Monday, June 21, 2010

When WIP Equals First Draft

According to the poem that Taffy gave us on Thursday, "Tuesday's child is full of grace." Good thing I only act childish or I would be proving that completely wrong. Grace seems the farthest thing from me.

With that snide comment, let me introduce myself. I'm T.J. I write "Timothy Types TMI" (You can also see the link the right-hand column of this page. For the few people that may be wondering: Yes, I wrote the seemingly famous Survivor: LDS Authors blog post back in April. And for those following that blog, I got to give Annette Lyon thank you chocolates for helping make it famous this past week. See, I repay my debts! Anyway, I'm one of two Tuesday bloggers. So, on to today's topic.

Today, I'm going with a topic that is annoying me lately: when revising turns into rewriting. My current work-in-process is in its 4th version and 5th draft. I have decided to change my story a few times since I started it. Well, at least change some things in my story.

Let's digress a bit. Back in September, I attended The Book Academy at Utah Valley University (my alma mater, go Wolverines!) and had a chance to have a short conversation with the great James Dashner. In our discussion he talked about the difficulty that came with selling a series versus a stand alone novel. This was after the 2nd presentation that morning. I had already decided to rethink some of my work-in-process during Brandon Sanderson's keynote address. At this point, I was thinking, "Crap! I've really got to work on this."

So, I worked hard to make my story stand alone. I dropped a storyline (that I loved) in order to keep one that worked and made sense. And I worked hard at redoing this story and was so excited to present this revised copy to LDS Storymakers in April.

Well, as cool as LDS Storymakers is, the worst thing that I got from there was a lack of confidence in my writing. After the first morning's boot camp session, I decided I was going to have to start over again. And that 'start over' process led to a lot of annoying things.

The thing that is annoying me the most right now is that I've redone this story to the point that where I originally ended it is now a turning point to the story, the storyline I kept is completely dropped (which was fine since I hated it anyway), and I put back the main storyline I dropped. But now I'm arriving to the point where my already written stuff will no longer be recycled into this version. I have to come up with a few more ideas. Another try/fail cycle (or two). A few more characters. Another plot twist, because they're cool of course.

But you know why I'm doing this? I want to be published. When I talked to Dashner at LDS Storymakers, he asked if I'd learned much in the first day of the conference. My answer? "That I suck." His kind response was "I don't think that's true." Now, he's never read my stuff, but at least he sounded a little more sincere than some authors could be. Does my writing truly suck? In some ways, it does. But as I keep going through and revising, reworking, rewriting (almost like a recycle/reduce/reuse mantra) I know that I suck less and less. I've learned a lot of analytical skills to help me in my writing from everything I've done.

Yeah, it's a pain to rewrite. But it's more annoying to say "I'm a wannabe author."

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


Deren Hansen said...

I have a project I decided to move to the back burner when it became clear, after a number of revisions, that I needed to rewrite it.

The decision was motivated in part by the knowledge that I wasn't prepared to undertake the rewrite. It was also motivated by the sense that I was too close to the project and needed some time and perspective before I could do it justice.

It was hard, but making a fresh start was liberating.

I wonder if you're in a similar position.

Julie Daines said...

I've read your writing and I can say from personal experience, that your writing does not suck.

Remember what Kirk told us? That every writer, no matter how good or popular, can still improve. Sometimes we think no criticism = good writing. But the truth is, no criticism = bad critiquers.

You have a great and imaginative story. Take a break, like Darren suggested, if you need to, and then come back when you don't feel so close to it.