Sparked by Words

The first time I wrote the words “The End” after completing my first book was a moment of exultation. I’d done it, finished a task begun nearly four years earlier, a feat I’d been told that many aspiring writers never achieve. While so many people open a document intending to write the Great American Novel, many write a few chapters and become discouraged by the hard work and consistent effort necessary to get the job done. But I’d fulfilled my dream. Thousands of hours writing and researching, and I had a finished book to show for it, “The End” written in bold face at the bottom of the last page.

Hoping for publication within a year (yeah, a mighty big dreamer) I shouted myself hoarse and did a really bad version of dancing. More like stomping with Peg Leg Pete. Still, it was an exciting moment, to have written an entire book. I’ve probably heard your shout of jubilation if you’ve gotten to that moment with your own work. You’ve certainly heard mine.

Thing is, “The End” never is the end, at least not the first time you write it. It’s just another pause on the way to revision. And revision is another opportunity to find the power in your vision, to clinch what you’re really trying to say. The fact that you’ve completed a book is commendable but don’t send out the queries yet.

There are two parts of revision and each is equally important to putting the gloss on your story. Now you must read your book twice with a different goal in mind for each reading. The first reading is to correct the details that might have gone on a walk in the rain.  Delete or correct all the garbage that bogs down your story and makes it read as amateur. “Hi, how are you? I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” Nobody wants to read that drivel. Pull out empty words like nice, very, little, words that leave your story sounding hungry. Correct spelling, grammar, verb tense, and other mechanical errors that mimic a sixth grade creative writing project. Check for consistency and flow, making sure that loose ends connect, that changes and details are uniform throughout, and that sections cut and pasted into new chapters didn’t leave a muddy footprint in their original locations. Make a final decision about the fork in the road where the story might go two different ways. Choose one for your book and pile boulders on the other. If you lapsed into some quirky experiment with voice, character, or plot twist, this is the moment to determine its effectiveness and crush it if it isn’t. You don’t want your book to read as if Hansel and Gretel are still lost in the forest.

The next revision task is more complex and demands focused attention, the critical eye that will detect holes in your theme, or subplot trails meandering into the wilderness. All main characters should be three-dimensional, as full of woe and doubt as bravado and courage. Your story must have complexity, the quality that places your characters within a bigger circumstance of war, poverty, discovery, rebellion, tribal conflict, or national change. It must have context, the subtle but significant undercarriage that draws attention to universal ideas of redemption, love, betrayal, sacrifice, jealousy, revenge, loyalty, or coming of age. Your plot should reveal the thing your protagonist most wants to achieve, the fiery pits that deter him, and the underlying drive to transcend the ordinary to become nobler than what he used to be. This is the intuitive part of your story where you as a writer reveal substance of thought. It can’t be a single reference to a Big Important Idea because that will read as a clumsy afterthought, but must be built into the action and internal thoughts of your characters.

Work deliberately to complete these two revisions. Now when you look at those words at the bottom of your manuscript, they really mean what they say: “The End,” primed and ready to contact your beta reader, send out queries, or attach an ISBN. Ah, to earn such bliss.

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Comments on: "Right Back after This Short Break" (23)

  1. It only takes a writer one book to realize that writing is never done. To (badly) paraphrase a country song by a singer I’ve forgotten… “Every storm runs out of rain. Every night turns into day.” But a writer is never done writing.

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  2. Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

    Nice post! Did you ever find success with your pictures?

    Enjoy your day,
    Scoop

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    • Thank you about the post, Scoop. Photos – haven’t had time to deal with this issue. A lot going on outside of blog writing.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Oh yeah…I know that program. Good luck with all of it! I really like the way you’ve set up the other parts of your site…background images and all.

        Enjoy your day,
        Scoop

        Like

      • Hey, Scoop, thank you so much. A good friend helped with the website. If it looks good, she is owed much credit. So thanks, JM.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Well, we all need an “assist” at times. I can’t say how many times I messed things up while learning what little bit I know!

