Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Finished (Sort of)

Actual conversation with my wife:

Me: I finished my novel, it's the best one I've written so far.

Wife: Great, can I read it?

Me: No, not yet.

Wife: Why not?

Me: Because it sucks.

Wife: I thought you said it was the best one you've written?

Me: It is, it's just not done yet.

Wife: I thought you said it was finished?

The conversation quickly broke down with me making less and less sense.

There is nothing like the feeling of getting to the end of the rough draft. This is the 5th time I've done it and it still feels great. This rough draft is both rougher and more polished than any of my previous rough drafts. I realize that makes no sense to anyone who hasn't written a few novels.

With all my other novels I tried to write a novel, it seemed logical. But with this one I took everything I learned about editing my last novels and (hopefully) produced the raw materials for a novel.

I approached this one a little like the movie industry does. When shooting a movie they don't really make a movie, they shoot a lot of scenes. If you were to look at all the raw footage in the order they shot them, it would make no sense. I kind of, sort of, did that with my novel.

What I have is 64 scenes, some tied beautify together, some slam to halt and the next scene starts without warning. Some scenes the set dresser came in a did an excellent job, others were shot in front of a green screen so the action and emotion is there, but there is no setting.

My first chapter absolutely sucks, one main character suddenly picked up a strong mid-western accent 9 chapters in and it became the major focus of her character. At the end the bad guy refers to an event that I need to write into the fourth chapter. I've got a whole list of things that need to be changed, but I'm totally excited that it is done.

Now, it is time for the first major edit. On this one the only editing I did was to read the last chapter and do the obvious changes, at some point I didn't know what I meant the day before so the reader sure wouldn't, and major, major grammar issues. This time I have an actual plan for the edit.

When I write I make a separate document for each chapter, it helps me stay organized. I put the chapter number, page count, and word count in a spreadsheet.

This time I'm going read each chapter and sum it up in the spreadsheet, this way I can see in a glance how the story arc is going and condense or expand it where it needs it. Once that is done I can work on tying the chapters together properly so I can polish it up in to an actual book, as opposed to 64 scenes. Then I will look upon my masterpiece and say it can't possibly be improved.

Then I will unleash it on my beta readers who will point out all silly and glaring errors I made and I'll rewrite half of it.

Then I will put it aside for 6 months and look at it again and wonder what the hell was I thinking and rewrite it again.

And writers wonder why they get postpartum depression when they finish a book.


  1. Hey, it's a good thing.

    Congrats. Sometimes the rough draft is the hard part. Sometimes, the rev is the hard part on an easy draft.

    As long as you grow in your craft, I don't think it matters which path you're taking.

  2. Thanks,
    For all the work ahead, the revisions should go pretty smooth. With this one it's 90% technical stuff that has to done in the edit, I like the stuff I've written it just has to flow as a book, not 64 scenes.