September 16, 2009

Subject: Revising and Rewriting

This fall, I’m revising my India novel. I finished the first draft of this novel back in April. I spent about six weeks agonizing over what to do next with it. My Hamline faculty advisor, Claire Rudolf Murphy, advised dropping a storyline or changing the timeframe. I couldn’t. I knew something had to change, but what?

I decided to take a break from the story and work on something else. I picked up the draft of another novel. Same problem. It needed big changes, but where to start?

Now it’s September, and I’m back to the India story. My new faculty advisor, Jane Resh Thomas, suggested switching from first person to third as a way to gain some distance from my 14-year-old protagonist. Furthermore, she said I must put the old draft away. I’m rewriting. “Don’t peek,” she said.

Scary? Yes. But also incredibly freeing.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve brainstormed scene ideas and plot layers. I made mindmaps of different storylines. I wrote a one-line description of each possible scene on a 3x5 card. The stack of cards grew. Then, using my big dining table, I arranged the scenes, added cards, removed others and rearranged them. My story is taking shape and growing.

That storyline I couldn’t remove in April? Gone.

The hardest part, for me, is taking the leap from analyzing to writing. I could live in analysis mode (plotting, researching, character building) forever. Why? It’s safe there. It’s a world of possibility. A world free of mistakes.

But it’s also dangerous there. It’s limbo. So long as you stay there, you never move forward. You’re stuck.

I don't want to be stuck forever.

So today, I leaped out of story analysis and I rewrote the novel’s first scene. Or rather wrote it for the first time. It resembles the first draft but it’s different.

My character started her journey today, and so did I.

1 comment:

  1. Fearless writing, Heather. Wonderful to share your journey in revision that gives hope to all of us. Moving from analysis, that you are so very good at, to writing is not just the next step, but a huge leap. Congratulations. You inspire me and I look forward to reading your novel and learning more about your process. Claire Rudolf Murphy