Okay, so I'm working on a manuscript. A historical novel for middle grades. I began it on November 1st as a NaNoWriMo project that I did, surrounded by my middle-schoolers. They wrote every day. I wrote
every most days.
Let me introduce myself. Hi, I'm Sioux and I'm a slacker. It's been 32 days since my last revision.
I checked on my revision history on my NaNo piece, and I haven't done a single solitary thing with that WIP since December 19. Part of why I'm in a rut is my fault. I'm wallowing in a I'm-stuck-and-I-can't-get-back-up attitude. Part of it is someone else's fault. (There’s a person who has access to a crucial primary document. I've called repeatedly and left messages. I've emailed him even more repeatedly. Short of physically stalking him--he's in D.C.--I'm at a loss.)
In the meantime, there is something I can do… I can shrink down my manuscript, so I can see the whole forest instead of just the individual trees. This can be done in a few, simple steps, but it will take some time.
- Make your margins as small as you can. The font, too. 8-font will allow you to still read it. Single-space it. This will result in a 200-page manuscript getting reduced to 30-50 pages.
- Spread out the pages. If you live in a tiny “starter” house like I do, you might have to do this in sections. If you have a large open space that you can block off from snooping spouses, galloping dogs and curious cats, you can lay out the whole thing.
- Choose some things you’re going to look for. I’m going to check on some character threads. I have some real-life characters who appear in the beginning in a minor way, and then in the end I plan on tying them into what happened. I want to make sure there is an occasional mention of them in the middle, so the reader doesn’t think, ‘Whoa, who is this?’ at the end. Using a highlighter, perhaps I’ll color those parts green.
Getting mired into the history and ignoring the characters is also a concern. I want to track
the inner dialogue of the main character, to make sure those moments are evenly
interspersed. Maybe with my highlighter, I’ll color those parts blue.
|photo by katemessner.com|
Humor, too. My piece focuses on a dark subject, a bit of our history that should cause us a
lot of shame… and yet it’s not well-known and it’s not in any history books. Occasionally,
I'm going to need a little levity to lighten things up. I think I’m going to mark all the funny parts pink.
I remember a
while long time ago, a blogger friend (Margo Dill? Mary Horner?) wrote about this technique. I was reminded of it last night when a group of teacher-writer friends met. We’re reading Kate Messner’s Real Revision (it’s on page 72-73) and it hit me upside my head. I should do this. It would get me doing something, and maybe pull me out of my rut.
Darcy Pattison, another writer, has some guidelines that she uses. She calls it the
All this revision talk makes me curious. What revision tricks do you have up your sleeve? Stuck-in-a-rut minds want to know...
Sioux Roslawski is a St. Louis freelance writer, a member of the infamous WWWP writing critique group, a dog rescuer for Love a Golden Rescue, a wife, a mother of two, a grandmother of one and a middle-school teacher. Like many educators, she delights in great ink pens, Sharpies, highlighters and free Krispy Kremes in the teachers' lounge. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff. go to Sioux's Page.