Writing

Writing Wednesday: Recalibrating My WIP

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! This post has been several weeks in the making…and now that I can’t put it off any longer, I find that I’m not totally sure what to say.

I guess I’ll start here. For several weeks now, I’m mentioned “recalibrating” my WIP. What does that mean, exactly?

So my current WIP was my fourth completed draft of a novel (well, post-high school: I don’t include the two drafts I completed in elementary and middle school, both of which have been lost to cyberspace.) But the second draft was my first revised manuscript.

When I wrote the first draft, I wrote to get it done. I knew that the plot was shite and the characters flimsy; but that was okay, because all of that would be taken care of in revisions.

That’s all good in theory. But in practice?

Midway through my “second draft”–or first round of revisions, really–I realized that my planned edits weren’t going to be enough. It was blindingly obvious, not that that made it any easier to accept, that I would have to undergo a much more substantial revision for the next round.

I carefully planned out my second revision, or third draft. In many ways, this was similar to initial outlining and preparation for the first round of revisions/second draft, but instead of just coming up with a skeleton of a novel or quick solutions to problems, this time around I really tried to plan out what I would actually want a finished manuscript to look like.

Going into the second draft, I had borrowed a tip from Marissa Meyer’s blog and compiled a “Scene List” of my WIP. For the third draft, I used the corkboard function on Scrivener to plan out each chapter. I pinpointed primary arcs and main subplots so that I could know what story elements I would be working with, developing, and interweaving for the finished draft. I also used my old-fashioned writing journal. I identified three basic arcs: IDENTITY CRISIS (i.e. the main “superhero” arc), ASSEMBLE YOUR TEAM (the supporting characters coming together), and THE OTHER WEINSTEIN BROTHERS (the personal character arcs/relationship of my two main characters) and wrote out all the scenes that advanced each arc by hand to get a bigger picture of my story.

It’s been quite the experience. If I’m going to be totally honest with myself, I had pretty much known the plotting was a shambles since the first draft–of course, it was okay back then. But my mistake was, for the second draft, I tried to come up with easy solutions that required as little edits as possible, because the prospect of having to potentially rework my entire manuscript was too daunting, instead of actually trying to do what was best for my story.

If I’m also going to be totally honest with myself, I had also known that I had way, way, way too many characters since the first draft. (My original main roster–which doesn’t include the narrator or various supporting characters encountered along the way–was going to total 11 superheroes.) But being forced to sit down and actually look at the framework of my story made me realize that, no, there was no putting it off: a lot of these characters just do not have to be here.

I combined characters. I cut subplots. I changed scenes*. And the takeaway from all this is: do whatever you have to do, if it’ll make for a stronger story.

* On my outline, at least. If you think recalibrating is tough, wait for the actual rewriting…

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