Friday, September 27, 2013

Editing Novels: Round Three + More Notes from Martine Leavitt's class at WIFYR

I just finished another revision of my MG novel. (fist pump).

It's cause for going out to lunch tomorrow (especially since my husband's guys-only backpacking trip has evolved into going out to dinner twice and one afternoon by a pool). I'm excited.

It isn't time to put the manuscript away yet, however.

I believe it was Ann Cannon who said her approach to editing involves only focusing on one fix each time through a manuscript. Since in the past I've to get bogged down on sentence structure and wanting to fix every little thing at once, this time I tried this approach.I went through the book with a goal to to fix the supporting character and give her better motivation.

Good things happened. Besides getting through another draft and actually liking the result, I found my changes to the supporting character added a new dimension and motivation to my main character.

Which never hurts. Because finding, clearly defining, and sticking to the main character's overarching desire is something I can never review too much.

As Martine Leavitt told our WIFYR workshop last June, desire seems to be the thing with which almost all her students [at Vermont College of Fine Arts] struggle.  I think most writers have to wrestle through a draft or two, or at least some major outlining, before we truly find the heart of our character's story.

Martine quoted John Gardner. To paraphrase this quote,  plotting, however childish or elementary it may seem in comparison to surgeons, physicists…the writer has no story until he has figured out a plot that will efficiently and elegantly express it…although action without meaning will have no universal appeal, plot is the essential element of every writer’s plan.

And a quote from Kurt Vonnegut which Martine reminded us of, with good cause, more than once: "Every character must want something, even if it’s a glass of water."

To me, desire means more than a casual wish for something. A glass of water can be nice. But if you're dying of thirst, that changes everything.

After a bit of a break, and lunch, I'll need to tackle my next two projects: 1. Making sure that desire or need, is clear and important throughout the book, and 2. Tackling that boring part in the middle. Which is good subject for another post.

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