This week I took the first steps toward revising a book-length manuscript I completed in 2008. Why the long break? Well, one reason is I like to put drafts away for a while before I tackle revision. In this case a little over a year seemed just about right. Another is I have had such a good time freewriting these past and many months that I simply wanted to stay in the zone, exploring and experimenting with a variety of genres and forms. I wasn’t ready to come inside and stop playing. But now with a fairly hefty body of work behind me (a novella, two novels, a nonfiction book, two screenplays, and a collection of short stories), it’s time to get serious and call out the official manuscript clean-up crew. Except there’s one big problem; there’s only one person on the crew and I’m it.
I knew in advance this day was coming; in fact, I set it out in my writer’s business plan under the goals section as part of my Big 5. To kick off this grand plan and perhaps test the waters a bit I chose to work on the novella. It’s my first foray into historical fiction, paying more than a passing tribute to my childhood writing hero, Edgar Allen Poe. So far the manuscript doesn’t have a working title beyond The Gothic Novella but that will do fine; titles get changed anyway and right now my focus is 100% on creating a polished manuscript worthy of any title at all.
On Monday I began my initial read-through of the manuscript to make sure I had my important scenes in order as well as the chapter line-up that made the most sense to me. I especially paid attention to the places where I need to add more writing. These are mainly transitional scenes I’ll have to write to help tie my plot points together. My self-imposed deadline to have a submission-ready manuscript in the mail to an editor is May 31, 2010. Every day that I can I intend to work on a chapter: retyping it into Microsoft Word, adding fresh lines or small scenes where necessary, smoothing out the rough edges. I’ve given myself enough room to do this several times for at least three drafts, maybe more.
In a few minutes I’m going to take the plunge and start typing my way to a real second draft. I confess to being nervous; it’s been a long time since I rewrote an entire book. My over-riding reaction is to be a neurotic version of the three wise monkeys: close my eyes and ears and hold my breath until the book rewrites itself. But I have a feeling that won’t work very well. Besides, the real irony is I do love revision work once I’m into it. There’s a nice sense of order and security once the plot and characters have been set in place and I know my daily writing routine is simply to make them shine. So here goes; it’s time to dive off the deep end which in a funny way has always my favorite part of the pool. Wish me luck; I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Tip of the Day: Do you have a manuscript ready to revise but one you haven’t felt ready or willing to start? Go get it now. Set a date on your calendar that sounds comfortable for you to begin revising and a date to have it finished. And stay in touch; I'd love to know what you decide to do.