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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Editorial Anonymous: Countdown: A Conversation with Deborah Wiles

In revision I throw out great wads of the plot (usually the entire second half), but as I do that, the light begins to dawn, I begin to understand who my characters are and what their motivations are, which inform their actions and reactions, and as these things begin coming clear, I go back and layer in foreshadowing and tension.

This novel sounds fascinating--no, I haven't read it, or anything by Deborah Wiles. But this paragraph struck me because it echoes my experience of writing a 129,000 word YA novel and then cutting out 48,000 words of it.

All that stuff I cut? It was useful. It was useful to me because it was time I spent with my protagonist. I didn't consciously think about characterization as much as I'd like to in the future--and yeah, I'd prefer not to chop a third off of my next MS--but in the process of writing all those scenes I was unconsciously working on characterization, if nothing else.

I'm tired of the way people laugh when I tell them my first draft clocked in at 129,000 words. Hello, it's not like I was ignorant of the expectations. I'd already written a YA trunk novel of 90,000 words. And yeah, writing long is something I've always wrestled with.

But I ain't sorry.

The time I spent writing that huge first draft was time well spent. Time getting to know my characters and my setting and the living situations of all the players. Some people walk around the mall holding imaginary conversations with their characters. Some people go off and do firsthand research, living as a migrant worker or whatever. I wrote.

No shame in that.

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