Over the last week I’ve been revising my novel for children set in Nepal. Normally I don’t enjoy the editing, rewriting and proofreading stages of writing. I love the creative process of writing a new story or novel. The tedious, nit-picking process that follows I often find boring and uncreative. Besides, I often have more ideas for stories than I can physically get written waiting in the wings. I just want to get on and write them.
I am trying hard to refocus my mind on revision, a very important part of the process of writing. A writer cannot hope to be published these days without this important step because the competition is so intense and publishers are so swamped with manuscripts that they quickly reject those which do not measure up. They just do not have the time nor the resources to take on projects where the writer needs help with the basics of punctuation, grammar, story structure, inconsistent points of view, poor characterisation and all of those other elements which are essential in a published book.
My novel is now in its 4th draft. It’s been hard work getting there, always under the pressure of time. I am still hopeful of completing it ready to hand up for assessment for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing by the end of November. I also have to complete a 10,000 word exegesis essay on the process I went through.
I anticipate that the novel will go through several more drafts before I am completely happy with it. Time to stop blathering on here and get back to it.
- Writing a novel – a series of articles I have written during my journey with my novel.
It is said that Michelangelo, when asked how he had sculpted his masterpiece, David, replied, “I looked at the stone and removed all that was not David.”
Not a bad description of the novel revision process. From the mass of words you have created, you’ll take away all that is not your novel. You’ll chisel and add, touch up, and cut, but in the end what you want is your story in its purest form.
And only you can decide what form that will be. Kelly’s Picks: Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing October 26, 2009 by Kelly Nickell
Quiet please everyone – I’m using a chisel on my novel.
Not literally, of course. Metaphorically this is beautiful. I’m currently on the 4th draft of my novel for children set in Nepal. After so many drafts I am still astounded at the changes that are occurring, and the alterations needed. This editing and rewriting stage is crucial if I want my story to be the very best it can be.
Sometimes it’s just a word or two here and there. Often a whole sentence needs to be chipped away; it adds nothing to the story so out it goes. Occasionally a whole paragraph or even up to a half page needs to be removed to reveal the underlying beauty. In many cases a simple rewriting of the sentence will suffice.
No going back
With a sculptor there is no going back.
Once a piece of stone has been chipped off, it’s gone.
That’s pretty drastic, but that’s the reality. Once committed there’s no going back. Bit like life really.
Writers can go back
Writing is different. If I cut something out and later change my mind, I can always go back and resurrect that which I’ve cut out of a story. I keep back copies of each draft, so it is relatively easy to bring back to life something I’d previously eliminated. I don’t do it often, but it’s reassuring to know I can go back if needed.
Writers can add
Something I am finding with my current novel is the importance of adding words, sentences and whole paragraphs to enhance the story. I do this strategically, always with a very critical eye and asking myself that important question: ‘Is this crucial to the story?’ If it is mere padding to get to a word count, there is a fundamental problem with the story. Sculptors don’t have that luxury; they can’t add a new bit of stone.
Time to cut and run; my chisel is getting cold.
- Writing a novel – more articles in a series I’ve written about the processes I used to write my current novel.
Over the last ten days I have been steadily working on two aspects of my novel for children. I have been going through the text meticulously editing and rewriting. I have now finished the second and third drafts of the text. I’ve almost finished the fourth draft as well.
In the second draft of the work I used the notes of fellow students for the first seven chapters, plus the notes of a friend who offered to proofread the whole novel for me. She proved to be quite valuable as a reader and she managed to pick up many typos, punctuation errors and a few spelling errors. She found errors on most pages and so it was worth my while getting her to read the manuscript. Her strength is in copyediting, rather than in structural elements, setting, plot or characterisation. She did have a few comments to make about the motivation and attitude of the protagonist which made me think.
On the third draft I used the notes and comments of my supervising lecturer. Rosanne, with all of her experience as a published writer, is able to tell immediately if there are any weaknesses in the story, where things could be improved, elements of the plot that need to be eliminated as well as being good at copyediting. As my supervising lecturer this is a big part of her role. She is also very good at encouragement and also in gently pointing out areas for improvement. If only every writer had such a mentor. Actually-she is far more than a mentor to me; she has become a friend.
