Thursday, February 24, 2011

Calling an end to the second draft

I changed my mind about what I said yesterday. I'm deciding I'm done with draft 2 and am moving on to draft 3.

These are totally artificial divisions, so the milestone is similarly artificial. I guess what it really means is that I'm deciding that I need to focus on a different category of revision at this point, and it's comforting to tidy up the typescript, do a "save as," make note of the word count at this point and establish a schedule/time line.

The different category is what I guess should be called "developmental editing." I wish I had a developmental editor to work with me on that, but it's a self-help world now. The work I think would be most productive right now is digging in deep to find the heart of the story, find what the character really wants, figure out the arc of her emotional development and then figure out all the related writing and shaping that has to happen to bring that story into focus. It's scary work, because it can mean disassembling a lot of the machinery, and it can mean seemingly small adjustments that later turn out to introduce a fatal wobble in the machinery. It will almost certainly mean writing a lot of new material. My mantra during this stage of the first book was "don't fix -- dig." Well, I hope there's less need of that this time around, but formally that's the stage I'm at now.

This means ignoring a lot of the spackling work that's still left to do and that was the focus of the second draft. I've decided it's no longer productive or helpful to do that until I get the bigger picture questions sorted out. I guess I have been dealing with two kinds of problems -- basic intelligibility/consistency of plot and bringing some craft to the clumsy parts. I took care of all the first kind. The clumsy parts are better left alone for now.

It's hard to get a perfect bead on the word count and page count because each draft has different kinds of editing notes lingering around inside it. When those get cut out, I won't be actually shortening the book. The typescript is 317 pages and 75,000 words. My best estimate is that is actually about 73,000 words. So it grew by about 3,000 words in the last draft. Those are wild estimates, though. I'm a long way from my goal of getting it down to 65,000 words, but I suppose I'm a long way from finished.

Which takes me to the question of time line. Before the start of the last draft, I guessed that by this stage I would be concentrating on polishing, which would move along very quickly. Obviously, I'm not working on polishing and whatever I'm doing next can't go quickly.

I don't know. It's not just hard to predict the pace. It's hard to know what the work even is. It's a lot of sitting around thinking about the text instead of working on it. Let's say I had a definite object in mind like an image of the emotional arc of the character, which is probably way to simplistic a way to understand what I'm gong for. Then I might be able to say that I'll start applying that object like a stencil over the typescript scene-by-scene and re-cutting it, and that might take something like the 4 weeks that the last draft took.

I don't really believe that's how it will work, but let's use it as a basis. I'm going to guess that second part will actually go faster -- 3 weeks instead of 4. And I'm going to arbitrarily say that the "figuring out" part will take 2 weeks, which is incidentally how far ahead I am on my second draft time line.

That makes 5 working weeks total, starting from next Monday. (I have some paying work I have to concentrate on.) Which makes April Fool's Day my target.

Ok. That's what I'll do. I hope.

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