Monday, March 10, 2008
TRIAGE FOR WRITERS
So you've got a first draft. Congratulations! Feels good, doesn't it? What an accomplishment it is just getting from the title to "the end."
Go ahead, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and/or raise a glass of wine. Feel very very pleased with yourself. Then ask youself this question: What now? Because, as Sol Stein says in his book STEIN ON WRITING, "the biggest difference between a writer and a would-be writer is their attitude toward rewriting."
If you're gonna make it in this writing business, you've gotta be willing to revise. And Stein offers a great way to do it: triage. Basically it involves addressing the most serious issues in your manuscript first.
Don't start at page one, start with the place you know in your gut is not up to speed with the rest of the book. Keep doing this until you have repaired the major arteries then go back for the small stuff. Stein says this will keep you from growing cold on your own manuscript.
And he's right: right now I am in the tent performing a sex-change operation. My main character is a girl, and traditional wisdom say surely her best friend is also a girl. So I wrote the whole first draft that way. But then I got to thinking more about this girl, about who she is and what she wants. The way I've written her, she would not have a girl best friend. It's got to be a boy.
The quick-fix, of course, is the character's name. Check. Next there's all those sneaky little pronouns. Check. But most important? the mannerisms.
I wonder what surgery I'll be performing next??
“If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster.”
- Isaac Asimov