Saturday, August 25, 2012

Genesis of a Novel - Final Prep For Draft Two

During the past weeks, I have been working hard on my new novel.  Not on draft two.  Oh, no.  I'm saving that for when I hit Eureka Springs.  I've been, as I mentioned last week, working on the intellectual part of the book.  The details.  The nuances.

To that end, I printed out an entire copy of draft one and read it front to back, marking changes as I went, and creating a word document and noting big changes to be made.  This is completely different from the ways I've worked before, and I've found that I like it.

The way I've worked in the past is that I pull up Chapter One and make the changes as I go and so on so forth throughout the novel.  So when I would come to a section that would negate that change I made way back toward the beginning, I would start thinking of ways to make the story work based on the change I had already made, rather than writing what I knew to be a better way for the story to go.

This time, when I'm marked changes on the page, when I came to a later section and realized that I didn't need to make that change in the beginning, or a different change needed to be made, then I went back and noted everything on the pages themselves.  Since I hadn't actually made the change yet, just altering the notes was no big deal.  It was fun, actually.

The old way, I worked to serve my own wants and needs rather than the stories, a selfish way of writing, now that I think about it.  The writer should always serve the need of the story, not vice versa.

The proof is in my history, I think.  My stories have always been deemed good ... just not good enough.  I am, as yet, unpublished.  I'm wondering if this small change in the way I work will make a difference.

I'm thinking it will.

It certainly has made a difference in the way I view the story, the possibilities, especially.  Never has a story every presented itself to me like this one, with so many vibrant colors and textures to chose from.

I'm thinking that in stories past, I put myself into a straitjacket in the first chapters that have forced me to play a hand I wasn't completely happy with in the last chapters, to which I cheerfully typed "The End" after because I was so damned happy to have completed it.  This resulted in draft after draft of a mediocre story which by sheer determination I was able to turn from mediocre to the aforementioned "good, but not good enough."

I don't regret those drafts, because I learned so much about the craft of writing.  I learned to be tight, rather than rambling on. I'm now learning when to be tight, and when to loosen it up.

Overall, what I am learning is how to craft a story.  How chains of events link themselves together making a strong train.  My previous efforts, I think, have been tenuous at best.  If I'm able in Draft Two of this one to bring everything together, I'll have a damn good story.

And I've said from the beginning, I'd rather be a great storyteller than a great writer.  Truth be told, I don't have what it takes to be a great writer.  Those rare folks are born, not made, and I don't always like the stories they tell.  Thank you, William Faulkner.  But I can be a very good one.  Working all of those manuscripts that don't have a snowball's chance in hell of being published has still been time well spent.

So here I am, less than a week away from starting Draft Two.  How do I feel?  Nervous.  Anxious.  Champing at the bit ready to ride that horse across the plains again, this time knowing the scenery along the way and the destination. 

Hoping I don't cheat and start early.

Oh, yes.  I've been sorely tempted to start early, even before I had a clear overall picture of Draft Two.  And that would have been a mistake, folks.  I would have fallen back into that old trap of revising I know, making the trees look good, but forgetting the forest.

And thinking about it, that's probably the best critique I can offer of my previous manuscripts.

The trees are lovely, but make an uneven forest.

I'm going to take much more than twice as much time with this draft than I did with Draft One.  My goal is to finish this one by the end of the year.  Four months.  And it will keep me busy.  Oh, yes.  But since I won't be writing so that smoke rises from my fingers on the keyboard, I'll have time to pause and reflect on this very page.

It won't all be joyous.  How could it be?  So, I'll share the difficulties as well, the disappointments and frustrations.  I'll faithfully write my feelings on the page to whatever extent, and with hope, chronicle the growth of this novel all the way through publication, without saying much about the story itself.  I'll let it speak when the time comes.

Next week's post will come from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Stay tuned!  Even I'm looking forward to that one.  :-)