Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Girth of the First Draft

by Peggy Eddleman
The theme on the blog this week is "Dinner with our characters: What's on the menu in our books?" I'm going to twist our theme just a tad (or possibly a lot) and not talk about my book so much as ALL BOOKS. And food won't be quite so literal...
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When we draft, we binge-eat. Not US, of course (okay, maybe sometimes us).... our BOOK binge eats. I mean, looking out at all the possibilities for this new and exciting manuscript is a bit like going to a buffet with all the food in the world on it! Everything looks SO GOOD, and you just know if you stick all that good stuff in your book, it will make it SO GOOD.

Once you get to the end, your book is probably going to be a little on the chunky side. Or possibly somewhere closer to flat-out obese. All those great things, when combined, leave you with a lot of dead weight that really isn't helping your story move.

Now think about an agent or an editor, holding up a ticket to publishdom, calling out, "I'm ready to make an offer! Come and get it!"

And your book, with its thunder thighs, tubby legs, overworked lungs, jiggly belly, and flabby arms lumbers on up to the agent/editor. Do you think they're bound to make it there first? Let's be honest, people. Your book might have a heart attack on its way.

AND THAT'S WHERE REVISING COMES IN.


Revising is like diet and exercise for your book. As you're going through, trimming all those scenes that may have been a blast to write but didn't end up helping your storyline, your manuscript loses weight. When you get rid of that sub-plot that ended up going nowhere constructive, your manuscript gets healthier. As you go through and make each sentence more concise, your manuscript gets leaner.

When you've trimmed all of the fat, it's easier to see where your book needs more muscle. Where pushing yourself over and over will make it stronger. Where only feeding it exactly what it needs will keep it healthier.

And even if it's incredibly painful to get it into that great of shape, you'll be able to look at and it'll be a beautiful site to behold.

Then, when that agent/editor stands up with the elusive golden ticket, your manuscript will not only be able to run the whole way, but it will be in good enough shape to leap over every single obstacle that might get in its way, and still be able to run the marathon that is the publishing business once it gets there.

Happy fat-trimming, everyone!
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Peggy Eddleman's debut middle grade post-apocalyptic adventure THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH will release in Fall of 2013 from Random House. She hangs out at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah with her three hilarious and fun kids and her incredibly supportive husband. You can find her every day at her blog, Will Write for Cookies, or on Twitter at @PeggyEddleman. THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH is now on Goodreads.

14 comments:

  1. Love this analogy - especially the part about building the muscle. I tend to write short, so the struggle is not so much trimming the fat, but strengthening the muscle. Nicely said.

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  2. Ha ha!

    Hiya peggy, I enjoyed your analogy: first draft as wheezing overweight thing. And the buffet with all the food in the world on it: brilliant!

    I am currently at that buffet, trying to only eat things that go together, i.e. not sausage rolls with sour cream dip. Hang on, that doesn't sound that bad! Maybe that mixture could be amazing?

    Yup, my book has all the things in at the moment. Sausage roll, noodles, cheese. And I am nowhere near trimming a millimetre of fat...

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  3. Ah I love this so much! Great analogy and SO true! I'm drafting right now and can already tell I'm feeding it a little too much. It's okay...it's a growing draft, it needs its food! But once it's done, it's definitely Revision Bootcamp time to trim the fat :)

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  4. Ah! Peggy! You've made me laugh...again! This is so true--so much gets shoved down the throat of our little book-babies they end up as overweight children (which, if they were really children, would have the government scolding us and sending social services over to make sure we're not torturing through food). TROUBLE! Revision diet--that's definitely on the horizon!

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  5. Great analogy! And nice twist!

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  6. Ha! Peggy, this is awesome. :) Working out sucks and editing sucks, so this totally makes sense. But we have to do both if we want us and our books to be svelte.

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  7. Ha! I love the thunder thighs analogy. I'm right there with you. Love it.

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  8. A great take on the subject, Peggy! I think my manuscript may have lost a little too much weight by the time it was picked up by a publisher. It sounds like my editorial letter will entail putting some meat back on its bones. :)

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  9. Trimming the fat is my FAVORITE part! I have one CP who is particularly gifted with a word-machete - she took my MS down 8K when she critiqued it. Priceless. :)

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  10. Love this analogy! And so true. My current WIP needs to go on a definite diet. :)

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  11. Fantastically hilarious! Peggy, you just made my night. :)

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  12. Brilliant, Pegasus! Here's to hoping my MS's training will pay off someday. :)

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  13. I am certainly a writer who's manuscript always needs a diet, so this is so helpful. The building muscle part is key. Great post!

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  14. Now this is an analogy I can wrap my appetite around! I'd better raise the fiber and water content of my WIP while I put it on a treadmill.

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