Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Writing and Editing

So here I am slaving away, editing a manuscript and I'm thinking…how do these other authors produce books so quickly? Not that I can't write the initial draft quickly. In fact, I've written a 90,000 book in two months. But that's just the first draft. And I've even edited manuscripts in just a few months and given the results to my agent. Unfortunately, those results are never what you would call a quality product, however.

Because the thing is, it takes my mind time to go back through it and find all the little things that my subconscious planted but did not "elaborate on" when I wrote the manuscript.

Here's an example from one of my current projects. It's a contemporary mystery called Whacked! In one of the first scenes, the heroine's uncle finds a dead body by a stream running through the back of their property. Now, I had a good reason for that and I elucidated on that reason—which was fine. But after a few months, my subconscious has finally tapped my conscious mind on the shoulder and said, "You know that scene where the uncle finds the dead body? Well, here's the real reason why I wanted you to have the uncle find that body, even thought it was hard as heck to set up that scene and have the characters have decent motivation that made sense at the time."

Without time to allow that to percolate up to my conscious mind, the story would have been okay. It would have made sense. But it would be missing an entire range of meaning and depth which I now hope it will have. Assuming that I can work in all the elements I now see need to be in there.

If I was under a deadline, how would that work? I guess it would have to stand as it was originally, without the added depth.

It puzzles me greatly because I see these big long fat books written quickly by authors like Allison Brennan and I'm thinking: how the heck does she write that so quickly? How does she get the depth?

I have to write the first draft—or even just the first half—and then let it rest. Ideas percolate. I work on something else. I edit for sequencing issues, which is my big weakness. Thankfully, though, the process of editing for sequencing and continuity actually clarifies things and makes the entire manuscript improve in mysterious ways. Through this process, my subconscious hands me things I needed in the first draft but either didn't recognize or just failed to include. I also have to add descriptions, emotions and motivations since I have almost none of those things in the first draft. My first drafts tend to be bare bones action and dialog with occasional spurts of description, emotion and motivation when I feel guilty about not including those elements initially.

After following the classes given by Crusie and Mayer, I'm thinking that Crusie (at least) also has a similar method. She writes and then she rewrites. And rewrites. I'm not sure how quickly she can turn something out, but I get the feeling that her turnaround time is not just a couple of months.

If I had the time, I think an interesting task would be to find out how long an author took to do a particular book. Get that information for several authors and several books. Then compare books that took a year or more to write/rewrite versus books that just took a few months (if that). I'm really curious to see if there would be differences in the depth to the books, or it is really just a matter of how fast a particular author can write.

My personal experience as a reader has led me to believe that the faster a book is written, the more facile and shallow the story. Even stories that have seemingly complex/convoluted plots seem to just lack depth when they are produced quickly. But again, this is just my entirely subjective experience. I also base this upon what vague and incomplete information I have about how quickly certain authors churn out books and my reaction to their books. Completely unscientific.

Nonetheless, I do think that the one thing a writer should do is give herself (or himself) time to properly develop a story and edit it. And edit it. Until it achieves the depth and clarity it deserves.

Now I've got to end this for tonight because I really am working on editing and I'm trying to get a manuscript done so I can send it to my editor.

Happy Trails!

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