Last Thoughts for Revise the Novel Month

Whoa–what a month it’s been. Besides trying to understand what it means to be a writer, I also found myself embarking on a serious self-improvement overhaul.  That’s why so many of my thoughts are life-thoughts.

Writing is a life.  It’s a lifestyle.  It filters into every other aspect of who we are.  It’s an identity–it provides a certain perspective on the world around us.  Hopefully, it provides a more generous attitude towards others and ourselves; hopefully it keeps us curious and non-judgmental.  It definitely keeps us disciplined.  It keeps us persistent, a little ambitious, and resilient towards the things that seem to want to try and steal that identity away from us.

I highly recommend these month-long projects, which I’m now just starting to embark upon.  Here’s a bit of reflection on the experience:

I tend to make goals for the distant future, but by keeping the month in mind, I found myself more focused on keeping the daily routine.  I didn’t work on my novel every day (in fact, I deliberately took Sundays off from it), but by knowing I was in May, and that May was Revise the Novel Month, I had an easier time keeping a clear goal in mind. For me, it was shape the thing up to send to manuscript clearance for the MFA and to send it off to a few friends for the next time I dedicate a month to the novel.  I did this, but it was a severely bumpy ride.  I had drama to deal with (which is why you got a post about it, of course), I had a lot of self-doubt and days of flat out laziness.

It’s not done. (I didn’t expect it to be.) There are many months of work to come; as many as it will take to see this thing come to a place that feels ready to send off to agents and publishers.  I plan to keep on dividing the work into month-long projects.  I might spend a near-approaching month on character development, for instance, with short exploratory assignments.  I might spend the month writing scenes that may or may not go into the novel.  I might then spend another month shaping the first fifty pages, or the first act, or however this project unfolds.  My routine is going to change drastically because I won’t have as much time once I start working again in the real world.  This scares me, but I think the monthly plan is going to be a huge asset.

If you do the monthly project thing, I highly recommend you start with poems.  They don’t have to be good (mine weren’t especially).  But they are manageable and they help us to think more deeply about words.  And I found myself continuing to write poems, even through revise the novel month.  They are, at their most base state, a fantastic verbal exercise for the prose writer.

My next project is to take a bit of a break from the novel in order to work on music.  I did this in April, when I focused on poetry and language.  I think that the month off definitely helped me in terms of filling the well with energy and willingness to work on the book.  By the end of April, I couldn’t wait to hang with my characters again.  Hopefully this will be a repeated experience.

My last thought: You can do it.  If you’re writing a novel, you have to keep reminding yourself that.  It’s hard, but you can do it.  You have everything you need to do it well.

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