Revising the Novel

I am really, really behind on revising my novel. So behind, in fact, that it wasn’t until yesterday around five in the evening that I sat down to read the thing, and it took me two and a half hours to read the first half. There are a thousand reasons for my neglect but basically, September was a pretty shitty month, between continuous layoffs at work (I live to serve another day), quitting smoking (yes, really. for real this time. I promise. It’s been almost a month), the celiac disease diagnosis, seasonal allergies and the fact that every single thing we own decided to go kaput, all at once, including our coffee pot, our microwave, our dvd player and various car problems.  I spent half the month either withdrawing from nicotine or gluten, the other half battling my allergies, several days wondering if I would be laid off,  several more days watching people I care deeply for lose their jobs and, oh, hell, it was just a bad month. I didn’t feel well emotionally or physically for most of it.

BUT! It is October. I LOVE October. Any day now a frost is finally going to come our way and kill all this sneeze and sinus inducing mold, and in the meantime, pumkins and scarecrows and popcorn and apple cider and leaves turning colors and long walks and Octoberfest beers (well, can’t have those anymore, but still! Love them!) and then it’s November and December and, well, I love winter. I know a lot of people don’t but I do and October to the end of January is just about my favorite quarter of the year what with the football and the family visits and the winter solstice, and, well, you know. Also, sweaters and boots and scarves and going to my main hair man, Corey, for an autumn tune-up, color wise.

And that is why I didn’t start rereading my novel until last night.

So. I’m only about half way through, as I mentioned, and my opinions could change, but here are my initial thoughts:

1. I am not going to change from first person to third…I think the first person actually works better. This is hugely relieving.

2. I definitely rush too much – there are paragraphs so loaded with information that I wonder how much coffee I must have been drinking when I wrote them. Several places need to be unpacked and explored more deeply.

3. I actually have a lot more scene than I thought I did.

4. I am going to keep the overall structure, which I wasn’t totally sure about – it might not work on the end but I am going to need advice either from my readers or an agent (should I ever get so lucky) to improve it…I actually think it works right now.

5. I need to take parts of it much less seriously…there is a lot of opportunity for humor and I tend to skim over it. I am going to have to remember that each time I approach revising – to leave space for the light-hearted.

6. All in all, I am facing less work and more fun than I anticipated. In keeping some of my original decisions…point of view, structure, etc I don’t have as major an overhaul as I initially thought. My biggest challenge is fleshing it all out – adding details, taking more time with important moments- in general, making the whole thing more human, more real, more sparkly. How unwriterly is that…I actually think what my novel needs is sparkle. Perhaps more appropriately what it needs is the life that comes from really thinking and playing with it as opposed to pounding it out in the early mornings…time to add some late afternoon and early evening energy into the pages.

I have so many other projects I am keening to start – from short essays to a nonfiction book idea to a mystery series, to the prequel to this novel – but I am determined – DETERMINED -to see the process through with each project. The easiest thing in the world is to drift to another writing project without finishing one…the hardest thing, I think, is to see one through to full completion.

I don’t try and ask too many questions on this blog, but I am in a questiony mood today. If you are writing, how’s it going?

PS, my deadline to send this out to my readers is right before Thanksgiving. I don’t know if it’s achievable or not but it’s what I’m aiming for – I need something to hold me accountable!

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11 Responses to Revising the Novel

  1. kimhaasdesign says:

    Yay, Courtney! Rough month but you’re heading into winter and your novel with an excellent attitude:) I think that the POV you start with is usually the right one. Some part of your subconscious knows how the story needs to be told so I’m glad you’re sticking with your initial instinct.

    “The easiest thing in the world is to drift to another writing project without finishing one…the hardest thing, I think, is to see one through to full completion.”

    SO true. I am in the midst of wrapping up a bunch of stories in various stages of completion. One is going out on the submission road today. Another is getting revised and sent to my writing group this weekend. I sent a brand new flash fiction piece out last month which I think is going to be part of a new project. I actually have several new projects brewing but I really want to start with a clean slate.

