You have written a 300-page novel that took you several months or possibly a year. So, why would you deconstruct your novel after reaching the finish line?
Any published author will tell you that their published novel is the result of several drafts. I read one article in The Writer magazine where the author wrote 11 drafts before publishing a novel. This doesn’t suggest that you start from a blank page and rewrite the entire story–not if you have a computer and writing software (or even if you don’t have writing software).
My approach is to write the first draft. Print it out and begin my deconstruction process on the hard copy. I bring in my demotion team which consists of my critical mind (I once reviewed movies, books, and music) and beta readers (friends or colleagues I meet on social media). Hopefully, the beta readers give me helpful notes to allow me to improve my manuscript.
I also attend writing workshops such as the Write on the Sound conference I attended a few weeks ago and the Chuckanut Writers Conference which I attended in previous years (2014 and 2016). I find writing technique videos on YouTube, read the writing blogs, read articles in the writer magazines, and I read books on writing better. In the future, I plan on buying Scrivener software. I also use Grammarly.
I look for the following which I immediately delete from my manuscript or make the appropriate changes on my hard copy first.
- Passive verbs and sentences
- Tell versus show passages (which I rewrite)
- Overwritten exposition
- Repeated scenarios or phrases
- Pet words
- Bad dialogue
- Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
- Sentences that start with “and” or “but” (I simply remove the “and” or “but”)
- I sometimes combine characters (if I have too many characters and they don’t move the plot forward) or I delete the characters
- A middle section of a novel that moves too slowly
One instructor at the Write on the Sound conference mentioned the practice of deleting 30 percent of a novel. Then you have space to slide in some chunks of backstory, build the plot, and even pepper the story with the appropriate description that allows the reader to engage their senses as they read the story.
While it might seem strange that the deconstruction process is where the story develops, it beats completing the rough draft and staring at the screen asking, “Now, what?” We all know no editor will accept a first-draft or even a third-draft for publication. The rough draft gives a writer the opportunity to plot out the story and develop the characters. Writing a novel is an on-going process that reminds me of old-style photography when a photo developed under chemicals. Emergence takes patience and the willingness to return to the drawing board several times until the story is hot off the press.
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