Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Draft Finished; On to Revision

Two hundred pages and 40,000 words, the first draft is DONE. Actually, I call it the second draft. The first draft is handwritten in three spiral-bound notebooks. It only gets minor revisions when I type it into the computer, but that complete version is "Draft 2." Now, begins the heavy lifting.

Actually, since it was written with the notion of just getting it written, I think it would be a mistake to just dig in to chapter one. I think the first step is to read the thing as a whole so that I can evaluate its form and structure. I need to sort out what is missing, what might need to be moved around.

The novel was written out of sequence. I wrote all of one character's story before writing the other's. So, I know some work may be necessary to link up the stories properly. And 40,000 words is much too short. I know that in the quick pace of writing the first draft, I skipped some moments of high conflict. I passed over the critical scenes, using exposition instead of taking the reader there to that moment or demonstrating something only described. Many, many pages still remain to be written.

What I have, at least for the character of Darren, the male protagonist, is a quest story. Triggered by a sequence of events, he sets out on a journey. I need to evaluate thre trials he encounters along the way. Oh, he's no hero and the decisions he makes throughout should prove it. Nicole, his wife, is on a sort of quest as well, though her story is less conventional. Her arc is not linear. She is dislodged in time and part of her struggle is in trying to find a now, an identity in which to exist today. I need to make sure her dilemmas, and the scenes used to convey then, are as evident to the reader.

It is said that you should really know everything about your characters. "Take him home and sleep with him," one writing teacher instructed me. Know how he does things, know what concerns him, know him intimately. You want to be sure that you give them the depth they need to make them real to the reader. The issue I have now is in differentiating what it is I know and what I've related in the story. If I know this thing happened in her past, I must remember that the reader doesn't know it until I reveal it. And then, I need to consider when I want to withhold information until some later point in the novel.

The first phase of revision, then, will involve rereading the manuscript in total and creating an outline, complete with notes on ideas for revising each chapter. Only then can I begin thrashing my way through the words on the page.

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