Monday, August 9, 2010

The other side of the world

I mailed my first revision of Project Sparkle to my tutor on the 23rd of July. It was a mad scramble to finish, and rather than feeling relieved with what I had accomplished, I worried I hadn't done enough.

I have a meeting scheduled with Julia (my tutor) at the beginning of September. She's taking a well-deserved vacation for the month of August. In the meantime, I figured I'd work on fixing the things I knew still needed fixing. I was a little worried that without her feedback I would run out of things to do, but I've got a few other friends reading the draft. Also, I figured if I had to take a few days off, or some time to play with other projects, I still had September to pull everything together.

Well, I went to get the mail on Friday afternoon and discovered Julia had sent back my manuscript. I debated not opening it. Phil and I were going to a friend's wedding this weekend, and I had said I wouldn't do any work. But of course I couldn't NOT open it. I needed to see what Julia thought.

I found a type-written letter, in a small, 10 inch font, filling the entirety of the page. The first sentence is: "I enjoyed reading your story very much." The last is: "Enjoy it [the revision]: it's so good doing this when you know the story works on the page, that there IS a story!" Everything else? Critique.

Julia told me my main character's voice falters at moments, sounding a bit too polite, a bit too adult, a bit too much like me. She also said I need to work on narrating the story from inside her head more (ie, would she notice she shrugged?). She suggests a few short scenes I might add to strengthen character relationships in the book. She doesn't like one plot moment, where my main character does something by mistake instead of actively deciding to do something. She wanted a bit more explanation of my setting, some clarification around one of the fantastical elements.

At first I felt overwhelmed. I really wanted just one sentence saying, "Good work, Anne, you did exactly what you needed to do, this is much better." Of course, I think she was saying that in her first sentence, implying it in her last. She assumes I know it's much better. And I do. But a little confirmation is nice, too.

Then I started flipping through the actual manuscript. As I've said before, Julia puts check marks by things she likes.
One check mark from Julia is worth five compliments from anyone else. I trust Julia, and I know that if she likes something, it's working. Sometimes she does double check marks and I'm over the moon. I got a triple one once. I may frame it.
Remember how I completely rewrote my climax? Julia doesn't say anything about it in her typed letter. But here's a rundown of her handwritten comments:

Chapter 26: 1 voice issue
Chapter 27: 2 double check marks
Chapter 28: 1 freaking out moment where she questions my main character's emotional state. 1 voice issue. 1 double check mark. 1 TRIPLE check mark.
Chapter 29: 1 check mark.
Chapter 30: 1 double check mark.
Chapter 31: 1 check mark. 2 typos.

Here's a picture of the beginning of Chapter 28. Just to show off my triple check mark.

So overall? I think the revision was a success. The new climax is definitely working. My biggest fear was that Julia would point out holes in my plot or characters, but that hasn't happened. I can move ahead on my micro-revisions, and I've been given an extra three weeks to incorporate Julia's comments.

And my weekend? It was a hellish journey to Aberystwyth (which is on the west corner of Wales, miles away from anything). We had a juvenile delinquent harass us, a neighbor who was on his third can of beer, a train delay so we missed the ceremony. But the good news is that I apparently work well on trains and I knocked out a rough sketch of one of the scenes Julia suggested. It fits perfectly, like it was meant to be. It also justified me not working the rest of the weekend. Then we got to Aberystwyth, in plenty of time to change for the reception, and were bowled over by its beauty. And there was something very cool about being on the other side of the world looking at the same ocean.


Happy writing to you all!

7 comments:

  1. I just got one of those letters from my agent on my revision: "This is really coming along, but here's a million other things to fix." Haha, it really never ends, does it? But we're on the right track, which is the important thing!

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  2. Hah! Funny yet incredibly depressing. =) It really does seem never-ending. At least most of the changes seem doable, if time consuming. Good luck with yours!

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  3. Two check marks, three doubles and a triple. That's good, isn't it? :) Loved her last line—whatever the critique, that last line, knowing the story works, would give me what I needed to go forth. Happy writing!

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  4. So excited for you!! Revisions are intimidating. Uber. When I began revisions for my first novel, my agent recommended I take each idea and put, in my own words, how I'd make it work.
    It's been my MO from then on. I'm INCAPABLE of revising without doing it. It makes it less daunting for me.

    That said, HANG IN THERE! It sounds like you're ALMOST there ...

    Good luck. (And PS, I passed on the circle of friends love!) Thanks so much.

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  5. Thanks, Andrea! Yes, I think it is good! Thanks so much for the encouragement.

    Thanks, Heidi! I think that's a brilliant idea, trying to put the comments in my own words. I sort of do it already, but not concretely. I'm definitely going to give that a try.

    That's what I need to keep telling myself: I'm ALMOST there. Kind of like looking down the mountain and seeing how far I've climbed! Thanks for all the encouragement!

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  6. This is great. You did major and you're going micro. It feels great to work towards something.

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  7. Except for the days when it feels like the writing is going in circles... but yes, in general, feeling good! =) Thanks, Medeia!

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