Take Me Seriously, Please

July 26, 2011

I’m working on the rewrites of Randi, my WIP, (I call my manuscripts by the heroine’s name until they have a title) and learning monumental amounts as I work. I’ve always loved rewrites. In fact, I’ve always said that the real writing happens in the rewrites. (I’m sure I’m not the first to say that.) Up until now, however, I’ve never finished the first draft of a fiction manuscript.

I have one draft that is nearly complete. It’s over five hundred handwritten pages. Okay, there are more like two thousand pages to Angela, but that’s because as I wrote that draft, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, and at this point have not finished the manuscript.

I have several other stories that have made it to ten or fifteen thousand words. Again, there are thousands of words—and pages of rewrites—but no finished drafts. There is Emily, Ashley, Katie…and two where the heroines don’t have names. (I hadn’t gotten to the point where I knew their names.) They’re all in the bottom drawer of my desk. That’s where I hide my shame, my unfinished manuscripts.

So what is different about Randi? Why did I finish the first draft, and why do I believe I’ll finish my rewrites?

Two things: I finally believe I can do this, and I’m approaching this more like I did my non-fiction. In some ways approaching this project like my non-fiction has given me the confidence to believe I can do this.

Now, when I say that I’m approaching this project like I did my non-fiction writing, I don’t mean voice or even organization. As I’ve said before, in my non-fiction I outline and I know exactly where I’m going, and in my fiction I’m a total “panster.” I let the characte’s tell the story. No, what I did this time—differently from previous fiction projects and more like my non-fiction work—is give myself deadlines, and I didn’t begin my rewrites until I’d finished my draft.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was to make my pen move forward without going back. Oh, I allowed myself a little post it pad that I made notes on and could stick to previous pages, but I didn’t allow myself to do any rewriting. I kept that deadline in front of me (even though self-imposed) and as many of you know, I actually beat my own deadline…twice.

As I work on my second draft, I’m doing much the same. I’ve given myself deadlines and I’m forcing myself to finish rewrites for each chapter on time. I know my writing still isn’t perfect, but I know I’ll finish the project. Randi will not end up in my drawer of shame.

One more thing that has gotten me further this time, and I can’t say this enough…I’m taking this seriously. Because I believe I can do this I no longer feel guilty about spending my time writing and not dropping my work when someone else wants me to do something. Other people are beginning to take my writing seriously as well.

So I know I’ve asked before, but how do you keep yourself moving forward? And do you have a “drawer of shame”? More importantly are you taking your writing seriously and expecting those around you to do the same?

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One Response to “Take Me Seriously, Please”

  1. E. Harvey Says:

    Rewrites are a pain. I can say that from personal experience and the best way to deal with them is to take a break between them as necessary. Stuff your manuscript in a drawer (proverbial or literal) for a few weeks or a month or so before you pull it out again.

    Manuscript Burnout is something I experience regularly, being that editing, rewriting, and working on manuscripts is my job. It’s a lot of work and after about the third time through your ability to focus on the work diminishes drastically and you become frustrated, mired down in the work, and just plain need to take a break.

    I don’t know what kind of work you’re writing, but keep in mind that the average novel is between 60,000 and 100,000 words so you’re looking at an extensive amount of work. I’ve been working on a novel of mine for well over a year and haven’t gotten very far into it because I’ve rewritten the beginning chapters no less than four times (and run face-first into the brick wall of writer’s block more than once).

    If you haven’t finished a first draft, I’d advise against rewriting, to be honest. Get your thoughts, your story, everything out onto paper and then set it down for a while after you hit the end of it. Let it settle. Once that’s done, go back and rewrite everything as needed and edit the heck out of it. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    When you think it’s as good as it’s going to get then you should have another set of eyes on it, preferably qualified eyes. A professional editor is expensive, but if you can afford it (and you have a legitimate one) then you’ll find it’s well worth it. If you can’t do a professional editor find someone you know that’s good at grammar and/or an avid reader. They’ll be able to tell you if there are plot holes and character errors etc. in it and you should make sure you listen to the critique carefully.

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