Writing and Re-Writing is Learning Something New Every Day

When last I visited this blog, I was still in San Francisco, just about to meet the person who is helping me edit my book. Since then I have been inundated. Not only did I come home to a week’s worth of laundry, a pile of Day Job responsibilities and tasks, and my husband unable to find clean sheets with which to change the bed (they were on the couch in our room, right under his cell phone charger), I also left the Bay Area armed with a lot of information.

Things to do! Things to do! Does it ever end? I guess the operative word is “NO.”

First off, I was instructed to make a grid in order to count my characters and their interactions with each other. I’m not much for high tech, being barely able to navigate the internet, so I took a piece of graph paper. Along the top, I listed my characters; same with the side. I then went through the manuscript and made hash marks.

At first I wasn’t sure what this exercise was supposed to do. Then the light bulb came on over head… “Ah,” I thought, “This shows which characters are strong and which are basically wallflowers.” I didn’t start off wanting to make anyone a wallflower – I wanted all the women to be equal, more or less – with regard to relationship to each other. I can now see where some of them are going to need a decent reinforcing.

The second thing I did happens to be something I just finished. I listed all of my scenes and came up with 115. Currently, each character has a chapter, and while that might work out later in the book, the beginning seven chapters are full of people and the reader is lost amid the sea of names. It’s the one thing my beta readers found confusing. Eventually, I will take a scene from let’s say #53 and put it between 5 & 6. I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to work out, and I’m having a difficult time thinking beyond the linear aspect of the book. It starts out on November 1 and ends on November 30. It appears I’ll have to rethink my strategy, which is difficult with two holidays to contend with (Halloween is discussed and then there’s Thanksgiving, or climax day).

I also took a notebook and have started sketching out all of my characters, not only in this book, but in the first one I’m currently editing. This includes a checklist of questions I answer as each one. Then I pen a little bio; it includes age, what the character looks like, schooling, basic likes and dislikes, family members, etc. I realized I had to do this, especially after the editor remarked he thought of one of my characters as Bette Midler-ish, with loud voice and red hair – when in actuality she’s petite and blond and her chutzpah comes from within. I know what my characters look like in my head, but rarely do I ever describe them on the page. Character description is something romance writers are known for. (I’m not really writing romance, but there are elements.) I attribute my lack of attention to the fact that I’m not a girly girl, but it’s something I need to do.

I’m amazed that I never thought of this on my own! Or perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed I never thought of this on my own? After all, I’m not schooled in the art of writing; whatever talent I have is innate and didn’t come via university training.

It might take more than a couple of weeks to muddle out of this edit. What with email, time differences and the fact that my head is thick as a brick, this might take until the end of the year to complete.

Oh, well. I’ll be learning along the way.


One Response

  1. Really enjoyed reading about this process, especially the character grid. Seems like some useful info., so I’m going to try it out on my MS. Thanks for sharing!

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