During the third draft I also did considerable rewriting, adding and subtracting many words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even a half page here and there. In fact, during this process the manuscript went from 39,175 words to 39,932 words, an almost 2% increase. And that was despite deleting many words along the way.
On my fourth draft I am on my own, looking at the suggestions of no-one. I am going through the text with a very critical eye. I am eliminating all unnecessary words and passages. I am looking for grammatical errors (a few), problems with point of view (there were many) and inconsistencies with the tenses of my verbs. This latter area will need much attention in my fifth draft, I’ve decided.
Over the last five days progress has slowed down considerably due to being away from home. We travelled to Geelong for our daughter’s graduation at Deakin University. She has achieved her Master of Education (TESOL), her third degree. Because we were staying with friends it was part holiday as well. I was able to attend to some editing but relaxing with our friends was higher on the agenda.
Tomorrow I will need to get back into full swing again.
- Writing a novel – a series of articles outlining the processes I went through while writing a novel for children.
Slow progress on editing
Over the last few days I have commenced the tough task of editing my novel for children. I’ve had several friends read the rough first draft manuscript and give me feedback on it. I’ve been steadily working through these and making some changes to the work.
Some of the changes are purely of the typographical type; spelling errors, missing words or letters, errors of grammar and so on. These are generally easy to fix. Several readers are also on the lookout for sentences or passages which do not make sense, or which are inconsistent with other parts of my story. These often need rewriting and that can be not only time consuming but also frustrating when trying to get it all right.
The progress on my novel has also been hampered this week by other events and illness. Over recent weeks I’ve had a very bad back. I’m not sure about the cause, but it is being very painful if I stand or walk for more than a few minutes. Fortunately, writers can do a lot of sitting. I can’t help thinking that my lack of exercise and general fitness has been a major contributing factor to the back problem now facing me. As a consequence I’ve recently been to my doctor twice, my physiotherapist twice and the local hospital for x-rays-all in the last week. All those appointments cut into the writing day.
Then today I had to fulfill a speaking engagement arranged some time ago. I spoke to a group of elderly people over lunch about another of my passions-Australian birds. I also showed photos of birds to illustrate my talk. While this was enjoyable, and I received plenty of great feedback from the listeners, it severely cut into my writing hours.
What I am reading: Eyeing Everest by Steve Tolbert
I must admit that a little over a week ago I had never heard of author Steve Tolbert. My supervising lecturer recommended I have a look at least one of the books written by this American born writer now living here in Tasmania, Australia. I managed to buy online an as-new copy of his novel for teenagers called Eyeing Everest. It arrived two days later.
Fifteen year old Meika lives in Hobart Tasmania, the setting of the first half of the novel. She has never met her father, and her relationship with her aunty is stronger than the one she pretends to have with her mother. Early in the story her natural mother tragically dies. The following few months as she adapts to life with her aunty are chaotic and rebellious as Meika befriends the enigmatic Ted on the streets. They both spiral deep into trouble until a letter arrives from her father who has lived in Nepal since before she was born.
Within weeks Meika finds herself swept up in the splendid beauty of the Himalayas and adapts to life with a family she never knew existed. Not only are the mountains amazing in their beauty, they are treacherous to live in. She struggles to come to terms with her new environment, new relationships, new customs and the emotions these all engender.
It was an interesting and very satisfying book to read.
My novel is also set in Nepal and so I read with interest how the author tackles his setting. In 2006 I trekked the area in which he has set his story, so that gave it extra meaning for me. He gave me some ideas that I can include during my rewriting, especially in relation to references to food. This was one area I had already identified as needing some changes. More importantly, Tolbert has inspired me to write another novel set in this enigmatic country. I must focus on my current work in progress first.
- Writing a novel – articles about how I went about writing a novel
- Tolbert, S 1996, Eyeing Everest, Addison, Wesley, Longman, Melbourne.
- The home page of Steve Tolbert