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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NaNoWriMo 2013: Week 3

2013-Winner-Facebook-CoverWell, I’m done! I reached my 50,000 words and validated my novel yesterday. It got pretty rough at the end of last week, and the stuff that was coming out of me was not the greatest (both in terms of words and mucus). I think it was a combination of being sick of my story in general and actually running out of story to write. It was the definition of pain. I was writing well over 2,000 words a day, usually hitting 3,000, and then it became difficult for me to get to 1,000. I started focusing on just making the NaNo minimum of 1,667 each day and that helped me to inch forward in this last week. I ended up adding in a few scenes here and there just to make the word count, but I’m not entirely sure they will be scenes that stand the test of time.

I’ll be taking a significant break from the manuscript before starting revisions. I need to rethink my ending, as well as add a few/handful/lot of new scenes. Barely squeaking past 50,000 words of story probably means it could stand to be expanded a pinch. From poking around on various websites and friends’ blogs, I found an incredible revision course or guide or whatever you want to call it on author Susan Dennard‘s website. She has a section with advice specifically for writers, and I’ve found it all very helpful. I enjoy working very methodically and having steps to cross off a list, so her approach to revision is exactly what I need. It looks time-consuming, but thorough. And I usually enjoy revising much more than I do writing the original draft (it’s easier to work from something that already exists), so I’m excited to give her method a try! I won’t be touching my MS for at least a month, however.

Ultimately, this was a great experience. I’m happy I did it, happy I finished, and happy I enjoyed the process. It helped me to write every day and stick with a project through to the end. I encourage anyone who is considering doing NaNo, or is a writer of any sort, to participate next year. Just do it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your writing, and writing in general!