Too Close To The Writing
If you are a writer, you already recognize how difficult it is to catch typos and missing words in your own content. As the creator we are too close to the work to see it. We know the story. Our minds simply fill in the blanks or read the word correctly, even when it’s misspelled. That’s one reason we hire editors to check our work.
The Same Can Hold True For Story Content.
We’ve all heard the advice that, once we’ve finished, we need to step away from the work for a period of time before we go back through to revise and edit. We have to give our minds some time to get out of the story, so we can see if with the fresh eyes of a reader, not the creator. But this is an almost impossible task, since even then, we still have the entire history of that story in our heads. I recently discovered even time away from our writing, may not be enough.
Earlier This Year I Decided To Pull Out My First Novel Again.
It had come so close to being picked up, by more than one NY publisher, that it physically hurt thinking about it. Perhaps it was time to independently publish this book. But I had since written two more novels. And if I am to believe my writing mentors, my craft has improved over the years. So, of course, I wanted to go back through the book and see if I could make the writing stronger, before putting it out there.
At The Same Time I Chanced Upon A Writing Tool Called Scrivener.
I was attending the Southern California Writers Conference and decided to take Ara Grigorian’s workshop on the basics of how to use this writing tool. Scrivener appealed to me because I always create a timeline to work from for my novels and it has a neat feature, which would allow me to easily create the timeline—without having a gazillion Word documents floating around.
Scrivener lets you use a cork board and make index cards to represent each of your chapters (or scenes). You can visually see the index cards on the cork board. Each card can contain important internal information, such as the date, place, and main point of action for that chapter or scene. You can color code the cards for each character’s POV or the plot lines. This allows you to quickly scan through the cards to SEE your book in a way that is impossible if you are only reading it, page by page.
I Applied This Technique & What I Discovered Astonished Me, And My Agent.
It appeared one of the main character’s POV was completely unnecessary to the story. But to prove it to myself, I deleted all the index cards that were from his POV. Then I scanned through the remaining index cards. Nothing was missing from the story—nothing. Everything the reader learned about this character in his chapters was already there in the book, from a different character’s POV. The information was redundant, and not only slowed the story, it unnecessarily complicated in it.
I revised the entire book without that character’s POV chapters and the story works—far better than the original version. It moves faster and is an easier read. And I used what skills I’ve learned over the years to make the writing stronger as well. I’m excited about this novel now. I’m relieved the version didn’t get picked up. This one is far better.
And yes, you guessed it. My agent wants to put it out there again. It’s a long shot, but we have to try. We both love this story and want to see it published. Maybe this time it will make it.
But, without being able to put the manuscript into a visual board with index cards, I’m not sure I would have ever discovered what was wrong with it. It took stepping away from it in a big way, in order to see the one flaw, so well hidden.
There are other writing tools out there besides Scrivener – and I suggest you make use of them! It’s another way to get out of your head and better see your books as your readers see them.