Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Taking a Story to the Next Level

I hear a lot of advice about not sending manuscripts out before they are ready, and not being impatient. I try not to do that. But I think that sometimes I just didn't have enough knowledge and experience to know that some of those manuscripts I sent out weren't ready.

I get lots of feedback from my critique group and beta readers. And I let my manuscripts "rest" for weeks, sometimes months, and go over each word again before I decide I'm ready to submit them. They always seem pretty good to me, until the rejection letters start flowing in.

But after the hard work I put into my latest revision, I now know that there's another level to aim for. I'm not sure how to describe it, but this time my story feels different. I think the reason is that I set out to revise with specific goals in mind, and I made deliberate decisions and choices for the good of the story. As a result, it feels like the story is somehow more "complete" even though it was a completed story before I started.

Have you ever felt that you've taken your story to an entirely new level? What strategies did you use to get there?




15 comments:

  1. I tend to look at individual scenes trying to make them work as short stories almost so I'm not always relying on what's gone on before.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. Interesting approach. I do work on individual scenes but I think that what was different this time is that I saw them more in the context of the entire story.

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  2. Yes I do know what you mean. I've gotten bolder in my revisions and am making more major changes for the good of the story. It's hard though to know if it's "done" because you can always find things to fix.

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    1. So true, Natalie! I feel like my stories are never finished and can always be improved. For me, that's one of the hard things about knowing whether they are ready to submit.

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  3. I try to get better as I go--each story is a little more expert in every area than the last. That's my technique.

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    1. One of the things I love about writing is that there's always more to learn!

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  4. I felt that way with the MG that landed me an agent and that said agent is currently submitting. How did I get there? I hired a freelance editor. Everyone is different, of course, and working with an editor may not be your thing. (And it was a financial commitment.) But for me it made a world of difference. I had taken the story as far as I could on my own and with the help of my critique partners. An outside set of eyes was just what I needed and she pushed me to grow as a writer. She called me out on my weaknesses and pointed out my strengths and this has helped as I've tried to tackle my current project.

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    1. A great strategy, Car! Sometimes its easy to ignore or overlook your own weaknesses (or strengths).

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    2. I agree. An outside set of eyes is often what it takes to be able to see the weaknesses in our stories. Also having those outside eyes read the entire thing at once, instead of a chapter or two at a time like a critique group sometimes does. That's definitely what's helped me the most.

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    3. Yes! You get such a different perspective reading a book as a whole than you do with a couple of chapters at at time.

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  5. I have felt like that, but I still don't think it's at its highest level yet.

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    1. Ha! I never think my work has reached its highest level. Are all writers perfectionists, I wonder?

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  6. That's great that you feel your story is going to a another level.

    It's really hard to explain or put into words but I think as writers we instinctively know when a story is not quite ready.

    I know for me, my character development wasn't deep enough and that is what I've worked on during this last revision. Like you, the revision feels different. Deeper if that makes sense.

    Keep working and writing. :)

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    1. Yeah, deeper is a good way to describe it.

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  7. I think having beta readers who read the whole thing at once, as opposed to a crit group that reads a chapter at a time with a space between, plus a new level of willingness to make MAJOR changes in revision, are the two most important factors in taking it higher, at least for me.

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