Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Revisions, More Mayhem

People have been asking how my novel's going. Here's a visual update of the third draft so far, based on word count:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revisions: Killing My Not-So-Sexy Darlings

For no particularly good reason, I've been tracking my progress with the third draft of my work-in-progress by charting the effect of my revisions on word count.

When I started last month, the word count stood at 103,095 words, down about 5,000 from my second draft. I began the third draft by adding more than 2,000 words. This is not the direction most revisions are supposed to go. After all, there's an old saying that when you revise, you have to "kill your darlings"; in other words, eliminate anything that doesn't move the story forward, no matter how well written you think it is or how attached to it you might be.

When the word count peaked at 105,601 words, the killing began. Gradually, at first. Then I hit the 104k mark. At that point, I was up to Chapter Seven. This was the chapter I had been thinking of as the "Sex Chapter" for reasons you can probably guess. As the chart shows, it was there that I embarked upon a rather murderous rampage. Some of those scenes, which I thought were pretty good when I wrote the second draft, made me cringe when I read them in preparation for revision. Cutting pages that you may have spent days or weeks or even months writing isn't easy. But in this case, I took up the task gratefully. This wasn't killing darlings. This was mercy killing.

The trend continues. I'm now about halfway through the manuscript and the word count stands at just above 100,000. I know from my previous drafts that I still need to add another scene or two for continuity in later chapters, so the count may climb once again. But I also know that there are still plenty of not-so-sexy darlings in the remaining chapters. There will be blood.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Writer Mantra for 2012

I listened to an interview recently with New York Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt  (“Pictures of You” is her most recent award-winner) and was struck by something she said toward the end of the show. She was talking about how important it is to know the rules but not be so bound by them that you can’t move forward.

  “Be brave,” she said.

Caroline seems to be a most gentle soul, but it was as though she’d reached through the speakers and slapped me.

Be brave. Her words made me realize that the reason I’ve been practically immobilized in my efforts to get my current manuscript done is… fear. Fear that this sophomore effort will be, well, sophomoric. Fear that my agent will hate it, fear that my editor will be disappointed, fear that the publishing company that took a chance on me will regret that decision. Fear that my first readers, my wife and kids, will hand the manuscript back to me with sad, nice-try eyes. Call it one-hit wonder fear. Flash-in-the-pan fear.

Be brave. What I heard was, “Shut everything else out. Focus solely on writing the best story you possibly can. Have the guts to write what you want… and the cajones to finish the job.”

Caroline Leavitt
Be brave. My mantra for 2012.

Thanks, Caroline.