First, a disclaimer. Darcy and I have known each other for years. We swap manuscripts. She picks my work apart while I ask irritating questions about hers.
How can I review her book? I’m not unbiased, but I know my strengths and weaknesses.
I’m a passionate researcher.
I’m driven by curiosity.
I have a slightly off-kilter way of looking at the world.
In spite of my Type-A personality, I work by feel, trying things out, tweaking what doesn’t feel right and attempting something just to see how it works.
Darcy is highly analytic and, with the help of her book, I could be analytic when reworking my manuscript.
Novel Metamorphosis began life as a workbook for Darcy’s novel revision workshop, offered since 1999. Workshop. That’s your first hint. If you are going to get anything out of this book, you are going to have to work. Chart, outline, highlight and more. Look at your manuscript in different ways for different things.
I opened her book, ready to rewrite my chapter book, Crab Dad. My critique group had already read my lightning quick draft and told me it needed one great improvement — increased tension. My main character and my voice came through loud and clear.
Since I knew what I needed to fix (snicker), I almost skipped to chapter . . . wait a minute. Where’s the chapter called “Tension”? Without this goal in sight, I worked through the book one chapter at a time, the way it would happen at a workshop. This meant completing a novel inventory and a shrunken manuscript.
From the novel inventory I learned that most of my scenes were set in the morning. Almost nothing happened post lunch. I could increase the tension by having my main character try to accomplish things under a time crunch — bedtime or some other deadline.
The shrunken manuscript showed that most of my description was early in the manuscript. I didn’t have huge narrative blocks, but I simply had almost no description later on. I know, I know. My critique group pointed it out but I had to see it for it to sink in.
As I worked through Novel Metamorphosis, I found one chapter that was almost entirely dialogue. Additional action here helped increase tension. I realized that although I use a lot of detail, and that it isn’t all visual, almost none of it involves smell or taste. My setting was fairly generic where a true St. Louis summer could help weigh things down. (Can you say oppressive humidity even when it isn’t hot?) Finally, I had the obligatory horrible scene but it was short. Too short.
I amost finked out without doing the last chapter — Depth. I wanted to believe I didn’t need to look at theme and the symbols I chose to use and how I might strengthen the relationship between the two to add to the depth. Why? Can you say one heck of a lot of work and I’m not as analytic as I sometimes seem?
Don’t pick up Darcy’s book for simple inspiration. Pick it up to help you seriously re-work your manuscript. It worked for me.