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To Finish or to Revise

Recently, I went to Borders, who are having a FANTASTIC sale of buy 4 books, get the 5th free, and among the awesome YA fantasy books I'd been dying to read, I got this one:

While I have often hated "self-help books" and think that my writing is pretty good, I knew there was SOME REASON I couldn't continue my WIP past the first few thousand words. I'd been slaving away, fighting and fighting my words, my outline, my idea, everything. But I still didn't know what it was, I could not force myself through that writer's block. So I swallowed my pride, walked to the register with my head held high, and purchased THE COMPLETE HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING from the editors of Writer's Digest.

Some writers can just write, then revise the discrepancies later. I can't, for the reason that I am a pretty good editor - once the words are in place, I can go through and make it fabulous. I once rewrote a short story for shits and giggles. The problem for me, here and now, is that I'm starting with my own words, with no guidelines set by a teacher or the parameters of a previous story. Its scary, and difficult. So I have to make sure that the chapter I'm writing is good enough for me before going on to the next one. Not to say it has to be perfect and ready to be published, but to a point were I'm confident that the message is there, the flow is clean, and the pace is decent.

I still had not mastered the art of "showing, not telling," because I had no idea what that actually meant. How does one describe a person without telling the reader? Then I read an essay in the handbook, "Mastering Fiction's First Rule" by Jack M. Bickham. He gave examples of each way, showed the differences in how the writing flowed, and when it was okay to slip in an occasional tell. That all really helped, and I looked back at all my previous drafts and saw that telling was all I ever did. I'm still no pro, but I've reworked some of them and it looks a whole lot better.

Apart from that, I've rewritten my opening chapter about 3 or 4 times, and all of them had problems that I couldn't get passed. Yesterday, I chanced on David Kings "The Fifty-Page Dash" essay in the handbook, about hooking your readers from the start. And thats when the lightbulb dinged in my head (blinding my brain, quite frankly). The problem with all of my beginnings? Far too much backstory. The setup was taking too long. If I need to explain something of the past to make the present realistic, then I have other ways to do that. I was actually GETTING BORED with my own story.

So now that I've found my major weaknesses, I'm in the process of detailing YET ANOTHER outline, but I feel far more confident in this one than any other. I just hope that I get through the whole draft, or at least the first half, before I decide its not good enough.

What do you guys think of this book, or other novel writing books on the market? Suggestions and comments welcome! (i.e. plz to leave comments to make me feel specials?)


  1. Eric says:

    I can't comment on the usefulness (or lack thereof) of this book, but I can tell you of a really great book that helps. Check out On Writing by Stephen King. Whether you're a fan of his genre or his works or not, this book will do wonders for your writing. In my opinion, it's an absolute necessity for any writer.

  2. I haven't read that book, but I agree with Eric. On Writing is a great book for writers. Also, when I wrote my first novel, I just wrote it and then went back and fixed all the problems. I'm in the middle of my second novel, and I'm doing the exact opposite. I'm fixing as I write. Personally, I think it worked better for me the first time around, but I can't help myself. My inner editor has taken over!

  3. I haven't read that one, but I'm reading one by James Scott Bell and it's very good.

  4. Thank you so much for the comments! I've heard alot about On Writing by Stephen King, so I'm picking it up on my next trip to the bookstore.

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