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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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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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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My Writing Debate: For me or for publication

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This might be kind of like a manifesto (the first of many, I’m sure).

I have always stretched myself thin. In high school I juggled everything: band (wind ensemble, jazz, marching, and pep), sports (soccer and track), drama club, student council, honor society, music honor society, tutoring, a part-time job, and my school work. College was even worse, adding on three more part-time jobs, a 100% full course load, and a ton of extra curriculars (working on friends’ film sets, writing for campus publications, running writing groups, etc). It hurt me then, dividing my attention and diluting my work. Be involved, sure! But maybe not to the point of nervous break downs and anxiety attacks.

I’m much less busy these days, which upsets me. In a positive light, I’d like to be more involved in community activities, maybe explore some new hobbies (I’m getting really into baking and knitting, at least), and just enrich my life more outside of work. But this is also extending to my writing. I feel like need to write everything and be everywhere. It’s splitting me in all different directions and causing some serious confusion. That’s the negative.

My writing spans multiple media. I write journalistic pieces, blogs, scripts, business documents, essays, and prose. I have the technical ability to write all of them, but if I continue to focus on each I’ll never master any. So a frustrating battle has started to rage inside of me: do I try to get more work published and truly attempt a life as a freelancer (which is nearly impossible today)? Or should I leave that behind and devote all my time to fiction? It’s difficult to suppress my overachiever personality.

I have also always loved getting my work out there and posting articles I’d written to Facebook to prove to people that I was relevant and, in fact, a writer. But in order to commit to a life of self-affirmation via Facebook, you have to leave everything else behind and become a monster. Sounds tiring.

But there’s more to this…

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NaNoWriMo 2013: Week 2

They aren’t joking when they talk about the week two slumps. I couldn’t even post this blog entry on time last Friday. In my defense, I was busy ravaging the Penguin warehouse sale and watching hours of Sister Wives, so I didn’t really have time for silly matters like blogs. I was hit hard with lazy disinterest last week and started off barely writing at all. But that gave me a challenge to work harder and catch up to where I was. Ultimately, that pushed me farther ahead in my word count than I ever would have expected!

Just living the Principle!

Just living the Principle!

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