Awakening a Sleeping Novel

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What all the stories inside my head look like. (Image by Jennerally via Flickr)

Two months ago I put down my manuscript. It was the same manuscript I had beat out daily for a ten-month period. Now I’m looking to pick it back up, and begin the revision process.

It may seem like far too long to be ‘away’ from the work of writing, but it is not uncommon for writers in any walk of life to voluntarily take (or unfortunately be forced to take) some time off from a major piece of work. And sometimes that ‘time off’ stretches for weeks and months.

Personally, the longer I spend away from my writing, the harder it seems to be to dive back in. I let my fears and doubts eat at me, and worst of all, I allow myself to become distanced from the story.

But today, I’m picking up my (figurative) pen and tackling this novel in what (I hope) is a fearless manner.

First, I have to tackle the most embarrassing of questions: what exactly did I write?

That may seem like a silly statement, but when you have over 200 pages of weaving and changing characters in a massive first draft, more details than I’d like to admit have slipped my mind.

Now, as I never like to offer a problem without a number of solutions, here we are:

  1. Write up an outline from memory and mark specific events that correspond to page numbers in the physical manuscript.
  2. Create scene cards – a la Kirk Hickman’s book Revising Fiction (one of my personal reference bibles for organizing a novel-length story, I discuss some more of his techniques here).
  3. Reference (or create) a Story Bible – A binder full of extra information, extraneous plot lines, research, and anything else that pertains to your novel that may or may not be critical to the actual manuscript
  4.  Re-read the entire story. Keep a notepad handy to write notes as ideas strike you in your read-through, but don’t get caught up re-writing too much dialogue or a scene yet. This is to re-familiarize yourself with the project as a whole, to remember the basic plot and purpose.
Have you got any of your own experiences or strategies? Share them in the comments!
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5 thoughts on “Awakening a Sleeping Novel

  1. Ah the revison stage, it’s the hardest part of writing a novel, in my experance anyway. One thing I’ve found that really helps is to have another writer read over the draft and give their input. This way you have a fresh set of eyes unconnected to the work who can spot things that need work, should stay ect that you would not other wise see.

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  3. having never completed a manuscript (i find i get lost in the details of the story rather than the actual plot line), i can only guess what this kind of ‘Fruit’ this organisation style actually bares.
    I’m happy to say i have #3 down to a T already, seeing as i normally end up with more reference material than actual manuscript. (A habit im working on getting out of actually)
    It seems almost ironic for me to share my habits seeing as they lead to mountains of notes and unfinished work but there may be something in there which may be helpful.
    Rather than an organised reference binder, i usually follow (what i call) A spider diagram of mess. This plots, time , events and scenes in the story. From looking at this one, sometimes, giant piece of paper, i can plot along the story to see where and when characters interact, when events actually happen and make sure its all playing out true to plan.
    This comes in handy during editing (Which is what i get lost in, its probably one of my favourite parts of writing actually). being able to document and cross reference what you have written with the Design outline right in front of you can be helpful. I guess it depends on the size of your desk though.

    Heres hoping i make it to a complete manuscript one worthy of submission oneday.

    Sn2sn-Blog

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