Friday, April 24, 2015

I am so proud of my protagonist!

I’m revising. It is messy. If you’re a regular old reader who simply enjoys books, and really cares not one whit how they get made, then avert your eyes. You are about to enter the sausage-making factory and NO ONE wants to see that!

Still here, eh? Okay, here’s where I’m at. First draft of novel finished and shown to a writer-friend and an editor-friend, neither of whom are stingy with advice. The verdict? It’s good. The challenge? Can I make it fantastic? Can I tie up every plot point, every action, so that all my themes are swimming in the same direction, ending all together in some crystal-clear pool of insight into the human condition? (Is this asking too much?) Oh heck, why not try?

This is what my revision process looks like. Every writer has her own process. All writers I know just love to hear about each other’s processes, as though there might be something we can adopt that will be the key to making all future book writing much easier. (Also, we’re always looking for a way to procrastinate by reading each other’s blogs.)

What you see here is my printed manuscript, divided into various chunks, plus a whole bunch of notes (down the center of the table) listing “Challenges” and “Possible Solutions.” To arrive at those pages, I first considered everything my readers shared with me, and then spent a couple weeks freewriting dozens of pages as I worked through the issues they presented. Then, I had to decide what is going to make this book “better” and not just “different.” That work became the Challenge/Solution pages.

What I’m doing now is going page by page to mark-up, with post-it notes, where I’m going to change a scene, insert a new scene or take one out. I love the tactile nature of this process, being able to see things, touch them, move them around. It feels much more like “revision” to me than simply moving the cursor around on my computer screen.

At this point, I’m thinking about the book constantly, figuring out those last troublesome scenes so that they can really have the most resonance for my reader, figuring out, honestly, how has my character changed through the course of this book? (A character has got to change, or she just isn’t that interesting.) How is the ending (which I love, and my readers love), completely supported by everything that came before it? It’s tricky, but so rewarding when you get it right.

And today, *trumpet salute* I felt like I got it right. All these pieces have clicked into place, and I really saw, not just imagined in a vague way, but SAW on paper how my protagonist, Violet, had come through some really traumatic events, gotten through a lot of messy parts of her life, and how she made a conscious choice to keep moving, to live, even though that meant keeping some of those broken pieces inside of her, because they would never completely disappear.

Dear Reader, I cried. I sobbed like a child here at the dining room table. I was so proud of her. And yes, that is really the thought I had, that I still have. I’m proud of her. That is when you know your character is more than words on a page, that your book will resonate with others. That is the moment when the bunny wriggles his hind legs and realizes they aren’t made out of sawdust.

I so look forward to sharing this book with you all someday.