I have finally finished the last draft chronicling my career in the financial services industry. I have committed to this being the final revision: sooner or later you have to pronounce it so. (Unless it were to become a screenplay, which would mean no end to potential changes.) In addition to the months needed to sort through my files and records, it only took me almost five years to complete this project.
In my defence, like many people who consider themselves to be writers, dedication to such a large-scale undertaking has not been unflinching. It’s easy to be distracted by life, especially foibles, and particularly if you have the sifting, tangential mind of a writer. The void can be fed in the interim with smaller endeavours.
Add to this can be shifts in the tone and point of view, not to mention editing content, as one molds the sea of words into a cohesive script. In this case, the challenge has been exacerbated by my having collated assorted information sources, varying from corporate commentaries, literature, and statistics to episodic encounters with clients and co-workers.
However, as demonstrated by narratives being divided into chapters, and perhaps sub-chapters, the pieces of a big story generally require the painstaking determination of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. As with the latter, there are inevitably sections which fit together more quickly than others. Time may wait for no one, but time to complete writing projects may seem to stretch them indeterminably.
I’ve learned a lot about what works for me during years of experience with smaller projects (such as this blog). Helpfully, those subjects have been both fiction and non-fiction based. In going through the process this time, there have been some lessons newly or more broadly learned. Here are key perspectives:
- Use catchy, relevant section and chapter headings
- Figure out what your writing POV (point of view) is going to be, and keep this in both of your front and rear view mirrors
- Further to the last point, consider your audience, what their expectations should be, and how to maintain their interest with consistency
- Be flexible about content, especially if it borders on being too technical or jargon-based (unless that’s your audience)
- Keep massaging, to add subtext and variety; be prepared to cut, or move around, content if it improves the final product
- Establish flow and pace, making the reading more easily absorbed, encouraging the reader to stay with you on the journey
- Spell out the threads carefully, but connect with logical segues, always with a view to moving the story forward (even if using flashbacks)
- Avoid ornate language for its own sake, but also try to avoid overuse of common language and everyday pronouns
- Get feedback from others on parts (or all) of your manuscript before finishing the final draft; be prepared to incorporate suggestions which make your story more accessible
Every writer will find that his or her voice emerges with greater experience in actually engaging the craft. Little in writing can be described as perfect. What we can do is aspire, and put in the effort, to continue improving our percentage.