So… the revision is taking longer than I’d hoped.
I keep wanting to do word and sentence-level editing, which is not the purpose of this part of the process. I need to add paragraphs, change scene POV, and add a couple chapters. I’ve known about most of the changes for months now, but it isn’t as simple as just writing the new stuff. Everything impacts everything else, as each change must carry through the rest of the book and be properly set up. Plus I keep coming up with small changes (and some not so small changes – apparently I need to research iron age Israelite architecture…) that I think make the story better. I have to finish all of that, and then I can start the full read-through and sentence-level polish.
I am sure this will all coalesce into a much better effort than my earlier drafts, but I probably won’t be sending my next version to my beta readers until October, a month later than I was hoping for. Ah well.
In completely different news, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year! This will be my first year to participate.
I know what most of you are thinking – you crazy person, you just wrote a book, and it took 10 months (and counting)! Why are you committing to jump right into another? And to finish it in one month? Plus, don’t you know about all those staffing changes at work that basically mean you get no days off until you die?
Or maybe you’re not thinking about it at all, since no-one reads my blog except people from Germany, Thailand, and Israel searching for baby weasel pictures (Guttentag! Shalom, boker tov! I don’t know Thai! And now that I think about it, it’s weird that I know the other two!).
But here is my reasoning. I need to start writing something different to get myself to move on from King’s Mark, and that is not as simple as it sounds. I want to write, but I get myself bogged down about what to write about. I’ll think about it a lot, vague ideas floating by in mass quantities, but none of them particularly creative. I’ll think of lots of character knots (which is where I tend to start stories) but no plot will unfurl before me, so I’ll dismiss these ideas. Historically, this will go on for years, with nothing written except a couple pages detailing a particularly interesting character knot that stalled out because I had nothing to do with it.
What I learned from writing King’s Mark is that I am a discovery writer and not an outliner. However much my neurotic organized brain wants to outline and have things all laid out before I begin, that’s not how it works for me. Trying to do that is how I get bored before I even start, and then a promising story seed is dead, baked dry under the glare of my analytical, self-critical mind. I need to jump and trust that I’ll be able to write a landing before I splat at the base of the cliff.
I think I’m just not practiced enough at taking that jump, because sitting down and actually starting another project is incredibly daunting right now. I get this queasy feeling in my stomach that shouts No! I’m Not Ready! every time I try. NaNoWriMo will help me with that. First, I will be forced by the sheer enormity of the task to sit there and write without agonizing, which will hopefully overcome the paralyzing fear of starting again. That’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo – to just write, not to think about how good it is or how hard revision will be. It is an exercise in accepting that one’s first draft will always be extremely flawed, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write it. Second, my left-brain is satisfied because I have a plan and a schedule – I can now allow plot and character ideas to simmer for the next month and a half without poking at them constantly to see if they are ready yet.
And last, I’ve always wanted to do a NaNo, but I’ve always felt that the speed and pressure would take the fun out of the writing. I don’t believe that any more. If you allow yourself to do it right, speed and pressure take the unreasonably high standards out of writing and allow you to enjoy it. Writing is like jumping in an enormous mud puddle – if you try to do it neatly, it won’t be much fun. If you take your boots off and wallow in it, you’ll remember why you were willing to deal with the dirt and the soggy underpants when you were a kid.
There is a ‘high’ you get from writing that you just can’t get any other way. It is different for each writer, but from everything I’ve read, everyone encounters that same phenomena, or they stop writing. It’s that rush when the perfect plot element clicks into place while you’re driving home from work, or when you see an incredibly vivid setting just before you fall asleep (and you subsequently get up and write for an hour just to be sure you’ve captured it), or you make up some minor cultural element on the fly that resounds and is probably the coolest thing you ever thought of. But none of these things come out of thin air, although they seem to at the time. They come about because you created a story that had some kind of hole in it, and you left that hole alone while your subconscious started sorting through piles of ideas until it finally found the right one. You can’t get your subconscious to work on the amazing bits and pieces that make stories incredible unless you 1. are flexible enough to accept them when they come, even if they change the whole story, and 2. have a framework that displays the shape of the hole clearly enough to clue your subconscious in. In other words, you have to write, and you have to write imperfectly!