The first five chapters of my revised manuscript flow incredibly well together, all things considered. There is most definitely a clear structure there to be built upon, and I like it.
The only thing getting in the way of it is the writing. And it’s the old writing, and it’s the filler that I didn’t take the time to get rid of. Which, honestly, is not something I’m in a position to complain about, because I intentionally left it in there to make this revision process easier for myself. And that’s fine. But it is still distracting and disruptive, because I’ve just spent five chapters caring about this story and now I’m feeling bogged-down with stuff that I don’t care about because it reads like it belongs in a different story.
Which is also useful, in the sense that I now have an even stronger sense of which bits I want to cut.
There are chapters where I’ve only made minimal changes and those changes have all worked, and these chapters are ones that I feel are salvageable or even more or less perfect the way they are. And then there are chapters where I’ve changed stuff and it hasn’t worked out, and any kind of salvage mission would require a ton of effort to be worth it. This current chapter I’m working over, chapter 6, does potentially serve a purpose, but it’s written as though it belongs further along in the story with some prior character-development. This is not necessarily a result of the copy-paste method I used either, because it was pretty much like this in the original manuscript as well. Perhaps I didn’t copy-paste enough.
I was expecting continuity to be the main issue I had with reading this revision, and in some ways it has been. It was a very strange revision, I’ll admit, because some chapters I almost entirely rewrote, and some I barely touched at all. But what’s ended up being the main issue is not finding names of places changing every few pages or discovering characters who have not yet been introduced in this revised version of the draft appearing as though they’ve been established already: it’s been the chapters that don’t share the focus on the central premise of the story. And one may well let loose a proclamation of ‘no shit Sherlock’ upon hearing this, and that’s fair enough from an outside perspective. From my perspective this is the first time I’ve seen these chapters in the context of a much cleaner, tighter story for the first five chapters, all of which feel like they belong together and have the same concerns in terms of getting a story told, and so they’re all the more hideously jarring.
And, again, this is good. This is exactly what I need. I no longer have that ambiguity, that doubting voice that goes ‘oh well maybe if I just tweak that it can work by adding this to the story’ – it’s just bad, and horrible, and must die. Clear and simple.
Which I guess is advocacy for not rewriting chapters during revision that you’re having trouble bringing yourself to make a decision on, regarding whether they’ll be allowed to stick around until the next draft and, ultimately, the finished product. Perhaps leaving them as they are and rewriting other stuff that you know you want to change in some way creates the necessary contrast to push you to a decision.
And this isn’t just down to writing style, either; I always look at my old writing with some degree of wanting to re-word things, but this is events and focus and stuff that is happening, stuff in the story that either needs to be moved or removed in order to work. The point is that, as it stands, it does not work, it distracts from the story, and by identifying this I know that something needs to be done, rather than being stuck in a feedback loop of second-guessing myself. That’s all I need at this stage, just to know that action must be taken, and I can get to the specifics later. Though right now, honestly, I just kinda want to cut it.
I’m also trying to take the kind of notes I’d like other people to give me, which is not to suggest changes and instead to just remark on the manuscript as is, because that leaves me free to come up with definite executive decisions once I’ve read through the entire thing and can take a step back to reflect on the story as a whole, instead of trying to make decisions with only bits and pieces to work with. So far it’s working. Reactions tell me where the problem areas are, and I don’t need solutions – in fact I need to not have solutions, so that I can more critically think about the issues with the story and not be locked-in to anything when I don’t need to be.
Having said that, if I feel the urge to write in all-caps ‘DESTROY’, I won’t censor myself there. That’s a totally valid reaction to some of this writing. Though it’s not something I’d ever accept from a beta reader. Being the author comes with some privileges.
And we just had our first open home, and I sat in my room and people apologised for disturbing me, if they said anything at all, and I said it was no problem, and it was kind of exciting. And my novel is continuing to grow and evolve. And even though I still have no idea what’s happening in terms of my study/finances/life next year, I’m really quite happy right now.