Before we slide into summer hiatus…

Before we slide into summer hiatus, I wanted to say a bit about how my novel revision is going, what my plan is, and what I hope to accomplish next.

It Has Been an Education

Though I’ve repeatedly proven that I can write really long, novel-length manuscripts, I’ve never quite figured out how to revise those long stories to make them readable for other people. I’m capable of stringing together 50,000 to 120,000 words, but I’ve really struggled with revision. I studied music and theatre, and my current day job is in accounting. It’s fair to say that I’m not trained for this. My background is in performance, not creative writing. Although I’ve been writing since childhood, most of my output was poetry, short stories, or scripts. I don’t have an MFA and only took standard English and literature classes in college.

I love to tell stories, but I don’t have a lot of “story” schooling.

But that’s something I can remedy. I’m not prepared to go back to school in a legitimate capacity right now, and I’m not interested in pursuing an MFA, as I intend to write genre-based popular fiction. However, I’m a lifelong autodidact and genuinely love to learn. My solution: I’ve been cobbling together my own DIY writing education.

I’ve worked my way through a giant stack of books on writing and taken several helpful online workshops and courses. Going self-taught is a good approach for me, and I’m making progress! The hitch is that this takes time. Writing is an iterative process, and I can’t learn what I need to know overnight. I’m trying not to be too impatient, but sometimes it feels like every new discovery simply shows me how far I still have to go.

False Starts and Unexpected Discoveries

I quickly abandoned the first manuscript I started to revise. It was objectively the worst of my four first drafts and had too many serious issues to tackle as a first revision project. (I’d only chosen it because it was the most recently completed.) At least I learned where my current revision limitations lie and didn’t waste too much time beating my head against it!

I looked over my other three manuscripts. I discounted one manuscript right away, as I already knew it was only half of a more complex story that takes place in two timelines. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle that. Another was a fanfiction story I never published online because I believed it had strayed far enough from the source material that it could be rewritten with original characters. (I mean, 50 Shades of Grey sold like hotcakes, right?) But I wasn’t entirely convinced it was the right place to start.

The last contender was finished so long ago that I barely remembered the plot. I decided to do a hands-off read-through; I would go with the second piece if it wasn’t a solid choice. I was delighted to find that this manuscript was mostly readable (until the third act, anyway), the characters were interesting, the world and its rules made sense, and it had real potential. I was relieved and also a little angry with myself for not seeing this story’s value a long time ago.

I finally had a decent project to revise.

What’s Happening Now (and What I Hope Will Happen Next)

As I started to work through the steps needed to organize a second draft, I realized something else: Beyond obvious structural issues, there were too many subplots and probably too many characters in the manuscript. I spent a couple of weeks in analysis paralysis. What would the story become if I cut all the complications out? Or were those extraneous bits something more?

I had to decide whether to cut the story down to a novella or expand those subplots into a whole series of novels. I debated for a while, but it’s official: I plan to write a series! It’s about a sleepy English village called Wolfden Cross, where magic has lain dormant for centuries but is now beginning to wake up and wreak havoc. The first book (working title Beholden) is set in the early 1950s and tells the tale of Audrey Parkhurst, who inherits a house on the outskirts of town. Trust me, you’ll hear all about it in due time!

After re-working the outline and making a map of the scenes, it became clear that I needed to write almost 75% new material for the “revised” story, and even I know that’s not technically a revision. That’s starting over, baby! Basically, my second draft is a new first draft. (Maybe we can call it “draft 1.5”?)

This may seem like a failure, but it doesn’t feel that way. I love the world I created in that original manuscript; it now has the opportunity to grow into something more substantial than I intended. This new draft is less like a discovery draft and more like writing fanfiction of my own work. I know these characters and the world they inhabit, so this will be an easier story to write in some ways. It also gives me an excuse to delve more deeply into the main characters, to give them better emotional arcs, and to write a more satisfying narrative. I genuinely don’t consider this a setback. I did a thing, and now that thing is becoming a new thing. That’s okay!

I intend to spend the rest of the summer finishing the new material for Beholden. (Let’s fast draft in the A/C! I’m not going outside, anyway, so it’s ideal!) Once that’s done, I’ll set it aside to focus on this year’s Spooky Season project. Then I’ll formulate a new revision plan after October, and I’ll, you know, revise this new draft until it’s ready for beta readers. I know anything can happen between now and then, but I intend to have a readable manuscript by March 2025.

This is getting real, folks. I’m excited and a little terrified.

Anyway, that’s it for a while. Enjoy your summer! Take as many “no thoughts, just vibes” moments as you need. Try to stay cool and hydrated! I should be back on September 20th, or at least that’s the plan.


4 responses to “Before we slide into summer hiatus…”

  1. Tanz Avatar

    I’m excited!
    Enjoy your summer 🌞

    1. Sarah L. Crowder Avatar

      Thank you! There are so many opportunities for failure here, but I felt like I ought to share. I’m filled with both trepidation and enthusiasm. I guess those are the two wolves inside me?? 😎

  2. Sehara Avatar

    Hi Sarah, I’m so glad you’ve made so much progress on your manuscript. I can’t wait to read it!

    1. Sarah L. Crowder Avatar

      I can’t wait for you to read it, too! I’m really hoping I can stick to my deadline. 😅

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