A massive chunk of my 2014 was spent revising ALL THE BROKEN THINGS, my novel about giant robot battles and badass lady engineers.
I’m still learning-as-I-go, but it helps me to write out some of the lessons I learn… and of course, to inflict these ramblings and meanderings on my poor blog readers. So, here’s some of the things I’ve learnt in that time….
The Sooner, the Beta
I waited too long to redraft this one. I’m usually a staunch supporter of the ‘leave it a month or two’ editing guideline, but I think the next time I’m done a quick first draft I’ll do an immediate 2nd draft, and then a 3rd draft two months after.
I really benefit from getting a story to betas as quickly as possible. Once I had beta reader feedback, editing the story stopped being a horrible trek up a mountain and went back to being as fun as the first draft was.
But Rest is Still Important
…There were a lot of benefits to leaving it that long, though. I have no idea if the ideas I had for this revision would have hit me if I was still as close to the book. There definitely needs to be SOME rest time, but I haven’t found the balance yet.
My plan for editing in 2015: write fast drafts. Then reread/rewrite quickly. Then betas. Then redraft again based on beta feedback.
Hopefully the rest while it’s out with the betas will allow me to get some distance. Will it work? Only time will tell…
Sleep, Eat, Edit, Repeat
Sometimes getting obsessive about FINISHING THIS FRIGGIN’ EDIT is the only way to get it done. Especially if you have a really cool project to get to once you’re done.
Location, Location, Location!
When I started writing I deliberately kept my locations fictional… and then with BROKEN THINGS I decided my stories were much stronger tied to a real place… and then I changed my mind and went for a fictional proxy of a few real places I knew.
Haha, I bet you guys thought I knew what I was doing. Nope. I seriously have no idea.
Minor Characters A-Knockin’
I get writer’s block mainly for two reasons: health (easier to spot as I get older, teen me was worryingly oblivious to that sort of thing) and the vague, hard to pin-down ‘something’s not right here’ kind of block. Most of the time, the latter writer’s block is because a character has more to say, and I need to figure them out before I continue. Other times, it’s because I’m missing a crucial bit of the theme that just hasn’t hit me yet.
So yeah, for me, giving minor characters more voice really helps with revision issues.
Seriously, I’m Still Figuring This All Out
I usually consider myself a plot-driven writer, but in revisions I’m fairly character-driven.
Draft 1 of BROKEN THINGS was driven by the plot, and writing it helped me figure out the protagonist and antagonist.
Draft 2 was driven by the side-characters. Previously unimportant characters looked at Draft 1 and went ‘oh, hang on, we’d like to be more involved in this’, and decided to babble on about their lives until they became bigger parts of the story. I’ve heard writers talk about this happening, but it’s the first time it’s happened for me.
Draft 3 was driven by beta feedback, responding to what readers like and didn’t and figuring out what shape I *really* wanted this story to take. It was when the true heart of the story appeared, still a little rough around the edges, but finally there.
Worldbuilding Takes Time
One thing was consistent between this project and others, though: Draft 1 is light on the worldbuilding, and later drafts add a lot more depth and detail to it.
Timelines Are Your Friend
I’M SO BAD AT TIMELINES. Keeping a spreadsheet with a timeline is a must because my grasp on time (and relative dimension is space) is atrocious.
So now I keep a spreadsheet and things work better. Allons-y!
Sometimes, You Gotta Go Dark
Both Draft 1 and Draft 2 of Broken Things dove deep into a lot of themes and issue that I found difficult to write about, and often wanted to shy away from as ‘too dark’ or ‘too complex’. But the story needed them, and embracing them benefited it hugely
Lastly, some of my favourite typos…
She steps away from me, and I’m almost glad she won’t look at me like this, this embarrassing wreck of a girl.
“What about the mission?” I’m already dreading the answer.7
(Beta Reader Jen’s Comments: 7?? The answer is 7???!!!)
He’s straight to the pint. I’ll give him that.
(Beta Reader Jen’s Comments: Ah, got himself some Ben & Jerry’s I see.)