Being a Better Writer: Going Back to Basics

I now have two drafted novels.  As one sits and stews a while, I’m returning to the first one, a coming-of-age mystery I’ve been working on for a few years now.  The concept began as a dream, as many novels do. It was a dream which made me get out of bed and start writing. Eighteen hours later I was still writing.

Now that dream has developed into an eighty-two-thousand word manuscript.  But let me be real: It’s eighty-two-thousand words of crap. 

Given it’s in the fifth rendition, that’s kind of sad. But, there it is. This thing has travelled with me all around the world.  I’ve edited it here and there, but truth is, I have always felt there is something inherently wrong with with it. Something that’s stuck in my belly like a bad round of tequila.(Not that I have had experienced that in a very long time, but you get the point.) It just has made me feel… off. 

But whatever was wrong with it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  So, in a moment of clarity, I decided to go back to all of the feedback I’ve received since I finished it, from friends, family and writing groups and found one point being pointed out. Over and over.  

It was time to listen to that.

Side note: If anyone ever tells you that writing a book is a fast, ‘just knock it out’ kind of production, they must be on crack.  Yes, you can WRITE a novel in a month, but it’s not actually finished in that time. That, my friends, is only the first draft. Yes, it should be celebrated. Wholeheartedly. Bring out the champers. But there are many more versions to come. Add in all the typos, the grammar (of which I’m sure this post has many), etc… the reality is, the first draft is only the beginning! Anyway, let’s get back to my point…

After mulling over this feedback, it came to me.  I knew exactly what to do.  

Instead of throwing the entire thing out, which I was sorely tempted to do, I went back to basics.  In hindsight, that whole idea makes me laugh because, in my previous life of working in tech support, that was the bottom line for all of our support: Go back to basics. 

I created a new outline.  I looked at all those things that made me question my sanity.

I looked at all of those scenarios where I asked myself ‘is that plausible?’ For those, I went to the experts. Hail to the experts. I’m so damn thankful for their knowledge and assistance. And, as it turns out, I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to plausible scenarios. Go figure! I suppose those mysteries I read, those crime shows I watch, actually help with my writing! (She says, tongue firmly in cheek.)

I may now actually have something of worth to work with.  I may actually end up with a ‘good’ book.  As in, a book I’m happy with.  I’m always (damn!) proud of myself when I draft a novel, but when I can actually write a novel where I’m happy to send it off to a publisher?  That, my friends, is gold. 

Hell, that’s the power of editing.  That’s the power of putting your own bullshit aside and remember that going back to basics is often necessary. Geez… who knew?! (Yeah yeah, most in the writing and publishing community…). GAH!



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