage Draft and am officially on my First Draft. But her ideas are amazing, so I have been using a hybrid of her method and my own while working on my Garbage Draft.

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Part-time Creative: My rules for surviving the battle

Cheryl-StrayedCall me a weekend warrior, if by weekend warrior you mean someone who actually stays in and struggles to be creative and productive on the weekends (and weekday nights). I’m certainly going to war, but not with shots of tequila or complicated bongs. My adversaries are mostly my exhaustion, anxiety, self-doubt, and Netflix account. They all distract and prevent me from writing in my spare time, something that many of us with day jobs are forced to do.

There is only an incredibly small percentage of people who are lucky enough to pursue their creative dreams 100%. Most of us have to walk a fine line of full-time employment and part-time creativity in order to follow our dreams, and it’s exhausting.

The most important thing to remember is that different things work for different people. There isn’t just one process for navigating this situation, so figure out what works for you and stick with it until it doesn’t work. YA author Susan Dennard has an incredible series about how to maximize your productivity, and I highly recommend everyone take a look at it. You can follow her plan exactly, or you can bastardize her ideas and make them your own. That’s kind of what I did, and I will share my personal rules with you in the hopes that they will help you too.

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Gillian Flynn’s AMA

gillian-flynnI had another blog post planned for today about being a part-time creative, but that will have to wait until next week, because the most glorious thing ever happened today: Gillian Flynn gave an AMA. You know I’m in love with Gillian Flynn and every word that springs from her brain to her fingertips to her page. If you know me at all, you know this. The brilliance of Gone Girl was the final push of inspiration I needed to finally get back to novel writing, and I will never forget that. I admire her use of painfully flawed female characters, her love for utterly unlikable people, her twisty (and twisted) plots, and her understanding of the value of entertainment. Flynn is a master of psychological thrillers and has found ways to explore fucked up shit in a way that feels new and profoundly personal. I tend to compare her debut novel, Sharp Objects, to everything I analyze or talk about. The woman bewitches me!

With the impending Gone Girl film coming out this October (directed by David Fincher and written by Flynn herself), she was smartly scheduled for an AMA on Reddit today. Some of the stuff she said was so great and so true that I decided to share my favorite bits on my blog here. The most important thing we learned from Flynn’s AMA is that the 3rd act of the film is NOT as drastically changed from the book as everyone has been saying. She states that, “those reports have been greatly exaggerated!” She also gives excellent writing tips and encouragement, along with some great words about the differences between writing scripts and novels (all very relevant to my life). Also, learn more after the jump about upcoming movie adaptations, books she digs, AND what she has slated for her next writing projects! It was a great AMA!

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Taking Breaks

I am such a huge proponent of taking breaks that sometimes it gets in my way. Sometimes a weekend break turns into a week break, and then expands into a whole month. I think it’s worth mentioning that I have been working on developing a strict routine and being more disciplined when it comes to writing, but that does not diminish my love and enthusiasm for breaks!

When people talk about developing routines, working in breaks is always a really important part of that. You need to let your brain disengaged so new ideas can flow in uninhibited. It’s similar to the rest periods you would take when lifting or training for a marathon. But they talk about breaks in smaller terms, like an hour or two in your day. I’m talking about whole days or weeks!

After I finished a draft of something, I put it in a drawer and forget about it for about a month, usually. During that time I like to take a full week off from writing and catch up on reading and TV shows I love. Then I’ll work on new or other projects I have going on. Throughout all of this I will always have ideas come to me for the draft I have on the back burner. Many new thoughts pop into my head — new plot ideas, changes to characters, solutions to annoying problems, etc. I write those all down, but I keep my eyes off that locked away draft. Then, after the draft has cooked for a while in my mind, I will go back to it and dive into another round of revisions. I cannot stress enough how helpful this is for me.

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Camp NaNo: A change in plans

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Camp NaNoWriMo is a delightful off-season (if you will) NaNo event that is held in the spring every year. Like November’s NaNo, it is a time to push yourself and connect with other writers, but being Camp, it is also much more relaxed. Your options are cracked wide open, so instead of being restricted to just a novel, you can write a screenplay, short story collection, poems, anything your heart desires. The word count can be set to whatever is most appropriate for your project (as opposed to the traditional 50K), and you can be very specific about which medium and genre you’re writing in. Another awesome element are Cabins. You can fill out a quick questionnaire and be put in a small group of 11 people who are working on like projects. You can go with a random selection or pick a group of people you already know. This is incredible for helping you meet others that enjoy writing what you write.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to participate in this year’s first Camp NaNo. Like NaNoWriMo, I have never tried it before, and it sounded amazing to me. Most especially because I COULD WRITE A SCREENPLAY!! I started planning my plot, loosely outlining, building a brainstorming board on Pinterest, putting together a playlist, and getting really excited. But then I looked at all the projects I still have on my plate.

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Pinterest and Writing

pinterest-pinboard-600I had a crazy idea today, and I’m hoping I struck genius gold. I’m not sure how genius gold differs from real gold or just plain genius…I don’t know, I’m recovering from an illness so my mind isn’t quite right. Just go with it.

Maybe I’m not the first to come up with this particular idea, but I’ll certainly take credit for it! It’s very common for writers to create playlists to help us get in the right head-space to work on a particular project. I love the process of creating specific playlists. It’s another way for me to learn more about my setting and characters. Which song most accurately depicts the ora of this town? What song would she listen to after her heart’s been broken? What song would be laid behind this scene in a movie? Making the playlist that guides me through each story is almost better than writing the story itself. But what about those of us who are also greatly affected by visuals? Shouldn’t we have a sort of visual playlist to get us in the mood as well?

Enter Pinterest! I just started using Pinterest a few months ago. I boycotted it for a long time because I thought only desperate housewives and boring girls who only thought about weddings all day used it. But then I realized how helpful it is for storing ideas and discovering fun recipes! It also caters to my OCD organizational habits quite nicely. I have a board for my dream house, a board for recipes, a board for desserts, and board for style, a board for books, a board for films, but NOT a board for weddings! I refuse. But I’ll admit it’s hard to resist. Those pins are just so damn pretty!

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