I promised myself I would try to write two writing posts a month. Technically this should be the second one, but it’s actually just the first one. Oh well.
While I have not been extremely happy with my progress on editing “Survey,” my 2016 NaNoWriMo project, I have at least *made* progress on it. Last time I described how I was highlighting sections of text that needed attention, and I have more-or-less completed that.
Initially I highlighted text in blue for Backstory and Exposition (“the history behind this thing is…”), then red for Telling, Not Showing (“she felt angry about that”).
I added another category of highlighting: Worldbuilding and Continuity, in green. These are sections of text that refer to any in-world names, places, dates, or times. While I’m writing a draft, those things are very much in flux, so while I might start out the draft thinking that an event occurred a thousand years ago, by the end of the draft it could be six thousand years ago, or vice versa. If I actually took some time to plan things in advance, I might not have to change them all the time.
To be fair, I *did* spend some time worldbuilding for Survey, long before I even knew what the story or characters were. As it turned out, most of the worldbuilding of names, places, etc. did not even end up in the draft.
Now that I’ve finished with the highlighting, my goal is to start working on real edits. This is the hard part for me. The part that I dread the most, and in retrospect, the part that I was simply postponing by highlighting the first draft. That is, moving text around, and writing new text to replace shoddy work in the first draft. I am unfortunately going to need to write a lot of new text for Survey.
The draft told me that this novel has three parts. Part one involves arriving on the planet. Part two involves the events that occur on the planet. Part three involves events that occur after leaving the planet. The vast majority of the draft I wrote happens in parts one and two. Part three got very short shrift because I didn’t get to it until late in November. (That part of the draft is highlighted almost entirely in red.)
I will need to make a lot of major revisions to Part One because the story does not begin very well. There was entirely too much exposition at the beginning of the first draft, despite intentionally trying to move it along quickly. The story is supposed to begin with a ship crash-landing on a planet, but I felt like it took way too long to get to the exciting part in the draft. I tried to explain how the ship got to the planet first. :)
We may kid ourselves into thinking that readers are sophisticated enough to give an author time to develop a story, but the reality is that I’m a new author, so if the first sentence, paragraph, and page doesn’t scream action, mystery, and/or humor into the reader’s face at full volume in short, declarative sentences, I can expect 99% of the audience to go elsewhere. (Especially agents and editors.) After I’ve published a handful of successful books, then maybe I can start with more leisurely exposition.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how to approach this part of the editing. It’s *incredibly* intimidating, because it feels like I might as well just delete the entire draft and start over, and obviously that is two months of work, minimum, at the end of which I will have basically a second first draft which is no closer to publication than the first first draft is right now. Surely there must be a better way.
Maybe if I can crack the first chapter or two, it will seem easier to manage. Or perhaps I should start the revisions in the middle. I was reasonably pleased with large sections of the middle. Or maybe I should start with writing the ending that I didn’t have time to write in November. The possibilities are too numerous. :)