Writing the Second Draft

GetInline

First Draft

On June 7, 2016, I wrote a post here on The Boomerang where I announced that I had finished the first draft of the third version of an adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

Now I can make a second announcement:

I have finished the second draft of the third version of the adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

I started revising on June 14.

I worked on the novel six days a week. Some days for only a couple of hours. Other days the whole eight hours. It all depended on the amount of changes that needed to be made as well as my own state of mind on that particular day.

I write in long-hand in a lined Barnes & Noble refill journal, using a Ballograf mechanical pencil and 0.5 HB leads.

I type my long-hand manuscript in a Word document using Courier 12 points double-spaced. This way, my digital copy also becomes yet another opportunity for revisions.

I backup all my files on a physical external hard drive .

The first draft was approximately 131,000 words long.

The second draft is approximately 98,000 words long.

I made no adjustments to the narrative. I only cut out scenes that didn’t drive the story forward.

I added a new beginning to the novel’s second part.

It took me approximately six weeks to finish the second draft. I clicked on Save for the final time on July 29.

So what am I doing right now?

I have started the querying process and I’m trying to master the art of the synopsis.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Advertisements

First Draft

In November 2001 I started writing an epic fantasy novel for adults. I spent the following years writing this tome on and off. I even sent it out to professional freelance editors. I participated in public readings. After revising the story I shopped it around to different publishers and in my naive and uneducated fervor I broke every rule there is when you submit a manuscript.

Of course the book didn’t get picked up. Partly because I didn’t understand the publishing industry, mostly because it just wasn’t any good. However, one of the rejection letters stated that even though they didn’t publish exactly this kind of fantasy, the world I had created was a compelling one, in particular the names of the characters appealed to them. (Probably because it was a fantasy novel with not an apostrophe in sight…)

This letter stayed with me when I put the novel to the side and instead focused on writing a dissertation in medieval history. The years as a graduate student are some of the toughest in my life. It literally was five years of blood, sweat, and tears.

Would I do it again? Hell no.

Would I have those years undone? Hell no to that too.

Why? Because those years gave me thicker skin, they taught me how to write, they taught me how to get published, they taught me how to research a book, and they taught me how to bring a book project to completion within a reasonable amount of time no matter what came at me while I was writing.

And as I neared the end of my graduate studies and as the defense of the dissertation was behind me, this fantasy epic reared its head again. I remember sitting in an office at a university where I was filling in for another teacher and I had a couple of hours to kill before I had to leave for the train.

The office was quiet. It was as if sound had ceased to exist.

And I began to write.

And I didn’t stop until I had finished a completely new version, using the first novel I wrote all those years ago as backstory.

This time around I was able to determine on my own that this wasn’t any good. I didn’t need to hire a professional editor or insult publishers to understand that I still wasn’t ready.

So I put it aside again. I worked on getting some kind of traction in the new place to where I had moved. I started freelance writing, I published research articles, I started teaching college history part time, I started tweeting, blogging, and I started to write short stories to hone my craft. I shopped those stories around. I got rejected but I also got enough encouragement from editors to know that, just like with my very first novel, I was on to something.

And then one day–in July 2015–the novel came back to me. And again, I wrote a completely new version, this time based on the second novel as well as the first novel.

I started working on this version in earnest in October 2015.

On May 23, 2016, I finished the first draft of the third version of the epic fantasy novel for adults that I began writing in November 2001. Two days ago I printed it.

GetInline

First Draft. Large font, double-spaced, 20k words too many.

So, will anyone want to publish it? I don’t know. What matters to me at this stage is that I finished it and it works.

However, when the time comes to shop this novel around, I think I might stand a better chance if I let this be the title:

The Girl Who Went in Search of Her Dad.

Even though the girl is actually a 25-year-old woman and the search for her father is only part of the story.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

A Writer’s Resolution: I Shall Not Kill My Darlings

2013 is coming to an end. At this time of year it is customary to make some kind of New Year’s resolution. I usually don’t make such resolutions but this year I will. My New Year’s resolution for 2014 will be that I, when I write, will not kill my darlings. I will dismember them.

One of the most common pieces of advice hurled at any kind of writer is that you should Kill Your Darlings. This means that you should not be afraid to cut passages out of your text that don’t work. “Work” means here a passage that does not forward the narrative, is repetitive or redundant. These passages can consist of specific scenes or even chapters. Sometimes it is a character that needs to be removed.

As the name indicates, to Kill Your Darlings can be very painful. Removing a piece of the art you have created can be the equivalent of stabbing yourself in the heart.

Some of this pain comes from the fact that the phrase tells you to “kill” something you love. When something is killed it is removed as a living being from the realm of human consciousness. Therefore, it seems as if the phrase tells us that what you remove from your text cannot be used again.

What the phrase refers to is the editing process. The editing process is something that all writers do to improve their writing. When we edit, we take the text we have written, and we pick it apart to see what works and what does not. The parts that don’t work, we take out.

But when we edit, we don’t kill. We dismember.

If we were to discard completely the piece of writing that we just removed then we would be killing a darling. But we don’t. We keep it. We use it for the part of the backstory that will never be published, but that we need to know to be able to tell the story. We use it as the starting point for another story. We give it to fellow writers as writing prompts.

If we were actually to kill the piece of art that for the moment does not fit in, we would be doing ourselves a disservice. It would be a waste of time and effort and the world would perhaps we robbed of a profound experience.

Like Dr. Frankenstein we take the severed body part and put it in a jar of formaldehyde solution for future use when we create our next monster.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.