I am not one for going into situations unprepared. I love to plan–I have backup plans, and backup-to-the-backup-plans. When I teach, I make sure to have at least two backup lesson plans, if not three backup plans, plus a sure-fire, “fun” lesson plan in my back pocket for the occasion where students might not respond to anything I throw at them. (p.s. this only extends to my “work”–when I’m on vacation, I go without nary a list of things to do or schedule!)
Still, I plan in order to gain a sense of security, despite knowing that plans do not cover all bases–because I know that once I enter my classroom, I’m walking that high wire without a net. If I don’t listen to my students, and don’t think on my feet in response, there is no way any sort of plan will save me from rebellion. Oftentimes, I deviate from plan with verve. So much of teaching is intuitive.
My friend Elizabeth tweeted the following link detailing Zadie Smith’s lesson on craft: Are you a macro planner or a micro manager in your writing? Intrigued by these two approaches to writing a novel draft, I clicked.
According to the summary of Zadie Smith’s craft lecture, I’m a macro planner, someone who organizes everything in advance–so much so, that I can start writing from anywhere in the novel (at a certain point, I started skipping around with my chapter-writing, because I had such a clear vision of my structure). At first I ventured out without a plan at all, and then swam back to shore, before I drew up a plan that finally got me across the finish line.
Micro managers do not start with a grand plan, their novels only existing “in the present moment,” written from the beginning to the last word, not knowing what the ending will be until she gets there. (Not me. Might be you?)
Still, like my teaching, so much of my novel writing is intuitive. While I have a clear idea of structure and have an outline, at a certain point in the story, my novel tells me what to do. My characters rebel against my dictatorship and go on strike resisting what I tell them to do until I let them do what they need to do; for example, if they’ve been miserable, I have to let them do something fun. There’s a lot of negotiation going on–and it is at that point of the novel, where I begin to experience a lot more joy in my writing.
This is all to say that..I’m gathering together a sort of plan before I start my revision. I’m a plan-in-advance kind of girl, one who, after a certain point, is more than willing to throw away her plans and go off intuition….but in general, I really do need a plan to start. And this is all new. So I’m feeling freaked out. One of my writing mentors told me that the “real writing” occurs in revision and that too, is freaking me out, because the first draft was hard enough to achieve.
(Also freaking me out is how a Famous-Writer-who-has-won-many-prestigious-awards told me he never revises–he just writes the novel from scratch). But I will ignore that. I will.
Here are things I know to do:
- I’ve printed my manuscript out, in hardcopy.
- I need a pen–to mark up the manuscript, and to jot down things like continuity errors in a notebook.
- A deadline. (I hear a novel can take 2 weeks to revise–others say a month? Spring is busy for me, so I’ll be taking longer than 2 weeks to revise).
- I’ll read the manuscript all the way through. I’ll indicate sections that are good, sections that need work.
- Definitely mark sections that seem expository and go back and provide details.
- I’ll examine character/s: do they each have a purpose for being in the story? Do they make their exits and entries in a sensical way? If they change, is there a sensical reason for their change?
- I’ll examine theme/story: I don’t have to resolve every single conflict/mystery, but are most of them resolved by the end of the novel?
- Does each scene matter? Are there are least three reasons for the scene to exist?
- Examine language closely. Do the characters speak in consistent ways throughout? Is the narration unique, free of clichés…? Are their vivid verbs and nouns?
- Mark BIG continuity errors in the notebook or with a different colored pen. (i.e., make sure the character lives in the same place throughout–that the building is the same)
- Where does the story drag? That’s where my writing’s flat.
- Where does the story move too quickly?
- To be continued….
My novel manuscript awaits my return, sitting in an envelope. Soon, soon, soon!