Wednesday, April 10, 2013

100 Writers: Inspired by Revision

Introducing Alexis Lantgen

One of the things that you discover when you're writing your first novel is that the internet is full of advice. Write quickly, they say. Self-Publish! No, find an agent! Be yourself! But write something marketable! Books are dead! All your stories should contain at least one vampire! Don't write about vampires unless you want to make an agent gag!

There are tons of lists everywhere you look on twitter and blogs. Top ten mistakes most authors make. Top ten things you should do to promote your work. Top ten reasons why your book isn't selling. Ten top ways to get a billion twitter followers. Blah.

This advice starts to get tedious, especially when you realize that it's all A) completely contradictory B) not your style and C) boring. I suspect that anyone who has a fascinating story buried inside them somewhere can't stand reading these goddamn lists after a while, much less writing one. So despite the mountain of advice out there for new writers, actually getting your book on paper for the first time feels like forging an entirely new path.

This probably shouldn't surprise anyone who knows about what actual writers are like. Ernest Hemingway probably never wrote anything until he'd had at least three glasses of scotch, while Jane Austin wrote on her dining room table. Douglas Adams wrote while listening obsessively to music like the Beatles. In other words, no one does it the same way, and what works for one writer may not for another (although I'd be curious to see what Jane Austin would write after three glasses of scotch). Maybe you write best early in the morning, and maybe there are no workable thoughts in your mind before noon. Maybe you work differently on some days then you do on others. Whatever feels like the right way to work, that is the right way to work.

So writing my first novel has ultimately been about discovering how I work best. Some of my discoveries so far? I can't NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I tried, I really did, but I...must...revise. I can't just write and write without fixing things. In fact, I get hopelessly stuck when I try it. On the other hand, revising my previous chapters inspires me to write more. Why? It helps me to remember some of the fine details I've included in my story thus far, and I can rewrite characters or scenes to give my later chapters more impact. Most important, it helps me keep my entire story in mind, so that every scene feels like a part of the whole. I understand that for some people, NaNo helps them get out their first draft, but it doesn't suit everyone, so don't feel bad if you're a NaNo dropout like me. It doesn't mean you can't still finish your novel.

So revision helps me find my inspiration. If that works for you, great. If not, try something else. No matter what anyone on the internet or elsewhere tells you, it only takes one thing to become a writer, and that's actually writing things. Find your story, and you find your core. That’s what’s worked for me--I love my story. I want to finish it, whether it’s published or not, or critically praised or not, or even if no one reads it but me. If you’re not in love with the story you’re writing, then write something else and keep writing until you find a story you love. Because chances are, if you love it, someone else will too.

Alexis Lantgen
Alexis Lantgen is a musician and writer who holds a master’s degree in music performance from Florida International University, as well as a Bachelor of Music in viola performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Letters (Magna cum Laude) from the University of Oklahoma. She performs on violin and viola in orchestras including the Wichita Falls Symphony and the San Angelo Symphony. She currently teaches private violin and viola lessons, and in the past taught eighth grade English and ESL in Dallas public schools. Her first novel is a YA Urban Fantasy about a young African American boy with special powers who must save his sister from an evil voodoo sorcerer and his demonic feathered serpent. She hopes to finish editing and revising her manuscript by this summer.

For more from Alexis, you can follow her blog or catch her on Twitter

If you are interested in participating in the 100 Writers Project, comment below or contact Grace Wagner on her Facebook page or Twitter.

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