Monday, December 20, 2010

Halfway Done

Well, with about a week or so to go before the end of the year, I’m halfway through editing the text to my first complete novel, “Considering How to Run.”

I’ve seen both good and bad. Good story, I think, with some good characters. But I’ve seen a lot that needs improvement. A lot I can see that led from my gonzo style of writing this novel – no outline to begin with at all – to some plot holes and chameleon characters that are going to have to be fixed and reconciled before I can call this novel complete. But, oh, the joy of editing a complete thing of my own creation! To know that I’m not reading this for someone else, but reading it in order to make something I made that much better. That pleases me a great deal.

I know it’s not perfect. I’ve got some major things to fix. But at least I’ve got a something, not just a vague notion, down on paper, in one complete form. The first draft. That’s a huge milestone. Editing it has been and will continue to be a pleasure because, despite its faults, I can see that I’m trying. I’m not just going through the motions, not at best simply sewing together forty or so blog posts into something that’s supposed to be whole. Oh, I’ve got some spots where the seams show, where the cloth is threadbare, but I’ve got it all here, ready and waiting to be fixed.

And I can do this.

As for the other part of the goal – the query letter: I know that’s not going to happen before the year ends. I’ve got to find potential agents, research them, then and only then craft that letter, based on advice issued by Nathan Bransford, a former literary agent himself, on his blog. That blog’s a treasure-trove for wannabee writers like me.

So, how am I approaching the editing? Here’s a breakdown:
  • A higher level of edit. While I am catching the occasional typo, what I’m focusing on mainly is a more than mechanical level of edit. I’m looking for the way things flow, the way things work together, and the ways they don’t. I’m asking myself a lot of questions in the margin, asking myself “What do I mean by that,” “This is contradictory to something you wrote earlier, right?” “This character seems uncharacteristically mean. Where are the hints of kindness?” Just lots of things to get me thinking.
  • A character map. I’m also writing out a bar graph to show who my main and ancillary characters are, how they relate to one another and different parts of the story, and who they are. I’m doing this to make sure I’m using the characters as I intended, and not at cross purposes.
  • Repeats. I noticed today that in this book, I use a situation that I repeat in the second book. I’ll have to study why I put it in the first because it works better in the second, or if I can repeat the situation for better effect in the second book, echoing the first, just to show the interrelation of the characters and situations. I’m sure other authors do this, but until you’re actually writing your own, you don’t realize how important it is to get everything just exactly right.
I’ve got to say that having put this novel away for a few months, I can come back to it with fresh eyes and while I’m seeing its warts, I’m also seeing still the potential that initially got me started down this road nearly a year ago.

Ah-ah. Found it. Started this book, or at least put up its first post, on Feb. 19, 2010. So I feel plenty good that I’m now editing an 80,000-word first draft that came from this initial 885-word post. Though it does seem weird to think that the first post contains just over one percent of the completed first draft.

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