    Thanksgiving works for me if you still need me to be a reader:) Can’t wait!

  2. laura says:

    I was just wondering how your novel revisions were going, so I’m glad to hear you’re still sticking with it 🙂

  3. auntjone says:

    OOF! What a crappy month. But guess what? It is over. We’ve turned yet another page on the calendar and halle-freakin-lujah the Steelers won again last night! Mendenhall! Wallace! Now if we can just get my beloved Troy back on the field we’ll be a force with which to be reckoned!
    (Heh! Grammatically correct even!)

    Hang in there. Here’s hoping October is much, much better than September.

  4. inthemainstream says:

    I found out today that I’m due for workshop next week instead of the week after. So, uh, I’ll respond again next week.

    Also, if you want another reader, I’m always game. (Plus, I’m a creepy stalker.)

  5. Charlotte says:

    Hooray for October! Let’s put September behind us, right now. I am so glad to hear that your revision looks so promising, and I will not forget that you have committed to Thanksgiving for completion.

    Since you so kindly asked, I am exactly half-way through my revision, which I think I mentioned is a completely rewrite into first person. It’s a devil of a job but I am loving it because I am deeply enamoured of my new protagonist. I could go the distance with her; I’m thinking a trilogy. Thanks to the colds and flu of September I haven’t got to it much, but have just sent the whole family back to school and have the morning free … so off to write I go.

  6. Amanda says:

    Congratulations on completing a huge step! I am so jealous of writers since I am not one. Keep it up! And I totally sympathize with your allergy, celiac bought…I am going through trying to figure out what is causing my full-body eczema outbreaks right now. So fustrating. But yay! for October! 🙂

  7. Steph says:

    props to you for sticking with it…i am the WORST at following through with writing projects. it has got to be one of the hardest things in the world. that, and quitting smoking. 🙂 good luck with both. (have you read “the easy way to quit smoking” by allen carr? it gives you a nice framework for the thought process of quitting. it helped me a lot. along with chantix, setting a date, and thinking about cigaretttes the way alcoholic think about alchohol – i just can’t ever have another puff, end of story).

  8. A Free Man says:

    Well done on quitting smoking. I know from personal experience how hard it is. But the first month is the hardest, so just stick with it.

    I love October as well, except here it means that summer is on the way. Thank goodness for that!

  9. Stefanie says:

    Wow, September was a really ugly month. October has just got to be better. I am waiting for the hard frost too, my allergies have been horrible this fall. That’s really fantastic that your novel draft is much better than you expected. Keep up the good work, feel better, and yay for October!

  10. Sherry says:

    My writing is currently on hold – too many irons in the fire. Learning German, new relationship, single motherhood, work and sleep seem to be consuming a good chunk of my time these days. Maybe after Christmas, when I take my vacation, I’ll write.

  11. Courtney says:

    Kim – YES, I still want you to be a reader! I am fully expecting all former 4th streeters to read – thank you!
    Charlotte – sorry to hear you had a rough September as well but happy all is on the mend and you are entranced with your narrator.
    In the Main Stream – not a crazy stalker at all. I looked for your email on your site but couldn’t find it…email me (email on sidebar) and we can meet up for coffee or dinner or something.
    Amanda…you know, you are like one of several New Yorkers I’ve know with new eczema…I wonder if allergies are really bad there right now?
    Steph – I am with you, not one puff, ever. Some days are harder than others but now that I am over the physical withdrawal I feel pretty great!
    A Free Man – quitting smoking SUCKS but smoking and all the guilt and disgust that accompanied it was much, much worse…
    Stefanie – I don’t know what it is but this fall has been hard on everyone with allergies. Hope you feel better soon!
    Sherry – yep, I would say you have plenty going on – writing will always be there.

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