Monday, May 7, 2012

Writing Lessons Painfully Learned

So....about that merged manuscript.

You know the one - two different manuscripts, merged together at a whopping 246,100 words, that I have spent the past month trying to whittle down to a reasonable size so I it? Maybe even begin querying this summer?

Yeah. Impossible idea. Absolutely insane. But I'm still working on that.

As of today, the merged manuscript - newly renamed Taproot - is sitting at a much more docile 107,619 words. My understanding is that your average fantasy work is between 120,000 - 150,000 words. So by paring this critter down by more than half, I've given myself ample wiggle room for this beast to grow a bit more once the rewrites begin.

Which is now, actually. Specifically on Tuesday, while my students are taking their final exams. Yay for laptops!

As for the manuscript itself, I've learned a LOT about the higher aspects of writing a novel through this entire experience - and am still learning, to be honest, and will be learning for some time.

Lessons Learned

1.  No writing is so good that it can't be cut, especially if it does nothing to further to story.

2. Nepotism = BAD. If I'm too much in love with my writing in a particular place - it's probably needs to go. Cut it.

3. Don't be a hoarder. Eliminating unnecessary characters is the literary equivalent to taking out the trash. It's a chore to do, but everything smells so much better once it's gone.

4. Switching POVs can be magic. Writing a certain scene from the point of view of a different character can infuse all sorts of life into what might otherwise be a clunky moment.

5. Lose the love handles. When you merge ideas and cut out unnecessary fluff, your tale becomes SO MUCH MORE watertight. As in, you won't believe it until you do it.

6. Less really IS more. When you lose the love handles (see #5), you find that you actually have to explain a lot LESS than you originally thought. (That's true for me, at least.)

7. Be a berserker. Sometimes a bit of #stabbylove requires a battle-axe. (Thank you, Andrew Kincaid.)

8. Don't take too many breaks. If you "lay off" for more than a day or two, getting back into the daily routine of editing and writing is HARD. Too many things claw for our attention any more.

9. Put all your characters to work - so you don't have to. Since I'm notoriously long-winded, I've found that changing POVs now and then not only perks things up (see #4) but also eliminates the need for a lot of expository. If I can show it better through character C's POV rather than letting A and B lecture each other to death - I need to do so.

10. Utilizing #4 and #9 doesn't mean the mystery will be ruined. In fact, if I can manage to utilize my various character POVs wisely, I should be able to ramp up the mystery in unexpected ways.

Have I learned all my lessons well? Tuesday will tell.....

What about you? What lessons have you learned from your writing endeavors?
Let me know in the comments!


  1. I've learned that you aren't as good as you think you are. Conversely, you're not as bad as you think you are. The truth is somewhere between the two extremes, haha.

    Also, sometimes a rewrite is necessary whether you want to admit it or not. I'm putting off rewriting a promising horror novella because it will require a complete POV shift (from 1st to 3rd), which will obviously require a ground up rewrite. Ugh.

    1. Totally feel your pain.

      That's what's going to be such a bear with this next stage of writing/editing......Cutting out whole chapters and characters was (for me) the easy part - but rewriting favorite scenes from another POV? grrroooooooooaaaan......

      But it must be done. Already I can see how it would make the tale 150% better. But o boy do I have my work cut out for me.

  2. Great lessons which I am currently acting out myself! Definitely doing 1, 2, and 3, and a lot more necessary cutting and chopping... I struggled with 4 and 9 having read so many things about keeping everything to one pov, but sometimes it really does work better to add another pov, so long as it works easily and doesn't detract or make everything confusing!

    1. I know. I always thought I was a strictly one person POV writer, and have been up till this point; but I'm finding that my current WIP really suffers because of it. The idea is great, the delivery is not. So we roll up our sleeves and do what we must....

  3. I needed this post. so. badly.

    Thank you for the encouragement. Beserking and breaking are my two weak point. Gotta work on that. :)

  4. Oh I love this post! Like those before me, I needed it
    Editing is a nightmare. It can really bring a person to their knees and cause much weeping and wailing.
    I am dragging my feet on editing my own "wip" and I've found it truly is my hugest downfall. Good luck and happy writing!