April 27, 2010

Figuring out how to edit a novel: creating characters

 It's a surreal feeling, when you pick up a manuscript you've written but haven't read properly before. Writing puts you in such a different zone that you visualise everything with such intensity that everything you write feels Pulitzer worthy, but on re-reading what you really think is:did I really write this shit. I cringed through most my novel upon re-reading, especially since I know more about writing now as opposed to when I wrote it. Still, things can still be corrected and re-written which is a start, since all first drafts are shit, as Hemingway said. I've never been under any illusion that this novel won't require a lot of work: I expect hours of writing, re-writing, tossing manuscripts and bleeding on paninis.

But on the positive side: the concept works and the characters could be vivid and interesting. There is a lot potential in the manuscript even though it needs heavy-duty cosmetic surgery. By the time I will have finished this novel, it will be un-recognisable.

Since my last post, someone suggested I check out StoryMill  (a novel writing software),  which has helped a lot in the planning as well as organising my ideas. One of the tools in StoryMill are character notes, using this I spent over a week writing long and detailed biographies for each principle character. Even though the details and histories will not necessarily come up in the novel, as a writer, it gives me a better perspective of where my characters come from: who they are, how they would react in certain situations and why. Considering my novel depends a lot on psychology, I feel this is a particularly important part to address; I need to make my characters as real and believable as possible. When it comes to individual personalities, the most interesting things about them lie buried in their past, sometimes only alluded to, yet their reactions are rooted in this historical foundation of experiences which have formed their very natures. I think, and I could well be wrong, that writers who fail with real and intense characters in their novels don't think about them outside the context of the novel's plot. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time to think about things which don't happen on the page, but what happens off the page is equally important. When I feel lost in writing,  I turn to my characters to direct me as after all, it is their story.

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