Writing can often feel like hard work. That’s because it is. But you can batter the joy out of your writing if you can’t also bring to it a sense of play.
“You need this pen, right? Here you go, I’ll just…oops.”
If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know I’ve brought many revisions to a novel manuscript called Three Prayers. Sometimes I let it sit like a naughty child in the corner. Maybe an abandoned toy in the backyard would be a better metaphor, because I let it sit for months at a time. Sometimes I think I will give up and stop trying to rework it because selling it seems hopeless. But then I get drawn back.
I decided to play with it again last month.
“This is the best part!”
For some reason (who knows how my mind works), I thought I’d mess around with the point of view. Instead of having three different POV’s writing in third person past tense, what if I changed only one of the three to first person? And then I went further and changed that POV to first person present tense.
It seemed to be working, so I kept on. Although the story stayed the same, Liezel began to speak up in ways she hadn’t when she didn’t get to tell her own story. So even if this POV has to be changed back, I’ll have some new ways to write about Liezel.
Before I got too far with this new POV, I had others read several pages to see if it worked for them. Most weren’t bothered by the odd shift. And I was liking it. So I revised the whole novel with this new perspective. I’m still waiting to hear what my agent thinks of this revision. It was a lot of hard work. But it was still play time. And that’s always good.
Last month I got to go on a trail ride in the Smokies. Tennessee is entrancing–the trail wound up and down steep paths, over a stream, past a waterfall. Beautiful. And I loved being back on a horse like my sisters and I used to do every vacation.
But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the horse. It seemed arduous having to climb so steeply with a rider on its back, going over the same trail time and time again. (This picture doesn’t show the steep parts of the trail.)
I don’t think horses are unhappy being ridden. But I think there’s probably a huge difference between being ridden by someone they know and love, going on adventures together–a huge difference between that and toiling over the same ground over and over with a stranger (usually inexperienced) plunked upon them.
I’d be interested to know what horse enthusiasts think about this.
It did make me remember the research I undertook when I was writing the horse parts of my novel (working title–Three Prayers). One of my main characters was an animal lover/healer. I needed Daniel to be able to lead his horse without a halter, so I started looking on YouTube to see how it might be done. I ran across some videos that showed how to join-up with your horse. Fascinating. They showed how to get your horse to willingly follow you, as if they’re your walking companion. Here’s one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfaUPeYBfTY It gave me goosebumps the first time I saw it.
They wouldn’t have had this method in 1850, at least not named, but I like to think Daniel would have this same sort of relationship with his horse, Babe.
One of the fun parts of writing a novel is discovering what you don’t know about a subject and then learning some cool and interesting things you might never have looked into otherwise. Working on Three Prayers has taught me about goats, cheese-making, cuckoo clocks, the underground railroad in Indiana and Michigan, folk medicinal plants, pioneer life…I could go on and on. What a world!
My oldest son is getting married in a week and I have lots to do to get ready for guests. But I couldn’t help myself–I had to take some time out to reshrink my manuscript so I can make sure everything is where it ought to be.
Let’s get ‘er done
If you want instructions for shrinking your manuscript to get an all-in-a-glance overview, go to Darcy Pattison’s blog here: http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript/
This novel-in-progress, Three Prayers, lays out at three rows of seven. It was 87 pages of manuscript before it was shrunk.
In the original shrinking, I could see where chapters needed to be added or divided. In this shrinking after revision (close to the time when I’ll be submitting it to my agent, Stephen Fraser), I noticed one chapter was abnormally long and I split it. This exercise of Darcy’s has been extremely helpful to me, a visual learner.
I can only cover 5 pages with my fabulous furry body