Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I've come a long way, it seems...

My current project is on my editor's desk awaiting her opinion, so after I cleaned house and restocked the pantry, I had a little time on my hand. So I decided I'd go back and read a project I'd written a very long time ago to see if I could rework it into something else.

Some things should be left under the bed -- or left languishing on your hard drive.  Some of the stuff I've written is just bad. I know that. I accept that. These things have deep flaws that simply cannot be fixed. But there's some stuff on my hard drive that's not too bad. It might be rough and full of rookie mistakes, but there's something there. Something fixable through the magic of revision.

So I pull out a project that's special to me. I love the characters, and even though it wasn't quite right, I'm just not willing to let it go without at least trying to fix it.

Are parts of it really wrong? You bet. Shaky conflict, slow pacing, not enough tension.  But the thing is, I see it now. I've written enough books that I can see where and why this one is wrong. Time, distance, and a bunch of other books have given me the perspective necessary to see the flaws.

And, amazingly enough, I knew how to fix them. So I'm having an absolute ball taking two characters I truly love and fixing their story. Making it into something I want others to read -- and that I think they'll enjoy.

So it's very cool to see how far I've come.  Sometimes I feel like a total hack who has no clue what she's doing and only gets books written out of sheer luck. Maybe that's not the case, after all. I mean, I'm looking at this and saying, "Wow, that's wrong. I really should have done this.  I'll move this scene here, move that section over there, add a scene in the middle of that, and voila!" Conflict is stronger, tension is higher, pacing clipping right along.

But that's not even the coolest -- or maybe I should say strangest -- part.  What's freaky is that I can see the beginnings of my voice in this project.  It's quiet and unsure of itself and often buried under things like the "should dos" and the "way to write," but it's there. I look at a sentence or a phrase or a scene and think "that just sounds kinda wrong." Because the one thing I have found in the intervening years is my voice. This is the way I write:  some folks are going to hate it and some folks are going to love it. But that's me. My voice. What makes my books MY BOOKS.

I didn't have that confidence when I wrote this the first time, so I toned my voice down, buried it under cliches and awkward phrasing that sounded "writerly." Needless to say, I'm having to rewrite a lot of it. But it's easy writing because the bones are there already. I don't really feel like I'm revising. I feel more like I'm just freeing my voice.

And freeing my voice makes this project completely different and much better than it was before. And that's kind of cool...


Maven Linda said...

Yes. Voice. It's probably the most crucial element to getting published, and it's the hardest to develop because it means releasing something in yourself, pulling the trigger, and opening yourself up. I'm trying to think if there's another cliche I can use. I don't know what my voice is, but readers tell me I have one, so I'm good with that.

Forget free-range chicken. Developing your voice is free-range writing.

LA said...

It's kinda like looking at pictures of you as you were growing up. I could see your personality (voice) starting to emerge slowly but surely!!!

Andrea Laurence AKA Smarty Pants said...

Some of the things under the bed are a little scary. I think the first 3 or 4 are lost forever, and with good cause.

Playground Monitor said...

Wanna clean out my front bedroom closet? ~grin~

You've moved forward. I've moved backward. But I think the tide may be turning. I sure hope so. I feel so helpless not being able to string words together and I worry everyone's getting sick of hearing me complain about it. But a friend and I are putting our heads together about my first book because I just can't give up on those characters yet.

Yay on the re-worked project! I'm sure it will end up as terrific as your others.

robertsonreads said...

Awesome! I was posting results to a bulletin board for a strategy class and 2 of the students came up and was talking about the results. It was so funny to hear them talk as of several months ago they would not have had a clue! I told their professor this - it's awesome what their minds are absorbing.