Sunday, November 1, 2015

Scanning Draft 3

There’s a reason writers call plot bunnies, well, plot bunnies. Perhaps they should call them Tribbles. Once you have one, you suddenly have ten and they never go away. Especially when you’re trying to write an essay or trying to sleep. I recently found a black-and-white, dystopian plot bunny wandering about and decided to house it in my little bunny hatch. (Aka my folder of story ideas.) Can you guess what else I found there? A really old bunny that developed into a novel, which I know call Breaking a Thief. I looked back on the original idea and laughed. Wow, had my story taken completely different turns than I had originally planned!

Pfeffer: my writing/editing buddy this summer.
She's not cuddly unless she's hiding from the wind.
Photo credit: Lori Klein
What had started out as historical fiction changed to medieval fiction with my own countries and towns. Characters came and went and others developed. Major plot points changed. Earlier this year, I posted my experiences rewriting giant portions of my novel (You can read about it here: Wrestling with Draft 2.) But the work didn’t stop there. After I set the novel aside for another month so I could take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, I dove right back into editing.

After a whole month dedicated to Visionary, a story with no plot, I was excited to get back to some structure in Breaking a Thief. I enjoyed the characters, the setting, the plot, all of which is vital to working on a story. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have stuck with it so long. In my third round of edits, I decided to try two new techniques to help me catch as many mistakes as I could.

First, I enlisted the help of several beta readers. (Thanks again, you lovely people!) I did this in cycles. After Draft 2, I got feedback from my first beta reader, then got feedback from another reader after Draft 3. Though these readers didn’t edit for me, they told me what they thought of the story and if there were any inconsistencies.
Perhaps the three most valuable things I learned from them was that some of my characters needed rounding out, whether or not a plot twist was obvious/plausible, and that my ending needed some serious work. And by serious work, I mean I rewrote it four different times. Though the extra comments meant a bunch of extra work, it was worth it to receive honest, critical feedback from my peers.

Then I read through the whole story again by reading each chapter twice in a row. In no way would I ever recommend this as a way to read a novel for fun, but two readings helped. First, I reacquainted myself with the chapter, getting to know what the story was trying to say. Then I would reread the chapter to analyze each sentence and see what the story was actually saying. Because of this long process, I would get through two or three chapters on a good day (that’s about 20-35 pages a day).

By the time I got to the midway point of my novel, I was sick of reading it. It was tedious, but I managed to look beyond the story and at the grammar and wording. Once I finished this process, I set the book aside and didn’t touch it for three weeks (During that time I worked on another project until my classes started. More on that story later! J)

Then I sent the story off to my editor. I recently got it back, and have been working on more edits throughout the week. Once I’m done editing, I’ll be off to sending out query letters to agents! Until that happens, I’ll keep writing, reading, editing. You name it. Talking about stories and ideas is fun too.
In fact, whenever I tell people I’ve written a novel, I get the age old question: “What’s it about?”

After my initial annoyance at this difficult question, I’ve learned to enjoy telling people about my story, which is easier now that I know the story inside-out. So now I say, “It’s about a thief.”
“Cool,” People typically say. “What does he do?”
I smile. “She seeks to become the greatest of all thieves by challenging a superior.”
Then I sit back and watch the shock on their faces as I defy stereotypes one character at a time. Silly readers. Whoever said all thieves had to be guys?
Writers, what does your editing process look like? Have you ever employed the help of beta readers?  Readers, what’s your favorite genre? I’m torn between several new ideas for my next story.

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