Monday, July 23, 2018

TAKING NOTES ON A FIRST DRAFT // lessons learned + camp nano update


In the complete rewrite of my fairy tale retelling, Dusted Red, what I was doing was turning a ginormous mess into... uh, a lesser mess. Way less of a mess, come to think of it, but still a chaotic jumble of words and emotions.

Aaahhh, the beauty of first drafts.

But anyway, during that complete rewrite - and for a length of time after I finished it - I had a niggling worry that wouldn't go away: How was I going to fix this?

Messes need fixing. Rewrites need editing. You can't coat a story in one layer of polish - you have to slather on layer after layer after layer until the manuscript positively SHINES (and even then the story isn't going to be perfect, buuuut that's a topic for another post). Yes, I understood this. Yes, I'd read articles on "how to edit the first draft of your novel." But even though I knew the advise of various writing experts, I was still worried because I was seriously doubting that following their advice would work!

Here is their step one: Take a break from the story for a while, then come back, read through it, and - as you read through it - take notes.

My problem was that I didn't understand how simply READING my book was going to help me edit. I couldn't see myself catching all the problems stuffed into the dark, dusty corners of my plot and character development, or taking the notes I needed to begin the editing process. Just read through it and suddenly everything will make sense and I'll know what to do?? That didn't sound realistic.

But get this. I didn't have to understand it. It wasn't something I could understand. All I had to do was take the first step.

Camp NaNo gave me the motivation I needed to START READING the story. I opened the document and read the first sentence, then the first paragraph. And as soon as I started, problems both big and small seemed to highlight themselves. The first page was soon sprinkled with notes, then the second page, the third page, the fourth page, the hundredth page, the two-hundredth page. Over half of my novel is now full of notes.

I haven't started the editing yet. I haven't finished reading through. But I'm not clueless anymore. I have a game plan. And although I couldn't explain how exactly that game plan is forming, I'm ridiculously excited that it is. XD

My point to all this? Sometimes you need to stop worrying that it (whatever "it" is) might not work for your story and simply TRY IT OUT. Because sometimes you aren't going to understand. Sometimes you aren't going to know until you take the first step.

~~~ 

That's the big, all-consuming lesson I've learned so far from reading my story and taking notes on it. But I've learned/experienced some other things too!


1. Reading observantly and objectively came more naturally than I think I previously expected. This is why the importance of stepping away from your novel is so emphasized: After a break, you come back with fresh eyes. You just do. I mean, obviously I'm still biased and can't really be completely objective - this is my own story, for goodness' sake! - but taking a break from your story for a few weeks (or even months) gives you time to float down from the emotional high that came with pouring your heart and soul into the first draft. You're now ready to try looking at the book logically and with improvement in mind - through the eyes of a reader rather than through the eyes of a crazed writer.

I haven't had to make a huge effort to "stay objective, Lila, stay objective." <<< I haven't had to constantly whisper that to myself. Taking a break is so important because it helps SO MUCH with being objective as you read. It gives you a fresh outlook that feels natural.

2. Being flexible with the nature of my notes is really fun and I 10/10 recommend. You've heard the advice: Don't worry about the small things! Focus on the big things like plot and character! *pounds gavel* I agree, it's important to keep plot and character in the fore-front as you take notes. You shouldn't be obsessing over the teensy things like grammar and sentence structure yet. But I highly recommend taking notes on whatever you see that you want to take note of, even the smaller things - like dialogue that needs work or a description that isn't detailed enough. Just WRITE THE NOTE. It isn't going to hurt anything. On the contrary, it may just prove helpful later on. XD

For example, here are some notes I've taken on small-ish things in the reading of my WIP:

- Duuuuuuude, she should have asked about water while they were devouring bread. SHE'S THIRSTY.

- HAHAHA, okay, so HOW could Delmy see her hands if they're behind her back??? I am just too funny.

- WHERE IS THE EMOTION???

- How did she walk away?? Give me details!

As you can see, these notes are on smaller things. A character's insignificant decision or action that doesn't make sense. A phrase that needs to be more descriptive. A reminder about weaving emotion into tales of tragic backstory. Things I didn't have to acknowledge until a later draft, but... I didn't want to hold myself back. I wanted to stay FLEXIBLE. I have sooooo many comments on "show-don't-tell" and setting description alongside my plethora of comments on character and plot development. It really only made sense to include them, seeing as everything must tie together in a structured novel. :)

Besides, flexibility is more fun than restriction.



3. There are some things I absolutely love about this messy draft that have me flailing. The main purpose of my reading through and taking notes is not to fangirl over but to critique my work. Therefore, the VAST, VAST majority of my notes are negative. (fyi: Negative comments are way easier to take when you're self-critiquing, so feel free to go all out with all-caps and question marks and stuff. It's actually a lot of fun, at least for me. XD) And yet I can't help but leave a little comment here and there on the few things that especially jump out to me as awesome/epic/well-done. It's refreshing and exciting to type out a flail-y positive comment every now and then. It's my book - I'M MY OWN FANGIRL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

~~~

These are just a few of the things that I've learned/discovered in the experience of reading through and taking notes on my novel. Everybody's different, so I would LOVE to hear in the comments below how you go about preparing to edit your first drafts! And also, how's NaNo going for my fellow campers? It's hard to believe July is almost over!

