Do you ever feel paralyzed at the outset of revising a manuscript? I usually do. For me, it’s due to the sense of scope. I mean, there’s so much to be done, right? It can feel overwhelming.
Take my new project. The manuscript will be the middle edition in a planned trilogy, based on a lengthy older story. It’s not a separate story yet. In its current form, the opening is just another chapter that happened to come after the events that formed the end of part one. To add to that difficulty, I’ve spent the last two and a half years revising what’s now become part one. Quite a few things have changed. The overarching goals haven’t changed for the major characters, but their motivations have either altered or deepened. Not to mention about a hundred story details that have changed (many are inconsequential, but consistency must be maintained).
For me, incorporating critique is always a part of the overwhelm of the revision process, too. We’ve all heard it, right? Take in what resonates and dismiss the rest. But what if it resonates that you indeed have a problem (or four, or six), but you aren’t quite sure how to solve it (them)? Or if solving one will likely create others? Muddling the puddle even further for this project, I have received critique on the original complete story (before dividing it), as well as additional (new eyes) critique on the part one portion.
Reconciling it all can be tricky. I always need a “pondering period,” but inaction is obviously no solution. At some point pondering alone can become unproductive, or worse, lead to procrastination. And for me, simply diving in to another comma-shuffling editing session can be a diversion from meaningful revision.
So what’s an overwhelmed, pondered-out and paralyzed writer to do?
Stumbling Into the S-Word
Actually, this time I stumbled upon proactivity. Just to make my way from pondering to actual words on paper, I went through the middle section of the lengthy original manuscript and listed each chapter, briefly noting what happens in each. All I thought to gain was a simple status report. It certainly helped me to grasp the sweep of book two. Plus, I saw where I wanted to end up, which is huge. I could see the events that might be shaped into a resolution. Of course it would take work, particularly finding my way to a satisfying story arc for my primary protagonists as they moved into the final edition of the trilogy. But I’d taken a step.
And, as proactive steps often do, this one led to another. [Read more…]