Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time off and working on a summary

I'm in the middle of my second week off from the book. It's driving me a little bit crazy, and I'm having trouble turning my focus to anything else. It's a little bit like separation anxiety, I guess. I've done a lot of moping around. But so far I've resisted working on it any. Partly I don't want to nullify the work my first reader is doing; I want to wait to hear from her. And party I know the more distance I can create the better it will be for the next revision. As soon as I hear from that reader, though, I'm off and running.

Today I indulged a little by making my first attempts at writing a summary. I know from my previous book that I need summaries of different lengths for the purpose of soliciting agents, and it takes many many drafts to fine tune one, so it's good to get an early start so it can percolate. It's also a good exercise for the revision process, since it forces me to think about what is primary and to align the intentions with the reality. I'm probably fooling myself, but my first attempt at a summary seems to be in alignment with what's really in the book.


I don't really know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First reader -- time off

I guess I'm officially at the end of the third draft. I printed it out the other day for the first time and mailed it to my sister, who will be my first reader except my wife. I learned from the last book that this step helps shift me into a different critical space. Just the thought of the paper coming out of the printer and the image of some other person holding it usually helps me see the work differently. I start to imagine it through other eyes. Which means I start to see problems and issues that I was too tunnel blind to see before.

Still, I feel pretty good about it. Before we put it in the mail, I listened while my wife read a couple chapters out loud, and I liked what I heard. I could hear a few clunky sentences and one scene that still drags too long, but nothing that made me despair. My sense is that after 7 months and 3 drafts is in shape as good as the first book after 2 years and 9 drafts. (It's also half as long, so that helps.)

Which still means it needs work. I'm chomping at the bit to get more readers, but the smart play is to hold off for awhile and see what else I can figure out on my own. And I need to get some more distance for that, so I really am taking some time off. At least a week and maybe longer if I can find some way to keep myself away from it next week. We'll see how quickly my first reader gets back to me and what energy that sets in motion.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's hard to summarize the work I've been doing, but there's been a lot of it to be sure. I supposed if I was putting in my usual 90-120 minute sessions everyday then my guess of 5 weeks for this draft would be accurate, but I've been putting in a lot more time than that. I can't seem to stop working on it. It's good to be in this space.

I'm kind of unofficially done with draft 3. I reached the end of it this morning. But as usual I have a certain number of items I want to consider and tidy up before drawing a line between this and whatever comes next. There's no rush, and given some of the other stuff I have going on this week, I'll probably take the rest of the week.

I think the book is a lot stronger than it was two weeks ago. I really like some of the changes I made. We'll see what happens after I get some distance and start seeing it through someone else's eyes. I hope that comes soon. I feel like it's close to time to get some critique from other readers. If that follows the pattern I'll be severely disillusioned before long.

One thing I definitely know is improved is the length. I expected to get some back in this draft, but I really thought I would have to make another focused pass later in the "kill your darlings" mode. That might not be necessary, because just in an organic way I made changes that brought it from 325 pages to 280 pages and from 76,000 words to 67,500 words -- 11%. My goal was 65,000 words, but I'm quite comfortable with the length of it right now. Any cutting from here on will be just because something doesn't belong.

I'm going to have to turn my attention to some of my paying work for the next few days, so that will be slowing me down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lots of progress

When did I check in last? A ton of work ago, whenever it was.

I don't know how good the work is, but I'm feeling pretty good about it right now. There have been some ups and downs.

I did a few days of brainstorming, contemplating, digging until I felt I had found the main thread and started working to tie everything around that. In the process, for the record, the draft expanded to what I hope will be its maximum length -- 76,000 words and 320 pages -- mostly in the first 20% where I was doing a lot of careful work trying to make sure every scene in the set up was hitting hard.

I was feeling pretty good about it then and over the weekend asked me wife to read that section,a and she splashed cold water on me. She feels it's too slow to get started primarily and doesn't focus enough on the main story. That put me in the doldrums for awhile.

But I came up with three possible solutions and for the most part, up until this morning, I've been working really closely with that same 60 pages. The solutions included cutting out one prologueish chapter entirely, cutting out a plot thread that is set up in the opening and revisited throughout and reminding myself that less is more when it comes to characterization, which allowed me to pull out some anecdotes and backstory about my character. In the end, I decided to keep the first chapter.

The result was being able to subtract 12 pages -- 20% -- from the set up. I've kept moving in the right direction since then and have it down to 295 pages and 70,000 words. I'm up to around page 100 on this read-through and hope that the rest of it will go faster than work on the set up did.

I do have a nagging feeling that I can't really see it well enough to judge anymore. We'll see what happens at the end of this draft, but I'll probably have to consider seriously the idea of some time away from it to get some perspective. I'm getting pretty eager for feedback from readers, too.