Practicing Patience with the Revising Process – Plus, an Excerpt from The Keeper’s Curse!
“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, starting with the first draft and now into revisions. Each article contains a progress update as well as writing / revising tips and excerpts from the updated draft. Today’s installment celebrates 20-percent completion of Draft #2 of THE KEEPER’S CURSE.
I’ve missed this series! It’s been 2 months since the last Chronicle, when I began revising The Keeper’s Curse (TKC). But since May was insanely busy, this gap between postings meant one less thing on my plate last month. Now I’ve reached the 20-percent milestone in Draft #2, and I’m thrilled to have an update for you. 😀
This new round of Chronicles will feature a similar format as the Draft #1 round. I’ll start with a Progress Report, covering what I’ve worked on since the previous Chronicle. Next will be Today’s Tip, where I offer craft-related advice on novel revisions. Finally, the new third section… well, I’d say it’s a surprise, but the subheading sort of gives it away. 😉
The 20-Percent Progress Report
As of Sunday (the last time I worked on TKC), I’ve revised 86 pages out of a total of 428. This brings me halfway through Chapter 8. It’s been a lot of fun revisiting the early sections of this story, and a bit horrifying too. Sometimes I read lines that I first wrote almost 2 years ago, and I ask myself, “What on Earth was I thinking?” A writer can grow so much during the process of writing a single book, especially if it takes a while to complete the first draft. Now the trick is taking what I’ve learned since then and applying it to make the story stronger and more compelling. Hopefully.
While some parts of TKC won’t change too much between Drafts #1 and #2, other parts (well, most of the novel) have undergone or will undergo a major overhaul. Here are some of the general items on my revision checklist that I’ve worked on so far:
- Rewriting scenes, conversations, or entire chapters to steer them in their intended directions
- Condensing overwritten descriptions, especially when it comes to setting
- Rewriting sections originally written in third-person POV to Eva’s first-person viewpoint
- Ensuring the supporting characters are behaving and speaking in ways that are consistent with the profiles / personalities I’ve created for them
One of the “unspoken” priorities this time around is cutting the story’s word count. Draft #1 was about 131,700 words – about 20,000+ over the maximum expectations for YA fantasy. (Eek!) Here’s the headway I’ve made in that department so far:
Friday, April 10th: 131,713 words / 441 pages
Sunday June 17th: 127,929 words / 428 pages
Cut So Far: 3784 words / 13 pages
Not too bad! Two chapters are still on the long side, so they’ll need more trimming in Draft #3. But any day that the word and page counts decrease and the story feels more on track is a good day. 😀
Today’s Tip: Be Patient With Your Writing / Revision Process
Usually the tips in each Chronicle are more craft-related. But with this first revision edition, I wanted to cover a topic that I struggled with very early on in the revising process.
You might recall from the previous Chronicle that I assigned myself a deadline of Wednesday, August 5th for completing Draft #2. Considering that date is 7 weeks away, I’m only 20% of the way through, and my novel-writing time is limited to weekends… Yep. That deadline is already toast. Or, more appropriately, Drogon-roasted.
Once I gave the situation some serious thought, my first question was, “Why do I even have a deadline to begin with?” I didn’t set one while drafting TKC until I had 5 or 6 chapters (roughly 20,000 words) left to go. Self-motivation isn’t an issue, and my work schedule and non-writing commitments haven’t changed. Most importantly, I’m not in any rush to publish the story. So, why a deadline this time?
The only explanation I could think of was this: I wanted Draft #2 to move along faster than Draft #1. In other words, I was being impatient with my novel-writing process.
I don’t know any writers who haven’t battled with patience. Whether we’re comparing ourselves to peers who tweet about their cheetah-fast progress, or we’re groping for the right words or wrestling with a scene or chapter, dealing with impatience and frustration is part of the job description. Then again, writing a novel isn’t meant to be easy. Of course, that’s not why we do it – but if we expect it to be easy, we risk making the journey more stressful and less fulfilling.
