Thursday, February 8, 2018

February Check-in: Revisions

Happy February!  It's the start of revision time for me, taking last year’s edits on my current work-in-progress novel, Ghazal, and putting them into action. According to my notes, there's a lot to do, but I'm more than ready to get the show on the road.

For those of you new to this project, the plot of Ghazal centers on thirty doorways that individually figure in each chapter, and two relationships between two couples. The first couple is comprised of a married, middle-aged businessman and a young woman who has recently abandoned her choice to live in a convent. The second couple is made up of the young woman’s next door neighbors during her growing-up years, two retirees who once spent a magical summer in France and have never forgotten. Together and separately the characters discover what it is they truly believe in, discarding along the way the many lies they have told themselves and each other for decades. 

While the plot is continuous and involves the same group of characters, the chapters can also be read as stand-alone short stories. I realize it's experimental, unconventional, and all of the worst things an editor or agent wants to hear, but it's the direction I'm the most drawn toward. Writing about my characters' lives and decisions in the form of short stories has allowed me the freedom to explore areas and themes that might not work in a traditional novel. For instance, one chapter is about a high school ski trip gone wrong; another is about seeing the Alamo at midnight as a child; while yet another is about the sudden death of a friend in a swimming pool. At first glance these events might not have much to do with each other, but taken as a whole, they can be considered as beads on a cord that eventually ties together in just the right way. 

My self-imposed deadline is to have the manuscript ready for submission by the end of the year, a much wider frame than I'd originally wanted, but I want to fully craft this novel; hasty decisions and speed-revising won't work this time around. I'll be thrilled if I do finish before then, but I want to stay as mindful and focused as I can on this project and not feel pressured to get it over and done with.
One of the things I'm doing to make the revising more interesting is I'm drawing illustrations of the thirty doorways I mentioned earlier. I’m still undecided on my final medium, style, and color palette (or if I'll even use color at all), but that's half the fun. Another trick I’m using is to keep a daily “writer’s log," tracking not only my daily progress, but also my thoughts and emotions about the entire revision process. Alongside these are my notes on what I hope to achieve within each chapter as well as a record of my characters' names, ages, backgrounds, and anything else that I need to refer to as I continue to re-write.

As much as I love freewriting and getting that first draft down on paper, I must say there's really nothing better than having those pages finally assembled into a revisable manuscript. At least you know you do have something to work on and improve. The only hard part after that is knowing when to stop polishing, tinkering, and changing every other word so you can finally declare: The End!

Tip of the Day: If you haven’t tried keeping a daily log of your writing or other creative projects, you might like to start one now. One easy method is to use a calendar (especially now that all the 2018 ones are on super-sale!) and write down your word count or similar into each date square. Many calendars have room to write extra notes for the month too, and you can always write on the picture page as well.

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