Well, maybe that’s a pipe dream. We all know that good writing is about revising and polishing, revising and polishing — a lot. But you just might be able to make your writing and revising a little more effective.
The other day, I was having trouble rewriting the opening scene for my novel. I’ve gotten several critiques stating that my opening isn’t strong enough. I have too much back story. My writing is good, but perhaps a little too flowery in places. I should try to eliminate the flashback. I’m on my third major rewrite of the chapter and umpteenth minor edit.
Tuesday was a dreary day outside my studio window. The wind drove the snow into ghostly clouds across the lake. I was getting frustrated.
What to do… what to do…
Here’s what I did. I opened my “scratchpad” on my computer (Word). I took a number of deep breaths to relax (meditation). I closed my eyes and imagined I was my main character. I started to ask myself a series of question and then started free writing (free typing) with my eyes closed. Brainstorming. No limitations. No boundaries. No censorship. I didn’t worry about grammar or spelling; I just wanted to get the facts.
I could have tried handwriting, but I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to read the resultant scratching!
These are some of the things I thought about and recorded:
- what the room looked like where I alternated between sitting restlessly and pacing the tiny space
- I thought about what was going on outside the little window which gave a view to a dreary, windy, rainy day.
- I thought about how I felt physically. Was I shivering? Was I tired from not sleeping the night before? Was I hungry?
- I thought about smells and sounds that might be in the room. What does damp stone smell like?
I recorded all the thoughts going on in my head: the what if‘s, the doubts, the excitement, the nervousness, the fear.
After I typed everything I could think of, I reviewed it and got some insight into what was really going on. I didn’t revise my chapter right away. I’m letting it simmer for a while. Now, when I go back to the scene though, I think I can revise it a bit easier.
Now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t didn’t invent anything new here. I read about free-writing on the Internet and I’ve actually free-written lots of times. But… Why didn’t someone tell me to apply it to my novel!
What tips or tricks do you use when you encounter a difficult chapter, scene, passage, paragraph, or sentence?
Try this exercise! Write away! Let me know how it goes. I know your characters (and your story) will thank you.