Thursday, June 10, 2010

Turning your manuscript on its head and shaking it to see what falls out

If I were to place here the original Virginia Kate document, you would not recognize our girl. The words you read may be nice, and you may even say, “Hey, I like that woman.” But, it would not be Virginia Kate.

The very first paragraph of the original document is thus:

Beginnings and endings, sometimes the line between them is blurred. I am feeling lazy, lying in bed watching the wind blow the gauzy curtains in a languid waltz. I listen to the surf roar out my name, daring me to swim against its waves. The contradictions of my senses make me feel alive. Hoping for the profound hidden in the mundane, I want to set this day apart, just like I’ll do the one after this, and the next, for as long as it lasts.

The surf? Swim against its waves? What? How can there be surf and waves? Where is VK’s holler? And that’s not how VK talks. Who/where is that? Why's she in bed anyway? And if you read a bit further, you'd see the word: specialness --Oh Dear! Did I really write "specialness" -erk, bleah *blush* *laughing* And if I remember correctly, I think VK is dying in this version. Oh!

While I was writing the first draft of the VK novel, I liked what I was writing—most of the words, that is. VK was more contemporary, which isn’t a bad thing, but it wasn't VK. And the entire novel was written from an Adult Point of View, and not, as in Tender Graces (and to some degree in Secret Graces), letting VK’s voice “grow up." And sure, that was fine, but . . . something nagged at me; something wasn’t right . . . until I let VK began speak to me in her own voice, not the one I manufactured for her.

In hindsight I see how I was writing what I thought I was supposed to write and not what I wanted to write, what I was "called" to write for that character.

Sometimes if we are stuck or if something “just isn’t right” we have to do something drastic and bold—even if that means a whole lotta work to our manuscripts.

Once I found “the real voice of Virginia Kate” the changes and deleting and rewriting came quickly. I was excited, and happy, and I felt my VK was at last “home;” I felt the lightbulb blaze bright in a sudden clarity of light and “This is IT! Yes!”

Don’t be afraid to go in and rework your manuscript, even if it is unrecognizable with what you thought it would/should be. Would my first version have been published? Maybe, but I’m doubtful. Likely, my angst and stops and starts and puzzlement that things just didn’t feel “right” would continue to carry over into the work making it stilted and "just not quite there," so that probably would have stalled the query process and final outcome.

That moment of AHA! was the moment VK became Real and True. And if I’d have ignored that, or if I’d have thought, “But I can’t re-write all this—it’s so much WORK! I’ve written thousands and thousand of words (I had) Oh dear!,” then my Virginia Kate would not Be.

Listen listen listen to those urging voices. If you are having trouble with your manuscript, don’t be afraid to take your manuscript and turn it on its head and shake it out to maybe, just perhaps, find some other Truth to your character(s) and story and setting and voice and tone. It may very well be your AHA! moment. It may very well be the turning point for you.

Have you ever turned your manuscript/story on its head and shaken it to see what falls out?

(PS - I don't look for reviews and rarely read them; however, I saw this one from BOOKLOVE -a review of Secret Graces, and it is such a lovely review, insightful, that I thought I'd post the link: SG Review at Booklove )


Sandra Leigh said...

"She is the storyteller of our lives . . ." Oh, my. Feeling slightly faint, here.

Diane said...

Great, encouraging advice. Because you followed that great wisdom you've met with success! :O)

Terri Tiffany said...

I think you are sitting with me in my house right now.I think you just read the email I got asking me to make my character more likeable and more vanilla.
I can't do that. He would not be the man I wrote him to be even if it means I can't submit this book to this particular line.
I'm struggling with being true to my writing. I love revisions, but I can't let go of some things--and that's who my character tells me they are.

Walker said...

The only thing that falls out of mine are the numbers off the pages and i spend half the day trying to put them all in order again.
I did find a hundred dollar bill once but that wasn't my book.

Kelly Bryson said...

I love this post. Just what I needed to hear. It's happening, slowly, word by word, my characters become more themselves. Like Pinocchio. I hope I don't get swallowed by Monstro!

Karen said...

I love this wisdom. It means more work, but that's what I've got to do! Thanks for the encourgement to start a'shaking!

Judith Mercado said...

Well, let's see. I just picked up my WIP after a month's hiatus and what shook out was that I couldn't stand my writing every time I was in a particular character's POV. The other two I loved, so that was edifying. Now I have to figure out if that character should be intentionally unlikable or whether I should change what's already written. Did someone say I love to write fiction? Really? It feels like hard work now, not joy. I'm sure I'll recover though. At least I hope so.

Teresa said...

I had to do this with my current novel, An Autumn Tale. I had started the story in the wrong place and the voice was all wrong. I practically scrapped everything but the idea and started over.

Great post, Kat! And I'm glad you ramped up VK's voice to WV slang. It works beautifully.

Marguerite said...

I have scrapped so many manuscripts and am currently working on doing this same thing, with one of them. Very good advice, cher~ Great review, too! Cheers!

Jan O'Hara (aka hope101) said...

If I don't get this message this time around, there isn't much hope for me. Hee. No, seriously, this is about the third post I've read this week which is about how much shaping comes after the first draft. Awesome, because I tend to paralyze myself and not allow the discovery to occur on the page.

Anyway, what I particularly appreciate is *seeing* the before and after for VK because it is such a sea change. Thanks for this!

Angie Ledbetter said...

You could turn your writing on its head, on its side, even on its bahonkus...and it'd still be GREAT. But I know what you mean about finding (listening to) that true true voice to surface.


Deb Shucka said...

This post couldn't be more timely for me. My manuscript has been shaken upside down and sideways and I find myself with a nearly empty page. Still waiting for the true story to reveal itself.

Rick said...

It's hardest, dear Kathryn, when our inner voices are telling us the opposite of what our publisher is!

Glynis said...

I did it this afternoon and all the words fell off the page! LOL

Seriously, I decided to really look deep inside my wip. I found a dead man kissing a girl...woah. I had killed him off two chapters before, and now he was killing my girl?

Shucks...and other words came out amongst the tumble.

Marisa Birns said...

It's good to read this from a writer who listened to gut instincts and found their main character's true voice.