Thursday, September 13, 2012
Working Backward to Move Forward
When I started writing my first novel the summer of 2009 I knew nothing about how to write a novel or how the publishing industry works. Now that I'm writing my third novel, have attended a couple writing conferences, and have self-educated myself on all things publishing, my approach to writing is different.
I've learned so many valuable lessons on my writing journey but the lessons I'm sharing with you today are the ones that require writers to work backwards, something I didn't want to do when I began writing. So, here are a couple lessons I've learned on working backwards. *Note: This is meant for the drafting stage, not revisions/edits.
1. It's okay to DELETE.
Sometimes your story takes a different path than you originally intended and you have to delete pages. Or *gulp* chapters. Sometimes a character just isn't working/needed so you painstakingly delete the character from your half-completed manuscript. And sometimes you simply delete because what you are writing is complete crap.
What about the time and thought you put into it? What about the time it will take to rewrite what you just deleted? It doesn't matter. What matters is making your writing the best it can possibly be.
2. It's okay to outline AFTER you've written.
I'm a pantser making my first ever outline - so slowly evolving into a plotter. It's tough. Really tough. But not until I got 50 pages into my manuscript did I decide to do this. I'll explain why I'm doing this in another post, but for now the lesson I'm learning is this: Sometimes you need to know where you DON'T want your story and characters to go in order to figure out where you DO want it to go. I wrote hours worth of manuscript and NOW I'm outlining - once I figured out my characters and story a little better.
3. It's okay to REWRITE. And Rewrite. And rewrite.
Depending on whether you're a plotter or pantser, you may go about creating characters differently. No matter your approach, sometimes it takes writing the first chapter or two to really start getting a feel for your main characters. This is what I'm doing right now. I've written and rewritten and rewritten my first chapter and even though I had a good idea of who my characters were I'm now able to really dig into them. It wasn't until I got that first chapter down did I find my main character's voice, even though I'd done a lot of "prep" work figuring out who she was. (By prep work, I mean listened to music, watched shows, read, pondered personality traits, etc.)
As writers we want to feel momentum. We like to see our work progress. (At least I do.) I've realized, though, that sometimes we DO have to work backwards in order to move forward. In fact, I'm celebrating this because not only am I making my story stronger by following my writer's compass, but I can see my growth as a writer. The idea of deleting, working in a non-linear order, or rewriting used to make me want to hurl. Now, well, I still don't like it, BUT I know I'm creating something that much better. I'm putting in the time, the energy, the thought, and the heart it takes to write a story others will want to read.
What are your feelings on deleting, rewriting, etc? Have those feelings changed as you've grown as a writer? Are there other ways you work backwards to move forward?