Monday, July 25, 2011

Making it Shine

My first draft of Finding Angel sucked.

I can say that now. But three years ago, those words would have killed me. I worked so, so very hard on that first draft. Obsession is a word I'd use to describe those first months of writing. Of course, I knew it wasn't perfect. Things needed to be cleaned up a bit. Tightened here and there. Adjusted. Tweaked, ever so slightly.

Yes, go ahead and laugh.

With each critique, I learned that I had even more to learn. I've revised, beefed up, killed my darlings, and started all over again. 

These last few weeks, I've gone through the cycle yet again. I am amazed by how many things I found to change and carve away.

What blows my mind the most is the change in word count. At one point, Finding Angel hit 114,000 words. Today it sits at 93,400. That is more than a 20,000-word difference. 

20,000 words that were useless, unnecessary, or maybe even outright stupid, now gone. 

I cannot stress enough the importance of getting critique. And getting it from multiple sources. No, you cannot write a novel, let your sister-who-never-wrote-a-book-in-her-life read it and have a perfect manuscript after that one critique. I've had at least ten different people read through Finding Angel, some of them writers and some of them not. A few of them teens. They have all brought to light different issues.

My most recent acting editor is Diane Graham. She has been brutal, I tell you, but she's helped with this last round of edits in a way no one else has. She has pinpointed issues in certain scenes and helped me find in myself the ability to make those scenes work. Emotion is something Diane knows how to convey in writing, and she's giving me her secrets ;).

Amy Deardon, author of A Lever Long Enough, also contributed to the editing and is probably the key player in the word count drop. I've mentioned before that early on I was told Finding Angel was "wordy." I did find a couple of people who helped me figure out a good portion of why that was so, but Amy threw the spotlight on word and phrase usage that was seriously padding the count unnecessarily.  

The last thing I credit for helping this round: Time. I waited nearly a year between the last go-through and this one. I've learned more about writing in this last year than I thought possible. I also believe that distancing myself from the manuscript has been paramount. I was able to see so much that I'd been holding on to out of...sentimentality? I don't know. Maybe I was just so used to seeing those words in the document I hadn't noticed how wrong they were. Whatever the case, the current version now sounds like *me*--the current me, the one who has experience and published short stories, not the me who sat down four years ago, naive and wet behind the ears.

In just under six weeks you will get to see the fruits of these labors. I am excited beyond belief. Not just because Finding Angel is going to be published. But because I am finally happy in the fact that I have improved it to the level it at which it needs to be. "Good" is not good enough. I want this book to shine. And thanks to my critters who have had the guts to tell me--"No, this doesn't work!"--when you finally have it in your hands, it will.


Ralene said...

I can't wait to read your novel! How exciting! I have been on a similar journey. I thought my last two WIPs were "good to go"--and only in the last couple of months realized how wrong I was. It's good we're willing to put in the TIME and WORK necessary!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Ralene!

It is amazing how we think our writing is at a certain level, then when given time we look back and realize it had not come as far as we'd thought. And you're right--only time and work can correct it :).

Best of luck with your WIP!

Robynn Tolbert said...

Diane is a master of emotion and she's quite good at pointing out silliness, too!
Glad your "absence" in the virtual world has this good a reason.
In case I haven't said it before, "Huzrats!"