I don’t know who the quick brown fox in my life might be, but up until recently, I know I was the lazy dog.
I’ve begun reading books on the craft of writing. I finished Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell late last week. I’m also writing in a journal, or drafting a blog post, or scribbling down plot ideas each day. All of this is supposed to be homework pertaining to my novel. I have focused on learning more about writing and practicing the art of it, rather than on re-reading and revising my novel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there comes a time when something has to give.
As Hemingway said:
“The first draft of anything is s@#%.”
My novel puts the truth to that statement. I’m not saying the entire thing is crap, but it needs a LOT of work. All the reading I’ve been doing will help me with that so I feel safe in saying that I haven’t been completely lazy.
I wrote the first draft using the “seat of my pants” method. That was necessary because it was written during NaNoWriMo. There just isn’t time to make a bunch of revisions when the draft has to be finished in thirty days.
But now what do I do? How do I take what I have and turn it into something that is “readable”? What if it stays crap forever?
This is where fear crept in. Or it would have if I hadn’t battled it back with the swift blade of the book binding.
Fortunately, Plot and Structure had some good pointers for “pantsters” or the “no outline person” (NOP) that I can use. Mr. Bell suggests that NOPs look at their first draft as a really big outline. Read the story all the way through as a reader, not a writer. He advises making notations in the margins (symbols only, he says) to flag sections that drag, circle places where more could be added, and an ‘X’ where things should be cut. Next, write a two to three page synopsis of the story. I like this. Summarizing my story in a few short pages gives me the opportunity to tear it down to the nitty gritty. It’s also good practice for writing that back cover copy which I’m going to have to do at some point.
Mr. Bell then suggests editing the synopsis to develop a road map for the story. It’s like outlining backwards. When this is complete, it’s time to write the second draft.
All I know is Hallelujah! for that little section of Plot and Structure! It applied perfectly to where I am today with my novel! I’d found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! I had to kick the leprechaun’s little bum to get to it but, you know, it was worth it.
That might seem cruel but it was a fair fight. I swear.
Education is a worthy endeavor. If I want to be a good (dare I hope for…great?) writer, it’s imperative that I continue to learn as much about the craft as possible. And then apply that knowledge to my work. It may not seem lazy to be learning, but if I’m using education to avoid the actual work, then, yeah, it’s lazy. And I’ve been lazy since the end of November.
Before I go, I recommend Plot and Structure to the other writers out there who are still finding their way. It’s fantastic and an educational mecca for the new writer. Each chapter ends with exercises designed to hone a writer’s skills. I took notes and flagged the pages. One of these days, I intend to perform those exercises. Hopefully, I’ll do better with those than I do with exercise videos, but that’s a whole other problem.
For now, I’ll be working on my novel.