Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Last night, the printer chugged out the first printed copy of BURIED. I started work in August, finished the first draft shortly before Halloween, and just now, *finally* am ready to turn the damn thing over to The Tiny Dynamo and the Beta Readers (they're down in the basement right now, practicing MoTown covers).
So what did I do in the last five months? Well, I moved house, made a couple of *very* drastic changes to my day job, and suffered the usual assortment of pains and ills to which all flesh is heir.
I also did something like eight drafts of my novel.
You see, the post One Leg at a Time No Longer marked a new direction for me in my approach to writing. I wanted to write more like the way I draw. So I started with a basic idea. Then I 'scribbled' my way through a rough outline. My big concern there was plots and subplots and their turning points.
Then I sat down and wrote the damn thing. Took ten, maybe eleven weeks. Freakin' paradise.
That was my first pass. To me, it was like moving from a loose sketch to tight pencils. And the same as I'll take my drawing, scrub the whole thing down with an eraser and go in again, I took my novel and started making pass after pass, tightening with every step.
They are, in order:
Just the Facts, Ma'am: I read through checking and correcting. What time *would* it be in France at that point? How *does* one say 'fuck off' in Thai? Is that character named Marjory or Mabel? Pick one!
Also at this point, I'm scanning along for weak spots, sore places, obvious bruising in the story. I'll be back for those later.
The Hero's Head: Two things about the way I write: I often don't know my characters very well when I start, and I like action. By the end of the book, I'll know my hero (heroine, in this case) much better than at the beginning, but I'll tend to be light on Sequel.
This pass, I hunted for things the hero wouldn't have said, things she wouldn't have done, etc. I also made sure I took the time to let the reader know where she was going and why.
Plant and Payoff: This pass really deserves its own blog post. It also might have been better done second instead of third, but I was just too itchy to go back and straighten out some of the hero's wrong steps early on. Basically, anything you need later in the book, you need to plant early. We've all heard that if there's a gun on the mantelpiece in Act I, it damn well better go off in Act III. Well, it works in reverse, too.
This pass is about realizing you had gunfire in Act III and going back to put the gun on the mantel...
Mustache Twirling: That's right, the villain gets his own pass, too. This meant going through the novel with an eye out for nothing but the villain. Sometimes I'd pretend I was a Famous Asshole Actor who cared nothing about the script as a whole, only about my part.
Writing this pass, I focused on the villain's introduction, motivations, what they're doing when I can't see them onstage, that kind of stuff. This needs to be done for each and every major character, and sometimes for the minor ones.
And since in this story the hero is surrounded by MANY hostile forces, each villain (and a few who seemed bad but weren't) got his own draft. I made five separate passes to give the devils their due.
Better, Faster, Stronger: Remember those weak spots, bruised places, dead areas I spotted in my second run-through? Last thing I did was to go through the work and take a long hard look at any that were left.
You see, by the time I'd focused on the hero, then the plants and payoffs, then all the villains and major characters, a great many of those 'bad areas' had been cleared up.
Of course, the ones that were left were thorny as hell. I kept at it every day, and it gradually came together. Might've gone faster with more hours spent, but I'm not complaining.
Now the readers will start in. I'll discover that Mabel is unexpectedly Marjorie (because the Find/Replace missed that one). That the hero oddly stood a moment in the moonlight in the middle of the afternoon. That I didn't do enough to explain why anyone would put a live snake down their pants.
Before Agent Anne gets it, there will be another pass...