Thursday, April 28, 2011

The new novel is napping

On Tuesday I finished the first draft of my second novel. In contrast to the first one, which took six-plus years, this one took less than a year.

One reason is that I had the voice for the new novel in my head right away. It's first person, alternating between past and present. Knowing this meant that a lot of point-of-view problems, as well as tone and mood problems, never arose. First person is quite limiting in other ways, and it didn't work for my first novel; but it seems that if you at least know who's talking and why, you can go a long way.

Another reason this one went relatively quickly is that I've learned to tolerate some remarkably egregious flaws in a first draft. These include:
  • A character who, Schrodinger's cat-like, is both alive and dead throughout the first half of the story. I couldn't decide which had to be the case, so I just kept writing till it became clear.

  • Another character who becomes three different people during the course of the story. When she first appeared I had one idea of the role she would play, but she evolved out of that. By the end became both the motive for the storytelling (the "narrative occasion," always an issue), and a fully worthy love interest for the narrator.

  • Not knowing who the killer was until the last paragraph. Maybe still not knowing.

  • The usual instances of overwriting, underwriting, and especially substituting summary for scene. God, why must there be scenes? Why can't everything be summary interspersed with occasional dialog?

  • Massive doubts as to whether the story even begins to make sense on any level.

What all this means, of course, is that revising is going to be a lot of work. But before that is the required cooling-off/baking/resting period, in which I ignore the novel for approximately two months so that I can tackle revisions with a new perspective. I'm shooting for July 1.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: During the next two weeks blogging may be lighter than usual, and/or unpredictable, due to work, travel, and family issues.

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