Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, December 5, 2011

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Revising Song of the Day: "The Space Between" by the Dave Matthews Band

So, something interesting happened this past weekend--

ME: I don't feel like revising my thesis.

QUITA: Me neither.

ME: (thinks) Hey--I never read my NaNo WIP from last year.

QUITA: Hmm, me neither.

ME: Want to do that?

QUITA: (shrugs) Whatever.

And so that's what we did. To read about me and Quita's NaNo 2010 novels, you can click here. Or, if you're lazy like me, I'll save you the extra click--I wrote about fairies, and she wrote about genies. You see, we wanted to write outside of our comfort zones, so we both decided to write supernatural YA stories. And you know what we found out?

They weren't THAT awful.

Of course, they're by no means perfect either. It's just that while we were writing them, we both whined about getting words on that paper. We both declared that they had to be the worst things that we've written. Ever. But as I read through my first draft, I found myself laughing at parts that were meant to be funny. I found myself flipping the page to see what will happen next.

So what does that mean?

Just what pretty much everyone else has confirmed. Time away from your WIPs is absolutely crucial. You need to be able to see your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. My first step in revising is: Read your story for personal enjoyment. Pretend that this is a story that you've chosen from a bookshelf, sit back, and just read it like you're a fan.

Now what? Well, I do what I do before I review any other book. I look at what works and what doesn't work. I think about the characters: do they sound the same? Are they all needed? What are their motivations? I consider the plot and whether or not the story builds to a worthy climax, and if it results in a satisfactory ending.

So yeah, I think Quita and I both plan on revising these babies now. And I can't speak for Quita, but this revision might just be for me. I won't worry about submissions and whether or not there's room in the marketplace for my little fairy story. And sometimes, when you're writing just for fun, the work really shines through.

What about you all? Have you fallen in love with a project again that you haven't read in forever?


Meredith said...

I kind of had an opposite reaction to an old novel of mine. More an "Oh dear Jesus, this is unredeemable crap" moment, lol. Definitely agree that time away from a novel is one the most important steps in revision. You need that distance to see it fresh.

Racquel Henry said...

Yes! I have several short stories that I hated and then revisited only to realize that they weren't that bad. :)

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I totally agree about distance. I don't think writers give themselves enough distance after writing first drafts. That's great that you didn't touch these projects for a year, and still love them. Good luck with revising!

Alicia Gregoire said...

I'm so glad you both were happy with what you found with last year's NaNo novels! I find when I distance myself from something I get more excited about it in the long run. (I'm hoping this will hold true for the project I'm about to revise!)

erica and christy said...

Time away is the only way to "forget" those lines you've practically memorized so that you can't see past what you have in your head and what you feel for those lines. Time to forget is important. That way you're able to read it like a reader and not a writer. Like a critiquer! Great post! Best of luck as you continue to work on those babies! christy

Jessica Love said...

I was having an angsty moment with my NaNo, so I think this is a perfect plan for it...just put it away and let it settle in for awhile.

Good luck for revising!

Claire Dawn said...

Exact same experience. Just read my 2k9 nano- an epic fantasy, as opposed to all the other things I've ever written which are contemp YA.

It also turned out not to be so bad. Even though I've been referring to it as It-which-shall-not-be-named for 2 years. That might have something to do with the embarrassingly horrible last line:

"You will pay, [redacted]!" they heard on the air as the General rode away.

All I needed was a dog to go along with the meddling kids and it could have come straight out of a Scooby Doo episode!

Marquita Hockaday said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies! We're so glad we're not alone :D

@Meredith--Believe us, we've had that problem, too!

@Ghenet, Alicia, Christy, and Jessica: GOOD LUCK revising, too!

@Claire Dawn--I wish we gave out a prize for best comments. Yours was just...epic. Thanks for sharing your last line with us!

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