This has been the shortest two weeks of my writing life. The mentees have a little over two months to get their books together, and for most of us, that means two rounds of edits in quick succession.
I’m currently aiming for around 50-70 pages per week, which gets me done with R1 just before Christmas, and my timeline is generous compared to a lot of the class of ’19! So far I’ve already done a bottom-up rewrite of chapters 1 and 2, revised 3 and 4, got stuck on 5 and 6 and hit a panic button, and am sorting it out with mentor help.
I’m slightly behind where I want to be, in part because of the panic, and in part because I had to make a revision outline.
You’d think that would be the MOST OBVIOUS THING, but I am the pantsing queen. I never know anything about my books except where they start, and when I’m revising I only have the vaguest notion of the story as a whole for an embarrassingly long time (think multiple drafts). I was kind of hoping to get through pitch wars without outlining at all.
No such luck.
So I set myself a challenge. I was going to write a fresh outline without looking at my book to see if I could remember all the important points, where cause-and-effect come into play, and changes I intended. After all, if I couldn’t connect the dots, how could a reader?
Even after 5 drafts (more on this in a later post!), after finishing I still found things I left out because it turned out they weren’t actually important, and places that needed to be bridged because I hadn’t properly established them. I highly recommend this technique for anyone unsure if their story works as a whole or who has never made an outline- see if the plot and character arcs have stuck with you enough that you can lay out the dominoes and knock them over from memory. Anything that you can’t remember probably won’t stick with the reader, either.
Craft Resource of the Week:
I tried to teach myself to love outlining with Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat Writes a Novel. It hasn’t entirely worked, but I understand story beats a lot better now, and the dissections of popular novels are gold!
On November 3rd, I was sitting in my favorite writing spot trying to puzzle out the next part of my Nano project when I found out I’d gotten into Pitch Wars..
Exactly one week to the hour later I was sitting in the same spot, finishing up my read through of the manuscript with my edit letter and a fresh notebook full of scene-level notes and worldbuilding ideas.
For a lot of mentees, the edit letter looms as a gigantic cloud on the horizon ready to darken the sunny excitement of being chosen. We’ve all heard the stories- mentees who had to cut beloved characters, rewrite entire acts, change from first to third or vice-versa, create subplots (or even a main plot!) from whole cloth.
As a writer with anxiety, it’s no wonder I spent the night after Pitch Wars staring at my ceiling coming up with every way my manuscript had gone wrong.
Luckily my mentors were already prepared with my edit letter, so I didn’t have to suffer long! And when I got it, it all made sense. Nothing in it was a big surprise, except the fact that I thought I could actually do all of it. Lots of notes about character agency, world building, adding depth and emotional beats, as well as encouragement for what was working in the book.
You’d think I’d be thrilled, but here’s my dirty little secret- this is the part that scares me most about writing. I love the wild freedom of pure creation- if I’d been told to cut half the book and come up with something fresh I would have launched myself into it with zeal. But having to sit with what I wrote, confront the uncomfortable and embarrassing truth that it still could still be better, and make the choices that will get it there? Thinking about what scenes need to accomplish and ways I can do it more effectively? Deep diving into character to show internal waves instead of settling for rippling surfaces?
That’s hard. That frightens me. That is where imposter syndrome kicks in and I’m pretty sure every decision I make is going to be wrong, and I’d rather go back and hide in the comfortable blanket of just being pretty good with no ambitions of greatness.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
Craft Resource of the Week:
One of the bigger changes in my MS is aging up my MC to make sure it reads as a fully adult novel. Melissa Caruso, author of The Tethered Mage and its sequels, has a ton of info on writing YA vs adult and other great topics that she tags as #WritingCraftMC (and her whole account is gold, go give her a follow).