Shards of History Guest Post!
Posted by Krystal Larson at 12:43 AM Thursday, August 16, 2012
I enjoy hearing about other people's writing processes. Everybody is so different, ranging from those who write by the seat of their pants with only the faintest idea of where the story is going, to those who outline ahead of time and have pages upon pages of notes before they ever set the first sentence down on paper. There is no single right or wrong way, just the way that works best for any individual. It's a process, figuring out which method works best. I've tried several methods in pinning down what works best for me, and I'm actually still trying to figure it out.
My novel Shards of History began as a short story. When I decided to lengthen it, I had only the faintest idea of how it would end and what would happen in the middle. I just sat down one day and started writing. That wasn't the best idea I've ever had.
I finished a rough draft and submitted the first few chapters for critique. They were the strongest chapters of the entire novel, but even then they needed clarity. My biggest problem was that I hadn't yet put enough time into thinking about the world that my characters lived in, and my readers, smart as they are, picked up on that. So I spent a lot of time asking questions and researching. I used the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's handy dandy list of world-building questions as a guide. You can find it at http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/ if you're interested. I made other changes in the revision and then submitted it to readers again.
This time they brought up good points that meant revising in some places and totally rewriting in others. I knew they made valid points and that the story would be stronger, but the thought of overhauling the story made me want to weep. And I had a timeline in which I wanted to finish the novel and start sending it out. I'd just found out I was pregnant, and I wanted to be done with the final draft, with a query letter and synopsis ready, by the time the kiddo came along. Cue the ticking clock!
I was all set to work on revisions right away, but then the mixed blessing of morning sickness hit. I don't know why they call it morning sickness, by the way. I was sick all the time. At any rate, I didn't feel like doing anything that first trimester other than lying on the couch, cuddled up with the cat, and feeling sorry for myself while occasionally reaching for a cracker or ginger ale or making a mad dash to worship the porcelain gods. I was dying to work on the novel, but I barely felt like dragging myself out of bed every morning. Still, I had plenty of time to think about the novel and the suggestions that my readers made, and I grudgingly came to accept the changes that had to be made.
So yes, I should cut all the scenes from the smarmy husband's point of view because they didn't add anything. And I should add a scene from this other character's point of view because he's pretty cool and he does have something better to contribute. And I should really write an entirely new opening chapter to introduce the conflict. And I should stop fighting myself over the love interest and let the main character admit her feelings to herself. And, and, and. I reluctantly realized, over the course of six weeks of constant nausea, that I could and would make the necessary changes. So when I could finally sit at my desk like a normal human being, I began working on the novel. I cut here and added there.
What I learned was that sometimes you just have to let the material sit a while. It's good to have some distance from your work and let critiques and suggestions simmer in the back of your mind so that you're prepared to make major changes when necessary.
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