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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Group Effort

Being a writer can be a lonely job.  Putting words down on paper is immensely satisfying, but without readers, those words don't mean too much.  And yet allowing just anyone to read your precious story is terrifying.

I was already two-thirds of the way through my first book when I "met" another fledgling writer on an on-line fan forum.  (Okay, full disclosure:  it was a Twilight fan forum.)  We were both interested in finding others like us, women who were beginning to write or beginning to write again, and to that end we put together an on-line writing group.

We found a small group of other women with similar goals.  At first, we just shared our how-we-got-here stories; why we write, what we write and the joys and frustrations of the whole enterprise.  It was such a relief to not feel alone, to know that others were experiencing the same things that I was. 

After a few months, we all bravely took a collective deep breath and shared our writing.  For most of us, it was the first time we'd allowed anyone else to read our words.  It wasn't unlike sending a child out into the cruel world for the first time; it was a very anxious time.  What if no one liked the chapter I shared?  What is they found it inane and stupid? 

Happily, that didn't happen for any of us.  We persevered, and we continued to share.  Well over a year later, we've fallen into a rhythm of submitting chapters or pieces and critiquing each others' work.  We're growing slowly and recently added our second critique group.

It's a great comfort to be able to vent the frustrations of querying, of writer's block and of the hundreds other heartbreaks, large or small, associating with writing.  And of course it's also very heartening to have a built-in cheering squad when things go very right!

Good to know that no matter how the writing is going, I know the group has got my back.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Dreaded Rewrite

One of the first things any book, web site or expert will tell a would-be author is that editing must be ruthless, and the author must be willing to slash her own work.  I'm a fairly decent self-editor, and I correct both as I go along and at the end of each chapter.  When I submit pieces for critique with my writing group,  I get another set of eyes to check for typos, misspellings and grammatical mistakes.

But beyond that kind of editing, it's imperative that an author is willing to cut out unnecessary sentences, paragraphs and even. . .gulp. . . chapters.

It's harder than the uninitiated might think.  For me, each word that I wrote is considered and completely necessary.  How could I think of chopping anything out?

After about six months of submitting, I decided to revisit some of my early chapters.  There was a very good reason for how those chapters are constructed, and I hated to get rid of any of them.  But. . .ruthless, right?  So I cut out one chapter altogether and combined another two.  I was pretty happy with it.

But it's been another six months plus, and lately I've been thinking that it's time to get the (metaphorical) scissors again.  Here's my reasoning:  many agents request the first fifty pages along with a query letter, or if the query or summary interests them, they'll ask for the partial--again, about the first fifty pages.  So those fifty pages carry a pretty large responsibility:  they have to basically sell the entire book.

I like my opening chapters.  In them, the reader gets to know my main character and narrator.  There's a lot of backstory.  However, are they essential?  Could they be cut even more/

I've decided the answer is yes, and that's my project for this week:  to re-write the first chapters of Fearless.  I'm actually pretty excited about it.  With any luck, it will not only be more cohesive but also will cut down the all-important word count significantly.

I'll report back soon and let you all know how it comes together!