Nose to the Grindstone

I have some feedback on my revisions and it’s back to work! I hope to be so much more disciplined with my time this go around so I can get it done much faster. I’ve already done most of the necessary think-work (this can be the biggest obstacle) and whereas I felt uncertain and nervous before, I’m already starting to get excited about how much better I can make this book.
I remember when I first started revising my manuscript and researching agents and what-not, and I saw all these authors talking about how many drafts they went through–untold iterations of revising!–and I thought “well surely I won’t have to do that many…I was pretty thorough the first time around and, hey, I like my story already.”
Such naïveté. I have had the benefit of a FABULOUS critique partner (and dear friend) from very early on in this process…plus lots of helpful friends/family/unexpected beta readers (my sister lives in Africa and when I e-mailed the revised MS to her, she happily handed it–all three books actually–off to her roommate and I have had some good feedback from her too!). But I’ve still got so much to learn.
On that note, I thought I’d mention a few things that I admire in books I read recently and want to learn to do better. Because reading good books is an education in and of itself!
  1. Weaving threads: In both Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Golem and the Jinni (similarly genre’d books), there are multiple story threads that seem tangled at first but come to make sense by the end, and I was impressed by the dexterity with which the authors pulled this off. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (JSMR) particularly (the ending there was stronger, though I loved both books).
  2. Making you care: There’s a magic here. In JSMR, the narrative was very formal and distanced and you hardly ever got to see emotions and complicated internal narratives. And yet, I wanted so badly for everyone to be okay, and for everyone to be happy. The subtle few things the author gave you were just enough for you to imagine the rest on your own, and care for these characters. I was impressed. Similiarly in the G. and the J., I just…loved everyone. Each passing, random character–with rare exception–seemed to have such vitality and compassion. I wanted hope and redemption for everyone!
  3. Building up: There was a scene in JSMR which was so vivid I can still see it in my head and it gives me a thrill. This was so surprising because the narrative starts out so formal and even tedious…then you get this dark, wild, gorgeous, painful scene that is so striking and so magical and feels…intense. I just wondered, where did she (the author) go from stiff parlor mannerisms and practical political magic to this? Beautiful bait and switch.
The real evidence here, though, is that while I was reading both of these books I frequently felt compelled to raise my eyes from the pages, look at my husband, and say “this book is amazing.” “I love this book.” “THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD.”
It seems so effortless on the page, just like a trained dancer’s movements look effortless. But I know a lot of very hard work went into that. And that’s where I am right now. The hard work part.

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