Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Strengthen Your Novel by Distancing Yourself

We've heard the advice:  let your first draft sit so you can be objective when you come back to it.  Trust me when I say that's wise advice.  Maybe we think we can prove it wrong - I know I did.

Looking at your work soon after the first
draft is like critiquing it under a blurred
magnifying glass - you're going to miss something
For example, we might think that we'll know what to leave in the manuscript from subtle clues to personality characteristics if we look at it right after finishing the first draft.  But, that's not the truth (at least in my experience).  What we end up missing are the important things such as redundancies, phrasing, scenes that we could lose but are attached to.

I more recently started major edits on my first thriller Assassination of a Dignitary, and found this to be true.  I've since crossed out supporting scenes that really didn't advance the story, and found areas that had me going what did I mean there?  These things never even stuck out to me the first time through which was a pass I made a couple weeks after writing it.

Another way to distance yourself from your novel...

Ask yourself, who are your characters modeled after?

More advice comes in the form of:  if you recognize yourself in your characters root it out.  Again, practical advice.  To allow yourself to be one of the characters, you jeopardize becoming lazy, and your character coming across flat.

You might ask:  how can it flatten a character when I know myself better than anyone else?  That question is rhetorical because within it lies the answer - you know yourself.  Other people don't.  If you model your characters after yourself, you may overlook key pieces of background information because they may seem too obvious.  But they're only "obvious" to you.  Due to this, character-fleshing can be overlooked.

My suggestion is that if you decide to base a character upon yourself, base it loosely.  On top of this make sure that your character differentiates enough to stand out as unique.  Conduct a character interview to get to know them as individuals.

So what about you?  What advice have you come across that applies to the topic of distancing yourself from your novel to benefit it?