About Editing, About writing, About Writing, Character Development, T-minus

Deadlines, Skeletons, and Other Writing Maladies

So, it’s been roughly a week since my T-minus goal started (finishing my YA novel by December 31st). Granted, I’ve been working on the thing for about three years, so I’ve had quite a head start. But as you already know, I was tempted to drop the project when NaNoWriMo came along, which led me to make a commitment with you to force myself to finish the darn thing.

However, as if I wasn’t already treading on shaky ground, last week my kids decided to all get sick at the same time, which of course meant I had less time than usual to put toward my goal. But don’t get too disappointed just yet. Since I made the commitment to report my progress to you, my own attitude toward this project has changed for the better. I’ve been working more efficiently and focusing my energy on very specific changes. In fact, I am nine chapters into my developmental revision and things have improved quite a bit. Maybe having the pressure of a deadline does help overall performance.

So far I’ve been focusing on three specific aspects of the novel. Structure, flow, and plot holes. After all, we need to make sure the skeleton of the story is strong and clear before we move onto other aspects. One of the very valuable lessons I’ve learn this week through the application of absolute freak outs (due to the approaching deadline) and putting myself in the shoes of a reader is the indispensable need to discard anything I know deep inside me doesn’t really matter. Like the pair of pants three sizes too small from before I had kids that I still have in my closet. Sometimes we as writers tend to justify the continued existence of certain information in our stories for the sake of personal satisfaction. Let me give you a little piece of advice. If it doesn’t sound right, toss it. If it doesn’t enhance the story, toss it. If your first thought is, ugh that’s just wrong, toss it!

The second lesson of the week was in regards to my characters. Characters, too, have skeletons. They need to be well-built before we add any embellishments. My poor characters were suffering from a serious case of description deficiency. I had become so accustomed to seeing them in my head that I was failing to convey that vision on paper. They were ghostly apparitions of my subconscious, too obscure to picture clearly. And a character that no one can picture is a character no one will care about. So there, I had to prescribe myself a heavy dose of realism in order to bring out the uniqueness in each of them and make them memorable, because if no one cares about the characters of a story, the story itself is a waste of time.

If you are curious, I did this by asking the following questions:

  1. What do they look like? Is it easy to picture?
  2. Why do I care about them? How can I translate that into words?
  3. What makes him/her distinctive from others? Can I see this in the way they look, dress, and talk?

My current word count is 112,667, which isn’t totally outrageous for a YA fantasy novel. Still, I think I can do better. Thanks for sticking around throughout this crazy process. I’ll be updating you again next week. Also, feel free to keep me posted on your progress (on whatever it is you are working on). You can do this by leaving a comment below or shooting me an email. It’s no fun if I’m the only doing the sharing.

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