Friday, March 5, 2010

The Length of a Novel, Practically. :)

I'm working on my last revision before my manuscript is ready for any agents who might request it (I can only hope, right?)--meaning, after all the times I've revised it, this has been the most engrossing, the most time consuming, and my eyes have been more "critical" than ever before. Having that attitude, it's amazed me how much I have found that hasn't sounded right (grammatically and otherwise). I've ended up changing much more than I initially thought. My intent going into this revision was to make it as absolutely perfect as possible, to view it as a critical outsider, nitpicky and looking for any reason it might fail.

Something I've learned is to trust your gut. It's taken a while for me to learn that and even to recognize my "gut" when I feel it, but I think I've got it down and know now that when something doesn't sound right, it's probably because it isn't. So I looked back on all my past revisions and recalled the many places in the novel where I stopped and questioned, "Does that sound right?" or "Does that conversation feel forced and unnatural?" or simply the times I cringed, and this time I'm acting on the impulses. I've taken out some, but mostly just changed things.

There were things I kept in the past even though they made me wince, simply because I thought I should keep them for one reason or another, but I have realized I can't hold onto my "Little Darlings," as Pat Walsh put them. If they gottta go, they gotta go, no matter their "value."

Not only have I made millions of grammatical corrections (okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little) and rearranged some syntax and dialogue to help the flow of the prose, but I even found my mind expanding and adding new things! There are a few scenes where I have added something, sometimes an extra page or two, and I feel extremely satisfied.

This new view as I'm editing has really opened my eyes to things, and I can confidently say that when I'm done with this revision, it will be my final--in as perfected a state as it can be without an actual editor.

Of course this doesn't mean I'll be stubborn. If someone who is still reading it comes across an edit or a suggestion that I didn't catch, and it fits, I'm still open to editing it. But what I'm saying is the chance of that happening is, I hope, pretty slim now.

However, I know that will be a different story when (I'm going to take a positive note and say "when" instead of "if") I actually do get an agent and editor. One thing writing has taught me is to have tougher skin and accept criticism openly and humbly. I feel I have a pretty good ability to sift through the feedback and filter what will be good for my project and what won't.

And along with this, I am so annoyed with myself for letting friends and family read it before it was in its "streamlined" version. I know that part of what got it to that point was having my loved ones read it and offer help, and for that I am extremely grateful because I know I can't do it all on my own, but I am a perfectionist and hate knowing there are imperfect copies out there, and worse, that people are reading them.

I would love it if a few certain people (some of which are still in the process of reading it) would read it again, revised, or either stop the one they're on now to start this newer, more perfect version. But this is reality and I know I can't expect that of anyone. I know people have lives and other things they want to do or read rather than my manuscript, especially when they've already read it before. So if any of you (you probably know who you are) want to reread it, please let me know.

To an average reader, I don't know if the changes I've made will even stick out, but for someone like me who pays such attention to the writing skill of a book and the minor details, I think it'll have a better feel and a smoother flow. Plus, the little bits I've added might add to the story and character development.

Anyway, enough on that. After my revision, my next step is delving back into the query and submission scene (gulp), perfecting and rewriting my query and synopsis (since the first were miserable failures), studying and researching more agents, possibly reading some books they've represented, and then submitting, submitting, submitting. I have a certain annoying habit that's always been a part of my personality that makes it feel impossible to wait things out. I am so impatient. I get so anxious and excited about something and jump the gun...way too often. I did that with the first five agents I submitted to a month ago and I wish I would have waited.

Another thing I have really come to learn is how to let time pass graciously. I've gotten better at patience, I'd like to think, and I have learned that I need to take the time to research and perfect. Writing and trying to publish a novel is a lot more difficult and time-consuming process than I ever thought, and I've really come to accept that--that success isn't going to come easily and that I definitely have to put in the work if I want anything to come of it.

On to my next project, after I am done with all that other stuff I just mentioned, when my manuscript, blurb, and synopsis are as perfect as can be and I'm simply waiting for agent responses, I will start my next book. I lay awake at night sometimes thinking about it and I'm so excited to start it. I already have the whole outline and characters written up, but I haven't started it yet for a few different reasons.

I don't want to take on too much at once and feel that even though I want to do it all because I'm so excited, I need to take things one at a time and focus on the task on hand before I go off the path. When the time comes to start, I'll know. My stomach ties in knots when I think of writing it--out of excitement and nervousness. It's going to be a little different than the other things I've written, with even a twist of fantasy in it, and that scares me. I don't know if I can write that kind of stuff well, but that's why I want to try.

But all that aside, the main reason I don't want to take on too much right now is I'm learning how to balance my time and focus better. My wonderful children need a mom and that's what I am and what will always come first. When I was writing November Rain, I'd get so engrossed in the story and on a high from writing it (literally, I think), that I would get in these modes and let everything else fall by the wayside. Housework, teaching the kids, playing with them. I feel so ashamed admitting that, but I REFUSE to let that happen again.

I have been trying to gather myself and get back on track before I get engrossed in another story so that I can be strong enough to withstand that temptation when it arises (part of getting back on track includes putting more effort and prayer into my church calling). The problem I face is that I get this steady stream of ideas that don't stop (even when I'm trying to sleep, unfortunately), and the only way I can ease them is to write them out. I'm still working on balancing that out and figuring out how I can still be Jennie--the wife and mother--without losing all my creative focus. Hmm. If anyone has any ideas, I'm desperate.

I think what it's come down to is accepting the fact that if I want to get any creative writing done, it has to be at night when my wonderful family is in bed. That way, the house is quiet and the ideas are allowed to flow. It's just that whole thing of deciding what's more important--sleep or writing.

Most of the time, I choose writing. That's why I'm always a tired mess.

Anyway, I love writing more than I can even express. Never ever have I had a love I've been so passionate about that, besides the gospel and my family, I've wanted to consume me. I don't think I can convey to anyone who really knows me how serious I am about it since it's a recent passion (last 3 years) and it had never really been a part of me before, but I will say this:

Besides the gospel, my Savior Jesus Christ, and my WONDERFUL family, never have I been more serious about ANYTHING in my life as I am about writing and popping out novels at a normal rate. :) Hehe.

And I know I need to give thanks where it's deserved--not just to those who have my back and support me. I thank Heavenly Father every single day for blessing me with this talent. It's something that started out extremely week, but with my strong desire and passion mixed with prayer, I have nurtured it into what it is today and I KNOW the Lord has blessed me with it.

I also want to say how much I love my family. I have the best husband in the ENTIRE world and there is nobody better for me on this planet. He is just what I need and I'd like to think I'm what he needs. I have the two most wonderful little boys. They are my everything. When everything else melts away, my family is all that matters and my boys put endless smiles on my face every day, reminding me of that.

I am so blessed.

2 comments:

Coltharp Golden Years! said...

A million hugs and kisses from your mama...I'd like to take some credit for your talent, but I'm afraid I'm not responsible for handing out talents. There's only one Person to whom we can give that to! I love you! Mama

yettie/jessie said...

Hey Jen sorry I never get on here any more but I finally did and I can not believe you are writing that is so cool I too love to write not as ambitious as you are though but I am so excited for you and I wouuld love to read what you have writen if you would let me this is so cool!