Wednesday I rewrote a scene and realized that I’d made it both better and worse than it was before. Yesterday morning (having slept on it), I awoke with an epiphany about why. The scene is better because there was stuff that I hadn’t thought of before that needed to be mentioned, dealt with, accounted for, etc. The actual science they would be doing needed to be handled better and things I should have thought of before now needed to be incorporated into their agenda. Two things in the previous sentence should tell you everything about what’s wrong with the scene, why it was worse after the rewrite: “would be doing” and “agenda”. I wondered why the scene was so awful and dead when I’d added more science! Science is good, right? Well, yeah, if they are actually doing science. Adding things (good things, necessary things they must do, how they will do the science) made the scene apparent for what it really had been all along: a data dump. There are some small character development bits, but not nearly enough to justify the scene, and the information doesn’t justify the scene either. This book and these characters do not need this scene: I needed the scene because it laid out for me what they needed to do and how they needed to do it. This scene is very early in the book. Those paragraphs belong in notes or outline, not in the book. The important things can be dispersed into scenes in which they are actually doing the science and interacting with each other. Which beats the hell out of a scene with everyone standing around while the author dumps 2757 words on the reader. I had, in an earlier draft, flagged the end of the previous scene as a possible chapter break. It works perfectly. I cut the scene, saving it in a separate file. The science and character-oriented stuff will be incorporated into other scenes; the “trying desperately to inject life into a moribund scene” parts will die a well-deserved death. The result of cutting this big chunk of text will be more rewriting on later scenes, but it will make the book significantly and conspicuously better. So today there’s a kind of “this is great” rush going through me; I feel much better about the book.
PS: my author site is down right now. Techies have been alerted and the problem is being worked. Sorry for any inconvenience.
I’ve posted a short “end of year” summary over on my author site. All-in-all, it’s been a good year for me as a writer. One book and two new short stories published. Not too bad. I hope everyone has a good holiday season and a terrific new year. Thanks for following this eclectic little blog.
For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, the best NaNo advice I can give you at this point in the game is to throw caution to the wind and work to the end of the story. If a scene is too difficult, write a placemarker sentence or paragraph of what should happen in it and move on to the next scene. Write whatever you can write, and as as much as you can write. If you have later scenes already in your mind, write them out of order then work toward them. Focus on the getting to the end of the story, even if it means you have to fill in some stuff later. I’ve found that it’s easier to rewrite a complete draft even if I have to fill in some missing scenes, than to pick up a cold unfinished draft and finish it after having lost the momentum (AND then still have the whole rewrite to do). This may be different for you, but especially if you’re the kind of writer that has trouble finishing things, you need to work toward finishing the story by the end of the month. Remember: this is just the rough draft of a very short novel. It doesn’t have to be good; you just need to get all the essential bits written down. Every first draft needs a rewrite, but you can’t do that until the draft is done. NaNoWriMo is all about knocking out that first draft. You can agonize over it sentence by sentence in the rewrite. 😆 Good luck, everyone!
For those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, check out my NaNoWriMo prep tag. I’ve done a number of posts with resources (naming characters, story structure, Evil Week, online writing resources) helpful hints, and advice based on my own NaNoWriMo experiences. (I’ve done it a number of times and always finished successfully and early.) For things I’ve posted while doing NaNo, see the NaNoWriMo tag. Over on my author blog I’ve tagged a number of longer NaNoWriMo posts, covering both pre-NaNo and post-NaNo.
I’m not doing NaNo this year because I just have too much work to do on various drafts in assorted series, so I really don’t need to start another book right now! I wish all my fellow WriMos the best of luck as you draft your NaNo novel next month!