Saturday, July 3, 2010

This has helped me...

I'm in the middle of huge revisions on my MS. I've lots of time to work now that school is out.

But more important than that, I have a deadline. I applied to be part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Program participants are matched with a mentor who will work with them for six months (six months!) to get their MS on track.

I'll know by August 1 if I've been accepted. If I am accepted, I'll have to send my mentor my MS within a week of the notification.

So, I've been hauling though my MS, revising the new second half that I wrote last year. This is not a pruning, polishing sort of revision. This is digging in, up to my elbows, so I can extract gems from the rough draft and arrange them in some sort of compelling order.

I'm halfway through, but it's been exhausting work. Several times I've finished revising a chapter and not been able to tell whether it's been an improvement. I'd lost my vision, which is a big part of revision (six letters, by my count).

My tendency is to push on through, to show the MS who's boss, but Steph mentioned a piece of advice that Alisha Niehaus gave her: if a scene is giving you trouble, write a few scenes past it, and then come back to it.

Yes, it is ridiculously simple, but it has been saving my bleary-eyed self. When I get tired, I lose perspective of what's working, what's necessary. Every time I've worked a few scenes ahead, it's given me a better idea of what needs to happen to set up the scene I've moved ahead to. Then I'm able to return to the difficult scene, weed out the unnecessary, and emphasize what's working.

So, for those of you who are working hard, who (like me!) will be as pale at the end of this summer as you were at the beginning, consider skipping ahead when you hit a wall. I'd also love to hear any other tips you might have for tackling a difficult stretch of writing.


Steena Holmes said...

that is great advice! I'm sloughing through a scene right now - not sure if it's hard because I built it up to be that way or because it really is hard ... hmmm ..

Sarah said...

Sometimes the simplest scenes are the hardest for me because I'm trying to communicate necessary info and make in interesting. Or... it can be a scene like the one I've been working on. There are too many strands to braid.

(Steena, are you still working on the carnival scene?)

Tess said...

What a great opportunity ... I hope it works out! And, yes, a little distance gives perspective. I forget this good advice all the time, thanks for reminding.

Sarah said...

Thanks, Tess. Fortunately, I don't have too much longer to wait.

I'd always believed that distance gave perspective, but I thought of it in macro-terms: putting the MS in a drawer for a few months, that sort of thing. I thought it was cheating to apply the concept on a smaller scale, but I'm a believer now.

Kristi Tuck Austin said...


You have so many opportunities this summer. Keep us posted.

Thanks for this post; I need it.

You reminded me of a Nathaniel Hawthorne quote Lena Roy left on her blog (pardon the language): "Easy reading is damn hard writing."

It sounds like you're on the right track.

Sarah said...

Kristi, that is so true! I'm certainly feeling the hard part right now. Still, it has been so nice to have time to write.