Launching Myself into 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016
What is your biggest hang up as a writer? What is it that keeps you from sending out your work? Some of us find it hard to get started on a new project. Not me. I live for that first draft. Why? Because as I contemplate a new story, it is, without fail, brilliant. Everything is possible. The characters breathe. The plot flows. The setting is vibrant and alive. It is, in a word, flawless.

The manuscript that I rough out is never as brilliant as what I had in mind. In my head, it was fabulous. On screen or printed out, I look at it and wonder, “What went wrong?”

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t jump from first draft to first draft and never accomplish anything. If I have a deadline, I’m amazing. I can rough out a fifteen thousand word manuscript in just over a week. Then I immediately tackle the rewrite. Only twice in the 20 years I’ve been making my living as a writer have I had to ask for an extension.

But that’s when I have a deadline. The pieces that I’m working on for myself are another matter altogether. Sure, I manage to finalize a few every year but I procrastinate to the point that it’s probably hard to believe that I really do love the rewrite process and watching a manuscript evolve and take shape. What can I say? I’d rather be first draft brilliant than work my butt off.

Because of that, every January I take advantage of ReviMo, which stands for Revise More. This picture book rewrite challenge is sponsored by Missouri author Meg Miller. You can sign up for the challenge by commenting on her blog post here. What do you have to do to meet the challenge? Between January 10 and January 16, participants rewrite picture book manuscripts on at least five days.

This could mean rewriting a different manuscript each day. Personally, that wouldn’t be hard to do. To get an idea of how many picture book manuscripts I have on hand, I just randomly opened a file drawer in my office and found 5 picture book manuscripts languishing in the dark.

But you don’t have to rewrite five different manuscripts. You can also rewrite the same manuscript five times, addressing a different problem each time. For a picture book this could mean:

  • Shoring up the setting.
  • Choosing stronger nouns and verbs.
  • Breathing life into the characters.
  • Editing out visual details.
  • Adding nonvisual details.
  • Cutting excess words.
  • Making the language more read aloud friendly.

I don’t pursue either of these obvious paths. I tend to rework one or two manuscripts so that they are as close as I can get them to “submission ready.” Then I run them past my critique group or workshop them at a retreat. One way or the other, I end up with something I’m ready to submit.

What writing problem do you need to overcome in 2016? Share it here and let the Muffin community help you come up with a solution.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on January 11, 2016.


Blaire said...

I am not a published author and thus far my stories only existed as a rough draft... I think moving from rough draft to editing hangs me up. I would love to move from rough draft to editing but I also love jumping from one story to the next. I wish I could do the writing and someone else would edit it.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I have a really fantastic book on revision called Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison. I don't know if you are writing novels but this is a revision workshop in print. It is AMAZING. Yes, Darcy is a friend but this is a step by step guide that, if we follow it, doesn't let us shirk various elements of the revision process. Darcy also thinks very differently than I do and she makes me look at things in depth and in a very analytic way.

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