Editing, Novel Writing

#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you can flip your own switches. #VotB

Original manuscript of a revision of "Spi...
Even Poe had to revise his work! | Original manuscript of a revision of “Spirits of the Dead” in Poe’s handwriting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At various crossroads on my writing journey, I have often happened upon “road signs” that let me know that I am heading in the right direction. These signs make me think, “Wow, I really AM a writer.” One example was when I completed my very first novel manuscript draft seven years ago. You know how it is. It feels like you will never finish. You often wonder if you are even capable of writing a complete novel. And then, one day, you find yourself typing, “THE END,” and you think, “Wow, I really AM a writer.”

At that moment, it feels like you have accomplished everything you need to do. You have reached the end of your writing journey. You wrote a novel! Woohoo! That’s a MAJOR accomplishment. And you are, rightfully, proud of that accomplishment.

But then, you realize that you need to edit that first draft. You realize that you still have a lot of work to do before you can call it, “done.” (Or, at least I hope you do!) You don’t rush out and self-publish that first draft because you take your writing seriously, and you want to offer your readers the best possible reading experience.

The thing that sucks – the thing that makes the immature (immature as in inexperienced, not immature as in telling fart jokes) writer believe that first draft is ready to publish as-is – is this: You read that draft, and you just can’t see what you could possibly edit aside from a typo here and there. You read that manuscript, and you don’t see a single gap between what you think you have put on the page and what you have actually put on the page.

No matter how far you have progressed on your writing journey, it can be difficult to see where your work needs to be revised, especially when you are still in writing mode. I believe – and there is probably research somewhere to back this up, but I’m too lazy to dig it up at the moment – that we use different parts of our brains for different writing tasks. We activate one part of our brain when we are in writing mode, and we need to switch to a different part of the brain to revise and edit.

My evidence for this phenomenon is, of course, strictly anecdotal. I can’t say for sure that it works this way for all of us, although I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. What I do know is that I still have a very hard time switching from writing mode to revising mode. In fact, I tend to need feedback from other writers on my first drafts before I am able to flip that switch.

This just happened to me with my revisions for Book 2 of Valley of the Bees. I have learned that dialog is one of my greatest writing strengths. Unfortunately, my characters tend to come across as talking heads in my first drafts. My writing style has been described as minimalist, which I like; but, it also means that my first drafts are usually light on description. While some writers have to figure out what to cut from their first drafts, I have to figure out what to add. This often requires the help of outside readers to point out areas where they need additional info.

Earlier in my writing journey, I needed a lot of feedback. Honestly, I required a lot of hand-holding when it came to identifying where my first drafts were lacking. But now, as I am working my way through the second book in the #VotB serial, it has occurred to me that I am getting better at this.

The thing is, I received minimal feedback from the first two critique partners who read for me this time. At first, I was disappointed and thought this would be a problem. How can I revise this manuscript without someone to hold my hand through the process? How can I fix what needs fixing if I can’t FIND what needs fixing? There was only one thing I could do at that point. I had to do would I could with what I had. I determined that I would fix the couple of issues that my readers had pointed out and then see if I could find a couple of additional readers to look at the next draft.

But then, a funny thing happened. No, not a funny thing. A cool thing. A really, really, REALLY cool thing. As I started to work on the issues the readers had pointed out, I began to notice issues of my own. I spotted holes that the readers had missed. I did it by myself!

For once, I flipped the switch from writing mode to revision mode with very little outside assistance. And I had one of those, “It’s true! I really AM a writer!” moments. And today, I feel good about myself. I feel good about being a writer, and I think I’m going to make it. Now, if I can just figure out how to get people to buy my books!

I want to hear from you…

Tell me about your most memorable “I really AM a writer” moments. Share your thoughts in the comments below or share them in a blog post on your own blog and drop us a link here so we can go check out your work.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Cover Design by Jennifer DeWeese at jendy.threadless.com.
Cover Design by Jennifer DeWeese at jendy.threadless.com.

With Envy Stung: Valley of the Bees #1 officially releases in less than two weeks! Can you believe it? Don’t forget, you can still pre-order this eBook from a variety of online retailers for only 99 cents, but only through August 31, 2016. After that, the book will return to its regular price of $3.99. So, go reserve your copy today!

1 thought on “#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you can flip your own switches. #VotB”

  1. Reblogged this on Anatomy of Perceval and commented:
    I’ve been working on revising a short story, pruning words, tightening sentences, cutting adverbs, the word “now” which I’ve been fond of in the past, and searching for strong, active verbs to replace my wimpy ones. It never occurred to me that maybe I was using a different part of my creative brain for this work until I read Amanda Webster’s blog post below. It makes a lot of sense! And I’m very grateful for my internal editor, that part of my creative brain that loves to revise.

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