My workflow on my historical romance novel has been ridiculously complicated. Tons of revision passes over several years. Scenes cut and rewritten and moved and combined. Version upon version taking up space on my hard drive. It’s a lot to keep track of.
Part of the reason for all this chaos is ignorance (at worse) and inexperience (at best). The other part is that novels are large and complex undertakings to begin with. And regardless of which end of the word count spectrum you are on (50k to 150k), that’s a lot of words, sentences, scenes, characters, you name it, to keep a handle on.
For years, I had only three-quarters of a story. I had an ending in mind, but I didn’t write it out until a couple of years ago, when I started taking my writing seriously. With a complete draft, I could track the improvements in my writing. Scenes became more focused, narrative threads started to come together, and I finally knew what my story was about as I got closer and closer to The End.
Then I flipped back to the beginning and wanted to tear my hair out.
Confusing opening scene…
Infodumps all over the place…
Yep, I did it all. And so I took all the things I learned in completing my story and applied it to the beginning. Writing and rewriting my opener, refining sentences, tightening scenes. Then I started sharing the story with my critique partners.
After they reached about the midway point, something funny happened. My CPs starting flagging things like rampant adverbs, dialogue tags, and other things I Knew Better than to do. But I hadn’t really looked at the second half of the book with my editor cap on for some time – I remembered it being fine, better than the first half. And I had read through it since then, but sometimes it’s hard to pick out what’s wrong with a passage, especially when it not only reads ok, but also how you expected it to.
Writing skills aren’t static – they are constantly growing and evolving just as you are as a person. So in working on my beginning the second time around, my writing ability continued to improve, resulting in a mismatch between the first and second half of the novel. I realized I needed to devote the same revision energy that I applied to my beginning to the rest of the book in order to take it to the next level.
It can be discouraging to realize something I’ve written isn’t as awesome as I remembered it to be. However, my writing skills are improving – I’m better able to recognize what works and what doesn’t. I’m becoming a better writer every day.
I’ll take it, even if it means constant vigilance on my part to ensure all aspects of my work are indicative of my abilities as a writer today as opposed to a year ago, six months ago, even as of yesterday.
Nothing else will do.