Question 2: Do you do any editing as you go or do you puke it all out (so to speak!) then do all your revision once the draft is done?
Answer 2: Yes. And no. It depends.
Questions like this are tricky and I hesitate to answer them. I suspect that underneath this question is anxiety about the questioner’s writing process. He could be stuck in the middle of a project. Or he has completed a book, but is unhappy with the quality of it. Or he thinks he has a great idea, but is feeling unsure how to build on it.
I know the feeling!
It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve written, I have never written the book I am working on right now. In my experience, each book wants/needs to be written in its own way, much as every child needs to be parented in the way that best suits her, not necessarily what worked for her siblings.
I also understand the desire to ask other writers about their process. I am a voracious reader of auther biographies and particularly like seeing other people’s marked-up manuscripts, like the opening of Charles Dickens Great Expectations, below.
(Read more about a facsimile version of Great Expectations)
All that being said, my books generally start with an idea and the voice of a character in my head. I scribble a lot; dialog, scenes, backstory, and often several different directions a story could go. When I get frustrated, I go back and try to figure out which scenes have energy and which ones are useless. I cut out the crap, often restructure what’s left, and fill in where there are plot or character holes. During the cutting and filling I will frequently polish those key scenes until they are pretty much ready to be printed, while others scenes are still incredibly rough (often just a line or two.) Why? Once I understand the emotional state, desires, needs, and weaknesses of my characters in those scenes, I have a clearer sense of how to pace the rest of that story.
But your mileage may vary.
“Well, there are only three possible endings—aren’t there?—to any story: revenge, tragedy or forgiveness. That’s it. All stories end like that.”
Today’s Prompt: Choose one of the following character scenarios.
1. Girl meets Girl
2. Girl meets Boy
3. Boy meets Boy
4. Boy meets Girl
Now choose a setting: basketball court, bus stop, library, summer camp, elevator.
Then choose a problem: blind date, someone cheated, death of beloved pet, joined the military, lost movie tickets, earthquake, stubbed toe.
Finally, take one of the three endings proposed by Jeanette Winterson in the quote above: revenge, tragedy or forgiveness.
With those building blocks, start writing and see how far you can go.
Scribble… scribble… scribble…
6 Replies to “Tragic revenge of forgiveness – WFMAD Day 12”
I have a manuscript that I am very proud of creating. I even found the courage to give the initial draft to a few people for feedback…very hard for me to do. Big fear of “oh no what if I suck” that you’re always telling us about here. I spent almost a year working on revisions and edits, getting feedback from people in the areas I was unfamiliar with, etc.
My question is, aside from sending it to as many agents as possible, is there a better way to try and get my manuscript published? I’ve received some positive feedback over the last nine months of trying, but so far no “takers” which I know isn’t all that long, but…well…advice, encouragement, ideas here from you would be great!
P.S. I was lucky enough to breakfast with you years ago at an MRA conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have never forgotten your advice to keep writing. Even though we’re probably the same age, I always tell people that Laurie Halse Anderson is who I want to be when I grow up. LOL Thanks for being such an inspiration and creating such powerful books for me to share with my middle school students.
Perfect timing on this post! The other novels I’ve written have moved from beginning to end, but this one is proving to be the patchwork you describe above. There’s reassurance in knowing someone else has been down this road before and down it with success.
I’m Evernoting that prompt for when I need a new idea.
I think most writers are interested in hearing what other writer’s processes are. I know I am, and it is always reassuring to hear you are doing it “right,” even though the only “wrong” way it to it is to quit writing altogether. I am stoked to hear that you also do some “patch-work” writing, at least from time to time, as I find myself doing that more and more. As far as editing/revising as I go, I have found that I MUST refrain from doing that (other than switching out a few better word choices here and there) in my creative writing as it seems to hinder my ability to move forward with new scenes/chapters etc until it’s “pretty enough” as my friend Gae Polisner says.
I had a lovely converstion with an Indie bookstore owner yesterday about Speak. 🙂
Thank you for your words and prompt. Although I did not use the prompt (procrastination!) I started reading a book about writing. It happened to be about pov. It was the spark I needed to make changes in my writing. Thank you for helping to lead to this!
Laurie, thanks for the daily practice. I’m twelve for twelve. And I’m always surprised by what I write. What a great idea this is!