Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Work In Progress: July

While this month wasn't a huge one for writing, two good things happened with my book. The first is that I read the whole thing from beginning to end and made many notes as I went, marking sections that were cliche, circling things that were working, noting scenes that were repetitive, and starring sections that would benefit from exposition or dialogue or better writing in general. I did most of my reading first thing each morning at the house of the professors whose dogs I was sitting for most of July, in their lovely sunroom, taking breaks to throw a battered chew toy in the backyard, which is bordered by a creek and full of morning birds. It went well. 

The second good thing was that I started in on the second draft. So far the main thing I've done is change the book from third person point of view to first person, which feels more natural, at least for this project. I've also been moving scenes around, deleting things and rewriting whole pages here and there, and I've expanded some of the backstory, removed characters, and added layers that I didn't know were missing. Basically, I'm filling in holes and taking out the especially shitty parts, and while the book still has a long, long, long (long) way to go, I'm beginning to see what it could look like when it's finally done. 

My plan for the rest of August is to continue changing everything to first person (I'm currently half way through the manuscript), and write three missing scenes I skipped the first time around, because they require research that I didn't want to do for fear of losing my momentum. School starts on August 21 and while I'll have more things to do (teaching two classes, taking one) I'm looking forward to having more structure and being back in the academic mindset. While I've made a lot of progress this summer, it's been a bit slow and leisurely. I want to kick it up a notch (or five), especially since I'm giving myself a mid-September deadline to get a draft to my thesis advisor. (Theses aren't due until mid-December, but I'm eager/terrified to hear what someone else things of my book. Little things, like: does this have potential, or am I completely delusional?) 

I was hoping to write a million words today, but my syllabi for the fall semester are due next week, so I'm going to work on that for a bit first. And also we have to inspect the beehives this morning (which is research for the novel, so that sort of counts as book time.) And I promised Calvin I would take him for a short run today, as a latest attempt to help him lose weight. And you see why novel writing can be hard in the summer? At any rate, I'd better get started. 

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  1. Writer question: what did it actually look like -- in terms of effort and hours -- to change from third to first person? I have a novel draft that I've been calling done for several months now, but as I read more YA I realize it's very first-person heavy and I'm wondering a switch might help my story feel more personal and immediate. I've gotten a few nice rejections from agents, so I'm thinking my manuscript is close but not there yet. Just curious how you went about it (I'm guessing it really does have to be done word by word, and not all the narrative will translate directly) and how you felt about the process.

    1. I just typed a long response and then lost it. Here we go again... :)

      This is a great question, and I'm sure the answer is different for everyone. For me, switching the POV of a 250 page draft was fairly time consuming in terms of hours - it took about a month of working for 2-3 hours a day (give or take). I was also revising a lot of things besides the POV, though, so that might have slowed me down.

      In terms of effort, I felt like it was a really valuable exercise for me. My main character is borderline unlikeable, and even the little bit of distance of a close third POV made it hard to sympathize with her. In first, it's easier - I think - for the reader (and for me) to understand the things her thoughts and actions. And writing in first gave me a lot of insight into her character. Part of the revision was adding more internal dialogue and reflection, which the third person lacked. In that regard, it was really helpful.

      If you want to read someone who does first person beautifully, check out Bobcat & Other Stories, by Rebecca Lee. I decided to try out first person after I saw how masterfully she used it. And congratulations on the nice rejections! It sounds like you're definitely close. <3

    2. I believe it! I just started poking around with some earlier chapters, and switching POV is going to require a more thorough rewrite than I originally anticipated! It has made me realize -- and here is where I agree it's a great exercise -- how much distance the third-person POV put between the reader and my main character. To switch POV, I'm really going to have to dig way deeper into her character, which is going to be really fun...but lots of work :)

    3. Good luck! Let me know how it goes. :)