Monday, February 08, 2010

Novel Ideas: Your Novel's Revision Stage

Last time we chatted, I'd finished my first draft of SILENT CITY and was riding the wave of joy that comes with such an accomplishment. I was prepping for The League to look over the draft and taking a moment to bask in the glow that comes with finishing a project.

But then reality set in.

The book isn't done. Far from it. I realized a little while after writing the last post that finishing the first draft of a novel is only a part of the ongoing process of writing one. Next comes arguably the most challenging and perhaps longest step: Revisions.

My initial plan was simple: Submit the draft to The League, make the required changes and start querying agents. But nothing in life is that easy. The League was already well-stocked with stuff in the queue and, unlike my colleagues who mostly deal in 100-125 page screenplays, a 220-page novel is a more daunting task, and not something I can expect my fellow Leaguers to read through and properly digest in a few days. So, SILENT CITY will be analyzed at our next meeting, ideally sometime toward the end of this month. In the meantime, I was left with a shiny new draft and no one to read it.

This is where good friends become a great benefit. I sent a few polite emails to people I knew, both in and out of publishing but mainly people I knew were readers and most importantly, people who I trusted to be honest with me and cut the bullshit. Some of these people include novelists, editors, newspaper writers and copy editors, etc. Mainly, I wanted an honest opinion from a wide swath of people -- some well-versed in the crime fiction genre, others just coming to it as a new reader would, in addition to the comments I knew I was going to get from The League.

So far, I've built a pretty solid list. I've handed the first draft to a colleague of mine who has a ton of experience reading manuscripts in general and crime novels specifically. So, I'm waiting on his comments before I send the draft to a wider list, mainly because I expect his notes to be the most detailed and effective. I'm pretty sure that the second draft of SILENT CITY will be significantly different from the first, so I don't want to bog the rest of my list down with reading it twice. Also, I'm well aware this is the kind of favor you can't really call people on more than once every few years, so I have to make sure each "read" I'm getting doesn't just get done, but also gets done at the right time. For example, I have another close friend back home who's an ace copy editor and also a very smart reader, period. But having her read my first draft, especially when I know I'll be getting copious notes from someone else, doesn't work if what I'm looking for from her is more of a general "This didn't work for me/This was good" analysis, coupled with a very detailed copy edit. Maybe I'm being a tad OCD about it, but it makes sense to me on paper.

Now, while all this planning and list-building sounds good, it doesn't equate to much writing. So, I decided to start outlining the next novel while I waited for people to get back to me and between revisions (which have yet to begin). This was a fun exercise because it allowed me to work on something new while still keeping a hand in SILENT CITY. I've got a very basic breakdown of Pete's next adventure, which involves a change of scenery, a new villain and some other surprises I'm hesitant to get into just yet. I've read a few books as research and I'm excited to work on something new but also familiar, as it's a continuation of SILENT CITY.

More as it happens...

1 comment:

Cake Man said...

King S brings up a good point here, one that all writers should keep in mind. People (other than a dedicated writers group like The League) will rarely read your writing more than once. If you have a manager, he or she is supposed to help you develop your projects. For the most part, though, those incredibly valuable contacts you have who will do you a favor will only do so many. If you present them with gold each time you ask them to read something, they'll be happy to devote their time to you more frequently. If you present them with crap, though, they'll either start to say "no" more than "yes" or will give you crappy feedback, because they feel you continuously give them a crappy product. If you don't seem to try, why should they?

Of course, I'm not saying that King's work is crappy - or that yours is either. But when you're asking someone to give you a considerable chunk of their time, you only want to do so when you truly think it justified. And, especially if these are contacts who might help you in your career, even if your script or novel isn't perfect, you want them to see enough potential in it that they might call in one of their favors on your behalf, say, to that agent friend of theirs.