Once again, I eagerly signed up for a task. This time it snow shoveling. Once again, tired and bored, I had not fulfilled my promise. My mother, washing dishes at our sink in Fairport, New York, wears a vivid red, short-sleeved shirt, damp kitchen towel over one shoulder. Her long hair, gray strands woven through black, is smoothed back with a flowing scarf. Paraphrasing St. Bernard (the person, not the dog), she says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
What is worse, I wonder? Having good intentions and leaving them unfulfilled? Or never having the good intention in the first place? I like to think it is the former. Having good intentions, even unmet, means that there is hope and potential. Thus I opt for the good intentions and at times, I surprise myself and follow through.
There are two good intentions I had in December. One was to do a shout-out for New Hampshire authors that follow me on Twitter. I was to do this early in the month in honor of NH Writers’ Week, but to use a different cliché , better late than never. Please visit my Twitter Authors page to see who’s who in NH Writing. If you are an author and you don’t see your name on my list, follow me on Twitter and let me know you write for NH.
My other good intention was to finish my first draft of my first-ever novel by December 15th. For writers, this is a hurdle that must be accomplished to move forward. While I missed the deadline, I did finish on December 20th at 9:10 AM. Just in time to open my eyes and realize Christmas was only five days away. I blinked several times, figuratively set my pen down, and dove head first into the holiday season. Seven days later, the hard work of revision begins.
For those who have been following my journey, here’s a list of what’s in store for this novice author for the months of January and February:
- Read my story as a reader. Does it make sense? Is it interesting? Would I want to read it? What longing does it fulfill in the reader? Why does this story exist?
- Writing is a craft. It’s time to sharpen the tools that I need for the craft. To do that I need to reread books about writing. I have a stack, but having never read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I have chosen to start there.
- Start a list of where my novel falls short of the craft. I have included:
- Tense, grammar, punctuation.
- Don’t hint at where you won’t go. For example, I have a bridge slashing shadows across a face. Do I really want to go there? If not, remove the imagery. If so, get brave and write the scene.
- Are my characters being too safe? Even though I have grown to love these characters, they need to make poor choices.
- Write the hard scenes.
- Know my characters. What makes them act the way the do? Write character sketches for the main characters. For all others, at a bare minimum, know what does he/she wants. Every character needs to want something.
- Reread my novel as a writer. Keep a list of where it falls short and where it sings.
Within weeks I will begin my revisions. I am overwhelmed and excited. My goal: to keep this novel in the category of fulfilled good intentions and to avoid the plague of unfulfilled promise. I’ll keep you posted.
If you are a writer and have any advise on how to revise a novel, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.