Deep Revision: Getting it Right

Deep Revision: Getting it Right

I’d taken a break from this blog at the end of 2019, as I struggled to think about what my next writing project would be. My novel was under consideration by agents but wasn’t getting traction. And I was flailing around a bit as to what to work on next. Do the next novel in the series I contemplated stemming from my first novel? Start something stand-alone?

Then COVID-19 hit. And well, as with many other things in our collective universe, my concentration went to hell. As did my writing. I’ve heard it said that writing is about showing up, butt in chair (I happen to use a standing desk, but the metaphor applies). I did a lot of showing up. And almost no writing.

I pulled my novel draft from consideration by agents, and just sat on it for a few months. Tried and failed to start projects, and fretted my days away like so many of us did in the first few months of the pandemic. But eventually resilience does return in a new form.

Several Maine writers just had books they’d worked on for years accepted for publication, and it inspired me to ask some hard questions. Why was my novel interesting when I pitched it to agents (I think I have about a 75% hit rate when I pitch in person), but not a single agent took it when they got the longer manuscript?

Hard not to know the answer to that intuitively. It wasn’t a good enough read.

The overall story was good, the antagonist universally viewed as awful (in a good way), but comments came back that my protagonist lacked enough agency, that she didn’t shine enough, and that the book started out great but didn’t hold attention.

So yeah, those first 50 manuscript pages were great. The next 300. Meh.

My beta readers had told me this, but I just couldn’t hear it. I have worked on this project for years and I wanted to be done. But after some time passed, and I thought about what I liked about the project, I decided I wanted it to be good, I wanted it to be right. If I love the story, I have to give it everything I’ve got.

I’ll write more about this in future blog entries, but it was time to do the really hard work. To really look at the novel and find where it failed. This summer I went back to the best advice I’d received from writers, agents, and editors in books and at conferences over the past years, and picked my novel apart using those principles. And the places it needed work became abundantly clear.

Over the next few months, especially coming into NaNoWriMo, I’ll be documenting my process, and getting it right.

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