07 October 2009

I'm starting over

In January I set out to write the book I've been planning for two years. At around 45,000 words, I gae my unfinished draft to Jason who is also a book doctor at http://plottopunctuation.com. When Jason was done with it, I handed it over to my wife.

What I got back is - figurativel speaking - more red ink than black. It is enough to shake your belief in yourself if you let it.

Curiously, however, I am strangely relieved and encouraged.

Early on I struggled with getting the right voice for the work. hen there was sorting out the multiple storylines, developing a cast of distinct and compelling characters, and weaving in a backstory that covers 24 centuries. I was getting bogged down and progressively more dissatisfied with what I was producing, but I couldn't put my finger on the problem. After the incredibly in-depth and thoughful reviews by Jason & Michele, though, I'm pretty confident that I know what the problem is ... er ... problems are. But this is not a time to edit.

This is a time to re-write in its most literal sense. Start from the beginning with a clean sheet of paper and write the book the way I thought it was going to go instead of the way it went. Sure there are portions of my first draft that are "so brilliant, I'll just copy and paste." I can think of one. But my NaNoWriMo this year will be a new novel, somewhat based on the one I wrote the first nine months of the year.

I've looked back at some of my earlier (30 years ago) novels and have realized that I was much closer to that kind of writing process then than I've been for a long time. I'm still blaming a lot of it on word processing. When we started getting computers, our writing mode changed. When I had one shot at typing a page correctly or starting over, I was much more careful about getting the right word down the first time. When I re-wrote a novel (and my first one has gone through 14 drafts) I had to type it again, not copy and paste and spell-check. As a result, even though I was still a novice at learning the craft, I was more careful about everything. When computers came along, I succumbed, like a great many other people, to the idea of getting it down and editing it later. Only the editing never seemed to equal what I got out of a complete rewrite.

If you see me at write-ins during Nano this year, you'l see a strange thing (that is, even stranger than usual). I'll be writing with a pen in a notebook. You might catch me typing what I've written, but I'm going to be a little more anachronistic than usual. I believe it will improve my writing. Sorry to say it might also mean that I don't finish 50,000 words in 30 days, but I expect them to be higher quality words.

Oh yes, and that one thing that I think is good enough to copy and paste? The title: Gutenberg's Other Book. Now to write a novel worthy of the title.


seakisst said...

I LIKE IT. Good luck, Nathan. Keep me updated on how it goes.