Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Revision Blues

I know I promised to do some book reviews this time around, but those will have to wait until I have more time. (Although in the meantime, try out some puzzles in Word Searches for Dummies by Denise Sutherland; I've been using them as warm-ups for my writing sessions, and they're a great way to stimulate the brain!)

And as to why I'm so busy . . . I'm dealing with the most complicated revision of my life -- so difficult, in fact, that at one point I actually exclaimed, "I just can't do this!" (But since quitting isn't an option, I'm still slogging along.)

The reason this revision is trickier than most is because it's requiring me to make such major changes to the story that in the end the novel will no longer be the book I set out to write. I intended to create an 'edgy' contemporary teen novel whose main focus was a really messed-up family. ('Edgy' is what agents and editors call a certain type of teen story, one that's tense, provocative, gritty, etc.) But now the focus has to shift to what made the family messed-up in the first place: a murder.

So without going into all the gruesome details (ha!) about what I need to change, essentially it boils down to this: ready or not, I'm writing a crime novel now, and if I can do the requested changes in a way that makes everybody (including me) happy, the novel will sell.

But in the meantime I have to ward off the revision blues, and remind myself of all the good things people said about the novel before they told me what I needed to change. It's hard sometimes to keep those good things in mind when you're concentrating on everything that's 'wrong.' (Although I hate to even use that word, because I maintain that there's no wrong writing -- only writing that won't sell today but might sell tomorrow.)

And I also have to shake my head over how many times I've found myself pointed in one of two directions: crime or romance. We all have 'natural genres,' I think, and elements of these genres tend to creep into everything we write. And when the creeping becomes flooding, we just have to go with the flow -- which is what I'm going to do from now on!

So what do you think your 'natural genre' might be? Do you find yourself including romance in a lot of your stories, even those that wouldn't normally lend themselves to romance? When people praise your writing, do they tend to single out one aspect of the story over others? For example, do you find that your action scenes are always being praised, or your love scenes, or your descriptions of historical settings? And what about your narrative voice and your character voices? Do they tend to sound young (which might indicate you're a natural for children's books), or are they adult? Do you find yourself writing lots of simple sentences, or more complex ones?

Pay attention to what seems effortless for you, and use this self-awareness to guide your writing choices -- so that even if you don't stick to writing what comes naturally, you'll be able to prevent the kind of flooding I just experienced. (Although as my experience proves, sometimes we're too close to our own work to see the obvious -- which is why it's always a good idea to get lots of feedback from writing-group buddies etc. before you start submitting it to agents or editors.)

Oh, and one last thing: don't ever succumb to the voice in your head that says, "I just can't do this!" Every time you hear it, either ignore it or shout, "Yes, I can!!!" That's the best advice I'll ever give you. =)

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