Monday, November 2, 2015

My Writing Process or What a Manuscript Goes Through

A big milestone this week. I got my entire revised WIP off to my critique group for a final read. Whew! It's been a long road. They might find a few places that need a new coat of paint, but I don't expect any major rebuilding. Why? Maybe you'd like to know what my manuscript already went through, my writing process.

As scripture-based fiction, my outline for this sequel was taken from Alma's writings in the Book of Mormon. My main character is King Lamoni's daughter. I studied the chapters and knew what main points and events I wanted to include. Then I re-read the section for the current part of my story, filling in around it with what I imagined might happen or needed to happen for the plot. Sometimes the story had a mind of its own and sometimes it went as planned. When I sit down at the computer, I read over the last few paragraphs or more to kick start my memory and creativity. Once I pick my first idea or actual sentence, the words keep coming, at least in spurts. I re-read the end of the fresh part over and continue on.

When I have ten pages--usually within two or three days--I finish the scene and stop (unless I'm really on a roll). It gets a careful look at this point for any sentence tightening or other revisions that I can spot on my own. If I have time, I let the speak text feature read it back to me. There is something about hearing it aloud that points out trouble spots. Then it gets sent off to my online critique group.

Critique partners read through and mark with comments or insert fixes into the manuscript. There might be a little or a lot that they catch in any given submission, but what really matters is having other readers who don't already have your story in their head. Their markings let me know what was not clear to them, parts that were awkward, even things that they especially liked.

My group of four holds a weekly meeting to talk about the bigger issues. We have used Oovoo and Google Hangouts, both of which allow us to see one another and pull up the document on the same screen. Sometimes partners catch the same things and sometimes they don't. That is why I like having 3 other readers. I gives a variety of perspectives without having to spend too much time critiquing for a big group. Sometimes we brainstorm what might come next or anything a member is stuck on.
When the session ends, we e-mail our marked critiques out so that we can incorporate the edits we choose to make. I typically take one day to make the changes. If there are a lot of new ideas or things to fix, we might send the same chapter out the following week for a second look with the rewrites. They might get an important chapter three or four times before moving on.

In summary, each of my pages has already been seen by three writers at least once. Add to that my own read through from start to finish, which always causes a few tweaks, and we have a mostly-polished draft. Yes, they will find new spots to discuss, but the markings will be fewer and farther between this time. I will then look over their comments and make final revision choices before sending the manuscript to the fresh eyes of beta readers. This may take a few months. If readers like it and I am satisfied, then it gets submitted to my publisher for review by their test-readers. In other cases, a manuscript might be sent to an editing professional or agent.

Then there are those who will start with a finely detailed outline and write an entire rough draft in one month. NaNoWriMo participants, I salute you! Whether you write ten pages a week or
50,000 words in a month, almost every writer needs there manuscript to go through a revision process of some sort and the fresh eyes of other readers.

Yep, it's a long road.

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