Weekly Musing: On the Job Training

More than two months after I wrote it, I finally started the revision process on my first novel. Now that I’ve finally taken the plunge, I can tell I will be in for a tedious process. Even before I finished the incredibly bad rough draft, I had already jotted down things I wanted to change, ideas I wanted to explore, and research I would need to do.

First I printed off my manuscript and realized that I forgot to label the pages, something I always remember to do except in this case. This became problematic because as I was printing out 170+ pages, some of those pages fell onto the ground so it’ll be a surprise to me when I get to those sections and they make no sense. Lesson #1 learned: Always Number the Pages.

My next step was to do some reading about how to revise a novel. The biggest help was in the forms of some excellent articles in the January 2014 edition of Writer’s Digest. That issue was dedicated to revising a novel and included advice about what the opening chapters should contain, establishing characters from the beginning, story setting, as well as 7 common mistakes a lot of novels suffer from that prevent them from getting published.

For the most part, though, instead of getting myself bogged down in reading book after book of how to do this, that, and the other thing, which would only serve to freak me out further, I decided it would be best to just plunge right in. Truly it is going to be on the job training because with writing, you can study all you want but until you get your hands dirty, you can’t really learn.

Now, I’ve started the reading process. Thanks to the article I read in Writer’s Digest about how to open up a novel, I figured out that the first several pages fit better as a Prologue. When I first started the rough draft, the main character was 13 years old but after a few days, I realized I didn’t like that and so suddenly she was in her 20s. I knew I could fix it later so I left the manuscript as is, fully planning on scrapping that first portion. But it always nagged at me that I sort of wanted to keep that bit of my main character’s story. I considered using it as backstory or just chalking it up something I should keep in the back of my mind but not something that needed to be in the manuscript itself.

At this point, I’m glad I have it as the Prologue. I’ve only re-read and re-worked just that part knowing that what comes after it will be complete overhaul. On the positive side, that will allow me to work on ideas I’ve brainstormed.

While I’m reading the manuscript, I’m also working on research. Even though my manuscript isn’t historical fiction story, it’s more in the fantasy genre, it will still require a fair amount of research. Some of it is to help me learn terms I want to reference, some is to help me develop characters, and some of it is to help me visualize better the world its set in. It’ll be curious doing research as I can go along. I’ve heard this works well for some authors and I think in this instance, it is appropriate.

So while I feel my progress perhaps wasn’t as far as it could have been this week, I am proud of myself for at least starting the revision process. It’ll be a long journey and in the end, it may not result in a publishable manuscript. That thought is disheartening but at the same time, it’s on the job training. I gotta start somewhere.