Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Writing Milestone

Yesterday morning I did the Snoopy dance. Before work, I finished revising my Work In Progress. I only had five pages to go, but it took a long time. In the rush of exhilaration that accompanies getting to "The End," those last pages were filled with swaths of dialogue. A sentence or two of description. Another one of character emotion. A little action. But, as Margie Lawson's EDITS system showed me, most of those pages were blue (blue equaling dialogue).

So I needed to add green and pink and red to balance the scene, flesh it out so it wasn't just talking heads, make it come to life. This isn't easy, particularly at five A.M. when the coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Adding body language tends to lead to repeated "He nodded" or "She sighed" types of actions. Hearts are always pounding or pulses racing.

I have to sit there, really thinking about what happiness feels like or despair feels like or anxiety feels like and write it fresh. This is not an easy task for someone who, for many years, only felt "uncomfortable." It took a long time and some serious help for me to be able to put words like sad or anxious or even happy to that uncomfortable feeling. Fortunately, I've found an excellent book, "The Emotion Thesaurus," which helps me with that part. I also use an old Writer's Digest Book, "Building Believable Characters," for figuring out body language and emotions.

Despite Stephen King's admonition to go with your first word, I find that my first word choice is often not the best choice. Sometimes I'll do things like write "tumble" when I really meant "stumble." Or I'll repeat a word (She opened the door. He came through the door. Closing the door...) This kind of repetition really annoys me. So I'm off to "Roget's Super Thesaurus" to find the word I really meant or a different word for door (He came through the entry might work.) or a word that works better. Words have nuances of meaning. A small change in a word can lead to a big change in how a character or a scene is perceived.

It's been rewarding this month to watch the pile of pages with completed revisions grow while the yet-to-be-revised pile shrank. When I started this pass through, I knew it was going to be difficult. I had shuffled scenes around, making events happen in a different order, so there were definitely continuity problems that had to be fixed. (Like talking about a barbecue before the characters actually went to it.) I knew I had to add more emotion and description so my reader will feel and see what I do when I read a scene. Sometimes it felt like I was never going to finish as my self-imposed deadline approached and then whooshed by. Some days I felt as if a scene was never going to be right. And some days I felt a rush of pleasure when a mediocre scene came to life after working on it.

So it was with great joy that I added that last page to the completed stack yesterday morning. I've taken one more step on the road to publishing my book.
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