Today in my 7th grade life science class we made models of our digestive tract using long pieces of plastic tubing. Upon seeing a student lift up the end of the model and put it to his mouth to inflate it with air, I smiled and said:
“Please don’t blow into your rectum.”
Heh heh heh. Who’s the middle schooler now?
Which came first for you?
In writing my YA science fiction project, I had a very clear vision of the world my character existed in before I ever knew the character herself. As a result, I think that finding her voice has been more difficult than if I had started with her first. The world she lives in is clear and detailed and nuanced. The world was my first love, the character came later. Finding this character, her voice, her wants and ultimately her story has been the major work of my revision. You have to have both or you really don’t have a finished product.
Reactions to thoughtful and genuine feedback provided by respected source:
Hour 1: Those are stupid ideas and they could never work! This person clearly does not get my writing! (pout pout)
Hour 2: Ok, maybe not all those ideas are stupid but they could still never work.
Hour 3: There are some good ideas here and they might even work, but it will be way too hard and take way too much time to write.
Hour 4: Harumph. These are good ideas and I can probably use them to improve my book. Now I just have to figure out how…oh and also actually do it. Phooey.
I’ve actually been through all these phases recently and have arrived at a place where I have a pretty good idea of how to use the quite incredible and helpful feedback I oh so grudgingly received (even though, of course, I asked for it).
All summer I worked on revising my YA science fiction novel. Through the whole process I tried to keep reminding myself that this was only the first of many revisions I knew were necessary. But it’s so tempting when you are working hard on something to fantasize that you might be done, or even close to done.
I would compare it to my students who love to write “The End” at the end of their first drafts. It’s their way of saying they’re done, no matter how much I might encourage them to revise. And who can blame them, it feels good to be done. Barry Lane wrote a terrific book about teaching revision called After The End, that addresses these issues.
Of course it’s one thing to tell my students they need to revise and quite another to tell myself. I think I’m worse. I know I’m worse. I want so very much to persevere and write something truly great. And yet I also want so much to be at “The End”.
I just went through my entire manuscript using the find feature to locate the word “felt”. My goal was to rid the book of places where I say how the character “felt” rather than showing it through dialogue, thought or action.
For example I replaced “I felt queasy” with “My stomach contracted nervously emitting a serious of strangled gurgles.” One is much more evocative than the other, if a bit wordy.
Other words I intend to weed out are uses of “noticed” or “observed” in which I’m describing what or how something was seen rather than just writing it outright from the main character’s perspective. Of course they’re noticing it, it’s their story.
I also plan to go through looking for over-usage of “suddenly”. I read a good blog post on how this word can be a crutch used instead of writing good transitions.