Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Revising, Rewriting, and Banging My Head Against a Wall

Remember me mentioning, far away and long ago, the novel I'm working on?

Yes. Well. That was back in May, and I've only edited another 15 pages or so since then. Shame on me. But recently, I've really been feeling the drive to get a move on with this thing. I know my book forwards and backwards, I know the characters like they're family (or like they're close, personal enemies), and I know what I need to do to finish it. So I decided the best way to actually get it done is to make a list.

Lists are my favorite way of staying organized. Then (so long as the paper doesn't get lost) you won't forget everything that needs doing, and you can revel in the cathartic experience of crossing items off as you finish them. You add things as they come to mind, and eventually the paper's filled up with lots of things you have and haven't done. Then you transfer everything that's left to a new piece of paper and start over.

Maybe no one else does things that way. But I enjoy the cycle, and it helps me prioritize and stay focused.

I got myself a little spiral-bound notebook, where I will keep all the notes pertinent to this novel. (Yes, I have another novel, which was my first and will never escape from the dungeon where I've tortured it into silence.) I'll create different sections in the notebook to keep things separate and well organized. But for now, I just have The List. It's slightly overwhelming.

Here's what I have to do yet before I'll think Harvest is somewhat complete.

1. Finish first edit - mark up the good, the bad, and the so-awful-I-can't-believe-that-was-ever-in-my-brain. Also create chapters. (I feel pretty terrible that I wrote this thing almost two years ago and haven't finished the first edit yet. But I only have about 20 pages left, so that's good... and then I have to make it electronic. Ugh.)

2. Analyze major faults, plan how to fix them. This includes giving my main character (Kovan) more character by making him older and more critical of the world around him - perhaps he should be 15 instead of 12. I also plan to adjust things so that the country will be on the verge of war, rather than already embroiled in one. The world in general needs more detail, too.

3. Work on character development. I'll write at least two sketches for each main or supporting character to make them more realistic, three-dimensional people. Kovan will need at least five sketches - possibly more - to make him interesting and realistic, and a bit less naive.

4. Plot the sequel. This book ends with a good deal of darkness, and I haven't figured out how to resolve that yet. When I started writing this, I hadn't planned on there being a war at all (I have little control over these characters). Now I have to decide whether the war will even start by the end of the series, what Kovan's part in all that will be, what part the creepy Admiral will play... I want to know this ahead of time so that I can accurately plot the first book. This step might be best completed during NaNoWriMo this year - I'm okay with bumping it up a few steps if need be.

5. Reorganize the novel as a whole - change to a non-linear timeline and decide where various Mulnaran myths would be effective in the story. Choose myth topics, then write and insert according to the surrounding story. I already have the myth about why Mularans don't hunt birds; other myths I'm planning to write include one with a trickster, one about creation, and one about the Mulnaran version of Ragnarok. Probably involving zombies.

6. Make a list of things I need to learn - this includes herbal medicine, archery, backpacking, viruses (specifically, those that could cause zombification), and wood carving. Probably more. Then, take classes and do interviews. (Who says fiction doesn't require research? Not I.)

7. Rewrite, segment by segment, to improve language and poetic voice - I want this novel to be prosetry. This will take a long, long time, but it's very important. (That's what happens when you write 50,000 words in one month. Lots of them turn out to be duds.)

8. Pick a language or two to base place names on. I have place-holder names, which I think are fairly realistic, but they need to be moreso. I won't go so far as creating a language, but it needs to be believable that different languages exist in this world.

Various other changes will be added to the list as necessary. There are many sub-points for each of these ideas - including building a believable society, which will be more pertinent in the second book. But I at least have a clear outline of where to go from here, which is one of the more important things when working on a project like this. Without outside direction, it's easy to set this aside and not work on it for an extended period. (Even when you were without a job for two months.)

This will result in at least one new draft per step. Probably even more. And then a few more after that, to smooth everything out. At this rate, I'll have it done in... 14 years. Heh. Time to pick up the pace, I think. But a detailed plan of attack will help me get the job done, even if it's just one page at a time.

Next step: tape the list to my wall. Looking at it every day will help guilt me into getting it done.


  1. Also, those of you who've read my novel: let me know if you think I'm omitting something important! (If you can remember anything that stood out.)

  2. I, also, make lists. Sometimes if I've done something extra, I will put it on the list just to cross it off. What a wonderful feeling.


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