Friday, February 5, 2010

Two Profound Realizations...

...I Should Have Figured Out a Long Time Ago

So as I was working on my novel and getting feedback from my critique group this week, two things hit me that were two "No, duh" things. But I had never thought of them before, so maybe neither have you.

Realization #1:  If I don't remember it, then it isn't important. As noted in a previous blog, I finished my novel recently, so now begins the revision process. My Master's project review committee told me they did not want to see more than 50 pages from the last excerpt I had given them until the end, preferrably 30. I finished and it was 65. So now to slice-'n'-dice. Have I mentioned before how hard it is for me to cut? I have? Are you sure?

This week's writing has been spent reading through the last chunk of the novel and trying to trim, condense, or occasionally cut. It's very difficult for me. But as I was reading through it again, there were some scenes I had written a couple of months ago that I had completely forgotten were in my novel. 

So here's my Ah ha! moment: if I can't even remember what I wrote two months ago, then it is doing nothing for my story. The scenes are obviously not moving my story along. Get rid of them, or at the very least, these would be prime examples of when you actually tell, rather than show what is happening. 

Realization #2:  Save all revision versions. When I revised pieces of writing before (usually academic essays), I would always just make my changes in the same file and save over it. But although I have heard for a while it is something I should always do, I have recently realized the value of saving multiple drafts.

My Master's committee also would like me to write a 10-page paper illustrating what I have learned in "classwork" and how it applied in my project (i.e., my novel). My chairwoman and I discussed choosing a chapter and working through several revisions, each focusing on a different aspect, and then demonstrating the changes it went through from a first draft to a "final" version. (Is anything ever truly final?)

So as a means of making it easier for myself to put this paper together, I began saving a copy of each revision, so I could easily go back and demonstrate my growth in this 10-page paper. But in conjunction with Realization #1, I am glad I have multiple saved drafts.

It is difficult for me to cut entire scenes out of my writing, especially since as I'm reading it, I think, "Oh, yeah. I know why I put this in here. It was to show/describe/explain such-and-such." But for right now, I'm getting rid of it (if for no other reason than to satisfy my committee's demands right now). However (here's the benefit), if as my novel gets closer to finished form I find it is lacking something, I don't have to start over. I already have a draft with those scenes still in them that I can revise to fit more appropriately in my story. Ah ha! They aren't gone forever...