Yesterday was a near perfect day. It was cold and snowy so I wrote by the fireplace all day, a mug of coffee in reach. I got in about 7 hours of writing, went to the gym with BH, ran on the treadmill at a decent pace (3.25 miles at a 1% incline in 30:18 minutes, for those of you who care about these things) , stretched, showered, visited my parents, ate leftover turkey soup for dinner, watched half a movie, and was asleep by 10 pm. Seriously – I adore days like that.
Let me tell you how the writing went. I am currently turning Part 2, Draft 3 of my WIP into Part 2, Draft 4. (Draft 4 of Part 1 is finished. It is 163 pages long, so I figure the total book might come in between 300-325 manuscript pages.)
Yesterday’s task was to smooth out the action in chapters 24 – 28, and to polish chapter 24 until it was so tight and bright I could see my face in it. After much jumping back and forth, I felt the pacing was off in the section. In chapters 21 – 23 there are several Very Dramatic Things that happen. Chapters 24 – 28 are kind of a breather, both for the characters and the readers. A fair amount of time passes and there are some subtle and important developments and the character changes her opinions about a few things. In Chapter 29, we again get a Big Honking plot twist that sends life on another wild ride for our main character.
But every time I read through it, something didn’t feel right. The character’s motivation was a little off – I figured that out by my second cup of coffee. That could be fixed by clarifying some of her dialog and giving a few more peeks into her head. But that wasn’t enough…. what wasn’t working?
Revision is a pain in the butt, no question about it. It is also a necessary part of writing. You need that flash of inspiration, sure, but (for me at least) if I don’t revise and hone that flash, it is wasted. In early drafts, I often throw in way too many characters, details and (in this case and in the case of FEVER 1793) too much historical research. This tends to make the book bloated and uncomfortable, like eating too much junk food.
I find it helpful to ask myself – at every scene – “what happens to the rest of the story if I throw this out?” If the answer is “Not much” than it is time to reach for the delete key.
After close examination, and a good lunch, I realized that Chapter 27 was a total waste of time. It was a talking-heads chapter in which my Main Character and someone else stand around (in a dynamic location – very cool – I hated cutting that) and talktalktalktalk – no action at all, no true furthering of the plot. So I threw out the entire chapter and renumbered everything else.
By the time we left for the gym, chapter 24 was in really good shape. Getting rid of 27 allowed me to see more clearly what had to happen in 24-26. Today’s goal in to rewrite Chapter 25 (minimum goal) and to rewrite 25 & 26 (maximum goal).
That’s the way it works in my head.