ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

How To (Re) Write

on April 20, 2016

What a magnificent day it is! We’ve gone from snow and cold to sunny and clear in just a few days. I’m continuing to hope that my apple trees didn’t freeze. They did, though.

Yesterday I finally sat at my desk for the first time in three weeks. Dental surgery, swimming pool, elementary school yearbook, band uniforms, gymnastics meet…it all adds up. I’m hoping that things will be relatively clear for the next few weeks, because I’m deep into rewrites on “What You Stand For.”

After the retreat in Colorado Springs (which I TOTALLY want to do again!), I started thinking that I’m a more critical reader than I used to be. When I read other people’s work for critique, I’m very quick to point out bits of lazy characterization or a plot that skips around. And, my favorite–front-loading the backstory. I think I’m so sensitized to that because I do it myself. How many opening chapters of this book did I go through before I finally jumped into the action? I needed a sequence that explained what the sorority meant to these girls and how it was different from the others.

I read an article when I was in that process about how every chapter in the whole book needed that same kind of detail and polishing and thought. What is that scene accomplishing? Is this character the right one to say that? It seemed exhausting to think of going through twenty-odd versions of every chapter! Maybe writing wasn’t really worthwhile after all?

Fast forward to the retreat and I’m going to self-publish these books. I want to have them all up somewhere around the first of the year, and I’m hopeful I can get there because I’ve learned so much on this journey so far. Looking over the draft of “What You Settle For” helped me realize that I’ve gotten better at first drafts. Here’s hoping that will translate to getting better at third and fourth drafts, too.

Meanwhile I’m going over “What You Stand For” in detail. Yesterday I was doing a read through looking for a particular emotional moment and I realized that Chapter 12 wasn’t reading “tight” enough. There were passages of dialogue and action, but an awful lot of the action was from the outside. Getting in deeper, and as a result going bigger, are the goals now.

Someday, this book will be finished; I have high hopes for mid-May. Meanwhile, the rewrites are making it funnier and more immediate and it has more emotional impact. It’s like I’m pointing at it: “See? Here’s why you’re supposed to care!” I’m feeling good about where it’s going.

Of course, marketing is still terrifying.

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