Friday, November 28, 2008

The Benefit of Archiving

You've probably heard it over and over again that one should set their masterpiece aside for a patch, then come back to it after a break for editing. The thing you don't hear, though, is that beginner writers will probably have to repeat this process over and over again.


Because, unless you've educated yourself abundantly on the craft of fiction writing before you typed in that initial draft, there will likely be way too much to fix in a single pass through. It's scary, really. And unless you can come back to it each time with renewed optimism and the needed drive to improve, those passes may do more harm than good.'s time, and for many of us, lots of it, that is needed between editing rounds to truly improve your prose without editing passion right out of it.

How do I know this?

Because I've lived it. In the first two to three years that I took up writing, I did exactly that. I took short breaks between editing rounds of my initial story that was written before I ever read one single writerly self-help book, and in so doing, I edited all the passion I had for the story right out of it. It got to the point that I couldn't stand opening the ANB (the story titled A New Beginning) document, let alone picking up a printed sheet containing any clumping of words from any portion of the story that I had initially poured my heart and soul into. How sad is that?

But there is hope.

I went on to write two more stories through another couple of years. Every once in awhile I'd take a break on them and click on the ANB file, tinker a little, till I felt it was no use once more. Feel defeated. Pine over what should have been a wonderful story that I just knew meant something, but that I still didn't have the strength to fix. Concede that I needed more time, and headed back into the current story I was working on.

Now, this past week, after the loooongest break ever from ANB, months in fact, that included a lot of turmoil in my personal life, I finally overcame my roadblock with ANB. And to my surprise, the story wasn't near as bad as I had believed it to be. Through those little tinkering sessions, I actually did improve much of my prose, at least to me I did.

This past week I've re-edited ANB from start to finish. I modified wording, beefed up the external and internal conflict, quickened the pace, delved deeper into my characters, laughed, cringed, cried with my characters all over again, and managed to strip 2,338 flabby words and phrases from it, so that it now sits at 58,077 words, in target for the publishing house and line I've always been aiming it toward since I started dreaming of publication. Wow, what a mouthful of a sentence. Eh? Yes, I am Canadian, but you'll only find the word once in my manuscript, and I won't tell you who speaks it. In fact, if I ever get this book published, and the "eh" remains, I think it might make for a great book give-away contest. Writers never stop dreaming.

Anywho. I'm just so relieved to have gotten through ANB fully once more, and feeling positive about it, that in my heart, even if this baby still isn't of publishing standards, I know the passion is back in it for me! And that's just the greatest feeling.

So, if you're like me and struggling with a story you know deep down you love, but can't stand looking at anymore, try archiving it. Write something else, study the craft, dabble back at it when you feel called, then slip back into the new story when you're fed up again, live your REAL life, experience the ups and downs of reality, grow in the relationships with your loved ones, then when that still small voice calls you back to it with a vengeance. Be ready. It's exhilarating to feel the passion once more!



28 days left in this year to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.


Jessica Nelson said...

Wow, so we basically have done the same thing. The manuscript I'm querying right now is the one that I've revised over and over and over again. I wrote another one after it but I still go back to fix stuff.
And now I have the inside track on the story. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

whoops, meant your story!