The Lord's Truly,

26 comments:

  1. Your little things notes are so relatable—when I was working through the edits for my first draft of TKD (to get the one you’re reading, actually) my biggest problem was the sheer number of scenes that take place in the forest at night, and I had comments everywhere like “SHE CANNOT SEE HIS FACE ITS DARK” and “you can’t see under a hood when the person is facing away from you!!!!!” So...believe me, I get it XD

    This is super helpful, though. TKD actually produced a really good and usable first draft and won’t require anywhere near as much editing (probably because it’s the fourth version of that particular story...yikes). But the second one for sure is going to need a lot of tightening and reading, while the third one...lets just say I need to figure out how to NOT pad the running time. XD

    Great post as always! <3

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    1. Cool! Also lol, there are SO many things we never notice when we're writing the first draft, aren't there?? And then we see them in editing and we're like... WHAT IN THE WORLD? XD XD

      It's AWESOME that TKD has such a tolerable first draft!! And I wish you the best of luck with editing book 2 - it sounds tough indeed, but I believe in you. YOU CAN DO THIS. <3

      Thanks so much, Faith!

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  2. This part of the process is so fun. I left myself really sarcastic notes, but I do find it important to leave good notes, too, because then you'll know what you love and want to keep. Being your own fangirl is important.

    I'M SO PUMPED FOR THIS BOOK!!! I NEED IT YESTERDAY PLEASE AND THANK YOU!

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    1. It really is! Sarcastic notes are the best. XD And I agree with you - positive comments are good too. :)))

      AAAAAAHHHHH, THAT MEANS A LOT!!! THANKS, IVIE!! :D

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  3. Hey girl! I was looking around trying to find new blogs and stumbled across your's. It's nice to meet you, and I can't wait to read more. XOXO

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    1. Heyyy! I'm so glad you're here, Kara Lynn! It's nice to meet you too. :D Thanks so much, you're the sweeetest! <333

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  4. Definitely relatable! I went through and edited my WIP for the first time a . . . week ago? It was actually more fun than I expected it to be (probably because I kept a running sarcastic commentary in the notes!). I’m looking forward to the rewrite!

    Awesome post! It came at a great time!

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    1. YAY for sarcastic commentary!! XD XD That's SO COOL that you got to edit your WIP for the first time. And good luck with the rewriting!!!

      Thanks so much, Nicole! I'm so glad. ^_^

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  5. Your notes - perfect!!! Mine are usually quite full of sarcasm and hashtags... I've been editing my draft and fixing the things I've already noted for camp, and it's been....mostly good. :)

    But what you said about just trying things out - yes!! I hate trying new things, but sometimes they end up being a much better way to get things done!

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    1. XD XD Sarcasm and hashtags FOR THE WIN. I'm so glad your editing has been going "mostly good," hehe! :D

      YES to everything you said about trying new things!!

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  6. I LOVE THIS POST LILA! It's so inspiring to me. Writing can be so much easier when I remember that editing is so easy -- so thanks for reminding me because I got stuck /again/. :|

    Also YES - I am definitely my own fangirl and proud of it. ;)

    <3
    Snapper | silverphoenixwriter.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm SO GLAD you like it!! And ugggh, it's no fun getting stuck - but I'm thrilled you found this to be a good reminder for you! :D

      If we weren't our own fangirls, that would be a problem. ;)

      <3 <3

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  7. Yesss, I love your notes! I often leave notes for myself, they're all very snarky. >.<

    I'm so glad you've made so much progress in nano!!!

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    1. Thank you, Gray!! Taking snarky notes is endlessly fun. ;D

      Aw, thanks so much! I hope you've been making progress on your WIP lately too! <3

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  8. I'm doing revisions right now, so I really relate to this. I like to leave myself sarcastic notes too, makes it more fun! XD

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    1. Yessssss, sarcastic notes are REALLY fun!! Good luck on your revisions, Skye! I CAN'T WAIT to read your story. :D <3

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  9. I'm in the process of editing the first draft of my novel, and eeek--how did I not notice ALL THE THINGS the first time around?? But first drafts are supposed to be bad, right?

    Awesome post!

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    1. IKR??!! It's like we go blind in editing. We get soooo caught up in just getting the words down that lots of problems fly right over our heads! XD

      But YES, they're supposed to do that! They're definitely supposed to be bad. XD XD

      Thanks so much, Kara!

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  10. I absolutely love the note-taking process for my story. For some reason, trash-talking myself is very therapeutic. Going back over them once I'm done with the read-through is both helpful and humorous.

    Great post!

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    1. Honestly ME TOO. And OH MY GOODNESS, YAY, I'm not the only one who finds harsh self-critiquing therapeutic, lol! ;D

      Thank you so much, Sarah! <3

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  11. yes. stepping away is always a good step!!

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    1. It's so helpful!! Almost a necessary step, I might venture to say... :D

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  12. Your comments sound like the ones I write for myself, haha!! xD Stepping back, and taking notes is a very important stage of the process, so I'm glad it seems like you're enjoying it! <3 Wonderful post!

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    1. That's cool! Lol! XD

      I agree, it's very important. And thank you! <3 I have to say I'm glad too. :D

      Thank you so much, Melissa!

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  13. Your notes are so funny! I do the same thing for my novels. Once I wrote the note, "Andre should sound less like a timid sheep."??? Who knows were my mind was at with that one! Great post. :)

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    1. I didn't fully realize that so many fellow writers leave sarcastic/snarky notes for themselves too! That's cool! :D

      I LEAVE NOTES A LOT LIKE THAT TOO. xD

      Thank you so much, Vivian! And thanks for commenting!

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