Monday, January 23, 2012

From Rough to Final: TEN Dissections

So, do you remember the last time I blogged? Like, two hours ago? This blog post was originally scheduled to be that blog post, because I hadn't planned on winning a Printz Honor or Odyssey Honor today. Anyway, I did, and I posted about them first, but now that that little life-paradigm-changing news is out of the way, I can talk about a group effort that I'm really pleased about.

This is going to be a writing post.

I'm a hands-on learner, one of those people who would prefer to be told "recreate x" without a strict set of directions on how to get there. So when I posted my dissection of a rough chapter from THE SCORPIO RACES, with a description of why I changed the things I did, I was doing it because it would've helped starting-out-writer-Maggie in a way that theory never seemed to. For me, it was all right to be told how to do something. But it was even better to see someone at work at that something. If they would describe what they were doing at the same time, even better, but really, the most important thing was the work in progress. It's why when I taught my colored pencil classes, I used to do the same thing:

Moose in Progress

The reaction to my chapter dissection suggested that I wasn't alone in my learning style, and a few commenters wished that other authors might do something similar. I shot out some feelers and I'm pleased to tell you, some other authors are doing just that. Below is a list of dissection blog posts by ten other authors. I hope this helps show just how many different ways there are to get from A to B, and also gives everybody ideas on which way might be right for them. And thanks to the readers who prodded me in this direction. Without further ado, the blog posts:

  • Kimberly Derting writes about THE PLEDGE, developing real characters, and debating swearing and no-swearing.

  • Jaclyn Dolamore writes about MAGIC UNDER GLASS and pacing issues, struggling with descriptive versus info-dump, and the cutting of entire human beings from drafts.

  • Sonia Gessler writes about THE REVENANT and how to flesh out a moment using knowledge gained through multiple drafts. Fascinating stuff for those of you who tend to end up with really short drafts and aren't sure what you're missing (as I was when I first started out).

  • Dawn Metcalf writes about LUMINOUS and the process of finding out the difference between what the reader needs to see in order to know what's going on versus what you need to write to find out for yourself what's going on.

  • Saundra Mitchell writes about THE VESPERTINE and how drastically pacing can and should change, especially in crucial early chapters. Bonus round: examination on how to balance period language in your novel.

  • Jenny Moss writes about SHADOW and, like Sonia, talks about how you can take a very spare manuscript and turn it from a skeleton into a creature with flesh and facial features. Moreover, looks at the timeline for writing a novel, and just how long a quick draft can really take.

  • Jon Skovron writes about MISFIT and a very satisfyingly changed final draft — lots of red Xs and vanishing prose in this one, people. Though my Scorpio dissection made me look like a very tidy reviser, my process with MagicalNovel and Shiver looked a lot more like Jon's process with Misfit.

  • Kiersten White writes about PARANORMALCY and her line-by-line attack on her draft. To me, it feels very familiar — definitely similar to the thought process I undertook when cleaning up Scorpio.

  • Brenna Yovanoff writes about THE SPACE BETWEEN and her extremely skeletal first drafts. Brenna's one of my two critique partners and I've always been stunned and delighted and afraid of her first drafts — they are alien things of terror, full of non-words. I'm wishing she would've shown one of her more terrifying pages (they are full of place holder thingies) but you probably will learn more frm the one she picked.

  • Margo Lanagan writes about THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND. I very much enjoy Margo's precise language and in her dissection of her latest selkie novel, I can see where it comes from. Click on the images below to see them larger.

    Lanagan, first draft Rough Draft

    Lanagan, as novella As Novella

    Lanagan, final Final Draft

    Margo's Comments:
    Lanagan Comments 1Lanagan Comments 2Lanagan Comments 3Lanagan Comments 4

Okay. So now what is going to happen is I am going to go make the world's largest batch of chocolate chip cookie dough because I just don't see how I can process the events of this week without it. Tomorrow I'm flying out to work on my anthology with Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton and I'm afraid they're going to have to bear the brunt of my demented grinning.
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