René Penn

Author wannabe. Blogger. Follow me.


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Revising the First Draft—My Story

I read online about Revising the First Draft. Those online people make it seem really straight-forward. They must know what they’re talking about. They’ve got books published and writerly looking profile pics. I follow their advice.

I decide to print out my draft, rather than edit it on the computer. That’s going to be a lot of printing. I’ll need to buy ink. And a binder to put the document in. And blue and red pens for editing. Because literally every single pen I own happens to have black ink. I can’t use black ink for editing—every writer knows that!

I go to Target and get a binder, a new ink cartridge for the printer, as well as blue and red ink pens for editing. Supplies are ready…

Good thing I got that back-up ink cartridge. The print job got all streaky at around page 138. No biggie. I’ll reprint those 10 pages or so. The printing is done. It took forever. It’s a 292-page brick. A real door-stopper. Why didn’t I print double-sided? I’m a tree-killer. How am I going to get all of these pages in the binder? By using my old three-hole puncher that only allows me to punch like five pages or so at a time. That’s a lot of punching. The little, white whole-punches are flying everywhere. I can recycle them—that sort of makes up for all the pages I printed. I get a little light-headed from all of the hole-punching, but my triceps feel really toned.

The advice I read online says that I should be done reading the draft in one or two sittings. I’m on my fourth sitting, and I’m not done yet. I have this cozy chair that I love, and I curl up with my draft and my blue pen. I read and edit some, and then I get sleepy. I take a nap. I wake up and gnash teeth over the fact that I fell asleep. (Does this mean my novel is boring?) I read some more, and then gnash teeth over what I’ve written. I get sleepy again and give myself a pep-talk. “It’s only boring to you because you wrote it,” I tell myself. I make tea so I don’t fall asleep. I use self-torture device so that my eyes can’t close. Device proves to be effective.

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I make edits on the pages, mostly line edits. I start a separate sheet and divide it into columns to help identify structural issues—columns titled, What Needs to be Further Developed, What’s Missing, and Plot Holes. As I read more of the draft, I realize that I need more columns. I notice lines that could seem like foreshadowing techniques when they’re not. It reminds me of the saying, “If you have a gun in your novel, you have to use it.” Well, I don’t have any guns in my book, or under my pillow. But I add a column called Smoking Guns and list all of the bad lines, because I’ll know what it means later.

I add another column, because I’m starting to notice terms that appear over and over and over in my draft. How many times can a character lean forward, blush, or be surprised? I have “purr” a lot, too, which is odd because I’m not even a cat-person. I recall an article that I read years ago about a book that shall remain nameless (Fifty Shades of Gray), which noted that variations of “bit her lip” were used dozens of times. I do a Find search in my document. Luckily, I’ve only used “bit her lip” twice. I label the column Overdone Descriptions, as opposed to Bit Her Lip.

The columns are getting longer, and my manuscript has blue ink on every page. I gnash more teeth, which are now down to nubs. I put in a mouth guard to save what’s left. My mother will be upset next time she sees my nub-teeth. She spent a lot of money on my teeth back in the day, on braces and such.

I think I scare my husband when he comes home from work. I’ve been in a bad state these last four days of revising my draft. Me with my eye-opening device and mouth guard, lips dribbling tea, and murmuring, “It’s only boring to you because you wrote it.” But he doesn’t ask questions. He just hugs me, and I hug him back with my blue-ink-stained fingertips. And we say, “It’ll be over soon.”


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This Year Is 20Gr18, When Great Things Happen

The holidays are over, and it’s “20Gr18.” Expectations are high, and I’m already excited about what’s in store.

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I think that the year 2018 is going to be a year when great things will happen. I’ve noticed that years can be somewhat cyclical. One year can be more like a “prep” year, where I’m doing lots of preparing, working, researching, planning, saving, etc., to reach my goal. That happened when I bought my home and planned for my wedding. Both events took months of preparation before those great things actually happened.

Looking back on it, I think that 2017 was a “prep” year. I finally quit my job in the Fall to work on my novel full-time. That was a big leap, and it seemed like a great thing happening. But that step was actually still part of the preparation toward achieving my goal, which is to become a published author.

Since I left work, I’ve been able to turn the “prep” mode into overdrive. I finished my first draft by hand, and I just spent the last month typing it up. Now I’m revising the draft, which includes doing the “Big Read.” If you don’t know what that is, I encourage you to read more about it.

READ ARTICLE: How to Revise a First Draft by Scott Berkun

The point is that these steps are part of the prep that started in 2017. If I keep it going–and I’m too far along to turn back now–then the plan is to cross the finish line to become a published author this year.

“If all goes according to plan” can be the hardest part. It leaves room for dream-killers like X-factors, Murphy’s Law, and other persnickety phenomena. I don’t have control over that. I only have control over what I can do, and how, to prepare–that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.

Is 2018 your prep year or the year where great things happen? I’m claiming both. Who’s with me?

 

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