Each of us is unique. As a result, each writer has a unique process, full of quirks and rituals, strengths and weaknesses, organization skills and speed – and each of us needs to honor our individual writing process. Not all of our writerly habits will be ideal, and while some can be improved on or broken because they’re within your control, you can’t help any habits that aren’t. That’s when we need to exercise patience with ourselves, or else we end up beating ourselves up over it.
What did I do to regain patience with and honor my process? I let go of the deadline. My process had already worked well before without one. And since I’m in no rush to publish TKC, the deadline serves no real purpose. Since then, I’ve felt more relaxed about the revisions and enjoyed the process so much more. With the occasional grunting and head-desking, but that’s to be expected, right?
And remember that concern about Draft #2 taking as long to complete as Draft #1? Well, it took me about 7 months to complete eight chapters of TKC’s first draft – and about 8 weeks to reach the same point this time around. 😉
Are you struggling to be patient with your writing or revising process? Maybe these tips might help:
- It’s all about consistency in motivation, not consistency in statistics. Historical fiction writer Heather Webb made several awesome points at Writers In The Storm about dedication and consistency in our writing habits. For example, we can’t always judge our writing or revising sessions by statistics (e.g., how many words or pages added). Some days will be more challenging than others to get the same amount of work done. Instead, practice consistency in your routine. There’s a reason why they say sitting down and actually doing the writing is the hardest part of all.
- Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Dwelling on how others write faster or have a more efficient process never helps with patience or self-esteem. Instead, focus on empowering yourself and remembering that your methods work for you. If you’re still envious, use that envy as energy to fuel your next session. And who knows? Maybe that other writer’s methods might not work for you anyways.
- Recognize what’s within your control. Outside factors can slow down our process, especially if you don’t write full time. However, we can’t ignore priorities we may love as much (family life, friends) or need for financial reasons (day jobs). Don’t fight the time you have to spend away from your stories. Accept it – and enjoy it, if you can – and you’ll alleviate some of the pressure you put on yourself.
- Re-adjust goals or self-set deadlines as needed. If a deadline motivates you to get writing, then by all means make one. However, if progress is taking longer than expected despite any changes you make within your power, consider the changes you can control. How much more time will you need at your current rate to finish this draft? Are you expecting too much from yourself? Be brave and ask yourself honest questions, then make alterations based on those answers.
- Know and respect your limits. Don’t push yourself if you’re too tired or emotionally drained. It’s a subconscious signal that the writing session needs to end. Unless you have a specified deadline to meet, turn off the laptop and rest. You deserve a recharge after all your hard work.
- Be kind to yourself. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Never feel obligated to pull all-nighters, skip meals, or neglect other self-care for the novel’s sake. It will only heighten your stress levels and could lead to creative burn-out. Leave plenty of time for exercise, meditation, a good night’s sleep, and so on. Your mind and body will thank you for it later.
NOTE: Some of the tips above are repurposed from my guest post at Wendy Lu Writes, “A Pep Talk for Slow Writers.”
Remember that the above advice is only advice. You know how you work best as a writer. Therefore, any struggles with patience must be tailored to your individual process. And once you adopt those practices, you’ll feel lighter, more inspired, and less overwhelmed. And maybe less like this, too. (*inserts gratuitous Drogon gif because she can’t help herself…*)
Excerpts To Compare For Feedback: The First Page of The Keeper’s Curse
Yes! With this round of Chronicles, I’m going to share excerpts from TKC to show readers how the novel has evolved during Draft #2. Thanks to Colin Mobey for the idea!
First, I’ll provide original text from Draft #1, with typos and such still included. Then, I’ll share the same block of text from Draft #2. The thought of doing this shakes me down to my marrow, since I still consider the story “not ready for anyone else’s eyes.” However, I think it will be fun to finally share bits of the story with you. Plus, this could be a good way of getting early feedback. Feel free to read the two samples, compare them to see what has changed, and then post your reactions or suggestions as part of your comments.