        And a big thank you to your friend as well! Take care and enjoy your day…

        Scoop 🙂

        (JM…is that you?)

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      • Most of us learn by the grace of those who are kind and generous. JM is a real friend, certainly not myself. Thanks for your support and take care, Scoop.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Okay, now I got it. Couldn’t understand how “JM” might be connected to Sharon, unless you were using a “blog name” like I am.

        Glad to hear from you, and yes, we all get by “with a little help from our friends!”

        Enjoy your day,
        Scoop

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      • Hi Scoop,
        I figured you would get it. I’m just trying to say Thank You to someone without invading their privacy. Shari

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Yep, I have done the same thing. Still, I think you deserve credit for how well the site looks and the content is great. Keep up that good work!

        🙂
        Scoop

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      • Thank you for all the kind comments. You’ve made me feel accomplished!

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Thank you, but you’ve achieved everything on your own…I just get to be one who enjoys it! Hope to hear from you as you can.

        Enjoy your day, Sharon…
        Scoop

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        How are you doing, Sharon? Hope you had a good weekend…

        Scoop
        🙂

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      • I’m doing well, Scoop, a bit tired, but isn’t that part of the bargain of adulthood – a perpetual state of exhaustion? Ha ha.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        It’s a guarantee that “tired” and “adult life” go hand in hand! I am amazed at how many things get in my way and slow me down as I get older.

        Don’t sweat the moments like that. Just relax and take the day as it comes. Things will get better…

        Scoop 🙂

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      • Thinks will get better, I’m just getting used to a completely different schedule. Thank you, Scoop, for your unflagging support.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Well, you’re welcome for the support. Did your work schedule change, or someone’s work/school schedule? Those things can throw anyone off…

        If it helps to talk about things, I’ll be happy to listen. I won’t even charge you!

        Enjoy your day, Sharon.
        Scoop 🙂

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      • Actually, it’s not bad news at all, just a different and unexpected life from the one I led a month ago. For many years I’ve worked several part time jobs, most of them teaching after school enrichment programs. I worked late afternoon to early evening, then went home and with the inevitable second wind, I stayed up quite late and wrote. That’s how this blog got started, late at night.
        At the end of the last school year, I realized that I couldn’t make ends meet and looked for another job. Late last month I was hired as a full time teacher’s aide, of course now getting up now very early and getting home late afternoons. I love the job but the change in my routine is taking a bit of a toll on me. I’ll make the necessary adjustment and be fine in a short while. I appreciate your concern, but I’m so lucky to have this job. Please don’t worry about me.
        Hope all is well at your end.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        Wow, a great bit has changed for you! Congrats on the job. I went through a time many years ago of working a couple of PT jobs myself…no fun at all!

        I also had one job, again several years back, which was a “swing shift,” working from 3:30-12:00 midnight. I’d always worked the 8-5 thing before that…again, it was crummy…

        You are a trooper, Sharon, I can tell. You just do what has to be done and carry on. The bills gotta get paid, food has to be bought, need to pay the rent, etc.

        The human body has a great way of adjusting to things, especially when fueled with motivation. Yes, you will make the changes and your body and soul will come around…just take care of it as best you can.

        Take care, lady, and talk to me anytime. You can use my email at: “scoopjackson60@yahoo.com” if you’d like to share more often or privately. I really mean that.

        Enjoy your day and relax as much as possible.

        Scoop 🙂

        Like

      • As I talk to other folks, I find the part time jobs and the mid-life changes to be very common. We are all adapting as best we can and I am no different from millions of others. You’ve gone through your own adaptations and I hope are coming out with better opportunities.
        Thank you for your concern, but I worry about homeless children and elderly with few resources far more and those mired in poverty.
        Me, I’m fine and I’m lucky.

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      • Scoop Jackson..."News 60" said:

        You’ve got a big heart! But for you to worry for them doesn’t help either circumstance. I don’t mean that in a cold, uncaring way.

        You can help to support them in other ways which will help both you and them do better rather than feeling bad.

        Just take care of yourself first…you and your family family deserve that.

        Scoop

        Like

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