Saying Goodbye to Camp (for Now)

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-Banner(Sorry for the lack of a blog last week–we were busy finishing up Camp NaNoWriMo. Here’s a wrap up.)

It’s May, of course, and that means Camp NaNoWriMo is over.  Or at least the April session is over.  There’s another one coming up in July, which everyone should totally try to remember.

My book, The Last Bright Angel, is finished, and I’m officially credited with 141,921 words.  I’ve been revising the book, though, and it’s actually up to 148,907, for what that’s worth.

When I revise something like this, I usually read through it multiple times.  The first time, I’m just looking for major errors of logic and typos.  But I do keep a little list of notes—things that I want to remember to go back and look at the next time through.

The second time, I read through according to POV characters.  First I read all the Faustinus chapters in order, then all the Daryna chapters, and so on.  In a book like this, where there are eight POV characters, this can really help, because it’s easy to forget what a character is supposed to “sound” like if you’ve written chapters for three other characters in between.  When you read only that character’s chapters, it’s very easy to tell whether he or she seems like the same person throughout the whole book.

I made up a chart for the POV characters, so I could keep track of various little stylistic quirks that they each had—everything from whether they used second person in narration to what kind of profanity (if any) they preferred.  How long could their sentences be?  How long could their paragraphs be?  What kind of metaphors would they use?  And so on.  As I read through the second time, I checked each chapter against this style sheet, and made adjustments where necessary.

The third time I read through from start to finish again, checking each chapter against my outline (which, as I may have mentioned before, is a sort of hybrid of the classic Syd Field Three Act Structure, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, and Save the Cat).  I made sure that each chapter actually accomplished the things it was supposed to, like “Show direct conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist (or his minions).”

Now I’m reading through a fourth time, and again, I’m just checking for typos, logical consistency, and the overall flow of the plot.  Once I’m done with this, the only thing left to do will be to read it aloud with S—always the most important (and most highly anticipated) part of our revision process.

J


Seeing J’s revision process laid out like this makes me realize what entirely different novels we worked on this Camp. I have one POV character and the novel is a third the length. Yet, I think I’m further away from finishing mine. My novel, The Queen’s Tower, was originally drafted during last November’s NaNoWriMo, and I used Camp to make some pretty significant revisions. However, before heading off to Camp, I did not completely fix the problem I mentioned in a blog back in March—my lack of a full outline.

Yes, I managed to do some outlining before Camp, but it still wasn’t as thorough an outline as I typically do. This means that as I revised, I came up with nearly as many new issues to tackle as I solved. I made it all the way through the novel, but I ended with a list of changes to make as long as the one I had before I started. I know part of that is due to not spending more time on the outline, but I also think I needed to read through the novel again before I could understand all the issues facing me.

So, since I was actually keeping track of time spent revising and converting that to words for Camp (1 hour=500 words), I finished out the month creating a new outline, complete with two brand new chapters. The most significant changes going forward include adding some characters, a few who existed in passing in the first draft, and one who I created with the help of some folks from my writers group.

As I mentioned in that pre-Camp blog, the section of my novel that most worried me was the second half of Act 2. It was a lot of people talking with almost nothing happening. Thanks to J and two regulars from my writers group, I realized that what I needed to do was “kick down the door” as Brandon Sanderson put it in a Writing Excuses podcast, meaning I needed to do something drastic to shake things up and see what came from it. The obvious way to kick down the door at a feast is to poison someone, and seeing as how poisoning is integral to the climax of the novel, it struck me as a good way to set that up. There was a character I’d mentioned in passing who I thought would make a good victim, but if I wanted said character to be more than a redshirt, I needed to go back and make her a real character.

And in large part, that’s what my next pass is going to focus on—making characters matter throughout who matter at the end of the novel. There’s also an element of mystery to the story, and tweaks to that aspect can always be done. So, I’m about to set off on round three of The Queen’s Tower, at the end of which I’m hoping it will be ready to share with J who can give me feedback for a fourth draft. In a perfect world, I might even get that done before July’s Camp NaNo, at which I would love to return to revisions of my first Oleg Omdahl book. Fingers crossed.

~S

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