Today’s excerpts represent one of the most crucial parts of a novel. Each is the first page of Chapter 1 from its respective draft. If you could, please let me know the following:
- Any general comments you have on the Draft #2 excerpt
- Do you think Draft #2’s excerpt is an improvement over Draft #1’s? Why or why not?
- Would you want to keep reading the story after Page 1?
DRAFT #1, Page 1
I crouched down behind a tree and peeked out from behind, watching, waiting for movement from any direction. My wings were drawn close to my back. If I kept them loose and open, even the faintest sunlight would reflect off the gossamer and give away my hiding place. In my right hand I carried my bow. My uncle Lusan had made it from yew wood when I was eight years old, the year when I first told him and Aunt Maji that I wanted to be a Council member. At first he scowled and said, “You’re a girl. Banish the thought, and do what’s expected of you.” Late that night, he caught me practicing with my cousin Gidion’s bow and arrows, shooting apples cleanly through their cores, and realized I would not take “no” for an answer. The memory made me smile, and my thumb caressed the smoothed wood of the bow. My left hand was empty. I did not need an arrow for what I would need to do when the time came.
After moments of quiet and stillness, I withdrew and leaned against the tree. They had to be close by. I had already heard two pairs of yelps that could only belong to boys – Faerie boys, that is. Which meant that Keli had found Nito and Doni, and I was the only one left. Whoever struck first would win the game.
Inhaling, I let my senses study my surroundings. The sweet scent of pine floated in the air. Birds chirruped in the branches above me. A breeze rustled the leaves and needles of Kasialonen’s medley of trees. But I heard no voices, no footsteps, not even the humming of wings. Keli was cunning like that, though. He was the Council spy expert, after all; he had the best eyesight and hearing out of the seven of us, and he had taught himself to tiptoe through the forest without ever breaking a twig underfoot. It would be impossible for me to sense him through the five usual senses – but I could through my magic.
DRAFT #2, Page 1
I crouched down behind an elderberry bush and studied our target through breaks between the feather-like leaves. Several paces ahead was a lone white-tail doe. Her neck angled downward as she nibbled on a tuft of forest grass, and her ears and tail were relaxed. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while, as long as we were quiet.
Doni pressed himself onto the ground beside me. The afternoon sunlight glistened on his hair of gold-streaked copper, and his gossamer wings were drawn close to his back, just as mine were. “Now?” he mouthed, grasping his hunting bow.
I nodded. “Remember. Aim slowly, then shoot when your instincts say so.”
Doni slowly rose to bended knee and pulled an arrow from the quiver on his back. His round, babyish face hardened with concentration, making him seem older than his fourteen years. When Doni joined the Council of Selanaan five months earlier, he’d blushed when he admitted his father had rarely taken him hunting, instead encouraging Doni to study history and become an advisor to the King of Fae. Without hesitation I had volunteered to teach Doni how to use his bow and arrow, and not purely out of sympathy. We’d waited to start until winter had passed and spring beckoned the animals from their season of sleep. Now, after several target lessons and struggling with impatience, Doni seemed like he was getting the knack of hunting.
The doe moved on to the next tuft of grass, unaware of our presence. The woods gave her no reason to suspect otherwise. Birds chirruped and flitted around as if it was a normal spring day. A breeze rustled the leaves and needles of Kasialonen’s trees, stirring the fresh scents of pine and moist earth. I relished the smells of spring, then brought my focus back to Doni. His foot and bent knee pointed toward the doe as he nocked his arrow and pulled back his string arm. His shoulders open and relaxed, his grip on the bow not too firm. He was ready.
What do you think of the excerpts above? Do you think the example from Draft #2 is an improvement over the example from Draft #1?
Also, have you struggled with being patient about your writing or revising process? How did you learn to manage this – or does it still trouble you now? Feel free to share your responses to any of these questions, or any other thoughts you might have, in the Comments section below.