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We’re Turnin’ Around & Headin’ Back, or When the Work-In-Progress Is a Bitch

I hit an exciting milestone in the novel a week or so ago. I got to the halfway point in the second draft. I knew the work was going to get harder because the character I excised really started doing stuff in the second half of the book.

The way I’ve been working on the second draft of this novel has been thusly: I take a chapter from the printed-out first draft and I go through it with my blue pen (Pilot Precise V5) editing, making notes, etc. When I’m done with the edits, I sit down at the computer, cut the chapter from the first draft file and paste it into the second draft file, and then go through the edits. At the end of the chapter, once I’ve gone through my notes and such, I go back to the top of the chapter and then read it aloud, making further changes as I go. Once I’m through, I go to the stack of chapters in the first draft and start on the next chapter.

Well, as I’m going through the current chapter with the pen, I realize something the makes my blood cold. The talismans I have given to two different characters are superfluous. They were something that helped me in the first draft but is really…well, bullshit. They must go.

Now I’ve got a decision to make. Do I wait until I’m working toward the third draft to get rid of these silly objects or do I go back and rewrite the half of the second draft that is completed so as I move forward on this draft, I can take care of it all? And if I remove these talismans, how do the characters resolve their issues. That part was easy: They resolve it on their own.

I went back-and-forth with this for a week, but a morning walk around the park decided it for me. Last night, I went back to chapter 1. This shouldn’t take long.

Revisionary Attitude

My feelings on revising my work are the same feelings I have for cooking: I hate the idea of it, leading up to it, and actually beginning it, but once I start it I love it. When it’s my night to cook I loathe the idea of it. I’ll be here at my desk, or on the couch reading, or doing somedamnthing or another and want to do just about anything but cook. That involves planning, and messes, and work. But once I’ve set up my mise en place, once I have the ingredients in my hands and I’ve begun, I have a real enjoyable time. And when my wife and I (or my wife, my daughter, and I) sit down to eat, the enjoyment that is had from my cooking is like a drug, addicting. (Don’t tell my wife any of the stuff I just wrote, she’ll want me to cook all the time).

Revising my writing is the same thing. The novel that I’ve been working on for four years now has taken four years because it took me nearly a year-and-a-half to begin the revising process. Now, that will probably make you believe I am not acting professionally, but I wasn’t just sitting around watching dust gather on my 158,300 word (763 ms pages, Courier New font) manuscript. I was also:

  1. Getting used to being a teacher.
  2. Having to relocate abruptly thanks to the economy.
  3. Working on the pre-publication revisions for Alice on the Shelf.
  4. Writing, revising, and working on the pre-publication revisions of Shadowed.
  5. Writing and revising the novella I wrote that was spawned on by Shadowed.
  6. Going through time-consuming classes to renew my teaching license.

You get the idea. Maybe those are excuses, but they don’t feel like it to me. That explains the (so far) four-year process on this novel. But about a year-and-a-half of it was…well…I’d rather work on a novella than revise that monster, or I’d rather (fill in the blank) than revise that big fuckin’ novel. But alas, the time came and I began and…well…I love working on it.

It’s a monumental task. I decided that a semi-major character was going to be edited out. I decided that two minor characters would pick up some of the slack. I decided that certain plot points were really lame and the new ideas that came from nowhere seemed so much better. It’s like discovering a new spice that really makes the food taste that much better.

So the work continues. I’ve got a 39,000 word second draft (140 pages, Times New Roman font) and growing. And that’s where I am at this moment.

Oh, and those links to Alice on the Shelf and Shadowed above? Both of those books are available and have links on their respective pages for where you can buy them. Those sales make the revisions so much sweeter.


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