Showing more work

wikimedia commons image, artist unknown

Second in a series of indeterminate length, showing revision work on a novel-in-progress, currently titled Dr. Miracle’s Medicine Show

Here’s another early section of the novel, which introduces new characters:

Mary poked the campfire for the hundredth time that evening, wishing there was some way she could help. A sound brought her head up. Thérèse’s black cat, Noir, leapt from the opening just before Thérèse eased down the canted steps. Thérèse looked fifty years old tonight, though Mary knew she was no more than twenty-five.

“How is he?” Mary asked.

Doc hadn’t wanted Mary in the wagon, and she hadn’t wanted to be there. His gray, drawn face had made her uneasy.

“He’ll be all right. For now.“ Thérèse came over and stirred the fire as if even on this warm night, she felt cold. She didn’t meet Mary’s eyes. “It’s just—he isn’t getting any younger.”

Mary didn’t know how old Doc was, not for sure. He seemed to have aged a lot just in the last few months, though. Therese wasn’t telling her everything. Despite her fear, this annoyed Mary. She might be just a kid, but she wasn’t a fool. When the silence stretched too long, Mary finally said, “What’s wrong with him?”

And here’s the above section, revised:

Mary poked the campfire for the hundredth time that evening, watching sparks dance and settle and wishing she knew what to do. Doc hadn’t wanted her in the wagon, saying she was too young. Normally when he said that she would argue, but his gray, drawn face kept her quiet.

A sound brought her head up. Thérèse’s black cat, Noir, leapt from the wagon opening just before Thérèse eased down the canted steps. Though she was no more than twenty-five years old, Thérèse looked more like forty tonight.

“How is he?” Mary asked.

“Comfortable, more or less.“ Thérèse stirred the fire as if even on this warm night, she felt cold. She sat on a camp stool, not meeting Mary’s eyes. “It’s just—he isn’t getting any younger.”

Stupid thing to say. Mary had seen how fast Doc had aged in the last few months. She didn’t know exactly how old he was, not for sure. She didn’t even know exactly how old she was, though according to Doc’s best guess, she was ten or eleven. She challenged Therese. “You ever met anyone who gets younger?”

Therese stared into the fire. Noir jumped into her lap and she stroked him absently.
When the silence stretched too long, Mary said, “What’s wrong with him?”

So there’s this Magical Medicine Show…now what?

One can work in one’s peignoir

The lovely people at National Novel Writing Month are pushing a new thing, or at least a thing I don’t remember them being as pushy about in previous years. Now that we’ve all written a novel, they’re all about making it good. And because I’m into the whole “Show Your Work” movement, you get to read about how I’m going about making it good.

NaNoWriMo works for me because of the combination of deadlines and the group solidarity. In the past, I either haven’t had a novel with any potential, or I didn’t want to go through the scary, scary revision process all on my own. Luckily, one of my writing peeps, KatherineWriting is leading an editing path as an activity of our local writing group, The Writing Journey. She’s all about deadlines and group solidarity. This past week, those of us who are participating received an email with this request from her:
Please post a brief blurb about what you’re planning to do for the Editing Path. (Often it helps people achieve their goals if they write them down.)

  • Where are you starting? It doesn’t have to be chapter one.
  • What do you intend to do first? Quick overview changes, detailed line by line, or ?
  • How much do you hope to get done in February? How many chapters per week?

Here are my answers.

Where am I starting?

Pretty close to the beginning. I spent December and the beginning of January going through the novel I drafted in November of 2012 and November of 2013. I smooshed the two drafts together and attempted to remove extraneous character, scenes, etc. I’ve been looking at the first section with mixed feelings of dismay and delight, mucking around in it a bit. Time to stick a fork in it and move on.

What am I doing first?

I’d like to get it to pass the sniff test—making sure it doesn’t stink. Shall I count the ways in which it might stink? That will take too long. The least painful way to ease in will probably be to:

  1. Fill in the blanks. I have some bracketed and/or highlighted text which might denote a missing character name, location or some specific research detail. So fix those bits.   
  2. Make sure I buy the character motivations. I remember a few of them as needing work.   
  3. Remove overwriting and redundancies. Repetitive redundancies. You know, where you say things more than once even though the reader got it the first time.
  4. If I have any time after that, I’d like to fill in specific sensory details. More showing, less telling. Not so much white room syndrome. All that good stuff.

How much do I hope to get done in February?

I would dearly love to get the novel in good enough shape to share with beta readers (alpha readers?) by the beginning of March. Or by March 14 at the latest. It’s not exactly in chapters, more like scenes or sections. A March 1 deadline would mean about one section (averaging 4500 words) per day; I’m not sure I can do that in three hours, let alone one. I may or may not have the damned thing* ready by May. Though of course if I feel I’m on the right track, I can always start sharing chapters before I’m all the way through. That’s probably what I’ll end up doing. If you like being of service to your fellow man (or woman in this case) watch this space for requests for beta readers.

*Sorry. I didn’t mean “damned thing.” I meant “my wonderful, exciting novel about which I’m passionate.”