Monday, September 23, 2013

Getting it Right

My writing process (part 2)

As I explained in the previous post – when I write the first draft of a story, it’s a journey of discovery.  The basic building blocks of the book grow and change.  My limited understanding of the main characters driving the story becomes a deep and intimate relationship with them.  And by the time I’ve reached the end, I’ve come to a fuller understanding of the inherent structure of the narrative.

Then I have to stop and assess what I’ve learned – and look at how what I’ve written falls short of how the story should be told.

But that means it’s time to stop thinking on the page, and start tinkering.  Scenes need to be rearranged, dialogue and descriptions need to be revised, and sometimes whole swaths of the book need to be rewritten so they can be consistent with the tone of the rest of the story.

Because now I know the story, and I need to make sure I tell it in the best possible way.  This is an entirely different kind of process – it’s more difficult, certainly more challenging, but fulfilling in its own way.

Here I try to make each scene as short as possible – and as long as it needs to be.  It can mean eliminating a lot of what’s been written, because unnecessary words get in the way, like too much baggage.  It can also mean additions to scenes or whole new chapters, because I’ve realized a part of the story I skipped over in the first place really needs to be told.

Frankly, a lot needs to be rewritten because once I really understand my characters (which I only get to by writing them in the first place) I find parts where how I’ve written their voice doesn’t ring true in retrospect.  And I need to make sure I get each character right, nail them down and keep them consistent.

However long it takes to get everything just right, I keep working on it – until I’m confident the story has become the best version of itself I can see.

That doesn’t mean perfect.  It means I’m satisfied that I’ve done what I can.  Then the time has come to put it to you, the reader – and the feedback you give me will help the next book be better.

(Read more about my writing process – how I use a book guide and the steps I take to get from first word to final publication.)

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