Saturday, April 23, 2011

Some Mistakes Are Blessings in Disguise

This week I have been very busy revising a novel for the umpteenth time. Have you ever revised a novel, several times, and tightened it up to the point where the word count wound up too low?

Well, that's what happened to me in a project completed the summer before last. I thought it was a big mistake on my part, not the revising, but with all the fluff and unnecesary stuff gone, the whole story seemed too weak. I figured at the time there was no "fire" in it like Donald Maass pointed out in The Fire in Fiction. Disgusted with myself as a writer, I shoved it in a drawer to forget about it.

This week I ran across it cleaning out old paper files. I decided to sit down and read it all the way through. Gosh, I thought, as I read. It has good characters, it has depth, it has a smoldering fire or two, it is definitely fast paced with cliff hangers, but it is just too darn short.

Then I noticed the carefully woven back story. I had worked really hard on that and had done a good job. What would happen if I turned the back story into a chapter? Not a prologue, but an actual new first chapter. I shrugged, it was worth a try.

To my utter surprise and delight, the back story took off with a life of its own. I  not only have a brand new and more exciting first chapter, but also a new chapter two which leads into the former first chapter. Granted I have a lot more to do because these changes cause a domino effect, but it's working--it's growing--and I love the novel all over again! The best thing about the whole experience is the novel is getting so much better. Some mistakes are blessings in disguise.

Happy Easter to all of you!

22 comments:

  1. Blessings in disguise--I so agree. What at first seems to be a mistake is only the next step to making something better. Maybe because it forces us to dig a little deeper? I guess patience plays in there somewhere, too :-)

    Happy Easter to you, too...

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  2. Oh, patience, I have certainly learned that since I began writing!

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  3. How exciting! I love when solutions like that pop up, even if it takes them a long time to arrive. I know exactly what you mean about tightening something to the point where there's not enough left. I find that when I get into that "everything must go" mindset, it's best to put the project away for a while. It sounds like that approach really worked for you!

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  4. What a great experience! Congratulations on your breakthrough and Happy Easter! :)

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  5. That is so cool that you've figured out how to bring new life to it. I definitely believe in blessings in disguise.

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  6. That's fantastic, Catherine. Good job!

    Happy Easter to you, too!!

    Amy

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  7. What an awesome feeling! Congrats on finding a way to make it work, and have fun digging in!

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  8. That's such a cool experience! Thanks for sharing about it~ this post gives me some hope for all my dismissed manuscripts. Maybe I'll give one a second chance someday! Happy Easter to you :)

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  9. That 'shoving in a drawer and forgetting about it' bit is an important part of revising. It always amazes me how distance from a project brings it into focus. It's so exciting when it opens back up like that! :)

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  10. Anna, Amanda,Kimberly, Amy,Lisa, Jess, and Andrea--thanks for stopping by and commenting! Hope you are having a wonderful Easter :)

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  11. I love those sparks of light in the dark...seeing something good in a frustrating situation. Good for you!

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  12. Love when things come together in an unexpected surprise... just brightens the world a bit, resparking new ventures.

    Thanks for stopping by to read my poetry.

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  13. You're welcome, I loved the poem and the picture it represented :)

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  14. I love it when that happens! You probably just needed some space from it. Good luck on getting back into the novel's world. :)

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  15. That's so great, Cathy. I love it when a story speaks to you. I've had moments like that and it's sorta like the story is writing itself!

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  16. I feel you on that, my first novel worked out that way too in that I juggled chapters, added a few scenes and voila, I had something new and shiny that worked a whole lot better.

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  17. I love it when a fresh idea breathes new life into my stories - I've had that happen a couple times, always after having shelved them for a while.

    Thanks for stopping by to wish a Happy Easter - hope you had a wonderful day too.

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  18. Shellie, it is just like it writes itself and all I have to do is type the keys :)

    Joy, didn't it just make your day?

    Margo, I did have a wonderful day! Thanks!

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  19. I love those discoveries! Hope the revising keeps getting better and better.

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  20. Thanks for sharing this, Catherine. The process you went through is a reminder to all of us writers that we need to let our draft sit for a while. Time and distance gives us perspective, both in writing and in life.

    Thanks for your comment. I, too, have very excited about my book. Only two weeks away! And it's coming to pass exactly because of all the revisions it went through. And from the time and distance involved. When I first tried to write it, I hadn't yet lived long enough to do it. Well, if my next memoir takes this long, I'll be 91 before it's done!

    Have a great writing week. It sounds like this novel is taking off. It's so exciting when this happens!
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

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