After going through the posts that Maggie Stiefvater linked onMonday, I got a chance to see the (vastly!) different ways that we writers write. I saw that some of the authors talked about how they write ”skeletal” first drafts (*cough*Brenna*cough), so much so that their final versions hardly look anything like the finished draft. I know some authors who just plow through their first drafts, never looking back until they cross the finish line and type “THE END”. (You know you who are, the writers who type “Write a kick-ass fight scene here” and move on to the next chapter, leaving those pesky “details” for later.) Others makes these insanely thorough outlines that rival full-blown novellas, reaching 30,000 to 40,000 words, before ever starting the actual book. Umm…wow!
And then there are those writers who make my head explode, those who write random scenes (a kissing scene that will go at the end today and a fighting scene from the beginning tomorrow), and then somehow they piece them all together into a real live manuscript at the end. Like making a giant patchwork quilt. And yet they do so brilliantly!
So, in keeping with yesterday’s post, I thought I’d talk about which category I fit into.
Answer: None of the above.
Reason: There is no right way to write a book (other than to finish it, of course).
I know I’ve said before that I’m not an outliner, but I’m amending that now (kind of). With series books, you sorta have to outline...at least a little. My “outlines”, however, are just scribbled notes on yellow notepads that look nothing like novellas, but would give Charles Manson a run for his money. Sometimes my notes are just questions: Will Violet find the killer? Will Violet and Jay break up? (Generally, I don’t even know the answers at this point!)
I also like to stop and tinker along the way. I process and revise what I’ve already written as I go, making the first half of my book much more polished than, say, the last half. I will tweak words, amend timelines, alter relationships, insert new scenes...whatever I think needs to be done to make the words I’ve already written better.
And I can’t do that piecing scenes together thing. I’m definitely an A to Z writer. I start at the beginning and write every scene. In order. For me, it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way.
Along the way, however, I have learned some great tips for revising. For me, these are invaluable.
1. Don’t underestimate the value of changing media. What does that mean, you ask? Print your manuscript out. On paper. (Sorry trees!) (If it makes you feel better, I use recycled paper and use both sides.)
I know it sounds weird, but there’s something that changes the way you see—and read—your words when they’re in print. (I even go as far as changing the font.) Take a pen and go through your manuscript, page by page, marking the changes that need to be made.
Personally, I do this twice...because:
2. I HIGHLY recommend reading your manuscript aloud, either to yourself or to a willing victim/friend.
Again, listening to the cadence of the words can change how you want them to end up on paper. If it sounds strange when you say it, it sounds strange when your reader is reading it.
If nothing else (and I seriously recommend this for the entire manuscript), at least do it for your dialogue. There’s nothing worse than reading stilted dialogue.
Okay, guys, I hope this was semi/quasi/sorta useful. I never know if it’s weird to give writing advice, but here’s the deal: All I’m trying to do is give you a sense of what I’ve learned, through trial and error, works for me. And hopefully these tips will help you figure out what works best for you. Happy writing!