Monday, July 17, 2006

Back to Work!

After a two-month hiatus to let the manuscript "cool", I'm officially back to work on THE REFLECTING STONE and I'm happy about that. I went over my editing notes, special notes I had set aside in a folder in my computer just for the editing process of this novel, about eleven files, I think. Good to refresh. I'm now beginning Phase Two of my editing process, "Planning What Will Be" (for details, see the TIPS & TRICKS blog for a description of "Step Three: Editing the Novel").

I read over the notes and also worked some more on the Mythology. I worked out an alternate shorter and simpler version of the Mythology (the last task I had to do as part of Phase One of my editing process, "Documenting What Is"), but I'm going to wait and see as I go over the story in detail whether I can still use the added complexity. Part of the humor of that is that no two people have the same version of history in the novel. Everyone has a different view of how things happened long ago. If I simplify the actual history too much, it might take away from this running gag, and it's actually pretty useful as it is. However, I do want to make sure at some appropriate point in the story I am either saying "it's so complicated no one really knows what's what and so it doesn't really matter, we all have our opinions", or "this is the correct version -- and it's simple and easy to undertand".

I've been updating the TIPS & TRICKS blog. As mentioned, I posted the plan there that I intend to follow for editing, but I'm already off it slightly. I think the point is do whatever works, don't just follow a script. The value of advice is that it gives us a focus, helps us consider out options, but we have to pick and choose what to do in a dynamic way according to the reality of our particular situation at any given moment. Instead of spending a lot of time planning what to change and then rereading the manuscript, I simply refreshed on the notes I had previously made while still writing, and am now diving in to read the manuscript. I'm so curious to see what I wrote after TWO MONTHS have passed!

I read Chapter 1 for the first time in at least two months. I didn't know whether I'd like it or hate it. Turns out I loved it! I was really impressed with it. I had previously put a lot of effort into editing it to get it as close as possible to a finished draft, and I see no need to do any significant editing to it. I'll tweak a few sentences here or there, just final polish stuff, but the chapter is essentially done. I know the first three chapters were heavily edited, so it will probably be similar for Chapters 2 and 3.

Reading Chapter 1 gave me a very strong feeling that this novel is really interesting, the plan for it was really good, it unfolds in a way that captures a reader's attention and pulls him along, it deals with significant conflicts that readers can identify with along the way, and -- I can write! It's ultimately up to others to say whether that's true or not, but to my own satisfaction I feel what I wrote is good stuff and I'm quite pleased with it. If I can get the rest of the novel to match the level of quality of this first chapter, this should be a very publishable novel. I know the story is there, but I will need to do more editing the farther and farther I progress into the story. The story becomes more complex and I need to make sure it is consistent throughout in how things develop plot-wise. Stories tend to evolve under our feet, if that makes sense, and that certainly happened over the course of writing the complete draft.

Anyway, I'll continue the re-read this week, and make notes along the way if anything stands out, but I want to try to capture a sense of the novel as a whole, the larger picture, first. Then I'll get into the details. Rereading will help me react to it after it has sat and those reactions will guide me in planning what to change.

I'm also getting good ideas for the SCI-FI novel, which is a really fun story. I am so looking forward to writing that one! Now that I have a template in my mind, a process to use over and over in planning, writing and editing novels, I'm seeing how my ideas begin to attach themselves to specific anchor posts more easily. I hope that makes sense. It's hard to describe mental processes. I get ideas and before they were just a flurry of ideas. Now they can be sorted and categorized immediately as to where they belong in the story (I have the basic 12-step outline worked out for the SCI-FI novel already), and where I will deal with them in the process, as the work unfolds. The ideas tend to be naturally more connected, to fit together better from the get-go. It seems every idea is a good detail that belongs in the story, rather than "just another idea" that I have to sort through, most of which I would not end up using. I guess this means I have more focus and a better understanding of the process!

Growth comes to those that strive for it.


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