Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finishing a First Draft

On August 20th, 2011 I finished the first draft a book I started writing back in the winter of 2008. Here's a picture of a 12 year Glenfiddich Scotch I drank to celebrate.

The book is titled The Constable of Bridge. The first draft clocked in at 142,765 words (which is around 400 pages). I wrote it on Scrivener. Its divided into two parts. 28 chapters and a prologue and epilogue.

It's fantasy. But it's also a mystery. And there's a bit of science fiction thrown in. (What can I say? I like to mix and match genres!) It takes place in a town called Bridge--a place that I had oh-so-much fun discovering.

On the advice of Stephen King's On Writing (a fantastic book--one of my favorites) I waited a few months after finishing the first draft and am just now starting to print out its pages and begin my first read-through.

I'm vaguely terrified of doing this.

One, because its a lot of work and I'm inherently lazy and a famous procrastinator.

Two, because I know that I'm going to have to re-write and cut a lot, especially in the 1st half of the book. A whole hell of a lot has changed since I first began figuring out what kind of town Bridge is and what kind of people live there. Like, A LOT.

If there is one thing that I've learned while writing TCoB, its that it's an incredibly BAD idea to start a novel with only an idea and hope you just figure out what is going to happen as you write (this is very contrary to King's On Writing--which makes sense because King's one weakness in his novels is that he's very uneven at bringing them to conclusion).

Sometimes the next step in the journey does not just appear. Sometimes you're walking in fog without any clue that there's a ledge right next to you and your book could just plunge off the fucking side without any hope of recovery if you're not careful. Then you will have wasted months writing 30,000 words that you just have to trash with almost nothing to show for it. I had to restart Bridge three goddam times because I just thought I could make it up as I went. I only finished because I forced myself to produce a basic outline.

You see, I was afraid an outline would restrict me too much. I was terrified of that, in fact. But I found that as long as I had a vague notion of where I was going, I actually had the freedom to deviate significantly from it wherever I felt cause. Basically it helped me finish, and whatever helps you finish can't be all bad. You have to plan. You just have to. Well, sometimes. Perhaps its just that for THIS book, I had to create an outline and the next one I won't. I'll let you know when I finish the next book.

Anyway, I've just started reading the prologue and first chapter. I like them. They make me smile. There's some good stuff there. There's also some stuff I need to change, but nothing serious. I'll refrain from making editor marks until I read through the rest. Only after I've done a complete read-through will I go back and start taking notes and making changes.

Once I've fixed all the serious continuity errors, rewritten or axed or added scenes as necessary, then I'll edit for language. Cut the crap. Trim it down to make it lean and mean.

During that time, I'll also start sending the thing out to agents and publishers. I will probably start going to Cons (science fiction and fantasy conventions for you non-geeks) and see if I can make any contacts there as well.

And during all this, I'll still be working on other short stories.

I just had a great idea for one today. Its about how certain creatures can only get you if you invite them in. Its about chat rooms on the internet. It is going to be really fun.

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