Monday, March 3, 2014

The Power of a Word & Taking Your Time

     The difference between the following two sentences is one word, yet the effect made those questioned, think the car was going much faster when given the first question.
     How fast do you think the car was going when it smashed into the other car?
     How fast do you think the car was going when it bumped into the other car?
     This is memory manipulation. Writers manipulate all the time to set reader's into a different world or to sympathize with a character. The pen is mightier than... many things. And it's a lot of fun! I love revising a sentence by popping in a different word that is stronger, more exact. But it can become tedious when you think about your whole manuscript.
     So here's the TIP: Break each revision session into manageable chunks. 
     First, put word revisions off until you have a solid draft or you will do more work than necessary. Make your structure sound, your plot without holes before tackling those rough and imperfect sentences. Second, don't concern yourself with anything larger than the scene at hand. That scene can be broken down into pages and paragraphs, and eventually each word. If you find a problem that relates to anything bigger than the scene, jot it down in a notebook for another day.
     Revisions take time--lots of it. Especially for us newbies. Shortchanging this process leads to rejections. Here's my story that I alluded to last week.
     Personal Experience: My Book of Mormon fiction novel, The Seventh City, took over two years to write because I needed the crutch of my critique group. Their feedback gave me focus for the next chunk of writing. Ten pages a week was the goal, but some meetings fell through. Another year was spent doing revisions and waiting on whole-manuscript readers. (Meanwhile, my next project moved forward.) Some of those readers fizzled out, and such is life in the real world. I took the feedback I had and tweaked a few things. I had a strong opening--it won two First Chapter contests that year and I hoped it would carry me through. I knew there were some weak spots, but I didn't know how to fix them. It was pretty close to my best abilities at that point in time, but I should have dug a little deeper, gotten more feedback. I'd already waited three years; I itched to submit.
     As the rejections returned, I kept writing and learning. I got one or two more readers who did a thorough job and gave valuable feedback. I reread my manuscript with fresh eyes and reworked a few things--the climax in particular. My main characters needed to be more involved in the solution to their problems.
     I resubmitted my novel, telling the publisher there had been some major changes to the manuscript, and I am happy to say it has been accepted for publication! No contract yet, so no more details than that.
     With every first novel experience I've heard about, the process took longer than expected. This does not mean we are bad at it, it means we are finding our way. Take patience in crafting your stories, revising them into powerful words, and waiting for feedback. With traditional publishing, my wait continues. Hopefully by the time my first book comes out, I'll have two or three ready right behind it.


Hannah Holt said...

Congratulations on the acceptance! I hope everything goes well with acquisitions and that you have a contract soon!!!

Renae Mackley said...

Me too! Thanks, Hannah. More deets to follow.