Doing What Needs to be Done

Where have I been? Ahh, finishing revisions on a novel. I have been living and breathing one of my books these past two weeks because I said I would finish by November 1 in time for Nanowrimo. I chose yesterday as a deadline because I thought I would submit it to a novel contest – haven’t done that before – and National Novel Writing Month is just too much fun to pass up. And when did I start these revisions? That was last August and I putzed around for a good amount of time. I didn’t really do the heavy lifting until these last two weeks. But I did learn something major during this crunch time and even though I will be picking up that novel in January to work on it again, the last part could use some more polishing, I know it’s close to being done.

A literary novel is not like a genre novel. I really don’t know anyone who sits down and outlines the plot ahead of time as it’s wise to do with a mystery or some other fast-paced type of book. Each one has its own shape and the process is a lot like discovering a statue within a block of marble. (Michelangelo?) Through trial and error, I realized that no logically thought out structure worked for this book that I like so much.  When I took it to Sewanee this summer, it seemed obvious that switching back and forth between points of view, chapter by chapter, was not a good idea. Neither was a traditional frame, third person, or a variety of other things I’ve tried. But sitting down to revise it once again, mainly on a structural level, my free-form style worked. There was a kind of flow that fit the book perfectly that I knew I would eventually “discover.”

What I learned was that I needed a big block of time not just an hour or two a day, a time where I lived with it ten/twelve hours a day so I could feel the book’s natural shape.  Since I usually write for an hour here an hour there, I’m glad I accidentally picked up on how to do this kind of revision more efficiently.

Of course, now I’m exhausted but I’ve already started my Nanowrimo book and will have to do a bit extra for the next couple of days but that’s okay. Writing is a pleasure even when it’s driving me crazy!


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
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